XXIV Olympic Winter Games, Beijing: The Sun Always Shines On TV (Part II)

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Snowflake

Oh but he looks so magnificent on the snow!

No person could possibly see him as anything but the champion he is! The stance! The coiled strength! The confidence! The FIRE of my Brian evident now for ALL to see!

The Russian fool that tripped me? He could never distract me from my god of a lover! He is so much more godlike in his inattention to his own godliness! He is so focused on the upcoming heat that he does not even notice that all the other men in this line of failures KNOW that he is the winner already. They compete for honor’s sake, but none expect to win. None . . . but the idiot flat-faced Russian son of a bitch that dared to trip me. I could see Brian’s blue eyes train on the fucked-up mentally deficient Slav. I could see Brian’s fingers run and twitch over the stock of his rifle. He would have dearly loved to have put a bullet in the man and I would not have blamed him. But, Brian is good. He does not murder. Not even when it is most richly deserved!

I cannot say that I would do the same if our stations were reversed. I swear that if that meat-headed Russian had come anywhere near my Brian that he would be eating his own scrotum at this very moment! I HATE THE RUSSIANS! They have earned it! They have more than earned it with their aggression and chauvinism! Why must they forever be this foolish? Why must they forever challenge other peoples for dominance when none is needed? Such BACKWARD thinking! I shall never understand and I shall never want to understand.

They murdered my Papa and I will see some dead one day if EVER they push themselves into the Finn’s Land ever again! I will fight with my countrymen just as my father did! I will KILL the Hun invaders before they have any chance to set foot on the ancestral lands of my kindred! All of my vast ski skills will finally have a true purpose! I will mount my ancestral skis and I will take up the Uzi and I will SHOWER the invaders with lead and blood! How I HATE them!

“Mr. Snowflake?” I hear somebody and I whirl around on them! The look I must give him must startle him. A pity as I have no argument with Xian. He has been nothing less than exemplary with Brian and I!

“I beg of you your pardon, Mr. Snowflake, but the technician you requested has been approved and he is, right now, setting up your personal drone so that you may follow Brian at your discretion.  The other drones in the air will avoid yours.  It is a high honour the Party bestows upon you allowing this. They do not grant this sort of privilege often.”  Xian says with a bow.

“My thanks to you and the Chinese Government. As agreed, Brian and I will stay an extra week for photo ops and interviews.” I confirm my prearrangement with Xian. I had wanted a drone of my own to keep watch on Brian and record his progress for later review. Other coaches requested similar things but were not allowed.  I have a feeling the Chinese Government will also be watching through my drone as they go through all cameras arrayed here at the Olympics. Nothing will go unnoticed. I believe that the footage I take of Brian will be used to adapt the Chinese training programme for the next Winter Olympics.

“That is quite acceptable Mr. Snowflake. You do our nation a great service in allowing us to analyse your skill sets in skiing. We may have other uses for these skills over and above sport, particularly with biathlon. Our northern ranges are very icy and if the NUSSR seeks to resume it’s hostilities with China in the future . . . we need to have a defense.  I say this as a friend: be wary of the Russians during this Olympics. I fear they will attempt to make a statement of some kind.” Xian says this mysteriously and with a look of stoic worry upon his beautiful face.

“Yes. But of course. Whatever service Brian and I can render against Russian aggression anywhere we both agree to.” I say to Xian distractedly as I watch Brian exit the starting gate and go on his way with his lustrously solid and strongly confident skiing gait.  Already each powerful push of his muscular legs gives him that much more of an advantage over every other skier I’ve seen already ‘launch’ out of the starting gate.  I turn and make way for the exit so that I can begin work with the technician in working the drone to continue my watch on Brian as he takes the track.  I shoulder-check the Russian who seeks again to obstruct my way ‘unintentionally’. I bear no apology and give none. I merely say to him in Russian: “прочь с дороги!” This basically means ‘get out of the way!’ Hehehe!

I enter into the observation room where the press, coaches, and officials gather to watch the race. A cute little Chinese technician rapidly comes up to me looking excited and pleased with himself. I steady him with a hand on his shoulder as his infectious grin captures my attention.

“I am Jun La, Mr. Snowflake! Xian Sir asked that I make ready a drone for your use! It is ready for your use!” Jun La tells me excitedly in ‘Survival English’ style that is rather adorable, really. He must enjoy his work to want to show it off so much.

“Xiè xiè.” I say with a nod to which Jun La blurts something in rapid-fire Mandarin. I cannot understand of course, but I’m suspecting he means ‘It was a pleasure’ or ‘no trouble’, etc. by the grinningly pleased expression on his chipmunk-like face.

He scurries forth before my long strides to the place where he has the drone. It is set on a small table in front of one of the banks of observation windows overlooking the ski range.  The stark contrast between the bright and glittering display of fresh snow outside and the relative lounge-like darkness of the inside cause my sensitive eyes to blink with bedazzlement.

The drone itself is a literal reflection of this ‘yin and yang’ of the room. It is unusual as it is made of chrome and it is not your typical four-propeller insect looking thing. It looks like three-quarters of a sphere making of it a rounded dome-like object.  I see little black thises-and-thats around the top of the dome which must be the cameras. They are put in a ring around the top of the device which begs me to wonder how it will show things beneath it as is the drone’s primary concern.

