In the this chapter omitted from the published book, Henry races once again and displays his divine athletic power that hints at his true identity as something other than a normal human.
Time passes as it always does—constantly and without reprieve. Autumn slipped into winter and a period of relative quiet and calm entered Charlton House and the family that occupied it. The Foundation that had become the center of everything was suddenly the focus of discussions around the world. The fascination into this organization that was growing rapidly in number, status and mystery, provoked many unanswered questions, especially their long-term goal to alter the fate of the poorest humans on earth. But all of this was to be revealed in a few months.
By the New Year they’d amassed over a million members and as spring approached that number was close to doubling. Demi was touring the universities of Europe with her message of ecological sustainability and Irena was reshaping the structure of the organization with hierarchies and manageable units of operations. Sarah was constantly amazed at how enthusiastic the members were for an organization that had yet to reveal their true purpose and this zeal was based on the identities of its celebrity founders. The families plan to capitalize on their fame was working exactly as they’d predicted.
Today was Henry’s day to shine again. Sarah stood by the track as he stretched and warmed up for the races to follow. The two of them had become good friends after Henry had realized his romantic feelings for her were not to be reciprocated, and this friendship had become very valuable to Sarah since the brutal slaying of her brother. Another great solace had been David, who wasn’t present this day. Sarah and David had spent the majority of the last four months together at the house, entangled in deep discussions, walking the parks of North London, and finding themselves in surprisingly comfortable silences when words no longer mattered. Sarah had felt the powerful connection between from the very first moment in the desert, but after that awkward moment in his room when she’d kissed him and he’d seemed so taken aback and even embarrassed, she’d begun to doubt herself.
Today was a welcome diversion for everyone. Since that fateful day last April when Henry had won The London Marathon handsomely, some quarters of the athletics world still questioned the authenticity of his conquest. They argued that it was impossible for him to win, an unknown, untested eighteen year old. That some kind of performance enhancing drug must have been used. Even after he’d risen to prominence as a star striker for Manchester United the critics still wailed, whilst the selection committee courted him for the next summer Olympics.
Henry allowed the committee to rigorously test him for substances and the football team had pronounced him clean by every standard. Despite this, Henry wished to silence the doubters with a demonstration of his ability, to scrub away any tarnish from his position as a spokesman for Themis, and to solidify his identity as a role model for young people. The plan, conceived by Henry, and orchestrated by Sarah and Irena, was an exhibition race in London’s Olympic Stadium—a five thousand meter race against the top runners in the world. Then, two weeks before the race, Henry decided to up the stakes and added a ten thousand meters race back-to-back against another batch of elite competitors. This twist was reckless, ill conceived, and pure Henry at his finest. It was an impossible feat that he laughingly referred to as ‘a cakewalk’. To ensure that the result would be free of scrutiny he’d subjected himself to the most rigorous drug testing ever implemented in the world of athletics.
The stadium was packed to capacity and the event was simulcast all around the world by television and via the web, and all the proceeds were of course to be given to The Themis Foundation. Henry peeled of his tracksuit to his black shorts and shirt with an orange ‘T’ logo. The capacity crowd roared as he waved and blew kisses. He laughed and looked behind Sarah at the front row where Xan, Irena, Danny and Fiona sat and waved back. Henry pivoted towards a bank of camera operators and reporters where he gave a formal bow and laughed again. Henry was in his element. He strolled towards to a reporter from a Swedish television channel, her brilliant blonde hair gleaming in the spring sunlight.
The reporter smiled at the opportunity and moved in with her cameraman. “Mr. Baxter, if you could please tell us why this race today is happening.” The reporter spoke with a heavy accent but beautifully articulated English.
“Please call me Henry.” He winked at her and she giggled slightly. “Firstly, to set bang to rights those that say that my marathon win was done improperly, and secondly as a way of promoting The Themis Foundation of which I’m a founding director.”
