It's quiet when I stop to catch my breath. A heavy, tangible quiet that buzzes in my ears. The rain has let up a little bit. But not by much. Droplets of the downpour still slither across my helmet and down my arms. There hasn't been any sign of the Patrollers since the shipyard but I'm not taking any chances. They were still out there. Somewhere.

I peek around the corner of the alley expecting an orange disk to come flying towards my face. But no one is there. Just a dark street. Cautiously, I stepped out of the shadows and into the dull circle of light cast by a flickering streetlamp. I knew that I looked formidable with the black screen over my face but no alarm was raised when I finally emerged into the open.

Crossing the street into another dark alley, I made my way past dozens of darkened windows towards the hospital. Usually I would go through Argon Square to get back home but going through one of the busiest parts of town where there was a greater chance for me to run into a Patroller or get reported by some snitch program, did not sound like the smartest idea so I'd resolved to taking the back way around the edge of the city.

The tang of ocean salt hit my nose as I rounded a corner. I knew that only a couple more blocks away lay the Sea of Simulation. The boat port was only a short distance beyond that. Air dragged in and out of my lungs as I ran, fogging the edges of my mask. "Only a little bit farther", i chided myself. Pulling up alongside the edge of a building, I peeked around the smooth corner to check out the street. Deserted. I smiled to myself. Maybe tonight would end okay after all. I moved to run but with a barely-withheld squeak I jumped back, heart in my throat.

Speeding around a corner came three Guards. They were smaller and less armored than the Patrollers since they were built more for speed and sneak-attacks than brute force, but they were just as deadly. If not more dangerous. The tainted color of orange was just as bright in my eyes as they marched closer. I've seen the Guards move fast before, when taking down an unruly program, but never this fast. They definitely had a target.

Quietly, I slipped farther behind the building, embracing the shadows and letting them envelope me. With the rattle of armor the three guards jogged past. As they ran by, my eyes caught the fine, orange edges of their disks and I cringed at the sight. But I was distracted from my thoughts when their conversation hit my ears. Listening intently, I frowned as I attempted to understand their meaning.

"... The area's surrounded. The only way he could possibly escape is through the boat port."

"Negative." Replied the other Guard. "Squad 5 has it sealed. There is no escape."

"Good." The last Guard responds. "He couldn't have made it that far anyways if his injuries are as bad as they reported."

The rest of the conversation fades into an incoherent mumble as they grow farther and farther away. I frown, not understanding. "Who could be so important to have an entire squadron of Guards sent after them? They couldn't possibly mean the actual Renegade could they?" I shake my head to clear it. Whatever was going on didn't concern me. Getting home did. Checking the street one last time to make sure that no other Guards were making a sudden appearance, I dashed out into the dusky street. Only two more blocks to go.

The streets and alleys here grow narrower while the buildings that line them grow taller. The entrance to my apartment is located in the back of the hospital. It was one door amid a line of ten others. The only difference between mine and my neighbors being the gray 8 stamped on the front. Just the thought of it filled me with hope. But I still had a block to get there. All I can say about what happens next is that I had been so undeniably close but so far at the same time.

You can call it fate. I call it an accident. Either way, my destiny was decided when He showed up. I'd been running and running hard. The hospital was only a short sprint away and the sight of it had filled me with hope. Gritting my teeth with determination I tore across the slick street. From above I saw a flash of white. My eyes flicked upward and with a yell I reared backwards, my feet slipping from underneath me and my back smacked into the hard ground.

With wide eyes I watched as a figure clad in white hit the top of a building (only twenty feet above my head) and rolled towards the edge. I expected him to stop. But that didn't happen. The ivory figure spiraled straight off the top of the building, like something in a nightmare, and plummeted towards the ground. He hit the ground with a sickening smack and I think I heard groan of pain but I couldn't be sure with all the roaring in my own ears. With a gasp of horror I scrabbled backwards away from the figure who'd landed not even ten feet from my heels.

With strangled movements He raised himself onto his knees. The glimmer of exposed pixels twinkled at me from underneath a hand that weakly grasped at his abdomen and ragged breaths echoed in my ears. Behind the reflective black mask that screened his face from mine, and mine from his, I felt his eyes lock with my wide ones. Somehow, through the panting that I can only describe to be the distinctive sound of agony he managed to gasp,

"Help me... please,"

Before collapsing at my feet.

His limp hand fell away from his abdomen, revealing a deep gash that glittered with raw pixels. But I took no notice. I could not tear my eyes from the marking, the symbol, on his chest. Pure, white light emanated from his collarbone. I felt my heart and lungs freeze as the glow filled my eyes. Though it was not the emblem itself that chilled me to the core but rather what it stood for. Built up of 4 simple squares was the letter T.


He was the Renegade.