The Unnamed (The Unnamed Duology #1)K. Weikel / Fantasy / Science Fiction
By K. Weikel
Copyright © 2015 by K Weikel
Cover art by K. Weikel
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Praise for The Unnamed
“Interesting concept. I really want to explore this world further.”
-Finn O’Connor from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
“…It does have me asking why on a lot of things… I’m glad your main character is in the dark. I like him and don’t want him getting sucked into something that gets people killed.”
-Kevin Bender from Maysville, Oklahoma
“…I ATE UP the dialogue. It was engaging, and realistic. And this plot sounds INTERESTING….”
-Snicker Sneebee, Author of The Duplicate
“Very very interesting and cool concept.”
-Christian Edwards, Author of Skyfall
For my parents and my family.
1: the Title
“Runner,” he hears. “Come here. I have another message for you to take.”
The boy, the age of seventeen, sprints from his post at the table, where he had been taking a break from training. He’s tall and has incredibly dark skin. His hair hangs down to his shoulders in dreads.
The old man of fifty-seven folds a paper and slides it into an envelope.
“I don’t want anybody seeing this, you understand? It needs to go to the Elite Leader. You should know where he is.”
“Yes, Master,” the Runner says politely, nodding his head. “Is there anything you want me to tell him?”
“Yes. Tell him that this is urgent, and I need him to respond right away,” the old man says in his deep, raspy voice. “I want you to stay in the building with him as he writes his letter back. If he asks why you have not left, tell him it really is extremely urgent.”
The Master hands the white envelope to the Runner, and watches as he runs out the door.
“One more year until that boy earns his name. He deserves it.”
The Runner sprints out of the building and splashes into a puddle that swallows his foot whole. It’s pouring outside.
Rain is never a good thing.
The Runner pulls his black hooded jacket up over his head to block the water and slides the envelope between the Runner’s Jacket and his blue shirt.
Black and blue for the Runners—it’s mandatory.
The rain only gets heavier as his legs take him farther from the white mansion and to the big red one.
It’s a five-story building with a big arch in the front. Columns run along under the roof that hangs over the outer walls like a hat. The doors are grand and black underneath the main red arch of the building. Red roses line the perimeter and every window gave away that all of the lights are on in the building.
The Runner jogs up the narrow steps to the front door, skipping every other step. He takes off his jacket and shakes it out, all of the water falling off of it easily, thanks to the water-resistant material. In his hand he holds the envelope, careful not to crease it as he slides the jacket back on. Without this jacket, he wouldn’t be allowed to receive his name when he turned eighteen next year.
He opens the big, black door and steps into the beautiful room that lies behind it. An elephantine chandelier hangs from the ceiling above the center of the room three stories up, and two white marble staircases wind their way to the second floor. A red carpet is draped like a runway over each step, and the rug on the floor looks like the rare red velvet the Runner has only heard about. He knows it’s not real velvet though. The Elite Leader had told him it wasn’t on one of his runs.
Everything inside is white and red, a contrast to the black and red on the outside of the building.
The Runner waits by the doors, knowing what he needed to do, having done it multiple times before.
“Runner!” The Elite Leader claps once joyfully as he walks down the stairs to greet his guest. “Welcome! It seems as if I haven’t seen you in ages.”
The Runner nods politely, knowing he’s not allowed to say anything but what he came here to say.
“What does Elite Solver Mortimer have for me today? Or is it from a different housing unit?”
“The Master has told me to bring you this,” he says, holding out the white envelope. “He wanted me to say that this is urgent, and that he needs you to respond right away.”
The Elite Leader looks concerned as he opens the letter. He begins to read as he waves at the Runner to follow him. He leads him up three stories, going through an open arch at the top of the stairs on the first floor, and through a long hallway that leads to another set of staircases much like the first ones to the third floor. The Runner follows him all the way to his office, and stands in the doorway as the Elite Leader sits down and runs his chin with his fingers in frustration.
“Do you know about this Runner?”
The Runner just shakes his head. If he speaks of something other then what he was told, there could be serious consequences.
The Elite Leader sighs and looks at him.
“Of course you don’t,” the Elite Leader mumbles, leaning back in his chair and running his hands over his face. He sighs loudly. “It seems your Master has discovered something. Something big.”
The Runner just stares politely, listening to a conversation he could die for should he say anything to anyone about it. All he can do is not think about it and not dream about it to keep his life safe.
