Chapter 16:


Pyro's Grand Demise

“We need to make good progress in order to make up for the lost time yesterday,” Terence says, his voice scratchy through the speaker.

I roll my eyes. It’s not my fault their punishment system is so gung-ho. Three days of complete isolation without food or water? Really? I feel like I’m in boot camp, except I’m pretty sure soldiers in training would be treated far better.

I click my tongue in annoyance and lift my hand. This time my target dummy is covered in fireproof protection equipment. We’ll see how long that lasts.

“Ready,” Terence says. “Go.”

My firestarter clicks, but this time I let the heat in my hand build before allowing it to flow outward. The flames erupt white from my hand and they swallow the dummy like some ethereal monster. Like my fire is its own separate entity, devouring anything it comes in contact with.

The white burns so brightly it loses any traces of yellow, quickly delving into cooler tones. Slight traces of blue begin to emerge and I keep pressing on.

“Fourteen-hundred fifty!” Terence calls through his microphone. “Objective complete. Kill the fire!”

I don’t listen to Terence. I want to know what my limits are, and they surely don’t cap at white fire. I continue pressing until the air grows uncomfortably hot. It begins to make breathing hindersome, the air as dry as it is.

The dummy is no more, as far as I can see. The fireproof armor has long since melted, along with anything it was protecting. Even the walls have a sort of glossy look, as if they are threatening to start drooping soon as well.

“Fifteen-hundred. Kill the fire, Subject!”

That’s all Terence or any of the workers here call us. Subject. For some reason this angers me and makes me plow on. I want blue fire here and now. If only to prove that I can.

The most I’ve ever done outside this building are orange flames, but here they updated my technology. They want me testing the limits of their inventions, so I hardly see the problem with me pushing it. It’s the only reason I’m here.

And didn’t Terence say we had to make up for missed time yesterday?

The flames reach an almost pale-blue when my power is cut. The fire gutters out, but I still feel it burning in my hand. I gingerly poke my fire-starting hand with my completely organic one and it’s hot to the touch. Perhaps I did push it too far.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Terence’s indignant voice demands. I can practically smell the tuna from here. “You are using my technology, so if I say stop, you’d better stop.”

“You can take it back,” I answer with a wave. It doesn’t help that my hand is literally smoking. I wonder what it’ll take to fix it.

“Ungrateful wench! How dare you--”

I wait for Terence to finish his nagging, but he never returns to the microphone. Instead, a very familiar voice takes over.

“That was very impressive, Subject,” a velvety, feminine voice says. “I do apologize for my subordinate’s lack of reason, but I see no meaning in limiting your capabilities. If you believe you can do more, who are we to stop you? Isn’t that the point in this very facility? To seek new limits.”

I can’t help the scowl which brings the corners of my mouth down. “I didn’t expect the CEO to be making an appearance at such a humble compound.”

A low laugh akin to a purr resonates above me. “I stop in at all of my company’s locations. If I don’t, situations such as these tend to pop up. Situations which truly aggravate me. I can guarantee you that you’ll never be told to limit your potential ever again. At least during testing, that is.”

Still frowning, I look to the one-way glass which I know the woman is standing on the other side of. “And what if I no longer wish to try?”

There is a moment of silence, then, “I like you, Subject. You were a gift from my very own son, so you could say I’m invested in you.”

The very mention of that disgraceful exchange causes my hackles to rise. Joe had used me to get himself out of trouble. I’d already been in for it, but he’d truly sold me out. I suppose it was the only logical option ahead of him, seeing as he made it out without a scratch. I, however, am still here.

The only thing leaving me content with my outcome is the fact that I destroyed that thumbdrive. Even on nights when I’m so angry about the unfairness of it all--angry enough to do something irreversible--I think about the thumbdrive.

She continues, “And with all my investments, I like to keep a close eye on them. I let them work for themselves, of course, gaining interest along the way. But while I allow them to flourish I also give them a guiding hand. Would you like a guiding hand, Pyro?”

My eyebrow twitches at the name. Only other cy’s and Joe have ever called me that. I’m pretty much just Subject now.

The blue-types call me Pyro, but that’s only because they wanted me to join them. Now they same my name with a healthy dosage of venom.

My first instinctual urge is to tell this lady to shove her guiding hand where the sun doesn’t shine, but for some reason I hesitate. Then, for some other strange reason, I say, “What exactly do you mean?”

I woke up today with one or two goals in mind. The first had been to obliterate whatever dummy they put in front of me during testing. The second had been to avoid Zachariah and Christine as much as possible.

My first task was obviously completed without a hitch, but the second not so much.

Before testing for the day, I got in line for breakfast as we all do. Imagine a school cafeteria except more… industrial. The walls are enforced with gorilla steel and there are no windows, but the lights are certainly strong enough to mimic the sun.

Today’s breakfast was oatmeal with a side of questionable fruit. And milk because it’s a cafeteria. I don’t even know what someone with diet restrictions would do, seeing as most of the population is lactose intolerant. I guess they just have to deal with it.

It's not even chocolate milk.

I sat down at one of the far tables where only half of it gets occupied. I take the unoccupied half obviously. The cy’s who share the table with me are decent enough. They’ve tried talking to me once or twice, but I quickly shot them down without being too much of an asshole. I simply don’t want to make friendly ties in a place like this.

They’re a mixture of reds and oranges, so it’s safe to say they were a bit speechless when I first sat down. There’s an obvious divide of power, and the weak don’t necessarily mix with the strong. I suppose it was wrong of me to make them uncomfortable like this, but they’d just have to get over it.

Funnily enough, it wasn’t my table who was annoyed, or any of the reds, oranges, or yellows for that matter. It was the greens and blues who took my seating choice as an attack. Why wouldn’t I want to sit where I belonged? Well, as I’ve said before, the blue-types are assholes.

The greens aren’t much better either. Suck-ups.

This morning proved my point when Christine swaggered up to my table on her way back from the food line. “Heard you spent a few nights in the pit,” she sneered, flashing an array of diamonds glued onto her teeth.

I’ve vaguely wondered how many people have been killed trying to strip those stones. I heard she didn’t represent her correct color-type on the outside, so possibly quite a few.

“No thanks to your weasel boytoy,” I answered while stabbing a peach slice. At least I think it was peach. Possibly mango.

She slammed her palm on the table and I found myself gazing at her pointed nails. She must have a lot of biotin in her diet because those talons are fucking long.

“If you know what’s good for you, you won’t call him that,” she seethed.

I finally dragged my gaze up to meet her in the eye. “Excuse me. He’s actually a rat. Or, according to him, a prize pig.”

Anger with a hint of confusion swelled in her features. Her gaze darted to the security guards stationed near us, their hands lowered to their belts. Getting hit with a baton was not something a cyborg vying for the position of warden should be doing.

She retracted her hand, her nails leaving grooves in the table. “I’ll choose my battle this time, Pyro. But you better watch your back.”

I blinked at her. “You better tell that blue-haired vampire of yours to keep his business in his pants.”

She growled at me and nearly looked as if she’d lurch directly at me, but there was again that hesitation. She valued being a warden more than she wanted to kill me. She’s already smarter than her boyfriend.

If only those two could see me now, in the office of the company’s CEO. They’d probably shit their pants.

Steward McOy
Caprio Suji