‹ Prequel: Martyr's Run

Storms in Utopia

The Lion's Den


‘Well, nice of you to show up, Sonja,’ the Master said curtly as I walked in. His pale yet vibrant eyes rested on Arjan.

‘Arjan, is it?’ he asked. I couldn’t detect what kind of emotions lay behind his expressionless face; was he being friendly towards Arjan, or hostile?

‘Yes,’ Arjan replied stiffly. I could see that he was uncomfortable.

‘Can you wait outside?’ the Master asked.

‘Oh,’ Arjan looked somewhat disappointed. I could see how desperate he was to prove that he was a ‘true’ rebel. ‘Okay.’ He turned and left the room without another word, closing the door softly behind him. I assumed he would wait for me out in the corridor.

That was if I came out alive.

Not that I wasn’t prepared to go down without a fight, of course.

‘Sonja,’ the Master said, and, once again, the lack of expression he gave away was almost chilling. However, as he looked up, I saw what was most definitely anger flash across his eyes. ‘Where on earth have you been?’

‘Busy,’ was all I said. Was now a good time to mention the revolution? I doubted it, but I may not have a choice.

‘Busy,’ he repeated in stern disbelief. ‘Busy?’ This time, his voice rose. ‘You betray my orders, go out into the city alone, endanger the lives of every Dreamer in Berlin just to save some boy, and then disappear without a trace for three days, and you come back and tell me you’ve been busy?’

If I was a weaker person, I would have flinched. But I knew the Master too well now. He wasn’t about to hurt me. For some strange, unknown reason, he liked me, and I’d always been happy to use that to my advantage.

‘I have!’ I insisted. ‘But believe me, I didn’t just endanger everyone for ‘some boy.’ There are more important things at work here.’

‘Like what?’ he demanded, his laser eyes fixed on me.

‘Master,’ however close we were, I realised that now was not the time for first-name terms. ‘We have to start a revolution.’

He actually had the nerve to laugh.

‘Sonja, what are you talking about?’ At least my controversial statement seemed to have knocked out some of his anger. ‘I don’t care what happened to you out there that’s made you think this, though I would like to know what insane thoughts have been possessing your mind recently, but we are no nearer to starting a revolution than we were before you left. We don’t have enough recruits! We don’t have anywhere near enough!’

‘We don’t need hundreds of thousands of recruits,’ I said, stepping forward and leaning on the desk. There were three chairs opposite him, but I didn’t bother sitting down. ‘We have enough already—‘

‘Sonja,’ the Master cut in sternly, ‘there are eight and a half billion people in this world, and, at the last estimate, there are less than a hundred thousand Dreamers worldwide. How on earth do you expect to achieve anything?’

‘Well,’ I said, standing back upright again, ‘for starters, those hundred thousand people are merely the ones who are official Dreamers. But what about all those who perhaps go by different names? Or those who are ‘unofficial’ Dreamers, or believers, or how about just rebels; just people who aren't happy with the way things are going? And then think about it: once we tell society the truth, how many people would join us then? Arjan wasn’t a Dreamer; he’d never done anything wrong, but the moment I told him about the Operation, he was suddenly willing to join us. And he won’t be the only one. There will be thousands like that. Millions, perhaps.’

The Master shook his head. ‘I admire your confidence, child, I really do. But you are naive—‘

‘This is not naivety!’ I told him. ‘This is belief. This is me actually trying to do something for the world. What are we ever going to achieve if we don’t even try?’

‘It’s reckless and stupid,’ he argued. ‘In ten years’ time, if we keep recruiting at the speed we were a few years ago, then maybe, just maybe—‘

‘Ten years’ time?’ I repeated. ‘In ten years’ time I’ll be thirty-one. That’s too far away! I can’t waste the best years of my life just waiting.’ The Master made to butt in again, but I continued talking regardless. ‘Hear me out: I don’t know what you know about Arjan, but he was not a false alarm by any means.’ This was it. I was telling him. I was spreading the idea that I had managed to convince Scarrus I had already spread. Well, better late than never.

