Wei looks upon the terminal with awe and frustration. He looks backward and still cannot see Hector’s long black hair. He smirks as he turns back around to head toward the building. As he begins his a light jog, in the corner of his eye to his left, on top of the glass tubeway, he can see a young man running on its surface. He puts a hand over his eyes to cover the sunlight blocking his view. In that instant he gives out a loud shout, and quickly runs into the terminal. He follows the lane he is currently on, as three more lanes are created on his side. Solar powered vehicles zoom pass in the lanes on his left, coming from and going to the Academy. On the lanes to the right, students assemble into the various vehicles in a random order. He quickly runs pass the commotion of the terminal, when he hears a boy’s sobbing. He looks around and sees a boy that looks no younger than a year from him, sitting slumped on the ground, legs spread apart in an uncaring fashion, and his head in his hand. His sobbing becomes a wailing, water starts to seep out of the cracks of his hands and Wei glances once toward the Academy Tubeway Hub connected to the glass tubeway of this terminal, what Wei feels is yet a stone’s throw away. But he cannot ignore the boy’s sobbing, yet he looks around and the other students apparently can. He looks around another time, but this time trying to pinpoint taller people, adults. But to his surprise, there still aren’t any. Not during summer break. Students dominate the Academy at this time of year, and finding an adult in this wave of students is a lost cause. The terminal, the vehicles and the tubeway, are all controlled remotely from one of the central control nodes of the metropolis. Well, in actuality the Academy is special in that it has a control node of its own, to control its own internal traffic. In any case, the entire transportation and logistics of the city, in fact of any Eco-City, on Terra is managed and maintained by automated intelligent systems. Not artificial intelligence systems, the UTG regularly likes to clarify, ‘whatever that means,’ Wei thinks.
Regardless the boy in front of Wei is wailing even louder, and a tremendous volume, yet the other kids don’t mind him any attention. Wei grunts as he glance once more toward the glass tubeway ahead, its destination being the Academy Tubeway Hub, and for a slight second he thinks he sees a figure moving on top of the tubeway. He gets up, and then sees the train zip by, in an incredible speed, but by this time the figure vanishes, and the boy’s wailing re-emerges to the foreground of his attention.
“What are you wailing about boy? You are starting to irritate me. Get up and state your name. If you’re a true man, you will comply with this request. My name is Wei Chin, the best martial artist in this Academy. I will one day become the best martial artist on the planet. Now state your name, boy.”
They boy wipes his tears, sneezes into his soaking shirt, and slowly complies with the shirtless man. Wei’s speech lightens something deep down inside the boy, as each and every breath becomes stronger, more confident. He stands up straight in front of Wei, his legs are taut, his chest sticking out, his round abdomen presses up against his wet shirt, revealing his belly button on the inside. He makes two fists, and goes into a horse stance, while simultaneously proudly declaring, “My name is Paride Salvatore. I want to join HIPER to travel to the stars!”
Wei examines his display of machismo, his horse stance, and how his legs are trembling. He circles the boy, pondering, scratching his chin. Then with a quick movement, he swipes toward the boy’s right arm. Paride shifts forward, having to move his right foot forward one step. He growls, and reaffirms his horse stance.
“My name is Paride Salvatore. I am going to join HIPER and I’m going to travel to the stars! I will follow my big brother’s footsteps and rejoin him as an equal, as a member of HIPER!” The boy shouts, louder than ever.
“Hahaha. That’s great kid,” Wei says, as he circles around to look at him face to face, “I like your attitude. Go to the martial arts center. Talk to a woman name Nani, and she will get you up to speed on the training for today. That is,” Wei smirks, “if you want to be my pupil.”
Paride sniffles once more and shouts, “Yes sir!”
“Alright then, get moving kid! If you start right away, you can be finished by lunch time! Get going,” Wei turns around and starts a light jog before stopping and turning back around to look at Paride. “Oh that’s right, you must run there on your own. You can’t use technology to get you to the martial arts center. You must move with your own effort. If you make it there on your own, then you will be my pupil!” Wei turns back around, and starts sprinting.
Hector approaches the large Tubeway Hub building, and notices a small wall below. He know what the wall indicates. That nobody should go near it, less they want to be disintegrated into their base atoms. He sits down, and ponders what to do next. The Tubeway Hub doesn’t have any openings around the connection between the building and the glass tubeway. The terminal had a clearance in the wall that allowed him to slip under to get into and out of the terminal via the top of the glass tubeway. So if his intuition is correct, then the atomic decomposition wall below extends upward, around the glass tubeway, which means if he goes anywhere closer to the Hub, even on top of the glass tubeway, then he’ll still get disintegrated. He scratches his head and thinks, ‘Oy, this is really confusing, how do I win, if I can’t get into the buildi-‘
Hector stands up swiftly beaming emphatically, ‘That’s right! I already win! The winning condition was to arrive here, not get inside the Hub. Besides, we knew from the get go that you must be inside a vehicle, or inside the tubeway to get into the Hub, both of which are against the rules,’ his achievement sinks in, until his emotions overcome him and he jumps and shouts, “YES! I did it!”
