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Doc Spoon

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    I am an African American charter school administrator with a doctorate in computing technology in education. I am an Honorably Discharged Army veteran living in Detroit, Michigan. I write under the pseudonym of Doc Spoon. I belong to or participate with the following writing groups/organizations: The Detroit Writing Room, The Black Writers Collective and the Writers Workshop.

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  1. THE GREATEST RACE! By Doc Spoon Speculative, Alt-Historical Fiction - 116,000 words FIRST FIVE PAGES When people run out of golden ideas to chase, they chase gold.” Anonymous Chapter One – The Bilderberg Wager The billionaires were face to face, nose to nose, with flushed cheeks and clenched fists. They were about to put hands on each other. “Square has not lost a race in seven years!” Fixon and the cognac shouted. Monroe Fixon was an African American pharmaceutical mogul who capitalized on the human genome work. “Neither has Quad!” screamed Bishop and the liquor. August Bishop was a British-Caucasian who made his fortune by patenting a process that economically turned salt water into fresh water. Both men’s natural disposition was to talk rather loudly. Their usual volume only increased with sipping from some of the world’s most expensive bottles of cognac. Their six-ounce drinks equated to about eleven thousand dollars a glass. I was laughing quite a bit and feeling the whole spectacle. It called to mind the old saying, “A drunk ain’t nothing,” be it a hood wino, my alky uncle or even a one percenter. A small crowd of billionaires had surrounded them and were egging them on like elementary school kids on the playground at recess. This type of behavior involving these types of people did not seem real. The smoke from the many cigars being smoked formed a hazy ceiling adding to the sense of surrealness. In between puffs on one of the expensive cigars I helped myself to as I exited the escalator, I could not help but to join in with a few “Oohs” and “Ahhs”. As the only salaried person present, I took full advantage of my position and indulged in not only smoking the cigars, inconspicuously shoving several in my pocket, but partaking of the cognac too. I figured the net worth in this spot was around $250 billion. “Square has lowered his times each and every race,” Fixon countered. Bishop bellowed, “So has Quad!” Another billionaire stepped in between the potential combatants, effectively separating them. “Why not place a bet on who will win?” asked Abernathy. I recognized this gentleman. Sebastian Abernathy was an African American-urban entrepreneur from Houston, Texas. Abernathy represented the confluence of the legalization of two of America’s longest running rivers of sin: drugs and gambling. Sebastian took full advantage of recent legislative decisions but put a hood twist on them. He opened a chain of marijuana shops where people could purchase five ounces of recreational marijuana and bet on the rise or fall of bitcoins daily. For the first time in the history of America, a majority of black folks played the stock market. Abernathy created the Double Nickel package. In his shops, people could purchase a five dollar nickel bag of weed and place a five dollar on the daily expiring call option on bitcoins. Prizes ranged from $5,000 to $50,000. It was a huge success. All you had to do was flash the Double Nickel signal for five twice and the clerk prepared and delivered your weed with an outcry stock ticket. Abernathy’s ad campaign even reached back and used a hit 1990s rap song titled, “I Got Five on It.” From thirty-eight-year-old grandmothers to skinny jeans wearing millennials, it seemed Abernathy got the whole world to put “five on it.” Abernathy had a secret recipe for his cannabis that provided a more lasting effect, and he patented the genetic composition. The company Abernathy founded to handle bitcoin betting and cannabis distribution grossed over $300 million in profits the first year. It was poised for even more explosive growth as more states legalized recreational marijuana use and financial organizations joined the bitcoin train. That potential for exponential growth was the reason he was invited to Bilderberg. Investors here were falling over themselves for a chance to meet him. “I would be willing to coordinate, promote, and execute this Greatest Race,” offered Skeets excitedly. Billy “Skeets” Jessups was a hustler from the streets of Oakland. Early in life, he was a standup comedian. That’s how I came to know him. Skeets and my late Willie James Chambers, who went by the stage name of Uncle Ol’Boy, were playing local clubs around the country. I met him one summer at his aunt’s house in Mississippi. Skeets was poised to be the next big thing. However, Skeets walked away from it – sort of. Skeets believed it was easier talking club owners into holding his events than telling jokes. He became a promoter for Uncle Ol’ Boy. The offer called to mind Uncle Ol’ Boy’s observation about Skeets. “Old hustlers never die. They just reinvent pimping.” “Well, well, well, if it ain’t Skeets Jessup.” I greeted him with an air of feigned concern about his health borne out of having known him most of his life, “How are you doing?” “No complaints, Winifred A. Chance. Ain’t seen you in a minute, not since your uncle’s homegoing,” he replied, gripping Chance in a bear hug of familiarity. “Yeah, it has. But I knew you weren’t dead because they hadn’t had a picnic in hell.” “You would know. That’s where you get your mail,” Skeets shot back. Skeets was quick. Always had been. He even made it rhyme this time. “You still trying to be a journalist since you failed as a soldier?” “Yessir,” I replied, mockingly snapping to attention while rendering a proper military salute with my right hand and the middle-finger salute with the left. Kindred spirits, Skeets and Uncle Ol’ Boy saw the world differently from the rest of world, as did most comedians. Comedians would tell you that humor was a way to deal with painful oftentimes personal adversity. Skeets, not so much. Skeets said he operated on the belief that, “the same things make you laugh, make you cry.” “However,” he would add, “my motivation and material were never from personal pain. If I can provide a few hours of escape from reality, I have no issue profiting off people’s pain and boredom. And this potential race feels like a very promising opportunity to do so again.” Skeets had an encyclopedic knowledge of world events and history. His humor came from the realization of just how fucked-up the world and the people in it really are. He always bragged he could talk anyone into anything. Skeets got his skills honestly. He grew up in the Black Pentecostal church under the tutelage of Rev. Dr. Theodore “Teddy” Holloway who was known as the “Hypnotic Preacher” for his ability to mesmerize his congregation. Dr. Teddy practiced the Black Pentecostal church tradition of “whooping preaching,” where the pastor would employ such strategies as melodious chanting with call and response to arouse emotions to a fever pitch. Skeets’ father was not around, so the married Rev. Dr. Teddy assumed the role of a father figure since he was banging Skeets’ mother—another Black church tradition. “The Elders of the church laid hands on me,” Skeets said, “anointing me with the gift of speaking and preaching. By the time I was ten years old, I was traveling with Rev. Dr. Teddy, delivering sermons to standing room only church services.” Skeets paused briefly as he reflected on the next sentence. “Then Rev. Dr. Teddy died suddenly when I was about fourteen years old. I was lost and trying to find my way. I developed an interest in magic and hypnosis which led to a rift between me and my deeply religious mother who accused me of practicing the devil’s arts. She kicked me out. I dropped out of high school and took care of myself by doing street magic, hypnosis, and selling drugs.” “Gentlemen, I have been thinking about something like this for a long time, but I was not sure what it would look like. However, the mention of the race just clicked because the framework for planning the event already exists in my head. I have a schema from having planned and executed other multinational competitions. It’s what I do.” Skeets had made a killing with the advent of legalized betting in America. With his online betting site www.ibetcha.com, he became known for pioneering the pop-up betting parlors modeled on those by food and clothes retailers. People could bet on any and everything. From the color of the hair clip the US president would wear to the preferred hand of the person who would hit the last shot in the quarter of a basketball game, the granularity and minutiae of betting made almost everyone with a cell phone, internet access, and his IBETCHA app a casual bettor. And the house never lost. However, it was Skeets’ MMA events that brought him worldwide fame. He put on outsized MMA crossover events between boxers, pro wrestlers, former NFL players, backyard fighters, and bare-knuckle brawlers. Additionally, whenever there was a hyped, super event, the betting set a record for wagers. Skeets was the promoter of most of those events. His last five multi-national events had grossed a combined $11.8 billion. Though I was loath to admit it, Skeets knew people and was successful in connecting with them. I reflected on a previous conversation we had about how Skeets discovered the secret to his success. “One day when I was slinging, I just happened to go into one of the back rooms of the trap house. We had set up a one-stop shop where people could buy their drugs and pay another five dollars to get high in one of the rooms. I was enthralled by the looks on the faces of the people who were getting high. I had seen that look before—when I was preaching, when I was doing hypnosis, and later when I was doing standup. Those looks of pain and longing, seeking release, and the total vulnerability as the release was being achieved, either through a theatrical scripture delivery, the rush of the high, or the execution of the punchline. That stuck with me. I always was curious about what if I could have saturated my connections with people in those moments. Then God gave me the internet and social media.”