“What do you think of the ‘Pachinko Ball’ Mr. Snowflake? It is a Japanese design for a new generation of drones built to look like their surroundings!  They should be nearly invisible in certain cases with the fact that they reflect all the environment around them and so look like they fit right in!” Jun La tells me with excitement.  I am fascinated and I walk up to look at all the drone’s angles seeing that each angle shows a distorted view of me in it’s mirrored surface.

“I imagine these are cameras up here?  How does it take pictures beneath it?”  I don’t want to touch the thing for fear that I might break it. Jun La, however, has no such fears. He seems to be confident in the device’s ruggedness so he quickly, and somewhat roughly, turns it over.

“The most powerful camera is folded underneath and can extend from the bottom. It can be positioned on its arm at almost any angle!” Jun shows me the undercarriage of the drone and all I see is a baffling array of chromed arms and things that must be part of its propeller system and possibly for this supposed super-camera.  I must trust in Jun La’s technical expertise that he is correct in what he is telling me. In all fairness, my only concern is not how it works but IF it works and if it works WHEN can we get going with it.

“The race is underway, when can we launch?” Direct as ever, my question is met not with irritation by Jun La, but a bow of thanks that I think that highly of his handiwork. I find the Chinese drive to produce and perfect fairly refreshing here at this Olympiad.

“We are ready upon your say-so, Mr. Snowflake! We can launch now!” Jun La says to me with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy going to recess. I nod at him and he takes up the silver drone and heads outside.

“It will downlink to an IPad monitor next to your viewing station, Mr. Snowflake. You will be able to have a personal view of Mr. Razor through all of the race!” Jun La tells me as his nose and cheeks turn a bit rosy from the nip in the air. It is bright today, but very cold. I feel a below 0 Celsius ‘crunch’ in the air. One that threatens to freeze the moisture in my nostrils save for the sun’s light that is preventing such things. It makes me wonder why they may be running this race now rather than waiting for a warmer part of the day.  It does not concern me in any case. Brian has trained in far harsher conditions than these.  He even braved a blizzard at Passo Lavazé to get back to the lodge. I chided him for that.  I never mess with blizzard conditions!

Jun La interrupts my musings upon the blizzards as he activates the state-of-the-art drone.  It does not buzz like others of its kind.  It is eerily silent, actually.  This intrigues me:

“Why does the thing not make a lot of noise, jö?”

“Mufflers in the propeller chamber absorb noise like a car’s mufflers.  A smaller engine means that these drones can be virtually silent in the air.  Such tech has been around for a while, but people do not want to pay the extra cost to have silencers put on their drones.  If I were to think so, I would think that people like the buzzing noise! I know I do!” Jun La giggles infectiously at this. I imagine such a noisemaker should be quite a ‘disturbance’ for his neighbors and hence a great deal of ‘rebellious’ fun for Jun La. I have been noticing this ‘rebellious’ streak in many young Chinese here on this visit.

“Quiet is good. I like quiet things.  Let us see it work.”  I direct.

Jun La operates a very sleek looking remote that seems to have touch surfaces rather than the typical ‘joystick’ things one sees with most drones.  He taps a few glowing indicators and the silver drone basically disappears into the sky!

 

“Uh, where did it go?  Has it crashed already?” I asked Jun La with concern.

He turns a knob and I suddenly see a brilliant red light start to blink on and off right over my head! It had been RIGHT THERE over my head yet it was so quiet I thought it was gone!

“Uskomaton!” I exclaim and Jun La tries to suppress a giggle behind his hand.

“Oh, my, Mr. Snowflake! Your eyes are so very big right now!” He titters a bit. I am thinking Jun La may have been assigned to me for reasons other than just being a good technician.  I think his tittering is starting to remind me of, well, . . . me! It sounds extremely gay!

“Indeed, it is unbelievable, this thing! You say I can view what its camera captures on the iPad there?” I walk over to where Jun La has situated the iPad.  I see a brilliant HD display of myself looking at the IPad from the drone’s vantage point.  I slide my finger over a control or two and notice that the image changes direction while hearing a slight zinging whir above me.  I look up to see that the drone’s undercarriage has extended the camera housing and has positioned it to a view forward of the unit.  A ‘twist’ of the ringlike graphic on the IPad screen with my fingers and I see the camera rotate as I twist.

“It has a full 360-degree horizontal viewing range and a 90-degree vertical viewing arc. It can pick up virtually every direction with its HD4K camera except it cannot see above itself.  It will, of course, record everything it ‘sees’ within its memory cache.  You can then download it to your computer at home or upload it to YouTube instantly! With the Olympic Service, I believe we can even televise some of your content live if they want to see your footage!” Jun La explains giddily.

Jun La touches a camera icon on the IPad and I am treated to a view of the sky above and then the top of the drone’s dome and the field of vision all around the device in a panoramic view.

“On the top of the drone is a linked panoramic camera array that gives a top view in a global 360-degree panoramic viewing dome all around and above the unit.  You can capture some beautiful panoramic stills with this camera set!” Jun La says as he leans into the IPad’s screen with wonder.

“Wow! I cannot wait to try this! I should do so soon too as Brian has already launched out the gate for the first revolution of the race!” I look away toward the groomed track to see the skiers move off down a narrowed canyon-like portion of the course. It is basically a great tube of snow-covered banks topped with trees. I see other drones follow the skiers along the course. None are as sophisticated as Jun La’s magical wonder.

