‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Not Giving Up


‘Isn’t there another way?’ I whispered. All the emotion of the last half an hour had brought me close to tears. And I couldn’t deny it: the prospect of leaving terrified me. But where else would I go?

Surely I could make it back to Oregon alone. It wouldn’t be that hard. It wasn’t much more than the distance we’d already travelled over again.

‘Of course there isn’t,’ Simeon retorted. He looked fiery, but his eyes grew darker as he continued. ‘Think about it: what happens if we stay here? We get caught, whether that’s now or in ten years. And when we get caught, we’re in for the Operation. Just like that. No appeals. No second chances. No escape. There’s no other way.’

‘But then surely it’s up to the free Dreamers, people like us, to try and fight the government and change things,’ I insisted. ‘Isn’t that how it’s always been?’

Simeon gave me a dark look. It wasn’t aimed at me though; he was glaring at the whole world. ‘Yeah but when has anything ever been changed?’ he challenged. ‘Face it: this time, we’ve got to get ourselves out.’

‘Isn’t that a bit like giving up though?’ Jake asked. His jaw was set firm. He wasn’t normally the sort to get involved in confrontation, but I knew he was not happy about Simeon’s suggestion.

‘No,’ Simeon said almost incredulously. ‘We’re not running away.’ He sounded disgusted at the prospect. ‘We go to Europe; to London or Berlin or Prague or any of those big bases, and we tell them the truth. I bet the rest of the world doesn’t know what’s going on over here. I bet Lomax has shut off all communication. But once we tell them, they’ll act, and we’ll act along with them. That way, we can start a war.’

‘So, we ain’t running,’ Tim confirmed. ‘We just bide our time until we can come back with an army.’

‘Yeah,’ Simeon agreed.

‘You know, this could actually work,’ Tim mused, looking as fired up as Simeon had done when he’d first put the idea to us.

‘It’s completely impractical, but I don’t reckon there’s another option,’ Jake said in way of agreement. ‘Isn’t it easier to go to Mexico or somewhere though?’

‘Maybe it’s easier, but it’s not safer,’ Simeon said. ‘Once the Mexicans get word of what’s happening in the States—it’s much harder to seal off land borders than sea borders—they’ll follow suit. And then Canada too.’

‘How do we get all the way to the east coast undetected though?’ I asked, wondering when I had ever agreed to this madness. It seemed I had no choice though. It was insane, but with four people as determined not to fail as we were, it might just work.

‘I haven’t figured that out yet,’ Simeon replied. He still looked angry, but his mood had improved and he seemed a little less dangerous than he had done five minutes ago.

‘We should find some Dreamers somewhere,’ Jake said. ‘At least they might have money and resources and maybe even cars.’

Tim nodded his agreement. ‘There’s a base in LA, right? Has anyone ever been there?’

‘Yeah,’ Simeon said, which was good news. After all, regardless of whether we were Dreamers or not, it wasn’t easy to venture blindly into the underground and hope that you might just happen across the group whose main priority is to stay hidden. If it was that easy, the police would have done it years ago.

‘It’s only small,’ he continued, ‘but they’ll still have a couple of cars between them, and hopefully phones and stuff too.’

‘Shouldn’t we go to Sacramento?’ Jake suggested. ‘It’s nearer, and their base is bigger.’

‘Yeah but I’ve never been there,’ Simeon said. ‘We’d be wandering round the underground for weeks trying to find a way in. No, we gotta go to LA. When’s the next train heading back down there?’

‘How should I know?’ Jake muttered irritably. I knew what he was thinking: once you got the reputation of being the clever one, everyone took you for granted.

Heading back into the station, the first stroke of good luck was that there was a train leaving to go right the way down to Morro Bay in just twenty minutes time. Although Morro Bay was not the most direct route; the track clung to the coastline and added at least another hour onto our journey; it would still get us there faster than if we waited two hours for one heading to Atascadero or Santa Maria. We headed, as practiced, through the underground tunnel that led under Salinas’s ticket barriers, and got on the southbound train without fuss.

Arriving in Morro Bay, we then had to wait well over an hour until we got on the train to Santa Barbara. Again, this was nowhere near the most direct route—at this rate, it would be nearly evening before we arrived in LA—but we all agreed that sitting on a long train journey was mildly better than sitting on a short train journey, but also sitting on an empty station platform for an hour beforehand whilst we waited for it to arrive.

As I’d expected, it was early evening by the time we finally reached LA, and then we had to navigate the labyrinth of the underground trains. Even when we finally made it to our destination—Long Beach, by the coast but right in the thick of the city, we had to subtly wait out of sight for endless hours until, just like the first night in Rancho San Diego, the passengers had all gone and the security guard finally moved far enough away from the ticket barrier for us to hop over it.

It was gone eleven pm now, and the city was falling quiet outside the large, glass station. Looking around in all directions, Simeon eventually decided on left, taking us off down the pavement of a wide road lined with tall buildings. We were close enough to the famous beach that whenever there was a gap in the buildings, I could get a glimpse of the ocean, inky and opaque under the night sky.

‘Where now?’ asked Jake, his voice low.

Under the moonlight, Simeon somehow looked less certain and more vulnerable, but he tried to hide it.

‘This way,’ he replied, leading us down a smaller road. ‘The quickest way in is through this old basement down an alley somewhere...I just need to find it.’

This last statement hardly boosted our confidence, but after half an hour or so of wandering, we made our way down a tight alley in between two dated looking office blocks, and Simeon declared that we were there.

‘Just through here,’ he said, gesturing at an inconspicuous looking black door. Thankfully, it wasn’t locked, and we all slid in through the opening, praying that there was no one inside.