  2. THE GREATEST RACE!, Doc Spoon - Speculative, Alt-Historical Fiction 1st ASSIGNMENT: THE ACT OF THE STORY STATEMENT from The Greatest Race by Doc Spoon Chance, the protagonist, must stop the Greatest Race from completing thereby preventing half the world’s population from being placed into indentured servitude to the other half along the black/white color line. 2ND ASSIGNMENT: THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT Billy “Skeets” Jessup, an African American billionaire promoter with a Machiavellian personality thrives on the self-satisfaction brought by his ability to talk anybody into anything. Skeets leaned heavily into oratorical and crowd influencing skills gained as a nationally renowned boy evangelist, teen-age street hypnotist/con artist, young adult corner drug dealer, promising standup comedian, and uber-successful promoter to bend the entire world to his will. Skeets was aided in his efforts by his Colors of the World Team (COTW), a collection of individuals Skeets had “rescued” from various dire circumstances around the world, who demonstrated “Stepford-like” reverence for Skeets. Skeets and the COTW Team, Skeets seduced the two greatest runners in the history of mankind into agreeing to participate in the Greatest Race and then manipulated all the world’s governments and the UN into endorsing and accepting the race’s reality-altering results. Skeets was energized by the possibility of the Greatest Race presenting him with the opportunity speak his vision into being by engaging in a conversation with the Earth’s populations. Skeets and Chance shared a tense, complicated history as Skeets used to be the promoter for Chance’s comedian, late uncle, whose death may have been hastened by Skeets’ actions. 3RD ASSIGNMENT: CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE #1. THE GREATEST RACE! A Worldwide Novel #2. A Wager on Slavery? #3. A Global Footrace 4TH ASSIGNMENT: GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi and Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson These novels compare well with the GREATEST RACE which is also speculative, dystopian alt-history, sci-fi/magic. All three novels are historical explorations with similar themes of individuals with extra- or superhuman powers, interracial tensions, and people of color’s long due ascension from marginalization. 5TH ASSIGNMENT: Hook or Log Line with Core Conflict In the dystopian near future, a conflicted Black writer, hired by the Machiavellian organizer to chronicle the seven continent Greatest Race between the two greatest Black and white runners in history, secretly works to stop the race and prevent the indentured servitude of the Black or white losing half of the Earth’s population. CONSIDERING THE PRIMARY CONFLICT – COMING OF THE AGON A Black, single father with custody issues, struggling to chronicle and secretly work against the organizers to prevent the global Greatest Race from completing and placing half the world’s population in indentured servitude along the Black/white color line. 6TH ASSIGNMENT: OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO OR MORE LEVELS 1st Conflict (Primary): This conflicts centers on Chance’s efforts to prevent the Greatest Race and Skeets’ actions to ensure the Greatest Race completes. 2nd Conflict (Inner Conflict): Chance struggled with accepting the Greatest Race as the last, best chance for reparations for people of color, specifically African Americans and former colonized peoples. One of the pillars of the reparations movement was to start a discussion leading to the acknowledgement and apology for the centuries of pain inflicted by white supremacy on peoples of colors worldwide. To Chance, the race had a lottery feel to it and would effectively bypass those conversations although George Floyd’s death in 2020 instigated white people to openly accept and support Black Lives Matter. Still, Chance felt the narrow focus on police brutality skirted real substantive conversations around reconciliation and reparations and Chance feared Square winning the race would be akin to those black folks who hit the lottery and after the lottery winnings were gone in two years, the same systems and institutions would still be in place as before the race. However, he was forced to reflect on his belief when he was constantly confronted by the widespread and deeply held belief that this was, as Square said, “OUR REPARATIONS MOMENT!” 3rd Conflict (Social Conflict): Chance was engaged in an ongoing custody fight with the mother of his daughter, Tyneice. Chance was awarded physical custody of Tyneice which almost never happens in a father’s favor, especially a Black father. His ex-wife, Kelis, felt Chance and his lawyer took advantage of the fact she was recovering from stage four breast cancer. Since her full recovery, Kelis had been fighting to get the custody order changed. Chance new that she would use his frequent trips abroad covering the Greatest Race as a pretext for forcing a custody change. Chance was also conflicted by his being absent from his daughter’s life like his father was absent from his life even though his father lived around the corner from him as he was growing up—a fact he learned only upon the death of his father. He vowed to not be his “daddy’s son”. Chance was confronted with a choice: cover the Greatest Race and do all he could to prevent it from completing and receive a $10 million payout and potentially lose custody or decline to cover the Greatest Race and ensure he has a presence in his daughter’s life and maintain custody. Is there a price tag for fatherhood? 7TH ASSIGNMENT: THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING Bilderberg: The novel opens at the 2022 Bilderberg Conference at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada. One of the most important scenes occurred when Skeets held the first meeting of the conspirators in his hotel room as described by Chance. “We were greeted by floor to ceiling views of the surrounding mountains and the Bow Valley. The sweeping vista was breathtaking. The panoramic view of the wind blowing snow off the mountaintops above to the Bow River gently rolling its way down and across the valley below was a cause for wonder and reflection. A round dining room table was in the center of the elevated cove with a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree floor to ceiling view. Fixon, Bishop and Abernathy took seats on the couches in the living room. Skeets positioned himself between the cove and the living room, straddling the two steps leading up to it. Jafar sat at the dining room table. I took a seat at the desk by the french doors leading to the wraparound terrace containing a hot tub and assorted chaise lounges for use even in the winter.” The Meeting of Quad and Square: Skeets had arranged for the meeting of Quad and Square to take at the headquarters of the umbrella corporation, Station Master, in Oakland, California as described by Chance. This setting figured in Skeets’ overall plan to manipulate the runners into accepting his proposition. Skeets headquarters encompassed the entire top floor of Lake Merritt Plaza overlooking, the tidal lagoon and wildlife preserve. My thoughts were interrupted as the glass doors to the top floor office opened to a sweeping view of the lake. It was a very sunny day, but the smart glass windows automatically responded by darkening the ambient natural light. The room was bathed in a soft, late afternoon golden glow. Skeets then hit a button on his phone and the glass wall of windows behind him transformed into a seventy-five-inch high-definition screen. A picture of the conference room came into focus. Skeets smiled broadly. “I told the respective camps different times the meeting was to start. Quad’s camp was told the meeting was starting fifteen minutes after the time I told Square’s camp. We will arrive after Quad and his team.” The meeting room was set up with a round table and chairs situated on a three-foot tall dais. The other seating area consisted of a group of office chairs about ten feet away from the dais. There was a large spread of food on a long table in the middle of the room. No one touched it. It played out just like Skeets said it would. Square and his team got there first and were seated at the dais. Quad and his team were standing around the other group of chairs. No one from Quad’s team was sitting. “Just as I expected,” Skeets explained pointing at the screen. “You see, because Square’s team was on an elevated dais it placed him and his team above anyone sitting—a position of superiority. Standing kept everybody at eye level. It was that attention to petty details that informed my pitch to Quad and Square. I knew the both of them would be there for the pettiness.” “Did you see how Quad and Square exited the room?” Skeets asked me rhetorically. “Quad and Square and the bulk of their camps exited the room at the exact same time and went in two different directions. Even the leaving of a room represented some sort of signal of strength or weakness for Quad and Square. I had a hunch that it would, so I had a second door built a week before the meeting just for that reason so exits could be made simultaneously.” Chance at the Custody Hearing – The following is Chance’s description of the courtroom for the custody proceedings would be held. In the courtroom were me, Ms. Wellson, Kelis, and her lawyer Tom DiSauris. I noticed how the court’s sparse furnishings and institutional gray paint scheme lacked any feeling, belying the highly emotion-charged proceedings that routinely occurred inside. Even the judge’s name was soulless. The official title of judges in the family division was referee, like it was a game. The courtroom even had arena-styled seating for the spectators, the term the court used to refer to the family, relatives, and friends who had come to support the petitioning parties. The judges decided the winner of the custody competition between the parents. Skeets at the UN: Skeets’ dress was an important element of the setting as evidenced by Chance’s description. Skeets’ presentation to the United Nations came to be known as the ‘The Sermon at the UN.’ His entrance into the hall of the UN General Assembly room was punctuated by his purposeful, slow, rhythmic gait in his monochromatic gold lame` suit, matching tie, socks, and gold alligator half boots. The gold contrasted so very strongly against the backdrop of the UN’s institutional gray color scheme. Skeets was radiant. Skeets was a firm believer in Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule which held that words communicate seven percent of meaning while tone of voice communicate thirty-eight. The body communicated fifty-five all targeting emotions. Therefore, it made sense to Skeets to emphasize that which communicated the most, his body. It is why clothes were paramount to Skeets. He viewed his clothes as essential to his performance art of talking. His body was a blank canvas on which he could use clothes to grab and keep attention as he convinced people to believe in whatever he was trying to convince people of. He always dressed in monochromatic colors. It was his trademark. His brand. His thing. Him! His suit, shirt, tie/bowtie, pocket square, socks, shoes… even his eyeglasses were always the same monochromatic color. ‘Hey Chance, Skeets’ suit looks alive. Every time he moves it changes. How does he do it?’ “He won’t tell, Marcus. Skeets never revealed how he managed to accomplish those effects. I figured the material included some sort of technology because others wore outfits that used technology to change colors but could not present images like Skeets. His clothes were always enhanced with some sort of thematic pattern that shifted appearance with movement. The pattern usually spoke to the culture, knowledge, and sensitivities of the audience. Once, before the leaders of the oil-producing countries, he wore black with a pattern of the praying-mantis-like oil wells which then appeared to begin gushing oil when he moved. Another time he spoke to Russian oligarchs wearing grey with a thematic pattern of vodka bottles. Upon movement, full glasses of vodka came into focus. Everybody present had a share of actual vodka glasses, too. He is always about the money though. Even here, at the UN, his gold suit has a pattern of winged feet showing up at the base of a pyramid of gold bars when he moved.” The Greatest Race Events: Each of the events of the Greatest Race was held on a different continent and except for Antarctica and Africa, all the races were held inside domed stadiums for security reasons. Therefore, fashion played a hug part in the setting as the clothing was usually a nod to something of historical/cultural importance to the designated country. The Fashion Network even assigned a correspondent, Leilani Strickland, to cover the Greatest Race given the exorbitant sums of money clothing brands, designers, and fashion houses paid the runners’ entourages to wear because of the potential exposure to billions of people. Please be advised some of the following is condensed. Antarctica – As they approached the first camp, Ayin explained, “The runners were very specific in how they wanted their camps laid, out even providing sketches.” “Whose camp is this?” I asked and then quickly added, “No, don’t tell me. I need a little diversion for this hike. I am going to play pop-psychologist. I am willing to bet the setup of the camps will reflect the personality of the main occupant.” “I see a horizontal security container touching a vertical row on each end. Each of the vertical rows consists of a live-in container and a security container. And bisecting the horizontal security container is a vertical live-in container. A security container sits at the edge of the two vertical security containers. There is one ‘glamped-out’ tent on one side of the bisecting vertical row and two tents on the other side. The whole setup forms two squares. How symmetrical.” “So, whose camp is this, Mr. Chance?” Sekou asked. “Square’s. The bisecting vertical row forms a dividing line between Square’s tent and the two tents of his entourage. The setup was consistent with Square’s prior race behavior to limit his interaction with others around pre-race. It is his sanctuary city. He normally does not give interviews before races and goes into seclusion in hotels, reserving the top floor for himself. Everyone else is on different floors. Access to his floor is restricted to his immediate family, his girlfriend, his coaches, and his pastor—on a strict schedule that is never violated.” We walked another half a mile before encountering the next camp. By now the COTW Team was somewhat interested in my little diversion. “Okay. Each of the luxury tents are facing each other forming, a triangle with a fire pit set-up in the middle. The live-in and security containers are arranged to form a pentagon shape around the tents with two bodies-wide entrances to the compound,” I reasoned out loud. “This is Camp Quad.” “How so?” Ayin asked. “Quad’s setup is a declaration of who he is—a social butterfly of the highest order. A preening peacock who wears $1,500 custom-made underwear for each day of the year. NO REPEATS! Quad’s life is an ongoing party lived out loud with the volume all the way up. I mean, even here in Antarctica he is going to make time to socialize around a fire pit—again, in Antarctica!” After another half a mile or so, the group came to the last camp. “Simply by process of elimination,” I stated, “this is Skeets’ camp.” “You mean Mr. Jessups,” Malik corrected. “Yeah. Skeets,” I retorted. “Just look at it. Three glamped-out tents side by side with a security container and two shipping containers in front. Same setup in the rear of his tents. To the left of Skeets’ tents, the live-in containers for the reporters and social media personnel formed a vertical row. To the right of the tents, the live-in containers for the race officials and the drone operators formed a vertical row. This configuration created a steel rectangle around Skeets’ tents. There was only one way in and one way out through a body wide opening. Access was controlled by a GraySON, between the front security container and a shipping container. The setup was all Skeets who loved to control people and situations.” *** “Antarctica!” I spat, “It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, reflect on it, complain about it, the surrealness of being here remains. And being here for a track competition only adds to the un-believability of the Greatest Race. None of this seems real. Reasonable. The sheer absurdity of contesting an old-fashioned foot race here was matched only by the sheer whiteness of the environment. A little over a mile from the camps, to look off in any direction was to see the stack-of-plate cloudy white sky meld with the snow-covered landscape into a horizon of white nothing ness.” “Marcus observed, ‘Man, you right, Chance. It seems as if everything here is white. Everything seems whiter, the snow, the clouds, even the people—the white people look whiter.’ He was on to something. Everyone was wearing UV-enhanced sunglasses to protect from snow blindness from all the whiteness. It was the ubiquitous whiteness that made the completely unexpected and abrupt appearance of the bright emerald-green field turf of the practice fields surrounded by the vermillion-colored tracks all the more visually jarring.” *** Each entourage comprised about thirty people, and one could swear there were that many shades and hues of colors in fur coats and boots. PETA was very loud in voicing their opposition to such an obscene celebration of slaughtered animal hides. On display were lime green, burnt orange, chocolate, deep purple, and blood red. Then there were runs of the same color such as sky, ocean, baby, royal, and navy blues and hot, soft, pale, and baby pinks. And the combinations only added to the fusion or the confusion of colors. There were baby pink full-length coats with hot pink hats, gloves, and boots. There were deep purple mid-length coats and stoles with lavender hats and gloves. The American flag was even represented with a blood red, Russian ushanka fur hat, flag blue shorts, and waist-length mink jacket with white thigh-high fur stiletto boots. “I didn’t know Skittles made clothes.” “I didn’t either, Marcus.” “Yo’, Chance, here comes your boy Skeets and he has taken it to another level again.” “He looks like a pimped-out walking snow man.” White stole the show. There were white furs whiter than the snow, furs as white as the snow, and white translucent furs which adapted to any background using micro-projectors built into the collar and hems. And no one wore whiter than white better than Skeets and Billie, who wore matching monochromatic white suits, bowties, shirts, pocket squares and white seal skin chukka boots. Billie’s were high heeled. Skeets was leading his COTW Team and the crowd behind the runners with a slow brother stroll. His movement accentuated the subtle snowflake and icicle pattern on his suit. “Hey, Marcus, with no geographical pun intended, they are iced out, and I’m not talking about what Mother Nature made at thirty-two degrees but rather what she created at 2,220 degrees.” “Diamonds! Cuz, I’m right there with you.” There were eighty-five carat wrist adornments, 125-carat neck enhancements, and ten-carat ear announcements. Australia – Fashion again figured prominently into the setting. The smoking ceremony took place in a clearing about three hundred yards into the forest. All of the non-participants were stopped about fifty yards from a circular area that had been marked off with ashes from the large fire burning in the middle. Next to it was a covered frame that stretched three feet long and six feet high on sacred ground consecrated and made holy by the Elders land council. Elder Koiki had changed out of his suit and was now shirtless with his body covered in the traditional markings of his aboriginal clan. He had one vertical white stripe extending down the center of his forehead to the end of his nose. He had three horizontal stripes on each cheek and one vertical stripe on his chin. Elder Koiki was wearing the traditional loincloth covering as were the other members of his clan. They moved in synchronized circles around the fire chanting homage to their ancestral spirits. Square then emerged from the tree line, still wearing the full-length possum cloak which he discarded as he walked toward the fire. Now, sans cloak and wearing a loincloth, Square’s body was completely covered with the traditional painted markings of a warrior. From shoulders to knees, he was covered in powdery white with yellow horizontal and vertical lines. His face was completely covered in gold with green around his eyes and mouth, creating a mask-like appearance. The Elders began placing plants on the fire as the smoke rose. As more and more plants were placed on the fire, the covered frame filled with so much smoke it created a smoke filled corridor that one could not see through. One by one, each elder walked through the smoke and emerged chanting in the language of the clan. Square entered the smoke last and seemed to languish inside for a bit before exiting through a gauntlet of elders gently fanning the smoke away from his body with giant palm leaves. It was time to race. *** Leilani quickly scurried to Quad’s entourage on the other side of the stadium and continued. “Quad has entered carrying the Australian flag. He is wearing an all-red compression unitard stopping at the knees with a pair of blue running shorts and red patent leather track shoes. The white Australian Commonwealth Star is positioned in the center of his chest. Members of his entourage are wearing some combination of the colors of the Australian flag. The men all are wearing blue designer slim-fit track suits, even those whose fit was no longer slim, with a fat white stripe running up each side. Underneath, they are wearing lightweight red turtlenecks. The women are wearing form-fitting red turtleneck dresses stopping at the thigh. There are no visible bra or panty lines or cellulite indentations which is an impressive testament to the designer. The most eye-catching part of the ensemble for me are the shoes. Everyone is wearing red patent leather gym shoes that are either ankle, knee, or thigh high. Some even have platform soles or stiletto heels.” Square’s entourage was dressed in some combination of black and white. All the men are wearing very tightly fitted athletic tuxes, even those whose fit is no longer athletic, consisting of two-button white jackets with matching pants and zebra-striped shirts with solid black or white ties, hand-tied bowties, or ascots. The women are wearing athletic cut sheer white evening gowns with two thick black stripes covering their breasts, some with pasties and some without. The black stripes meet at the crotch forming a “V” partially obscuring the area with some wearing thongs, some not.” China –The autonomous driven bus made its way down the entirely covered Kai Tak Sports Avenue. It was the main thoroughfare connecting all the key facilities of the sports park. From the start of the avenue and as far as the eye could see, one side was Quad Kountry and the other Squaresville. In keeping with the opulence of Hong Kong, the camps were replete with high-end “glamping” tents having all the amenities, such as complete bedrooms, full bathrooms, and chef’s kitchens with chefs. Skeets visibly smirked as he thought even the rich were not immune to the allure of the Greatest Race. As we approached the venue for the Greatest Race, there was a moment of stunned, silent appreciation on the bus from Skeets, the COTW Team, and the media as the 50,000-seat main stadium came into view. It was magnificent. The stadium’s rounded shape and Pearl of the Orient-inspired façade was covered in reflective metallic glass platelets. One side captured the golden glow of the rising sun; the other side reflected the silvery