The Renegades (The Superiors)

THE RENEGADES

 

By Lena Hillbrand

 

THE RENEGADES

 

Lena Hillbrand

 

Kindle Edition

 

Copyright 2013 Lena Hillbrand

 

 

 

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Part One

 

Chapter 1

 

Draven
was running. He had been running for some time. Running from humans who had
captured and lost him, running from the law that had once protected him. He no
longer relied on the Law to provide for and protect him. He had crossed a
member of Law Enforcement, and although he did not know if a case against him
had been fabricated, or if a case could be made from his violations, he did not
intend to find out.

He
darted between two buildings and came to a halt when he saw he could continue
no further. Some sort of construction blocked the end of the alley. He could
hear the men closing in, drawing nearer every moment. He sprinted straight for
the metal scaffolding, not sure if he could clear it but having little
alternative. If the men caught him, he would no longer have to wonder if a case
against him existed.

Relying
on instinct, he did not consider his actions before he leapt. One moment he was
running, and the next he was swinging from a metal bar high above the abandoned
alleyway. He twisted his body to increase its natural momentum until he could
have completed a full rotation with one more swing. Instead, he released the
bar at the zenith of his body’s next arc and sailed through the air towards the
roof.

The
scaffolding did not provide enough lift for him to gain the roof, however, and
his feet struck the brick wall and propelled him backwards. As he fell, he
rotated his body and reached out until his fingers closed around the iron bar once
more. He glanced back towards the alley’s entrance, to the street below, where
his pursuers now turned into the alleyway. They had not yet looked up and seen
him. Moving hand over hand, he edged to the brick wall and began to climb,
spider-like, towards the roof.

Even
after a year, his newfound abilities fascinated him. Knowing the extent of his
physical powers was at once exhilarating and sobering. He’d lived a hundred
years never knowing the limits of his physical capabilities. No one had told
him he could scale a building like his hands came equipped with suctions. No
one had told him he could leap a flight of stairs instead of climbing them,
that he could swing from branch to branch like the fabled animal called a
monkey, that he could fall three stories and land on his feet, unharmed. No one
had told him, because they’d rather he not know.

After
scrambling onto the roof, he looked down to see the three men below peering
about in confusion. They had not looked up to see him ascend the building. If,
like he, they had belonged to the Third Order, they would not have known he
possessed the capability to achieve such a feat, or that they possessed those
same abilities and could have followed him. Even the lone Second among the
three men, who likely knew he possessed such power, could not seem to
understand where Draven had gone. Had the Second seen him, he perhaps still
would not have tried to follow. Who would attempt to scale the face of a brick
building with his bare hands?

After
watching the men’s puzzled expressions a moment longer, Draven turned and
started across the roof. Now that he’d eaten—stolen his dinner, as usual, this
time from the livestock of the Second still standing in the alleyway wondering
how Draven had disappeared into thin air—he felt strong and alert, determined
as ever. He leapt to the next rooftop, no longer bothering to pause and
contemplate the jump or wonder if he could clear the distance between
buildings. He usually could. When he couldn’t, he landed on his feet and
continued onwards. Once he’d broken a leg, he thought, but that had healed in a
few days, despite the pain.

As
he traversed the city, he turned his head, left, right, left-right, scanning.
Always scenting for his lost homo-sapien, hoping to savor her scent among all
the other scents of the city. Sometimes, discouraged, he imagined her owner had
left the area after he’d wrested her from Draven. But Draven did not think it
likely. And until he knew, until he’d scented every apartment and house in Princeton, he would continue searching.

This
night, like each of those over the past year, yielded no results. He finished
his search with the familiar disappointment he experienced each night. Though he
longed to continue searching all day, he could not. He would tire quickly and lose
strength, and he could not see well enough to calculate distances in daylight.
If he fell and injured himself and could not drag himself to safety, he risked
not only severe sunburn, but also discovery.

Long
after the bells chimed, when the sky had brightened and other Superiors retired
for the night, leaving the deserted streets lit only by the blue light of dawn,
Draven turned back. The town lay quiet and, but for a few windows lit from
within by the faint glow of electricity, appeared abandoned. Draven skimmed the
roofs, avoiding energy collecting devices and rooftop greenery, and swung down
to the street by the same scaffolding he’d ascended. After verifying that no
one had observed him, he started for his sleeping spot, racing through the
streets at his newly discovered speed. He’d never before realized the extent of
his speed and endurance, even during the short time he had trained with the
Enforcer who now called him an enemy and a traitor. Perhaps he’d never before
possessed such speed and endurance.

