Chapter 27:

Inhuman (Trigger Warning)

Pyro's Grand Demise

[Trigger Warning for violence]

Looking back, I’d say I wasn’t prepared. I thought I had known the extent of the atrocities GravityTech has committed, but tonight proved me wrong. Gravely wrong.

Some forms of experimentation are allowable. Encouraged, even. Without experimentation, we wouldn’t have vaccines or other necessary achievements.

Some forms of experimentation are in no way, shape, or form allowable. I once thought cyborgs could be seen on somewhat even ground as humans. Equals, even. But after tonight, I realize that, to some some people, we’ll always be inconsequential. Like ants on hot pavement.

Perhaps my efforts have been for naught. I mean, it’s now obvious to me that the CEO was laughing at me the entire extent of my career. There I was, striving for cyborg rights. Yet there was so much I didn’t know. So much that was beyond me.

She must have found it ironic. I was working my way to the top of the food chain. Yet once I was at the top, helping as much as possible, there would be cyborgs suffering mere floors beneath me. Experiencing these horrendous experiments without me ever realizing it.

I wonder if my second encounter with Angie was even a mistake, or if the CEO somehow orchestrated it all. Because I imagine that would have been the most amusing thing. To have groomed me into the asset that I was, only to break me down just when I thought I had it all.

Life isn’t fair, I realize that. Some people are dealt shitty hands. I just sometimes feel like the world is against me, and if that’s self-absorbed, well, I’m not sorry.

“Pyro, look away,” Joe says.

I can’t. It’s impossible. This hallway is cursed to never end. Each and every door leads to something more horrendous, and I simply can’t tear my eyes away. Like looking at a car accident as you drive by.

“This,” I choke on my words and violently shake my head, “isn’t real.”

“No, you’re right,” Joe says in a comforting voice. He’s gently trying to guide me away, outside. He’s been doing that for a while now, trying to direct me away from this place. Despite me wanting to let him, I just can’t stop venturing forward.

“It’s not real,” he assures me. “We’re just going to go back now. Somewhere safe.”

I grab his hand on my shoulder. “It’s not real,” I repeat.

“Exactly.” His voice is pained, but I latch onto it. Joe is the most real thing I know. He’ll protect me so long as I don’t let go of him. “Come on, let’s go.”

I sniffle. This is the second time I’ve cried today, which seems strange because it’s for an entirely different reason. This is remorse. Grief.

He practically has to push me out the door and back up the hallway. My legs don’t want to move. By the time we reach the exit, he’s halfway to carrying me. My body is clumsy and non-functioning for the first time in forever. I almost feel human again.

The door we came in through slams open and several security officers step inside. The CEO follows, her mousy assistant hot on her heels. I think I’m hallucinating until she speaks.

“Hello, Joseph. You’ve found my little secret. I’m not surprised, seeing as you find out all of my secrets eventually. The fact that you two are together, however,” she pauses and clicks her tongue, “that is unfortunate.”

“Mother, how--”

“So, what did you think of my personal laboratory?” she asks, an engineered smile on her face. I blink too many times through my tears and it looks like a smear of red blood against her pale features. “I do hope you saw some promising things. Some of the experiments may look messy right now, but I assure you the results will be worth the struggle.”

“Results?” Joe seethes. His voice is low, but I’ve never heard him so enraged before. “No results are worth the atrocities you have committed. Half of those cyborgs don’t even look like people anymore.”

I flinch and Joe tightens his grip on my shoulders. Images protrude my mind of cyborgs strapped to tables, their brain matter cut into samples on metal trays beside them. I can only imagine what kind of pain they’ve been through.

“You don’t understand, Joseph,” she says. “The road to progress is paved in blood. How do you think this company was founded? Through heart and sheer will?” She releases a bitter laugh. “No, through blood and greed. Just like any other multi-billion dollar corporation.”

She continues, “I’m surprised you thought you could just waltz in here. Did you think Pyro had control of every single camera in the building? I’d have to be a moron to give a cyborg so much power.”