descent of the fading moon depending on the time of day. It was the most expensive stadium sports park ever built at a cost of over $30 billion with a soundproof retractable roof. However, the children embraced mistrust, which fostered intuitive feelings of suspicion and governmental conspiracy. Feelings played out in real time with Ayin’s fidgety movements and darting eyes constantly shifting to and fro. “My grandparents told me how close friends and sometimes family members were seduced by the Communists and turned on them. I don’t trust anything the Communists do or say, especially the reasons for these so-called security measures.” “Ayin, the security measures I have seen seem to be appropriate given the new reality of virus containment. I don’t know about you, but I like that every car has to pass through a scanner which detects fevers. I’m feeling the autonomous drones which scan the crowds entering the sports parks and shines an infrared beam on those with high temps. I really like the digital stamp on the ID badges that tells you when someone has tested negative or has been vaccinated.” “The coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic occurred in 2020. It’s 2024,” a clearly agitated Ayin countered. “Badges are a real good way to track people.” “The badges are only for entrance to events. You can trash them after that.” The government was compelled to restrict the movement of people. The coronavirus outbreak of 2020 had a terrible toll on China. People died in the thousands. The Chinese government faced national and international criticism for failing to act in a timelier manner to prevent the virus’ spread and to inform the world of the outbreak. That combined with the political unrest that was already occurring in Hong Kong provided plausible coverage for restricting the freedom of movement aiding in the tamping down of dissent in Hong Kong. However, the Greatest Race now provided an opportunity for the Chinese government to show the country was stable and safe, albeit through very staged and coordinated travel and events. Streets that were normally overcrowded were not so much. It appeared the government had figured out the exact number of people to place to make it seem bustling but orderly. We stopped in the middle of a sky bridge and looked down on the crowds moving under them. Ayin called out a pattern of crowd movement. “Mr. Chance. Get a look at this synchronized social distancing. There are specific groupings: three people walking abreast followed by a couple trailed by two businessmen walking on the left and right followed by a family of four all holding hands leading three college students walking with two in front, one in between then a half step behind.” “Damn. Now that is impressive.” “Look at the crowd moving in the opposite direction. Its configuration and movement is the antithesis to the crowd I just described.” “I wonder how in the world they accomplished that?” “Re-education or forced labor camps—call them what you want—are still very effective at indoctrination.” Unsurprisingly, COTW Team member Jorge decided to join the conversation. “There is a lot of suspicion that people out of favor with the government are still silenced or ‘disappeared’ for months, years at a time, sometimes permanently as was the case of the doctor who issued the early warning on COVID-19.” Ayin again expressed her distaste for the mainland Chinese government. “Enforcement of some of the most abhorrent policies is another hallmark of the Communists regime’s attempts to control all aspects of life, even life itself. Notice how the families of four only have boy children.” *** “Hello, and the world. It’s Leilani Strickland, your source for fashion analysis here at the Greatest Race, China. Hey, fellas in the booth, I learned Square is a big fan of the ol’ skool Chinese Kung Fu films, and he has decided to honor them by dressing in a red Kung Fu uniform trimmed in black with frog-styled black buttons, a black sash, and a dragon embroidered in actual 24-karat gold threading across the back. And his entourage has followed suit with the opposite color scheme of black uniforms with red buttons, red sash but the same 24k dragon embroidered across the back.” Square was an actual Kung Fu black belt master. He executed a Tao Lu with a nine-foot spear-tipped 24k gold-plated whip chain with flips and flying kicks that sent the crowd into a state of hysteria.’” “Hey, Meru and Townsend,” Leilani called out to the announcers, “Quad and his entourage are dressed in tunic-styled Mao suits.” Meru jumped at the chance to show that he knew more than sports. “This version worn by Quad and his team consists of four external pockets, one on each breast with another pocket placed directly beneath, five buttons down the center, and three buttons on each sleeve. The suit’s construction and design were said to embody the cultural values and traditions of China which calls to mind the conceptual practice of Feng Shui for clothes.” “The four pockets reflect symmetry and balance in addition to the four virtues of Propriety, Justice, Honor, and Shame. The five buttons were said to be symbolic of the five branches of government: administration, legislation, jurisdiction, examination, and supervision. The three cuff buttons represented the Three Principles of the People: Democracy, Nationalism, and the People’s Livelihood. Last, the suits were usually made from a single piece of cloth symbolizing China’s unity and peace.” Leilani responded. “Over time, since the revolution lead by Mao, the suit has morphed into a status symbol of national honor. It has become the official dress for formal state events at home and abroad. As such, the materials used to make the suit have increased in cost. The women’s bright pink suits have pockets framed in fuchsia and are festooned with extremely rare pinkish-blue Akoya pearls for buttons. The suits were constructed using the equally rare Vicuña wool, the most expensive fabric in the world. They are a sight to behold in white anaconda-skinned six-inch platformed shoes with stiletto heels to complete the look.” “I love the men’s green silk suits with gold-trimmed pockets, 24k gold buttons, and embroidered Gucci loafers which are a direct counter-statement to Quad’s bamboo-thatched thong sandals.” South America – It was somewhat dark in the dimly-lit stadium except for the track. Square’s float was accompanied by thirty Bahianas’ Whirling Ladies, a respected group of elder women, adorned in their traditional dress, leading a moving Samba dance in front. They looked absolutely resplendent in yellow skirts braided with gold and canary yellow headdresses fashioned in the shape of crowns invoking the rays of the sun. The Whirling Ladies’ dresses flared vertically with every synchronized fourth step kick and flattened out horizontally when they whirled in sync every fifth step forward in beat with the Samba band riding on the float. “The men in Quad’s entourage are dressed as eighteenth-Century Portuguese soldiers wearing royal blue eighteen-button, golden tasseled overcoats, nine-button vests, calf-high black socks over knee high red stockings, and white pants with fire engine red codpiece. The women are wearing updated traditional Portuguese white knee-length dresses cinched at the waist and opened to the knee over ruffled red micro-mini skirts with white see-through gartered flower patterned stockings and six-inch red sandals topped off with red bonnets. An intentional nod to colonial times. However, they need to be careful with the aggressive micro-tattoo showcase posing.” North America – Quad’s entourage entered with the groomsmen are wearing sequined tuxedos threaded throughout with gold and silver inspired by the Spanish matadors’ traje de luces, or suit of lights, in all the colors of the rainbow. The women are wearing flamenco dresses in all colors of the rainbow with a plunging V-neck, tightly fitted from the shoulders to the knees and then flaring out into a flowing five-layered sweep train with multi-colored fans. It was an explosion of color as it played out over the stadium screens, in Times Square, and across social media. Marcus made sure he was all in the mix. Leilani stumbled slightly in her excitement to get a comment from someone. She just so happened to get Me’lanna. “This is a sight to see with so many different colors coming together. It works. Tell me, why this particular theme?” Me’lanna paused, micro-posed, and answered, “I just think the whole way the Spanish flamenco dancing, music, and pageantry is so expressive and colorful that it was the only style I felt captures the joy I feel for having found Annis, my life partner.” “Here comes Square and his entourage. They are strikingly different from the previous group. It is looking and moving like a funeral procession being led by a walking New Orleans Jazz Brass Band. Everyone is dress somberly in black pants and black t-shirt. Square and the members of his entourage are wearing a white walking billboard mounted to the side facing the crowd. The side-by-side walking billboards have formed a long continuous screen appearing to be playing scenes from the lives of young black and brown boys and girls interspersed with pictures of policemen and gang members.” “Oh my God! Now it is clear. Following behind Square’s entourage are ten rows of thirty black, brown, Asian, and Caucasian men and women wearing t-shirts with pictures of loved ones. The walking billboard screens are playing faces. . . , familiar faces: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Ahmaud Arbery, Breoanna Taylor, George Floyd, and Daunte Wright.” Faces of the not-so-familiar local lives were also displayed. Interestingly, it was a true rainbow coalition. Floyd’s death ignited a grassroots movement which spanned races, ethnicities, and generations. It was clearly manifested here in this procession. The band is playing a dirge. Everyone followed the band in a slow, rhythmic gait: step to the left, hesitate, step twice, step to the right, hesitate, step twice. The entourage slowly made its way around the track. Europe – Quad and Square received knighthood and their entourage’s dress announced it. “Quad’s entourage is in full period dress from the Elizabethan Era with a knight on horseback. They have leveraged Parliament’s 1547 Statues of Apparel laws for enforcing social order through clothing, dressing in materials reserved for the noble class. The women are wearing full-length white velvet gowns and open silk neck ruffs all trimmed in gold. Each of the ladies’ hair is covered by a diamond-encrusted white laced silk snood. The men are dressed as knights with a long white Surcoat to the knees cinched at the waist by a solid gold belt. The look is completed with a golden shield, a gold sword, oversized gold chain mail epaulets covering the shoulders topped by a white velvet hat trimmed in gold. And prominently displayed is a hastily constructed family coat of arms emblazoned in the center of the chest.” “Quad’s Coat of Arms has a cross dividing the escutcheon (shield) into four sections with pictures of a ship, mountains, two crossed drum sticks, and a crown. The shield was supported on each side by a man dressed in the uniform of the sailors on the initial arrival of British ships to Australia. Situated on the helm at the top of the shield was the emblem of two winged feet facing each other. Last, underneath the shield was the motto written in Latin on a gold ribbon: “Te Grattisimum – You’re welcome.” Sqaure’s entourage has everyone dressed in the exact same skinny-fit grey houndstooth tweed-patterned three-piece suits made from vicuña wool and Mulberry silk with diamond and gold buttons and hand-made white shirts buttoned completely.” “I was told each suit cost about $75,000 and was matched with $35,000 grey Testoni alligator shoes and pumps.” “Square’s Coat of Arms is on the black background of the escutcheon, there is a gold cross dividing the area into fours. One quarter has a flattened map of the earth with the double DNA helix emanating from Africa to the other continents. Another quarter has a white silhouetted head comprised of a printed circuit board overlaid with mathematical calculations. Another quarter contains a Torre Straits Islander dhoeri headdress. The last quarter has his Black Diamond logo. The shield is being held up by two Egyptian queens wearing ancient KEMET’s khepresh or blue crowns of war. And, like Quad, his crest was two-winged feet but facing away from each other with Square’s motto written in Latin on a red ribbon in green lettering. It reads ‘Adoremus Deum, Amor proximo tuo’ translated as ‘Worship God, Love Thy Neighbor.’ Interesting, the two greatest commands of the Christian faith.” Africa – In the country where the marathon takes place, the environment takes center stage. The canopy bridge was actually seven bridges connected together forming a walkway through the treetops. Walkers traveled a distance of 1,150 feet as they observed bird and animal species up close. The canopy bridges’ wooden planks were about a foot wide and suspended above the jungle floor by nettings, wire ropes, and cables creating an elevated foot path. A storm was coming. The wind picked up, causing the bridges to sway slightly. The group made it across all seven bridges and descended to the jungle floor. It was hot even in the very early morning hours. The humid air was heavy. It felt like wearing a wet sweater. Just then, everyone was snapped back to the present as a thunderclap sounded so loudly it shook leaves, fruit, and monkeys from the trees. The skies had grown even darker and more foreboding since the crossing of the canopy bridges. Normally, tropical Ghana had two clearly delineated seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season usually lasted from December to February. The wet season was from March to November. Climate change had altered what was once normal. The dry season began to last longer, stretching from December to July and causing devastating droughts and water shortages. The wet season lasted only from August to November, but the storms increased in intensity, delivering more death and destruction. I had experienced the wet season and its monsoons in Ghana before. This one looked and felt different. The skies were not just dark. They were shoe polish black with bursts of ice white lightning outlined in tints of yellow, blue, and green. The lightning flashes were accompanied by rolls of thunder that drowned out voices. The wind was getting stronger and howling louder and louder announcing its presence. It was as if the storm was coming to usher in a new reality. Things, people were never going to be the same as before. There was a reckoning coming with the end of the Greatest Race. …As if on cue, the lightning flashes grew more intense, frequent, and dangerous. Three lightning bolts had struck the ground off in the distance since they started approaching the castle. The thunder rolls became louder and more powerful going from minor ground tremors to teeth-chattering boomers that shook the handlebars on the bikes askew. No one had experienced a storm like this. I wondered. God, what’s up? Are you not here for the Greatest Race? …Quad and Square were now running at approximately fourteen miles per hour with the wind. It was beginning to tax the electric bikes’ power. The grounds of Cape Coast Castle began to appear off to the right. The hair on the back of my neck started moving. Suddenly, the sky split in two with a terrifying lightning strike somewhere in the castle’s courtyard, igniting a fire. …They were both bleeding now—Quad from the under the shoulder wound; Square from the neck wound. The blood that had run down Square’s neck was almost imperceptible on his black top and shorts. Quad’s blood loss mixed with the rain, turning his white shirt and shorts a deep pink with a little bloody-pink river of rain trailing his feet and marking a path. Gatlin and I were speckled with bloody water spots splattered by the bike wheels of the BBC and the GraySONS. Neither runner seemed to be particularly bothered by the loss of blood. Quad and Square were running side-by-side now that they were freed from the enclosure of the electric bike cells. …The rain was coming down heavily in sheets. The group was on Beulah Road about seven miles from El Mina. It was becoming incredibly difficult to maintain balance on the bikes in the rain, especially on turns. Quad and Square were following the posted signs pointing to El Mina and they were in full throttle. The odometer on the bike read fifteen miles per hour. I did not know I could pedal that fast, neither did Gatlin. We were both struggling to stay within visible reach of the runners. The pace was grueling. Even Edwards, the BBC, and the GraySONS began to have some difficulty keeping up. …Now there were two watery blood trails. I wondered if their wounds were somehow more serious than previously realized and they had become re-injured. Maybe the embedded shrapnel had somehow moved and damaged some organs, arteries, veins, or something. It was plausible given the power and controlled fury with which Square and Quad were moving. Their hearts had to be pumping at unbelievable rates already. They increased their speed even more. …Edward’s warning made no difference at all. The rain, the wind, and the curve caused all the bikes to slide out from underneath everybody. Without missing a beat, Edwards, the BBC and the GraySONS rolled to their feet, weapons at the ready, and started running. Ogleston and Sanders helped me and Gatlin up and literally began pulling us along. These men were running full speed in full gear with their weapons, yet they eventually began to reel Quad and Square in slightly. It seemed they had both slowed. The trailing group was able to get them back into the GoPro views. …Then, as if on a movie set, the rain stopped, and the skies cleared as the runners entered High Road. The lightning and thunder intensified. Quad and Square were ahead of a world-record pace for the marathon. This last half mile saw them climb the St. George Hill to El Mina’s perch. It became obvious to the entire world that there was something seriously wrong with Quad and Square. Quad and Square struggled to climb the alabaster stone stairs leading up to the castle. It appeared as if someone had painted dual crimson stripes down the whitewashed steps behind them.
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  9. THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT Billy “Skeets” Jessup, an African American billionaire promoter with a Machiavellian personality thrives on the self-satisfaction brought by his ability to talk anybody into anything. Skeets leaned heavily into oratorical and crowd influencing skills gained as a nationally renowned boy evangelist, teen-age street hypnotist/con artist, young adult corner drug dealer, promising standup comedian, and uber-successful promoter to bend the entire world to his will. Skeets was aided in his efforts by his Colors of the World Team (COTW), a collection of individuals Skeets had “rescued” from various dire circumstances around the world, who demonstrated “Stepford-like” reverence for Skeets. Skeets and the COTW Team, Skeets seduced the two greatest runners in the history of mankind into agreeing to participate in the Greatest Race and then manipulated all the world’s governments and the UN into endorsing and accepting the race’s reality-altering results. Skeets was energized by the possibility of the Greatest Race presenting him with the opportunity speak his vision into being by engaging in a conversation with the Earth’s populations. Skeets and Chance shared a tense, complicated history as Skeets used to be the promoter for Chance’s comedian, late uncle, whose death may have been hastened by Skeets’ actions. CONJOURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE #1. THE GREATEST RACE! A Worldwide Novel #2. A Wager on Slavery? #3. A Global Footrace DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi and Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson These novels compare well with the GREATEST RACE which is also speculative, dystopian alt-history, sci-fi/magic. All three novels are historical explorations with similar themes of individuals with extra- or superhuman powers, interracial tensions, and people of color’s long due ascension from marginalization. CONSIDERING THE PRIMARY CONFLICT – COMING OF THE AGON A Black, single father with custody issues, struggling to chronicle and secretly work against the organizers to prevent the global Greatest Race from completing and placing half the world’s population in indentured servitude along the Black/white color line. OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO OR MORE LEVELS 1st Conflict (Primary): This conflicts centers on Chance’s efforts to prevent the Greatest Race and Skeets’ actions to ensure the Greatest Race completes. 2nd Conflict (Inner Conflict): Chance struggled with accepting the Greatest Race as the last, best chance for reparations for people of color, specifically African Americans and former colonized peoples. One of the pillars of the reparations movement was to start a discussion leading to the acknowledgement and apology for the centuries of pain inflicted by white supremacy on peoples of colors worldwide. To Chance, the race had a lottery feel to it and would effectively bypass those conversations although George Floyd’s death in 2020 instigated white people to openly accept and support Black Lives Matter. Still, Chance felt the narrow focus on police brutality skirted real substantive conversations around reconciliation and reparations and Chance feared Square winning the race would be akin to those black folks who hit the lottery and after the lottery winnings were gone in two years, the same systems and institutions would still be in place as before the race. However, he was forced to reflect on his belief when he was constantly confronted by the widespread and deeply held belief that this was, as Square said, “OUR REPARATIONS MOMENT!” 3rd Conflict (Social Conflict): Chance was engaged in an ongoing custody fight with the mother of their daughter, Tyneice. Chance was awarded physical custody of Tyneice which almost never happens in a father’s favor, especially a Black father. His ex-wife, Kelis, felt Chance and his lawyer took advantage of the fact she was recovering from stage four breast cancer. Since her full recovery, Kelis has been fighting to get the custody order changed. Chance new that she would use his frequent trips abroad covering the Greatest Race as a pretext for forcing a custody change. Chance was confronted with a choice: cover the Greatest Race and do all he could to prevent it from completing and receive a $10 million payout and potentially lose custody or decline to cover the Greatest Race and ensure he maintains custody of Tyneice. Is there a pricetag for fatherhood? THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING Bilderberg: The novel opens at the 2022 Bilderberg Conference at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada. One of the most important scenes occurred when Skeets held the first meeting of the conspirators in his hotel room as described by Chance. “We were greeted by floor to ceiling views of the surrounding mountains and the Bow Valley. The sweeping vista was breathtaking. The panoramic view of the wind blowing snow off the mountaintops above to the Bow River gently rolling its way down and across the valley below was a cause for wonder and reflection. A round dining room table was in the center of the elevated cove with a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree floor to ceiling view. Fixon, Bishop and Abernathy took seats on the couches in the living room. Skeets positioned himself between the cove and the living room, straddling the two steps leading up to it. Jafar sat at the dining room table. I took a seat at the desk by the french doors leading to the wraparound terrace containing