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Crossing the Line: reading creative fiction; The Race Official


Read the story, then answer the practice question.

The Race Official

  1. The year was 2068, and the Olympics were finally equal. Since the old republic had been overthrown and replaced by the GNA (Great Nation of America), anyone with skill, talent, or any kind of expertise was kept on a short leash as a potentially treacherous member of the elite. Scientists and researchers were banned from speaking and writing publicly; artists and musicians had to submit their work to be simplified before release; and athletes were rigorously tested for genetic markers of “overadvantage.”
  2. The new regime under General Charles R. Taney had wasted no time jailing any and all proponents of political change and shutting down the freedoms of the old Bill of Rights. They had also bid to hold the Olympics in their new capital of Richmond, as part of an entertainment extravaganza to keep the masses compliant. And the International Olympic Committee were delighted to accept—dictators always put on a great show. Even better, they were thrilled to have Richmond 2068 debut the GNA’s proposed new Sports Equalizing measures.
* * * * *
  1. On a steamy night in August 2068—Tuesday, the 14th to be exact—Tucker Lindbergh, 52, father of four and decorated veteran, was proudly officiating the Olympic track and field events at his hometown stadium.
  2. A staunch supporter of General Taney and his government, Tucker cherished the decency, order, and self-respect they had restored to the country he loved. Tonight was a night to give back; thanks to Tucker and his fellow race officials’ efforts, the athletes who’d tested positive for genetic overadvantages would finally be competing legitimately against their normal peers.
  3. Each final would be prefaced by a Sisyphus challenge, where the genetically overadvantaged athletes pushed a 20-kilogram weight up and over a two-sided ramp, ten times each side. Then, before the race itself, they were to be fitted with two items of Equalizing gear: a set of weighted stag antlers on their heads, and gold-leaf ankle weights in the shape of wings.
  4. The organizers had designed these measures to precisely counteract the innate, unfair advantage the athletes had gained through their genes. Tucker was here to ensure that process went smoothly, and it was his honor to do so. Unfortunately for him, some of the athletes had other ideas.
* * * * *
  1. On the night of Monday, August 13th, 2068, Kelly Patterson, 28, mother to twins, gold medallist at two previous summer Olympics, waited, still and nervous. Three of her fellow finalists in the next day’s 200 meters arrived at her hotel room at discreet, 10-minute intervals.
  2. To her left was Nadine, from Jamaica; to her right, Murielle of France. And facing Kelly was Tianna, her compatriot, and rival in all national and international sprint events since middle school. Things had gotten tense between them at times over the years, but now Tianna met Kelly’s gaze with love, fear, and solidarity. Kelly took a slow, deep breath, and began. “Thank you all for coming. What we’ve agreed to do together may be a small act compared to the sacrifices of so many right now, but you know it’s going to take all the courage each one of us has got . . . ”
* * * * *
  1. The crowd’s roar gave Tucker the shivers as Gunther Weiss of Germany took gold in the men’s 110 meters hurdles. The pre-race Sisyphus challenge had gone without a hitch, and his team’s countless hours spent drilling the strapping on of antlers and ankle wings had paid off a hundred times over.
  2. Best of all, the three genetically standard athletes, the ones who hadn’t been Equalized, had swept the medals—a clear victory for the Olympic spirit, and for good old American fairness. Tucker took a moment of internal satisfaction for a job well done at his first showpiece final of the night—and right in front of General Taney himself in the VIP box. But Tucker kept his face expressionless: there was still a mission to complete. He wouldn’t be smiling until the women’s 200 meters went just as seamlessly.
* * * * *
  1. “. . . and so I believe we are called on to take a stand, to advocate for resistance, and to hell with the consequences. We won’t be winning any medals this year, but we can be champions of the people.”
  2. Kelly finished speaking and waited for the silence to break for what seemed like an eternity. Then, Tianna slowly raised her right arm in the air, fist clenched. Kelly, feeling the gesture’s power, did the same. Nadine and Murielle followed; it was on.
* * * * *
  1. Tucker blew his whistle and beckoned over the four overadvantaged women ahead of the 200 meters. He recognized the two Americans from previous Olympics on TV—Carli and Tina? Kelsey and Toni? He’d probably cheered them on as they ran for the old country. But things were different now. Was it him, or were they taking a little too long to get over? He blew his whistle again.
  2. “Come on, ladies! We haven’t got all night here!”
  3. The four women lined up in front of their Sisyphus ramp lanes. The male hurdlers before had shown him respect: looking down or straight ahead when he spoke. But these women were staring right back at him.
  4. “You know the deal,” Tucker pressed on. “On the whistle, you push the weight up and over the ramp, then run around and push it back up again. Ten times per side. Then straight over to your blocks to get fitted with headgear and ankle weights before the race.”
  5. Tucker raised his whistle back to his lips and blew. Nobody moved. “Hey!” he barked, “That’s your cue, ladies. Move!”
  6. Still nothing. “I said, get moving!”
  7. The women exchanged glances, and finally seemed to see reason, stepping forward and picking up their weights. But then they stopped, just holding them.
  8. “Put the weight on the ramp, and roll it to the top! It’s not rocket science!” Tucker’s voice was cracking as his frustration intensified, and spittle frothed out the sides of his mouth. Now, as one, the women raised their weights up—but too high, higher than they needed to get them onto the ramp.
  9. Then Tucker watched in horror as, in unison, the women flung the weights down, smashing them into the ramp, sending jagged shards of plastic flying through the air. Tucker ducked, and he could think of nothing else to do but blow his whistle in hard, shrill peeps, over and over.
  10. But when he looked up, the women had all turned away from him. They were facing the VIP box, looking directly at General Taney himself. Their right arms were raised, fists clenched. Then all the lights in the stadium went out, and Tucker saw nothing.

Practice Question

Match each quote from “The Race Official” with the explanation of how it develops the theme that "power corrupts;" or that people in power often try to control the people they're supposed to be serving.