“As of now we are already ‘launched’ Mr. Snowflake. Xian has said we must stay on the periphery of the course, but the unit’s cameras are powerful enough to where they will possibly get better shots of Brian than the official drones. I can operate the drone from inside the observation area if you want to get in from the cold. Would this be a-ok?” Jun La asks with the charming ‘a-ok’ which is a term I’d never heard before in English.

“Yes. It is Ehokay!” I return his thumbs up signal as I go back to the media observation room once more.

Now that I am not so focused on Jun La and his new toy, I am more able to enjoy how opulent the room is inside. It is as fancy as a casino with a textured carpet designed with the Olympic hoops and Dragon and Phoenix logo for this Olympiad. The colours are all brilliant shades of red, gold, green, and blue. A coffee bar is set up toward the back of the room and, forward, a bank of raised chairs line the observation windows that I had not noticed before. These give added comfort to enjoy the impressive view of everything along the trail.  Media and other important visitors occupy the forward most center of the crescent shaped bank of windows.

Xian greets me and guides me toward two chairs a distance away from this ‘Media Area’ which teem with broadcasters and technicians setting up monitors and adjusting controls for their own camera hookups and drones.  Fortunately for our purposes, the media types are too involved in capturing the action of the race than to pull me aside for any pre-race interviews.

As soon as we are situated, I open my iPad and quickly pick up Brian with his distinctive ski suit and begin tracking his progress. On the screen, I tap the ‘record’ red square. The drone, having keyed in on it’s selected target, does a flawless job of keeping Brian in full view as he moves.

I make note of his long skate strides and know that he is setting himself in a sustained ‘jog’ minimizing pole driving to conserve energy and to save his arms for shooting later. This keeps his time good and on target. I had started my stopwatch on my electronic watch the second he launched from the starting gate. With the app installed on the watch I was able to set time markers to see if he stays on target. At present he meets each marker as practiced. He does not exceed and he does not drop below the targets since we both set them precisely so that he could beat the time of the best racer we had intelligence on. If he exceeds the markers his energy will lag later in the race and throw off his aim. Our game is to be ‘dead-eye perfect’ with the target shooting. Rare is it for a biathlete to ski a fast race and then have perfect target shooting. Brian and I want to make history here: the first American to conduct a perfect biathlon with all targets down and in record time for the race. This is a tall order, but one Brian and I have hopefully worked out scientifically. Baring incredible dark horses (other than Brian) or some other misfortune, I believe Brian can pull this off.

However, despite our well-made calculations, Brian does manage to exceed one of his markers as he passes some other skiers.  His rhythm is sound, however, and not hurried so I figure that the track is helping his speed at his normal pace.  I add +2 to my race-time markers to compensate for the faster snow.  I must sigh because Xian asks after my feelings.  I assure him that my feelings are all happy ones.  They are happy because, just for a moment, I can take a break from my coach’s duties and just take in the splendor that is Brian and his perfect ski technique. I feel a swell of pride and of pure love come into my chest and I cannot help but admire my Brian all over again!  He is so very good at this!  I think back again on the awkward Brian I met at the Autumn Ski Club and how overconfident I thought Brian was. Little did I know that his was not over-confidence. This was true confidence.  He believed in himself even as he learned that he had more to learn.

How I love Brian Chesney!  I would do anything for him. Literally . . . anything!

He speeds through the first narrow corridor and out onto the first of two firing ranges.  This will be the one near the starting line. This will be the ‘easiest’ of the target shoots because exhaustion will not have set in quite yet. Later, after a second and third revolution around the course, the target shooting will become much harder.  This will determine the true winners of the contest.  Those with enough Sisu will be the only ones to make their targets and their race times to win. It is a very challenging sport. Perhaps one of the most challenging in the whole Winter Olympics.

Brian sets up, digging his skis in just as I recommended so that he can launch off early. This shoot has to be the reclining shoot so he has to get down on his belly and fire. It makes the shooting easier but the true challenge comes in if you can launch off quickly after downing your targets.

This stems directly from old Finn Militia tactics from our wars with the Russian filth.  We would fight them by blindsiding them with a snipe from the trees or behind a snowbank. Once they caught on to where the gun had fired the sniper would have to be gone in a flash or the Russians would throw all they had into killing him.  So, snipe-and-ski done quickly and accurately was imperative to make the tactic work and to save Finnish fighters so they could continue to fight their enemy by slow, withering, freezing attrition.  The Finns got so good at this kind of snow combat that many Finn warriors would be hired by foreign agencies to teach the techniques.  The Americans got the best training in this, but only after the Chinese had used it against them in the Korean War.  My father said that many unscrupulous Finnish fighters turned mercenary and would train virtually anyone. That, though, would be anyone except the Russians.  Any Finn that would sell that technique to the Russians is a traitor and deserving of death!

In any case, this old bit of wisdom from my father who taught me the shoot-and-ski tactic, to dig yourself a ‘launching platform’, I passed to Brian who mastered it within ten minutes! Apparently, his own ‘Pop’ had taught him something similar in hunting to brace his foot to counteract a high-powered rifle’s recoil.

We really are a match made by the Norns!

