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Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Possessed by an Idea


I was under the impression that Tim didn’t like me. Ever since we met up outside the Institution I’d felt like a bit of an outsider, but after a few days, I was beginning to feel like Simeon and I were getting on quite well. I could honestly have said we were friends by now. But Tim was another matter entirely, and it worried me. I hadn’t consciously done anything to upset him, I hadn’t treated him any differently to how I treated Simeon or Rina, but it just seemed that whatever I did, he didn’t like me.

Maybe I was just being paranoid. Everyone was in a bad mood today after last night, and the conversation with Carl only seemed to have made things worse. Simeon was insistent that we were missing out on some fantastic revolution-style event that was going on in Europe, whilst all the American Dreamers were apparently ‘dead.’ I could see where he was coming from, but I couldn’t imagine that Europe was really that much better. If it was, they’d have had a revolution by now.

But that still didn’t excuse Tim’s behaviour. And as we got back into the car and I mentioned the tracker and he made another sarcastic comment about me, I could feel my temper wearing thin. I rarely got very angry; I was normally good at holding myself together and keeping control, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much more he would have to push me before I finally snapped.

We were so quiet in the car that day that Simeon actually turned on the radio. Rina was leaning against the window in the back with her cardigan draped over her, Tim was staring absently out of the window, keeping his big mouth shut for once, and I was perfectly happy to sit quietly, alone with my thoughts and the bland motorway scenery.

I was only half listening to the news bulletin—I’d heard a weather forecast, but not taken enough notice to be able to say what it was actually saying, and a couple of news headlines had half registered in my brain, but then I heard the word ‘rebel,’ and I was instantly alert.

So was everyone else. I’d thought that Rina had fallen asleep by now, but when I looked round she was sitting upright with her eyes wide open like the rest of us.

‘...since the introduction of compulsory Demobilisation as a punishment for all imagination rebels,’ the news reporter was saying, ‘the Maze has gone out of business. According to the manager of USBN, Janice Hartnett, she has been unable to persuade a single terrorist to go into the Maze, as they all believe they have nothing to gain from it, even if they win. In an interview with us today, Ms Hartnett said that she has considered forcing the rebels into the Maze, but decided against it, as she believes that it will not make for interesting enough entertainment. As a brand new maze has been constructed for the next episode, Ms Hartnett has expressed her displeasure at President Lomax’s decision of Demobilising all imagination prisoners, as the new Maze cost over one million dollars to construct, and now will serve no purpose. Ms Hartnett is meeting with the Minister for Imagination Regulation and Control, Cameron Wallace, later today to discuss alternative plans for what to do with the new, unused Maze.’

I exchanged a perplexed glance with Simeon. I was surprised he hadn’t crashed the car yet; there was no way he was paying any attention to the road anymore.

There were a thousand thoughts running through my mind. The new policy of performing the Operation on all Dreamers had put the Maze, aka Martyr’s Run, out of business. There were some rather powerful people out there; powerful people such as the manager of America’s biggest TV and radio channel, who were not happy with Dictator Tamara Lomax.

Was it possible...was it even conceivable that Martyr’s Run could actually be an asset to the Dreamers?

‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ I asked to the rest of the car.

‘What, that Janice Hartnett could actually become our new best friend?’ said Simeon, a smile cracking across his face. At the same time, I felt the corners of my mouth twitching, and my whole mood lifted.

‘Yeah. Yeah, that pretty much is what I’m thinking.’


I’d kind of hoped that Jake would expand on his ‘plan’ to get Martyr’s Run to work for us, but sadly he said nothing more. Nevertheless, as the afternoon wore on and began to drift into evening, my mood had lifted considerably.

Of course Dictator Lomax would have the final say: if she wanted the Operation policy to stay, it would stay. But if the manager of USBN could get the MIRC and a few other senior politicians on her side, then maybe, just maybe, Lomax would see herself being tested. And then maybe...

Could it happen? Could Martyr’s Run stop the Operation going ahead on all Dreamers?

Of course it wouldn’t! I was becoming far too much of an idealist. At best, Hartnett would hinder the Operation, and that would probably only be for a few people—the Run had survived for years with only a couple of shows a month, so she’d only need a few Dreamers, and the remainder would still be disposed of.

But maybe a little hindrance and a little conflict was all we needed. Hindrance could get us to Germany. Hindrance could get us armed and ready for a fight. Hindrance could mean a revolution.

I was definitely being too idealistic, but right now, I didn’t care.

It was pitch black outside by the time we pulled into a little motel off the side of the road. We were right on the outskirts of Jefferson City; I could see the glinting skyscrapers rearing up in the distance, but the motel was right on the side of the road, so it was convenient, and no one could argue with the fact that they were exhausted. We all agreed that we’d rather stop here than journey into the city and have to spend the next hour looking for a hotel.