a hot tub and assorted chaise lounges for use even in the winter.” The Meeting of Quad and Square: Skeets had arranged for the meeting of Quad and Square to take at the headquarters of the umbrella corporation, Station Master, in Oakland, California as described by Chance. This setting figured in Skeets’ overall plan to manipulate the runners into accepting his proposition. Skeets headquarters encompassed the entire top floor of Lake Merritt Plaza overlooking, the tidal lagoon and wildlife preserve. My thoughts were interrupted as the glass doors to the top floor office opened to a sweeping view of the lake. It was a very sunny day, but the smart glass windows automatically responded by darkening the ambient natural light. The room was bathed in a soft, late afternoon golden glow. Skeets then hit a button on his phone and the glass wall of windows behind him transformed into a seventy-five-inch high-definition screen. A picture of the conference room came into focus. Skeets smiled broadly. “I told the respective camps different times the meeting was to start. Quad’s camp was told the meeting was starting fifteen minutes after the time I told Square’s camp. We will arrive after Quad and his team.” The meeting room was set up with a round table and chairs situated on a three-foot tall dais. The other seating area consisted of a group of office chairs about ten feet away from the dais. There was a large spread of food on a long table in the middle of the room. No one touched it. It played out just like Skeets said it would. Square and his team got there first and were seated at the dais. Quad and his team were standing around the other group of chairs. No one from Quad’s team was sitting. “Just as I expected,” Skeets explained pointing at the screen. “You see, because Square’s team was on an elevated dais it placed him and his team above anyone sitting—a position of superiority. Standing kept everybody at eye level. It was that attention to petty details that informed my pitch to Quad and Square. I knew the both of them would be there for the pettiness.” “Did you see how Quad and Square exited the room?” Skeets asked me rhetorically. “Quad and Square and the bulk of their camps exited the room at the exact same time and went in two different directions. Even the leaving of a room represented some sort of signal of strength or weakness for Quad and Square. I had a hunch that it would, so I had a second door built a week before the meeting just for that reason so exits could be made simultaneously.” Chance at the Custody Hearing – The following is Chance’s description of the courtroom for the custody proceedings would be held. In the courtroom were me, Ms. Wellson, Kelis, and her lawyer Tom DiSauris. I noticed how the court’s sparse furnishings and institutional gray paint scheme lacked any feeling, belying the highly emotion-charged proceedings that routinely occurred inside. Even the judge’s name was soulless. The official title of judges in the family division was referee, like it was a game. The courtroom even had arena-styled seating for the spectators, the term the court used to refer to the family, relatives, and friends who had come to support the petitioning parties. The judges decided the winner of the custody competition between the parents. Skeets at the UN: Skeets’ dress was an important element of the setting as evidenced by Chance’s description. Skeets’ presentation to the United Nations came to be known as the ‘The Sermon at the UN.’ His entrance into the hall of the UN General Assembly room was punctuated by his purposeful, slow, rhythmic gait in his monochromatic gold lame` suit, matching tie, socks, and gold alligator half boots. The gold contrasted so very strongly against the backdrop of the UN’s institutional gray color scheme. Skeets was radiant. Skeets was a firm believer in Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule which held that words communicate seven percent of meaning while tone of voice communicate thirty-eight. The body communicated fifty-five all targeting emotions. Therefore, it made sense to Skeets to emphasize that which communicated the most, his body. It is why clothes were paramount to Skeets. He viewed his clothes as essential to his performance art of talking. His body was a blank canvas on which he could use clothes to grab and keep attention as he convinced people to believe in whatever he was trying to convince people of. He always dressed in monochromatic colors. It was his trademark. His brand. His thing. Him! His suit, shirt, tie/bowtie, pocket square, socks, shoes… even his eyeglasses were always the same monochromatic color. ‘Hey Chance, Skeets’ suit looks alive. Every time he moves it changes. How does he do it?’ “He won’t tell, Marcus. Skeets never revealed how he managed to accomplish those effects. I figured the material included some sort of technology because others wore outfits that used technology to change colors but could not present images like Skeets. His clothes were always enhanced with some sort of thematic pattern that shifted appearance with movement. The pattern usually spoke to the culture, knowledge, and sensitivities of the audience. Once, before the leaders of the oil-producing countries, he wore black with a pattern of the praying-mantis-like oil wells which then appeared to begin gushing oil when he moved. Another time he spoke to Russian oligarchs wearing grey with a thematic pattern of vodka bottles. Upon movement, full glasses of vodka came into focus. Everybody present had a share of actual vodka glasses, too. He is always about the money though. Even here, at the UN, his gold suit has a pattern of winged feet showing up at the base of a pyramid of gold bars when he moved.” The Greatest Race Events: Each of the events of the Greatest Race was held on a different continent and except for Antarctica and Africa, all the races were held inside domed stadiums for security reasons. Therefore, fashion played a hug part in the setting as the clothing was usually a nod to something of historical/cultural importance to the designated country. The Fashion Network even assigned a correspondent, Leilani Strickland, to cover the Greatest Race given the exorbitant sums of money clothing brands, designers, and fashion houses paid the runners’ entourages to wear because of the potential exposure to billions of people. Please be advised some of the following is condensed. Antarctica – As they approached the first camp, Ayin explained, “The runners were very specific in how they wanted their camps laid, out even providing sketches.” “Whose camp is this?” I asked and then quickly added, “No, don’t tell me. I need a little diversion for this hike. I am going to play pop-psychologist. I am willing to bet the setup of the camps will reflect the personality of the main occupant.” “I see a horizontal security container touching a vertical row on each end. Each of the vertical rows consists of a live-in container and a security container. And bisecting the horizontal security container is a vertical live-in container. A security container sits at the edge of the two vertical security containers. There is one ‘glamped-out’ tent on one side of the bisecting vertical row and two tents on the other side. The whole setup forms two squares. How symmetrical.” “So, whose camp is this, Mr. Chance?” Sekou asked. “Square’s. The bisecting vertical row forms a dividing line between Square’s tent and the two tents of his entourage. The setup was consistent with Square’s prior race behavior to limit his interaction with others around pre-race. It is his sanctuary city. He normally does not give interviews before races and goes into seclusion in hotels, reserving the top floor for himself. Everyone else is on different floors. Access to his floor is restricted to his immediate family, his girlfriend, his coaches, and his pastor—on a strict schedule that is never violated.” We walked another half a mile before encountering the next camp. By now the COTW Team was somewhat interested in my little diversion. “Okay. Each of the luxury tents are facing each other forming, a triangle with a fire pit set-up in the middle. The live-in and security containers are arranged to form a pentagon shape around the tents with two bodies-wide entrances to the compound,” I reasoned out loud. “This is Camp Quad.” “How so?” Ayin asked. “Quad’s setup is a declaration of who he is—a social butterfly of the highest order. A preening peacock who wears $1,500 custom-made underwear for each day of the year. NO REPEATS! Quad’s life is an ongoing party lived out loud with the volume all the way up. I mean, even here in Antarctica he is going to make time to socialize around a fire pit—again, in Antarctica!” After another half a mile or so, the group came to the last camp. “Simply by process of elimination,” I stated, “this is Skeets’ camp.” “You mean Mr. Jessups,” Malik corrected. “Yeah. Skeets,” I retorted. “Just look at it. Three glamped-out tents side by side with a security container and two shipping containers in front. Same setup in the rear of his tents. To the left of Skeets’ tents, the live-in containers for the reporters and social media personnel formed a vertical row. To the right of the tents, the live-in containers for the race officials and the drone operators formed a vertical row. This configuration created a steel rectangle around Skeets’ tents. There was only one way in and one way out through a body wide opening. Access was controlled by a GraySON, between the front security container and a shipping container. The setup was all Skeets who loved to control people and situations.” *** “Antarctica!” I spat, “It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, reflect on it, complain about it, the surrealness of being here remains. And being here for a track competition only adds to the un-believability of the Greatest Race. None of this seems real. Reasonable. The sheer absurdity of contesting an old-fashioned foot race here was matched only by the sheer whiteness of the environment. A little over a mile from the camps, to look off in any direction was to see the stack-of-plate cloudy white sky meld with the snow-covered landscape into a horizon of white nothing ness.” “Marcus observed, ‘Man, you right, Chance. It seems as if everything here is white. Everything seems whiter, the snow, the clouds, even the people—the white people look whiter.’ He was on to something. Everyone was wearing UV-enhanced sunglasses to protect from snow blindness from all the whiteness. It was the ubiquitous whiteness that made the completely unexpected and abrupt appearance of the bright emerald-green field turf of the practice fields surrounded by the vermillion-colored tracks all the more visually jarring.” *** Each entourage comprised about thirty people, and one could swear there were that many shades and hues of colors in fur coats and boots. PETA was very loud in voicing their opposition to such an obscene celebration of slaughtered animal hides. On display were lime green, burnt orange, chocolate, deep purple, and blood red. Then there were runs of the same color such as sky, ocean, baby, royal, and navy blues and hot, soft, pale, and baby pinks. And the combinations only added to the fusion or the confusion of colors. There were baby pink full-length coats with hot pink hats, gloves, and boots. There were deep purple mid-length coats and stoles with lavender hats and gloves. The American flag was even represented with a blood red, Russian ushanka fur hat, flag blue shorts, and waist-length mink jacket with white thigh-high fur stiletto boots. “I didn’t know Skittles made clothes.” “I didn’t either, Marcus.” “Yo’, Chance, here comes your boy Skeets and he has taken it to another level again.” “He looks like a pimped-out walking snow man.” White stole the show. There were white furs whiter than the snow, furs as white as the snow, and white translucent furs which adapted to any background using micro-projectors built into the collar and hems. And no one wore whiter than white better than Skeets and Billie, who wore matching monochromatic white suits, bowties, shirts, pocket squares and white seal skin chukka boots. Billie’s were high heeled. Skeets was leading his COTW Team and the crowd behind the runners with a slow brother stroll. His movement accentuated the subtle snowflake and icicle pattern on his suit. “Hey, Marcus, with no geographical pun intended, they are iced out, and I’m not talking about what Mother Nature made at thirty-two degrees but rather what she created at 2,220 degrees.” “Diamonds! Cuz, I’m right there with you.” There were eighty-five carat wrist adornments, 125-carat neck enhancements, and ten-carat ear announcements. Australia – Fashion again figured prominently into the setting. The smoking ceremony took place in a clearing about three hundred yards into the forest. All of the non-participants were stopped about fifty yards from a circular area that had been marked off with ashes from the large fire burning in the middle. Next to it was a covered frame that stretched three feet long and six feet high on sacred ground consecrated and made holy by the Elders land council. Elder Koiki had changed out of his suit and was now shirtless with his body covered in the traditional markings of his aboriginal clan. He had one vertical white stripe extending down the center of his forehead to the end of his nose. He had three horizontal stripes on each cheek and one vertical stripe on his chin. Elder Koiki was wearing the traditional loincloth covering as were the other members of his clan. They moved in synchronized circles around the fire chanting homage to their ancestral spirits. Square then emerged from the tree line, still wearing the full-length possum cloak which he discarded as he walked toward the fire. Now, sans cloak and wearing a loincloth, Square’s body was completely covered with the traditional painted markings of a warrior. From shoulders to knees, he was covered in powdery white with yellow horizontal and vertical lines. His face was completely covered in gold with green around his eyes and mouth, creating a mask-like appearance. The Elders began placing plants on the fire as the smoke rose. As more and more plants were placed on the fire, the covered frame filled with so much smoke it created a smoke filled corridor that one could not see through. One by one, each elder walked through the smoke and emerged chanting in the language of the clan. Square entered the smoke last and seemed to languish inside for a bit before exiting through a gauntlet of elders gently fanning the smoke away from his body with giant palm leaves. It was time to race. *** Leilani quickly scurried to Quad’s entourage on the other side of the stadium and continued. “Quad has entered carrying the Australian flag. He is wearing an all-red compression unitard stopping at the knees with a pair of blue running shorts and red patent leather track shoes. The white Australian Commonwealth Star is positioned in the center of his chest. Members of his entourage are wearing some combination of the colors of the Australian flag. The men all are wearing blue designer slim-fit track suits, even those whose fit was no longer slim, with a fat white stripe running up each side. Underneath, they are wearing lightweight red turtlenecks. The women are wearing form-fitting red turtleneck dresses stopping at the thigh. There are no visible bra or panty lines or cellulite indentations which is an impressive testament to the designer. The most eye-catching part of the ensemble for me are the shoes. Everyone is wearing red patent leather gym shoes that are either ankle, knee, or thigh high. Some even have platform soles or stiletto heels.” Square’s entourage was dressed in some combination of black and white. All the men are wearing very tightly fitted athletic tuxes, even those whose fit is no longer athletic, consisting of two-button white jackets with matching pants and zebra-striped shirts with solid black or white ties, hand-tied bowties, or ascots. The women are wearing athletic cut sheer white evening gowns with two thick black stripes covering their breasts, some with pasties and some without. The black stripes meet at the crotch forming a “V” partially obscuring the area with some wearing thongs, some not.” China –The autonomous driven bus made its way down the entirely covered Kai Tak Sports Avenue. It was the main thoroughfare connecting all the key facilities of the sports park. From the start of the avenue and as far as the eye could see, one side was Quad Kountry and the other Squaresville. In keeping with the opulence of Hong Kong, the camps were replete with high-end “glamping” tents having all the amenities, such as complete bedrooms, full bathrooms, and chef’s kitchens with chefs. Skeets visibly smirked as he thought even the rich were not immune to the allure of the Greatest Race. As we approached the venue for the Greatest Race, there was a moment of stunned, silent appreciation on the bus from Skeets, the COTW Team, and the media as the 50,000-seat main stadium came into view. It was magnificent. The stadium’s rounded shape and Pearl of the Orient-inspired façade was covered in reflective metallic glass platelets. One side captured the golden glow of the rising sun; the other side reflected the silvery descent of the fading moon depending on the time of day. It was the most expensive stadium sports park ever built at a cost of over $30 billion with a soundproof retractable roof. However, the children embraced mistrust, which fostered intuitive feelings of suspicion and governmental conspiracy. Feelings played out in real time with Ayin’s fidgety movements and darting eyes constantly shifting to and fro. “My grandparents told me how close friends and sometimes family members were seduced by the Communists and turned on them. I don’t trust anything the Communists do or say, especially the reasons for these so-called security measures.” “Ayin, the security measures I have seen seem to be appropriate given the new reality of virus containment. I don’t know about you, but I like that every car has to pass through a scanner which detects fevers. I’m feeling the autonomous drones which scan the crowds entering the sports parks and shines an infrared beam on those with high temps. I really like the digital stamp on the ID badges that tells you when someone has tested negative or has been vaccinated.” “The coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic occurred in 2020. It’s 2024,” a clearly agitated Ayin countered. “Badges are a real good way to track people.” “The badges are only for entrance to events. You can trash them after that.” The government was compelled to restrict the movement of people. The coronavirus outbreak of 2020 had a terrible toll on China. People died in the thousands. The Chinese government faced national and international criticism for failing to act in a timelier manner to prevent the virus’ spread and to inform the world of the outbreak. That combined with the political unrest that was already occurring in Hong Kong provided plausible coverage for restricting the freedom of movement aiding in the tamping down of dissent in Hong Kong. However, the Greatest Race now provided an opportunity for the Chinese government to show the country was stable and safe, albeit through very staged and coordinated travel and events. Streets that were normally overcrowded were not so much. It appeared the government had figured out the exact number of people to place to make it seem bustling but orderly. We stopped in the middle of a sky bridge and looked down on the crowds moving under them. Ayin called out a pattern of crowd movement. “Mr. Chance. Get a look at this synchronized social distancing. There are specific groupings: three people walking abreast followed by a couple trailed by two businessmen walking on the left and right followed by a family of four all holding hands leading three college students walking with two in front, one in between then a half step behind.” “Damn. Now that is impressive.” “Look at the crowd moving in the opposite direction. Its configuration and movement is the antithesis to the crowd I just described.” “I wonder how in the world they accomplished that?” “Re-education or forced labor camps—call them what you want—are still very effective at indoctrination.” Unsurprisingly, COTW Team member Jorge decided to join the conversation. “There is a lot of suspicion that people out of favor with the government are still silenced or ‘disappeared’ for months, years at a time, sometimes permanently as was the case of the doctor who issued the early warning on COVID-19.” Ayin again expressed her distaste for the mainland Chinese government. “Enforcement of some of the most abhorrent policies is another hallmark of the Communists regime’s attempts to control all aspects of life, even life itself. Notice how the families of four only have boy children.” *** “Hello, and the world. It’s Leilani Strickland, your source for fashion analysis here at the Greatest Race, China. Hey, fellas in the booth, I learned Square is a big fan of the ol’ skool Chinese Kung Fu films, and he has decided to honor them by dressing in a red Kung Fu uniform trimmed in black with frog-styled black buttons, a black sash, and a dragon embroidered in actual 24-karat gold threading across the back. And his entourage has followed suit with the opposite color scheme of black uniforms with red buttons, red sash but the same 24k dragon embroidered across the back.” Square was an actual Kung Fu black belt master. He executed a Tao Lu with a nine-foot spear-tipped 24k gold-plated whip chain with flips and flying kicks that sent the crowd into a state of hysteria.’” “Hey, Meru and Townsend,” Leilani called out to the announcers, “Quad and his entourage are dressed in tunic-styled Mao suits.” Meru jumped at the chance to show that he knew more than sports. “This version worn by Quad and his team consists of four external pockets, one on each breast with another pocket placed directly beneath, five buttons down the center, and three buttons on each sleeve. The suit’s construction and design were said to embody the cultural values and traditions of China which calls to mind the conceptual practice of Feng Shui for clothes.” “The four pockets reflect symmetry and balance in addition to the four virtues of Propriety, Justice, Honor, and Shame. The five buttons were said to be symbolic of the five branches of government: administration, legislation, jurisdiction, examination, and supervision. The three cuff buttons represented the Three Principles of the People: Democracy, Nationalism, and the People’s Livelihood. Last, the suits were usually made from a single piece of cloth symbolizing China’s unity and peace.” Leilani responded. “Over time, since the revolution lead by Mao, the suit has morphed into a status symbol of national honor. It has become the official dress for formal state events at home and abroad. As such, the materials used to make the suit have increased in cost. The women’s bright pink suits have pockets framed in fuchsia and are festooned with extremely rare pinkish-blue Akoya pearls for buttons. The suits were constructed using the equally rare Vicuña wool, the most expensive fabric in the world. They are a sight to behold in white anaconda-skinned six-inch platformed shoes with stiletto heels to complete the look.” “I love the men’s green silk suits with gold-trimmed pockets, 24k gold buttons, and embroidered Gucci loafers which are a direct counter-statement to Quad’s bamboo-thatched thong sandals.” South America – It was somewhat dark in the dimly-lit stadium except for the track. Square’s float was accompanied by thirty Bahianas’ Whirling Ladies, a respected group of elder women, adorned in their traditional dress, leading a moving Samba dance in front. They looked absolutely resplendent in yellow skirts braided with gold and canary yellow headdresses fashioned in the shape of crowns invoking the rays