So, but of course, Brian shoots flawlessly and is up and out of there in seconds faster than all the others. A perfect targeting and a perfect launch back into the race! I hear the various media announcers proclaim this in various languages, some complimentary and some not as much.  I have a feeling that the ‘not as much’ contingent is getting a lot of oil supplies from the ‘Motherland’, etc. ‘Never upset the milk cow as she is giving milk’ per my grandmother.  I do not know why, but I feel that ‘getting milk’ from Russia is more akin to giving a hand-job to a bull. Being that this would be a very dangerous proposition with a dubious product for one’s efforts.

Brian, having completed his first targeting, ski-sprints apace to return to his previous competition crushing rhythm.  Now he enters a particularly deep narrowing of the track.  The track shrinks in width to about enough to handle three men abreast.  The banks of the cut-through are quite high and treelined which is unusual for a cross-country ski Olympic race.  This does not allow fans to line this portion of the course and so it isolates it to all but the media using their drones.  I believe it is by virtue of this technology that this part of the course could be added safely.  The drones will monitor this course and transmit back all video from the area thus allowing the broadcast to capture this part of the course and to assure the Olympic referees that all is proceeding per regulations.

Brian enters and Jun La follows but keeps our ‘errant’ stealth-drone on the sides near the trees.  I see, through our drone’s panoramic lenses, two other drones following Brian as he moves with a deceptively leisured pace.  In actuality, I notice his movements are all but leisured and I notice his rate of speed has increased which would be unusual for this part of the race. I hope he is not getting overconfident and has started to push himself beyond the measured thresholds we agree to when we simulated this race just yesterday.

Just out of curiosity, I have Xian bring us in front of an ‘official’ view of the race. This is the view being recorded and televised for the public by the main drone.  I see them track Brian as he winds his way to the next shooting range. The view then cuts to another racer hot on Brian’s trail who is Italian.  The Italian is so good I have to wonder if Il Maestro from Passo Lavazè had a hand in teaching him some things.  I manage to peel myself away from the sexy and shapely Italian skier and focus my attention back on Brian.

I see a ‘holding view’ steadily set on Brian by his assigned ‘official’ Olympic drone.  The Olympic media technicians set these on specific racers who are of particular interest.  This way they can just snap back to him if something interesting happens that can be broadcasted.  I follow along as well.

Then . . . something happens.

I look over quickly to the ‘official’ feed and it seems to be back on Brian, but he seems to be in a different part of the course than where I had been watching him from before. I count it to, perhaps, a different camera angle from a different video feed, but, in reality, the trees are all out of place and the snow banks on the sides of the trail are lower than they should be!

The seconds it takes me to glance from the official monitor to my personal feed are all I need to know something is very wrong.  The official view of Brian is NOT Brian and the real Brian is looking up toward another drone that is following him that does not seem to be broadcasting to any of our screens.

I switch to my drone’s panoramic camera and see something that just steals the breath from my lungs!  I see the glint off of the barrel of a rifle aimed RIGHT at Brian! Oh, my dear God. Please NO!

Xian looks at me and what must be the panic on my face and asks what is wrong, but there is no time to explain! I MUST get to Brian somehow and as quickly as possible!  I run out the door pushing people out of my way!  There is only ONE way to get to Brian fast and I hope that I do not get there too late, though I know that such a hope is entirely irrational!

In the nearby biathlon starting hut, I snap my feet into some clip on skies, grab poles, sling a targeting rifle over my shoulder, and move out faster than I’ve EVER skied before!  Officials try to block me as I am not ‘cleared’ but they are made to jump aside as I push past them.  I shout out behind me: “Get security! Brian Chesney is under attack! GO!”  I hear only stunned silence behind me, so I figure my statement is going largely unheeded! This freezes into me the fact that I am Brian’s only hope! Whoever is doing this has gotten control of the camera drones, has impersonated Brian, and is managing to shoot a false narrative of this race while they take down the star American contestant!  Such a thing should be unthinkable!  Who would dare do this sort of thing at an Olympic contest and how could they get around all the tight security the Chinese have put up for the event?  Due to their boldness, political power, and equipment I can only guess that it would be . . . the Russians!  They have been aching to make an example of Brian and me since the beginning, but I would never have thought that they would actually stoop to this depth just to prove their homophobic point.

Racers in front of me are stunned to find themselves suddenly behind me as I unintentionally show them the power of the greatest cross-country racer to ever live!  Driven, as I am, by the terror of possibly losing the one I love most in this world and by the absolute hateful anger I have for those attacking him, there can be no stopping me!  Fortunately for the racers, they do not try to check my progress by blocking me.  They must sense there is something afoot because they actually slow and make way for me.  My white ski suit and distinctive pattern tell them who I am and that I am not there to defeat them as racers but for my own dire reasons.  I hear a buzzing above me and know it must be another drone now trying to capture my sudden bursting into the biathlon race for these unknown reasons.  They will learn the reason soon enough!

I hear the crack of a rifle ahead of me and know, to my horror, what that must mean!  Rather than lose myself into a mindless blind panic, I double-down and push myself impossibly harder in through the narrowed track.  I hear another crack and the fear and adrenalin push me into a numb space that is so cold it feels like a blizzard has just erupted inside of my chest!  But the numbness drives the aches from my overtaxed body to push harder!

