Definition of muscle memory: the ability to repeat a specific muscular movement with improved efficiency and accuracy that is acquired through practice and repetition.
Kelly Shepherd grew up in an athletic family in Vista, California. Her father Dan was Canadian and played three years of semi pro ice hockey and her mother Megan was a college volleyball player. They met while Dan was a graduate student and Megan was in nursing school. Her older brother Chris started playing hockey even before he could lace up his own skates and would be playing professionally if a serious knee injury didn’t end his promising career while he on scholarship at the University of Minnesota. Chris was currently employed as an assistant coach for the San Diego Gulls minor league hockey team.
Dan was employed as a physical therapist by the Veterans’ Administration and was currently assigned to the clinic in Oceanside and her mother was a registered nurse at Tri- City medical center. Kelly was five years younger than her brother and started getting on the ice when she was three years old, at which time her father began showing her the fundamentals of the game. When she was seven years old, she was skating around the rink before one of her brother’s practices and since the boys were short a player they decided to let Kelly play with them. They were stunned at how well she moved around the ice, passed and shot. Chris began bringing his little sister with him and her skill level increased dramatically. Kelly starred in each level of competitive hockey that she participated in; initiation, novice, atom, major midget and then skipped juvenile, junior A and B and went all the way to Major Junior. She sets records for goals and assists, and she was often called the female ‘Wayne Gretzky’ because there were so many similarities between the two in their early hockey careers.
Kelly possessed all ten natural attributes of a great hockey player; skating, shooting, stick handling/puck control, hands, passing/play-making, on-ice vision, hockey sense and skill. Not only did she possess them but she could do them all effortlessly and at full speed. It was as if she was born to play hockey and when you added in an intense work ethic, it was evident that Kelly was destined for something special.
Her father often encountered veterans who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and this sometimes affected their recovery from their physical injuries. While working with a group of psychologists, psychiatrists and software engineers to find a solution, they developed a Virtual Reality Simulator where patients could insert themselves in various scenarios and learn how to achieve a positive outcome by readjusting their self- destructive behavior. It had promising results and although it was still in its developmental stages it had the potential to be a useful addition to the list of treatment options.
Because of her intense focus and love of the game, Kelly made the mistake of over-training and playing in too many leagues, which would cause her to injure herself. When her parents reminded her to slow down and take it easy, she tried, but couldn’t help reverting back to old habits especially when she was laser focused on a particular goal. It was the summer of 2015 and Kelly already had her sights on making the national team and going to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Her parents and brother were equally supportive and concerned that Kelly would burn herself out before she even had the chance to compete, “We have to do something,” Megan Shepherd said with utmost maternal concern.
“I’ve got her on a strict regimented workout program, but she’s still doing more without telling me. I can see the fatigue in her eyes,” Chris commented.
“We’re working on a program for veterans, maybe it will work for Kelly,” Dan didn’t sound that convinced.
“We’ve tried just about everything else, we might as well try this, hell, we’re out of options at this point,” Megan pleaded.
“Can you imagine what Kelly would be like if she got an injury like mine and it ended her career? She would have all that intensity and nowhere to put it…would not be a pretty sight.” Her brother Chris interjected.
“It’s unanimous, I’ll start putting something together and hope that she buys into it,” Dan crossed his fingers.
Dan called Clyde Tate, of IOS Android Augmented II Virtual Reality Corporation, that was currently working with the Veterans Administration at his San Diego office, and explained the issues with Kelly, “I am sure that my daughter isn’t the only athlete with this problem. It could be a win -win situation for both of us because if it is successful, you’ll be able to market it as training tool.”
“Sounds promising, would your daughter be willing to work with us?” Clyde Tate asked.
“I’ll ask her and see what she says,” Dan replied.
Kelly was mature beyond her sixteen years of age so when her father suggested his new idea, she did not react defensively because her obsessive compulsive behavior was a serious problem that she wanted to solve as much as her family did, “Can’t hurt to try, count me in,” Kelly responded.
