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Rogue, Trace, and Hollow

By @angelicomen

Chapter Three

Rogue, Trace, and Hollow ran down the deserted alleyway out of the reach of a searchlight beam. The alarm was still going off and Night Terrors were flooding the streets, making the obvious transport unsafe. Now the three of them were forced to hide behind a series of trash cans, which masked their already horrible smell and sent the Night Terrors howling down other paths.

“Thanks for saving me back there. It means a lot.” Trace looked down at the ground, her knees pulled up to her chest to make room for the others, and smiled slightly. She was usually the quietest of the group, her or Hollow, and one of the shyest. Rogue had found her many years ago and Hollow had showed up soon after. The three of them had no parents, at least any that actually cared about them. So it really did mean a lot to Trace; the two of them were like her brothers. Moody, flighty, and flirty brothers as they were. “Where to next?”

“I’d say back to the hideout, but that’s not an option.” Rogue gulped and looked around, afraid to tell the others the truth. His black hat was still perched on his head, the brim tilted down ever so slightly.

“What do you mean it’s not an option?” Hollow sighed and ran a hand through his hair absently, tucking stray locks behind his ears. His hair wasn’t unusually long but it was thick in areas, which made it a little wavy and hard to control. “Rogue, don’t tell me you-”

“Hey, hey, hey, don’t jump to conclusions here! But yes, I did.” The boy shrugged and pushed aside a pile of slimy trash bags that had been lying next to them, revealing three, metal briefcases engraved with their codenames. R0GU3, TR4C3, and H0110W.  

“You were supposed to guard the hideout!” Hollow let out an exasperated sigh and retrieved his briefcase, shaking off an old banana peel that had fallen out from one of the torn bags.  

“And I was supposed to be a girl, I know, I know. Life’s disappointing, isn’t it?” Rogue reached out and gave Trace her briefcase, checking both sides of the alleyway to make sure that they weren’t being watched by any Night Terrors, searchlight beams, or guards.

“You’re extra salty today.” Trace stood up and touched his shoulder for a moment, gazing at her friend with mixed curiosity and sadness. “I missed you too.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, blondie.” Rogue’s signature smile flitted across his face for a moment at these words. Ever since the three of them had hacked into the Tower’s virtual library compound of ancient files and watched Tangled, Rogue had never stopped calling Trace “blondie”, even though she was a natural brunette. It was a little annoying, but she’d gotten used to it; jokes seemed to be Rogue’s method of self-defense, his protection from the outside world. At least he got part of his life easy.  

“Then come on. Let’s go before someone finds us.” Hollow walked out from behind the garbage cans but was interrupted by a voice at one end of the alley.

“A little bit too late for that, isn’t it?” Trace stifled a groan as she turned around to see Hunter Penniton standing at one end of the alley, his goons blocking the other end and sealing them in. Once known as HUNT3R, he’d been the fourth member of their hacking society, but he was different from the three of them. Born into a rich family like Rogue, had it easy like Rogue, but unlike Rogue, hadn’t been cast out into a river and left to drown when he was three. Hunter was a government mole through and through, even though he hated their leader, his sense of obligation towards his political parents had turned him into a lonely coward. His twisted conscience had gotten the better of him and he’d split from the group, showing up every now and then with his fake, bad boy attitude to cause them trouble.  

“Glad you’re getting your cash calling us out.” A lump formed in Trace’s throat as she said these words, walking over to look him in the eyes. “Do you know how long I rotted in that asylum cell?”

“Longer than us,” Hollow commented, leaning against the brick wall and eying the sky for searchlights. An awfully big crowd of teens was gathering and that worried him. The Night Terrors would smell them soon and it didn’t help that Hunter’s goons constantly reeked of peppermint body spray.  

Trace ignored him and spat, “Three months. What did we do to you other than be in your daddy’s way??”

Hunter shifted, visibly uncomfortable at this. “Hah, are your morals getting the best of you now?” Trace tried to push past him as she said this, but he wouldn’t let her through. “Let us go. We’ve done nothing to you.”

“Why would I let Rogue, Trace, and Hollow through? I get a pretty big wad of cash every time I trap you guys. You’re not good at hiding, though you are good at escaping. I’ll give you that.”

“Or maybe you just know us too well.” Rogue stood next to Trace with a firm glare. “We never should’ve let you into our group. You didn’t even last a year.”

“So be it. Get ‘em,” Hunter snarled, backing up to let his three friends, Cecil, Izzy, and Fox, advance. Hollow took this opportunity to ram his much taller opponent in the chest, knocking the wind out of him, and dashed past. Trace and Rogue soon followed, running into the main street that bordered the asylum.

After a few minutes, Hunter and the others let up and watched the three hackers run off into the distance, briefcases swinging at their sides. A searchlight beam was pacing after them like a Night Terror; the helicopter wielding it was following them down the street. They’ll get away, of course, Hunter thought to himself, fading into the shadows. He spat on the ground and rubbed it into the bricks. “Don’t chase them. We don’t want to get into trouble.”

“But Hunter, if we catch them this time we could really get–” Fox began, but his boss interrupted him.

 “I have an idea. But I can’t enact it now. We wait.” He raised his hand then lowered it before setting off down the street to his house. The others soon followed.

***

“You all keep getting yourselves into trouble, don’t you? I don’t even know why I bother asking this anymore.” The man in front of them, Riven Sycamore, or just Ris to the teens, shook his head and began to pace the floor. “Well, did you at least get the card?”

“We were gone for three–” Trace began sensitively, but Rogue interrupted her.

“Hollow and I did pretty early on. We just got…sidetracked.”  