I round the bend in the narrow track just as I watch Brian go down at a third crack.  In icy horror, I watch as he falls and like some kind of nightmare the distance between Brian and me seems to lengthen impossibly. My legs feel like they are pushing through glue, but I do not stop! I surge ahead just as I see a figure in black slide down the bank of the narrow track, rifle in hand to approach Brian, possibly to check his handiwork or get him off the track before anyone else sees what has been done.  The man looks very professional in his movements so I am suspecting he is militarily trained.  My ice cold mind pushes away the emotions of what I have just witnessed to make the correct calculations to make a killing shot before this trained operative can turn and shoot me as well.

On my skis, just as my uncle had taught me in the Lapland when hunting reindeer, I steady the shot as I am moving.  I drop my poles, unsling my weapon, and then balance it upon my crooked left arm in front of me.  I crouch and move on momentum.  Just as the target raises his rifle apparently to finish Brian off, I focus through the sight, find the middle of the target’s back . . . and fire!

The target jerks once as the small targeting bullet splits his spine and he collapses in a heap next to my beloved’s . . . body!  Brian’s body which has become so very still.

“NO! No-o, Brian! No-oo . . .”  The necessary freeze on my heart cracks as it breaks.  I feel hot tears in my eyes and a feeling like something inside is choking me while at the same time tearing out my guts.  Somehow I unclip myself from my skis and run to Brian’s side expecting the very worst.

I reach for his neck first not even checking where he’s been wounded. I feel a pulse and a strong one.  Being face first I turn his head out of the snow so he does not freeze his face.  I assess him and then see the leaking hole in his thigh.  The bastard just shot to maim him, but still looked prepared to kill Brian if necessary. This assures me that I did the right thing in killing the craven attacker. I check behind me to be sure he is not moving just in case, but the assassin is either dead or comatose. Either suits me.  He is definitely Russian by his features.

 

Brian groans as he rouses from his unconsciousness and I tear the leather strap off of his dropped gun and use it to quickly make a tight tourniquet above the wound.  I figure the bullet must have missed his femoral artery because the bleeding, though bad, is not gushing.  Fortunately, the bullet did not exit to cause a secondary wound.

“AAAARRRG!”  My heart squeezes as I hear Brian’s agonized scream as I must do this for him.  A sob wracks out of him as the pain continues.  I must get him to Medical right away or he will go into shock and then hypothermia out in this cold!

I wonder if help will come, but I notice no drones follow me so I can only figure the chase drone put on me as I bolted out here had also been compromised in some way.  I have to worry that another shooter might be loose. I know already that Brian’s imposter is somewhere nearby, but will he dare trace himself back to me after not getting a report from his compatriot that the real Brian has been neutralized?

“Dio mio! What has happened?”  I turn to see the Italian that had been behind Brian by some distance come up to us clearly in shock at what he is seeing?

“That is Signore Chesney, sì?” He comes to his knee right next to us completely forgetting his competition in the race.

“Yes. He is badly injured and has been shot. I need to get him to the Infirmary as soon as absolutely possible!” I say detaching Brian’s skis which causes my love to hiss in extra pain. I wonder if this fall with his skis also injured his ankles. Oh, I could shoot the REST of the Russian Contingent for this outrage!

“Madre Di Dio!” The Italian says and crosses himself charmingly.  He then proceeds to assist me in gathering Brian up.

“Non preoccuparti. We shall get him to help quickly together, yes? Come! I will take his arms and you his legs to be careful of his wound.  Try to keep his leg up so the sangue go back to his heart and away from the hurt.” The Italian seems to know a great deal about this sort of thing and so I allow him to assist and counsel me.

With him snowshoeing on his skis and my walking in just shoes it makes going difficult to get back to my own skis to put them on. I realise it had been a mistake to take them off thinking I could get to Brian faster this way.  I do get back to my skies and have the Italian put Brian on my back as I move to ski back toward the ski pavilion. He follows me to be sure we are safe and that I do not drop Brian, which I do not do and could NEVER do!  His sweating, groaning, breathing weight on my back is a sweet feeling to me because it says to me that he is still alive.

Other skiers stop in their tracks as they catch up to us as we are doubling back.  The Italian tries to explain things to them, but I only have enough strength to ski Brian to safety and not have to answer any unwarranted questions.  Such questions are for later when we are all safe . . . or as safe as we can be with the Russians now boldly stepping up their aggression even at the Olympics!

Upon my back, Brian moans so pitifully.  I can imagine the pain is such that he is only barely conscious!  Upon seeing us and the situation, the fans cease their noise and the whole area becomes eerily quiet.  Eyes from the sidelines watch in horror as they see Brian hoisted upon my back as I ski him into the pavilion.  I hear a murmur in the audience that turns into chatter.  I chance a look up to see what they are on about only to find them pointing at the screen above.  I look at one of the screens and see the Brian Chesney imposter looking like he is rounding the bend from the narrows to ascend to the next shooting range.  The news that he has ‘been had’ seems not to have reached the Russian scum yet.  I cannot fathom what they were hoping to achieve by this!  It was insane to think that they could pull off something like this for whatever purpose they had for doing it.

A skier in distinctive red and yellow colors comes up to us. These would be the colors of attending medics. He is American, oddly enough.  I was expecting a Chinese attendant.  It turns out this Mitchel is an American Naval Corpsman on duty with the American Contingent who was employed to monitor the game. Despite myself, I marvel at his bright hazel eyes and his profound sadness at seeing what he is seeing. He helps me put Brian gently onto the ground.