“I’m proud of you for doing this,” Dan responded, “I’ll contact the person in charge and see how fast we can get this going and remember I’ll be with you the whole way.”
Kelly met with Clyde Tate and they embarked on an ambitious venture to develop a state of the art virtual reality program. Virtual reality (VR) is a computer technology that uses virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment.
The young woman was the perfect test subject with the right mindset and a sense of purpose. Clyde met with Dan and Kelly six weeks later and his excitement was unbridled, “This turned out better than I ever expected. You have a very special daughter and if it wasn’t for her input and hard work we would have never reached this point.”
“I’m proud of her for many reasons,” Dan beamed, “I’ll just add this to the list.”
“Let’s test this thing,” Kelly put on the reality headsets and was immediately inserted into a hockey game. From that point on she was able to hone her skills without inflicting the normal wear and tear that comes with repeated athletic activity. Instead of practicing a maneuver a thousand times, Kelly could now do it a hundred times on ice and the other nine hundred through the simulator.
On May 5, 2017, USA Hockey announced the 23 players to the 2017-18 U.S. Women’s National Team during a press conference televised live on NHL Network. Players and staff for the 2017-18 U.S. Women’s National Team relocated to the Tampa suburb Wesley Chapel in early September and trained at Florida Hospital Center Ice in preparation for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Kelly was the youngest player selected and the only one on the team that was not currently playing college or professional hockey.
Clyde expanded the capabilities of the program to where Kelly could insert herself back into previous games and correct her errors. He also downloaded video of Kelly’s upcoming opponents so she could scout the tendencies of opposing players.
The South Koreans invited their neighbors to the North to be part of the Olympic Games and there were slim hopes that this might be a beginning of better relations between the divided country and ratchet down some of the heated rhetoric. However, there were hardliners in North Koreans who blamed America for their economic woes and rampant poverty. They were vehemently opposed to relinquishing their nuclear program or entering into peace talks and conspired to bring about a major escalation in the tensions between the countries.
Dan was working with Brock Devereaux, a former Navy Seal who sustained several broken bones and a back injury when the helicopter he was in crashed while his team was on a mission in Afghanistan. Brock medically retired and was doing everything he could to stay off prescription drugs as a way of dealing with his physical pain and grief at losing comrades. The virtual reality simulator showed positive results and Brock was encouraged to continue.
“I appreciate everything that you’re doing for me,” Brock said after a session.
“Your welcome, I’m glad to see that you’re getting something out of it,” Dan replied.
“I overheard the nurses talking about your daughter being at the Olympics.”
“Yeah, she’s on the women’s hockey team. They’ve won three preliminary games and are now into the semifinal round,” Dan answered, “My family is already there and I’m leaving tonight for South Korea to join them.”
“I hope I didn’t hold you up,” Brock commented.
“No, I had some other thing to take care of, but I intend to be there for the medal round.”
The twelve North Korean terrorists focused their attention on capturing the American dormitory. Their plan was to generate as much worldwide publicity as possible then go down in a blaze of self -perceived glory. The terrorists meticulously eliminated the security guards then rounded up the Americans, “You will be killed if you come out of your rooms,” The North Korean leader threatened.
Jack Helgerson, a young bobsledder protested, “You can’t do this. I’ve spent my entire life getting ready for this.”
The North Korean walked over and shot Jack in the forehead then turned to other Americans, “Don’t let your American arrogance get in the way of your survival.”
Kelly was standing next to Jack and the blood splatter hit her in the face. The North Korean man walked over and got within two inches of the young girl, “Is there something you want to say?”
Kelly defiantly spit at the feet of the terrorist, “Not at this time.”
As the Americans dejectedly walked back to their rooms, the North Korean man called out, “Feel free to contact your family and tell them that you are now prisoners of the North Korean Liberation Front!”
In a matter of minutes the whole world knew of the attack and many feared that this would be even worse than the 1972 Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by the Black September terrorist organization.