“Ah yes, Themis is popular in Sweden with nearly fifteen thousand members, but could you tell us what the foundation really is, as there is some speculation that perhaps it has anarchistic tendencies.”
Henry laughed. “Anarchistic? No, quite the opposite, I promise you. The credo of Themis is that we’re an alliance of individuals, without borders, accepting all cultures and countries, without discrimination of any form, joining together to change our world for the better. We promote justice, equality and harmonious living for all, without influences from governments, corporations or other special interest organizations.”
“Yes, I’ve heard the credo but what does that really mean?”
“It means that we’ve a responsibility to all humanity to fight injustice.”
She smiled. “Thank you, Henry. Do you think you will win both races today?”
“Of course I will.” He laughed. “Now, I’ve a question for you. What are you doing after the race? Dinner?”
The woman blushed and shook her head, “Ah no, I’m sorry, I’m married.”
Henry smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t blame a man for trying.” He shook her hand then waved to the camera and jogged onto the track, waving to all four corners of the arena, earning a deafening response each time. The other six runners were already on the track warming up for the five thousand meter race. The invitations for the race had yielded the best in the world—two former world record holders, an Olympic silver medalist, an Olympic bronze medalist, the current world champion, as well as the top British runner and the fastest man alive at this distance—Miles Padwick.
Miles Padwick was a twenty-two year old runner from Oxford University and the current poster child for British athletics. He was also one of Henry’s most vocal critics and the epitome of athletic power, possessing the typically tall, long, lean strength of the champion long distance runner. If it wasn’t for Henry he’d be the most famous British athlete, and because of that fact he was in direct competition with him, at least in his own mind. Henry couldn’t care less about competition with other athletes, as he was only really competing against himself—a fact most people simply couldn’t comprehend.
As the runners started to move towards their lanes, Henry stopped and waved at a particular woman in the crowd and spent a few seconds smiling at her. She was red-haired and striking and sat near the front row sandwiched between what looked like two bodyguards.
“Who is that?” said Sarah to Fiona, who’d joined her on the track.
“I don’t believe it,” answered Fiona, sounding astonished.
“It’s Percy Moulin.”
“The fashion designer?”
“She’s a lot more than that. She a legend in the industry and one of the biggest influences on fashion of all time. Up there with Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.”
“So, how does Henry know her?”
“I’d say from that look he just gave her they’re a lot more than just friends.”
Henry had insisted on the outside lane, giving every advantage to the other runners. The announcements were made and cheers ricocheted around the arena like a sonic ping-pong ball, the loudest cheers reserved for Miles and Henry, the home team runners. Starting positions were assumed and the crowd relaxed into a low expectant hum. ‘On your marks’ was sounded and the firing pistol followed a moment later.
It was a clean start—Henry settled in at the back of the pack, seventh position trailing the Australian champion. Padwick settled into the number two spot behind the Kenyan runner who was setting a searing pace in an effort to claim the early lead. The line stretched out a little on the first lap as the pace was set, already signaling a fast race.
Henry looked different from the other runners—physically bigger, more muscular. He was lean but not thin and ‘stretched out’ like many elite distance runners. This garnered an almost comical image, as he looked unnatural—a parody of a runner except for one important point. He was incredibly fast.
Although running at a high cadence, they were still a few seconds shy of track record pace at the end of the first lap, and the Kenyan at the front was looking confident and strong. The Australian pulled away from Henry, gaining a few paces, and Padwick advanced to take a spell at the front. The Kenyan seemed to relinquish the lead voluntarily, possibly assuming that he could reclaim the lead closer to the finish, satisfied to take a spell in the drag of the tall Englishman.
Henry sat at the back and watched and waited. Padwick liked to dominate the front and set the pace. Henry preferred to cruise the draft of his competition and reserve himself. They had two very different styles, but both of them were determined to claim the win in front of the world.
Henry stayed in the back drafting the American, then the Nigerian for the next few laps, as Padwick and the Kenyan played chess for the lead. The pace slackened in the fourth lap and eased again in the fifth.