“Well, don’t let it happen again. We need that information badly to overthrow the Isle.” Ris scowled at them and pulled his coat tighter around him, as if it would make him look cooler (it didn’t). I can’t believe we, the three most talented hackers in the whole Ferde Isle, are stuck working for this guy. Why are we wasting our skills? Rogue thought darkly to himself. He forced himself to put on a big grin and look alert as Ris stalked past him, head tilted down. “Where’s the card then?”

Oh boy, here comes the storm. Hollow leaned back in his chair and looked at the others. Trace didn’t know yet; he hadn’t wanted to startle her after all she’d been through, rotting in the asylum for nearly twice as long as they had. She looked at him pointedly, briefcase in her lap, two strands of brown hair falling over her shoulders. “Oh, um, there’s something we should tell you,” he informed their leader apologetically.

“There is??” Trace wrinkled her nose, her freckles scrunching up together in an adorable way.

“Rogue kind of–” Hollow began.

We kind of–” Rogue clarified.

“–dropped the card in a storm drain. While we were scouting the asylum.” Hollow stared at a knot in the wooden table, a knot of his own forming in his stomach. A blush crept up his dark cheeks at the words.

“I don’t understand. You dropped this million-dollar identification card down a storm drain? Did you try to retrieve it??” Ris didn’t look angry, just confused.  

“Well, we tried, but then a Night Terror came along and chased us. We tried coming back to the place later but another Terror was sitting there scratching itself and we didn’t want to bother it.” Rogue shrugged nonchalantly, and folded his hands together.  

“Alright, well, I’ve got some news for you,” Ris said, his eyes suddenly flashing with actual rage. He wheeled on them, sending the three teens back in their chairs with fright. “If you don’t find that card and bring it back to me within seven days, you’re done. Gone. Out on the streets again. No more housing.”  

“This is outrageous! Do you want us to…I don’t know…send out a sonar ping for the identification card?” Rogue slammed his fists on the table angrily.

Hollow turned to face his friend and put a hand on his shoulder. “We don’t have to do that, actually.”

“Wait, Hollow. What are you saying?”  

“I may or may not have put a tracking signal on the card when we first…borrowed it,” Hollow admitted with a tiny smile.  

“You-ah, you sly dog!” Rogue clapped his friend on the back, all friendliness returned. Trace gave a smile on Hollow’s left and he smiled back.

Ris didn’t seem as happy as they were at this news. “Well, get on it then. Go.” He pointed to the door. They had been sitting in the library of his sizable, historical house. A scarlet rug decorated the floor and a mahogany desk divided the room in half. Bookshelves lined the walls, containing thick, yellowed volumes that were hundreds of pages thick. On the ceiling was a series of prints depicting animals of all sorts–Night Terrors and All-Watchers, to name a few.

“Fine, then,” Trace grumbled, pushing her chair back. It scraped on the rug loudly, almost tipping back over. “Come on, guys.” Rogue and Hollow both followed her out of the room and up the set of stairs that led out of the basement they were in. “Let’s get started.” As they climbed, Rogue noticed that a shadow had fallen over Trace’s face; not a literal one, but one that seemed to twist her normally-beautiful features. The asylum did bad things to all of us. But especially to her. A twinge of pity ran through him.

When they reached their shared dorm, Trace sat down at the main desk and began to rummage through her briefcase. Hollow took a moment to walk around the room and admire it. It had been many weeks since he’d last slept there; it felt good to be back. The walls were a light shade of blue and the room was divided into two parts–Rogue and Hollow’s bunk bed and Trace’s lofty perch. In the corner near the door was a bean bag, and above that was a picture frame. Rogue walked over and examined it.

The three of them were about eight in the photo and were sitting at the very same desk Trace was working on. Rogue had longer, curlier hair and was giving Hollow bunny ears. Trace had her hair in panda buns and was staring straight at the camera, eyes wide. Are we working on…an exterior motral complex? How basic. Rogue eyed the computer they were disassembling in the photo before returning to Trace’s side at the desk.  

“Alright, what’ve we got here?”

Hollow returned to the desk and sat down next to Trace, one hand across the back of her chair. He pulled out his laptop and plugged in a harddrive, which brought up a black window across the screen. He began typing frantically while muttering things to himself, only fragments of which were actual code sayings.”

After a long pause during which Hollow stared at the screen blankly, Rogue asked, “What do you need?”

“Well, I forgot the login number for the last security wall that I put on the tracker. Maybe I could reverse the firewall but–”

“Here, you wrote it down,” Rogue snorted, reaching into Hollow’s briefcase and pulling out a scrap of paper, on which was written a series of digits and letters. “Wait, ‘tr4c34lyf3’? Trace for life? What kind of ideas have you been getting, buddy??”  

Hollow blushed as he typed it in. “I used a incognito generator, okay? That’s all.” Trace and Rogue looked at each other for a moment before shrugging. “Wait, I’ve got it now. Take a look.”

A map was displayed in low-quality that showed the entire city. A red pin hovered over a house near the asylum and a blue dot flashed a few “miles” to the north, in what looked like…a sewer? Gross.  

“So, this isn’t actually where we are right now,” Hollow said, referring to the red pin. “Which you probably already figured out. I programmed a location complex that randomized the red pin. We’re actually here. So if we get out now and hurry, we can get to the card and (hopefully) pick it up before morning. What time is it now?”

“2:47,” Trace informed the other two, tapping her fingers on the lid of her briefcase in a steady pattern. “Then let’s go.”  

The three of them closed down the laptops, hid them underneath the bean bag, as was custom, and headed out into the street.

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