‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run



When I woke up we were still driving down a road through the middle of nowhere and, just like yesterday, vibrant sunlight was streaming in through the window. I grumbled a complaint, holding up my hands to shield my unadjusted eyes from the luminous world outside, and sat up straight.

‘You alright, Sim?’ Tim asked from in the front. He was sitting at the wheel; something I never thought would happen, and everyone else seemed to be awake already.

‘Yuh,’ I mumbled drowsily. I had slept well last night; much better than I had done on any night since I’d left the Institution, and probably better than I had done for months. ‘What time is it?’

‘Nearly eleven,’ Rina said. She, too, was in the front seat, despite the fact that I was definitely the tallest here, and my legs were rather crammed into the limited legroom here in the back. However, my good mood from last night had been carried forward into this morning, so I didn’t feel like being irritable with anyone right now.

‘We were just about to pull over,’ Tim said. ‘We were gonna have breakfast, but as you’re so late waking up, it’ll be kind of like an early lunch.’

‘Sure,’ I said, feeling the queasy sensation of mild carsickness that always came on after sleeping whilst on the move. Unfortunately, it was going to have to be something I got used to over the next few days.

Ten minutes later, Tim pulled off the side of the road into an empty patch of brown sand and dry grass, and we all got out. After sharing out the food which, thankfully, was in plentiful amounts after Tim had managed to scavenge rather a lot from his base, he turned on his laptop and we all crowded round the screen, giving a small cheer when it sparked into life. Tim placed the computer inside the shadow of the car boot so that the screen became clearer.

It wasn’t easy to get internet connection this far out in the middle of nowhere, but with Jake’s skills in...well, just about everything, we managed to connect after ten minutes or so.

‘What time is it in Berlin now?’ Tim asked.

Jake glanced at the clock on the car dashboard. ‘It’ll be about half seven in the evening.’

‘Perfect,’ Rina said as Tim opened up the online video chat.

Although there was no reason to expect anything else, my heart gave a jolt of excitement when the computer actually announced it was connecting to a computer in Berlin.

Initially, there was no one around, so Jake sent a quick email. My erratic heart almost went into overdrive when, a little more than two minutes later, the laptop stated that the email had been received. Moments later, the blank screen loaded up, and my stomach actually did a little flip when a man appeared on the other end.

‘Hello?’ I said, moving closer to the screen.

‘Hello,’ said the man. He was fairly old; in his late fifties at least, with white hair and a stern expression. ‘Who is this?’

‘I’m Simeon,’ I announced, realising that I must be grinning like an idiot. Since the connections had finally been cut off for good, I had completely given up hope of being able to contact the other side of the Atlantic via the internet. ‘Sorry about this. We understand you had made contact with the Dreamers in Salt Lake City?’

‘Yes, just very briefly, yesterday,’ the man said.

‘Well, they gave us instructions on how to contact you.’

‘Ah, okay,’ said the man, smiling. ‘Well, I’m the Master; leader of the Berlin Dreamers.’

‘The Master?’ repeated Tim. He gave me a purposeful glance, which I interpreted as ‘what a pretentious twat.’

‘Uh yeah,’ I said, glancing around. I couldn’t tell exactly what he was able to see, but surely he’d get a glimpse of the bright blue sky and barren desert behind my head. ‘As you can see, we’re not exactly in a Dreamer base anymore.’

‘I can see that,’ the Master said, curt but smiling. ‘So, what’s happening? What’s your reason for contact?’

‘Master,’ I began, wondering if that was how I should address him, and wondering how to explain things. In the end, I chose the blunt way. ‘I’m not sure how much you already know from the other Dreamers, but we’re in deep shit over here in the US. They’ve sentenced all captured Dreamers to the Operation; with immediate effect.’

The Master’s smile faded. ‘I know,’ he murmured. ‘I was told this yesterday. It’s a tragedy, I must say. Truly, truly awful.’

‘So, uh, we’re getting out of here,’ I explained. ‘While we still can. We’re coming to Europe.’

‘You’re coming to Europe?’ he asked in disbelief, his grey eyes seeming to widen. ‘And how on earth do you plan to do that?’

‘I don’t really know yet,’ I admitted. ‘But we are. Somehow.’

‘You’ve got bravery,’ he said, looking genuinely impressed. ‘I admire you all.’ He looked agitated, as though he was busy and wanted to make this conversation move as quickly as possible.

‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘if you’re needing updates on the state of affairs in Berlin, then I’ll put you onto Carl. I’m a little busy at the moment, but Carl’s in charge of all computer-related issues over here. You can speak to him...well, essentially whenever you want.’