“What in God’s name… .?” Mitchel asks more in way of a declaration than shock.  He immediately crouches to inspect the wound.  He tests the tourniquet which wins Mitchel a pained groan from Brian who, unconsciously, tries to pull away from the offender’s apparent torture.  I fear Brian is completely out of it and has lost some sense of where he is and what is going on!

Mitchel caresses Brian’s knee soothingly and says: “Dontcha worry, Mr. Chesney.  The pain’s going away just as soon as I can get some pain meds into you.  You’ve been shot, Mr. Chesney. Can you understand what I’m saying?”  Mitchel asks very slowly, clearly, and loudly.

“Mrrrrmmm. . . telll mmmeee somethin’ I don’t fffuckin’ know alread…~sigh~” Mitchel injects a portable injector into Brian’s arm and the drug works nearly instantly.  With a sigh of contented relief, the grimace on Brian’s face turns to one of morphine-induced euphoria.  His eyes open on me and he smiles a silly smile.

“God . . . you’re gorgeous!” Then he falls away into a morphine sleep.

I touch his face and feel another tear slide down my cheek.  What have I done bringing him to this?  What terrible irony to have Brian come all this way in triumph only to fall to senseless violence and treachery!  As the adrenaline pulls out of me, I feel my own aches and pains brought on by the strain of my efforts.  The Italian helps me to my feet as I find that my exhausted body cannot lift itself with its characteristic ease.

As a snowmobile comes in with a stretcher on its trailer,  Mitchel works to isolate Brian’s wounded leg with wraps and braces while not disturbing my tourniquet job.  I suppose he feels it is a good enough job to keep Brian from losing blood while they get him to the infirmary.

With the assistance of the snowmobile driver, Mitchel gets Brian on the stretcher and strapped in.  Before evacuating him Mitchel turns to me and tells me: “He’ll be ok now, Mr. Halla.  He’s in good hands now.  Brian should thank his stars for you, though. Without you . . . well . . . I don’t know what might have happened.”  Mitchel nods at me and then is on his way riding with Brian in the back of the mobile.

A sob comes up from me as the true horror of what I have just witnessed and what I have just done come to me in full.

Jun La and Xian come running out to me with looks of astonishment and horror.  They must have been witness to all of this.  As I look around I see others likewise horrified as they look to Brian but mostly to me.  They must have seen what I did. I had no time to think about it. I could only react, but now that I think upon it I know that there will be dire repercussions for this.  I do not know what forms they will take, but the Russians will not take this failure lying down.  I must be prepared for anything!

Shortly,  four men come for me from the pavilion.  Two are obviously Chinese Olympic Police, one other seems to be some American in a tailored overcoat and the other is capped in fur and wears a fur coat.  I think he may be Russian but then I see he wears the blue and white of my country on a lapel pin.  He must be a Finnish representative.

“If you would please, Mr. Halla. You will need to come with us.  We have questions, of course, but we also need to get you to safety.  We have apprehended the five other conspirators who seem to have orchestrated this plot against you and Mr. Chesney, but there may be others.”  The lead Chinese officer says.  I consent with a nod and am led back to the pavilion.

I stop short though, which causes the other officer to attempt to reach for me when the Finn steps up and stares down the Chinese officer who relents as we all halt.  “(You are troubled, Snowflake? You worry after The Razor. Do not worry. My personnel have fenced him with a guard. The Russian scum who did this will get no nearer to him than they will to you.  In my estimation you have done good.  These Chinese have their formalities. The American is here to be sure that Mr. Chesney’s interests are handled. But, you Great One, are with us.  We will get to the bottom of this and call the Ruskaya to task for this latest outrage. I am Micha Sommardahl, Director of the Joint Finn/American Olympic Contingent.  We will sort this out and get everyone out of here and to safety very soon.)”

Impossibly, Micha is taller than I am at an impressive height of nearly 6’8″!  He is broad and perhaps once as fair as I am, but age has given him a reddish coloring on his face and his hair is white with age rather than with fairness.  He looks to be in his late 50s or early 60s, but the steel blue of his eyes is bright and is completely reassuring to me. He looks on me as my father once did, stern but with care.

I am led away back to my stateroom where Micha and the American come to sit with me.  The Chinese guards leave only to be replaced by some dour-looking Chinese in dark suits and long black overcoats. They look ‘official’ if that is even a description one can use.

As the officials file into the stateroom, Micha rises and stands next to me in a protective way rather like my personal guardian angel and I suppose he does it to keep these men on point and to not take liberties.  There are four of these men each one looking typically inscrutable as the Chinese have a knack for doing.  Micha glares them down like a husky guarding his master.

The American, who seems to have more tact in these matters, rises to offer a hand to the seeming lead official.  They shake hands briefly.

“I am Mr. McShane here to represent Brian Chesney in this affair as well as Mr. Halla here. Are you the State representatives we were told to expect?”  Now, at least, I know the name of the American.  I hope he is trustworthy as he seems to have taken the lead in speaking with these ‘State Representatives’.

