‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Taking Chances


I awoke, groggy, disorientated and a little sick feeling, with my face pressed against something hard and my neck at an awkward angle. Flickering my eyes around and trying to force my stiff neck back upright revealed to me that I was in a car. Remembering the events of last night, I looked further up and noticed a lot of blue. Very bright blue, in fact. It hurt my eyes so I had to squint and look away.

‘You alright there, Tim?’ I heard Rina say to my left. Turning my head away from the world outside the window that was so bright it seemed to glow, I gave her a weak smile and sat up properly. I didn’t feel great; sleeping in vehicles was never good. You always woke up with a slightly dodgy stomach and feeling a bit car sick.

‘Uh yeah,’ I said, rubbing my eyes and glancing at the clock on the dashboard. It was only eight in the morning; pretty early for my standards.

‘Where are we?’ I asked. Glancing back out the window at the luminous scenery revealed that we were in the desert, but I had no idea what state we were in, or whether we were near any cities. There was just nothing as far as the eye could see besides this road, snaking on through the orange sands until it faded into the haze of heat in the distance, and the occasional rock or small hill. We could be anywhere in south-west America right now.

‘We’re going round Vegas,’ Rina said. Her hushed voice suggested that the other two were still asleep, and looking round confirmed this. ‘We’re sort of on the east side of the city now, but we’re a good twenty kilometres away.’

A sudden idea came to me. ‘Go north.’

She took a moment to register my suggestion. ‘What?’ she asked, taking her eyes off the road to look at me for just a second.

‘Go north,’ I repeated. ‘Well, north-east. I want to go to Salt Lake City.’

‘Salt Lake City?’ she asked with a sigh. ‘I thought we were trying to get to Washington as quickly as possible. Simeon didn’t even want to stay in a motel for the night, let alone actually divert off up north.’

‘Keep it down up there,’ came a slurred, drowsy voice from the back seat. ‘You two are like an old married couple.’

Rina and I exchanged a comical glance. ‘Well, Simeon’s awake.’

‘Where on this goddamn planet are we?’ Simeon grumbled, sitting up and squinting out of the window at the all too vivid scenery outside. ‘And can someone put the air con on?’

I was about to come back with something witty and annoying, but Rina just smiled sweetly and said ‘sure.’

‘We’re in Nevada,’ she explained to him. ‘Near Vegas.’

‘Vegas?’ he repeated. ‘Can we go?’

Rina and I just exchanged glances.


Sometime around mid-morning, Rina pulled over at the roadside in an almost random spot, and we all got out to stretch and have a break from the claustrophobia of the car.

‘I’m hungry,’ I moaned, heading round for the car boot.

‘Don’t eat too much,’ Jake warned. ‘We only have enough to last a few days.’

‘Yeah, whatever,’ I said dismissively, ignoring his advice and taking out bread, crisps and chocolate. Yeah, I’d work on eating a healthy diet when I wasn’t on the run from the rest of the country.

‘Where we off to next?’ Simeon asked. He looked around at the empty desert surrounding us. ‘And where are we in the first place?’

‘East of Vegas,’ Rina replied. ‘A bit further east than we were when you last asked.’

‘So what, north Arizona next?’ he suggested. Pausing for a moment, his eyes suddenly widened as though a bullet of an idea had just shot him in the brain. ‘Wait: how did you get across into Nevada? We don’t have any IDs!’

‘Shit,’ I mumbled. ‘He’s right!’

Rina burst out laughing at this.

‘Course I’m right!’ Simeon said, pretending to be offended.

‘I know,’ Jake said grimly. ‘Rina and I discussed this during the night—whilst you two were asleep, I may add. That’s why we stuck to the smallest roads possible when we crossed the state border. They can’t monitor every track in and out of every state.’

I hadn’t even thought about this since escaping the Institution. When we were running for our freedom, finding our ID cards had hardly been the main priority.

‘So, what conclusion did you come to?’ I asked.

‘We said we’d ask you,’ Jake said with a glum chuckle.

I pondered for a moment. Thinking had never been my strong point; that was always Jake’s job. Fighting, arguing, having cool hair...yeah, that was my thing. But not actual intelligent, logical thinking. I had always been known among my friends for having a particularly small amount of common sense.

My friends.

‘Hey, I have an idea!’ I burst out. Jake more than any of the others looked incredibly surprised.

‘You do?’ he asked, causing Rina to giggle again.

‘I know a guy in Salt Lake City who makes amazing fake IDs. They look perfect, and they even show up as proper IDs under some of the more basic scanners. We’d only get found out if they decided to do a really extensive check on us.’

‘Which is a possibility we can never rule out,’ Jake said, as though he was finishing my sentence for me.

‘Stop being so damn pessimistic!’ I told him exasperatedly.

‘Salt Lake City? Really?’ Simeon asked with a considerable amount of apprehension. ‘It’s kind of a big diversion.’

I looked round; clearly Simeon and Jake were unconvinced.

My eyes rested on Rina. She was easily the least opinionated of our group, but surely she could be influential if she chose to. She generally decided to back down from our testosterone-filled arguments, not wanting to get involved.

‘C’mon, Rina,’ I said, ‘you know you want to see Salt Lake City.’

She looked like she was wavering.

‘It is a long diversion...’ she admitted, weighing up the options as she spoke.

‘Come on,’ I said, winking at her in a joking manner.

‘I guess that we can’t really take the chance that they might find us without our ID cards,’ she said.

‘Yeah!’ I cried. ‘That’s two on Team Tim!’

Rina fixed me with a surprisingly fiercely disapproving glare. ‘I think we’ll call it Team Rina, actually,’ she told me, so curt that it was Sim and Jake’s turn to laugh. I never saw Jake laugh, so I concluded that this way of acting must be pretty unexpected from a person like Rina.

‘Rina’s Dreamers,’ she mused, her eyes drifting away towards the bronze rocks in the distance. ‘It’s catchier than Team Tim.’

‘Whatever,’ I sighed, laughing. ‘But you agree with me, right?’

‘Sure,’ she said, ‘I mean, getting discovered without IDs is too much to risk, isn’t it? And not to mention that a situation like that would probably hold us up more than if we made the entire journey to Salt Lake City and back.’

‘Exactly!’ I cried, my competitive nature bursting through. ‘So that’s two against...’ I glanced around, ‘...two,’ I finished meekly. ‘Damn you democracy!’

‘I kind of agree, actually,’ Jake admitted. ‘I mean, we can’t afford to take any chances these days. I think we should go to Utah.’

‘Yeah!’ I cried triumphantly. It was Simeon’s turn to waver, although his pale eyes looked as though they were concentrating instead on coming up with a witty comeback. His ideals of getting to Washington DC in the next few days were fading fast, being replaced with more practical matters.

‘Whatever,’ he eventually agreed. ‘I think that you’re kind of right.’ His eyes were unfocused, staring out ahead at the horizon, dreaming of something intangible to the rest of us.

‘Yeah,’ I said, though this time, it sounded a lot less triumphant than it had done a moment ago.
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