Steve became aware of the pain racking his body before he moved a muscle. Lying still he listened for sounds to help identify his captor’s positions in the room. Concentrating intently on his shallow breathing and blinded by the sharp pain produced with each inhale, he kept his eyes closed. There was a plunking sound off to his left, as if large water drops were falling into a puddle every few seconds. He waited, unmoving. The lack of sound both unnerved and relieved him. Suddenly he heard a sound. Moving his head slightly he heard it again. It was a rustling sound followed by a squeak. Slowly he turned his head, regretting it immediately as the nausea built up in his stomach quickly. He forced it down as he opened his eyes a crack not wanting his captors to see he was ready for another round of beatings. His left eye opened easily but his right was swollen partway closed from the bruise that covered half his face.
He quickly focused his bionic eye in the direction of the unfamiliar sound. A rodent, a very large rat, was rummaging through some discarded trash 200 feet away against the far wall. He let out a sigh feeling grateful he was alone and the rat was preoccupied.
His interrogators must have left after he lost consciousness. The covert agent was glad to be lying flat on the ground instead of still chained to the wall. He cautiously moved individual parts of his weary body with hope of escaping. His hope was immediately doused when his left leg, bend at an odd angle was absent of sensation and movement. The right was just as bad. The mind numbing pain that traveled the length of his spinal cord from the small movement of his ankle made him groan. He pulled his head up as far as his broken ribs would allow seeing wires exposed and sparking. He dropped his head back down and tried to get control of his breathing and the fear that was quickly taking over.
Stretching his right arm out as far as he could his fingertips touched the discarded broom handle that was already familiar with his ribs, wiggling it until gaining possession of the wooden stick. He slid the distal end under the exposed wires what were frequently sending the shooting pain from his damaged leg. Lying back and taking a breath he used his thigh as leverage and pushed the closer end toward the floor. As the far end popped up it successfully split the frayed wires. The pain, at least from his right leg, immediately stopped but so did any movement he had in the extremity.
Knowing if he allowed the fear and hopelessness of the situation to take over he would never see home again. Focusing on survival, he distracted himself for a short while as he tried to identify his location. The ceiling was gray in color, composed of a type pf metal, and domed above him. With a slow turn of his head he focused his telephoto lens across the expansive area to scattered trash. There, about 50 yards away, he saw letters on a small 4 by 4 box. C…E…S…S…N…A. His eye closed tightly the dizziness threatened to push him into the darkness before he could solve the mystery.
“Airplane parts.” He whispered. A hanger, it had to be.
The more awake he became the more his tortured body fought the contrasting affects of his ordeal. He felt his wet, cotton shirt on the cold cement floor chilling him to the bone while the fever, already burning inside him, caused sweat to trickle down his face, stinging the cuts put there in anger. He knew he needed to get help… get home.
Attempting to sit up he involuntarily cried out as his left arm, broken and bleeding, remained limp at his side. He closed his eyes, the pain washing over him then back again in waves, each time lessening in its intensity. A few moments passed before he opened his eyes again. “Well, you’ve really gotten into a mess this time Steve.” He chided himself knowing he was between a rock and a hard place. “Think Steve. Just think.”
He thought back remembering the top-secret mission and its urgent objectives. He had succeeded at least he thought he had. Two of the three objectives, the important ones, were met. He was finishing the third when he was abducted, knocked unconscious and interrogated. How long? He wondered. His mind couldn’t put a time frame to his imprisonment. A day? Two days? A week? He had no clue.
There were grubby windows were along both walls, placed about four feet apart. He could see the sun attempting to seep through the smeared grim on the glass. He was tired, more tired then he ever remembered and his head throb with each beat of his heart. Closing his eyes to regain some strength he passed out instantly.
The pain in his back from lying so long in one position on the hard surface brought him back to the surface and the dull ache in his left arm instantly took over his attention. He looked towards the windows to his right and his chest tightened seeing the faint, elongated shadows from the panes now stretching towards him. Hours must have passed, hours of the limited time he had. He knew he was a physical wreck, essentially immobile. He forced himself to accept the fact he would not be getting out of this place, alive or dead, unless Oscar executed a rescue.
He let a small smile curl the edge of his split and bleeding lips. Oscar. Dedicated, loyal and reliable Oscar. What did he say to Steve before this assignment? Steve closed his eyes letting the mental picture of Oscar’s office bring him some comfort as he recalled the conversation after getting his final briefing on this unbelievably dangerous assignment.
Oscar commented in a serious tone, “Many would call this a suicide mission Steve.”
Steve replied honestly, “I know Oscar and they are probably right. I promise I’ll take all the necessary precautions. Besides if anything happens to me the OSI isn’t going to let six million dollars worth of equipment remain missing.” He gave a small smile to lighten the mood.
Oscar expression turned sad, “I’m well aware of that but I just want you to know…”
“Know what?” Steve asked when the sentence went unfinished.
Oscar took a deep breath, “Bionics or no bionics, I would never leave you out there. I promise I’d bring you home no matter what the outcome.”
Steve gave his friend a lopsided grin at the feelings behind the words. “I know you would.”
Oscar reached out a hand. “You are like the younger brother I never had and I will always value our friendship.” A blush moved into his face and he smiled, “With that said I expect you back in this office in two weeks. Understand pal?”
“Understood.” Steve shook the offered hand and made his exit.
The bright sun returned to the windows but from the opposite wall. Dawn had arrived and the growing light did nothing to rouse the shivering, unconscious man who lay unresponsive on the floor.
Steve felt around the thick, muddy environment, reminding him of the quicksand he had pulled Rudy out of on the island with Dr. Cheryl Osbourne. Nothing moved easily, his body felt like lead, his mind sluggish. He slowly became aware of his ragged breathing that improved when a pair of gentle hands raised his upper body from the cold floor.
The strong arms encircled him and he felt safe. He forced his eyelids open far enough to see his rescuer. Black hair atop a long, tanned face, small brown eyes looked upon him with deep concern. Recognition was instant.
“Os…car.” He breathed out weakly. Trying to turn his head he quickly found he didn’t have the strength. A brotherly hand brushed his fevered cheek and he was losing his battle to stay awake.
The words whispered into his ear brought a sense of calm to the seriously injured man. “Hang on Steve. We’ll get you home okay?”
Steve took just enough air into his congested lungs to reply, “I knew you’d come… like you promised.”
“I never break my promise pal.” Steve felt himself tucked tightly against the muscular chest grateful for the much needed warmth. “You just hang on okay?” Steve nodded weakly and lost consciousness. Oscar stared down at the battered face of his friend. He wondered if Steve knew how much he respected him for his loyalty, intelligence and strength of character. Yes, he cared as deeply for the man he held in his arms as he did his own brother Sam. He just hoped his injured friend was aware of that fact.