Kelly called her father in Oceanside as soon as she got back to her room, “We’re being held prisoners by terrorists.”
At the particular time, Dan looked up at the television screen in the lobby and saw breaking news coverage of the incident, “Are you alright?”
“So far, but they killed one American boy and I have this bad feeling there will be more to come,” Kelly responded.
“Remember what I’ve always told you about assessing a situation and reacting appropriately? Don’t forget that, I love you. I should be there by tomorrow.”
As Dan was leaving the clinic, Brock approached him, “I just heard what happened, is your daughter safe?”
“My specialty in the military was hostage rescue, “Brock said, “If there’s anything I can to help, don’t hesitate to call me,” then handed Dan a small piece of paper, “Here’s my cellphone number, call me anytime, day or night.”
By the time Dan reached his car in the parking lot, he received another call, this one was from Clyde Tate, “I just heard, how is Kelly?”
“As well as can be expected under the circumstances,” Dan responded.
“I know that we were planning to leave at 2200 hours, but I told the pilot that we might want to take off early because of the change in circumstances.”
“Thanks Clyde, I appreciate that.”
Dan contacted his wife and son who were already in South Korea to discuss the situation and by now the terrorists had already made their demands. They wanted a withdrawal of military forces from the DMZ and the Seventh Fleet to leave the Sea of Japan. If their demands weren’t met in twelve hours, they would begin executing American athletes.
President Gordon met with his advisors and there was no way they were going to agree to the demands of the terrorists. “What are our other options?” President Gordon asked.
“None of them are good, Mr. President” Admiral West answered, “We’ve got Seal Team Seven and Delta on standby, but if they go in, we can expect major collateral damage.”
“We could lose the majority of our Olympic team,” General Conrad warned.
“Gentleman, we may have no other choice,” President Gordon sighed, “I want minute by minute updates.”
Back at the Olympic village, Kelly could see the armed terrorists from the window of her dormitory room then noticed the Virtual Simulator headset and thought of something, so she called her father and told him about her idea.
“That is way too dangerous…forget about it,” Dan protested, “plus I don’t know if it will work.”
“These guys are not going to give up,” Kelly persisted, “Think about this, how many attacks have you heard about when terrorists peacefully give up?”
When Dan didn’t answer, Kelly continued, “You ever heard the saying, ‘I looked around and thought somebody should do something and that somebody was me.”
Dan called up Clyde Tate and told him what Kelly wanted to do and he responded, “We’ve never tried that before.”
“Kelly said that the situation is very serious.”
“Then we’ll do what we have to,” Clyde promised.
Dan called Brock and told him about the plan, “Count me in.” was his response, “I’m on my way.”
Clyde addressed his staff of gamers, software developers and high tech wizards as Dan and Brock stood by his side, “We have an emergency…lives are on the line and we might be able to save them…we have to do this right and we have to do it fast.”
Megan called from South Korea, “Are you leaving soon?”
“I’m not coming, Kelly called and told me how serious things are, I can do more to help her from back here,” Dan explained what the plan was.
“I’m hoping the situation is resolved before we have to go down this road, but I need to give our daughter every option to make it out of this alive,” Dan vowed.
The plan was to stream an attack plan to Kelly’s cellphone that would be connected to her simulator. Instead of virtual reality, she would be doing augmented reality, interacting with real life situations and Brock would be by her side. Video and audio data would be transmitted and received at 100 gigabytes per second which was as close to real time as technologically possible.
Brock was standing in front of a large movie screen at IOS Android Augmented II Virtual Reality Corporation headquarters and Clyde called out to his team, “We’re going live.”
Dan dialed Kelly’s cellphone, “Hi dad.”
“We’re ready to go, put on your simulator,” Dan suggested.
Kelly put on her simulator and everything she saw in her room was transmitted back to San Diego and then projected on the screen with Brock inside her dormitory room.
“I’m Brock and I’m a friend of your father’s and I’m here to help you.”
“Okay, what do we do first?” Kelly asked.
