“Tell me what?” I asked, my stomach twisting into knots.
“The antidote has a window. If you wait too long, and he’s too far gone, it’s going to be useless.”
I swallowed down the lump in my throat, and when I spoke my voice sounded funny. “What’s the window? How long do I have?”
“You definitely don’t have a couple weeks,” he said. “Which is why they didn’t want me to tell you. I’d say you’re probably within the acceptable range, but you don’t have a lot of time. How long has he been like this?”
“He started feeling weird and shaking three days ago, I think. But he just started blacking out and losing it yesterday.”
Tony winced, running a hand through his hair. “Yeah. You don’t have a lot of time.”
“I don’t know. This is a new program; the medical team is still figuring it out themselves. They’re letting some of them run the course to see what happens, and it’s not good news. But I’d say . . . maybe not more than a day. You might have more, but it’s risky.”
I pressed a hand to the wall because the world had started to sway a little and I was worried I’d fall over. “So we’d need to go tonight.”
I closed my eyes briefly. “What is the point of this? Is HARC trying to get rid of us?”
“Oh no. They need you guys. But they need you as aggressive, mindless soldiers. They’re not getting that, particularly from the Under-sixties. This is the solution. Or it will be, if they ever get it to work right.”
They needed more of me, basically. Me, with a lot less free will. I took a deep breath and nodded at Tony. “Okay. I’m going tonight, whether you help me or not. You can tell them that.”
A smile twitched the edge of his mouth. “Yeah, I figured.”
He turned to go and I grabbed a corner of his shirt, making him stop. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried my best not to look at him suspiciously, but I was pretty sure I failed.
“Why are you freeing Reboots?” I asked. “What’s wrong with you?”
He laughed, rubbing a hand over his mouth. “What’s wrong with me?”
“Yes. You’ve been getting Reboots out and just letting them go, right?”
“We have been, yes. It was really the only solution.”
“Solution to what?”
“To getting rid of HARC. To actually have a shot at equal shares of food and medicine and everything HARC gives to the folks on the other side of the wall because they think we’re a lost cause. We have no chance against HARC with all of you on their side.”
“But HARC is keeping you safe,” I said, the mantra I’d heard a hundred times during my five years as a Reboot. “From us, from the viruses, from criminals . . .”
“Debatable,” Tony said, lifting an eyebrow. “They might have started out like that, but they’re certainly not doing that anymore. Most of those criminals”—he rolled his eyes when he said the word—“you went after were one of us. Or were just people who wanted to do something crazy like, I don’t know, keep their eight-year-old kid who died and came back to life. Everyone bought into this line HARC fed us about you all being these soulless creatures. Most humans have never even talked to a Reboot.”
He did have a point. The majority of humans only saw us when we were on assignment, when we were hunting them down. We were rarely allowed to say one word to them.
“Come on,” Tony said, jerking his head toward the kitchen. “If we’re going to do this tonight we need to start planning.”
I pushed open the bedroom door a sliver, but Callum was still, his eyes closed. I wanted to stay with him, but Tony was right. I couldn’t just bust into HARC and hope for the best. We needed a plan.
I followed Tony into the kitchen, gesturing for Addie to come as well. The humans were at the table, sitting on the counter, standing in clumps, and they all stopped talking when we walked in.
“Tonight or not at all,” Tony said. He put a hand on my shoulder and I jumped, bumping into Addie. “That’s Wren’s deal.”
“Good,” Desmond said. “No deal. Dumb idea anyway; let’s all go home.”
Tony shot him a look and Desmond sighed, leaning back against the wall and muttering to himself. Then they were all talking at once again, and Tony held up his hands.
“Hey!” he yelled. “Just calm down for a second. What are the absolute essentials? What has to happen for us to pull this off?”
“You have to take out the power so they can get in unseen,” a short, balding man piped up.
“But you said there were backup generators,” Addie said.
“There are,” the human replied. “But they take a minute, and you have a much better chance of getting in while the power is out.”
“Right,” Tony said. “You could probably get into the building before the power kicked on again.”
“We’d need to unlock the Reboots’ rooms first, right?” Addie asked. “They’ll all be locked in that time of night.”
“Yes,” Desmond said. “Control room on the fourth floor, and there will be armed guards in there. I’d suggest you go together to unlock them. Then Addie can run up to eight to get the Reboots out and Wren can go to the medical labs on seven.”
“And where are we all going to go once we escape?” I asked. “Are we just running and hoping for the best?”
Desmond let out a long, exaggerated sigh to let us know how he felt about that idea.
“Suggestion, Des?” Tony asked with a half smile.
“They can’t just run,” he said, throwing up his arms in annoyance. “Even if some of them make it, HARC will jump in their shuttles and kill half of them from the sky.”
“Good point,” Addie said, chewing on her lip. “Can we disable the shuttles?”
“If we have a few volunteers willing to do that, yes,” Tony said. “We could sneak in the garage and mess with the engines enough to at least delay them. We’d have to move fast, but I think we’d get most of them.”
The shuttles. HARC had big shuttles, transport shuttles they usually used to move large groups of human criminals around. It was hundreds of miles to the Reboot reservation, but if we got our hands on a few of those, we’d be there in a matter of hours.
“What if we just took the shuttles?” I asked.