‘He dreams, Master. And he has dreamt of revolution. And his dreams have confirmed some things to me—things that I completely overlooked until a couple of nights ago: we don’t need millions of followers. All we need is the power to broadcast the truth. If we could...I don’t know...hijack a TV channel or something, then we’ve as good as won.’

‘Sonja, this is ridiculous,’ the Master told me sternly. I began to feel as though he thought of me as a naughty child. ‘It’s too dangerous. You’ve seen what’s been going on recently—what with the new Operation laws in America and the break-in in London, and the fact that we were being watched for days after you left. The government are tightening their hold on the Dreamers more than ever before.’

‘Then isn’t that even more of a reason to fight now?’ I challenged, beginning to feel exasperated.

For a moment, he was silent. That meant I could carry on.

‘Fight while we still can,’ I urged him. ‘Think about it: if they’re tightening their hold on us now, it’s not going to get any looser. The longer we leave it, the tighter it’ll get, until we’ve all been suffocated. The break-ins in London and St Petersburg and Toulouse and the new laws in America and the government’s increased surveillance are just the beginning. The longer we leave it, the worse it will get. One day we won’t even be able to leave the base without being caught. So I say we fight while we still can.’

I sank down onto a chair then, feeling almost breathless with passion.

‘It doesn’t work like that, child,’ he said. ‘I know how skilled you are, but you’ve been a rebel for three years. And there are some things you only learn with experience. When I was your age and the Dreamers were young, I, too, believed that it was that simple. But now I understand that it doesn’t work like that.’

I couldn’t believe it. ‘You’ve wasted the best part of your life waiting. Waiting for what? How much longer were you going to wait?’

‘Until the time is right,’ he said.

‘The time is right now,’ I insisted. ‘Please, David, I will do this, with or without your help.’

‘Then I am afraid you are working without me this time, Sonja.’ He was being gentle, but his words stung me. Considering there was a distinct lack of a fatherly figure in my life, the Master seemed to have taken that place over the last few years. I would never have admitted it, and he was probably too professional to agree even if I did, but that was how it always had been. And to suddenly have so little support from him hurt.

But I could do it. I would do it.


I had heard most of the conversation—the walls down here weren’t exactly thick, and it didn’t sound promising. It sounded as if Hurricane was losing, and that was not something I had heard often before.

Footsteps rounded the corner suddenly and I glanced up.


It was Jonas.

‘Jonas,’ I said, forcing a smile, unsure whether I was pleased to see him or not. He was, after all, notoriously unforgiving towards people like me.

‘What are you doing here?’ he demanded, his tone accusing. ‘Hurricane said she was going to sedate you.’

‘Have you not learnt yet that Hurricane tends to lie rather a lot?’ I said, allowing some of the bitterness I felt for her to show through.

Jonas glared at me. ‘I know her well enough to know whether she’s lying or not. And that time, she was telling the truth.’

‘Well, evidently not,’ I said, liking my new, sarcastic tone. ‘’Cause I’m still here.’

‘Don’t talk to me like that,’ he said, an underlying threat hidden in his voice. ‘I don’t know what she’s planning on doing with you—‘

Finally, the anger overwhelmed me.

‘Why does everyone talk about me as though I’m her pet?’ Jonas wasn’t the only one; it was everyone; he just happened to be around to listen to my rant. I was sick of it. When was it going to change?

‘You’re her prisoner,’ Jonas pointed out.

‘I’m not anybody’s prisoner!’ I cried exasperatedly. ‘I’m here of my own choice! I’m here because, like every other person in this base, I’ve discovered the truth about the crappy world we’re living in, and I’ve decided that I actually want to fight it, because the idea that I have spent my entire life living a lie makes me feel sick.’

