Chapter 17:


Pyro's Grand Demise

I’ve been jiggling my leg for five minutes now--anything to let out some of the tension in my body. I’m seated on a stiff couch meant more for looks than comfort, and the stabbing sensation in my lower back worsens as I remain tightly wound.

The CEO’s office is smaller than I pictured, but then again, it’s not really her office. It belongs to the supervisor of the facility, but obviously whoever this supervisor is forfeits their privacy when Mrs. Gravitytech comes knocking. I wouldn’t want to be around either.

She prepares her tea in such a precise manner that it’s almost satisfying to watch. Once the sugar and milk have been thoroughly stirred, the CEO sits down in the office chair opposite from me. She swiveled it from behind the desk and brought it closer, much to my dismay.

“You’re probably wondering why you’re here, exactly,” she says in that clear, direct voice of hers. “I can tell by how tense you are, you’re thinking of bolting, so I’ll get straight to the point.” She tucks a loose strand of fiery hair behind her ear, the shorter strands not quite staying in the tight knot at the base of her neck.

I bite my tongue and wait for her to continue. I don’t trust myself to speak.

“As I said, you are an investment. As such, we both have much to profit if you continue showing results. You help me and I help you.”

She takes a slow sip of tea and my hands flex impulsively. I want to jump out of my skin, meanwhile she’s perfectly calm. It’s difficult for me to imagine her ever not being in control. Steely and measured.

“Why me?” I ask, unable to help myself.

She sets down the teacup with a soft clink. “Well, you’re a blue-type of course. Your chip was developed with the most advanced technology, so it only makes sense to improve upon you rather than, say, a red type. Of course I have approved making upgrades to lower types of cyborgs, but it’s always difficult when it comes to the chip. It’s a very dangerous procedure, switching those out, so oftentimes I find it wasteful.”

Meaning cyborgs have died having their chips replaced. I have heard rumors about lower cyborgs trying to undergo illegal upgrades, and most of those stories never end well.

Once the chip is installed during the initial procedure of becoming a cyborg, that chip is connected to the brain. One wrong move in replacing it could cause a cy to go brain dead.

She continues, “So, I have found it much more efficient to simply improve from the best. Unfortunately, blue-types are hard to come by because they are rather new and in high demand. So you can say I was delighted to find you willing to undergo test trials.”

Delighted? I’d hardly describe her as that.

“I didn’t think I had a choice,” I say slowly. “I mean, I am here against my will.” I’m walking the tightrope, pushing just enough without trying to anger her.

At this, she smirks. “While you may be here without entirely wanting to, I cannot force you to do anything. There are ways I can… persuade you. But I can’t force anyone to do anything.”

Bullshit. None of this is voluntary.

“So, from what I’m hearing,” I say “is that you want to take test trials up a notch?”

Her smile widens. “Precisely. Experimentation is the way to the future, and with GravityTech funneling a large portion of its funding into cyborg technology, the possibilities are endless.”

My eyebrow twitches. “Wait, experimentation is different from test trials. What exactly are we talking about here?”

She sighs and I take that as a bad sign. “The two coexist. Eventually you will find your limit with your fire and will need to move toward something else. I was thinking instead of waiting we could start tomorrow.”

A coldness settles at the base of my spine.

“It’s called the Indigo Project,” she explains with a dangerous energy in her eyes. Whatever this project is, she’s excited about it. “It’s a subcategory of a larger masterplan with the end goal of improving current technology. You’re the perfect test subject.

“Not only do you think for yourself, but you also have a strong will. I need cyborgs like you for this project in order to ensure it’s a success.”

I frown. “What about the other blue-types? Why don’t you ask them?”

“Oh, I will. Eventually.” She takes another sip. “But I’m not as interested in them. They are unlikely to last long after the procedure.”

The coldness in my spine turns frigid. “Explain,” I say harsher than I’d anticipated.

Clink. “Project Indigo is, like I said, a subcategory of a much larger plan. To put things bluntly, it’s the process of converting your chip into that of a purple-type, without removing the entire thing. It’s much safer than traditional methods and has a survival rate of thirty percent. Although, this number could realistically be higher or lower, seeing as we’ve only performed the procedure on ten blue-types.”

Indigo. A mix between blue and purple.

“You’re making hybrids,” I say. I haven’t even had time to process the survival rate yet.

She smiles again, as if I were a particularly smart student. “Correct. You’ll still retain most of your blue-type abilities, at least on the physical level, but on the mental terrain you’ll be as capable as any purple-type. Assuming you survive, of course.”

Of course.

“But I have no doubt you will,” she continues. “From what I’ve witnessed, it’s typically the rebellious ones who survive. I believe it has something to do with your willpower, but we’ll need to do more testing to find out.”

She waits and stares at me expectantly. Eyeing me over the rim of her teacup.

“That’s insane,” I murmur more to myself than her. “Are you doing this with all types of cyborgs?”

“Yes. Those are the other subcategories. Project Citron is for turning orange-types into yellows, and Project Turquoise is for green into blue. The others are called similarly fanciful names. I obviously wasn’t in charge of the naming process.

“The point is that all cyborgs from red to even blue are outdated. Old news. You update your phone every several years, don’t you? Why shouldn’t it be the same for you?”

Because the pieces she wants to replace are attached to my body. Still, the idea of being able to have more power intrigues me. I’ve never felt weak or insecure about my abilities as a blue-type, but if I could get even more power… well, that would be something.

The problem is that I would still be limited to the confines of this facility.

“If I undergo the procedure will I be allowed to leave here?” I ask.

Her expression remains unreadable. “No. But there are certain… freedoms you would be permitted. And if you behave properly with these added freedoms, you may be rewarded. Have you ever thought about becoming a warden?”

It’s strange to hear her use a term made popular by cy’s.

I shake my head.

Her mouth quirks. “I knew I liked you for a reason. This is why you have been chosen. Think of this as career advancement. Do I really want people who suck up to me in charge? Or do I want someone with a backbone? I think you see where I am going with this. And if you don’t disappoint me, I assure you that you’ll be rewarded.

“Who knows?” She shrugs. “Perhaps if you serve me well for long enough, I may just decide to pardon you to an early retirement. Or, if you’d prefer, you could stay here for the rest of your life. Burning test dummies until your hand is blackened with its own scorch marks. The decision is yours. Like I said, the procedure does not end well if the cyborg’s willpower isn’t strong.”

The corners of my mouth pull down as I stare at the hands in my lap thoughtfully. I look up and narrow my eyes. “What did you say the survival rate was?”

Steward McOy