Wei approaches the Hub, the glass tubeway in sight above. He sees Hector at this time, jumping for joy. In front of him, vehicles zoom past in and out the Hub, passing by the warm red glow of the disintegration barrier as if the barrier did not exist. He turns back toward Hector and calls, “Yo, fool! Get down here you cheater!”
Hector turns around and looks downward toward Main Street, where he sees Wei, amidst the vehicles of the street. He calls, “Hey! How does it feel to lose!?”
Hector readies himself in a jumping position, his heart pounding, his lungs working furiously, his heart pumping, and his legs, ‘I can’t think about my legs. I can’t think about my body right now. I have to make this jump,’ Hector tells himself.
One breath. Two breathes. Three breathes. And he pushes off the glass tubeway in a falling position. Wei notices Hector’s eyes close, and sighs, ‘aw man, this fool is going to crack his spine. He just passed out after taking that jump!’ Wei hurriedly runs over, positioning himself to the position Hector would land. The moment he reaches that spot, Hector lands on him, and they both fall to the ground. In the moment of impact, Wei tries his best to cushion the fall by holding out his hands and pushing toward Hector.
Wei pushes Hector off of himself, and sits up crossed legged. He lets out a sigh of relief, but then notices that he can’t feel his hands. He then notices that he can’t even move his arms, and that no matter how hard he tries, his arms stay at his sides. He tries with all his effort to move his arms, to move his hand, to move his fingers, but it’s no use, the nerves in his arms are damaged from the impact.
“Hector! Hector! You fool! Get up!” Wei stands and starts kicking Hector in the stomach furiously. “Get up! This is your fault! I can’t move my arms because of you!” But no matter how much Wei kicks at Hector, he would not move.
Behind the disintegration barrier, inside the Hub, the young woman with pale skin wearing thick black round glasses, a black turtleneck and skinny black jeans sees this display. Among her are Wei’s fans, the crowd of people initially at the starting line. She quickly runs downstairs, outside of the Hub, into a lot, the end of Main Street, contained inside a disintegration barrier that connects with the side of the Hub on one side and closes to form a rectangular border on the other side. Beyond the barrier, Hector is on the ground and Wei is standing over him, kicking him in anger. Wei’s arms stay motionless on his sides. The pale bespectacled young woman, hops inside a vacant vehicle, slams two palms on the glass surface in front of her, instantly bringing the vehicle to life. The bespectacled woman starts to see a stream of video, the point of view is slightly above the hood of the vehicle. The vehicle quietly, but quickly, starts moving, its four wheels gripping tirelessly against the synthetic material of the ground it’s on. The vehicle spins around heads straight toward the luminescent red disintegration barrier, the words sprawled on its surface, ‘WARNING: ATOMIC DECOMPOSITION BARRIER,’ vanishes but only a moment, and for an instant the vehicle seems to phase through the barrier, but in actuality, the barrier pops out of existence, around the area the vehicle passes through.
The bespectacled woman quickly manoeuvers the car to cut through the oncoming traffic, and positions it on the side of the road beside the two young men. She the doors spring open violently and the pale woman runs toward Hector positioning her body to receive the blows of Wei’s kicks.
“You damn fool! It’s your fault Hector! I can’t move my arms because of you!” Wei continues in a blind rage.
“Stop! Stop it!” a faint female voice says.
“You fool. If you just played by the rules, you wouldn’t have had to jump off the tubeway, and I wouldn’t have had to break your fall!” Wei says with finality, opening his eyes, seeing a bloody mouthed pale bespectacled woman.
Wei falls backward, land on his back, his arms still dangling on his side, like a pair of unworn sleeves of an overcoat, unable to support his fall. He quickly sits up and sees the pale woman, coughing up blood, inattentive to her own abdominal injuries, as she shakes Hector, a faint incoherent sound coming from her bloody mouth. She puts an hear to Hector’s chest, and lets out a sigh of relief.
Hector coughs up a clot of blood, and spits out abruptly. “Paige… I’m sorry I didn’t recognize your voice all this time,” Hector whispers loud enough for only the pale bloody mouthed woman to hear.