“I know you’re worried about what I’m saying,” the Leader sighs, leaning forward to pick the paper up again. “You don’t want to get in trouble. But don’t worry. You’re with me. And as long as you’re with me, and delivering to me, then you’re safe. Just don’t go mouthing off about the conversations you have with the Elite Leader.”
The Runner nods.
“That means you can speak,” the Leader chuckles.
The Runner looks at him. Can he do that? Is that legal?
“Yes sir,” the Runner finally says, his body tensing up.
“It’s a start,” The Leader says, reading back over the letter. “Runner, if I may, I’d like to ask you something.” He pauses, waiting for a response that, of course, never comes. “If you held the fate of the world in your hands, and you gain knowledge on a choice that could disembody and destroy that world, but could possibly make it better, would you make the choice to go through with it?”
The Runners heart race picks up speed.
Is this a test?
“Sir, I think the way things are now is the perfect balance of life and death.”
“Oh don’t give me that,” the Elite Leader says, placing his elbows on his desk. “You were raised to say that, no matter what you think about this world. Tell me your honest opinion. I promise I won’t tell anyone. Besides, I’m the highest of the Elites.”
The Title sends chills and fear coursing through the Runner’s body.
They are the best of the best of each category in the World, the Base, and the Planet, and live to be the best at what they were raised to do.
After all, there can only be one in each city.
“I think the way things are now is the perfect balance of life and death.”
The Elite Leader sighs, giving up.
“Alright, Runner. Let me write your letter,” he says as he takes out a pen and paper.
The rain was still falling by the time the Runner made it back to his Masters’ mansion. Pools of water had accumulated in the streets in the time he spent in the Elite Leaders’ mansion.
The Runner shakes off the water from his clothes and walks inside. His Master is still sitting at his table, tapping away on the screen of his large computer that sat on top of it like a blanket. It’s thin and rollable, but most of the existing ones are smaller. He gets the biggest one because he is the Elite Solver. He solves problems the world faces and tells the Leader what the solution is.
The old man looks up and adjusts his glasses before taking the envelope. He opens it up and scratches the white beard that hides his neck from view.
“You may go now, Runner,” he says absentmindedly. “I don’t need you anymore today.”
The Runner nods respectfully and sprints out the door. He runs across the busy streets filled with people and into one of the housings for the Runners. The Runner’s Building.
Treadmills line the inside walls, and boys and girls of all ages occupy every one of them. A few do squats in the corner, strengthening their legs and challenging each other. This is what they do in their free time, aside from rest up. They don’t know much else besides running and winning, the government and its laws, and exercising. There isn’t much else to do.
The Runner walks down the stairs in the front of the room to the Beds. Bunks stacked three stories high are crammed in together all around the basement area. Some Runners are sleeping, while others do workouts to strengthen their core and leg muscles.
The Runner takes of his jacket, identical to everyone else’s. The only exception is for the red wing on the right sleeve. That means he’s one of the Elite Leader’s Runners. Mortimer the Elite Solver shares him with the Elite Leader because it’s no doubt he’s one of the best Runners.
The jacket has an emblem on the back of a black outlined foot with a pair of wings surrounded by the color blue, symbolizing he is a Runner. The Elites chose this Path for him when he was five, and he was taken from his parents and set in this place. He’s always been naturally good at running, though he never had to try as hard as anyone else. He gains muscle easily and figured out the proper breathing technique while in motion.
The Runner climbs into the very top bunk on one of the outer beds and stares at the ceiling hanging two feet above his face.
He thinks of the Competitions. There is one for every Path, and there are rankings for each one. The top ten are placed in a room together for three days to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Once the time is up, they each get called up to race, and the ones with the fastest times make it into the top five. They top five then go to the last stage: the Elite Race.
For this one, it’s good to have advantages, and to know what they are because you go up against the Elite, whose life is dedicated to his or her Category, and that Category alone. No matter how old the Elites are, years on end they’ve beaten people to keep their position.
Beating the Elite would make the old Elite retire (or go off to their death) and make the new winner the next Elite. This had only happened three times since this structuring system had been around. This problem was fixed when the first Elite died unexpectedly in Year Ninety of the New World, and they just brought the next best thing: the Second Place.
Eventually the Runner falls asleep, but not before asking himself a dangerous question.
What had the Master told the Elite Leader about?
2: the Competitions
The Runner wakes up to the sound of stomping above him. It’s routine for them to run every morning before going to work, but why didn’t anyone wake him up? Normally, somebody does.
He twists around and makes his way down the long ladder from the top of the bed. His feet touch the cool floor and it sends shivers through his muscle tissue.
