Chapter 13:


Pyro's Grand Demise

The speaker in the ceiling buzzes, signaling dinnertime. Shortly after, the metal door slides open and I’m free to walk to the cafeteria.

I step outside, glancing up and down the hallway. Cyborgs brush by me on their way to get dinner. They range in ages from eighteen to eighty, and I’m one of the youngest. I’m also one of three blue-types in the entire building. Most range from red to green, and it’s left unsaid that I haven’t encountered a purple-type.

The two other blue-types have been trying to get me to eat with them since the first day I got here. Their names are Christy and Zachariah, I think. I try to avoid them because they seem to take advantage of their powers. They like to bully younger and weaker cy’s, and that just doesn’t sit well with me. Especially since we all have a common enemy here.

I understand they’re trying to become wardens, but that’s just about the last thing I want for myself. Wardens are the cyborgs who’ve sucked up so much they were promoted into working instead of being experimented on. Just like Joe’s old friend who ended up shooting himself out of guilt.

I’d like to avoid that if at all possible, thank you very much.

Instead of heading downstream with the rest of the cattle, I go in the opposite direction. The camera in the corner is blinking red, so I know it’s recording. Whether someone is watching the live feed, well, that I don’t know. Even though all signs lead me to believe the worst, I want to have faith that whoever wrote me that note knows what they’re doing.

The only plausible explanation for that note is that whoever sent it is on the inside. Perhaps a warden or sympathetic security guard. Or this could all be a trap. There’s only one way to find out.

Several cyborgs eye me warily as I shrug past them. I pretend nothing is wrong in hopes they won’t rat on me. It’s when I catch a glimpse of faded blue hair that I internally groan.

He stops directly in my path and grins, flashing his sharp teeth which have all been filed down into points. “Hey, Pyro. Why you walking down this way? Food’s that way, you know.” He points a finger behind me.

The remaining cyborgs in the hallway not-so-casually quicken their pace to get as far away from us as possible.

I shrug and move to walk by him, but he puts a firm hand on my shoulder. Like all other blue-types, he’s not very tall. Even so, he’s a head taller than me and his hand almost engulfs my shoulder. “Hey, don’t ignore me when I’m talking to you. What, cat gotcher tongue? Or did they silence you again?”

When I first arrived here, I’d cussed at the scientists so much they’d disabled me from talking. The panel in the back of my neck had been hooked up to a computer and they temporarily blocked the messages from my brain which allowed me to speak. It stayed that way for three days, and I kind of became infamous because of it.

“No,” I say quietly. “I just don’t want to waste my breath on you.”

This time when I shove him off me and continue walking, I can tell I’ve pissed him off. I sense him following me a split second before I duck, just barely dodging his fist. I spin and meet him head-on. He seethes at having connected with empty air. “You’re a slippery one, I’ll give you that.” He slides his tongue along sharp teeth until blood seeps into them. “But you’re going to answer my question.”

What a control freak. I wonder where that sister of his is. Or girlfriend. They act like they’re together, but look so similar they could be twins. It’s kind of disconcerting.

I easily dodge his next punch, but unfortunately can’t move out of the way before he’s kicked me in the ribs. It’s crazy how powerful just one hit is, and I want to fold in on myself immediately. I fight this urge, though, and attack back with multiple punches. Instead of power, I choose to go with speed, seeing as Zachariah is one of the slower blue-types I’ve met.

As I predicted, he can’t keep up with every hit. I bring my fist back in preparation for a punch but instead knee him in the stomach. As he doubles over, I bring up my other knee and ram it into his nose. I feel a snap rather than a crunch and vaguely wonder how it’ll look tomorrow.

Still doubled over, he glares at me, this time blood coming from both his nose and mouth. “Bitch,” he seethes. There’s no warning before he charges into me. The wind leaves my body as we both fall down painfully, him on top.

“Where’s your fire now, huh?” he asks before hitting me in the jaw. I taste iron and think I cut my cheek on my teeth. I headbutt him.

