Sasha was returning from lunch with her boyfriend Glenn at an upscale French restaurant halfway between the hotel and the stadium, near what would be a movie theatre complex, when the two of them noticed people rushing into and out of a tavern beside the proto-theatre. Glenn grabbed the arm of a woman clad in a blue warm-up suit. What was the fuss all about?
The woman spoke poor English but passable French, so Sasha was able to get the story, just a bare sketch. Glenn waited impatiently for the two women to finish talking and the woman to rush off someplace.
“Terrorists have taken hostages. They’re demanding a big ransom.”
Glenn turned pale. His lips tightened. “I have to call my coach! See if she and my parents are all right.”
Sasha nodded and pulled out her own cell phone. Her two coaches and their mutual friends at the Olympics were all right. But Saya did not answer her phone.
Glenn said, “They’re all right. What about you?”
Foot traffic on the pedestrian walkway was increasing, in speed and numbers. Sasha pulled him with her toward a seat on a bench in the green spine of the Village. But another group of people got there first.
She sank down onto the grass and Glenn sat half-facing her, half-facing the walkway.
“Everyone is fine. Except Saya. She’s not answering her phone.”
“Oh, God, do you suppose she got caught up in this?”
“I’m going to call her coach.”
Glenn looked torn. “I need to get to my family. Would you be all right –?”
“Yes, of course. Go. Go.”
He hesitated. “You’ll call me later? When you know something?”
She kissed him on a cheek, smiled, then hit a quick-dial key and put the phone to her ear. He got up quickly and hurried off.
A call to Saya’s coach went to voice mail. Sasha left a message and went to the tavern to see what news was showing on the big-screen TV in the bar.
The news was not good. There had been casualties during the hostage-taking. A security guard had been shot dead and several other people wounded. Among them was Saya, badly.
Nearly an hour later Sasha got a phone call. It was Saya’s mother. Her daughter was in critical condition at a nearby hospital. Sasha had already gotten in touch with her own family and coaches. She told Saya’s mother she would be right there, then called her own family, coaches, and Glenn to let them know she would be spending time at the hospital.
A cab ride later she was at the hospital, hugging or clasping the shoulders or hands of those who cared about Saya. Along with her verbal assurances she added esoteric commands to the bodies of the people she touched to make them stronger physically and emotionally. Then she asked to see Saya.
The nurses and then a doctor would not let her. Even Saya’s family was not being allowed in the intensive care unit.
Sasha nodded abruptly and walked off.
Minutes later she left a restroom very changed. She now looked East Indian and moved differently. Her blue Olympic jump suit got only a glance or two. There were other Olympic athletes visiting the hospital. She walked right by Saya’s coach and he paid no attention to her.
Several floors down Sasha located a staff locker room. Nearby was a supply closet containing clean hospital uniforms. She had to walk by the door to the closet three times before the traffic cleared. Then a quick left-right twist to the door knob broke the lock and gave entrance to her.
She had to wait several more minutes before she could hear that the hall was clear. In another restroom Sasha unwrapped the clothing from around her waist where she had hidden it under her jump suit. She left the restroom dressed in the hospital nursing staff uniform. Her jumpsuit wrapped around her waist gave her a usefully plump appearance.
Near the intensive care unit she helped with several small chores, moving in such a way as to obscure the fact that she wore no staff badge.
Once she nearly got caught when another nurse noticed the lack and drew breath to ask questions or alert others. One of Sasha’s hands struck like a snake. A quick grip was enough to send commands to the nurse’s brain. The woman reeled and nearly fell, buoyed up by Sasha’s arm around her shoulder.
“Sit down before you fall down! When did you eat last?”
The woman shook her head, dizzy. She pressed a hand to her stomach. It growled as Sasha had commanded it to. The woman laughed feebly.
“I thought I ate lunch. I suppose not.”
“Then we need to get you prone while I get you something.”
There was a room close to the ICU nurse’s station for rest breaks. The nurse lay down thankfully; Sasha had flooded her system with fake fatigue poisons. In moments she was asleep. In perhaps an hour she would awake much refreshed and, to her life-long relief, would never be sick.
Meanwhile Sasha had taken the woman’s badge and changed her appearance to match the woman’s as closely as she could. It was not perfect; Sasha had not practiced assuming specific appearances. But it was close enough that a quick glance or a distant regard would mistake Sasha for the woman. The nurse had a slight limp; copying that made it easier for people to quickly “identify” her at a distance.
It was no problem for Sasha to get into the ICU. She just walked in and the radio ID unit at the double-door entrance recognized the badge.
Sasha toured the unit, staying out of sight of nurses and doctors as much as she could. About half of the beds had a green curtain surrounding them, concealing patients who were being treated or partly shading those who were asleep or in a coma.
She had her nose turned to high sensitivity. It told her Saya was in the unit but the air flow was too gentle and non-directional to help much. But Sasha did get enough detail to find her friend after about ten minutes (9 minutes, 43 seconds by her internal clock).
Saya’s bed was surrounded on three sides and part of the fourth by a green curtain. She was unconscious and was hooked to an elaborate bed-side console by a clear plastic hose connected to an oxygen mask and by at least a dozen wires. Several read outs showed spikes, curves, and numbers which likely told medical people just what was happening inside her friend.
Saya looked small and broken. The covers pulled up to her chest made her seemed flattened. A great wave of sadness and pity welled up in Sasha’s chest. Tears burned her eyes and trembled on her lids.
Then another emotion blazed through her body: rage. Someone had pointed a gun at Saya and plunged a bullet into her chest.
Sasha’s body tightened as if crushed by an all-over body girdle. Some profound change began to take place. Her arm muscles struggled against each other, her hands clenched in the desire to rip someone apart. The bones in her upper body and rib cage and hands flexed with the enormous effort.
Reflexively she quelled the impulse. Even her extraordinary body could not exert so much force against itself without harming her.
Another reflex took her to Saya’s bedside. Her nearest arm reached out to clasp her wrist to Saya’s nearest wrist. As skin squeezed against skin submicroscopic messengers went into Saya and returned bearing information. Something within Sasha’s brain diagnosed Saya’s ills, sent out submicroscopic prescriptions to Saya’s body.
And moments later two big veins in Sasha’s wrist found and merged with matching veins in Saya’s wrist.
Used blood poured into Sasha, arterial blood flowed into Saya. An esoteric blood transfusion was taking place.
Minutes passed which seemed eternal to Sasha, her body sped up so that time seemed to slow to a halt.
A process completed. The two friend’s veins retreated to their normal state.
Saya stirred, turned slightly in her bed, sighed, and settled into a restful sleep. Her body had been mostly healed. Now she needed rest to complete her healing.
Sasha leaned over her friend and spoke very quietly into an ear. “We’re all here. You will be fine. Sleep well.” She had spoken in English. She repeated it as best she could in her very basic Japanese.
Saya smiled. She opened her eyes briefly but saw nothing, seemingly. She closed her eyes, still smiling.
Sasha left her friend behind, moving briskly. A little while later, the nurse’s badge restored to her, dressed once more in her jump suit, she stuffed the hospital uniform down a clean-and-sterilize chute.
Then she left the hospital, anger simmering within. Before she could tear terrorists limb from limb she first had to figure out how to get to them.
Continued in Chapter Sixteen.