As the sixth lap began, Padwick was at the front with Henry at the rear about thirty meters behind. Padwick kept the lead the entire lap, which closed at six minutes and forty-five seconds at the halfway mark of the race, a respectable but unremarkable time. On the seventh lap Padwick accelerated in attempt to pull away, but the Kenyan and the Australian went with him, the trio opening a small gap from the other four runners. The increase in the pace drew huge cheers from the crowd, and Henry kept his pace constant at the rear, looking comfortable and unaffected by the movements at the front. In fact he even slowed his cadence slightly, allowing the number six runner to get few meters ahead of him.
As the gap widened, Sarah rose from her seat again to stand by the sideline. She was worried that Henry was getting stuck in the back. He looked comfortable, but at this level of competition she was afraid that he might not be able to catch the front.
Fiona joined her by the track. “What’s he doing?” she asked Sarah.
“He may be having trouble staying with them.”
Lap eight saw the status quo remain the same at the back, whilst at the front Padwick and the Kenyan had pulled away from the Australian slightly, as they upped the pace once more, the two of them battling for first position. Padwick settled in to second, drafting the fast Kenyan runner as lap nine began.
Lap nine closed and lap ten started, and Sarah’s fear that the race was getting away from Henry seemed to be becoming a reality. It was nearly a hundred meters from the Kenyan to Henry and he seemed to be making no effort to catch the rest of the pack. It was as if two races were taking place and Henry was losing the slowest of them.
Lap eleven began, the penultimate lap of the race. Henry looked up at the clock and smiled directly at Sarah and Fiona as he passed them. When Sarah saw his face, how relaxed it appeared, she also relaxed, and said to Fiona, “I think he’s alright.”
Henry pulled alongside the Nigerian runner that he was drafting then passed him. He stretched out his stride as if he’d been warming up for the first ten laps and had just decided to participate. His acceleration was astonishing, and the crowd reacted with a deafening roar, great swathes of the arena rising from their chairs to stand and cheer. Henry passed the next three runners within half a lap, his speed sudden and unexpected. The stadium itself seemed to be roaring, spreading into a tangible, physical sensation that each person felt. Sarah and Fiona were hopping up and down with pure joy and Danny, Xan and Irena were standing up holding hands tightly.
Henry edged in behind the Australian, the third place runner, and as the bell signaled the twelfth and final lap he passed him at a clip. A few seconds later, he breezed past the Kenyan runner and pulled alongside Padwick with a half lap to go. Padwick risked a glance to his right, his face a mask of shock as he dug as deep as he could for anything he had left. Henry looked back at him, winked, and pulled away as casually as if he was jogging in the park.
He sprinted down the final stretch accelerating even more and took the ribbon at just under twelve minutes and thirty five seconds, a new world record for the five thousand meters. The crowd went berserk as he raised his arms and waved. He was taking his victory lap as the rest of them were still finishing their race.
Henry ended his celebration alongside Sarah and Fiona who were hugging each other and they pulled Henry into the embrace as he approached laughing. “I did it,” he said, his breath quick but not laboured.
Fiona said, “Of course you did.” Sarah passed him an electrolyte drink and some energy bars and Xan walked over with a fresh shirt and socks.
Miles Padwick approached them still breathing heavily from the race. He had his arm outstretched for Henry. Henry shook it and Miles smiled and said with his upper class Eton and Oxford accent, “That was bloody outrageous.”
“I was wrong about you. I said your marathon win was impossible but you proved yourself here today. It was the most incredible performance I’ve ever seen.”
Henry just shrugged and grinned.
“You know I broke the previous world record myself just trying to catch you,” said Miles.
“It was a tough race. You’re all amazing competitors and it was an honour to run with you,” said Henry with a serious face.
Padwick stared at him with en equally serious face and broke into raucous laughter. “I almost believed you for a second, Baxter. But that part about it being a tough race is absolute rubbish. You looked like you were walking the bloody dog out there, and that frightens the hell out of me.”
