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Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

An Entrance into Chaos


After refusing to take part in the Run, I was marched into a small nearby room, my guard standing beside me, his gun ever-present. Hartnett and her two minions stayed outside, seeming to discuss something. At first, I had assumed she was going to throw me in the Maze against my will, but without any incentive to take part, I would have just sat there until my time ran out, and that would not have made for good TV. Hartnett was a business woman; she wanted viewers. And I wasn’t about to play her game. If I was going to die, I was going to do it my way.

Whatever was happening, it seemed to take rather a long time, and after the best part of half an hour, I was marched back to where I had first met Hartnett; standing in the gallery, staring over the great atrium below.

‘So, Simeon, I don’t suppose you’ve changed your mind about taking part?’

I smirked, glad that I was the one calling the shots here. ‘No.’

‘Very well,’ she turned away momentarily, looking out the great window at the atrium below. My eyes fell on a middle aged woman wearing a white lab coat over her white suit, standing at a wide, circular table. There seemed to be a strange graphic on the surface of the table, which was too far away for me to make out. When she touched the table in various places, the graphics changed accordingly, as though she was pressing buttons.

‘What’s going on down there?’ I asked.

‘They’re putting the finishing touches to your Maze,’ Hartnett replied.

My Maze. So she still thought I was going in.

‘I’m not doing it,’ I told her. ‘I’d rather die now and retain a little bit of myself than die as a piece of your sick games.’

‘Well that’s a shame, isn’t it?’ she said. ‘You see, I’m prepared to negotiate a little.’

Negotiate? What did she mean?

‘Why do you want me so badly?’ I demanded. If she wanted something from me, she’d first have to earn my respect by answering a few questions.

‘Simeon, ever since President Lomax decided that all rebels would receive the Operation, the Maze has gone out of business,’ Hartnett said. It was the same as what she’d said on the radio the other day. ‘None of your people are willing to compromise. There’s no incentive for them to take part; just like you said.’

‘Well, you might as well give up then,’ I said, allowing the hint of a smirk to cross my face.

Murder flashed across her eyes. ‘Give up? USBN is in millions of dollars of debt. How could I give up? We had a whole new series of Mazes built right across the country recently—construction finished less than a month ago. And then, mere days later, we find out that they’ve become obsolete. I was the one who commissioned them; if the company doesn’t get out of debt, it’s my head on the line.’

‘So you want me to help you out here?’ I asked. ‘Well, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to do better than this.’

She turned away for a moment. When I’d been taken away, it had been so that Hartnett and some other important gits could have a discussion about me. Only when she turned back to me, though, did I realise that they’d actually come to a conclusion.

‘Well, Simeon,’ she eventually said, her voice slimy. I already knew I wasn’t going to like what she was about to say by the malice in her eyes. ‘How about we raise the stakes a little? Give you an incentive to take part. You fail, you get the Operation. You win, and you get your freedom.’

I froze.

She had got me.

‘Freedom?’ I repeated. ‘You mean—‘

‘Absolute freedom,’ she insisted. ‘You can get back to that airport and out of my country—I can’t say we want you here anyway. You go to your precious Europe if you like. If you get through the Maze, you can walk out of here, unbound, unchained, unharmed. You will be a free man again, Simeon. But if you fail, then you’re into that Operating room before dawn.’

‘No catches?’ I raised my eyebrows. Just because she legally couldn’t lie, it didn’t mean she couldn’t still be devious.

‘No catches,’ she said. ‘You’re free to get on that plane, and no one will follow you. I promise.’

It was tempting, but I wasn’t done yet. I met her eyes. ‘And what if I refuse?’

‘Well,’ she said coolly. ‘You’re in the Operating room right now.’

‘Alright then,’ I muttered bitterly. ‘I’ll do it.’ Another thought came to me. For the first time ever, I was in a position of power here: I had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. But Hartnett had many things to lose; her job, for instance.

‘You let my friends come on the plane with me,’ I told her.

‘Your friends?’ she repeated. ‘Oh, you mean the Mexican boy who came to the airport with you?’

‘Yes,’ I said, thinking of Tim and Rina. Well, they weren’t coming anymore. Maybe ‘friend’ was a more appropriate word than ‘friends.’ ‘You let Jake come with me.’

‘Very well,’ she said briskly, but I could see the hint of a smile creeping onto her face. I wasn’t sure I liked it. ‘If you get out, Mr Montez can go with you too, if he so chooses.’

As I was clutched round the forearm by my guard and marched down the corridor, and then down several flights of stairs, I couldn’t help but feel strangely like I had won.


The storeroom was dark, but shafts of light managed to come under the door. There was another door on the far side, which presumably led into the inside of the building.

Sirens were still blaring inside. It wouldn’t be long before they put the entire place on quarantine.

‘We have to go in,’ Tim said, thinking along the same lines as me.

‘We’ll be caught,’ I said, suddenly terrified.

‘We’ll be caught if we stay here!’

‘Look,’ he said, his momentary anger passing, ‘I’ve got a gun. And you...well, we’re in a store cupboard. There must be something you can use as a weapon in here.’

I began searching around. The cupboard wasn’t very exciting; it mostly contained hospital-like equipment—basic first aid equipment, vacuum packed syringes and scalpels—I could hurt someone with a syringe perhaps—a large rack of lab coats—

Lab coats.

‘Tim!’ I hissed excitedly, grabbing one of the long white coats off the hook and throwing it to him. ‘Put it on,’ I said when he looked a bit confused.

