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Lost and Found

Transformers OS
Steve Jablonsky

Thunderous shock waves shake the ground beneath him like a fervent bass, drawing him form a restless unconsciousness to the reality of cold air and concrete wet with the swamp of waste. Icy needles parade over his skin while fire rages through sore airways. The thumping marks a dozen or so strident footsteps, too many and too fast for something regular. Curling tighter as much as bound limbs allow, chains brush against hands and feet. He makes himself small in the corner, muscles screaming of cramps induced by immobility and lack of water.

Jagged vibrations mark the opening of doors, and like a trained dog he responds, struggling to lift the upper body against the ache in his back, body weak and slow. The steam of gruel is missing from his nostrils, hope of food and fluids replaced by expectation of pain.

Absence of footfalls makes worst his growing fear. Fingertips make contact with his shoulder and he jerks away on reflex, desperate thrashing pointless against a swarm of strong arms snaking around every part of him, holding him in place.

His cheek falls to smooth skin stretched over a collar bone, small hands holding him by the jaw and temples as their delicate fingers gently brush through messy hair and beard. Something about the action soothes his terrified mind. Distant memory returns bringing realization - A woman, the first one in years, holding him close, her words just faint vibrations of chest and repeated gusts over his scalp. In his mind he imagines Omma's cooing voice behind the looping mantra of comfort.

Gently he is shifted to one side as two pairs of hands reach for the too tight binds, flesh exposed to dirt puffy with infection and sensitive to the lightest touch. A thin jet of lukewarm fluid strikes the mangled limbs, washing him of the sickening mess of feces and urine. His face crumples in pain as scabs joining skin to metal fragment, cuts and scrapes reopening to a new trickle of blood. Sterile compresses cover his injuries, fastened by gauze and elastic nets.

Strong arms wrap themselves around his sides, his own slunk over broad shoulders. He winces as the body weight adds pressure to cracked ribs, foreign arm moving down to an uninjured part of torso. Lifted off, his legs dangle uselessly, joints twisted at unnatural angles. Knees stretched out of prolonged kneel make him issue a faint groan in protest. Another pair of hands raises his thighs to take the strain off worn joints. More water is used to wash his calves and feet before shackled ankles are bandaged as well.

The trio maneuvers him on the cool plastic stretcher where restraints are strapped tight around forearms and chest, launching a panic attack that grips him as hope of rescue crumples under flashbacks of mock executions strobing in his mind. More binds appear over limbs, his heart a jackhammer against the sternum and a pulsing clog in his throat. A soft, fibrous, wet ball is dabbed at the crook of his arm, iodine pungent in his nose.

He crumples at the thought of falling for another cruel trick but deafness spares him the humiliation of hearing his own pathetic whimpers. Sharp metal meets vein bulge, terror squeezing eyes tighter still as he tenses, bracing for the inevitable. Lungs jump start to a furious pace, pumping like the bellows of a forge.

His heart friezes at the feel of needle rupturing skin, even before he is injected. A tidal wave of regret swells in him as images of dear ones being assaulted phase one into the other in his last seconds. 'Mm sorry.' He whispers hoarsely, words lost to the silence like a beam of light on dark velvet.

Freezing metal on chest precedes the searing pain flashing through his every fiber and he gasps for air, arched like a taut bow. Persistent dull ache fills his torso in its trail after he slams hard to the stretcher's surface. A faint pulse throbs against someone's index and thumb on both his carotids. The stranger pulls away in time for a veritable pile of wool to be draped over his shivering body, its weight and warmth triggering a primal relaxing response. Exhausted from stress beyond comprehension he surrenders to the mental void, even if it be a one way trip.