He looked at me in surprise. “I care if I die.”
“You don’t act like it.”
“I already died once. Turned out all right.” He smiled at me.
“That’s not funny. You’ll be dead for real this time. And then what? I’m supposed to go to this stupid Reboot reservation by myself? I never would have left if it weren’t for you.”
“I didn’t ask you to do that,” he said. “And what do you mean, you never would have left? You were fine with it? Being a prisoner?”
“Yes. It was better than my human life.”
“But they made you kill people.”
“I don’t—” I wrapped my arms around my waist and stopped myself. I couldn’t tell him that.
“You don’t care?” he guessed. “You don’t feel guilt? Sadness?”
“No,” I said, looking at the ground. “I did at first. But now . . . no.”
I stole a glance up at him to see a heartbreakingly crestfallen look on his face.
“I don’t know why you keep saying that,” he said.
“Because it’s true.”
“No, it’s not. I saw your face when they took those kids away. You feel everything, just like the rest of us.” He paused, considering me before a mischievous glint sparkled in his eyes. “And you totally have the hots for me.”
A surprised laugh escaped my mouth.
“What? You do.”
I couldn’t argue with that, so I just smiled. He grabbed my hand and tugged me to him, planting a soft kiss on my lips.
“Leb wanted us to get out,” he said. “We can’t rescue his daughter if we’re dead. He must have thought this was the best way.”
“Yeah,” I admitted, tucking the map into my pocket. “I’d just prefer it if our heads didn’t explode.”
“Let’s run fast, then.” He lifted his eyebrows, looking at me for approval.
I nodded. “Start going in a zigzag pattern when they spot us. Should make it harder for them to hit us.”
I took one more glance around before ducking out from behind the tree and heading for the open field.
We had taken only a few steps when the siren sounded. It was louder here, screeching from one of the towers. I felt the bullets before I heard them.
They pelted my shoulders and knocked against my helmet. My feet flew over the dirt, Callum at my side even as I picked up speed and began running in a crooked line.
The world was white suddenly, the ground rumbling as I fell against it. A second blast, closer, threw me across the dirt and sent a searing pain up my leg.
I couldn’t hear. I couldn’t see. I scrambled to my feet only to have the world shake again, the blast so intense I landed several feet away.
A bullet clipped my ear as I jumped up. They whizzed by, hitting the dirt like heavy drops.
Callum. I couldn’t see him.
“Callum!” I ran into the smoke and directly into a hard chest.
I couldn’t make out a face, but he lifted a gun to my head. I ducked, smashing my fist into his gut and knocking his knees out from under him. I snatched the gun from his hand and smashed the barrel against his head.
“Wren.” I heard Callum’s voice, quiet, but when I looked up he was right next to me, yelling. His helmet was half-gone, the left side of his head totally exposed. I took his hand and we sprinted for the fence.
His eyes were wide with fear as he turned to look behind us. I whipped my head around to see a massive group of HARC officers hot on our trail.
I lowered my chin into my chest as they fired, dropping Callum’s hand so I could run faster.
The fence was so close I could see it clearly now. It wasn’t terribly high—fifteen feet or so.
But it was electrified.
I could hear the buzz as we approached. We were going to have to hold on to it for several seconds to be able to get up and over it, but the force of the shock might knock us off right away.
Callum hit the fence a second before I did. I saw the jolt go through his body as his fingers wrapped around the wire, but he held on, his face determined.
I grabbed the wire and gasped as my insides lit on fire. The shock was so intense I almost screamed, almost broke my own rule.
I hauled ass up the fence as fast as I could, my hands black by the time I reached the top and hurled myself over.
The twitching was so intense it was hard to stand, let alone run. But I heard the buzz stop as they turned the fence off for the HARC officers. They’d catch us if we didn’t move. Callum’s body jerked as badly as mine so I grabbed him around the waist and turned him in the direction of the trees.
We needed to go north, and panic flashed through my brain as I struggled to remember which direction that was. Austin was south, but I didn’t want HARC to see us headed there. If they knew where we were going, they’d be waiting for us.
A shuttle roared through the sky, bringing a fresh round of bullets with it. I heard the crack, then felt the blast against my head.
The remains of my helmet toppled to the ground.
Right. North was right.
My brain didn’t want to run but my legs carried me anyway, floating over the dirt and grass faster than a human could keep up with.
We were in the trees, the beautiful trees, slapping against branches as our feet pounded the dirt. My insides jiggled around, unsettled, but I pressed on until the officers’ voices grew distant.
I came to a sudden stop, looking up as the shuttle zoomed by. I gestured for Callum to follow me as I darted farther into the trees and hid behind a thick one. I couldn’t see them anymore, but I could hear officers running and yelling from several directions.
I looked over at Callum to see the twitching gone, his fingers wrapped around the trunk of the tree as his eyes scanned the area. The rest of his helmet was gone, too, probably lost and shattered somewhere like mine.
“You all right?” I asked, breathing heavily.
“Yes. I can keep going.”
I glanced up at the sky as another shuttle flew overhead, and hesitantly took a step out from behind the tree. Nearby, boots crunched against leaves and I squinted in the darkness. They weren’t using flashlights, which was smart. Easier to sneak up on us that way.
I nodded at Callum, putting a finger to my lips as I took a careful step to the west. He followed my lead, and I wanted to hug him for his quiet footsteps. I eased past a fallen tree branch and glanced over my shoulder.
We crept through the trees until I couldn’t hear our pursuers anymore. It was quiet, the only sounds the breeze rustling the leaves and the distant hum of a shuttle engine.