Chapter 1: Recruit
This city isn't how it used to be.
Before, there was freedom. Now, there's control. We used to roam the streets and do what we want, but still have some sort of standards. It was a dangerous city, but also a wonderful one.
Before, there was color. Now, there's white. Even the plants have lost their color. Everywhere you turn there's just blue and white and just strips of colors. It's as if the rainbow over this city was bleached. The city was like an untouched coloring book now – not one crayon touched the pages, leaving it emotionless, lifeless, and dull.
Before, there was life. There's still life no matter where we go, because life goes on and on. But the lives of the people within this city are sickening. It's like everyone is a robot. Every move is watched, data can't be transported, there's barely ever any crime... The news isn't even news anymore. It's just every day nonsense about anything that at least one person will pay attention to.
Crime rates have dropped drastically, our moves are under watchful surveillance, and almost everything is kept behind closed doors.
These people chose a comfortable life under the eyes of the government. Some chose otherwise, rebelling against the rules and the boundaries, taking matters into their own hands.
I am one of those people.
My lungs were burning, my throat dry and my breaths coming out in short huffs. I could taste iron when I swallowed what little saliva I had in my mouth. My body was close to giving up. I had lost them, but even so, I felt as though I couldn't go on. I hadn't eaten in a real meal in days, only stealing what snacks I could pick up from convenience stores. It was getting harder these days, what with the cameras monitoring every move you made. Some even had a setting where it would snap photos of people's faces if they seemed to be stealing. Luckily I had big sunglasses and a black jacket at times to help disguise my identity.
I ducked into an alleyway, hiding behind it for just a little while longer to catch my breath. In through your nose…and out through your mouth…In through your nose…and out through your mouth. After a while, I came out, picking up speed once more. I wasn't sure where I was going to end up staying for the night. I've just been here and there, resting in alleyways on my sleeping bag. But I needed food, money, shelter, things that humans needed in order to survive. I had none, and without it, I was going to die out here on the streets. I lived like a street rat, so I'd die like one too.
Within minutes I found a building. Curiosity got the better of me, so I started climbing up the long steel ladder. Once I reached the top, I pulled myself up and looked at my surroundings. It was just an AC cooler tower. What caught my eye was the small light inside. I walked over and opened the top hatch, jumping down inside. It was sort of strange to have furniture, a computer, and a bunch of other things inside of an AC cooler tower. It looked like a small apartment.
A smile slowly crept onto my face. Furniture meant people. People needed food. And where there was food, there was a fridge. And low and behold, a fridge was tucked in the side of the tower. "Jackpot!" I whispered, quietly going over to the refrigerator. I opened it slowly, the light from inside hitting my face. I quickly took whatever seemed good and stuffed it into my backpack, making sure to be quiet and not alarm anyone, not that there was someone in here. The place was deserted. I still didn't want to attract attention though. Maybe there's some money lying around here too. I could stash that quickly after I'm done h-
The sound of a faint grunt broke my train of thought. I whipped my head around to see two figures behind me. On instinct, I took a jar from my bag and hurled it at them. When I heard the breaking of glass, I cursed myself. Dammit! I just wasted food! I instantly started throwing punches at the more muscular one, landing maybe one or two, before someone from behind pulled my arms back and covered my mouth. "Don't scream," the voice soothed. A female voice at that. She sounded calm yet guarded, which, sadly, reminded me of home.
I tore away from her and backed away from them, clutching my bag to my chest. Not a word came from my mouth, only the sounds of our own breathing filling our ears, along with the hums of the computer and refrigerator. Finally, one of them spoke.
"Who are you?" the woman asked.
"I should be asking you that," I muttered under my breath. This was their AC cooling tower; just freaking great. I was so close to escaping with all this food and maybe a little cash until they decided to ruin it all.
The man took a step forward, holding out his hand. My arms instantly tightened around the backpack. There was no way he was getting any of my stash. "Just give me the bag," he said. His voice was deep but soothing. But even so, I wouldn't give in.
