I covered my mouth with the backs of my fingers as I tried not to laugh, but one came through anyway. “It wouldn’t work as well coming from you, Riley.”
He grinned. “Awww, you’ve become all soft and mushy. It’s cute.”
“I’d be happy to show you how soft and mushy my fist is not, if you’d like a reminder.”
“I’m going to pass on that offer, but thank you.”
I smiled at him, watching as the Reboots over his shoulder disappeared inside the reservation walls. Everyone was out of earshot, and Riley glanced around as if noticing it, too.
“You like it here?” I asked quietly.
He cocked his head, his face becoming more serious. “In a way. It’s better than HARC.”
No argument there. “Micah. He’s . . . intense.”
“He is.” Riley seemed to be choosing his words carefully, studying my face as he considered each one. “You guys don’t seem to be getting along terribly well.”
“We’re civil. I did notice that some of the Reboots here seem sort of scared of him.”
“I guess they are.” Riley squinted. “I mean, yeah, they are. He kind of rules with an iron fist. Thinks it’s the best way to keep us safe.”
“Sometimes.” He glanced behind him, then back to me. “You heard about the group that split off and got killed last year?”
“That happened right after I got here. I arrived at the reservation and it was chaos. A bunch of them got together and decided they were tired of the way Micah was running things. They stopped returning their hunting weapons and staged a revolt one day.”
I lifted my eyebrows. Micah had conveniently left that part out.
“Yeah,” Riley said, noticing my surprised expression. “We’re not supposed to talk about it. In fact, if you could not mention to Micah that I shared I’d appreciate it.”
I nodded in agreement. They weren’t allowed to talk about it? That was weird. “What happened?”
“The revolt didn’t really go that well,” Riley said. “They were mostly the older generation and kids, people who’d never been at HARC, and a bunch of the higher numbers who’d escaped from HARC or Rebooted here, immediately backed up Micah. So they left instead.”
“And Micah just let them go?”
“At that point, yeah. They weren’t exactly welcome anymore, you know? Then it’s only a few weeks later, we’re on a hunt over in one of the old cities and we find them all dead, along with a few bodies of HARC officers. After that, no one was going to risk speaking out against Micah.” He gestured to the reservation. “This is really the only safe place for us.”
That might have been true, unfortunately.
“You’re sure it was HARC?” I asked. “Micah wouldn’t . . .”
Riley shook his head. “It was definitely HARC. And Micah hates them way too much to tip them off. He planned on finding the group again after the humans were taken care of.”
At least that was something. The thought had been in the back of my head since Callum had told me how scared Isaac was of him.
“I think Micah’s pretty terrified of you and all the new Reboots, to be honest,” Riley continued.
“Because you’re challenging everything.” He gestured to me. “You’re refusing to train kids and asking questions and Micah doesn’t really appreciate that. Since the revolt, everyone has done exactly what he says.”
“You included?” I asked. “Or do you often have trouble finding humans that are only half a mile away from you?”
The edges of his mouth twitched. “I often have trouble, yes.” He ran a hand through his light hair. “I don’t like doing it. It reminds me of being at HARC.”
“I don’t blame you.” I studied him. “So when the time comes to kill all the humans in the cities . . .”
He shrugged, scrunching his face up. “I don’t know. Part of me hoped it would never happen. But now with all these new Reboots, I don’t think it can be stopped. Micah’s getting a group together for a trip to Austin tonight, which means he’s about ready to go in. He arranged a meeting with Tony and Desmond to get some fuel. And apparently they have information for us.”
“Tony and Desmond do?” I asked in surprise.
“How do you guys communicate with them?”
“Radio,” he said.
“And HARC doesn’t listen in?”
“They very well might. But we use codes.”
Guilt zipped through my chest and I let out a small sigh. I hated feeling indebted to Tony and Desmond, but I felt ill at the prospect of letting Micah use them like this. Maybe Callum was right about one part of his plan—we needed to try and warn them.
“The trip to Austin,” I said, trying to sound casual. “Micah will take a few people with him?”
“Yeah. I’ll go. Probably Jules as well. Why? Do you want to go?” He snorted. “I’m not sure that will go over so well with Micah, but I could ask.”
I hesitated. It would look suspicious if I asked to tag along. Micah would be watching my every move. The best option for warning Tony was probably slipping him a note, since conversation would be difficult with Micah around, but that would be impossible if I couldn’t even get near him.
“Pass,” I said, making a face as an idea occurred to me. “I just came from Austin, and given the state the shuttles are in, you guys are going to get stuck and have to walk a few hundred miles.”
“It’ll be fine,” Riley said. “We’ve fixed shuttles before.”
“You should ask Callum if he’ll come along,” I said. “He is great with machinery. And he could teach you guys how to use the navigation systems.”
Riley cocked his head, studying me. “Callum.”
“Micah seemed impressed with his work on the shuttles.” I shrugged. “Just a suggestion.”
“I could take one of the Reboots who’ve been here for a while. We’ve had several people work on shuttles.” His eyes bore into mine, like he was daring me to tell him the real reason I wanted Callum to go.
“You could.” I didn’t trust Riley with that information. Warning humans about a Reboot attack basically made us traitors, and he might take Micah’s side in that situation.