No sooner than he had settled the piece of furniture than he heard a Battery City police quad spill into the apartment he had just exited. A few tense minutes passed as Renegade listened to the officers search the suite. He giggled as he imagined their faces when they realized that the zonerunner they thought they had cornered, had vanished. When one of them gave the order to send for forensics Renegade slipped quietly from the office into the main hallway of the building.
Posters from bands long gone lined the halls. He prowled the corridors, searching for a door number. Frank had told him that the second to the top level was the one, the top floor being used for storage.
"Room Number 97, hopefully they wont have cleared all our stuff out yet." Frank had said, clapping Renegade on the shoulder. "Thanks for this man."
"Don't worry about it Frank, I owe you."
"I told you to forget about that, I don't count debts." Fun Ghoul smiled and pulled his mask over his face. "But if there's someone on your tail Hugh, don't stop. It's only a photo album; it isn't worth getting caught over."
"Pft, as if those Battery City bumpkins can catch me." he rolled his eyes. "Their dumber than dracs."
And so Renegade had led the officers chasing him to the building next door, and then lost them when he leapt into the old music headquaters.
"Room 97... 97.. Here it is!" He pushed open the door and was disappointed to find it empty.
The My Chemical Romance flat had been stripped of everything, bar a few chairs and a coffee table. Renegade felt a surge of anger towards BL/ind. They hadn't wasted any time in destroying any evidence of the rock bands existence. Frank said that the photo album was full of pictures from every concert the band had played at, spanning the decade that they had been together.
Renegade kicked one of the chairs. He was annoyed, the boys would be devastated that BLi had already started clearing out the building. Frank especially, he was becoming increasingly nostalgic the past year. Hugh didn't want to disappoint his close friend.
He turned to leave the bare room and felt a flicker of hope. Behind the door was a box. He rushed over and pawed through its contents. There were a bunch of posters, a couple of the boys clothes, an art diary and right at the bottom, dusty and a little worse-for-wear, was the photo album. Renegade grinned and picked up the whole box, not wanting to leave anything behind for BLi/nd to destroy.
Just as he reached the fire escape Renegade jumped back at the sound of footsteps. He pressed himself against the wall, heart pounding as someone passed by on the other side of the door. His immediate thought was that the police had figured out his plan and were searching the building right now. But this explanation was stupid, Hugh could only hear one person, and he knew that the BCDP wasn't that smart.
Whoever it was kept going up. He waited as they climbed another 6 series of steps before a passing through a door. There was a thump as the door swung shut and silence resumed. Renegade opened the fire-door and stepped into the stairwell. He leant over the railing and looked up to the top of the building, but couldn't see anyone. Shrugging he began to make his way down the long flight of stairs.
Hugh had been a zonerunner for the full 8 years since the takeover. He was a hardened killer and was very reluctant to stick his neck out for anyone, except for his friends. Through a combination of gut instinct and experience, Renegade had come to the conclusion that risking his life for strangers was foolhardy and a good way to get himself ghosted. And yet, the splatters of blood that were smeared on the stairs of Lazenby Tower caused Hugh to contemplate doing just that. He stood on the landing and tried to talk himself out of following the red trail up the stairs, because freedom was in the opposite direction.
"Get a grip Hugh, now's not the time to grow a conscience." He jumped down three stairs, cursed violently and doubled back. "Fucking stupid idea, can't believe I'm doing this. I'm gonna get myself killed for some stupid stranger. I need to get back to Fun Ghoul before dawn..." he grumbled to himself as he climbed the stairs.
When he got to the top of the stairs Renegade paused at the door to the roof. The droplets of blood lead outside and he had to check himself before rashly dashing out after the evidently injured person. He placed the box of MCR memories on the ground and sucked in a deep breath before gently opening the door and peering out onto the roof.
Standing at the edge of the concrete expanse was a blonde figure, bloody arms raised in the wind. The lights of the city illuminated her silhouette and Hugh could just make out her anguished voice. It took him a moment to take in the scene, but when the girl put one foot out over the gaping maw between buildings he wasted no time in sprinting across the roof.
Abbey leant forward into the abyss and felt a giddy rush of adrenaline surge through her as her weight passed the point of no return. Even if she wanted to, she wouldn't be able to righten herself now. This was The End.
Just as she thought she would drop, a pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist and hauled her back from the edge. She screamed and kicked as her body was yanked away from the winking lights.
"No!" she shouted, clawing at the hands that gripped her. "Let me go you bastard! Let me go!" she continued to howl insults at Renegade as he dragged her all the way back to the relative safety of the door. There he spun her around and held onto her sticky wrists. She yelped at the pain that shot through her arms and continued the rail at him. Hugh calmly let the hysterical teenager yell at him until her hoarse insults turned to quiet hiccups. Abbey's legs gave out and her knees hit the ground sharply. Renegade tactfully let go of her torn wrists and crouched next to the suicidal girl.
"Now why would you want to go and do that, hmm?" He nudged her shoulder. "I thought your pills kept all you people happy."
