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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Dave Free on 24 January 2007 - 9:47am.

Wu Ying sat on her bed with her back to the brick wall. At times she would lean back and rest against the wall, but right now she was leaning forward staring intently at the screen of her laptop. She wore a loose t-shirt and shorts. Her feet were bare and her long black hair was pulled back in a pony tail tied with a black ribbon. Her legs were crossed making a platform for the computer to sit on. Every few minutes she would tap madly on the keys, her thin fingers a blur of motion. Then she would stop to study what she had typed. Satisfied, she would then start the process again.

A small, rotating fan whirred on her night stand. Every 12.5 seconds the fan rotated in her direction and blew the wisps of black hair that had escaped the ribbon. Wu Ying paid no attention to the fan nor the sound of rain outside her open window. She had spent nearly her entire nineteen years of life on the island of Singapore. Rain happened every day. Unlike many others, she found the hot, humid air comforting. When her father had installed "aircon" in the rest of the flat, Wu Ying pled with him to leave her bedroom alone. She did buy a fan--not for herself but for the handful of computers that shared her tiny living quarters.

Across from her, on the small desk where she had once done homework, two large monitors now battled for space. So far it was a draw--neither monitor was completely on the desk, both had just enough space to keep from crashing to the floor. One of the monitors now flashed and a sound clip from Star Wars began to play, "Luke I am your father..."

The sound caught Wu Ying right in the middle of one of her typing flurries. Desperate to complete her thought she attempted to ignore it as the noise grew in volume. "Luke I am your father!" The voice was now shouting.

"Quiet lah!" A voice from outside the window shouted.
Wu Ying gave up on her thought. She looked up at the monitor. The face of Startrek's Spock was staring back at her. She rolled her eyes, clicked a few keys on her laptop to turn down the volume and then clicked "accept" to see the incoming feed. The picture of Spock was instantly replaced with live video. The face of a Chinese man in his early twenties came into view.

"Ni hao!" The face said. Wu Ying couldn't help but smile back, but she was still frustrated.

"Shhh, lah! Do you know what time it is? You want to wake up the whole building?"

The face on the monitor didn't stop smiling and the voice didn't get quieter. "Wu Ying, did you get the parcel I sent?"

"Quiet!" The voice from outside the window shouted again. Wu Ying sighed. She clicked mute, set her laptop on the bed, and walked to the window. Her family's flat was on the sixth floor of Commonwealth 91. It was one of hundreds of "HDBs"--housing developments built by the Housing & Development Board. Commonwealth 92 was just fifteen feet away. As Wu Ying came to the window an old lady on the fifth floor of 92 yelled up at her.

"3:00 am lah. Go to sleep or I call the police!"

"Cannot lah!" Wu Ying retorted as she pulled her window shut. She reached down and grabbed the backpack that she had tossed under her desk earlier that day, then returned to her bed. The face on the monitor continued to talk but she could hear nothing. She looked up at the little camera mounted on the wall above the monitor and smiled at it. Then she pointed at her ears and shook her head back and forth. He frowned and quit talking.

Wu Ying settled on the bed again and pulled the backpack into her lap. She unzipped the front pouch and after a few seconds of fishing pulled out her iPod. She unplugged the ear buds, plugged one end into her laptop placed the others in her ears and then turned off the mute.

"Li Cheung!" she said like a tease, "I can hear you now!"

"The parcel Yingying! Do you have the parcel?" Wu Ying quickly turned down the volume.

"I hate it when you call me that." She replied. Not waiting for an answer she continued, "Yes, I picked up the parcel at the post today."

"Where is it?" Cheung Li demanded.

"I was short on cab fare so I gave it to the cab driver." Wu Ying replied. This time she had to pull the ear buds from her ears to protect them from the obscenities. Then she reached into the main section of the backpack and pulled out a white cardboard box. She held it up to make sure the camera could see it.

"Is this the parcel you were looking for?" She asked innocently as she put the ear buds back in. The obscenities stopped though the smile did not return.

"You don't like me calling you 'Yingying' and yet you do things to me like that?" He asked sullenly.

"Oh come on, Cheung Li. You know I would never give anything you sent me to a cab driver." She paused for a second and then added, "I'd be arrested for terrorism."

"Shhh! Don't say stuff like that!" Cheung Li responded quickly and forcefully. "You never know who is listening--especially in Singapore."

"Cheung Li you are my favorite little old lady." She replied with a laugh. "Always worrying about something. Now, do you want me to open this?"

"Yes, yes!" He said with exasperation. "Please open it."
She took a pencil from her backpack, stuck it in the joint on the front top corner of the box and used it tear the packing tape. The box was full of wadded up newspaper. Wu Ying took out a piece and slowly unfolded it.

"You sent me wadded up Asia Times?" She said accusingly.

"Ha, ha, very funny." He replied. "Would you please hurry."

"Ok, ok!" She scooped the rest of the paper out and then lifted three little packages wrapped in bubble wrap from the box. Each was about the size of a jewelry box.

"Oh Cheung Li," She gushed, "I always dreamed of this day, but I always thought you would be here in person--on your knees." She held the boxes to her chest and fluttered her eyes at the camera.

"What?" Cheung Li was exasperated. He stood up. His face disappeared from the monitor and all Wu Ying could see was a close up of his tshirt. She started laughing uncontrollably.

After a few moments, Cheung Li sat down again and shook his head. "You should never stay up this late Yingying." He said.

She quit laughing. "Yes, my parents say the same thing, but when I can't solve a problem, I can't sleep. So what have you sent me Cheung Li?" She now had the little black boxes unwrapped. They were identical. Each had a little circular lense on the top and a single black switch on the side. She turned them over and noticed they all had a piece of double-sided adhesive on the bottom.

