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Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

A Way Out


After spending so long making it up to the higher floors, we now had to go all the way back down again. Despite spending ages walking round the ground floor, we had avoided the centre of the building, realising that it was the most heavily guarded, and the place where we were most likely to come across people. The hospital and the prison and the boardrooms and such were all quite quiet. The control room; large, and full of people, and likely to be heavily guarded by soldiers, was going to be much, much harder to get into. I wasn’t sure what I had expected, but it most certainly wasn’t this.

Finally, the sirens around us silenced themselves into non-existence and, as the remnants of their screams still rung in my ears, the compound felt eerily quiet. After all that noise, the silence suddenly seemed so much more disturbing. I was about to ask Tim what he thought it meant—whether it meant that the prisoners had escaped, or had all been recaptured or killed—but a synthesised voice sparked into life over the comms system.

The compound is now under quarantine,’ it said, ‘all entrances have been locked down, and no one shall be allowed in or out without permission from the controller.’

‘Quarantine?’ I asked in disbelief. Why? Why now? This was all our fault!

‘Seriously?’ Tim asked, turning his face to the ceiling in despair. ‘What the hell are you playing at, Hartnett?’ Even though there was no one around to hear, he felt the need to release his frustration.

‘Come on,’ I said, delicately placing my hand on his arm. ‘We have to go.’

He nodded solemnly, following me back round the edge of the gallery looking down into the control room, and through a doorway.

That was when the gunshots restarted.

Beforehand, they had become lost in amongst the sound of sirens, but now the sirens had gone silent, I could hear them again. And they sounded close. Not all the escapees had been dealt with yet.

‘They’re still fighting!’ Tim said, with more than a hint of pride. It was as if he was a father speaking highly of his children.

‘Where’s the sound coming from?’ I asked. ‘We should avoid that area.’ It sounded like the warzone was close; on the floor below, most likely, but not far along from where we were now.

Tim made a decision and turned abruptly, walking right back round the oval gallery to the far side, where there was another door leading off down another corridor.

‘What’s down there?’ I asked, peering in. It seemed deserted, which was a good start, but what we really needed were stairs...or some kind of weaponry...and I couldn’t see either of those things.

‘No idea,’ he said with a casual shrug. ‘But we haven’t got much time. So this is as good a place to start as any.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said, deciding to adopt the same casually hopeless tone. He was right: we didn’t have a lot of time. An hour and six minutes at last check, but that was at least five minutes ago. And in that five minutes, we’d done nothing.

In theory, that left us with one hour and one minute to save Simeon and Jake.


Getting to my feet in amidst ragged breathing, realising we didn’t have time to hang around, my leg began throbbing painfully once again. I had all but forgotten about it since we reached level five; there had been much more pressing things to think about, but I could feel blood beginning to seep back out of the deep cut that hadn’t quite clotted yet.

It was easy to see that Simeon was in a worse state than me, but I had no choice but to reach down and heave him to his feet. The shock of my touch made him lash out blindly at me, and I caught his fist in my hand, allowing him to see that I wasn’t another skeleton, and calm down.

I never knew he was so claustrophobic. I’d never had a reason to find out, in fairness. He was sweating heavily, his breathing so laboured that I was suddenly afraid he was going to go into cardiac arrest. But in a few moments of leaning against the wall and rubbing gently at several of his sore wounds, he was beginning to come back into the real world.

‘We have to go,’ he gasped, his eyes looking blank and unfocused.

‘Yeah,’ was all I said, making to walk past him. The lights flickered around us, and I was constantly aware that another trap could start up at any second, with almost no warning.

As we rounded a corner, walking as fast as our injured bodies could go, I saw a metal clamp extending out of the wall. Simeon moved towards it with much more caution than he had done with the last, trying to get a look at it from afar.

‘It looks...like a syringe,’ he eventually decided, a few paces ahead of me.

I moved towards it with him and, tentatively, he reached out with one arm, standing back as far as he could go in case of a repeat of the gas attack from level four; something neither of us cared to remember. Snatching the syringe from the clamp and hurrying several paces back, we realised that, thankfully, this item was not booby trapped.

Simeon held it in his hands. It contained a clear liquid, and had a small note hanging from it, handwritten on a piece of paper. That alone was unusual.

A way out,’ Simeon read from the paper, a sinister note to his voice. ‘That’s what it says.’

‘A way out?’ I repeated, the idea sending a chill up my spine. ‘That’s all it says?’

He nodded. ‘You don’t think...you don’t think that it’s some kind of lethal injection, do you?’ Weirdly enough, he almost sounded hopeful.

‘Would the designers of the Run be that kind to us?’ I asked, staring at the little syringe in his hands. If it was a lethal drug, there was most certainly only enough in there for one person.

‘I don’t know,’ he said, frowning. ‘I haven’t seen them do this before. But maybe...maybe they want us to have to decide between us who dies and who gets a chance at freedom. Maybe...maybe they want us to fight over it.’

It sounded like a strange idea, but for people who enjoyed watching rebels being condemned to a fate worse than death live on air, it probably would make good television.

‘Give it here,’ I said. Delicately, I took the end off the syringe. If it was a lethal injection, then it would be likely that we’d need to keep hold of it in case of an emergency, and I didn’t want to spill a drop.

I only had to smell it, though, to realise that they were deceiving us. Abruptly moving the intoxicating stench away from me and coughing it out of my system, I announced, ‘it’s just a tranquiliser.’

‘A tranquiliser?’ Simeon repeated. ‘What, they were trying to trick us?’ Anger flashed in his eyes.

‘They wanted us to think there was a way out,’ I said. It all made too much sense. ‘The public would get a kick out of watching us fight over who got to take it, and once that person took it, they wouldn’t die—they’d just fall unconscious for a while. And then, their time would run out, they’d fail to complete the Maze, and when they woke up, they’d probably be on the Operating table.’ The thought sent a chill down my spine.

‘Bastards,’ Simeon hissed. ‘Well, good thing you’re a doctor then.’

I nodded, wondering what would have happened if they’d decided to use this same trick on two slightly more unsuspecting contestants.

‘Come on,’ I said, placing the syringe back down on the ground, not having any need for it. ‘We’ve got to keep moving.’ Wary of any traps, but realising the need to be hasty, we both hurried onwards. A wall closed behind us, and I assumed it was signalling that we were now unable to go back for the syringe should we change our minds and decide we needed it.

I had no idea that it was, in actual fact, trapping us.

And then the bombs went off.
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I actually completely forgot I'd written this bit - it's one of my favourite bits of the entire story though, just because of the shock it gave me when I read those last two lines. :P