Scorpio flipped his hammer straight into the air as he jogged toward the Church. The hammer spun end over end, arcing before him while he attempted to keep a slow but steady pace. There was a sharp satisfying slap as the handle met his meaty palm, where he promptly flipped the hammer through the air again.
He huffed and puffed his way through the jog, sucking in the frigid early morning air, burning his lungs. His ample belly, a product of the long winter and his penchant for indulging during the holidays, lead the way as he pattered Perdido Street.
The entire Church had begun the Fast of the Squared Week, an annual cleansing of the body and mind. The clergymen and women were forbidden from imbibing any chemicals that had a direct affect on brain function. This naturally, and unfortunately, meant no coffee, among other things. And it was certainly being felt around the Church grounds at this point.
He’d braced himself as best he could, reducing the amount of coffee he drank and decreasing the portions he ate before the Fast began. Still, his mind didn’t feel quite as sharp as it should and his body ached. Sleep had been tough to come by and when he tried to read through the endless night, he wasn’t able to absorb the material. Forty-nine days. Seven days squared. The Fast of the Squared Week. It was truly torture.
As he jogged he muttered through some simple multiplications tables getting stuck on the late triple digits. He tried rattling off complex mathematical formulae but they slipped his grasp. Finally settled on reciting his favorite book, one he had read again before the fasting had begun: How Socioeconomic Factors Pertain to the Political Process in the Modern Industrial Age.
He passed bar and had reached the second chapter where this particular author had been lamenting the middle class’ gain in political power when he felt the sharp pain in his side that typically accompanied a long run. The hammer he had taken to flipping into the air missed his palm as one hand clutched at his side and the other braced himself on the brick wall of the tavern. The hammer bounced wildly and came to a rest a few feet in front of him.
He panted heavily, praising the Builder for his good fortune when a cold morning breeze brought a particularly potent mixture of… well, he wasn’t sure. But it came from the nearest manhole cover, inducing a wave of nausea. His stomach flipped and he lost a bit of toast he’d had this morning.
Afterward he sagged against the wall, his eyes closed and his breaths coming hard. While he tried to regain control of his body once again, he wondered how far he’d jogged. Two miles? Three? His fuzzy mind seemed to believe he had been at this for hours, and his body was certainly screaming its agreement. If he kept up this pace, it would kill him.
A shout came from behind him and he turned, “Breakfast! Now!” Lox stood beside the door to the Institute, a few hundred feet behind him. He pulled out his stopwatch. He’d been at it for about 15 minutes. He lifted a heavy arm and waved back to the Sister, unwilling to attempt a yell with what little breath he had.
He stooped to pick up the hammer and sighed as he surveyed the distance he had to cover to get back to breakfast, but his mood lightened a little. Caledonian eggs, Steelhead bacon, toast.. skip the toast. Perhaps a muffin instead. With a bit of cinderberry jam.
“Yes,” he said to no one in particular, “this is going to kill me.” and trotted off toward the Institute.