A few stretches here and there, and he’s upstairs before the other Runners can finish.
The rest are running in circles around the room and jumping over the moving treadmills. Some of the younger Runners try to leap over them, accidentally catching their foot on the tack and falling to the ground.
He remembers when he did that the first time. Someone told him to jump higher.
If he had any flaws while running, it was agility. He has the speed, the stamina, the breath control, and he knew exactly how to angle his body to get to where he needed to go as quick as he could, but not the agility.
He’s clumsier than anything, to be honest. His feet are too big and his legs are too muscular to have complete control while even walking. All he knows is put one foot in front of the other as fast as he can to get him where he needs to be.
He joins in with the group, running for a good hour or so, and they all stop. Some are breathless and some are pumped up, ready to begin the day.
The Runner heads back down to the Beds to get his jacket and change his clothes. Blue shirt, black pants, blue shoes, black jacket. The way it’s always been.
One year until, if he makes at least the top ten, he will earn a name and a place in this world. If he makes it in the top five, he could be given a bigger Title, a more important title, than the Runner.
He likes the idea of being someone important, rather than just another Runner or Title.
The Runner smiles to himself. He knows he has a good chance in winning the whole thing. He’s worked harder than anyone else in his category.
Shaking his head, he suppresses the feeling of pride. It’s a scary trait to have now. It’s frowned upon.
The Runner steps outside, the water still falling from the sky in little droplets, hitting his jacket softly. It’s going to get heavier as the day passes, and the Runner knows it. It always happens.
As he sprints alongside the wall surrounding the World, he runs his hand along it. It’s made of solid cement, with the toughest metal as a skeleton so it stays up. The Builders are trying to create a roof for the World to keep the weather from destroying the city.
The World is the city that lies inside of these walls. It’s one of the biggest cities, and, for all the Runner knows, it’s one of the last ones. There’s the World, which he lives in now, the Planet, and the Base. In between those cities is a vast spans of land, ranging from rugged and dry to rainy and tropical.
The people of the World, Planet, and Base don’t live out in the open because of the weather. It became so terrible one day in the past, throwing multiple tornados, tsunamis, lightning storms, hurricanes, and any other kind of natural disaster you can think of.
The Runner just hopes that the rain doesn’t bring a hurricane.
Reaching his Master’s gossamer white steps to his mansion, he pulls his hood down.
Mortimer the Elite Solvers’ mansion is all white, with gray colors interwoven into the marble slabs on the floor and the arches. The windows are lit up in the dim light of the morning, his other Servants and Trainee’s awake and working.
The Runner opens the door and steps into the cool of the building. Elite Solver Mortimer isn’t sitting at his desk; instead, he’s walking up to the runner with a slight smile on his old face.
“Hello, Runner,” he nods.
The Runner looks at him strangely. He never talks to him so casually like this. The Master is usually at his desk, writing or reading, and he barely even glances up at the Runner when he speaks to him.
“Hello, Master,” the Runner says hesitantly. He takes the Master’s speech as an opportunity to speak freely, although he knows the freedom will be cut short.
Do not speak unless you are told to. The instructions given to him and drilled into his head since he was a toddler replayed in his head. Do what you are told.
“Come,” his Master says, motioning to the table he always sits at and walking to it. The Runner follows cautiously.
“Sit down, Runner,” The Master says again, and when he notices the Runner’s unsureness, he chuckles. “Don’t worry. This isn’t a test. I have a few things to discuss with you about the Competitions.”
The Runner eventually sits, his eyes on the Master at all times, looking for something to tell him not to do it. He can see nothing in the old, wrinkled man’s eyes. His white beard is combed neatly and it brushes his chest gently as he looks about the room. His eyes are a dull blue color, giving him a magical look to the Runner. The Master’s body is old and fragile, but when he walks, he walks with such power, such grace, that it seems as if he is thirty years younger than he looks.
He stops to stand at the other end of the table.
“Runner,” the Elite Solver. “As you may know, the Competitions for your age group are coming up soon. You have less than a year until it’s your turn to take the risk and run against everyone that you’ve known your entire short life. Of course, and you know this as well, if you fail to place in the top ten, you will be Unnamed. Now, the Unnamed, no one knows what happens to them exactly. There are just some things in this world that are better left unknown.
“When I went in to choose my new Servants, after the ones I’d had went through their Competitions and either failed or succeeded, I was the first to choose. The order the Elites choose in is based on how successful their Servants did in the Competitions of that year.
