The young man quietly eats his sandwich, he sits on the floor laying against the side of his bed. He is viewing news reels displayed on a glass surface that sits above the cabinet in front of him. A long metal box that stretches out along the length of the cabinet is embedded into the cabinet’s surface, but protrudes outward an inch or two, with the glass surface attached to it from the inside, like a roll of plastic wrap pulled out from inside its box container.
The news reel displays images from around the Solar System and the descriptions of those images are displayed marquee style along the bottom of the glass surface in bold white text against a minimalistic black background just tall enough to fit the white text:
‘...The HIPER’s, Human InterPlanetary Expansion Regime’s, Auto-Navigating Unmanned Probes explore the depths of Europa's oceans...’
‘...Battles erupt in the Free City of Pater. Free City historians and experts say civil war seems imminent...’
‘...A scientific breakthrough spurs a nanotechnology revolution...'
‘…The UTG, United Terran Government, accepts an irregularly large quantity of resources from HIPER…’
“Boring,” Hector says aloud, a vein on Hector's temple appears momentarily; instantly the display on the glass surface goes black, then an image of a Dreadnought-class spaceship appears in the foreground against a backdrop of an abyssal black. In the far distance a single point of intense light bathes the Dreadnought in starlight, its silhouette a splash against the star’s radiance. The camera pans to the side, positioning the star off screen in the background, making its light demonstrate all of the Dreadnought’s glory; the many phallic cannons placed upon its bridge, the numerous double sided gun mounts scattered about its surface, and the centrepiece of attraction, the large spherical FTL engine popularized in space operas.
“So…. Cool!!!” Hector says ecstatically.
‘Wow, he still acts like a little boy,’ Alexa thinks but instead she says aloud, “So Hector, how was the sandwich? I made it with the utmost care!”
“That’s lame,” he replies, without bothering to even look at her.
“Rude! What happened to the little man who was so grateful to me huh? You are such a farce!”
Hector waves a hand at her, “Shh! Shh! It’s about to Jump.”
‘Jump. Jump is the term used to indicate FTL travel in popular space operas. It does not mean the physical, and very biological act of bending one’s knees, then extending one’s legs as fast and powerful as possible so as to propel one’s body into the air. A Dreadnought does not have legs, nor any muscles to physically do that. Unless it transformed into a giant robo-,’ Alexa’s train of thought is interrupted as she is flabbergasted at the image on the glass surface above Hector’s cabinet.
The Dreadnought violently shakes, then suddenly its entire body seems to break apart, only to reassemble into… a giant robot. The spherical FTL engine emerges out of the center of the giant robot’s left hand, and it begins to emanate a pulsating glow. The robot makes a fist, and thrusts it outward above its head. The FTL engine simultaneously lights up and soon the starlight is overshadowed by the engine’s luminescence. At this moment Hector screams with the Dreadnought’s crewmen, “JUMP!” A flash of light blinds the entire area of the glass surface with white light, and when it recedes the robot is gone, and nothing can be seen except for the star in the distance. The scene cuts to advertisements of other space operas, and adventure shows.
Hector chews and swallows the last bite of his sandwich. His eyebrows furl for but a moment, and the light from the glass surface instantly shuts off, revealing the bare wall behind it. The glass surface then very slowly recedes into the rectangular metal box that it's attached to.
Hector positions himself onto the bed beside Alexa and asks, "So, what do you have planned for today?"
"I'm going to go to the admin offices to finalize my flight."
Hector turns away, “that's right, you’re leaving this year.” Awkwardly, Hector says, "well, I hope you have a safe trip."
"Thanks," Alexa manages to say in an awkward response that matches Hector’s remark.
A moment passes.
"Oh hey!" Hector says in an upbeat tone, breaking the needed silence. "When is your flight anyway? How many days do I have to put up with you?" he grins and searches for her brown eyes behind her bright yellow hair.
"Very funny,” Alexa smiles, “My flight is in a week."
"Oh. I see."
"I thought I told you?"
"Yeah, you might have. But I'm really caught up with this bet I made with Wei. I bet that I can beat him in a race, from one end of the Academy, to the other. If I don't beat him, I'm going to have to run down the Academy's main street in my underwear.”
"You don't say.” Alexa looks at him.
“Hey! It’s not my idea! I’d rather keep my clothes on, got it! It was Wei’s stupid idea. That guy is something else. He has some twisted sense of humor. I don’t know if he wants others to laugh at me, or if he has some deep, dark, secret, that-”
“-SO!” Alexa interrupts, “what happens if you win? What does Wei have to do?”
Hector grins, “Wei has to fight me.”
“That was your winning condition? For you to get beat up by the Academy’s top martial artist?”
“He’s not that good.”
“You’re being delusional, he’s the best!”
“Whatever, he has to fight me if I win the race today.”
“Why don’t you just challenge him instead of doing this race? You kids are so weird these days.”
"What!? Who are you calling a kid? Now who’s being delusional, I'm only a year younger than you… Hold on, you came here to wake me up didn’t you? So that I wasn’t late for the race? Did you forgot why you came here?"
"Ah, you're right," Alexa says. She places her hand on the sack that holds her sandwich.
Alexa stands up, "Well, I better get going. If we talk any longer, you'll be late... You have to meet Wei at nine if I'm not mistaken?"
"Yea that's right."
Alexa touches a thin and sleek metal armband on her left wrist, and it displays the time in a soft green glow. "It’s already 8:03.”
“Yea...” Hector looks down to his feet.
“Alright… I’m heading out now.” She slowly makes her way to the door, when suddenly she says, “Hey Hector, I forgot, can you go fetch me some lotion? My skin is too dry."
