Flashes. Firecrackers going off in the head, behind the eyes. Firecrackers in the street popping and bursting. Clouds of smoke and flashing lights. Neon dragons and screaming children. Laughter from unknown faces. People running, skipping, dancing. Spices, smells and the wrenching sourness of cheap lager. New Year. Neo China. Shanghai. First tour of duty.
“We’re losing them.”
“Blood pressure is sixty over thirty. We’re losing as much as we put in. Too many lacerations. We’re just making this worse. There are just too many damned holes. What did this?”
“Some kind of weapon. A gun. They fired thousands of tiny darts through the body. They went everywhere. Face is a mess from multiple contusions over what must have been days, or weeks, of torture. Not much left of the left eye. Right eye might be blinded even if we save it. Hearing is impaired. But they are responding to sounds. Don’t know how many darts went through the face. Too many. Haven’t had time for a full scan but the monitor is showing lots of small objects inside. Some are in the skull cavity. Far too many went through the body. Most of the organs have critical damage. The robots are holding them alive but I don’t know for how long. It’s hard to even make out their features.”
A riot of colour. Red, gold, yellow and black. Many feet and a puppet on a stick. A tiger. Tiger, tiger burning bright in the fireworks of the night. Skipping along the alleyways to avoid the crowds. Even here the people are crammed into every space. Balconies buzz and flash as streams of crackers flash and flare. Glares in the night. Gunfire in a concrete and steel jungle.
“I’m going to have to go in. This is ridiculous. Prep the table and get me cleaned up. I want pre-op done in seconds. Get them on a vent, and full fluid processing, and get another surgeon in here, dammit. We have to try and stop the bleeding.”
“We don’t have many people free, it was quite a bloodbath.”
“I don’t care. Pull people off the others. They were not friendly . This one was tied up. They’re a mess. Whatever they did couldn’t have warranted what’s been done to their body. Get me another surgeon, now.”
Drums. Always the sound of drums. Follow the drums, follow them and dance. Spin around. Sup another cheap beer and flick the can at a recyc hole. Plum wine and soft buns. Children running and screaming. Dancing with the drums. The loud drums. Filling the ears with sounds and noise. Flashes of light. Flashes of noise. Beating of drums. Flashes of light. Sparkles in the brain. Fireworks and crackers.
“Can you hear me. I am going to try and save what I can of you. Do you understand. I will save what I can.”
“How are they still breathing? They should be dead, maybe it would be better?”
“Get them the hell out of here. I don’t need that kind of talk. They survived until now. They are clearly a fighter. I am not going to let them go easily into the darkness.”
Dancing in the square. Dragons spin, tigers bounce. Faces everywhere. Laughing, screaming, shouting and praying. Waiting for the drums to stop. Waiting for the flame to drop. I see your face. I see you from so long ago. Catch you in the window of a store looking back at yourself. The last time I remember you looking like that. The last time before you took the ship.
“No they’re not. Shit. Stay with us. Stay with us…”