Chapter 24:

Crash (Trigger Warning)

Pyro's Grand Demise

[Trigger warning for suicidal themes]

The ghost with green eyes jumps down into the ring. A warden immediately locks the gate behind her. Cy’s are hooting and hollering, rattling the fence. I ignore the particular fellow who screams ‘cat fight.’ I’ll make note of him in my memory for later.

“I thought I killed you years ago,” I say, almost accusingly. It’s unnerving to face someone you’ve shot dead.

She shrugs and stares at me without emotion. “It’s crazy how good technology is these days. They had to replace my heart, you know.”

I take a sideways step to see how she’ll react. She remains motionless, rooted to her spot. I can’t tell whether she’ll take the offensive. I mean, it’s obvious that’s what she wants to do. Revenge is the only logical explanation as to why she entered this arena.

“How’d you end up here?” I ask. I can’t help but be curious. And in all honesty, I’m pushing off the inevitable. I really don’t want to fight this woman.

For one thing, she looks halfway to death as it is. The dark circles under her eyes along with how her clothes hang off her give the air of a phantom. It’s depressing to see how scrawny she’s become after being so built in her prime. Muscles are one of the things green-types take pride in, and she has little to none left. All of it’s wasted away.

A quick glance at the other cyborgs tells me she’s an anomaly. Sure, there are a lot of unhappy people here, but none who are this unhealthy. At least none of which I’ve witnessed yet.

“I was announced dead,” she answers, with a bit of bite this time. “Or at least, I was several minutes from it. They held out a form for me to press my fingerprint against. Said that if I didn’t, I would die. But if I wanted to live, I’d have to live a life for the so-called greater good. This is where it got me.” She raises her arms in mock triumph.

“I think I’d rather you have shot me in the head that day.”

The afternoon I went back to my apartment. Back when I’d first met Joe. A green-type had attacked me because I’d gotten her client, her main source of income, killed.

This woman is not a good person by any means. She dragged a child into her mess and I nearly shot him because I’m not a good person. I can’t help but feel pity for her though. She’s here because of me and my actions.

“I’m sorry for having such bad aim,” I reply somberly.

The corner of her mouth perks. “The great Pyro, admitting to having bad aim. Well that’s something. You know, I used to put you on a pedestal of sorts. Hearing stories of all your achievements made me think you were unstoppable. Then you burned down the Wharf and I placed you into another category entirely.

“What I should have done was erase the lines altogether. You’re a person who’s been mangled by the world just like me. I didn’t realize that until I saw you today.”

“Are they gonna fight or what!” someone yells. I shoot a nasty glare in their general direction and it’s enough to shut them up. They’d best realize I could tear open these fences quite easily. They’re only there for show, not actual wear and tear.

Why would they be made from gorilla steel when there’s wardens both in the ring and in the crowd watching? It doesn’t make sense to revolt here.

“So why are you down here?” I ask. “Did you want to get one more good punch in?”

“Ha!” she barks out then immediately bends over into a coughing fit. I nearly take a step closer but stop myself. This could be part of her act.

She looks up at me and wipes a smudge of blood from her lip. Her teeth are red and she half-grimaces, half-grins at me. “I want you to finish what you started.”

I frown then slowly shake my head. “You and I both know that can’t happen.”

“And why not? Because you’ll get in trouble?” She scratches her arm and I notice the deep scarring up and down her skin. She’s in need of immediate help. “You and me both know you’re not exactly by the books. Just do it and shrug it off as an accident. They won’t do anything to you.”

There’s bound to be a warden with excellent hearing who is picking up on this. I glance around, but no one is approaching the ring.

“They won’t help. Not you or me,” she says. “Once we’re in the ring, we’re fair game. Murder may not be allowed in here, but manslaughter surely is. As long as you make it look accidental, nothing will happen.”

I stare into her eyes which are the only colorful thing about her. They’re hardly dull now that she’s focused.

She still has life in her. There’s no reason for me to kill her.

“Why do you want to die?” I ask. “Is it really so bad here?”

Her lips thin as she presses them together. “Yes. I’m guessing you haven’t been given a tour of the entire facility yet.”

Now I see wardens moving in the crowds. One motions to another, and then toward the gate. Whatever she just said alerted them.