He
arrived at the chain-link fence, scaled it in seconds, leapt the razor wire and
dropped into the lot. He moved between dented cars and stacks of balding tires to
the back of the lot. After ensuring he was alone, he lifted his door and
crawled inside, pulled the door into place behind him and made himself
comfortable in the body of the vehicle he had chosen for his new home. Though
perhaps he was not officially a fugitive, he lived as one, because by failing
to participate in society, he became a threat to the order that the Law so
vehemently imposed.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Cali sat at the end of her chain, leaning forward with legs splayed. She clapped her hands
and smiled at the baby.

“Come
on,” she said, clapping lightly as she coaxed him to move. “Come ‘ere, baby,
you can do it. Come on.”

The
baby stomped his chubby foot and squealed, then fell forward on his hands and
knees and crawled to her.

“Walk,”
she said, lifting him onto his feet and scooting back. “You can’t sit on my lap
until you walk.”

Leo
waved his fists and let out an angry wail of protest.

“Girl,
you torturing our baby again?” Shelly asked, twitching in from the balcony. Cali hefted the baby onto her lap and rolled onto her back to put it on her stomach.

“He’s
fine,” she said. “I was just trying to get him to get up and walk. Shouldn’t he
be doing that by now?”

“He’ll
walk when he’s good and ready, won’t you, Leo?” Shelly said, coming over to pat
the baby’s back.

“You
know, I never would have pegged you for a good father,” Cali said.

“Girl,
stop your words. I’m as motherly as you are.”

Cali laughed. “That you are.”

Shelly
lifted the baby and made kissy faces at him. “Did Mommy hurt you? She’s a bad
mommy, yes she is.” The baby reached out and grabbed Shelly’s protruding lip.
Shelly pulled away, pretending to spit in disgust. All this left the baby
unmoved, but Cali giggled enough for them both. She found it hard not to feel
good with a baby around, even though she had plenty of reasons for unhappiness.
Every day she had to remind herself that the baby didn’t belong to them, that
soon enough Master would sell it.

“You
better stop getting so attached,” she warned Shelly, who was bouncing the baby
on his hip while he uncovered the fall garden from the tarps.

“Ba-ba-ba,” Leo said.

“That’s
right,” Shelly said. “And I’m not attached.” He gathered the tarp at the edge
of the garden and secured it with an elastic cord. “Besides, so what if I am?”
he continued. “At least the baby gets some love. I can deal with a broken
heart, you know. I done it before.”

“Yeah,
okay, princess,” Cali said, borrowing a word she’d learned from her hero when he’d
helped her escape last year. Unfortunately, that hadn’t worked out too well for
her, and now she had to wear an ankle cuff that chained her to a metal loop in
the wall next to the bed. Also, she was pretty sure her hero had met a bloody
end when she’d been recaptured, but that didn’t stop her from thinking of him
as her hero and referring to him constantly—a habit that annoyed Shelly to no
end.

“Hey,
just cause some people got a Superior heart and can’t love, don’t mean we all
have to be so cruel.” Shelly leaned in the door to deliver this news.

“I’m
not cruel,” Cali said. “And I don’t have a Superior heart. I don’t even believe
Superiors have hearts.” She stretched out on the floor so she could reach the
door. Propping her chin in her hands, she watched Shelly working outside. She
could only look now. She could no longer help in the garden. At least she could
reach the door to talk to Shelly while he worked, though she had to lie down to
do that. “For your information,” she said, “maybe I loved Herman. Now give me
that baby, before you drop him. If you get to do the garden, you can’t hog the
baby, too.”

“He
has a name, you know,” Shelly said, squatting to deposit the boy with Cali.
“And you can’t love someone you met for one day. You only love the idea of
Herman, which is the idea of freedom. Both of which are dead, so stop thinking
about it before you get us in trouble again.”

Cali
wiggled her fingers in the baby’s face until he grabbed one. She played with
him until Shelly went back to poking around in the soil and looking at the
vegetables. Though the thought of escape was never far from her mind, she
didn’t like to think of what her failed attempt had cost her. She’d lost all freedom
when Master had recaptured her. When they’d gotten home that morning, he’d
thrown her into her apartment so hard she’d hit the wall and lost
consciousness. Just as she woke, he’d come into their rooms, strapped an ankle
cuff on her and chained her to the wall, then thrown her on the bed, sat on her
and seared the back of her hand with a branding iron while she shrieked and
thrashed futilely.

