MILA 2.0_ Redemption - Debra Driza


The mountains, with their soaring peaks and yawning valleys, gave off the illusion of safety. A no-man’s-land, blanketed with a layer of white.

I trudged through the snow and wove through the pine trees, which hung the air with their brisk, pungent scent. In the distance, the mountains towered over me; immovable, watchful sentries. By comparison, I felt so small.

I clung to that feeling as tightly as the unlit torch that I clutched in my hand. Insignificant. Unimportant. Unknown. In my mind, those three words translated into one delicious thing: freedom.

I inhaled deeply, embracing the pleasant burn of crisp air and the serenity of untouched scenery. The tiny patches of blue that peeked out behind clouds were translucent and pale. Not a deep blue, but worn.

Faded, like a pair of eyes; full of humor, almost covered by a sweep of messy brown hair.

My synthetic heart accelerated in a combination of yearning and fear.

The wilderness could trick you into thinking you didn’t have a past. But even though certain pieces of my recent history were inaccessible for now, some would always stay with me, no matter what.

Like kind, caring, funny Hunter.


My head jerked to the right, but I relaxed on the next breath. The noise didn’t signify a threat. It was a different, yet equally kind boy, tripping over a snow-covered branch and performing a hop-skip to regain his balance.

“Just pitched my last torch. That’ll keep the bears away from the cabin at night,” he said, giving his short, sandy hair a shake. His constantly rumpled shirt collar was at odds with his steady, even presence.

Lucas Webb. The reason I was safely hidden away in these mountains.

For the time being, at least.

“I’m still looking for a good place for this one,” I said, holding up the top end of my torch.

“What about over there?” Lucas pointed to a patch of ground just a few feet south of us.

“Looks good to me.”

As we walked under the outstretched pine branches, a fresh clump of snow shook free, landing on my nose. I brushed it away with my hand. The icy sensation sparked something in a far corner of my mind, like springing a hidden door to a secret compartment.

Without thinking, I set the torch on the ground and squatted, curling my fingers around a handful of snow. It compacted into a tight, frigid ball.

“Sarah! You wouldn’t dare. . . . I’m barely hanging on to this thing as it is—AHHH!”

A girl squealed, her long brown hair streaming out of a teal beanie embellished with a leering monster face. Her gloved hands windmilled, and then she toppled backward into a giant heap of snow. Her feet were still connected to the crimson-and-black snowboard.

She sat up on her elbows, laughing. “You’d better run,” she warned. “You are so dead.”

My hand fluttered to my chest in mock horror.

“Wow, Chloe, violent much? I was just testing out the laws of physics. You know, schoolwork.”

“What’s wrong?” Lucas’s concerned voice snapped me back into the present, and the scene vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

I peered down at my hand and unclenched my knuckles. No snow remained, just a watery mess that oozed down the side of my wrist.

I rose. “Nothing. Just another fragment. From Sarah,” I added when I saw his lips about to form another question.

The irony almost made me laugh. Portions of my recent memory were missing, segments that I was desperate to retrieve. No progress on that front. Meanwhile, my mind had no problem spewing forth old memories from the dead girl whose brain matter I shared.

Welcome to the life of a teenage android.

We walked to the edge of the clearing, where we paused to stake my torch and admire the view. But I couldn’t quite find the level of peace I’d had moments before.

Not when Lucas was staring at me again.

He’d been shooting me these long, penetrating glances when he didn’t think I’d notice.

Lucas knew better. Noticing was kind of my thing. A little bonus of being a walking, talking computer.

“Everything okay?” I asked, turning to face him.

He gave an awkward shrug and shoved his hands into his pockets.

“Oh, yeah. Very convincing.” My tone was teasing, but a chill began to form in my chest.

We were tucked away in the wilderness. No one knew we were here. But that didn’t stop me from fretting that our every move was being watched. Somewhere beyond these mountains, General Holland—my sadistic creator—was hunting me down, and he wouldn’t stop until I was “terminated.” Quinn, Holland’s old coworker—who had