"You'll see." Cheung Li responded. "I want you to draw the biggest imaginary circle you can on your ceiling."

"Now who is staying up too late?" Wu Ying asked.

"Just do it." Cheung Li replied.

"Do I draw it with a pencil?" Wu Ying asked.

"That will help."

"Ok." She took out her ear buds, found a pencil in the desk drawer and surveyed the ceiling. Standing on a chair in the middle of the room she was easily able to touch the ceiling and almost the two side walls at the same time. She held the pencil out at arm's length and began drawing as she slowing turned in a circle. She climbed down off the chair, pulled the earbud cord from the laptop and said,

"Ok, I've got a circle."

"Good." Cheung Li replied. "Now divide the line that makes the circle into thirds."

"How?" Wu Ying asked.

"I don't know. Just use your eyes. Make three marks on the line each of them the same distance from the other two."

"Does it have to be exact?"

"No, not perfect. Just estimate."

Wu Ying climbed back up on the chair and studied the circle. She made one mark then she dropped her arm to her side and looked at the circle again. "About there." She said to herself as she made the second mark and then third half-way between the other two.

"Ok, got it!" She called out as she stepped down.

"Great. On the bottom of each of the devices I sent you is some adhesive. Tear off the little paper protecting the adhesive and stick a single device on each of the three marks you made. Can you point your camera at the ceiling so I can see what you are doing? Your legs are nice, but this step is important."

Wu Ying blushed a little. She walked up to the camera, stuck her tongue out at it and then twisted it so that it pointed at the ceiling where her marks were.

"How's that?" She asked.

"Great! What are you waiting for? Get them up there!"

"Ya, ya." She replied as she stepped onto the chair with one of the little black boxes in her hand.

"Now make sure the switch is pointed to the outside of the circle." Li Cheung directed from his chair in Hong Kong. "And you can go ahead and turn the switches on." He added as an after thought.

"Now you tell me." Wu Ying bantered with him as she climbed back up on the chair to turn on the first box and then affix boxes two and three in place.

"Ok." She said. "All done."

"Great!" Cheung Li replied. "You've got a wireless connection there right?"

"Yes." Wu Ying answered as she pushed her chair back in place and climbed back on her bed. "What is supposed to happen?"

"Just wait, just wait! I'm going to need your password." Cheung Li said. Wu Ying could sense the excitement in his voice. She thought about teasing him with the password but had grown too curious to want to delay whatever he was doing. She gave him the code and he hunched over his keyboard clicking and typing intently.

"There you are!" He said to the computer. Then looked up at the camera. "Hey before I do this, you've got to re-adjust your camera so I can see your face."

"Cheung! It's nearly four in the morning. Why do you need to see my face?" She complained.

"I'm not going to do it, until I can see your face." He sat back and folded his arms.

"Ok, ok." She nearly tossed the laptop off her lap and got up to re-adjust the camera.

"How's that?" she asked as she climbed back on her bed.

"Beautiful." he said. "Here I come." He hit a key on his keyboard and the next instant he was sitting in Wu Ying's little bedroom. She stared in disbelief.

"Cheung Li is that you?" she pushed the laptop off her lap and cautiously moved off the bed toward him.

"Isn't it great?" Cheung Li's mouth moved, but the sound still came out of Wu Ying's speakers.

Wu Ying looked back at the monitor. Cheung Li was still sitting in Hong Kong smiling at her but he was also sitting in her bedroom smiling at her.

"Raise your hand." She said. The apparition in her bedroom raised it's hand. She walked over and tried to touch it. Nothing but light shone on her hand.

"It looks so real." She said in awe. "You really did it! Just like you said you would."

"It's not exactly cutting edge." Cheung Li said modestly. "Others are doing it. I've just improved on it and made it very easy to implement. I've still got some work to do on the infrared sensors and of course I still need your code to make it perfect."

The glow on Wu Ying's face dimmed. "I thought I'd have it by now." She slumped back on her bed. "What you've done is so cool Cheung Li. Maybe you should get somebody else to do the code."

"What?" The figure in Wu Ying's bedroom stood up and began walking around within the circle, reaching with its arms like it was trying to grasp some one. "Where are you?" Cheung Li's voice was saying, "I'm going to ring your little Chinese neck."

Wu Ying laughed. Cheung Li sat back in his chair. "Wu Ying, you are the best. Nobody else even comes close. You are the only one that can do this."

Wu Ying grimaced. She wasn't a proud person, but in her heart she knew he was probably right. She hadn't asked for it, but she had a gift and she knew how to use it. This time though--she had never been stumped like this. Never had she worked so hard at something and still felt so uncertain of the solution. She looked back at the camera.

"I'm not sure if I can do it Chueng Li." She said quietly.

"Oh, you can do it. I have no doubt about that. You have to do it. No one else can!"

She sighed and shook her head. "I don't know. I just don't know." She looked up at the monitor and could see the concern in Cheung Li's face. She quickly added, "but I'll keep trying."

"Trying?" Cheung Li said in disbelief. "Don't you remember what Master Yoda said?"

"No, but I am sure you are about to tell me." Wu Ying said with a wry smile.

"Actually, I'm going to let Yoda tell you himself."

She heard the clicking of his keyboard and the next moment Yoda was standing next to her bed staring intently at her.

"Do or do not do." he said in his squeaky little voice. "There is no try."

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So far this is great. I'm

So far this is great. I'm liking the story. I don't see the connection between chapters yet...I guess that's to the future.
Gaynell
~Writing is Life~

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