My leg went up and out, kicking his arm away. He grunted and clutched his arm, turning away from us. I'd really hurt him that time. The woman immediately went at me, her fists connecting with my body and knocking me back. I fought back with what strength I had left though, ducking and dodging any way I could, side stepping and jumping when necessary. One of her punches landed my right in the side of my head and I felt my body go down to the floor, landing hard. The bag fell from my grasp and next to me. When I tried to scramble up and retrieve it, the woman snatched it away, opening the main compartment and taking out whatever was inside.
My breathing was starting to get shallow with each passing second. The running had taken so much out of me, and this certainly hadn't made it any better. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, the thudding growing louder and louder. My eyes fluttered ever so slowly, and my vision started to fade. I curled my fingers into a fist, telling myself to be strong and get up, but my body finally gave up, my vision turning black, my mind slowly drifting into unconsciousness.
Sun…on my face…it feels so warm, so relaxing...
Wait a minute…
I gasped, my body jerking forward as I awoke. Pain instantly rushed to my arms, legs, and head. What the hell happened to me? I couldn't understand why I felt like pure shit.
My surroundings were very foreign. I didn't remember falling asleep on a comfy couch or wrapping a blanket around myself. Where in the hell am I? I wondered.
I looked over to where the sound had come from. A guy was sitting in a swivel chair, the kinds I used to spin in back at home and push the lever up so I'd be going down an imaginary toilet. He had the faintest hint of a smile on his face as he looked at me. I couldn't do anything but stare back, my fingers curling into a loose fist. If he had any ideas, I'd be ready. But then it just hit me – he was the guy from last night, the one who had ambushed me in my attempt to steal his food and raid his place.
"What's your name, kid?" he asked, his voice as calm and soothing as last night.
Nothing came out of my mouth. I wouldn't speak to this guy, not after what he'd done. I was so close to being home free and he just ruined everything. He had "pissed on my fire" so to speak.
"You hungry?" he asked, changing the subject.
Again, nothing came from my mouth. A small sound filled the room though, making my arms wrap around my stomach. I would have said no, but my stomach was obviously saying yes.
The man chuckled and opened a box that was on his table. He offered me a slice of pepperoni pizza. Without even thinking, I took it and ate it. I hadn't even thought about it first, like maybe if he'd poisoned it or drugged it or if it was from a dumpster outside. It tasted like regular pizza though.
Once I finished that slice, he took the box and opened it, showing me the rest of the pie. My mouth watered, the sight of the food tearing me apart from inside. This guy was my enemy, a very generous enemy at that. I needed to take a moment and think this through, but with food in my sight, I could care less whether or not this was all a trap. If I were to die right now, I would be glad it was on a full stomach. I reached out and gladly took another piece, finishing that one off and eating yet another piece. After that I decided to stop, sitting back and letting my food digest. It felt like I hadn't had pizza in years, or food for that matter. I would cherish this moment while I could, even if there was the possibility I could end up choking or anything in a matter of seconds.
"Thirsty?" the man asked.
Once more, no answer. Just because he had given me food didn't mean I'd start talking. But just that one word made my mouth go dry, and I tasted a small hint of blood in my mouth. My through was scratched up and bleeding still.
Without a word, the man got up and went over to the fridge, taking out a bottle of water from the side. He tossed it over to me on his way back and I caught it, twisting the cap open and letting the cool water run down my parched throat. It felt amazingly good, almost as good as the food entering my stomach.
He sat back down in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. I faced him and stared straight ahead, the only thing on my mind being to spring into action if he tried anything funny. After a long moment of silence, he spoke. "Ready to explain yourself?" His voice had turned serious compared to how soothing it sounded last night.
I swallowed hard. Just because he'd given me food, water, and a place to rest for the night, I wouldn't be giving him any details. For all I knew, he could've been an undercover cop or issued an amber alert on me.
