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Arin, Barry, and Danny dashed out of the alley behind the corner mart, dumpster donuts stuffed into their mouths and hands. Grins plastered their filthy faces, knowing they were going to eat like kings tonight. It was baffling to them that people would throw so much away when, for years, they’d been fed nothing but a disgusting paste cooked up by the doctor.

The three had stopped briefly until they could safely cross the street. They learned the hard way that people don’t appreciate when you run in front of their giant machines. Leaving the lab had definitely been a learning curve for them, but they’d picked up on quite a few intricacies just through trial and error. Don’t get in the way of moving machines. Only steal out of dumpsters, never actual stores. Only cross the road when the light is green. Little things.

Arin’s head snapped to the side as he picked up something in his peripherals. It was like he had a sixth sense for detecting the doctor that neither of the other two seemed to have. It probably had something to do with him being the oldest. Sure enough, he could see their captor walking toward them.

“We’re taking a detour,” Arin demanded suddenly. “Follow me and don’t look behind you.” He gaze settled on Danny with the last direction, knowing full well he’d probably look back anyway.

A mere moment later, Danny’s head was over his shoulder, trying to see why Arin had a death grip on his arm as they ran. His eyes scanned the crowd, trying not to focus too hard on any faces because then he’d surely get distracted. His eyes locked onto Brian and immediately registered recognition. Danny’s feet practically screeched on the pavement, almost sending Arin toppling back on top of him.

All the donuts in Danny’s arms toppled to the ground without a second thought, almost as if he were in a trance. Get to Brian, his brain was screaming. He didn’t know why, but he needed to. He bolted.

Luckily, Arin was faster. He transferred all the donuts from his own hands to Barry’s and instructed him to run back to their hideout. Then, arms pumping like pistons, he dashed after Danny and grabbed the boy by his shoulder, flinging him around.

Danny’s eyes were glazed over, constantly glancing back at the doctor that was closing in on them. His wriggled, every nerve in his body burning to quiet the yelling in his head. Arin grabbed his chin, forcing Danny to look him in the eyes.

“Run,” Arin insisted, noticing the cloudiness in his companion’s expression already slightly clearing. “You run and you don’t look back. If he catches you, he’ll hurt you again, you got it?”

Though it was a struggle against Arin’s iron grip, Danny nodded. Somehow Arin’s strong tone had sliced through the internal shouting. There was a new demand taking over his one-track brain. Not nearly as loud, but just as pressing. Run. Run. Run. Chanting over and over like a mantra.

As soon as Arin released him, Danny shot like a bullet down the street, leaving Arin, and Brian, in his dust. It was like jumping into another plane of existence for Danny. He catapulted himself over cars, ignoring the people slamming on their horns. He weaved expertly through confused crowds. His long legs bounded forward like he was running on clouds, weightless and determined. Without even realizing, Danny was back at their little hovel, having traversed almost the entire city in mere minutes.

Barry greeted him pleasantly, as if nothing had happened. The two gorged themselves on donuts until Arin busted through the door not long after. He looked smug, triumphant even, and reported that he’d left Brian behind by scaling a massive fence.

They were safe.