“How many are in there?” I asked.
“There’s like a hundred and something.” She looked at Tony, her eyes flashing with excitement. “Right? A little over a hundred?”
“You mean in the Austin facility? Yeah, there’re about a hundred Reboots left there. But they’re not an army; they’re prisoners.”
I glanced at Callum, who had an eyebrow cocked, his expression disbelieving. I put my hand on his knee and gave it a gentle squeeze before facing Tony.
“Then we’ll go let them all out.”
I TURNED TO THE FRONT DOOR AS ANOTHER HUMAN ENTERED. They’d been coming in a steady stream for the last hour, and the kitchen was starting to get full. They were all gathered around Tony, and I could hear snatches of conversation as they debated whether or not to help me. They seemed torn between calling the plan “idiotic” or “genius.”
Tony and Desmond had stepped away as soon as I broached the idea of freeing all the Reboots in Austin. They’d had a heated argument in a back room, which ended with Desmond storming out, only to return with the first of the rebels.
The rebels were mostly men, but they varied in age. Some looked about sixteen or seventeen, like Gabe, while others were going gray. I’d thought Gabe was Tony’s son, but he didn’t call him Dad, and I’d heard Gabe tell Addie he grew up in the orphanage. I wasn’t sure what these people had in common, besides an obvious hatred of HARC and an odd urge to help Reboots.
They were a strange bunch.
Desmond caught me staring at them and his eyebrows lowered. He leaned against the kitchen wall, crossing one black boot over the other, and didn’t shy away when I met his gaze. He’d been the most vocal in his opposition to the rebels helping me—“I’m not dying for them” were his exact words—and I could see his point. Still, he was one of the humans in the room who didn’t seem the least bit scared of us, and I didn’t know what to make of that.
A short man stopped in front of me and Addie, planting his hands on his hips as he looked down at us.
“They took you while you were on assignment last night?” he asked Addie with half a smile.
“Yeah,” she said, shooting me a wary glance.
“Were you on First Street? Or was one of your cohorts?”
“Yeah,” she said in surprise. “I was sent there, but the assignment wasn’t home.”
The man chuckled. “Yep, that was me.” He lifted his arms in victory. “Slipped by ’em again!”
“You’re Henry?” Addie asked with a laugh.
“Sure am.” He grinned before heading into the kitchen to join the other rebels.
Addie watched him go. “These humans are weird.” She put her elbow on her knee and propped her head up on her hand. “But we can’t do it without them, you know.”
“We?” I asked, raising my eyebrows at her. We were still sitting on the floor behind the couch, Callum silent and motionless beside me.
“Please don’t tell me you think you can break into HARC all by yourself,” she said.
“I just didn’t realize you wanted to help.”
“My friends are all in there. Of course I want to help.” She squinted at the rebels in the kitchen. “I wish my dad had been able to come today. I would have liked to talk to him.”
“I doubt he could get out of Rosa.”
“Yeah.” She frowned slightly. “I can’t believe he works for HARC. I mean, I know he’s with the rebels, but still. It’s odd.”
“He didn’t last time you saw him?” I asked.
She snorted. “Definitely not. I haven’t seen him since I died six years ago, so I guess stuff changes, but he hated HARC. I died at home of KDH and after I Rebooted he kept me. Said he wasn’t letting HARC have me.”
“You’re kidding. For how long?” The parents who wanted to keep their Rebooted children were few and far between, although I wasn’t entirely surprised Leb was one of them.
“Just a couple weeks. I eventually got all this clarity and realized he couldn’t keep me hidden forever. They would have caught him. So one day when he went to work I just left. I went to the medical center and told them I was an orphan.”
That explained how Leb was able to work at HARC when he had a Reboot kid. They didn’t know.
A grunt from Callum made me turn. He was leaning against the back of the couch, staring vacantly at the wall. I wrapped my fingers around his arm and it took several seconds for him to blink and turn to look at me. His eyes didn’t focus quite right.
“You okay?” I asked. “Do you want some food?”
He didn’t respond. His eyes drifted from me to the humans and he snapped his teeth, letting out a low growl. I quickly pulled back my hand and scooted away when he began struggling against the ropes. The humans turned at the commotion and Tony stepped out of the crowd, hands on his hips.
“Why don’t you take him back to the bedroom?” he suggested. “He shouldn’t be in here with all of us.”
Addie grabbed for Callum’s bound feet and I hooked my arms under his shoulders. He twisted in our grasp and Addie took hurried steps toward the hallway at the back of the house, opening the second door on the right.
The room held nothing but a bed and a dresser. There was a small pile of clothes in the corner, and a few books on the dresser, but I didn’t see much Callum could damage if he thrashed around the room in an effort to escape the ropes.
We put him on the bed and Callum stopped struggling as I ran my hand up his forehead and into his hair. He gave me a faint smile before closing his eyes, and I wished I could crawl into the bed with him.
Addie slipped out of the room and Tony appeared in the doorway, gesturing for me to follow him. I stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind us.
“Here’s the thing,” he said quietly, taking a quick glance behind him at the humans in the kitchen. “You’ve got a lot of people in there who want to help you.”
I wouldn’t have guessed that from the conversations I’d heard, not to mention the way everyone was looking at me.
“But this sort of thing would be most effective if we had a couple weeks to plan,” he continued. “We could find the best way in and out, maybe try to get some of our people in key positions the night we do it. But . . .” He glanced at the bedroom door. “They don’t want me to tell you, but I don’t feel right about it.”