‘They’ll see through it,’ he pointed out, ‘they all wear matching uniforms round here.’

I shrugged, pulling on one of the smaller lab coats, which still turned out to be a bit big on me. ‘It’s better than nothing.’ Tim found me a small knife, which would probably make do if I really needed it, and we headed out the door leading into the rest of the building.

It looked like a hospital. The walls were white and the floor was shiny and everything was very clean and empty. Doors lined the corridor, most of them metal; some open and some closed.

It dawned on me at that moment that neither of us really knew what the compound was. Yes, it was where Martyr’s Run was held, but beyond that, we did not know. A building this big would do more than just play host to a gameshow; it wasn’t even the USBN headquarters. America’s main television centre was somewhere in New York.

No, this was worse. This was some kind of government centre.

‘We have to go,’ Tim said urgently, sensing my panic. Disguised by nothing but a lab coat each, we chose right, and headed down the currently deserted corridor, hoping that we didn’t come across too many people.

‘Where do we go?’ I asked after we headed through some swinging doors into a larger corridor. ‘How the hell are we meant to find them?’

‘Jake said they mentioned Hartnett,’ Tim replied. ‘That’s all we’ve got to go on. But if he’s right, they’ll be taking him to the Run.’

I scanned the corridor for any indications of where anything in the building might be, but there was nothing. The sirens seemed to have stopped, but that didn’t mean they were no longer searching for us. We only had a very limited amount of time.

‘Wait,’ I suddenly said, a terrifying thought occurring to me. ‘The Run won’t have started yet.’

‘I know,’ Tim said, not yet seeing my point.

‘What if they put Jake in?’

This time, it took Tim a moment to comprehend what I was saying, but his expression filled with fear.


‘Tim,’ I rounded on him, my horror making me wild and desperate, ‘if Sim’s in there, he can fight his way out. He’s strong! But if they’re both in there, one of them has to defeat the other. They won’t let either of them out until one has succeeded and one has failed.’

At once, we both broke into a run.


I was led down multiple flights of stairs until I was almost certainly below ground. We went down a small, narrow corridor that looked much more unkempt than any I’d seen so far, and I was left in a room. It was blank apart from a bench running along one side that had a neatly folded set of clothes on top of it.

Reluctantly, I put them on, leaving my current clothes, which were dirty and a little old anyway, in a pile in the same place. I had to keep reminding myself that Hartnett wanted something from me, and so all the time I complied, I would get something in return.

If I made it out of Martyr’s Run in time, of course.

As soon as I had finished pulling on the clothes, the metal double doors on the far side of the room slid open automatically. Stepping through, I ended up in a similar room, only this one contained a sort of metal frame in the centre; a metal detector, most likely.

As I stepped into it, a blue light came on, emitted from the wall opposite, and it scanned up and down my body several times. Even though no one who would be watching this really cared what I looked like, I felt weirdly self-conscious. This wasn’t just a metal detector; it was a full body scanner.

Once the machine seemed satisfied, the doors on the far side of this room opened and I walked through.

The next room was completely empty apart from a bench similar to the one in the first room. Assuming that my only task now was to wait, I went and sat down.

After a few minutes, some sort of filter opened up in the ceiling. A spraying sound started up, and I realised a few moments too late that it was filling the room with gas. Initially, I was scared, but my head was spinning and my eyes were feeling heavy after only a few seconds. A sleeping gas? What were they doing?


When I opened my eyes, I was lying in a small but brightly lit room. There was a set of double doors in front of me, but these ones were glass, and beyond, I could see what looked a bit like a corridor, with lots of paths jutting off of it at random intervals, all brightly lit and pristinely white, with a metal grating floor.

I knew this place. Even though the design was different every time, the decor was always the same.

Beyond those glass doors was the Maze. Beyond those doors was Martyr’s Run.

A screen to the left of the doors, which I had not previously noticed, sparked into life. Hartnett’s face appeared on it.

‘Simeon Stryder,’ she announced in a business-like tone. ‘Welcome to the Maze. The rules are simple: once the doors in front of you open, you have no more than three hours to make your way to the end of the maze. You must overcome any obstacles that stand in your way, and make sure you avoid the traps. If you do not find your way out within your time, your forfeit will be to face Demobilisation immediately. If you succeed, you will be granted freedom. Good luck.’

The screen disappeared.

I opened my mouth as though I was about to ask a question to the blank wall. Then I shut it, feeling stupid. Glancing around, I noticed at least three cameras in the room with me. I was being broadcast on national television at this very moment. There would be many, many more once I was inside the Run. There would be no rest until I made it out.

I would make it out, after all. I had to. Failure was not an option. Standing in front of me was just one more obstacle separating me and Europe. I had already fought my way through many; this was just the final one.

My breaths were hot and ragged. A speaker in the corner began to start up as an electrical computerised voice began counting down, ‘thirty...twenty-nine...twenty-eight...


Opening my eyes, I was lying on the floor of a small, white room. Looking around, I saw the doors I had been brought in through, and then, turning apprehensively, I saw Them.

A pair of sliding glass doors, revealing a bright, white world beyond.

As much as I tried to avoid watching it, I had inadvertently seen too many bits of Martyr’s Run on TV not to know what these meant.

A screen to my left sparked into life.

‘Jacob Montez,’ Janice Hartnett’s voice said, ‘welcome to the Maze.’
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Please comment! I know it's a really long chapter (maybe that's a good thing, I'm not sure), but it was either that or splitting it into two short chapters that broke in an awkward place.