“Hector makes me so angry!” A small muscular young man paces back and forth.
“We agreed to meet at a certain time! Oh-Nine-Hundred! Yet, he has the nerve to be late. I think I shall declare myself the winner! What do you guys think?”
A mob of different aged boys wearing matching training outfits respond at the same time, “You’re right Teacher Wei Chin, Sir!”
Wei smiles as he takes his shirt off.
“You see these abs! You too can have them if you work as hard as me. Now give me one hundred push ups and one hundred sit ups.” He yells at his pupils.
He taps the metal armband on his wrist, and it displays the time, 09:06.
‘If Hector doesn’t get here by the time each and one of my students are finished this task, I’m officially declaring myself winner. He won’t get a fight with me if he doesn’t even respect this preliminary race I set before him,’ Wei is now sitting crossed legged on the ground caressing his chin as he deliberates the fate of Hector’s fight. ‘Ah, it’s up to these boys now.’
Hector and his two companions leave Academy #9’s tubeway terminal and start running toward the martial arts center. On the way there, they pass a flurry of student activities; science students testing model rockets, all sorts of athletes at the athletics facility, and finally a martial arts center. Inside the center, almost fifty students are on the ground slowly counting sit ups. In front of the group is a small tanned young man. He is not wearing a shirt, so in plain view one can see his ripped arm muscles, his toned abdomens, and solid back muscles.
“Oh~ there he is!” Nani shouts, running over the training students, uncaring whether she steps on the poor boys or not. “Look at that physique! It’s exquisite! It’s truly the epitome of what the human body can achieve!” She shouts even louder. “Hector could learn a thing or two from you Wei!” She screams, stepping on one of Wei’s pupils in the stomach.
“Teacher!” The student wails.
“Withstand it! There are far worse blows a fighter will face than a woman’s stomp.” Wei encourages the boy.
“Yes- Teacher!” The boy cringes.
Nani approaches Wei, and starts jumping all around him, inspecting his muscles. “Wei! How could you!? You’ve missed today’s training session!”
Wei blushes, “What!? No I didn’t! I trained this morning before meeting here!”
“Don’t you lie to me! I’ve inspected your body almost every day for the past year. I can tell when you’ve trained for the day! I can differentiate between the striations of your muscles. Today is back day!” She takes two hands and starts caressing his back, “But these striations aren’t telling me that you’ve trained! You can see here, and here!” She pats two parts of his back, “They haven’t been worked!”
“Nani that’s enough!” Wei says loudly and sternly.
She backs away shyly.
“I have not yet trained today… You’re right…”
Gasps come from the fifty boys that are still doing sit ups.
“But Teacher, you said you trained every day, right when you wake up! You lied to us?” the same boy that got stomped on cries out.
“Do not question your teacher! That is an additional fifty sit ups and fifty push ups for you!” He points to the boy.
“Forgive my rudeness! That was out of line! Please forgive me!” He gets on his knees and smacks his forehead to the ground.
“That’s enough Bobby, you’re forgiven. Now continue you’re sit ups.” Wei waves his hand.
“Yes sir!” Bobby complies.
“Whooey! It’s a riot in here Wei!” Hector says, approaching slowly, while walking around the students.
“You! Let’s get our race going. Hey Nani, since you’re here, can you inspect these boys’ forms while I compete with Hector?” Wei asks.
“Alright, I guess I could do that… But I really wanted to see you two at the starting line.”
“How about I let you inspect my leg muscles after the race. And on top of that, I’ll make sure I complete my back training?”
“That sounds like a reasonable deal to me, Wei. I’ll keep these boys in check.”
Mass hysteria spreads among the boys as they all start to gasp desperately for air, as Nani turns to them with a menacing gaze.
Lennon observes this whole exchange from the front of the center, not moving a spot from when he first walked in. ‘What is she thinking? That’s not a reasonable deal! That’s insane. What value in the entire Solar System does Wei hold in Nani’s perspective?’ He ponders this thought, as Hector and Wei approaches him.
“Hey Lennon, you alright man? It looks like you’re spacing out. Wei and I are about to go to the starting line, you coming? I’m sure there are going to be more girls there than in this rancid place.”
“Hector! That rancid smell is the smell of determination! These boys are pouring their souls into becoming martial artists! Respect it!”
“No Wei… Just no… I will never respect or appreciate another man’s odour. That my friend, is just not me!”
Wei’s eyebrows furl, “Get out of my center! You disrespectful Free C!”
All the boys on the ground, Nani, hector and Lennon stare at Wei in amazement.
“Whoa, Wei. I’ve never met you before, but that’s really rude man. I mean Nani called an old man a Free Citizen, but that’s because he was scolding his wife… uhh yea, long story, not going to get into it; actually funny thing, that’s why Hector was late… uhh what was I saying? Anyway, nice to meet you, I’m Lennon. If you don’t mind, do you think I can stay here at your center? I don’t want to leave Nani all alone you see.”
