‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run



The rest of the night was spent leaning against a wall in the station. I said I would take first watch, just in case the cleaners came in or the police had been warned of an intrusion, but it was so dark that I could barely tell the difference between having my eyes open or shut. All I knew was that I was cold—Rina was using my jacket as a pillow in the hope of getting some rest—I was restless, and I was exhausted.

Eventually, I must have fallen asleep, because I woke to Jake nudging me exasperatingly. Looking up, I saw a sliver of gold on the far horizon out beyond the train tracks where the sun was beginning to rise. The sky in the east was a deep grey-blue, touched here and there with burning pink highlights, but in the west it was still a deep inky colour; almost black, but not quite as impenetrable as the dark of the night.

‘We need to hide before the cleaners and the guards come in,’ Jake was saying. Rina was stirring and Tim rolled over with a grumble, but Jake seemed to be wide awake. Unfortunately, so was I. My sleep, when I had finally got it, had been deep, yet dreamless, and I knew I wasn’t going to feel so relaxed for a long time.

‘Whatever,’ I mumbled, rubbing at the sand in my eyes. Cold, tired, groggy and generally grumpy, we all got up and headed further down the platform, out of the indoor shelter and into the fresh morning where we could hide out of sight.

Even after everything, it was still a few hours until the train heading north arrived, and when we finally got on, the journey was long, dull and thoroughly unpleasant. The carriages were reasonably empty, but there was still an underlying fear running through me for the entire duration. The thing with trains was that if we were found, there was nowhere to run.

After a couple of hours, we had to change trains in Vista, and then again in Irvine sometime during the early afternoon. Naturally, we had to wait for both of those trains, and so, by the time we arrived in Los Angeles, it was about three pm. As much as Tim and Jake, neither of whom had ever been to LA before, wanted to visit the city, there simply was no time. There was a train heading north that left in barely ten minutes from when we arrived on the platform, and we had to run for it. The next time we stopped was in Atascadero; a small city where we had to wait over an hour for the next train, which took us through the night into Salinas. Naturally, I wanted to take a diversion out to the coastal city of San Simeon but as that would have meant a good two hours being added onto our trip, I gave up on that hope pretty quickly. I should have hated the place—it may have had the same name as me, but it was also where my father had come from, and after the way things had ended with my parents, I should, by rights, have wanted to remove all traces of them from my memory. As it was, though, I was plagued by an inexplicable curiosity to find out what the place that had given me my name was like, and where my dad had grown up.

As the train slowed down in Salinas station, we all got off and realised that it was now getting on for eleven pm, and we wouldn’t be able to get much further tonight.

Salinas station was massive and, even at this time of night, there was still a coffee shop, a sandwich shack and a fast food place open in the colossal, glass-ceilinged hall that was the station. We managed to tactfully navigate the ticket barriers via a bit of secrecy and a little trip down into the tunnels below, which led to Salinas’s underground rail service, and made it up in time to go and buy a burger and chips. Eventually, we exited onto the city roads, orange-tinted skyscraper lights burning in every direction beneath the inky sky, as far as the eye could see, creating an ethereal glow over the quiet streets. Light pollution obscured the stars, but they were still up there somewhere, and the moon was still faintly visible; a sharp crescent, high in the clear night sky. Things were going strangely well so far.

‘What now?’ Tim asked, yawning as if to prove a point.

‘The train for San Jose leaves at 9:05 in the morning,’ Jake announced. Having already proved his academic abilities on more than one occasion in the last two days, we had all agreed to leave him in charge of technicalities. So far, he had done well: none of us had expected to be so close to San Francisco; to home; by now.

‘Or,’ he continued, deciding, as usual, to give us an information overload that only a brain of his capability could handle, ‘there’s another train to San Jose at 7:40 in the morning, but that goes via Morgan Hill, so it’ll take quite a bit longer.’

‘Nah,’ I said, considerably more relaxed about time than I had been at this point yesterday, ‘we’ll get the nine o’clock one. That way, we can go and get breakfast.’ Now that we had put some distance between us and the Institution, I was less concerned that the police might be tracking us. However, being either on trains or on platforms all day had meant that I hadn’t seen any news whatsoever. The trains in California only had TVs in first class, and to get into that carriage, you had to produce a ticket and an ID at the doors. For obvious reasons, that stopped us from getting in.

There had been one station platform; the one in LA; that had had a TV screen up, but because of the time of day we’d been arriving, the only thing they had been showing was a weather forecast, followed by an extended report on the state of the economy in America. They hadn’t been doing any headlines, therefore I hadn’t heard a word about the Institution break-out. None of us had any idea whether our faces had yet to appear on national television.


In the end, we found shelter in a little vacant building down a quiet road not far from the station. Tonight, we all managed to sleep before being woken up, once again pretty close to dawn, by Jake. Sure, I appreciated that he was trying to help us, but could he not have allowed us another hour? Now that we had discovered there was a way through the Salinas underground to avoid the ticket barriers, we weren’t in a rush to get there before opening time.

‘We should head back to the station,’ he suggested. Now that we were all awake and grumbling, he looked a little less self-assured about what he was doing.

‘We’ve got, like, over an hour,’ I moaned drowsily, trying to shake off the sleep.

‘Yeah but it’ll take ten minutes to get there, and then we want to get something to eat before we get on the train. Otherwise, we’re not gonna get anything until we arrive in San Francisco.’

‘Jake’s right...kind of,’ Simeon said. ‘I’m starving.’

‘Me too,’ Rina said. To be fair, I was hungry as well. I just had to weigh up what I wanted more: food or sleep. Despite the fact that I would be able to have a nap on the train, sleep still came out on top.

‘Whatever,’ I said, huffing and then smiling to show that I didn’t actually resent them all; I was just tired, and then getting up. We all headed out into the warm morning, cars racing down the road and people lining the streets. The city was bustling and full of life.

Entering the busy train station, bright morning sunlight now shining through the vast glass roof, we found the coffee shop that was now full with people. I was quite happy to just grab a roll and a drink and go, but both Jake and Rina insisted on sitting down and taking our time. There was a free table with four seats over in the corner, ever so slightly separate from everyone else, and as we came back with breakfast and drinks and sat down, the news headlines started up on the TV screen close to us.

‘Fuck,’ Simeon murmured, and we all glanced sharply towards him. He was glancing, wide-eyed, at the screen. ‘They’ve got breaking news. That nearly always seems to concern us lot these days.’
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Sorry I haven't updated for such a long time - I got back from Spain today, and I was really busy for the entire holiday. I'll try and update again tomorrow to make up for it.