Vignette: Olympic Spirit

Here’s another vignette, a fiction piece–little more than a writing exercise–without any real beginning or end. Just a little something out of my head and offered up raw, without any editing.


Most people never see the Olympics from my vantage point. I’m as close to the games as you can get without actually being in them. I’m a bodyguard for Team USA, and for the 43rd Olympic Games in Zagreb my specific assignment is to make sure gymnast Carl Winston makes it to his portion of the competition. I’m not sure why I drew this assignment. Winston is one of the best, and quite a few other teams are out to get him. After the incident at the Calcutta games I was sure I’d be shepherding one of the backup swimmers.

Fortunately I did learn a few things after Calcutta. And Jenny Reinhardt, my assignment, is fully recovered and back this year. No permanent harm done.

I knocked on Winston’s door right at 6 am. It was time for his morning run, and today was our assigned day for an outdoor workout. Two games ago the athletes at least got to work out inside their own country’s training facility where they would mostly be safe. But flagging ratings after Calcutta had resulted in yet another change. Athletes would have to train in a more exposed setting every other day. It raised the drama factor.

Winston looked like hell. Today was his first outdoor workout, and he’d probably not slept a wink all night. His portion of the competition wouldn’t come for several more days yet, so he had a few more days to get himself together, but still. This didn’t bode well for our team. I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t partly my fault. He had undoubtedly heard about Calcutta.

“Let’s get going, kid,” I said, trying to sound upbeat. “Team drone controller says the jogging path is clear, and he’s even been scanning on infra-red. We’ve got two other athletes scheduled for the same path, and one of them is their star. They won’t risk him just to get at you. The other is a backup, so we’ll need to stay on our toes there.”

“How are we doing?” Winston asked. He followed me down to the lobby where he began stretching out.

I ran mentally over the morning’s briefing sheet. “The C Team made it to the lodge before nightfall last night, so they’re safe. Donaldson on A Team was first across the river, so he won immunity for A for the rest of the day, so they’re safe. But B Team got stuck outside after a weak run by Cullins, so they’ll be in rough shape this morning. Portnoy will be tree-swinging on an empty stomach, so they could be in for more trouble.

Winston nodded. Portnoy was one of the gymnasts, and one of the weakest in heavy woods. “Do you think they’ll call me in to replace him?”

“Perhaps. All the more reason to get in this run.” Actually, it was a good reason not to get in the run. With Portnoy on the edge a substitution was likely. If they could get to Winston before that happened they could deal Team USA a serious blow. Quite frankly I was getting rather disgusted with what the games had become. They’d been so much more civilized back before low ticket sales and viewership convince organizers to modernize the format along the lines of a reality show.

But along with the new format came a new focus. The drama was built as much from the conflict and thuggery outside the games as from the competition itself. Chances were more people would be watching Winston’s workout this morning than would be watching the actual competitors. Everyone knew that Winston was a marked man.

And everyone knew my reputation was tarnished. That fact alone likely explained why they’d put me on Winston. The top athlete being protected by a failed bodyguard. You couldn’t buy drama like that. But you could certainly plan it.

Winston finished his stretching while I checked the outside cameras one last time on my wristpad. “You ready?” I asked. He nodded, and I put my hand on the door handle. “Keep your eyes open. The second you hear or see anything you head up a tree, okay? I’ll handle the rest.”

I pushed on the handle and flung the door open. It was show time.

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