“I am Agent Xong Lu Lee of the Ministry of State Security. Accompanying me is Agent Yang Xu of Public Security Ministry.  We are here to assist in settling this sudden unpleasantness.  During the proceedings, I must ask Mr. Halla to remain confined to his stateroom until this matter is settled.” Xong Lu Lee stands straight and unaffected by my towering ‘bodyguard’ and directs his comments directly to Mr. McShane.  The two gentlemen behind the two agents seem younger and well built. I am supposing they are ‘muscle’ if there is any further ‘sudden unpleasantness’.  The Chinese have a way with understatement unparalleled anywhere else.

“We concur on his staying put for the moment, Agent.  However, as Mr. Halla’s diplomatic counsel, I will insist that movement be necessary if such unpleasantness should arise, whatever form it may take.” Micha trills out in his booming Finnish accent.  I feel as if I should be clinging to his leg like a young boy hiding from the bully while peeking out from behind Papa’s knee.

“Rest assured, Mr. Sommardahl, that no actions have been authorized by the State in this matter until a proper investigation has gotten results.  This is not The People’s Republic of Korea. We do not wish to complicate this sensitive matter any more than it is already complicated.” Agent Yang Xu says with a softer touch than the brassy officiousness of the ‘secret police’ agent Xong Lu Lee.

As all these government types determine my future, I have but one concern and that is knowing how Brian is doing and how soon I can see him. The idea of being cooped up in this elegant prison cell while Brian struggles with life and death is too much to bear.  This is where I object to all of this nonsense!

“Whatever needs to be ‘investigated’ needs to wait until I know Brian Chesney is ok!  All the evidence you need is in the download from the special drone that was put together for me by Olympic technicians.  The papers were all submitted and approved too!  You’ll see EVERYTHING that Russian filth did to my Brian as he was just trying to ski a good race!  To put he or me through any more of this is ‘ungracious’ at best!”  I try my own hand at understatement. I must say I am not nearly as good at is as the Chinese.

“Yes, this evidence has already been submitted to us but requires thorough review.  The fact of the matter is that in taking matters into your own hands, Mr. Halla, you have violated our trust as well as your diplomatic mission.  What is more is that you have put the State into a particularly difficult position with the government of the NUSSR.  This international incident could cause instability on many fronts.  Trust me when I say to you that it is quite ‘gracious’ of us to allow you to stay in this fine room rather than an interrogation cell at the security center.  Any other foreign national doing what you have done would already be incarcerated as an Enemy Of The State.  We will assure you of Mr. Chesney’s condition as soon as we know it, but, for now, you will go nowhere until cleared.”  The quiet yet sharp staccato of Xong Lu Lee’s precise English carries more threat than if he had screamed into my face.

Though Micha tenses and straightens his back at this direct speech aimed at me, he relents when he sees the professionally alert stance of the two gentlemen behind the agents.  It is clear these are plainclothes police or agents ready to defend the Ministry Officers if need be.  They both stare, with their black slanted unblinking eyes, at Micha waiting for anything inappropriate that they would have to ‘take care of’.

“I will personally keep you updated on Mr. Chesney’s condition, Mr. Halla.  You have no need to worry about that. It would be for the best if I handle this anyway. International media is already going 24/7 on this. It’s the biggest story in the world right now. Your public exposure needs to be controlled right now or it could become hard to contain.  In deference to the Chinese Ministers need for ‘State security’ on this matter, we would be helping them contain this too.  The Russians will be on the hunt to make examples of the both of you. Here would be the wisest choice for you to be, Mr. Halla.”  McShane explains and softens the Chinese agent’s tone.  I have to agree, things have happened so fast and so powerfully that I have no idea how much trouble I am in or Brian is in, for that matter.  Who sanctioned this hit and why may be a very difficult question to answer if the Russian Government is involved in this at all.  Things are close to war already with Russian aggression in the Bearing Strait.  This sort of thing may be a catalyst for worse things!

How on earth did Brian and I end up in this mess just by wanting to win a stupid race?

“Quite correct.  Information control of this incident must be of paramount concern for the investigation as well as for more political considerations.  I think, then, that we are all in an amicable agreement upon this issue and that we can proceed to other matters.  My counterpart and I have to review the drone recordings.  These are the key to the justification of your actions if any are needed, Mr. Halla. Be assured, we are highly suspicious of the Russian Contingent’s involvement in this act of violence, but we must establish this with proof to not only possibly exonerate you, but to have reasons to prosecute Russian citizens/officials if the need arises.  That is, of course, if these multiple drone recordings validate your story of the events.  We must establish this before the end of today. However . . . ” Yang Xu gestures to McShane.

“Agent McShane, would you be so kind as to begin your monitoring of Mr. Chesney’s condition now, if you please?  We all need assurances that he has been stabilised before we can effectively continue our inquest.” Xu asks of McShane.

“I’m on my way.  I will report any changes as soon as I know anything.” McShane declares as he gets to his feet and gets on the move. Dutifully he passes by my Chinese ‘guards’ and out the door. I dearly hope he is going to check up on Brian and not just use this as an excuse to escape this horrible situation. I must say that my naturally suspicious nature has gotten the better of me, but then why would it not?  Of all the things the Russian Scum could do to us, this outrage was not in my imaginings. I never thought, in a million sunrises, that they would stoop this low in their hatred of me and mine.  Yet again, a loved one of mine falls victim to Russians.  Must they ever be a curse to me in this way?  I suppose they must.