Wei inspects Lennon, until he finally says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you Lennon, I don’t know if I can trust you yet, but if you’re Hector’s friend, then you’re fine by me, you can stay here. Also, I respect your earlier statement.” Wei turns to Hector, “I apologize, and I did not mean to call you a Free C.”
“Wei, I’m not offended by it. Actually, I really don’t blame the Free Citizens for how they act. I think they should be proud of who they are. Sure, from time to time they do some nasty things to each other, but you cannot judge a city for the actions of one man.”
“Wow Hector, you really have to show off that you know history and philosophy and all that huh? Wait until I beat you in our race. I want to see your stupid face. Hahaha.”
“Wait, what did you just say? That’s what I was going to say to you. Hey Lennon! Back me up here. Didn’t I say I wanted see Wei’s stupid face when I beat him in our race?”
Lennon palms his face, and slowly shifts his position to walk toward Nani, who is taking her role a little too seriously.
“…and you there! Arch your back more, your face should be practically touch your knees. I want to see your nose in between your knees you got that!” Nani stomps on Bobby’s abdomen once more. All the other boys start sweating profusely, while they struggle to quickly fix their postures.
Wei and Hector storm out of the dojo, arguing incoherently, on the way to the starting line.
At the edge of the Academy grounds, opposite the metropolis border, the one hundred and twenty meter tall wall forms the boundary between the city, and the rest of Terra. The citizens within the wall symbolizes it as protection. Those citizens include the students and faculty of Academy #9, the rural farmers of No Man’s Land, and lastly the denizens of the sprawling metropolis that is the core of the city.
Wei and Hector come upon the base of the one hundred and twenty meter tall wall. It is located fifteen meters from the actual wall itself. Nothing goes past this point due to a glass barrier in place that has the words: DANGER ATOMIC DECOMPOSITION BEYOND THIS POINT spattered across its surface in a bright yellow and black luminescent glow. Beyond the glass barrier is a literal no man’s land, and it is perhaps the historical roots behind the farmlands being dubbed No Man’s Land by the metropolis denizens.
The barren land in front of the glass barrier holds a group of people in the same age group as Hector and Wei. They all cheer as Wei appears before them.
“Wei! Wei! Wei!”
The mob quickly surround him as he shouts, “People please! I haven’t even won yet! Please save your congratulations until the end. Now let me explain. My dear friend Hector and I will compete in a race to get to the Academy #9 Tubeway Hub on the outskirts of the metropolis. We will take any route possible to get there with one rule; we must use our own strength to decrease our distance to our target. In other words, we must not use any technological means to get there. For instance, if we were to ‘hold on’ to someone riding a bike, that would be a violation since, we are not actually using our muscles to decrease our distance. If we were to actually use the bike by using our leg muscles, that would also be a violation since we are using technology to decrease the distance. Now without any further ado, can I please have one lovely lady from the crowd to start this race off?”
A pale, skinny young woman, with thick circular black glasses emerges from the crowd. The woman wears a black turtleneck, and black skin tight jeans. She pulls out a white cloth from the inside of her pocket and waves it above her head.
Wei inspects the woman. He notices her trembling knees, her twitching hands, her quivering lips, and her almost glistening eyes. He points at her and says abruptly, “You there! Please step forward.”
She straightens her back, her legs become taut, and she stiffly walks in front of Wei and Hector. The mob disperses behind the two racers.
“What’s your name young lady?” Wei asks.
She frowns immediately and shakes her head. She tilts it to the side and glances at Hector. Wei notices this, and shakes Hector’s arm, “Hey, ask her what her name is, then tell her to countdown the start of the race.”
“Sure…” Hector looks toward the shy girl, and asks, “Hi, I’m Hector, what’s your name?”
“P- P- Paige…” she says softly.
“Hi Paige, nice to meet you. My friend here is wondering if you can countdown for us.”
“Y- Yes… I can. Ready?”
“Yeah!” The racers yell.
Paige is startled from the sudden yelling, and throws the white cloth into the air.
In that moment, time slows down for Hector. The cheering of the crowd, the birds in the distance, and his own breathing fades into silence. He hears nothing but his heartbeat. The white cloth slowly floats to the ground. But the moment before the cloth touches the ground, Hector hears a small shy female voice.
“Do your best! I know you can do it!”
He looks around the vicinity but the voice stops talking before he can match the words to any of the lips of the crowded mob of people. At this point the sound of the crowd, the birds and his breathing come back, and he notices the white cloth is on the ground and Wei is stepping all over it.
“Wei! I’m going to beat you!” He shouts, as he runs after the small muscular man.