of the sun. The Whirling Ladies’ dresses flared vertically with every synchronized fourth step kick and flattened out horizontally when they whirled in sync every fifth step forward in beat with the Samba band riding on the float. “The men in Quad’s entourage are dressed as eighteenth-Century Portuguese soldiers wearing royal blue eighteen-button, golden tasseled overcoats, nine-button vests, calf-high black socks over knee high red stockings, and white pants with fire engine red codpiece. The women are wearing updated traditional Portuguese white knee-length dresses cinched at the waist and opened to the knee over ruffled red micro-mini skirts with white see-through gartered flower patterned stockings and six-inch red sandals topped off with red bonnets. An intentional nod to colonial times. However, they need to be careful with the aggressive micro-tattoo showcase posing.” North America – Quad’s entourage entered with the groomsmen are wearing sequined tuxedos threaded throughout with gold and silver inspired by the Spanish matadors’ traje de luces, or suit of lights, in all the colors of the rainbow. The women are wearing flamenco dresses in all colors of the rainbow with a plunging V-neck, tightly fitted from the shoulders to the knees and then flaring out into a flowing five-layered sweep train with multi-colored fans. It was an explosion of color as it played out over the stadium screens, in Times Square, and across social media. Marcus made sure he was all in the mix. Leilani stumbled slightly in her excitement to get a comment from someone. She just so happened to get Me’lanna. “This is a sight to see with so many different colors coming together. It works. Tell me, why this particular theme?” Me’lanna paused, micro-posed, and answered, “I just think the whole way the Spanish flamenco dancing, music, and pageantry is so expressive and colorful that it was the only style I felt captures the joy I feel for having found Annis, my life partner.” “Here comes Square and his entourage. They are strikingly different from the previous group. It is looking and moving like a funeral procession being led by a walking New Orleans Jazz Brass Band. Everyone is dress somberly in black pants and black t-shirt. Square and the members of his entourage are wearing a white walking billboard mounted to the side facing the crowd. The side-by-side walking billboards have formed a long continuous screen appearing to be playing scenes from the lives of young black and brown boys and girls interspersed with pictures of policemen and gang members.” “Oh my God! Now it is clear. Following behind Square’s entourage are ten rows of thirty black, brown, Asian, and Caucasian men and women wearing t-shirts with pictures of loved ones. The walking billboard screens are playing faces. . . , familiar faces: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Ahmaud Arbery, Breoanna Taylor, George Floyd, and Daunte Wright.” Faces of the not-so-familiar local lives were also displayed. Interestingly, it was a true rainbow coalition. Floyd’s death ignited a grassroots movement which spanned races, ethnicities, and generations. It was clearly manifested here in this procession. The band is playing a dirge. Everyone followed the band in a slow, rhythmic gait: step to the left, hesitate, step twice, step to the right, hesitate, step twice. The entourage slowly made its way around the track. Europe – Quad and Square received knighthood and their entourage’s dress announced it. “Quad’s entourage is in full period dress from the Elizabethan Era with a knight on horseback. They have leveraged Parliament’s 1547 Statues of Apparel laws for enforcing social order through clothing, dressing in materials reserved for the noble class. The women are wearing full-length white velvet gowns and open silk neck ruffs all trimmed in gold. Each of the ladies’ hair is covered by a diamond-encrusted white laced silk snood. The men are dressed as knights with a long white Surcoat to the knees cinched at the waist by a solid gold belt. The look is completed with a golden shield, a gold sword, oversized gold chain mail epaulets covering the shoulders topped by a white velvet hat trimmed in gold. And prominently displayed is a hastily constructed family coat of arms emblazoned in the center of the chest.” “Quad’s Coat of Arms has a cross dividing the escutcheon (shield) into four sections with pictures of a ship, mountains, two crossed drum sticks, and a crown. The shield was supported on each side by a man dressed in the uniform of the sailors on the initial arrival of British ships to Australia. Situated on the helm at the top of the shield was the emblem of two winged feet facing each other. Last, underneath the shield was the motto written in Latin on a gold ribbon: “Te Grattisimum – You’re welcome.” Sqaure’s entourage has everyone dressed in the exact same skinny-fit grey houndstooth tweed-patterned three-piece suits made from vicuña wool and Mulberry silk with diamond and gold buttons and hand-made white shirts buttoned completely.” “I was told each suit cost about $75,000 and was matched with $35,000 grey Testoni alligator shoes and pumps.” “Square’s Coat of Arms is on the black background of the escutcheon, there is a gold cross dividing the area into fours. One quarter has a flattened map of the earth with the double DNA helix emanating from Africa to the other continents. Another quarter has a white silhouetted head comprised of a printed circuit board overlaid with mathematical calculations. Another quarter contains a Torre Straits Islander dhoeri headdress. The last quarter has his Black Diamond logo. The shield is being held up by two Egyptian queens wearing ancient KEMET’s khepresh or blue crowns of war. And, like Quad, his crest was two-winged feet but facing away from each other with Square’s motto written in Latin on a red ribbon in green lettering. It reads ‘Adoremus Deum, Amor proximo tuo’ translated as ‘Worship God, Love Thy Neighbor.’ Interesting, the two greatest commands of the Christian faith.” Africa – In the country where the marathon takes place, the environment takes center stage. The canopy bridge was actually seven bridges connected together forming a walkway through the treetops. Walkers traveled a distance of 1,150 feet as they observed bird and animal species up close. The canopy bridges’ wooden planks were about a foot wide and suspended above the jungle floor by nettings, wire ropes, and cables creating an elevated foot path. A storm was coming. The wind picked up, causing the bridges to sway slightly. The group made it across all seven bridges and descended to the jungle floor. It was hot even in the very early morning hours. The humid air was heavy. It felt like wearing a wet sweater. Just then, everyone was snapped back to the present as a thunderclap sounded so loudly it shook leaves, fruit, and monkeys from the trees. The skies had grown even darker and more foreboding since the crossing of the canopy bridges. Normally, tropical Ghana had two clearly delineated seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season usually lasted from December to February. The wet season was from March to November. Climate change had altered what was once normal. The dry season began to last longer, stretching from December to July and causing devastating droughts and water shortages. The wet season lasted only from August to November, but the storms increased in intensity, delivering more death and destruction. I had experienced the wet season and its monsoons in Ghana before. This one looked and felt different. The skies were not just dark. They were shoe polish black with bursts of ice white lightning outlined in tints of yellow, blue, and green. The lightning flashes were accompanied by rolls of thunder that drowned out voices. The wind was getting stronger and howling louder and louder announcing its presence. It was as if the storm was coming to usher in a new reality. Things, people were never going to be the same as before. There was a reckoning coming with the end of the Greatest Race. …As if on cue, the lightning flashes grew more intense, frequent, and dangerous. Three lightning bolts had struck the ground off in the distance since they started approaching the castle. The thunder rolls became louder and more powerful going from minor ground tremors to teeth-chattering boomers that shook the handlebars on the bikes askew. No one had experienced a storm like this. I wondered. God, what’s up? Are you not here for the Greatest Race? …Quad and Square were now running at approximately fourteen miles per hour with the wind. It was beginning to tax the electric bikes’ power. The grounds of Cape Coast Castle began to appear off to the right. The hair on the back of my neck started moving. Suddenly, the sky split in two with a terrifying lightning strike somewhere in the castle’s courtyard, igniting a fire. …They were both bleeding now—Quad from the under the shoulder wound; Square from the neck wound. The blood that had run down Square’s neck was almost imperceptible on his black top and shorts. Quad’s blood loss mixed with the rain, turning his white shirt and shorts a deep pink with a little bloody-pink river of rain trailing his feet and marking a path. Gatlin and I were speckled with bloody water spots splattered by the bike wheels of the BBC and the GraySONS. Neither runner seemed to be particularly bothered by the loss of blood. Quad and Square were running side-by-side now that they were freed from the enclosure of the electric bike cells. …The rain was coming down heavily in sheets. The group was on Beulah Road about seven miles from El Mina. It was becoming incredibly difficult to maintain balance on the bikes in the rain, especially on turns. Quad and Square were following the posted signs pointing to El Mina and they were in full throttle. The odometer on the bike read fifteen miles per hour. I did not know I could pedal that fast, neither did Gatlin. We were both struggling to stay within visible reach of the runners. The pace was grueling. Even Edwards, the BBC, and the GraySONS began to have some difficulty keeping up. …Now there were two watery blood trails. I wondered if their wounds were somehow more serious than previously realized and they had become re-injured. Maybe the embedded shrapnel had somehow moved and damaged some organs, arteries, veins, or something. It was plausible given the power and controlled fury with which Square and Quad were moving. Their hearts had to be pumping at unbelievable rates already. They increased their speed even more. …Edward’s warning made no difference at all. The rain, the wind, and the curve caused all the bikes to slide out from underneath everybody. Without missing a beat, Edwards, the BBC and the GraySONS rolled to their feet, weapons at the ready, and started running. Ogleston and Sanders helped me and Gatlin up and literally began pulling us along. These men were running full speed in full gear with their weapons, yet they eventually began to reel Quad and Square in slightly. It seemed they had both slowed. The trailing group was able to get them back into the GoPro views. …Then, as if on a movie set, the rain stopped, and the skies cleared as the runners entered High Road. The lightning and thunder intensified. Quad and Square were ahead of a world-record pace for the marathon. This last half mile saw them climb the St. George Hill to El Mina’s perch. It became obvious to the entire world that there was something seriously wrong with Quad and Square. Quad and Square struggled to climb the alabaster stone stairs leading up to the castle. It appeared as if someone had painted dual crimson stripes down the whitewashed steps behind them.
  10. THE ACT OF THE STORY STATEMENT from The Greatest Race by Doc Spoon Chance, the protagonist, must stop the Greatest Race from completing thereby preventing half the world’s population from being placed into indentured servitude to the other half.
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