Worse
still, after he’d beaten her nearly unconscious again, he’d made her watch as
he beat Shelly and the baby, telling her that her actions caused their
suffering and that if she ever disobeyed him again, she’d sentence her
companions to punishment equal her own. Shelly had lost two teeth that day and
limped for months, and she suspected Leo would never function as a normal baby
would.

Though
she grieved what she’d caused her companions, she’d had a taste of freedom, the
hope of it, and she couldn’t get it out of her mind ever since.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Byron
woke with a headache. He’d had a bit too much wine that morning. He rid his
body of it in the washroom, then cleaned up. He wasn’t having the best year.
Nothing had gone right on his case in over a year, and it looked like he’d be
stuck in Princeton another winter if things didn’t clear up in the next few
months. The way things had gone lately, he didn’t see that happening.

Byron
had begun to hate Princeton. He hated snow and he hated winter and he hated the
mountains. Most of all, he hated sapiens and his dependence on them. He hated
people who treated them kindly and gave them freedoms they were too brainless
to handle, people like Meyer Kidd.

If
he’d been able to dream, he would’ve had nightmares about the souldamned kid every
day, and Kidd was enough of a nightmare when Byron was awake. No matter how he
tried, Byron could not connect Kidd to the escaped humans or the missing
Superiors in his case. Worse, he knew the connection existed, and not being
able to find it infuriated him. He talked to Meyer every few weeks, and he
couldn’t shake the feeling that every time he hung up, Meyer was having a good
laugh at him.

This
boy, this
child
, had gotten the better of him, and Byron couldn’t stop
thinking about it. Milton had warned Byron that if he didn’t stop obsessing
over the connection, he’d have to take him off the case. Byron had never been
taken off a case. He knew he was right. But he couldn’t prove anything.

On
top of that, he’d thought the case was nearly solved when he’d trapped some
runaway saps in an old building, only to have them turn on him and his partners
with weapons no sap should know about. He was lucky he had escaped with his
life. Well, not lucky so much as shrewd. He’d lived through a hundred years of
war, and a hundred more after that, and he’d be damned if he was going to meet
his end at the hands of a bunch of dumb animals with crude wooden stakes.

He
knew that, by law, he could not slaughter even the most dangerous sapiens. But
if he’d tried to preserve them for the blood bank, as his partners had, he’d
have wound up as dead as they were. Saps who tried to kill Superiors didn’t
deserve to live anyway, not even in blood banks.

The
discovery of vigilante saps wasn’t even the worst part of that situation. He’d
discovered the worst the next night when a team of Enforcers had returned to
identify the bodies and clean up. They’d found things a bit different from how
he’d left them.

For
one, the mutant incubus that Byron had incapacitated had escaped. Just thinking
about the creature gave him the creeps. Not only had the incubus gotten away,
somehow Draven had managed to escape, too, though Byron had made sure that dumb
prick had been incapacitated before he left. Otherwise, the brainless
backar
chodu
would have tried to fight him for his sapien. He should have known
better than to befriend a Third. No matter how promising Third Order Superiors
appeared, they always disappointed in the end.

Now
here were all these wise, experienced, intelligent Seconds, stuck governing a
bunch of lower-class Third Order killing machines, trying to keep them
civilized and orderly. The Second Order had done a good job of it. If anything
could be said for killing machines, they were good at following orders. In
fact, the Third Order caused only a rash of petty crime on occasion. Seconds
were responsible for the serious crimes, the ones only Enforcers and government
officials knew about.

Like
this damn Meyer Kidd. This was what happened when someone made a harebrained
decision and brought a ten-year-old through the evolution process. They should
have drained him like a glass of fresh sap and left his carcass for the rats,
as they had the rest of the humans during the Great Evolution.

No
good could come from letting a ten-year-old conduct his own affairs. He should
have been asking Mommy and Daddy for a chocolate milk at his age. Or a
chocolate sap, if evolution couldn’t be avoided. He damn sure shouldn’t run his
own business, making out like a bandit while he was at it. The kid should have
failed in the first month.

Byron
sighed, coming back to the present. His obsession wore on him, had begun to
make him ignore other options in the case. But the option of vigilante humans
was too ludicrous to consider. Superiors had to be behind it somewhere.

When
he found those Superiors responsible, he would have his revenge. He’d taken a
stake in the side that night, and he’d only gotten his own sapien in return. He
hadn’t even known she’d joined the runaways until he saw her. What a shock that
had been. She’d survived the massacre, thanks to that little
jhant chaatu
Draven, who thought saving her meant she belonged to him. What a joke.
Byron had purchased her, therefore she was his. End of discussion.

 

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