“I had six of mine make it into the top five in six of the many categories. That’s what bumped me to the top.
“They brought in the little five year olds that had just turned and lined them up in a row. I was really good at picking out the successful ones.
“You all had no training whatsoever, because you had just been assigned to your Category. You all wore your new shirts proudly, but you, Runner, you were beaming. You looked like you loved where you were placed.
“So that was that. I chose you and four other children. I really wanted to choose another Runner, of course, because it’s one of my favorite Categories to train. You are all so dedicated...
“But, as you know, I couldn’t do that. Only the Elite Runner can choose more than one Runner, like I can choose two children from my Category: Solvers.
“You worked the hardest of any of the Servants I’ve ever had, and that’s a good quality to have, considering it’s a winning quality, and you need to win to become one of the Named.
“Now onto the subject of the Competitions,” The Master says, giving the Runner a slight smile and beginning to pace at the end of the table. “There are many Categories, but you will only compete in one of those. The first of your races will include everyone in both your age group and your Category. It’s not going to be an easy race, and you’re going to have to train hard for it, if you don’t want to become an Unnamed.
“Once you find out your placement, which I’m sure you’ll finish in the top five, at least, you will receive a name and be shuffled off into the room with the other nine competitors where you will learn all of their secrets, not by asking, but by watching. They will stretch, warm up, and practice in that room that you all will be shut into for three days’ time.
“I advise you not to show your strengths in front of them and to get to know them, because once the three days are up, you will be sent to a room where you will evaluate each competitor that you had spent the last three days with. The questions will ask you what they are good at and what they are bad at. Once finished with that, you will be taken to a hallway to wait. You can do whatever you want in that hallway as long as you don’t leave or break any rules.
“Once it’s your turn, you will go into the room. It will be simulated to rid of your strengths and your weaknesses, creating an even playing field, since none of your opponents will be equally matched as you, due to other Masters training them.
“When you finish, you will not know what place you are in. The results will be announced live, and you will be brought onto stage one at a time, receiving your Title. The ones who do not make the top five will be sent back out into the World, and will live as Servants to their Masters for the rest of their lives.
“Now this is where it gets tricky, Runner,” The old man says as he stops to lean on the table, looking directly at the boy in the jacket. “Make the top five, and you will go head-to-head against the Elite Runner.
“I know you know all of this. You watch the Competitions every year, and I’m sure you stare at it wide-eyed, just waiting for your turn to earn a Name and a Title.”
The Master pauses for a moment, thinking to himself.
“Runner,” He says. “Do you plan on making it to Number One?”
The Runner looks at him. That’s all he’s ever wanted to do. That’s all anyone should ever want to do. It’s the purpose of the Competitions, isn’t it? To be Number One and be the Elite for your Category. To win and represent your Category well by bringing in your beliefs and your ideas.
“Yes, Master. I’ve always dreamed of it.”
The old Elite Solver looks perplexed, his brow furrowing as he nods.
“All right. Well, once the race starts, there’s no going back. The Elite Runner will do everything in his power to stay an Elite, especially this one...
“If you do beat the Elite Runner in some way, you will be awarded and you will receive his mansion. He will retire, and you will take his place.
“Now, Runner,” The old man walks around the length of the table and stands beside the boy, his old face grave. “I need you to know something. The Elite of the Runner Category... He’s the second to replace an Elite by winning. He’s been up there for only two years, and he won’t give up without a fight. So if you decide you really want to go for the Number One spot and force him to retire... that is your decision.”
Something inside of the Runner aches. Giving a flawed human being—any flawed human being the right to their own decision and free will is what created wars and rebellions back then. How can he make his own decision if he’s never really made on his whole life? He makes the decision to get up in the morning and to warm up, and he makes the decision to do his job, but those things are necessary if he doesn’t want to become one of the Unnamed.
His Master must see the thoughts in the Runners’ eyes, and he places his hands on the boys’ shoulders to assure him.
“It’s okay to decide for yourself,” he whispers encouragingly. “Sometimes it’s the only option you have.”
+ + +
The Master released the Runner from work for the day to think about everything.
Of course I’m going to do it, the Runner thinks to himself as he jogs along the wall of the World. I haven’t trained my entire life to throw it all away at the last second.
The Elite Runner is whom the Runner always dreamed about going up against. He loves running. It’s his life.
And the Runner wants to be the best. He wants to talk when he’s not supposed to and express what he thinks, though the thought scares him half to death.
He would have to give his all.
He will go against the Elite Runner. He just has to get past all of the other Runners first.