Jonas was stunned into silence. Even I was stunned into silence.

The door behind me opened and Hurricane stepped out. She gave me a look that I could only describe as perplexed, and then shot Jonas a quick glare.

‘Whatever,’ he muttered. ‘I’ll talk to you later.’

I didn’t want to say it out loud, but I had thoroughly beaten him.

‘The Master wants to see you,’ said Hurricane to me. She looked as if she was resenting calling him by that name.

Unlike when I had followed Hurricane into this office ten minutes ago, when the attention was solely focused on her, I now met a piercing, pale glare from the Master’s cold blue eyes.

‘Have a seat, Arjan,’ he said curtly, gesturing to one of the seats in front of his desk. Uninvited, Hurricane also sat down in the seat next to me. ‘Now, I would like you to answer me this: why are you here?’

That was a strange question. I assumed he meant ‘why did I want to join the Dreamers,’ but it was oddly phrased nonetheless.

‘I—‘ I began, treading carefully, unsure how to proceed. ‘I realised what a horrible world we live in. Hurricane told me some stuff—about the Operation, and the Institutions; stuff I never knew beforehand and, because of the way I’d been brought up, I never thought to question. And I realised that, actually, I’ve been lied to since the day I was born.’

The Master nodded as if in approval, and I almost fell into the trap of letting myself relax a little. But his interrogation was not over yet. Flicking his gaze purposefully to Hurricane and then back to me again, he continued.

‘So you’re not here because of...love, then?’

Hurricane almost jumped out of her seat in rage.

‘How can you say that?’ she demanded.

‘Sit down, Sonja,’ the Master said coolly. ‘I think Arjan is capable of speaking for himself.’ Reluctantly, she fell back into her chair. ‘Arjan?’ he prompted.

I looked at Hurricane. There was lava boiling beneath her surface, all too ready to erupt. We had kissed. And yet...maybe that was all I was holding on to. On the night we had kissed, we had both just miraculously escaped death against all the odds, and we had thoroughly beaten all the Soulless. We were exhausted and tired, but at the same time, brimming with ideas about revolution and uprisings and war after Hurricane had managed to somewhat decipher my dreams. Back then, a kiss had seemed the only logical outcome of our situation.

But now, three days later, that passion had long since waned. I had fully expected things to change between me and Hurricane—I didn’t truly believe she could revert back to being the emotionless girl she had been before that night in Berlin, but she had defied those beliefs. She had become the same person she had been before; so much so that it was as if that night had never happened. And since we’d been travelling around Germany, all we’d done was work. We’d looked up the names of as many ex-rebels as we could—the ones from shortly after the Revolution, when rebellion did not have an official name and did not require leaving your whole life behind. And then, we’d written the postcards for them. And then we’d gone and distributed them. We’d scarcely even spoken, unless it was about the work, or something awfully mundane, like the weather.

How could I love a girl like that?

‘Of course it’s not about love,’ I told the Master, and I thought it was true. I honestly had no idea where I stood with Hurricane at the moment, and I imagined she wasn’t going to let me find out too soon.

‘Good,’ he said simply. Seeing Hurricane’s stormy face, he added ‘I was just making sure.’

‘So what if he was in love?’ she challenged, oddly defensively.

‘People are blinded by love,’ the Master said. ‘Have you honestly never seen that happen? People would do, in a moment of passion, what they would never do in the cold light of day. I just had to confirm that Arjan was thinking rationally. This is, after all, a life-changing decision.’

Hurricane looked like she wanted to say more, resentment plastered across her face, but for once she kept her mouth shut.

‘So, Arjan, you’re sure about this?’ the Master confirmed. ‘If you join us, and then betray us, you will be killed.’

‘I know,’ I said sincerely.

‘And you understand the dangers?’


‘And the fact that you cannot see your family again?’


The Master paused for a moment, looking between me and Hurricane.

‘Well then, welcome to the Dreamers, Arjan.’
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