“And I don’t want to prove him right,” I said softly. “I know Leb is expecting us to run off. They don’t trust us, and I don’t want to prove them right.”
He reached up and pressed his hand to my cheek, and I felt him plant a soft kiss on top of my head. “Good point,” he whispered.
WE LEFT OUR HIDING SPOT AFTER THE SUN SET. TWO HARC shuttles had passed during the day, but I hadn’t seen any in hours.
I’d fallen asleep again for a little while but Callum was awake and alert. He still hadn’t slept at all since we left the facility and I could see his hands shaking again. Although he saw me notice, we both said nothing. He hadn’t displayed any of the other signs of insanity and I refused to talk about something that very likely wouldn’t happen.
That couldn’t happen.
We headed to the edge of the trees and I took in a deep breath as I glanced at the sky. All clear.
We took off, boots pounding the ground as we sprinted across the grass. The wind whipped through the bullet holes in my jacket and I scrunched up my face against the cold. My chest was tight and my throat burned as we sprinted, but we kept up a quick pace, casting nervous glances into the sky.
It was about five miles before a patch of trees appeared again, and we slowed to a walk as we disappeared into them. I took in a deep breath, crossing my arms over my chest to trap some of the warmth.
“How long is it going to take us to get through this tunnel thing?” Callum asked after we’d caught our breath.
“No idea. It just says tunnel on the map. We can always hop the fence again if it’s not there.”
“Awesome. That wasn’t at all hard last time.” He swung an arm around my shoulder and pulled me close.
The trees were thinner here, scattered and providing less cover than the ones closer to Rosa, but we walked anyway, both too tired to run anymore.
The skyline of Austin came into view as we got closer, and a trace of a smile crossed Callum’s lips. “It’s nicer than Rosa.”
“We’re coming in from the rico side.” The tops of the buildings looked vaguely familiar. There were three tall glass structures, surrounded by a few shorter ones I could barely see over the trees. The tallest building was on the west side of town, and the very top was bright white, like it was guiding people home. It was amusing, considering the rico side of Austin had no interest in letting anyone in.
“Have you seen this side of the city before?” Callum asked.
“No. We passed through on the way to the holding facility after I died, but I think I was still in shock. I don’t really remember it.”
“Do you remember dying?” he asked. “Or waking up?”
“I remember waking up.”
“Did you know you were dead? I didn’t know.”
“Sort of,” I replied. “I was hysterical, so everything is jumbled. I only remember waking up in the Dead Room and screaming.”
“They took you out of the Rising Room? That’s terrible.”
“Yes. They thought I was permanently dead.” The hospital moved all young people who might Reboot to the Rising Room, where they were strapped down to beds. If they Rebooted they moved on to the holding facility; if they didn’t, they went to the Dead Room.
No one should have to wake up in the Dead Room, surrounded by the day’s deceased humans, waiting for cremation. It had been a full room the day I was there.
I glanced at Callum, pushing the memory away. “You didn’t realize you were dead?”
“No. I thought I’d gone to sleep. I kept asking for my parents. I thought I’d feel different as a Reboot. But I feel the same. It never felt real until I got to Rosa.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
The trees grew thicker as we neared the city, and as I pushed a low branch away from my face, the gray wire fence and flashing red lights came into view. I stopped and pulled out the map. The fence was making a soft buzzing sound, indicating that this one was electrified, too.
We retreated back farther into the trees, until the fence was no longer visible. If Leb’s map was correct, the tunnel should be right in this area.
“It’s here?” Callum asked, peering over my shoulder at the map.
“Supposedly,” I said, squinting at the ground. It was too dark to see much at all. I tilted the map in his direction. “Are we in the right area? It looks like the tunnel should come out not far from downtown.”
Callum glanced at the map, then at darkness around us. “Let’s try a little farther west,” he said, pointing. “I don’t think we’re close enough to downtown.”
I nodded and followed him, kicking at the dirt and every suspicious rock. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I probably should have asked Leb what the tunnel looked like. Or what they used it for. Or if Leb was sure it was still there.
I stuffed the map in my pocket and let out a sigh. Callum and I walked west, then back east, then west again, combing the area and searching through fallen leaves and branches.
“We’re going to have to get electrocuted again, aren’t we?” Callum asked, squinting up at the sky. The first hints of morning light were creeping through.
“Wonderful. I think my insides liquefied last time. It was all jiggly in there.”
I shot an amused smile his way. “Let’s try a little closer to the fence.”
He followed me as I headed toward it, stopping when I could hear the hum of electricity. I turned when Callum dropped to his knees and pushed aside a pile of branches. He pointed at a small hole and grinned, bracing his hands against the sides as he peered inside.
“It looks tiny.”
“I’ll go first,” I said.
I knelt down next to him and looked into what seemed like nothing more than a poorly constructed hole in the ground. I paused, glancing back at Callum. Crawling through a tiny, dark hole in the ground actually made me a little nervous. I had no idea what was in there, but I had to believe that Leb wouldn’t lead us into danger with his daughter at stake.
“We can still get electrocuted if you want,” Callum said, pointing back at the fence.
“I think we should go with the quieter approach.” I ignored my nerves and crawled into the hole. I heard Callum follow a moment later.
The tunnel was barely big enough for us to fit through on our hands and knees. I had a bit of breathing room, but when I twisted around to look at Callum, I could just make out the outline of his back brushing up against the top of the tunnel.