Three…two…one… Go!

Raucous stadium crowd

“Teams, start your robots!” cried the announcer. From the bleachers, a deafening roar rose from the spectators. There were only minutes before the robot races began.

Miyoko Smith had wished Bear pack good luck in the race, and then went up to the grandstand to rejoin her own Orca pack and watch the competition. But rather than just sit in the bleachers in rapt anticipation, Miyoko was animatedly leaning out of her seat and talking to every Jr. Planeteer around her. Soon, her exchange was spreading by word of mouth through the crowd the way a wave spreads across a pond when you throw in a stone.

On the race track, the robots were lined up in front of their human starters. The robots were autonomous, but they wouldn’t begin racing until their starters gave the word. Tommy Tomorrow was excited as he confidently stood behind Big Red. Bruno Forever was a few lanes over, nervously standing behind Geri, the giant blue robot his pack had built and named after one of the ravenous wolves serving the god Odin. 

The holographic clock hanging over the stadium was counting up from ’T’ minus 60 seconds to zero seconds and the start of the race. The contestants heard a growing murmur rising from the spectators and mistook the sound for the crowd already chanting the seconds until the race began. But as the volume of the chant rose, the murmur became clear, and the sound the spectators was making was this: Bzzzz! 

Miyoko Smith knew Tommy Tomorrow didn’t think Bear pack had enough direct evidence to report the Wolf pack to the authorities. To accuse them without evidence would be unfair. But as someone who had been in the Bear pack work shed and seen the circumstantial evidence buzzing around in front of her own eyes; and as someone who had probably been victimized like so many others in this same stadium by Wolf pack spying; and as someone who had just won her Citizenship in the Solar System merit badge and had a keen sense of justice; Miyoko knew she had to do something. And the thing she decided to do, as a “Tomorrow” who thought strategically, was simply to tell people within earshot what Bear pack had discovered, and how Tommy Tomorrow had rattled Bruno Forever.

“Teams, 10 seconds before start,” said the announcer. “Make ready!”

Cheating was not the Jr. Planeteers’ way. As Miyoko’s truth sped through the crowd, their disapproval manifested as a soft murmur that spread and grew to a wretchedly rasping buzz. Bruno could finally make out what everyone was saying, and suddenly a terrifying, irrational thought leaped into his brain: Everybody knows!

“Three…two…one… Go!” exclaimed the announcer.

All the other starters yelled their “go” command and the field of robots bounded off the starting line. But Bruno was distracted by his own thoughts. He made a mistake, just as Tommy Tomorrow predicted. He hesitated for perhaps a second—no more than two—before regaining his composure and commanding Geri, the Wolf pack’s ‘bot, to lunge ahead.

The race was on.


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