Hector touches the clunky metal armband attached to his left wrist while he slows into a light jog. He tries to keep the armband steady in order to read the information moving across its surface; ‘…Distance Remaining: 3.32km…’
The reading is repeated several times until Hector starts another sprint. He sees Wei in front of him through the crowded streets of pedestrians. To his left are stairs that head up to a walkway that follows along the street he is currently on. He glances back at Wei, the small man is almost a blur now. “Well I’m already behind, I might as well take a risk,” Hector says, as he heads toward the stairs.
As he reaches the top of the stairs, he pants wildly, thinking ‘I may have made a mistake in taking these stairs. It’s really taking a toll on my lungs.’ He continues onward in a straggling jog, gasping for air along the way. In a daze, he sees Wei on the street below far ahead, the tanned muscular back of that small man. He furiously pushes his legs to work harder, but the real strain is in his lungs, the pain in his chest is excruciating, each breath burns his insides. His vision becomes blurry but the only thing on his mind is beating Wei in this bet so that he can fight Wei. He thinks about the bet. He thinks back to when he made the bet.
It was really a spontaneous thing. Hector was at the swimming pool at the athletics center. He was racing the other guys at the pool, when Wei came in and started causing a ruckus over the fact that none of them could beat Hector. The defeated boys rallied and encouraged Wei to swim in a race against Hector. Wei promptly declined stating, “I’m no swimmer, besides I don’t have any swimming gear”. Hector jumped out of the pool from waist deep and pointed at Wei. “Wei, I bet I can beat you in a race on land, from the wall to the tubeway hub at the entrance of Academy grounds!” The other guys started encouraging Hector with whoops and shouts. Wei looked at Hector puzzled.
‘This guy thinks he can beat me in a race? This guy belongs in the water. He has no athletic prowess on land,’ Wei sizes up Hector. “Okay,” Wei finally says aloud, “I’ll humour you, but just so you know, I won’t go easy on a swimmer. Just because you can beat all of these guys in the pool doesn’t mean you can beat me in a race on land. But what are we going to bet on?”
Hector stares at Wei, puzzled by his question. After a moment, Hector says, “I want to fight you! If I beat you in a race, I want to fight you in a martial arts match!”
Wei menacingly grins at Hector and replies, “You sir have yourself a deal. My condition for winning is simple.” He tries to hold back a laugh as he says, “You, Hector, have to run down Main Street of the Academy in your underwear. I must share your pathetic look in this instant with the Academy!”
Hector furls his eyebrows in complete bewilderment, but quickly answers “I accept! That’s never going to happen!”
Hector regains consciousness, and learns he is still running, actually he is in a light jog now. His mind had wandered off into his memory of how he got himself into this position in the first place. He is on the walkway above Main Street, and below there is still the bustling crowds of students, going to and fro. Up ahead he sees the Administrative District of the Academy. The glass ultra-modern designs of the admin buildings cannot go unnoticed from his position on Main Street. Images of advertisements that target students are flashed over every inch of the luminescent glass surface of the buildings; the UTG Eco-Cities’ vast array of career opportunities and the HIPER recruitment advertisements are the most prominent, meant to give the students a constant reminder of why they attend the Academy in the first place.
He approaches the Administrative District when he hears a female voice. He tries to put a face to the voice, but his memory is too hazy and his body too busy for him to narrow down the faces in his recent memory. He has a distinct feeling that he heard the voice once before. It says to him in a faint but sincere voice, “Do your best! I know you can do it!”
He searches his immediate vicinity as he continues to jog, but nobody with a matching body type could have spoken those words. He shakes his head in frustration, ‘I have to concentrate on the race! Forget everything and just keep moving,’ he tells himself.
He pushes onward as he passes the admin buildings, a HIPER recruitment image flashes on the luminescent glass surface. Once again, he thinks, ‘HIPER sure does some amazing stuff. I mean look at that fleet of colonists,’ the image on the glass building flashes to another HIPER recruitment advertisement, ‘those colony ships look really cool, floating out in open space.’
He bumps into yellow haired woman wearing a white blouse and a blue skirt.
“Whoa, I’m really sorry, but I have to go,” Hector bows his head without even look at his victim, and continues pass the admin buildings.
“What? Wow, Hector is in a rush,” Alexa regains her posture, pondering her next thoughts, ‘I suppose he is still racing Wei then. Well that was close. If he stuck around a little longer, he might have noticed it was me. Oh, well, best be off, I’m early for my flight, but I could catch up on all the latest news of Eco-City #1 while I wait.’ Alexa grabs the handles of two suitcases, one in each hand, and walks along in the direction Hector was running from, toward the Wall.
‘Oh man, I have to be more careful! I was just finished telling myself that I have to pay attention to this race, then what do I do? I bump into some poor girl… Wait a minute, what was a girl doing just standing in the middle of the walkway like that? Doesn’t she know there are fast moving people like me?’ Hector gets lost in his thoughts once again, as he pushes onward, forgetting the state of his aching body.
Along the way, the upper walkway he is relying on ends in less than 100 meters. He looks down toward Main Street below, the crowds of people have become sparser. Up ahead is the terminal that connects to the Academy #9 Tubeway Hub. Main Street is divided into twelve different lanes before cutting straight through the terminal, to accommodate as pickup lanes. After the terminal, the twelve different lanes merge back into Main Street’s original six, while a glass tubeway sits above Main Street, connecting the terminal to the Academy #9 Tubeway Hub.
Another glass tubeway stretches outward from the terminal toward Hector’s left, then it curves perpendicular to Hector’s position and cuts straight across and below to the left of the upper walkway Hector is currently running on. He notices the parallel tubeway and makes a quick decision. He Sprints toward the left railing of the walkway, and jumps over it, clearing the railing and landing onto the glass tubeway. He then sprints forward, following the glass tubeway until he approaches the terminal where he sees Wei waiting behind a group of people on Main Street. Hector grins, and continues onward into the terminal.
He searches desperately until he finds a series of climbs he can make to get above the glass tubeway that connects to the Tubeway Hub. He jumps off a ledge onto the top of the glass tubeway, and starts sprinting. Red lights start flashing underneath, as the train approaches. Startled at the red light, he pushes onward, as fast as he could. The familiar female announcer says “Step away from the doors, Step away from the doors”, and momentarily the top part of the glass tubeway vanishes, and at this moment Hector takes his last step, only missing the vanishing glass by a mere second. He wipes his sweat off his forehead and sprints forward, toward the Hub, and toward the finish line.
Below, students gasp at the sight, and wonder whether the strange boy would be penalized for running on the tubeway like that. They look around but to their surprise, there are no adults.