"Sure..." Hector gets up and walks to the bathroom.
Alexa slowly makes her way to the cabinet and quietly opens a drawer. She opens the sack with the sandwich in it, and takes out a small white envelope. She places it inside the opened drawer, on a stack of white shirts then quietly closes the drawer.
"Is this okay? It's the only thing I got.” Hector asks, quietly walking up behind her.
Startled, she turns around swiftly. She quickly takes the lotion and says, “This will have to do," as she applies the lotion on her cheeks.
“Well you have no choice. Like I said, that’s the only lotion I have.”
"It’s fine alright. Tell me, how do I look?" She gently pats the sides of her cheeks with both her hands, bends one knee to the side, and leans in toward him.
Hector leans back, but doesn’t step back, and he shyly looks upon her; bright yellow hair flows against her sides, her white blouse is crisp against her now very noticeable curves, her blue skirt neatly sits upon her bare thigh, and her brown eyes very angrily stares back at Hector.
“Uhh…” Hector blurts pathetically.
"Hector! All you need to say is: ‘You look good Alexa!’ That’s all you needed to say! That’s good enough! You don’t have to ogle me,” she closes her eyes and playfully turns away from him.
"It's not my fault. You blame me for looking? I’m a young man with growing pains. Besides, didn't I tell you, from the moment you barged in here, that you need to put more clothes on?"
"Dammit Hector. I'm leaving. Goodbye...” She hesitates before saying, “I guess I'll see you around..." She glances at the cabinet drawer, turns around, marches out of the apartment, and closes the door shut.
"Okay then, I guess it's time to go beat Wei at his own game."
Hector puts on a clunky dated metallic armband on his left wrist. Its size and shape is unlike the one Alexa was wearing.
He walks to the front door, puts on a pair of worn running shoes, and heads out. He closes the door behind him, and turns around. He approaches the railing that reminds people that they can fall out into the yard below if they weren’t careful. He looks over the ledge, and downward. He sees a pale, tall, bald young man waving at him.
“Hey, Hector, come down already!” The bald one shouts from twenty stories below.
Hector turns away from the railing and starts running down the hall.
Lennon is a tall young man. He lost his hair at a young age due to reasons he would never speak of. People would not dare ask how or why he’s bald, although he’s not a very intimidating person. Once one starts talking to him, he almost always makes an impression on them. In fact, he’s such a pleasant person to speak with, ladies twice his age humor him. For what it’s worth, he doesn’t know a thing about the innuendo that goes with the phrase ‘getting know everything about a woman’. Regardless, he has made it his life’s mission to do just that. To get to know absolutely everything about every woman on the planet.
And so as he waited for Hector to make his way downstairs, Lennon tried to initiate a conversation with a young woman with long orange hair. She was talking into a metallic armband on her left wrist, much like the one Alexa was wearing. She didn’t seem to notice the bald young man when Lennon approached her.
“Hey there! Good morning to you! Your orange hair looks quite good under Sol’s morning glow. Did you know Sol is orange as well?”
“Hold on Merri, there’s some bald guy who thinks I’m interested in him,” Nani speaks into the sleek metallic armband on her left wrist. She looks up to meet his large brown eyes, when she says, “Merri, on second thought I’ll call you back.”
Lennon warmly smiles at her.
“So uh, you were saying something about Sol being orange? You know, Sol is not actually orange. It may look like it is orange, or even yellow or red, but in fact, Sol is white.”
“Nani, please. Do me a favor my dear. Look into the horizon. Look toward Sol. What color do you see?”
“A mix between yellow and orange,” Nani says reluctantly.
“Aha! There you go. You said yourself, that Sol is orange. And therefore your hair looks wonderful in the orange morning glow.”
A sigh. “I suppose you’re right. Hey were you calling out for Hector? Hector Steadfast?” Nani inquires.
“How do you know Hector? I know him from last year’s Summer Survival Camp.”
“I see. I know him from taking math together two years ago. That was a fun quadmester. We didn’t do any homework and we still manage to pass the final exams. How was Survival Camp?”
“It was hard work. I had to carry my team, because they did absolutely zero training. Hector and Wei are the absolute worse.”
“Wait a minute, you know Wei Chin?”
“Of course. He’s only the best martial artist in the Academy. His body is a real work of art. It’s the very definition of human expression. The ability to express yourself in the rawest form possible.”
“Wow, that’s deep”
“No it’s not, it’s just something I heard some art nut talking about on the vis-displays.”
“I still quite like you’re expression. I would like to get to know more about you. About what you’re interested in”
“Hey man, back off. You’re starting to come off a little strong.”
“I’m what? I’m coming off a little strong? What do you mean?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, I’m being quite serious.”
“Oh never mind. Oh hey, here comes Hector,” Nani says aloud, “and just in time,” she adds, saying it under her breath.
“What was that?”
“Hi Nani! Hi Lennon! Thank you both for coming to meet me here. Are you all ready? Let’s get going.”
“Wait one sec Hector,” Nani turns to Lennon and asks, “Lennon, why are you bald?”
Hector and Lennon glance at each other, and they start laughing hysterically.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” Lennon answers in a light manner, “but no one asks me that!” he says in a darker tone.
“Okay, never mind, I take it back. It’s really such a simple question.” Nani starts rambling to herself, “I mean it could be hereditary, or it could be a physical phenomenon, something that happened to you. In fact it may have been a very traumatic experi-“
She stops herself mid-sentence. “I’m sorry, I’ll stop talking now. Hector you can lead the way. I bet Wei is waiting.”