Two humans were working in the kitchen. A man and a woman, probably in their thirties, and pleasantly plump in that well-fed, rico way. The man saw us first, and he let out a yell and clutched the woman.
Perhaps we looked worse than usual, or maybe rico folks weren’t used to seeing Reboots, but their terror was the sharpest I had ever encountered. The woman immediately began crying as she tried to drag the man toward the other door.
“Stop,” I said, pointing the gun directly at the man. “We won’t hurt you; we just want food.”
They both froze, clutching each other and sobbing.
“Would you stop with the crying and just get us food?” I snapped in annoyance. Why must people cry?
The woman let out a gasp and untangled herself from the man, rushing to the refrigerator. Callum pressed his face into the top of my head, a whimper escaping his mouth.
“Meat,” I clarified.
She turned around with two large packages of raw meat in her hands, holding them out to us with shaky terror.
“Cooked meat, you . . .” I took a deep breath. “We’re not animals.” I gestured to the steak on the grill and the man started piling it into a container. “The bread, too.”
He put the whole loaf into a bag, placing the container of meat in with it. He moved to hand it to me and the woman snatched it away, pushing him behind her. She let the bag hang from one finger as she took a cautious step in our direction.
I didn’t realize the flash at the corner of my eye was Callum until he was on top of her.
The humans screamed.
I wasn’t annoyed by it this time. My eyes flew to Callum’s. Glazed eyes.
My feet refused to budge as he shoved away her frantic hands and tried to get his face to her neck.
You won’t let me, right?
His words jolted me out of my frozen state. I launched myself at him, pushing the man out of the way. I grasped Callum’s collar and hauled him off the sobbing human so hard he hit the wall. He blinked and shook his head, but he still wasn’t Callum.
He wasn’t Callum.
The humans huddled on the ground as I snatched up the bag and ran to him.
“Callum,” I said, my voice shaking slightly.
He blinked once more and confusion colored his face as he looked down at me. I quickly shoved him to the door before he noticed the state of the humans.
“Go,” I interrupted, taking his hand and breaking into a run.
I pulled hard when he slowed, yanking him down the alleyway. We sprinted through the city and onto a wide paved road leading to houses in the distance. It split off in two directions and I whipped my head around to look at Callum.
“Which way?” I glanced behind me for a sign of HARC, but there was nothing yet. The sky was clear, the morning air quiet.
He pointed right and we took off. Callum pulled me to a stop as we neared the houses, gesturing to a row of bushes.
“I have to eat something before we get near them again,” he said, nodding at the meat. “I can’t see my family like this.”
I looked behind us again. Still nothing. “Maybe we should keep going. Those humans will alert HARC any minute and—”
Callum snorted. “No, they won’t. You think they want everyone knowing there were two Reboots in that restaurant? No one would ever go in again.” He pointed up to the empty sky. “They didn’t tell anyone.”
I scanned the area. He was right. There wasn’t a shuttle or a guard to be seen.
I followed Callum over and plopped down beside him in the grass behind the bushes. I opened the container of meat and offered it to him. He took a piece and immediately bit into it, eating with fervor I’d never seen from him. I took a small piece for myself and pushed the rest to him, which he ate without protest. I nibbled at the bread as I watched him.
When he finished he ran a hand over his mouth, turning his gaze to the grass. He picked at it, his fingers almost steady again. “I just attacked that woman, didn’t I? I sort of blacked out, but I remember. . . .” His voice was strained, quiet.
I didn’t answer, but he didn’t need me to. He knew what happened. We sat there in silence for long seconds before it occurred to me that maybe this was a moment when I should say something comforting.
“Maybe it will wear off,” I said. “Or we can ask for help when we get to the reservation. They must have seen this before.”
He nodded. “That’s true.”
I hopped to my feet, holding out my hand to him. The sun was rising higher in the sky, and we didn’t have time to waste. There was a chance the couple would change their minds. “Until then, we’ll just keep you well fed. I’m sure it will be fine.”
He took my hand as he stood up, a hint of relief on his face. He believed me.
I tried to smile like I believed it, too.
WE HEADED DOWN THE PAVED ROAD AND TURNED ONTO A narrower street. The houses were smaller than I would have thought, but clean and well kept, without any of the trash that littered the lawns in Rosa’s slums.
“Are we close?” I asked. I pointed to the thick trees near the edge of the city line. “I could go wait there. Maybe I’ll go check the security around the slum wall.”
“No, you have to come with me,” Callum said, looking at me in surprise.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said. “But I’ll stay close by.”
“No, you have to come. They’ll want to meet you.”
“They will absolutely not want to meet me.”
“Yes, they will. You saved me.”
I sighed. “I’ll go but I’ll stay back. I’ll terrify them.”
“You will not. You’re not scary until you start attacking people.”
“I will. And so will you.”
“I am certainly not terrifying. I’m not even close.”
I let out a sigh of defeat and he smiled.
I really hoped he was right.
I glanced behind us, where I could see the tops of bigger houses peeking out from the trees. I couldn’t see much beyond the roofs, but the size alone suggested wealth.
“What’s over there?” I asked.
“The rich people,” he said.
“I thought you were all rich people here.”
He gave me an amused look. His color had returned after eating the meat and he almost looked like his old self again. “Mostly we’re just here because property is passed down through families. My parents never had any money. Neither did my grandparents.”