He makes a pained sound and sits back. As he does this, I lean forward and bite into his forearm as hard as possible. I know for a fact this one isn’t artificial.

Zachariah’s cry of pain is loud, and I abruptly wonder if anyone heard that. We’d been the last people in the hallway when this scuffle began, but who’s to say how long until someone looks at the camera feed and comes to break us up?

Any other time, there would have been security guards on us immediately. The fact that this fight has gone on for this long already tells me there’s something wrong. Either with the cameras or the person supposed to be watching them.

Then whoever wrote that note wasn’t lying.

Zachariah had lunged away from me when I’d bitten him. He now eyes me hatefully and says, “Why the fuck are you smiling?”

I shrug. “Because you helped me prove something.”

Confusion smears on his face, but it quickly morphs back into rage. “You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?” He’s holding his wounded arm and leaking blood from several places. If anything, I pity him.

“Why would I laugh at a wounded animal?” I ask coldly. “That’s all you are here anyway. An animal. Led to the slaughter like everyone else.”

At this he hesitates, but it doesn’t last long. “Yeah, I might be an animal in their eyes,” he admits, his teeth glinting red beneath the fluorescent lighting. “But so long as I live for myself, I just might live longer than the rest. They never kill the prize pig, right?”

I snort while slowly edging away from him, in the direction I need to go. “True. But that pig needs to be the most gluttonous, well-bred pig out of the lot. That pig will also need to witness its brothers and sisters being slain.”

He spits a red blob onto the white tile flooring. “Survival of the fittest. So long as me and Christine make it, I don’t have a problem if the weak get what’s coming to them. You were supposed to be one of us.”

I shake my head. “Excuse me if I don’t want to be a prize pig. I’d rather be free. A bird.”

He chuckles before heaving a sigh. “That’s cute, but naive.” Then he sprints in the opposite direction, undoubtedly to find a guard and tattle on me. It’ll ruin his pride that he wasn’t able to outmaneuver me himself, but he’ll still get brownie points for ratting me out.

I bite back words of disgust and hightail it down the hall. I need to get to this supply closet fast, because even with the cameras not being monitored, it appears my time is waning.

I knock once and wait. The door opens just a crack and someone peers out before grabbing me by the collar and yanking me inside. I gasp and grab at the person’s wrist, prone to breaking every bone inside.

“Wait, I’m letting you go!” the person assures me and does as such. He flicks on the light and I’m met with a damp-smelling room filled with cleaning supplies and disinfectant. “I didn’t mean to startle you, we just can’t be seen together.”

Purple eyes. It’s the first thing I notice and I can’t stop staring. “What do you want from me?” I ask and instinctively lift up my left hand. It won’t do anything; my pyrotechnic abilities are remotely disabled the moment I leave the testing room. Otherwise I would have lit Zachariah up like a firework.

“I just want to help you,” he says, immediately gaining my suspicion.

“No one just wants to help anyone,” I point out. “You must think I’m a moron.”

“No, not at all!” he says hurriedly. “I apologize if that’s how it came out.”

I frown as I observe him. He’s awfully skittish, which is the exact opposite from what I’ve heard about purple-types. “Who are you?” I ask.

“Oh, sorry. I guess I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Kaden.” He sticks out a hand and shakes mine with surprising force. “I’m a purple-type as you can see, but don’t worry. I won’t body-hack you or anything. That’s always the first thing cy’s worry about when they meet me.”

I narrow my eyes at him and slowly wrench away my hand. “Well, Kaden the Purple-Type, what do you want with me? It was you who gave me that note, right? I’m guessing it was also you who messed with the cameras too.”

“That is correct,” he says while bobbing his head. He looks young, his brown eyes big and curious. He’s also tall and lanky, giving off the appearance of a high schooler who suddenly sprouted up without quite yet filling in.

“As for the reason you’re here,” he continues, “I’m assuming you’re familiar with the man Joseph Freeman?”

My teeth click together. “Yes.”

“Well, he’s trying to get you out of here, and he’s given me the complicated task of making that possible.”

Steward McOy