I can hear the helicopter getting closer. Its blades give me plenty of warning, and I'm safely hidden behind a fast food dumpster long before its sleek, featureless black body passes low overhead.
I smile as it turns and is hidden by a building. That is the only celebration I allow. It is, after all, a small victory, like the others I've won tonight. And last night, and for many nights before that.
I slip out with the sound of the chopper still fading. I need to stay on the move, and pick my resting places very carefully. There are people on foot looking for me as well, and if they're in the area a mere dumpster won't escape inspection.
This is a fairly small town, luckily, and it is late. The streets are nearly deserted. From time to time a car approaches more closely than is comfortable, but there are bushes to crouch behind, culverts to dive into, trees to scramble up.
Damn. I should have looked in that dumpster while I was there. Now I have to find another place to find food. There. A house with newspapers piled on the driveway. There's only a few, so the owners haven't been gone long. The food shouldn't be too spoiled. And it might be a good place to spend the night as well.
I prefer to rest in a house. It's more comfortable than most other options. But more importantly, they don't go searching for me there. Searching door to door would be too invasive. They can't just declare martial law. This is my main advantage.
But they have advantages of their own. I cannot seek shelter from anyone, because they might be one of them, or innocently turn me over to my death. Worse than death. I know what it is they do, transforming the innocents they capture into hideous monsters for their own use. There's no way I will let them do that to me.
But what can I do, then? I ponder the question as I eat my third can of ravioli. The only answer I come up with is to keep running.
I angrily throw the half-full can against the wall, spattering tomato sauce all over. Damn it! Why can't they leave me alone? They say I'm a dangerous criminal; there are pictures of me everywhere, even here. But the only crime I can be honestly accused of is theft. They do this to make someone more likely to turn me in to them. Make me disappear, changed into something unbearable.
The room is suddenly awash in light. The helicopter! Damn, damn damn it! In my preoccupation I didn't notice it as it neared. Now I can hear it thundering directly overhead.
How did they find me? Did I hide imperfectly from a car, or did a neighbor hear the faint tinkle of glass when I broke in? It doesn't matter, they're here now, but still I wonder.
I run from room to room, searching frantically for a place they wouldn't possibly search, and find none. I look for a weapon, and find none more deadly than the knives in the kitchen. No matter, I'll fight tooth and nail if I have to, I won't be taken!
The front door downstairs crashes inwards. I take the knife and hide behind the door. Running won't work with the helicopter to direct the people on the ground. With a bit of luck, I can eliminate them. Then I can worry about evading the chopper.
I can hear their heavy boots on the stairs. I take a deep breath, mentally preparing myself for what is to come. Closer... closer... Here they come... now!
"They finally got him."
Agent Graham looked up at his partner. "Really? In custody, or just found?"
Agent Brewer grinned. "In custody. Bagged and tagged and on his way here." He frowned. "Took out six men before they got a tranq into him."
Graham's jaw dropped. "Six? But what about their armor?!"
Brewer shook his head. "It was just kevlar, meant to take bullets, not claws. He tore through it pretty easily."
Graham shook with rage. "Damn him!" Heads in the office turned, but he didn't care. "Damn him and the bastard scientists! Who the hell needs a human-tiger cross, anyway?"
Brewer laid a hand on his partner's shoulder. Graham managed to get himself back under control, although the anger still burned in his eyes. "Geneteched supersoldiers are a good moneymaker, even if they are illegal. You know that. But he was the last of this batch."
"Good. I hope they hang the guys who did that to him." Graham paused. "I wonder why he ran away from the reclamation crews, anyway."
Brewer shrugged. "Some folks just would rather not be human, I guess."