The Renegade

One moment can change your life.

Argon is a peaceful city... as long as you respect its rules.

Tonight would've been no exception for those rules. Time just got away from me. New curfews have programs scrambling to get home at early hours. Usually I sat inside my small flat, smirking at the late programs as they dashed by. But this time it was the other way around.

Wasn't sure how it got so late without me noticing. I blame the extra 3 shots of energy I somehow managed to swallow at the bar and the cute guy in the corner whose eyes kept catching mine. Either way, I was still behind. An image flashed through my head of an orange disk scattering thousands of my derezzed pieces across the game arena. I shook my head, trying to clear it of the image. I couldn't let myself think like that. Not yet. Not while I was still alive and running.

Rain tapped against the hood of my cloak, beading in small, crystal droplets across the slope of my shoulders. Soft blue light glowed from the surrounding buildings, lighting up the dark sky and casting an oily, teal polish across the flooded streets. Argon always took on a new 'shine' when it rained but I had no time to enjoy it now. There were other things on my mind.

"Halt program!" The harsh, electronic voice rang through the deserted street. The hollow clapping of footsteps echoed around the quiet buildings, quickly followed by a flash of orange light. Like an ember increasing in heat, an orange glow enveloped the surrounding buildings. Dread swelled inside my chest when two large Patrollers appeared around the corner. Out of Clus forces the Patrollers were considered the biggest with their towering height, broad shoulders, and muscular build. But they were fast too. Being that they were programmed to track down and subdue renegade programs.

Which is exactly what I was at the moment...

And since that was the case it would probably be best if I didn't get caught. Muttering a string of curse words I turned on my heel and ran. Water sloshed across my feet as I powered through the deluge. A pounding noise rose up behind me as the Patrollers took chase. Slipping and sliding, I somehow managed to keep on my feet as I gripped corners with insane desperation. But it didn't matter how hard I ran. They were gaining. I was only a medical program. How could I stand a chance against the highly skilled guards of Clus army? Well... I probably couldn't.

Then I spotted it. The shipyard. Rows and rows of storage units stacked together in a labyrinth of metal boxes. Yes, it was dangerous. But my chance of survival was better in there than it was in the game arena. A twinge of hesitation twisted in my chest but it was quickly squashed when the Patrollers behind me yelled "Halt!" again. Changing my course, I zipped into the shipyard, quickly swallowed by the deep shadows. The markings on my suit took on a sharp jade tone as my surroundings grew darker. I cursed when I realized that the darkness would just cause the lights on my outfit to grow brighter and highlight me as a target. Well, there was nothing I could do about at the moment. At least, I figured, they would be just as inconvenienced as I was with their orange markings.

As I ran through the maze of storage units, my breathing coming in quick gasps, odd memories popped into my head. My bed sitting in its' corner, the shot of energy that I'd sipped on only hours before, my friend Dex. Frowning, I shook the memories away. I could ponder on my life after I've saved it. With a gasp I skidded to a halt. "No..." I muttered desperately.

Dead end.

I'd run myself straight into a corner. Trapped. I turned around, the light of the two Patrollers rapidly growing brighter. Doing the only thing I could think of, I backtracked and ran straight towards my pursuers. All they had to do was turn the upcoming corner and I was done for. I'd be captured for the games or derezzed on the spot. But at the last second I turned, diving to the right ,into a side path and out of sight from the Patrollers. I took another left and hit another dead-end. Still trapped. Turning to run again I froze as the two guards dashed past. I couldn't run now. They'd see me, catch me, and then I'd be finished. All I could do was sit in the shadow, hiding from them in this small path and hope that they didn't bother to check my hiding spot.

If only I could be that lucky.

"Dead end." Came the deep, electronic voice of a Patroller.

"Find her." Commanded the other.

The shuffling of feet could be heard as they searched the small area. From my spot, tucked in behind a storage unit, I heard the clanging of metal as one of the Patrollers hopped on top of one of the boxes to get a better look. After he hopped down he said, "No sign of her."

"Keep searching."

The clacking of their armor grew louder as they grew nearer. At first they passed my small pathway by but then they turned back, the Patroller saying, "Let's look in here. She couldn't have gone that far."

Fear crawled into my throat as their footfalls grew closer and closer until they were only 15 feet away. Three more steps and they would spot me. Hesitatingly, I reached behind my back and grasped my disk. I pulled it off with a quiet click. In response to my touch, it flashed and brightened in it's green light and vibrated in my hand, humming as if it was happy to see me. I knew that a simple medical program like me was no competition against two Patrollers but at least I could go down fighting. Maybe even take one of them with me. I closed my eyes, preparing myself for the end when suddenly there was the sound of static. My eyes snapped open in surprise. It must have startled the Patrollers too because they froze.

"Receiving special report." Came the distant, computerized voice of a COM link. "Give special attention." An aggravated voice of what I recognized to be one of Clus guards replaced the previous voice, exclaiming "The aggravator known as the Renegade has just damaged assembly property. Guards are in pursuit. Renegade is suspected to have a possible major injury. Last seen in Area 3. All Patrollers are ordered re-route and pursue. Order in immediate effect."

Clacking filled the air a the Patrollers turned and marched away. Once they were out of hearing distance a huge gust of long-held air exploded from my chest. A miracle. That's what it was. A miracle. I squeezed my disk until it's refined edge cut into my palm, just to make sure that I was still alive. Limbs shaking, I pushed myself to my feet barely restraining my shock. I'd been so sure that it'd been over that living was now a surprise. Suddenly I stopped, my insides filling with ice. "It isn't over yet." I realized. Home was still a long ways off and I was an outlaw the entire way there.

Better get started...

Clicking my disk back into its place between my shoulder blades I summoned my helmet. Immediately, a black screen snapped into place, shielding my face with a black veil of glass. If I was going to be an outlaw for the night I might as well look like one. Then I ran. Retracing my steps throughout the many paths of the shipyard.

The Renegade had left me an opening and I intended to use it.