‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Desert Storms


By the time we arrived in Salt Lake City; a drive that should, in reality, have taken nine or ten hours, it was nearly midnight. We’d had to take a rather large diversion to avoid border controls at the crossing into Utah—in these sparsely populated western states, there weren’t many roads anywhere, so finding another one leading across the state boundary proved to be quite problematic. We also discovered during the day that none of us had any practice with rugged mountain passes and narrow, winding roads, so the speed limit was slowed way more than was perhaps necessary. At least it gave us time to see the unique views of jagged, steep mountains, snow capped in places, and valleys reaching right down into the bowels of the earth, if nothing else. On top of all that, we also managed to get lost at least three times, all of which amounted to adding about an extra four or five hours onto the journey.

Seeing the city lights sprawling out before us, however, looking like a reflection of the perfectly clear, starry night above, and with snow-capped mountains barely visible as they reached up all around the flat plains of the city, made it worth it. Simeon was driving now after I took the daytime shift, but none of us had slept. We were all too excited and anxious. None of us, except Tim, of course, had ever been anywhere near Utah, let alone the beautiful oasis of Salt Lake City metropolitan area; an island in the middle of a deserted, barren ocean; the first signs of civilisation we’d seen all day.

‘Where now?’ Simeon asked Tim, who sat next to him in the front. Tim’s ‘justification’ of getting the front seat yet again was that he was there to give directions.

‘We need to get to the city centre,’ Tim advised. ‘Just keep following the tall buildings.’

From our raised position, the cluster of skyscrapers in the middle of the vast plain was immediately obvious. Driving down the hill and into the city however, made us lose sight of them quite a lot more frequently. At this time of night, though, streets were empty, particularly around these outer, suburban areas, and progress was reasonably quick.

Once we arrived in the right place, Tim led us out into the surprisingly cold night, and down a road and into the train station. From there, we entered Salt Lake City’s infamously extensive World War Three bunkers, burrowing deep under the core of the city, until we reached the Dreamers’ door, which was accessed by a code lock. Tim tapped in the numbers without even a moment’s hesitation, and the door swung open, and we stepped into a wide foyer.

Even at this late hour, the Dreamer base was a surge of activity. In fact, compared to the desolation up above, the underground seemed like the very heart of the city.

We were barely into the base when we were suddenly ambushed by two women.

‘Tim!’ one of the women, a pretty girl with dark skin and rich brown hair cried, her voice piercing the air like a dart. ‘You’re back! How—‘

‘Long story, Maria,’ Tim said, chuckling modestly, even though I could see that he was loving the attention. ‘I’ll tell you about it some other time.’

‘No, we want to hear!’ the other girl, a slight blonde woman, insisted. Tim just laughed again.

‘Maybe a little later,’ he said in a rather condescending tone. The blonde girl turned to leave, but Maria sighed over-dramatically.

‘Please?’ she asked, batting her eyelids in a way that women only ever did in cheesy movies, and was the worst kind of flirting imaginable.

‘Later, ladies, please,’ Tim said, continuing the act by pretending to be flustered as he made to move across the room. We all followed suit; apparently, according to Maria and the other girl, the rest of us were invisible.

Maria did another ridiculously dramatic sigh, and then she pouted—she actually pouted—and turned to walk away with the blonde. None of us missed the half smile and slightly over-emphasised wink that Tim gave her, though.

Rina was watching Tim intently, but Simeon glanced at me with a slightly incredulous and bemused expression.

‘How long is Tim planning on staying here?’ I asked.

Simeon pulled a face, that bemused expression never leaving. ‘Well, he’s not taking too long if I can help it. If we’re not gone by mid-morning, he’s gonna have some explaining to do.’

Tim finally managed to escape Maria, and made to walk across the room.

‘I’m gonna go find Fraser,’ he told us. Presumably, Fraser was this friend of his who was an expert at creating fake IDs. ‘You guys just amuse yourselves for a bit. I’ll be back soon. The lounge is that way.’

He gestured right, and disappeared. As he walked off down the corridor, we followed his directions and found a large room full of chairs and sofas. We took a couple of the sofas in the corner and settled in for however long we were going to be here.

As it was, we weren’t waiting as long as I thought we would. Ten or fifteen minutes later after sitting down with Rina and Simeon, Tim returned. Something in his expression suggested that news was bad.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, noticing the worry on his face.

‘Fraser’s more than happy to get us what we need, but he won’t be able to get them done until tomorrow evening.’

‘Tomorrow evening?’ Simeon exclaimed, practically jumping out of his seat. ‘Fuck! Isn’t there anyone else round here that can do it?’

‘No, Fraser’s been master of all things fake for years now,’ Tim said, dropping down onto the sofa next to me.

We all looked round at Simeon. He was the main one to have a problem with this.

