Dark watched the last of the others leave and checked his watch. He'd wait another few hours before leaving so it didn't look like they were connected, so they could just blend in with the masses.

Ironically, it was often safer to travel in groups. Dark, with his deep interest in all things technological had been among one of the first to discover that the cameras seemed to alert mostly on individuals standing out from crowds, with that knowledge and a few well timed experiments he'd found out that you could actually fool the system by travelling in groups of around ten or more people, as long as you all looked roughly the same. They could walk around freely dressed in bright colours and waving around music and instruments and as long as enough of them did it at once, the cameras did nothing. They'd fixed the flaw in the system now, at least partially. You couldn't go around being so blatantly flamboyant. Another banned word there. Groups were still safer though, if they were large enough. He'd laughed when he had organised a flash mob of creative types, musicians and poets, back in the UK before it had become a prison in all but name. The cameras hadn't seen the demonstration so it took a full 20 minutes before the litpol and musipol even got word of it. It had been a good day; there were precious few of those around nowadays.

Home, he didn't miss it. Even before the Stagnation, the UK had rapidly been turning into a police state, a Big Brother state, not that most people would even get the reference any more, Orwell's brutal, sadly prophetic piece of fiction being one of the first to taste the flames of the Furnace.

Idly he kicked the dust on the floor and checked his watch, wishing the time to pass more quickly but it only made the quiet emptiness of the place seem even more depressing. Feeling an urge to create something, he pulled out a portable net-top from his coat pocket and began hacking on some code.

Ahh, freedom. Open-source code, thousands of people all over the world creating for fun whatever they could imagine. It was an underground thing now, the shared repositories of source code disappearing and reappearing randomly as varous servers got shutdown but they had the edge. They had freedom, they had imagination and against a mindless, methodical, predictable foe, they were undefeatable. It was only a matter of time before the Protagonists won, it had to be, he had to believe that creativity, innovation and human ingenuity could win out over mindless repetition and stagnation.

Currently, he was working on simple tools to allow non-techies to break into secure government systems so they could stay one step ahead of the law, find out about reported Protagonist action and help. The old version was out there being used already but he was contributing some more code for the new version, alongside thousands of other anonymous hackers. That's what the mission had been about. They wanted to get information about the protocols for the Furnace, find out how the scheduling system worked and how they could access it. Knowing who was on the burn list and when they'd be burnt would mean so much, make planning breakouts and rescues so much easier but they'd screwed up.

He tried to stay focused, but with out the protocols he needed he was basically just working on boring things, fixing typos on user interfaces and documentation. It wasn't helping pass the time as much as he'd hoped. Frustrated, he shutdown the machine and slid it back into his pocket, looking at his watch again.

It had only been 2 hours.

Screw it.

He opened the door and slid out into the daylight.

The End

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