‘That’s great,’ I said enthusiastically. The Master got up from his computer, leaving me staring at an empty desk chair and the grey brick wall behind it. Somewhere in the distance, probably behind his computer, I heard him talking to someone, though his words were too quiet to make them out.

‘This is brilliant,’ Jake said, held rapt by the fact that the laptop screen was like a portal through to Germany. Suddenly, it made the idea of getting to Europe so much more plausible. It was as if we could just remove the glass from the front of the screen and step right through to Berlin.

If only it were that easy.

The Master came back to his desk at that moment.

‘Carl will be here shortly. When he arrives, I’m going to ask him to transfer your connection to his computer.’

‘Okay,’ I said.

A moment later, the Master looked up and the person who could only be Carl walked in.

‘Carl,’ the Master said to confirm my theory. Carl walked over to the desk so that I could just see him out of the periphery of my vision. What I did see, however, was disconcerting. He looked concerned, for some reason or another.

‘What’s wrong?’ the Master said, picking up on Carl’s expression like I did.

‘Hurricane, sir,’ he said. I frowned. What did he mean? Although I didn’t exactly know a lot about continental Europe, I was pretty sure they didn’t get hurricanes.

The Master sighed, shaking his head in despondence. I could feel my eyebrows lowering in confusion, and I looked at the others. They all had equally perplexed and worried expressions painted on their faces.

‘What’s she done now?’ the Master asked. Now I was even more confused.

Carl pulled a face that could only be described as disapproving. ‘What do you think? She’s done the same thing she always does.’

‘Well she always manages to find a way out of them, doesn’t she?’ the Master said. This was weird; it was as if we no longer existed. All of a sudden, the screen was no longer a portal through to the other side of the ocean; it really was just a screen. We were so far away from these people. We had no idea what was going on in their lives—we could make thousands of assumptions, but there was never a way of knowing for sure.

‘Well she’d better bloody find a way out of this one,’ Carl snapped irritably.

Both faces turned to look back at the computer screen.

‘Sorry about that,’ the Master said.

‘Yeah, sorry,’ Carl added, looking a little sheepish as he began to tap on the keyboard. ‘I’ll transfer you over to my computer now.’

‘Sure,’ Jake said, as we all exchanged glances.

After a few minutes, the screen went blank and, after the initial panic that we all exchanged, it reloaded itself quickly. This time, though, Carl was sitting in front of it, and he was in a different place, though it still looked pretty similar. He was a skinny man, about my age, with sandy brown hair and a thin, pointed face. He smiled though, and seemed to have a friendly expression so I smiled back.

‘So, what the hell is going on your end?’ I asked.

‘That’s not important right now,’ he said. ‘What I want to know, is what the hell is happening over in the US?’

We all exchanged glances. ‘What do you already know?’ I asked.

‘Absolutely fuck all,’ he said, his cheerful face falling into one of pain. ‘Well, that’s not quite true,’ he admitted. ‘I heard about...about the Operation.’

He said the last word almost in a whisper; as though he couldn’t quite bear to say it aloud. We all simultaneously winced as the most hated word known to the rebels spilled from his mouth.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he said.

‘There’s nothing you can do,’ Jake told him, in what we all hoped was a sufficiently comforting tone.

‘I always thought...’ again, Carl trailed off.

‘Go on,’ Rina prompted.

‘I always thought that, when all contact with the US fell just a week ago, something...good...had happened,’ he admitted. I could see in his expression how it killed him to say it. ‘I was hoping all along that it could even mean that America had been...I don’t know...liberated?’

Tim smirked, but I remained sincere. I knew how he was feeling. I knew how desperate he would have been; desperate that something in this cruel world could have changed. And I didn’t blame him one bit. If I was in his position, I would undoubtedly be wishing for the same things, no matter how unlikely they were.

‘America isn’t free,’ I told him. It came out far more bitterly than I’d intended. ‘There’s nothing free about it. It’s just as trapped as the rest of this godforsaken planet. And the worst part of all is that most of the world doesn’t even seem to care.’ I could feel my voice rising with all the hatred that I had bottled up for years. I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight more than I wanted anything else. But no one seemed to agree. Even the Dreamers these days were cowering in fear; running and hiding; constantly dancing on broken glass, waiting for the fragile utopia they had created to come crashing down. ‘Let’s face it: the dream is dead.’

Rina and Jake gasped. Tim looked so shocked that I instantly wanted to bite back what I’d just said. But it was out now; there was no going back, and the worst thing of all was that it was one hundred per cent true.

The dream, certainly over here in America, was well and truly dead.