‘We’ll wait if we have to,’ he said, much to my relief. ‘But you owe us now, Timothy.’

‘Yeah, whatever,’ Tim said, brushing the last statement off casually.

That was when Maria reappeared.


The rest of the evening and the following morning passed surprisingly fast, but mostly due to the fact that we were sleeping. The Dreamers in Salt Lake City were able to set up some makeshift beds for us in a spare room, and Tim disappeared off to see his friends. The rest of us made the most of our opportunity to sleep, though, and I didn’t wake up until about eleven the following morning. After we’d all had breakfast (well, all except Tim, who was sleeping off a bit of a hangover that was the result of being reunited with his friends last night), we met Fraser, who asked to take some photos of us to use on the fake ID cards.

During lunchtime and the afternoon, it became apparent that Tim was a bit of a local celebrity around here. It seemed that everyone had heard of his (not our, apparently, but his) escape from the Institution, and the news had spread like wildfire.

And then there was Maria and the other blonde girl, whose name I learnt was Erin, and then a third called Kay, who all clung to a piece of Tim as though they were limpets, suffocating him with their flirting. I found it shudder-inducing; Rina was practically being sick at how her gender was being portrayed; but Tim seemed to be enjoying it way too much.

Sometime during the evening, when the three of us ‘outcasts’ were gathered around our sofas in the corner, and Simeon was beginning to pace out of frustration that it was already getting dark outside and we still hadn’t left, Rina looked at me with more bitterness than I had ever seen in her usually so sweet and serene face.

‘Do you think that woman Maria’s his girlfriend?’ she asked.

I was shocked to hear her say something like that, particularly as it came accompanied with so much resentment and...was it even as much as jealousy?

Simeon looked down, smirking. ‘Do you care?’ He hadn’t intended for it to sound rude, but Rina still glared at him.

‘No,’ she said, averting her eyes so that she was gazing aimlessly at the grey, concrete wall. ‘It just...disgusts me how those three idiots are representing the entire female species.’

Okay, I hadn’t quite expected that.

‘I’m going to the loo,’ she announced suddenly, getting up and walking off. Simeon and I managed to wait until she was out of the room and out of earshot before exchanging perplexed glances.

‘I didn’t see that coming,’ he admitted sheepishly, flopping down on the sofa opposite me.

‘Neither,’ I agreed.

‘She fancies him.’ He said it with such definiteness, as though it was a statement of fact, that I did a double take. I’d missed this revelation, clearly.

‘She does?’ I asked. I thought that I’d known Rina. All this time, Sim and Tim had seemed a little distant from me, but Rina was the one person I’d known whilst being in the Institution, which meant that we’d known each other for considerably more than just a few days.

But more than that, I thought I’d had a chance with someone like Rina.

I’d never been especially lucky with love. The nerdy guys never got the girls; not even in the Dreamers. Well, there were a few exceptions, but I wasn’t just nerdy in the sense that I was clever, but I was quiet, and shy, and awkward too, and probably pretty boring compared to a lot of people. The one chance I had ever had with love had crashed and burned a few months ago.

But Rina had been different. I wouldn’t have ever admitted to liking her—I wasn’t even aware that I liked her in the first place until ten seconds ago—but she was such a nice, friendly girl.

‘Can’t you see it?’ Simeon asked. ‘I mean, I wasn’t sure until just then—envy like that would only come about when talking about a person she loves—but they’ve been flirting more and more anyway.’

All of a sudden, it was obvious.

‘Team Tim,’ I mumbled, so unenthusiastic sounding that Simeon chuckled.

‘Rina’s Dreamers,’ he added in way of response.

We sat in silence for a moment and I sighed loudly in an awful attempt to break it. ‘I’m going for a walk. I need some fresh air.’

‘What, you’re going up?’ Simeon asked, surprised.

‘Yeah, why not?’ I said lightly, forcing a smile. ‘Too claustrophobic down here. And too full of screaming girls for my liking.’

‘I know what you mean,’ he said with a groan. ‘Mind if I come with you?’

I’d have rather gone alone, but I didn’t want to tell Simeon that. Since being with them, I’d consistently got the impression that he and Tim didn’t like me all that much; I was always a little more on the edge of the group, so I didn’t want to piss him off anymore.

‘Sure, come along,’ I said, faking a smile. Together, we ambled down the dim, tiled tunnel towards the exit.

‘Not for long, though,’ Simeon pointed out. ‘We’ll hopefully be going soon. And if we’re not, then I might shoot someone.’

We were three steps away from the surface when a fork of lightning slashed the night in two.

Thunder exploded barely a second later, rolling across the expansive plains of Utah and heading straight for Salt Lake City. As it ruptured, Simeon and I both dived dramatically for cover, cowering in fear under the unstoppable power of nature.