Draven punched out and collected his pay at the sound of the bells signaling the end of working hours. Every morning, the same thing. Although the night marked one hundred years to the night since his evolution, he didn’t think of that. He didn’t know it was an anniversary of sorts for him—like for most of his people, time had ceased to have meaning the way it did for homo-sapiens. Even if he had known of the anniversary, he wouldn’t have thought much about it. His thoughts centered around one thing—eating.
Hunger nibbled continually at the edges of his nerves. Having only eaten one of his five rations that evening and nothing all night, he had begun to weaken from overwhelming thirst. He hadn’t gone so long without nourishment for a very long time. Unlike the usual slow work night, tonight his team had found a cache of contraband—mostly wooden items—that kept his team busy and a bit nervous. But he didn’t think about that now, either. The hunger made him frantic like an animal, clouded his vision, made important things fade and seem inconsequential.
He had nearly reached the restaurant when he saw her. If he hadn’t been so hungry, he would have noticed her earlier. But with his mind so distracted, he didn’t see the homo-sapien until she darted into the street directly in front of his silent car. She glanced up, her eyes huge and terrified, when she realized her mistake. But she kept going. So did he, for a second, too startled to command the Mert to stop. When he did, he also applied the manual brakes. He didn’t think the stop command would work fast enough to spare the animal’s life.
He swore and wrenched the brake back. The car began to skid. He pressed his palm to the steering screen and spun it, pressing down hard, as if that would prove more effective than a light touch. The car spun. It slid sideways and smashed into the corner of a building. Draven’s head jarred against the window. A bolt of pain shot through him, and for a moment, stunned him into immobility. The flash of raw, fierce pain held him in its grip for a few moments and then began to fade, restoring his vision as it receded. The car had jolted to a stop, melded to the building it hit. He sat for a few seconds, waiting for his mind to catch up with what had just happened.
“Merde,” he said, slamming his hand on the dash. He got out and went around the car. The building had crushed the side of the Mert. He scowled and shoved the car away from the wall, back onto the street. The wheels still functioned, and since only the side of the car had caved, he wouldn’t have to pay for the damage. The Memory Metal would find the correct shape again in a night or so. Still, he’d have to drive around with a dented car. And he’d have to get the ad on the side redone.
He’d already opened his door to get back in when he caught a faint whiff of sap and remembered the cause of the accident. Damn sapien, running into the street without looking for turning cars. Or too simple-minded to notice them. And what was a sap doing alone on the street at this hour of the night, the last meal before Superiors went to sleep? Even trusted saps who ran errands should have gone home an hour ago. And they wouldn’t run like that.
Saps were always causing problems—escaping the Confinement, staying out past the appropriate hours for errands, running away from their owners. Granted, sometimes their owners could be quite cruel, but Draven didn’t like to dwell on that. That was just the way of the world.
Before sliding into the car, he scented for the runaway. Even from the next street over he could hear where she’d gone, and he could still smell her tantalizing aroma, so tempting in his current state of hunger. He should bring her in. He’d get a bonus if she was a runaway, and he could use it to fix the ad on his car. She’d caused the damage, after all.
He turned onto the street where he’d heard her, and after a second, he spotted her. He slowed his Mert to watch her darting along the side of the buildings, away from the lights. She must have been young then, young enough not to realize he could see her in the shadows, even in the dark.
Of course he had to report her or bring her in, and he needed that money. But, already exhausted and pulling on his reserve for strength, he didn’t know if he could do it. He didn’t know if he could resist. He knew the law as well as anyone, though. Feeding on someone else’s property constituted theft. But the law—that was one of the important things that started to seem inconsequential in the face of overpowering hunger.
|Adrian Grenier||as Draven|
|Aimee Teegarden||as Cali|
|Nicholas Lea||as Byron|