‘Dead?’ Rina whispered in disbelief. ‘How can you say that?’

‘Because it is,’ I told her, fixing her with a stony glare. ‘You can see it; all around you. These Dreamers aren’t fighting. They’re hiding. They’re one step away from giving up altogether.’

Tim looked ready to explode at me, but Carl, still calm and collected over in his safe haven of Germany, spoke first.

‘Then why don’t they want us getting to America?’ he asked. ‘If America isn’t the liberated country we all hoped for, then why are they so afraid of us travelling over there?’

‘Because the government are trying to suppress us,’ I told him. ‘Just like they always have done. They're more aware of our existence now than ever before, and they know that there will be Dreamers like us both over here and in Europe. But if they can stop the Americans getting to Europe and the Europeans getting to America, they can stop us from becoming too many and getting too powerful. It’s their way of controlling us.’

Carl just nodded, slowly, thoughtfully.

‘I see,’ he mused.

‘Trust me,’ I assured him, ‘if America had been liberated, then getting in contact with you lot would be the first thing we did.’

‘That’s true,’ he admitted. ‘I guess it was just hope after all.’

I nodded, and we all slowly fell silent.

‘So, what’s happening over in Berlin?’ I asked, knowing that I had asked the same thing at the beginning of the discussion, but also knowing that Carl hadn’t given me a proper answer.

‘Nothing much,’ he replied automatically. Then, he seemed to rethink what he’d just said. ‘Although, the Berlin base has been temporarily put on lockdown.’

‘Lockdown?’ Tim repeated.

‘Seriously?’ Rina asked. She looked considerably more scared than Carl, even though he was the one who would end up paying the price if the base was invaded.

‘Yep,’ he said, pulling a face. ‘Three people were caught coming into the base, and the government’s eye is on us at the moment, so we’re on lockdown. No one is allowed in or out until further notice from the Master.’

‘Oh...crap,’ I said.

‘Yeah. It’ll only be for a few days, though. When are you planning on coming over?’

Naturally, we all turned to Jake.

‘Well,’ Jake said, considering the options as he spoke. ‘If everything goes perfectly to plan, it could be about four or five days. But let’s face it: things don’t go to plan very often, do they?’

‘True,’ Carl admitted. ‘But that would be great if you could make it over that quickly. It isn’t going to get any better over on your side of the Atlantic.’

‘You could say that,’ Tim muttered resentfully. ‘Those bastards are tightening their hold over us even more.’

Carl just nodded his sympathy. ‘That’s awful. We’ll do what we can to try and help out.’

‘There’s not a lot you can do,’ I said, hating myself for saying it, but knowing that it was true. ‘But thanks all the same.’

‘No problem,’ Carl replied.

The fact that we were able to talk to the Europeans felt like a miracle, but I, more than anyone else, realised that we had to keep travelling now. Unfortunately, we had to get going.

‘Anyway Carl,’ I said, ‘it’s been great talking to you, but we’ve gotta go now. We’ve got to travel as quickly as possible.’

‘Sure,’ Carl agreed. ‘There’ll be someone at this computer at any point during the day, so if you wanna talk, just go ahead. In fact, the Master’s even got Jonas working night shifts on this post right now, so even if you’re calling at three in the morning, there’ll still be someone around.’

‘That’s great,’ I said, thinking back to last night when Jake had insisted that they’d all be asleep. Stupid time differences! ‘We’ll talk to you soon.’

‘Yeah, see you soon,’ Carl replied.

‘Bye,’ Rina called cheerily through the speakers. We all echoed her; she and Tim even managed a little wave, and then we disconnected.

Suddenly, I felt even more alone than before.

As ridiculous as it seemed, it almost felt like they were all having a great big party over in Europe, and we hadn’t been invited. The Dreamers over there seemed so alive, but over here, they were so dead. No one was fighting, or so it seemed. Since we broke out of the Institution, everyone had been obsessed with staying hidden and keeping a low profile. But that was not what being a Dreamer was about!

Being over here, I felt so separate from the rest of the world—I always had done, but since the new, tougher laws came in, I’d felt it even more. I had virtually no idea what was going on outside US borders; talking to Berlin had proven that; and that scared me. It was so wrong. Crossing country borders in Europe was something that they seemed to do frequently with almost no trouble. Crossing US borders was something else entirely: it was forbidden.
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Sorry this is such a long chapter, but I really like this chapter, and there's no appropriate place to cut it.
I mentioned this at the beginning, but remember that this story is taking place at the same time as the story of Hurricane Heart is taking place. (I'm hoping people remember that, at the beginning of HH, the Berlin base was put on lockdown.)