“First we need a weapon,” Brock answered.
“I really don’t have anything,”
Brock saw Kelly’s ice skates and pointed to them, “These will do.”
Kelly removed the blades and sharpened them. Five minutes later, “ That’s good enough, are you ready? Brock asked”
“I hope so.”
“I’ll be with you most of the time,” Brock promised.
Kelly and the projected image of Brock left the dormitory room and slowly moved down the hallway while she held a razor sharp skating blade in each hand. “You cannot hesitate once you commit. You have to follow through, understood?” Brock reminded her.
“Understood,” Kelly responded.
When they saw an armed guard up ahead, “You are on your own from here.”
Kelly slipped off her virtual simulator and approached the guard, while keeping her hands hidden behind her back. “Get back to your room,” The guard waved his weapon in a menacing fashion and Kelly started to turn around. She quickly spun and slashed the man’s throat with the blades and he fell to the floor dead. Kelly put her simulator back on and transmitted the images to San Diego and Brock was back with her.
“Pick up the weapon,” Brock said and Kelly complied, “Drag the body out of sight.”
Kelly pulled the dead terrorist into the room of Tara McGuire, a fifteen year old figure skater.
“Hey Tara,” Kelly said calmly.
“What are you doing?” Tara asked.
“Killing terrorists,” Kelly answered matter of factly.
“Oh,” Tara shrugged.
Kelly sat down in the corner of the room and put on her simulator, “I’m going to need a few minutes.” Brock showed her the operation and handling of the AK-47 fifty times over through the simulator.
“Hang in there,” Dan encouraged from back in San Diego.
“I’m hanging,” Kelly responded.
“Are you ready?” Brock asked.
In the White House situation room, President Gordon was sitting at the large table with his national security and military advisors when they received a call from Dan Shepherd, “Mr. President, my daughter Kelly is on the Olympic team and she has a weapon and is willing to help.”
Navy Seals, Delta Force and South Korean special units were given the order to make their assault. The terrorists were prepared for the Americans and the South Koreans, but what they weren’t ready for was an Olympic athlete with cyber support and a weapon.
The breach took place and the terrorist leaders sent four of his men to begin executing the Americans while the rest were ordered to engage the first responders. Gunfire rang out throughout the Olympic village and Kelly shot two terrorists coming up the stairs and then ducked behind a stone pillar as another man returned fired.
Brock communicated with Kelly, “Stay focused, fear is normal, just don’t let it freeze you up.”
Kelly looked around the corner and saw the terrorist who was firing at her, hiding behind a wall. Brock reminded her, “Be patient, he’s going to come out into the open, just wait.”
Kelly took a deep breath to stay calm, while keeping her rifle aimed in the direction of the terrorist. Just like Brock predicted, the man eventually came out into the open and gave her a clear target. She squeezed off an accurate shot then sprinted off. When Kelly saw another terrorist getting ready to shoot an American athlete, she fired three rounds into his back.
The North Koreans retreated back into the dormitory area when the American and South Korean force made their assault. The lead terrorist ran down the hallway and Kelly fired at him then entered a dormitory room and shut the door behind her. The terrorist kicked in the door and sprayed the room with gunfire, but Kelly was lying face down on the floor and beneath the line of fire. As soon as the man looked down he saw Kelly and in that split second, he realized he was a dead man. Kelly emptied her magazine and the North Korean leader staggered backward and out of the room and fell over the railing.
The Olympics were delayed for three days, but the South Koreans and Americans didn’t want the world to think that the terrorists had succeeded in stopping the games. The Women’s Hockey team defeated Canada 3-2 to win the gold medal. Kelly was named most valuable player and after returning to the United States, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony when all Olympians were invited to the White House.
While having a conversation with President Gordon, he asked, “How did you know what to do?”
“Mr. President,” Kelly responded as she looked at her family, Brock and Clyde in the audience, “It was either Remember or Die.”
This is a work of fiction and the product of the author’s imagination.