I ignore them and focus on her. “Tell me more.”

“The hidden hallway. You’ll know the way since you’re a purple-type.”

Just as a warden hops down into the ring, she gains a calm look in her eyes. She reaches around and doesn’t hesitate in sinking her fingers into her own flesh.

I move forward to stop her but I’m too late. There’s a sound of electricity along with a cable snapping as she uses the last of her green-type strength to rip out her own chip. She’s dead before she hits the stone ground.

I lay on my mattress and stare at the ceiling. Time has passed, that much I can tell. As for anything else, well my mind went on vacation the moment I entered my personal quarters.

It’s a small room, but average in comparison to the others I’ve had. There’s a television, sofa, kitchenette, and a small, closet-sized space for my bed. I like it in here because it feels like my own little world. There’s no outdoor interference and I can imagine I’m the only person for miles. Which would be true, were there not a giant compound built into the mountainside.

I’m finally pulling at the edge of sleep when there’s a rap at the door. I groan and cover my face with my hands. Just when I’d been so close…

The knocking persists so I have no choice but to get up. It’s not like I’d be able to find sleep again anyway.

I stick my feet into my favorite pair of purple slippers and trudge out into the main room. I forgo flicking on the light and swing open the door. There’s no peephole, so I figure if someone attacks me, well, it was my time. I’m too mentally drained to care anyway.

“Oh, were you sleeping?” Joe says sheepishly, a box of muffins in-hand. I grimace at him and snatch the box. I fling the door shut behind me, but he knows by now to shove his shoe into the door jamb. I’ve scuffed several pairs of his expensive loafers.

“Sorry, the earliest I could get here was two AM,” he says apologetically. He hangs his jacket on the back of my armchair and gives the room a good look. “The place looks nice.”

“What is it with Freemans and judging my private space?” I grumble while tearing open the muffin box.

“What did you say? You’re opening those muffins with ferocity. Did something happen today?”

“You woke me up,” I respond before falling onto the sofa. I take a massive bite of a chocolate muffin and say, “Why are you here anyway? And so early?”

He sits down in the armchair, his expression concerned. There must be something up with him if he’s not even admonishing me for talking with my mouth full.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were promoted?”

I sigh. “Are we just going to keep throwing questions around all night? I was mad at you, that’s why. You were being a ninny the last time we talked.”

“A ninny?” he repeats, disbelief and humor in his voice.

“Yep. A full-blown ninny.”

“Well, you weren’t being very fair yourself, you know,” he replies. “I was only speaking the truth.”

“Your version of the truth sucks.”

“My version?

“Stop repeating what I’m saying!”

We stare at each other in equal annoyance for a solid ten seconds before he sighs. “No, this isn’t how I wanted this conversation to start. I did not take a helicopter ride here just to argue with you.”

“Don’t you have a routine inspection here?” I ask.

“What? No. Why would I inspect the facility my mother is headquartered at?”

“Well, then why are you here?” I ask scathingly. “Just to see me?”

The jibe dies on my lips as he gives me a pointed look. I fight the jittery sensation in my stomach and avert my eyes. “Sorry. I’m being rude.”

He rolls his eyes. “It’s hardly the first time.”

“Hey, I’m trying to apologize and you’re ruining it!”

“Sorry, sorry!” he says, humor back in his candy-colored eyes. He relaxes more in his chair. “Please go on.”

I shrug. “That was it.”

He gives me a look to which I ignore, having suddenly found the crumbs on my plate particularly interesting.

“I came because I know my mother isn’t the best person to be around,” he says. “I was worried she’d play mind games with you. I guess I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

I shrug again. “I’m okay. Congrats. I guess you can go on your way now.” I stand up to retrieve another muffin, but he grabs my wrist.

“I know you’re lying, Pyro. Your tells are obvious to me at this point.”

You'll know the way since you're a purple type. I cringe at the memory which has so vividly stained my mind. It'd been the last thing she'd ever say, and she thought it was important enough for me to know.

"Come on, tell me," he urges in that soft voice of his which aggravates me to no end. The only problem is that it's actually somewhat comforting right now. So much that I'm about to tell him exactly what happened this evening. If I can stomach even recounting it.

Steward McOy