“Why?” I ask. All eyes turn on me. “What’s the point behind those…experiments?”

The CEO sighs. “GravityTech is currently focused on military expenditures. The goal is to personally fund experimentation which would benefit the government in exchange for massive compensation. No other company could even think of touching us if we succeed.

“What we need is a superhuman. Unlike cyborgs, robots are unable to think for themselves. AI technology is too finicky to always work correctly. The downside to cyborgs, however, is their lack of obedience. Humans have free will, and seeing as cyborgs were once human, they still believe they are allowed that luxury. What they should realize is that by being given a second chance, they should dedicate their lives to whatever cause their savior stands by.

“So, in order to create the perfect cyborg, we would need to improve their technology, as we did with you, and remove their ability to question orders.”

A mindless droid. Like what would have come from that thumb drive all those years ago. She has the same end goal, but a different means of going about it.

I want to look at Joe, but can’t bring myself to. I don’t want her thinking I know anything about this.

I remember Joe saying he used to listen to his mother’s closest allies. They’d talk about their plans for the future, and what experiments they dabbled in. From all that eavesdropping, Joe had figured out what they wanted. Total control. So, being the genius that he is, he invented that device.

The blueprint detailed that the device would latch onto a cyborg’s chip and remove their ability to think freely. He never released that information to his mother, so now she was taking a more intrusive route. Likely something similar to a lobotomy.

I throw up. There go my muffins.

The CEO makes a disgusted sound and says, “Take them away. I’ll talk to them separately later. And make sure they’re in the same room. It’ll be the last time they get to see each other; they should say their goodbyes.”

We’re shoved into a small room and locked inside. Joe put up more of a fight than I did, granted his mother didn’t hesitate in having him tased. I’m hardly holding onto consciousness. I'm likely in shock.

“Is your firestarter deactivated?” he asks once we’re alone.

I numbly nod.

He curses under his breath and squats down in front of my crumpled form. “Listen, Pyro, I need you to stay with me. I understand this is a lot to handle, but we’re in danger right now. Especially you. We need to get you out of here before they return.”

“Is this why you wanted to keep the thumb drive?” I ask. “Because you knew your way was the better way?”

He’s silent for a moment too long and then I know. This entire time he’s been aware of his mother’s capabilities. Perhaps not to this extent, but he had the gist.

“Once I had the blueprint finished,” he begins, “I immediately regretted making it. But then when I realized my mother was planning on going a more violent route, well, I debated whether just giving her the thumb drive would be more humane. It’s awful either way, but at least with my invention, it’s far less gruesome.”

“So you were aware of these experiments?”

“No, of course not!” Joe says, then grimaces. “Well, I knew about her unethical treatment of cyborgs, and of course what her plan of action was. I just assumed she would have tried it and failed early on. I never would have expected her to still be running test trials.”

So he more or less knew. I mean, he knew enough to be tempted to just hand over the thumb drive as an act of mercy.

“Is this why you kept wanting me to leave?” I ask. “Why you came here running after you heard about my promotion?”

“That is part of it. The closer up the chain you got, the more nervous it made me. You being anywhere near her is dangerous, especially knowing you and how you like to dig up information. You’ve only been here a day and you’ve already caused this mess.

“But on the other hand, I also just wanted to escape. I don’t want all of this anymore. Starting over with you, somewhere fresh, would make me the happiest. And I think it’s what you need too.”

I look at the hardness in his eyes in contrast with his soft, almost colorless eyelashes. His strong jawline with a five-o’-clock shadow just coming into view. He’s strangely athletic for a nerdy guy, something which I always joke him about.

He’s not perfect, that much is certain, but neither am I. He’s selfish and makes bad decisions at times, and maybe his mother is a sociopath, but I think I’ll be able to look past all that. If we’re somewhere far away from here. And if I do one last thing before we leave.

Joe is obviously stressing heavily over our dire situation. “Hey,” I take his hand. “I have an idea.”

Steward McOy
Makinohara sensorika