I couldn’t even hazard a guess at what this back door and basement was used for—it was so dark in there that I could scarcely see anything anyway—but I could see that it had been deserted for a long time. Hopefully, that trend would continue tonight.

Simeon led the way, feeling more than seeing where he was going, down a narrow and uncomfortably creaky set of stairs, into the bowels of this strange, dark building. I wanted to ask where we were—and what the plan was if we happened to be caught—but I didn’t dare break the silence. The less noise we made, the better. Unfortunately, the creaking steps and hard floors didn’t help things, but maybe that noise would just pass off as rats, or the wind, or...cleaners? Would a dingy, deserted basement even have cleaners?

We stopped for a moment, and my breath caught in my throat. But then, I heard a door handle creaking, and then a louder creaking as a door opened onto a room even blacker than the one we were already in.

‘Come on,’ said Simeon in the quietest voice he could manage. I felt something brush against the back of my arm and my entire body tensed, but it was only Jake. Looking round, I couldn’t see anything more than his fingertips resting on my arm so that he didn’t lose his way. Reaching forward, I felt the comfort of Tim’s back to remind me where to go. As he stepped forward, so did I.

Through this door was a tunnel, so black that I had to reach up and hold onto Tim’s broad shoulder to keep myself from getting lost. After ten minutes or more of blindly feeling our way through the darkness, it grew lighter as, up ahead, there was a dim light in the ceiling. It was enough to show us the way so that we were able to let go of each other and stop running our free hands along the wall. I took this light as a sign that we were walking towards civilisation.

As we passed this light, I could see another faint glow up ahead, but as the tunnel curved slightly to the left, it was not until we were much closer, and almost in darkness once again, that I could see where it came from.

Further down the corridor, there was a second light in the ceiling, and beneath it were two spotlights pointing in our direction.

And behind these spotlights stood two men.

They saw us at the same time as we saw them. Initially, my entire body tensed up and I could have screamed in shock.

‘Stop there!’ commanded one man in a bold voice so loud it made me cringe in fear. We all froze, none of us daring to move. The two men were, after all, carrying some of the biggest guns I had ever seen. But they had to be Dreamers, and this alone made hope and confidence surge through me.

‘Put your hands in the air,’ the man ordered, and we all did as we were told. Seeing that we were unarmed, he seemed to relax a little. ‘Who are you?’ he asked.

‘We’re Dreamers,’ Simeon told him from the head of the group.

From what I could see from this distance, the man seemed to turn his nose up. ‘Don’t look like Dreamers. Come closer.’

We all stepped closer, until we were near enough to the two men to see their expressions. The one that had been doing all the talking so far held up a little device: a video camera.

‘Can you repeat your business, please?’ he asked.

‘We’re Dreamers,’ Simeon repeated calmly. The man seemed to relax at this, and I did too. I’d seen this defence technique used before: videoing unknown visitors as they entered the base. After all, no spy would state that they were a Dreamer in front of a recording device for fear that it could be used as evidence against them. Even if you were assumed to be on the government’s side, saying you were a Dreamer was an incredibly dangerous move.

‘Alright then,’ the man said, allowing half a smile to spread across his face. ‘I’m Johnny, or Jonathan if you’re my mother. An’ this is Steve.’

We all chuckled appreciatively at Johnny’s ‘joke,’ more to be polite than because it was really funny.

‘I’m Simeon,’ said Simeon. ‘This is Tim, Rina, Jake.’

‘Hey guys,’ said Steve casually.

‘Anyway, I’ll take you in,’ Johnny offered. ‘Stay here,’ he added to Steve. Evidently they were on patrol down here; couldn’t be a fun job.

We followed Johnny further down the corridor, and he and Simeon began to talk. I was glad for someone to break the tense silence.

‘What you here for, anyway?’ asked Johnny.

‘Uh, is Gareth still in charge round here?’ Simeon asked in way of reply.

Johnny chuckled. ‘Where the hell have you been? Gareth’s been out of leadership for nearly a whole term now. We’ve got Sophia in charge now.’

‘Oh,’ Simeon said, a little humbled. ‘Well, can we see Sophia then?’

‘Don’t see why not,’ said Johnny cheerfully. ‘Anyway, where are you from? I haven’t seen any of you before.’

‘Well I’m from San Francisco—‘ began Simeon.

Johnny’s eyes widened. ‘You mean you got out? Oh my God! They said it was practically a massacre. I’m so sorry, man.’

After everything that had happened just in the space of one day, I could see how Simeon’s eyes grew shiny with the effort of trying not to cry. A massacre? What did the other Dreamers know that we didn’t?

‘I wasn’t there when it happened,’ Simeon explained. I couldn’t help but notice that his voice had suddenly become much quieter and more hollow sounding. ‘I was in the Institution.’

‘Damn, you’ve gotta be the luckiest guy in the world!’ said Johnny, weirdly upbeat. ‘You just got let out? Have you heard Lomax’s new law?’

‘Uh, yeah, we’ve heard it,’ said Tim a little sarcastically.

‘We didn’t get let out,’ Simeon explained, ‘we escaped the day they told us the news.’

Johnny’s eyes widened even further. ‘You escaped? Fuck! That’s insane!’

I allowed a little bit of pride to fill me at that point. In some ways, it still hadn’t quite dawned on me. We were the first people to escape an Institution in...well, I couldn’t even remember the last time it had happened, but it must have been a decade, minimum. Hopefully, there were other Dreamers right now who were just as fortunate as we were. Sadly, though, it wouldn’t be everyone, and those who hadn’t been able to make it out were condemned.

We reached a large set of double doors, and there were two more men standing outside, also holding ridiculously oversized guns. Johnny nodded at the one on the right. ‘It’s okay,’ he said. ‘They’re us.’