Two hopeless hours pass.  Despite Micha’s counsel not to, I find I liquify my worries in whatever vodka they have left in the mini-bar.  I haven’t seriously drunk anything this heavily since Passo Levazé.  A cocktail here and there once or twice a month is not binge drinking, but what I am doing now definitely is.  I would use Valium if I had any, but I do not.  Despite all the liquor coursing through my system, I still feel the agonizing knife of anxiety and terror turn and stab into my heart with its every bleating beat.  Is Brian ok? Is he out of surgery? Is he . . . alive?

I will die if he dies. I cannot face life without him. He is everything to me. I will happily suicide bomb the Kremlin itself if he dies!

I love him more than life.

This prompts me to finish the tarnish tasting vodka in the bottle.  One whole bottle in so short a time and even Micha is impressed for all his Finnish tolerance of the White Fire. It makes me feel nearly numb, but not out of pain. Nothing can numb this ache in my heart. The only help is knowledge of Brian’s condition.

In my addled drunken state, I find it necessary to act out at my two Chinese captors.

“(Whaat ish the condition of my Bri Bri! I want to go tooo him NOW!)”  I stand and bark at the two living Chinese statues flanking the door.  Both merely look at me not understanding a word I’m saying.  They are stupid! They knew English just fine two hours ago!

(“You play deaf, huh? You insult me you assholes? I want to SEE BRIAN!”)  I stumble toward them and they seem to take some kind of wide-legged stance as if readying for an attack.

“(SNOWFLAKE! ENOUGH!)” Micha barks at me sounding so much like my grandfather used to.  Instinctively, I freeze hearing the words spoken to me in Finnish.

(“They do not speak Finnish and they probably wouldn’t respond anyway with that tone! Stop threatening them or they’ll fix your pretty face up nice! Stop being a drunken idiot! SIT!”) He scolds me and it is only then that I realize that I’ve been speaking Finnish and not realizing it.  I am out of control. This is dangerous.  Something inside tells me this despite my vodka clouded brain.

I am easily ‘corralled’, as Brian would say.  I do as Micha says and return to sitting on the bed looking very dejected, apparently.  Micha reaches into his pocket and gets his smartphone out.  Unfortunately, the two guards are not done throwing their weight around.

“NO TELEPHONE! NO TELEPHONE!”  The one on the right barks brokenly at Micha.  Micha merely glares at him for a second and then proceeds to dial, presumably, McShane to get a long overdue update.

“NOOO TELEPHONE!!!”  The guard advances to confiscate the phone which does finally break Micha’s patience down.  The great Finn rises to his full 6’8″ to tower over the comparatively tiny Guard.  The Guard, wisely, stops in his tracks but continues to repeat, I guess, the only two words of English he possibly knows although he does it with much less confidence.

“You will have to pry it from my hand, my friend.  I will add that It will probably not look too good if your superiors find out that an ambassador from Finland has been INJURED over a smartphone.”  Micha intones with his rich, deep, resonant voice. I suppose the Guard can understand sufficient English to get Micha’s meaning and he backs off and returns to the silence of his post.

With no further interruptions, Micha calls McShane, I presume.  After a very aggravating exchange of ‘How is he?’ and multiple ‘Mm-hmms’ I very much want to knock him down and pry the phone from his hand myself! Grrrr!

He shuts the phone off and returns to sitting without saying anything.  I will kill this man. I will do it with my bare hands. If he does not tell me how Brian is I will beat him to death right here and now!

“WELL?” I bark at Micha while getting ‘all up into his grill’ as they say in the inner city.

“See for yourself, Pikku Lumihiutale,” Micha says with a completely stone face while nodding in the direction of the door.  I am confused and yet at the same time full of a sudden expectancy. It is like I know he is here before I can turn and see.

I turn and I see.

“BRIAN! Herranjumala!”  He is at the door in a wheelchair being pushed by a smiling Chinese nurse.  He looks tired but the sweet smile on his face is more beautiful than the aurora through diamonds to me!  I run to him and am on my knees holding him so close! He smells of disinfectant and a tang of blood, but he is warm and strong as he hugs me back.  He does jerk and grunt a bit as he leans forward to squeeze me and so must sit back.

“Hey, Snowbunny.  Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”  His voice is sweet in its huskiness.  I can hear the roughness from being under anesthetic there.  I look at his leg which is covered by his gown and look back up at him with what must be a bit of worry.  I had hurt him just now.

“Put the sad face away, Snowplow. It was only a flesh wound.  I’ll be right as rain in a couple of weeks or so.” I hold his hands as I feel tears come to my eyes.

“I thought that . . . I had lost you.  I thought they had murdered you.”  I say with a creak in my voice.

“It’s going to take a lot more than a pea shooter to put me out for the count, Babe.  We Texans are used to a bit of lead in our systems.”  He then reaches for me and we embrace again.

“The doctor say only small wound in muscle. No arterial damage.  No broken bone. He will heal but must stay off leg for at least a month.  We very sorry. No more Olympics for this time.”  The nurse says with a touch of true sadness in her slightly broken English.

“Well, I guess that’s it. Game’s up.” Brian shrugs and does look very disappointed.

“For us, Kultaseni, the game is never up,”  I say to him in all truth.

The Russians may have won this round. But they have no idea who they are dealing with!

I NEVER give up!

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