We were a bit tight on money, so, when I crossed the car park and went up to the little hut where the receptionist sat, I just asked for two twin rooms. He handed me the keys as the others arrived with our limited luggage. Because of a lack of vacancies, the rooms were further apart than we’d like—one was on the ground floor, and one was on the first floor, both of them facing out of the back of the motel and into the barren area beyond.

‘So, Rina,’ I said, ‘seeing as you’re the girl, who d’you wanna share with?’

‘I have to share?’ she asked in mock despair, laughing as she spoke. She glanced around, looking indecisive.

‘Well, you can share with Tim then,’ I decided for her. I knew that he was who she really wanted to share with; she was just too shy to admit it.

‘Okay,’ she agreed, and I could tell she was secretly relieved...or maybe ‘overjoyed’ was a better word.

‘We’ll take upstairs,’ I said, handing the key to Jake and picking up my bag. ‘You guys stay down here.’

‘Sure,’ said Tim. ‘We’ll see you in the morning.’

‘You don’t mind if I take the laptop, do you?’ I added. I pulled a face. ‘I kinda wanted to talk to Berlin again.’

Tim sighed, but smiled at the same time. ‘You and your bloody Germans. You’ll be eating frankfurters and wearing lederhosen by tomorrow morning.’

I decided to ignore the last comment, though it seemed to make Rina laugh quite a bit, and picked up the laptop briefcase, following Jake off round the back of the building. We left Tim and Rina outside their little door and headed up the clanging, iron steps at the side of the motel and onto the balcony on the first floor. We were two doors from the end, and Jake unlocked the door to reveal a room that was as basic as it could possibly be, but looked more inviting than I could have ever imagined. After all, it had beds. After last night, beds were a luxury.

I dumped my suitcase down on the bed furthest from the door and went to peer into the miniature bathroom. Inside, there was just about enough space for a toilet, a sink and a shower, all decorated in tiles that weren’t quite white. Oddly enough, seeing those tiles was actually quite comforting; they reminded me of the underground and, for all its faults, the underground was predominantly my home.

I stepped back out. ‘Who gets first shower?’ I made sure it sounded like a challenge.

‘You can if you want,’ Jake said with a shrug, picking up the laptop and switching it on.

‘Oh, okay then,’ I said, a little taken aback. ‘Thanks.’ There was no way that would have ever happened with Tim; it would have almost certainly come down to a light-hearted fight.

Still, I didn’t mind Jake. I thought at first that I was going to find him annoying, but he was actually a pretty nice guy, and not to mention incredibly useful. Without him, we’d almost certainly be lost somewhere in the middle of a desert in the Wild West.

When I came out of the shower, drying my hair after changing into a fresh set of clothes, Jake was staring out the window.

‘Bathroom’s free now,’ I announced. He didn’t even turn round.

‘I thought I saw someone outside,’ he said in a monotone.

I sighed, striding over.

‘Jake, we’re in a motel full of people. There’s a pretty good chance that someone will go outside during the night.’

‘Yeah but we’re not facing the parking lot, are we?’ he challenged. In truth, I hadn’t thought about that, but that didn’t automatically mean the person out there was suspicious.

‘There are loads of reasons why they could be out there though,’ I argued, moving to peer out into the darkness to see if I could locate this mysterious person. ‘Could be putting out the rubbish, getting some fresh air, walking to another room...’

Jake glared at me. ‘I’m not stupid, Simeon. If the guy was just walking from one place to the other, or seemed to be carrying a bin bag, then I wouldn’t be questioning him. But he’s acting...weird.’

‘I can’t even see him.’ My eyes hadn’t adjusted yet, and all I could see was darkness, pricked by the occasional spark of light. Jake, however, wasn’t convinced.

‘I’m going to shower,’ he announced, ‘but could you keep a lookout?’

‘Sure,’ I said half-heartedly, more interested in making sure the laptop was being charged up. The last thing we needed was for it to run out whilst we were on the road. Right now, it was our lifeline.

Jake came out of the shower ten minutes later, damp hair plastered to his head, and I noticed his glare. Somewhat sheepishly, I glanced up from where I sat on the bed, tapping at the laptop as I logged onto the internet.

‘You haven’t been looking out the window have you?’ he said sternly.

‘Uh, no,’ I admitted.

‘Fuck it,’ he muttered. I didn’t hear him swear often, but as he strode over to the window I saw real anger in his eyes. ‘I’m gonna go and check.’

‘What?’ I jumped up off the bed. ‘Why?’

‘’Cause if it’s another Dream-Snatcher, I’d rather not wait for him to catch us while we’re asleep.’

‘And what good’s it gonna do if you go out there on your own in the dark?’ I challenged. I was normally one for fighting, but this just seemed stupid.

Jake didn’t reply for a moment as he stared out the window.

‘He’s still there,’ he confirmed. ‘Just standing over by the grass. Not doing anything. Just standing.’
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I know it's a terrible place to cut the chapter, but the only other option was to make it really, really long. Please keep commenting!