Angelus and Hector enters a large room
with a high ceiling. The room is filled with boys and girls as old as Hector.
They are divided into pairs—each pair is involved in an intricate dance that is
contained in individual circles outlined on the ground.
“The point of this exercise is for each combatant to knock the other out of the ring, submit the other combatant, or knockout the other combatant.” Angelus explains as Hector observes each paring.
“That’s pretty rough. These kinds of rules are used only in tournaments in the Eco-City.” Hector comments.
“That is for sport! Your cutesy martial arts tournaments I’ve heard so much about is laughable compared to what my cadets are learning. After all, if you can’t make it here in training, then you’re not qualified on the battlefield.” Angelus remarks.
Hector blushes almost immediately. “Enough talk Angelus, let me in on a match.”
Angelus grins. “Cadet Lonnie!” Angelus screams. “Report to the main entrance!”
After a few moments, a scrawny boy appears from the other side of the room behind the other sparring matches. He is swift, Hector notices—between blinking the boy moved from the middle of the room to in front of Hector and Angelus.
“Lonnie, you’re match today will be with Hector here.” Angelus informs the boy who is not even sweating or gasping for air.
“Who is he? I’ve never seen him in Pater before, boss.” Lonnie tells Angelus.
“He is from the Outskirts of the city.” Angelus lies to Lonnie.
“The outskirts!?” Lonnie gapes, “Hey!” Lonnie turns his attention toward Hector, “Are you a Lord sympathizer? Who do you live with, in the Outskirts? Why are you here?”
“I’m not a Lord sympathizer. I...I live alone in the Outskirts. I’m here... because... I’m here because I don’t like the way Free Citizens are treated. I’m a Free Citizen like you are. But we are all Terrans! And we deserve to go into space with the rest of humanity. Now can we spar already? I’ve done enough talking for one day.”
“Well said Hector. Now follow me.” Angelus says. He leads the two boys to an empty sparring circle by a large glass window.
Hector walks up to the window and marvels at the view of the city from this vantage point. The entire city is dark, save for a few buildings.
“This is Pater?” Hector asks openly.
Lonnie approaches from his side. “Yeah. People from the Outskirts don’t get this kind of view, do they?”
“Uh no, the buildings out there are at most five stories high, but the location of this building makes for a perfect spot to view the city from this height.”
“You are right, you do talk too much,” Lonnie remarks.
The two boys step into the ring, and face each other. Hector holds a fist out toward his opponent and Lonnie bumps it with his own fist. They each step back and ready themselves in a fighting stance.
“Ready! Fight!” Angelus shouts.
Hector lunges on his left side extending a fist outward at Lonnie’s rib. Lonnie swiftly dodges by swiveling to his right and counters by extending his left fist to connect with Hector’s right cheek. Hector’s momentum from the initial lunge makes the punch super effective and Hector pulls back from an onslaught of punches from Lonnie. Hector gets hit multiple times in his mid-section and keeps stepping backward. He steps on the line and barely stays within the circle. Lonnie continues his assault but Hector bends his knees while taking many punches to the face, but they don’t have as much impact as the first punch. He dodges on punch coming from his left, and then another from his right. Instinctually Hector pushes against the ground with his legs and rams Lonnie with a shoulder charge. He grabs Lonnie’s scrawny torso and keeps pushing him to the opposite side of the ring. Before he makes it to the other side, Hector lifts Lonnie and throws him forward. The scrawny boy lands outside the ring and Angelus shouts, “The match is over. Lonnie is out of the ring, Hector wins.” Gasps fill the air and Hector looks around to realize there is a crowd gathered around him and Lonnie.
Hector hears fragmented whispers from the crowd: “I can’t believe Lonnie lost...”, “He’s from the Outskirts?”, “I thought Hector lost by touching the line”, “People from the Outskirts are tough.”
Hector walks toward Lonnie who is laying on his back. Hector approaches Lonnie from the side, bends forward while extending his hand outward. Lonnie hesitates but grasps it firmly and Hector helps him up.
“That was a powerful move,” Lonnie says.
“Your punches were soft... except for that first one. That really messed with me for a moment. You want another go? Or did I break your back or something?” Hector says.
“Break my back? You must have brain damage from my soft punches. If I broke my back I wouldn’t be able to move. And yes! Let’s have a rematch!” Lonnie replies.
The two boys have a rematch and Hector wins again by throwing Lonnie out of the ring once again. They have another rematch with the same result. Angelus cuts them off from having a fourth. “Hector, my boss has responded. He’s going to Étaín as we speak. Do you want to be there or stay here fighting Lonnie?”
“I want to be there with Étaín. Lonnie can’t beat me anyway.” Hector says as he chuckles.
Hector enters the room behind Angelus. The four boys are in the same spots but this time a man wearing an imposing military suit is at the foot of Étaín’s bed. He is talking and Hector joins the group by sitting on a chair behind the Captain in the corner of the room, while Angelus resumes his spot by the window sill.
“Do not be afraid, child. This is not the end. Your spirit will move into the afterlife and you will be free to travel the world. But you must help others in this form. Heed these words, child. Or you will be doomed to an eternity in bondage to the spirit of work. But do not be afraid. Be calm in this moment. Do not fret. You cannot speak properly without your PIC. Your condition is a normal reaction when being separated from your PIC. Many of my schoolmates, including myself, would succumb to your state if we were separated with our PICS as well. You see, my graduating class at the Academy were the initial testing student body for the PICs being implanted at birth. Our brains rely on the PIC to function normally. Without it, the brain will only keep our bodies alive, with very minimal motor and cognitive function. It’s a step up from being in a coma so rejoice. In fact some of my schoolmates have gone into a coma without their PIC. You are a very strong girl for your age. Please stay strong. For these four boys that are so loyal to you. Help them when you become a spirit in the afterlife. The death of your body is not the end. You will live on in the afterlife. Do not be afraid, child.”
With that, the Captain salutes Angelus. And Angelus shuffles off the window sill and salutes him back. The Captain turns toward the doorway and heads out, not once glancing at the quiet boy sitting on a chair in the corner of the room behind him. Hector sighs when the Captain leaves and says, “What a load of rubbish.”
Angelus laughs at his comment and Hector angrily shouts, “Why are you laughing?”
“I’m not laughing sardonically, Hector. I’m laughing in celebration of Étaín, because that’s what she told me when I declared my resolve in the FCTC’s fight against the Lord of Pater. She said it was a load of rubbish.”
“Hahaha. You’re right…” Hector remembers. “But I’m serious though. That Captain speaks about the afterlife and all that, but we all know that that kind of talk is dangerous…”
Angelus grimly looks at Hector and searches for his eyes. “I believe in the Captain’s words.” He glances quickly at Étaín, and Hector follows his eyes.
Hector blushes and says, “Ah, you’re right Angelus. I don’t know anything… The afterlife must really be a thing.”
Angelus sighs and thinks, ‘what an idiot.’
“You both… are… idiots…” Étaín whispers and everyone in the room laughs aloud before silence fills the room once more.