Abbey burst into tears again and sobbed into her hands. Renegade raised an eyebrow at the extreme level of emotion that the teenager was showing. He pondered over the effectiveness of the drugs BL/ind was feeding it's citizens, before drawing a line through that explanation. Everyone else in the city was still doped up and grinning.
"Here, let me fix you up a little." He gently tugged a smeared hand away from the girls face and inspected the lacerations on her wrist. He hissed sympathetically at the deep cuts and shook his head at the miserable kid. Her lime green eyes, red and swollen from crying, observed him as he tore a strip of fabric from his shirt. He wrapped it around her forearm and tied it tightly, trying to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. She whimpered as he pulled the knot fast, trying not to complain. Hugh did the same for her other arm and then sat back on his heels and pondered what to do with the kid.
"What's your name?" he asked her
She sniffed. "Why? What does it matter to you?"
He shrugged. "It doesn't, a name's just a name. It doesn't help someone understand anyone better, or give any indication as to why a kid want to end their life." He nudged her slightly. "But it would be good to know, so that next time I pop into the graveyard I can see if I was wasting my time tonight."
The girl flinched away from his blunt wording. "Abbey. My name's Abbey Palini."
"And so Abbey, am I wasting my time?" he probed.
"Probably." she shrugged and stared at the stars, faintly winking behind the film of pollution in the atmosphere.
Hugh felt slightly frustrated at her lack of explanation. "So why; how can this be the only way out? Seems a bit desperate don't you think?"
Abbey shook her head and swallowed the lump in her throat. "Trust me, there's no other way for me. I'm such a freak..."
"A freak." he looked at her seemingly intact body. "Wanna explain that one to me?"
She shook her head sharply. "I can't tell anyone. If you knew... If I tell someone they might tell Better Living Industries, and I don't want to live in a test tube."
Renegade laughed. "Oh no no no. You've got me all wrong, that's for sure. BL/ind and I don't see eye to eye very often." He chuckled at the thought of actually helping the dictatorship. "I wouldn't tell anyone." he added softly.
Abbey sighed. "I guess it doesn't matter what I do and don't tell you. You wont be able to act on it before I... Well anyway." she chewed on her lip for a moment thinking. "So you know how everyone is really happy around here, and how the pills that BL/ind gives us help us not to worry about... stuff?"
Hugh shook his head. "There's no us there honey, I don't do those drugs." he didn't think it would matter that he told the girl.
Abbey gave a crooked smile at this. "Well then I spose you do understand how I feel a bit."
"Hmm? You don't take the pills!? But surely people notice that. Don't your parents-"
Abbey shook her head. "No no I take them. They just... don't work on me I guess."
Hugh was at a loss for words. He couldn't tell if the girl was lying, she seemed sincere. 'But how is that possible?' he mused to himself.
When he didn't say anything Abbey continued. "I can't deal with it. I hate the fact that I'm always being watched, judged. They keep waiting for me to snap, for something to happen; some proof that I'm a lunatic." Water puddled in her eyes again. "I'd give anything to be normal."
Renegade wiped the tears softly from her cheeks. "Hey now, don't be so melancholy babe. What you've got is a gift, not a curse."
"A gift!?" she exclaimed. "How's it a gift when all it does it set me apart from everyone else? I used to love to standing out, but now it's just asking to be taken away by the government." she scratched at the dried blood on her jeans. "I don't want to be taken away from my home. It may not be today, but sometime next week, next month, next year they'll come for me. And there's nothing I can do, except beat them to it."
"Nu-uh, that's not gonna happen." Renegade put an arm around her shoulder.
"It isn't?" she sniffed.
"Nope. Because Abbey, you're going to beat them at their own game. You're going to go back home and act like nothing is wrong."
"But I've tried acting normal!" she wailed.
Renegade squeezed her arm. "Well you mustn't be trying hard enough then. Any kid who's got enough guts to take their own life, definitely has enough gumption to pull the wool over a couple of zombies eyes."
"You really think so?" Abbey's sleepy green eyes fixed on Renegade's.
"I know so." he confirmed and grinned.
Abbey's eyes searched his. "But why? What's the point in living if I can't be me?"
Hugh pondered for a moment. "Because I'm going to come and visit you, that will help stop the boredom. And I can't do that unless you're still alive and at home."
"Really?" she murmured sleepily. "You'll come and see me?"
"Mhmm." He ruffled her fringe. "What do you think of that Abbey?"
"S'fine with me." she yawned. "What's your name again?"
"Anton." Hugh lied. He wasn't sure why, but he felt the need to keep both his identities a secret from this fragile girl, at least for the time being.
"Anton..." she hummed his name appreciatively. "You have really cool hair." she mumbled, twisting a black lock of it around her finger. "It goes all rainbow-like in the light, kinda like petrol."
Renegade chuckled. "I think that's the blood loss talking honey. Here," her helped pull her to her feet. "we'd better get you home so that your parents can fix you up with a doctor."
Abbey leaned on him heavily and almost tripped over the flat ground in the few feet to the fire escape. Renegade pushed open the door and guided the drowsy teenager inside. He grabbed the MCR box and instructed her to hold onto it before he swept her into his arms and began the long trek down the stairs. Barely two floors down she was asleep in his arms, the voices in her head silenced.