The UTG Academy #9 is located in one region of No Man’s Land. Its premises sits exclusively between the walls, and the main body of the metropolis. Hector, Nani, and Lennon come upon the outskirts of the metropolis that border on the Academy grounds. Above them, a large circular tube advances outward from the main body of the metropolis toward a thirty story rectangular structure, which has a wider girth than Hector’s apartment. Similar looking tubes connect into it from other areas of the metropolis, and even more protrude outward from each of its sides. On the ground below, a one story tall luminescent wall is attached to the structure which surrounds the entire grounds of the Academy. In large bold black letters plastered across the face of the warm red glow of the wall reads:
WARNING: ATOMIC DECOMPOSITION BARRIER. STAY BACK MORE THAN THREE FEET!
A bird is seen flying a couple of feet above the height of the wall in that direction. It flies within three feet of the perimeter of the wall at the same altitude, and slowly disintegrates, beak first, as it continues to glide, until there’s nothing left of it.
Lennon is slouched forward, gripping both his knees. He is gasping for air as he says, “Why didn’t we take the tubeway?”
“Because I’m still training to win my race,” Hector grins. “Besides, I told you to just meet at the finish line, didn’t I?”
“Yea… I guess. But then that would mean I wouldn’t meet any girls that’s bound to be there when you guys start the race,” Lennon glances at Nani casually, but Nani doesn’t notice him.
“Hey Nani, how are you holding up? I told you to meet me at the finishing line as well.”
The last sprint didn’t affect Nani at all, as she was casually observing the large cylindrical tubes above them that are wedged between the last lines of skyscrapers of the metropolis.
She catches sight of the disintegrating bird when she answers, “I know you told me that Hector, but I do not want to wait around there. I want to see you two off when the race starts.”
Lennon ponders her answer, ‘Back at Hector’s apartment, she said Wei’s body was a work of art. Now she’s saying she wants to see them off? I can’t stand for this.’
“Nani dear, you meant you want to see your two friends compete in a friendly manner, correct?” Lennon says, emphasizing the words friends and friendly.
She reads the bold black letters of the warning sign on the red barrier when she notices Lennon’s question, “What? What are you talking about? You’re talking non-sense. And what is with your eyes? You look like a creep right now…” Nani shudders.
“I bet she just wants to see Wei’s body. The guy is practically always shirtless. He’s a damn pervert, if you ask me.” Hector chimes in.
Nani reddens immediately, “No. I- I-“
“Yes?” Hector asks, rolling the S.
“I- Ahh forget it. I don’t have to explain anything to you guys. Let’s just go, Wei probably declared he won. We are super late, you realize that, right?”
“It’s okay. I have a plan for that.” Hector replies confidently.
She turns around, “Hmph,” and walks off toward the large rectangular building.
“Hey don’t just walk off like that! Don’t you want to know my plan to outsmart Wei?” Hector follows suit.
“But wait Nani, why did you meet Hector in the first place?” Lennon similarly follows suit.
Walking along side Lennon, Hector says, “My apartment is along her route to the Academy. She probably dropped by spontaneously. Kind of like what you did... How did you know I was leaving my apartment anyway?”
“I didn’t, not at first anyway. I saw Nani waiting on the terrace and instinct kicked in. I knew I had to meet her.”
“Wow Lennon, if I didn’t know how you actually think, that would sound almost romantic.”
“What? Love has nothing to do with it!”
“I know, that’s why I said if I DIDN’T know how you think.”
“Oh… I don’t know if I should be mad that you think I think like that, or happy that I have a friend who gets me.”
“Whatever, just ease up on Nani. She’s right. You were being really creepy around her just now. Act natural. You got this!”
Lennon slaps his own cheeks with both hands, “Alright, I got this! Thanks Hector,” he holds out a fist. Hector bumps it with his own fist.
“Hey Nani wait up!” They call out.
Nani approaches the large glass barrier of the rectangular structure. Along the top of the barrier, a title for the structure is written in large metallic letters:
United Terran Government Academy #9 Tubeway Hub
She takes another step forward, and the glass barrier pops into nothingness. Nani walks inside with Hector and Lennon right behind. The hub has the many tubes running straight through the structure. Long cylindrical vehicles come and go, but always after letting patrons off, and letting others on. Each floor above the ground level is dedicated to the organization of these transport tubes that connect the city’s various locations.
The three adolescents walk toward a wall on the opposite end of the entrance. A row of glass rooms sit side by side inside the wall. Above the glass rooms a label with big bold letters is written on the wall:
Academy #9 Authorization Check
They walk toward the Academy #9 Authorization Check rooms, they see similar glass rooms along the walls on the left and right, but instead labeled:
Tubeway Hub Authorization Check
They walk up to one of the glass rooms labeled ‘Academy #9 Authorization Check’, and the first glass wall pops into nothingness. They enter the room, then the glass wall reappears behind them. They all hold up their left wrists, a metal armband attached to each. Instantly a calm feminine, almost robotic, voice starts talking from a speaker above. “Attention, attention. United Terran Government Academy #9 Armbands detected. At this time do not move. Your authorization will be checked…”
The three close their eyes, and after a brief moment, a bright flash of green, blue, red, yellow, and white light fill the room respectively in turns. Then the voice says, “Confirmed. Welcome back Hector Steadfast, Nani Iolana, and Lennon Grabs. You may now re-enter Academy #9! Special message from the headmaster;” A man’s youthful face appears on the glass wall in front of them, and begins to speak.
They all sigh in unison.