The guy kept his eyes on me, his mouth pressed into a straight line. "Well?" he asked.
"What makes you think I'll answer to you?" I questioned. "You don't know shit about me."
"That's the thing," he said. "I'd like to know about you."
I scoffed at that. "Like you really give a damn." No one ever had before. With the exception of my family, no one had cared about me. I was just a miniscule piece of a big picture, nothing more.
"Why did you sneak in here?"
"What're you? Stupid?" It couldn't be more obvious. I needed food, water, shelter, the basic necessities of life. I didn't have that anymore, and if I'd gone without it for hours longer, I would've died.
The man looked on at me, not speaking. I'd shut him up for a few minutes. His brown eyes searched me. Normally I would've lashed out and demanded why he was examining me like a lab rat, until he got up and brought me something – workout clothes.
"Get dressed," he said.
"Why the hell should I?"
"You want to live, don't you?"
I was rendered speechless at that. I wanted to live more than anything. I was young and hadn't lived my life yet at all. I ran from home and had nothing left but my pride and my dignity.
The man jumped up and lifted himself out of his cool hideout. After minutes of consideration, arguing, and crying, I stripped and put on the sweatpants and t-shirt. I jumped and pulled myself out, still a little weak. He was leaning against the tower, looking on into the distance. "Have you ever heard of Runners?" he asked.
"No," I answered.
He nodded lightly and walked, beckoning me to follow him. So I did.
"Where are we going?"
Not much of a talker now, I thought. First he'd wanted to know about me, and now he wanted to be vague; bipolar much?
After much climbing down ladders and walking and hiding behind allies, day quickly turned to night. Miles and miles we went and we never spoke a word unless I needed to take a break and sit. By the time the stars came out, we climbed one final ladder. I looked around; it was nothing but a bunch of ramps, fences, poles, the kinds of things you would find on an unfinished construction site. "Why are we here?" I asked.
He didn't speak, only kept walking a little further. He jumped up and pulled himself onto a structure made from a series of poles and metal panels. I still wanted answers, so I joined him. After a couple more moments of silence, he spoke.
"You said you didn't know what a Runner was, right?"
"Still want to know?"
I nodded again.
"Runners are a certain group of people," he explained. "We're couriers, people that transfer messages, documents, or any other data from place to place or person to person."
"…So you guys are like FedEx?"
He chuckled at that. "Eh…sort of. We're more like…smugglers, I guess you could say. We take confidential stuff – information from the government, blueprints, etcetera."
I smiled softly. "I like you guys already." I hated the government. Nothing but a bunch of big shots corrupting what was once a majestic city of excitement and thrill.
He smiled faintly, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. "We deliver things in special ways though. We use parkour— the physical disciple of getting from point A to point B by stringing movements together; and free running – acrobatic movements mixed with street stunts and tricks . We use our bodies to get to where we want." It sounded sort of dirty, but I could understand what he meant. I'd seen people like that on TV. They twisted and did flips and kicks. It's known as the art of movement, and lived up to its title. The way those people moved looked beautiful, if I could say that.
"So basically you use the art of movement to smuggle data and get paid for it?"
"…Why are you giving me the chance?" Of all people out there, why was he choosing me to do this?
"Well," he sighed, "you're a young kid with no place to go. But after the way you nearly knocked me out last night and from what I'm seeing right now, you'd be pretty damn good."
I felt myself smile and shook my head incredulously. This was crazy; it was a great opportunity, but I wasn't so sure about it. For one, I'm not the most athletic person. I've got good stamina but I never put it to the test. I could deal out some pretty hard blows but that was only when I was in trouble. I already had experience in stealing, but it was for survival purposes, nothing more. But I did need to stay alive in this town and he seemed to trust me. I hated the government and was a big rebel. I hated the changes in this town and all information was kept behind closed doors. And I'd give anything to have a home again.
So, I agreed.
Disclaimer: I do not own Mirror's Edge.