I wrote this and posted it because it's for fun. Sometimes I like to write as a way of just setting life aside for a few minutes and enjoying my imagination. If you enjoy this, please share it with your Facebook and Twitter friends!
Your Greatest Strength
By: S. Daniel Smith
The wind was chilly, but felt good against his legs as Paul trotted down the lane toward the starting line. He wanted to be warm enough at the start of the race to get off quickly. Of course, the bios weren’t warming up. They didn’t have to. The millions of nanobots that acted as sensors and trigger servos in their legs and lungs would make up for the deficiency.
Paul didn’t care that he was the only runner left in the elite class who ran as a whole human, or “non-bio” as they were termed. Everyone else, in order to compete against the other bios, became a bio too. Oh sure, thousands of people ran marathons, even competitive ones, as non-bios, but they didn’t really compete. Often they were charity runners. An important part of the running culture to be sure, but not where Paul operated.
“Mornin’ Paul,” said another elite runner as they crossed paths. Paul recognized the runner, a fellow American named Todd Bogart…a bio. Todd had reportedly made the switch a year ago. He hadn’t won anything yet, but it often took a year or so for the implants to reconfigure the muscular and cardiovascular systems.
Paul nodded, but didn’t speak. He was angry.
The trotting was over. Paul conducted a very short, very simple stretching routine. He didn’t want to stress his muscles too much before the race. They would be tested plenty once the gun went off. He wanted to win. When he beat the bios, he wanted them to see it. He wanted his body as fresh as possible.
“All elite runners please report to the starting line!” bellowed the loudspeaker. “Race starts in 10 minutes!”
Paul made his way forward. The bib number told others around him that he was an elite. They made way for him. Some of them didn’t know who he was, but most did. They, being non-bios, knew Paul the non-bio because all of the running magazines did articles on him. He was the fastest non-bio in competitive racing.
“Two minutes until start!” warned the loudspeaker. He was telling jokes and making fun of the newbies in between warnings.
Paul took his place in the second row of the elite group. He didn’t want to be too brash, even though he planned to beat every last one of them. Knowing what he knew, and having the advantage that he had, he didn’t mind starting just behind them. He took notice of who was around him. Many of his fellow runners had raced non-bio for years before succumbing to the pressure to compete. Money came from winning, or at least placing in the top three, and the top three was harder to come by for non-bios. A small wave of sympathy washed over him, but Paul dismissed it with a furrowed brow. He was angry.
Only one other bio was in the group with him. Paul didn’t know the guy’s name, but did know he came from Ethiopia. Once upon a time, that would have mattered. It didn’t anymore, for the most part. While the biomechanical implants helped everyone improve, regardless of talent level, the body’s natural abilities still had an effect. The implants couldn’t just make a fat couch potato a star athlete (that had been tried before), but it nearly always gave an advantage.
“On your mark!”
Now the adrenaline was pumping. Paul always got nervous, even though he knew he would win this day.
Why did they count down like this? It was stupid. A race like this, that lasted the better part of two hours, didn’t need a sprinter’s countdown.
Lots of cheering, bodies bumping against each other, and runners dodging elbows. He almost wished he weren’t an elite runner. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with it as much.
The race started normal enough. The elite runners, Paul included, tore off on a 4:10 pace down the main stretch of the road toward their first turn. The bios could maintain that pace nearly the entire marathon. Paul, while the elite of elite as far as non-bio running was concerned, could only maintain 4:25 or so per mile. Human running had adapted significantly over the years, even to the point of almost calling it evolution, but keeping his pace below five minutes per mile for the entire length of the race was still impossible…unless one was a bio runner.
“That’s where your greatest strength becomes your greatest weakness,” Muluneh had said several months back He was the last elite Kenyan runner to go bio a few years before. It disgusted Paul. He liked Muluneh a lot. The guy was a fierce competitor. Too bad he was in today’s race.
Paul stayed with the pack for several of the first miles, then started drifting back a little. They were maintaining a sub-4:15 minute mile pace and he was starting to eek a little above. A few seconds here and there would add up soon.
“Just a few more miles,” he breathed to himself. He took water at the five-mile mark. Several years ago, back in the early part of the century, a 4:20 pace would have been incredible.
But that was before the big running companies started testing biomechanical running aids. Elite runners shunned the equipment for several years and major races like Boston, London, Berlin, and New York disqualified bio runners.
Things change though…people do too. Berlin was the first to allow bio runners. Once a major marathon dropped the rule, the others followed suite until the USATF was forced to do the same. It was all downhill from there.
“Almost time to make your move,” he told himself as he lost sight of the last bio elite runner ahead of him. They had rounded the turn at mile 19 without him. He was still running a blazingly fast speed, but it wouldn’t be enough. His greatest strength was his greatest weakness.
Mile 21 came and went. It was now or never. Paul was high-fived by a friend of his at the water station, where Paul took his last drink for the race. That friend then texted another friend at mile 23 (where the bios were in the race). A simple howdy-do was all he needed, and he pushed a button on the cell phone that linked to an encrypted satellite, that linked to a hacked cell phone tower, that linked to the biomechanical controller implanted in the elite runners’ bodies.
He knew the risk. The doctor he had consulted told him that it could hurt people. The biomechanical equipment hadn’t been tested in a way that bypassed its normal shutdown routine because no one had ever hacked the system before. Arrogance. It serves them right.
Except for Muluneh of course. He really didn’t deserve this, but he had gone bio too. It was another nine minutes before Paul saw the effects of his high five. He started passing them at mile 24, but a few had managed to escape the first blast and the “man” had to trigger a second one. Paul found Muluneh at mile 26, a mere 350 yards from the finish line.
Paul was alone. No other elite ran as a non-bio. He slowed as he approached Muluneh and stopped by his side. Muluneh was lying prostrate on the road, trying desperately to claw to the finish line. He dragged two inept legs behind him.
“Something is wrong, Paul,” he said, out of breath in his heavily accented Kenyan accent. “I can’t work my legs.”
Paul knelt down and touched his adversary on the shoulder. For a brief moment, the race seemed to stop. He looked at Muluneh and sighed.
“Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness, Muluneh,” said Paul. “I’m sorry. I hope they figure out what happened.”
Then he got up and won the race.