Henry nodded and said; “Now I’ve got to do it all over again.”
“Call it off. You’ve already proven yourself in my eyes.”
“Can’t do that.”
“Then the best of British luck to you, and what do say to the two of us training together sometime in the future?”
Henry took his hand again and grinned. “It would be an honor and I mean that.”
Miles patted him on the shoulder as he walked away. Henry changed his shirt and socks, drank a couple of bottles of fluid, gobbled an energy bar, and took the track once more as the crowd heaped pure adoration upon him from above.
* * *
It was the twentieth lap of the second race and Henry was dangerously low on energy. After the first race ended he was more tired than he cared to admit, and because of that he’d decided to take an aggressive approach to the second race. His strategy of hanging back and watching was replaced by leading from the front. After calculating that it was better to lose by a hair than to trail the entire race unable to catch the pack, he’d spent all twenty laps as the pacemaker and was now beginning to think he’d made the wrong choice. The real possibility of complete humiliation was allowing doubt to seep into his limbs making them feel heavy and sluggish.
Henry had taken the lead very early and had hung on to it for ten laps, setting a blistering pace that shredded the field and kept him at the front. Now at lap twenty he was sharing second place running side by side with Calvin Oldmanroyd, the Welsh bomber, and former Olympic gold medalist at this distance. Calvin was in the twilight of his career with nothing to lose and everything to gain, and he’d set his cap at beating Henry in what could be his final race. In the lead was the Kenyan born, Ngobe, the fastest ten thousand meter man in the world.
Behind them was carnage. The other four runners were strewn back over a lap, unable to keep up with the crippling cadence set by Henry and then Ngobe. With five laps to go Henry was wondering how much he’d left in the tank. If Ngobe or Oldmanroyd decided to go for it at the end, as they surely would, he wondered if he could keep up, and that doubt was eating away at his morale and as his ability to race. Henry’s legs were shaking and cramping, the pain diminishing his last remaining reserve of energy. His breathing was too fast and ragged, the effort crushing his chest— his normal techniques were not working, his will dissolving, panic taking its place.
At four laps to go, Ngobe added pressure at the front and Oldmanroyd struggled to stay within reach. Henry was now three strides behind the next to last man and steadily losing ground. The front stretched out from the back, the pace at the front quickened and at the rear it slowed.
In the midst of all of this pain and panic a memory popped into Henry’s head. He was twelve and Titus had taken him to Athens, the quick way through the house. It was at the point when he was beginning to train seriously as an athlete and his uncle had wished to show him the ancient route from Marathon to Athens, the original twenty-six and one tenth of a mile race. Titus had Henry running the hills leading into Athens again and again, up and down, faster and faster until he was at the point of total exhaustion. It was in this exhausted state that his uncle had explained the three layers of energy and life force that was a hidden mystery of the ancient world. He explained that the first layer was the pool of energy used in isolation that provided energy derived from the chemistry of the human body with limits and barriers. The second layer was the one that only a few great athletes knew how to use, derived from the mind and was another interpretation of will. Mind over matter. The third layer was outside of normal human experience but through advanced techniques could provide limitless, concentrated energy.
Henry began to breathe deeply from his center focusing on the beating of his heart and the depth of his breath. Gradually the roar of the arena dissolved from his consciousness, and the pain in his legs and chest lessened then disappeared followed by any feelings of doubt, replaced by a surety of purpose and absolute control over the moment. He’d long depleted his normal energy and his second layer (his will) had become compromised amidst the layers of pain and exhaustion. But this third level, his divine well of energy, was now coursing through him like a powerful cocktail of stimulants fired into his veins.
He attacked. By the start of the next lap Henry was five strides ahead of Ngobe and accelerating to even faster speeds. He’d sprinted past everyone and by the time he crossed the line he was half a lap ahead of the second placed runner. It was another world record, a full fifteen seconds faster than the previous one. Henry raised his arms to the arena and they praised him like a god.