At 5:00 am, Kali logged off of astralnet, but kept the crescent over her eyes when she unplugged it from the computer. The crescent became transparent, but for the current time and day’s schedule that glowed blue in the corner of Kali’s eye.
Kali pulled on a pair of sweatpants and pulled her hair into a messy bun.
“Bear, play some music- something upbeat.”
“Okay!” Bear’s cheerful voice replied, and then the sweet voice of Kali’s favorite pop singer seemed to resonate through the room, though Kali was the only one who could hear it. Kali stretched a little, and then jogged out of her room, past her mother- who stared after her with a befuddled expression- and out the door.
Kali was in terrible shape. Her heart was starting to pound not a few steps from the curb. Nevertheless, she ordered Bear to turn up the music, and kept running.
At the end of the block, as she passed under the bridge that separated her neighborhood from the city park, her body seemed to resign itself to the fact that she wouldn’t stop. She breathed a little easier when she emerged from under the bridge to the path, and a fresh breeze swept over the crystal clean river and filled her lungs.
Her eyepiece lit up and outlined one of the trees that draped the river’s bank.
“These trees are called Bald Cypress , or Taxodium distichum, ,” Bear’s voice spoke. “The moss that hangs from the branches is called Spanish moss- an epiphyte, not to be confused with a parasite.”
“That’s… nice,” Kali said. “Bear, did mother upload some sort of educational program to my eyepiece?”
“That’s right,” Bear said. “You can’t delete it without the correct password.”
Kali groaned and turned up her music, again. She tried to ignore Bear as he pointed out every tree, bird, and flower that they passed. She closed her eyes, and concentrated on the cool breeze that hit her face and the music that seemed to lift her feet.
Kali did not run fast, but she ran long. By the time she’d completed her circuit, 45 minutes had passed. She’d just stopped to catch her breath when the eyepiece beeped.
“You have an incoming call from Alex,” Bear said. “Should I answer?”
“Yes, please,” Kali panted.
A few moments later, Kali heard Alex speak. “Hello, Kali?”
“Hi Alex. Sorry I’m out of breath.” Kali leaned over to stretch her calves. “I’ve been jogging.”
“That’s awesome. I just got out of bed,” Alex said. “So- I assume this means you’re already training for Flightcorps?”
“Yeah. I haven’t told Mom about the offer yet, though. She won’t like it. I have a feeling that she wants me to become a biologist. How about you? Are you going to accept the offer?”
“I talked it over last night with Dad- he’s thrilled, of course. He’s a pilot himself, and though he always said that I could be anything I want, deep down, he wants me to be a pilot, too.”
“What do you want to do?” Kali asked.
“I don’t know. This is an awesome opportunity. I’d be stupid to pass up the chance to be a pilot to sit in an office all day.”
Kali laughed. “I agree. Sorry- I’m nearly home, now, and I need to psych myself up to talk to Mom. No offence, but this conversation is-“
“I get it. Sorry if I’m making this worse,” Alex said. “I’ll see you at the banquet tonight.”
Alex disconnected, and Kali took one last, deep breath and stood up. She could see her house just ahead, and her mother stood in the doorway- her arms crossed over her chest. Kali straightened her shoulders, stood as tall as she could, and strode forward.
That afternoon, in the aftermath of her talk with her mother, Kali stared at her banquet gown in disgust.
Kali was going to a school banquet tonight to receive an award in recognition of her academic success, and she’d just been offered a much-sought position in a prestigious military academy, yet her mother seemed to think she was a failure.
“Are you sure you want to accept?” her mother had asked. “I’m sure it seems exciting now, but it’s a lot of hard work. You hate hard work.”
“But if it’s to become a pilot-“
“You always get bored and give up, Kali. Remember dance camp? Remember the violin? In less than two weeks, you’ll get sick of the training regimen and come home.”
Kali could feel a small flame of rage ignite inside of her.
“I want to make a new daily schedule for the next two weeks. I’ll get up every morning at 5:00 to run, have a quick breakfast, and then do calisthenics until noon. Then after lunch I’ll be reading the junior Flightcorps curriculum.”
“Roger that- downloading the Junior Flightcorps manuals.”
“Thanks. After dinner, we’ll log into brave sector and run simulations. Don’t schedule any time for sleep.”
Kali looked over her new schedule, and began to feel a slight sinking sensation in her stomach.”
“Bear- are there any ways to keep myself motivated- any ways that are proven to help? I want this- I really do- but…”
“I’ll research motivation techniques and find ways to optimize your schedule.”
Kali took off her eyepiece, threw it on the bed, and stretched out her muscles- already sore from her morning run. Then she dragged herself to the bathroom to do her hair and makeup for the banquet.