A grizzled voice fills the room as the headmaster’s lips move, “There are only fourteen days left of summer break. Don’t forget to register for Summer Survival Camp. Midnight tonight is the deadline.” The man’s face disappears.
“End of special message,” the feminine voice says, as the glass wall in front of them pops out of existence.
They proceed through the checkpoint, and another large glass barrier leads out of the hub, while to the left and right are staircases. In either direction a sign is attached to the ceiling. The sign on the right reads, ‘Tubeway Hub: Academy Express Departures’, while the sign on the left reads, ‘Tubeway Hub: Academy Express Arrivals’.
“Hey Hector, let’s take the tube to go to the Academy from here. It’ll take us another half hour by foot to get to there, and that is if we run non-stop.”
“You’re right Nani, I shouldn’t prolong Wei’s defeat any longer.”
They walk up the stairs on the right, and leave the staircase on the first floor. The archway reads, ‘Departures Tube #1’. They come upon the top half of a glass tube with writing flashing across it that reads, ‘Tubeway train arriving at – 09:06’. The luminescent display of the glass tube glows and lights Hector’s face as he presses his forehead against the glass, particularly the ’09:06’ of the display.
He taps his armband, and the time is displayed, 09:04. “How did it take us an HOUR to get here?” It was supposed to take an hour to get to the Academy!”
“I guess our little run in with the elderly couple held us back some.” Lennon states.
“Man, that only felt like five minutes passed by, maybe even less.”
Nani’s cheeks turns pink, and looks away, avoiding eye contact with Hector.
“I’ll be back,” Lennon says as he swiftly walks away, to approach a pale, thin, young woman sitting on a bench. She wears large thick circular black glasses, a black turtleneck, and black skin tight jeans.
Lennon sits on the bench beside the bespectacled young woman giving enough space for one other person to sit down. He glances over, and she returns a glance. They look away awkwardly. They play this cat and mouse for a little over a minute, then suddenly a large fellow comes over to sit in between them, making them move apart to make room. Lennon is forced to sit on the bench with only one butt cheek as support. Gracefully, he gets up before being pushed completely onto the ground to rejoin his party.
The tube begins to flash a bright red light, and a familiar feminine voice begins to speak, filling the entire room, “Train incoming, train incoming! Please stand back from the glass tube, please stand back from the glass tube!”
Hector backs away, and the train zips in from the right side. The top half of the glass tube vanishes, and the passengers begin to leave the train on the opposite side. Hector, Nani, Lennon, and the other departees fill it in as space becomes available. The trio sit down on one of the benches positioned in a line along the middle of the train, facing the opposite side they entered the train from.
Flashes of red light fill the train again and the familiar feminine voice warns, “Train doors now closing! Train doors now closing! Step away from the doorways, step away from the doorways!” Glass barriers appear out of thin air to form the doors of the train. Outside, the glass tube simultaneously has its glass reappear as well.
“Estimated time of arrival – 9:15! Estimated time of arrival – 9:15!” The soft feminine voice announces.
The train then moves rapidly in the same direction it came from. The passengers sway toward the back of the train from the sudden movement. Nani grabs hold of Lennon to keep from falling onto him.
Lennon quickly looks to her, his face red as a tomato, “I got you my dear,” he says, his voice gruff but soft.
Hector sitting to his left gives him a firm elbow to the rib.
“Stars Lennon! Stop doing that. It’s really creeping me out!” Nani declares, bending her elbows, pulling in her reaching arms.
Lennon glances at Hector, then back to Nani and says, “Relax. I don’t know why you’re freaking out, or why you’re calling me creepy, but I said I got you... You know? From falling over? Like onto me?”
Hector looks away from Lennon and palms his face.
“Aghh! Hector, your friend is SO creepy, I’m moving over there Hector! Make space.”
Lennon frowns, as she moves away from him to sit on Hector’s left side. Lennon glances at Hector with disappointed furled eyebrows, but all Hector would do is make eye contact and shrug, an unspoken phrase, ‘I told you so,’ while Lennon in response closes his eyes and slowly shakes his head, an unspoken, ‘I tried, I tried.’
A moment passes until Hector breaks the silence.
“Finally! I’m ready to beat Wei in this bet, and then I’m going to beat him in a fight! That’s when I’ll be the number one fighter in this place! Hahaha!” Hector laughs.
“You’re such a dope Hector! You can’t win against Wei. He’s the best martial artist in this academy. He’s aiming to be number one in the region this year! Did you know that?” Nani disapproves.
“I don’t care. You… Alexa… how come you girls don’t believe in me?” He pauses, staring at his clenched fist. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to do it. I’m going to take this guy down. I can’t wait to see his stupid face when I win. Besides, I hate how people are always saying ‘He’s the best! He’s number one!’ Just because he holds a title, doesn’t mean he’s all powerful. How do you think he got that title? He took it from the previous holder.” He grins, “And I just so happen to be the one who’s going to take it from him!”
Nani sighs. “I guess you have a point that he can be defeated…”
“That’s the spirit. Believe in me! Hahaha.”
“Okay, now you sound full of yourself. It’s not a good look! But you should remember that if you do beat him, you won’t officially hold the title of Best Martial Artist, since your fight would be an unofficial match.”
“I already told you, I don’t care about stupid titles. If he’s able to acquire the title of Best Martial Artist in the Region, I’ll be proud for him, and honored to have him as a friend. But deep down, I’ll know that I kicked that guy’s ass.” He menacingly grins.
“That’s real poetic,” Lennon comments.
“Arriving at United Terran Government Academy #9! Arriving at United Terran Government Academy #9!” The feminine voice says abruptly.
“Alright! Let’s get going!”