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“You’re looking much better.” Simon smiles at me from outside my window. The heat was becoming much more bearable and now I was just bidding my time. I had been stuck in this box for three days with only the occasional visit from Simon.
On the first day Simon gave me a rundown of The Underground. That’s what he called this place. A compound specially dedicated to people around the world just like me. People, Simon explained, who through a series of circumstances and events in their life, had managed to reach what scientists speculate is a human’s maximum potential. He told me he wouldn’t expect me to understand yet, but when I was healthy again Simon promised he would explain everything.
Yesterday when he came to see me he brought a young woman with him and introduced her as Nikki. He told me I would get to know her very well. That she had a way with talking to special people like me. She really knew how to get inside their head. I didn’t get up. I didn’t even say hello when she stepped up to the window. I didn’t care. I was just waiting. Waiting until I could attack. Just waiting for them to open my box so all hell could break loose.
“I’m feeling much better.” I say in a curt, polite voice.
“Nikki says she believes you’re ready to be let out today. Would you like that?”
“She told me you wouldn’t cause any trouble. Is that true?”
I nod my head. “No trouble here.”
Simon turns and nods his head to someone I can’t see. I hear a click and a door I hadn’t noticed before slides open from my box. Suddenly the man I have been so ready to kill for the past three days is standing right in front of me, unarmed, defenseless, and very much out of luck. I lunge before I even have time to notice the two guards step in between us. I slam into them hard and for a moment I fight with all my strength to break free from their grasp. The men are too strong and this is the first time I realize I can’t feel the Fiery Hot. I feel normal. My monster is gone.
“I’m very disappointed, Jocelyn. I thought you said you would behave.” Simon shakes his head clearly upset.
“What did you do to me?” I ask, angrily. The two guards struggle to keep me under restraint.
“Me?” Simon asks. “I did nothing. But I can’t say the same for her.” Simon cocks his head to the side and that’s when I notice Nikki standing in the corner of the room, watching me. No, more like studying me. She looks relaxed, arms crossed. Suddenly I’m furious. I fight with all my strength to break free from the guards, but it’s gone. The heat, the Fiery Hot, the monster. It’s all gone.
“Missing something?” Nikki asks, coolly.
“Where is it?” I spit back angrily.
“Relax, Jay. I haven’t done anything.”
“Yes you have! It’s gone!” I scream at her.
“For now. Until you learn how to control it.” Nikki says evenly.
“I know how to control it.” I reply crossly.
“You don’t even know how to control yourself, Jay.” Nikki replies shaking her head.
I turn to Simon. “What is this?” I ask angrily. “I thought you said you were going to help me?”
“I am.” Simon replies softly. “This is the only way I know how. Your gift is quite different from anyone’s I’ve ever run across. It’s dangerous. And quite frankly Jocelyn, I don’t trust you with it.”
“So you’re taking it away?” Now I’m fighting. Really fighting and all the years of being in the Cage are starting to help me think straight. I punch one of the guards in the stomach, knocking the breath out of him. He loses his grip and I wrench free. Next I place a square kick into the other guard’s kidney and he crumples to the ground, howling in pain. I lunge for Simon again, but before I even make it two feet, three more guards appear and take me down with ease.
“So this is the amazing FireGirl. Well done, Jocelyn. Even without your gift you are quite an exceptional young lady. But if you hurt another one of my guards, I’m afraid I’ll have to send you back to, what did you call it, the box for a few more days.”
I can’t tell if Simon is lying or not. I sense nothing. I can’t even hear his heartbeat. It was infuriating. I never knew how much I truly relied on the heat, on the Fiery Hot, on the monster.
Simon smiles. “Not so fun is it? Being normal?”
“Let me go.” I reply evenly. “I don’t want your help. I don’t need it.”
“I’m afraid you’ve never really had a choice in that matter, Jocelyn. You see, I’ve been looking for you a very long time. Ever since I met you in Santo Domingo.”
Suddenly my blood runs ice cold. If there was any remaining heat in my body, it had just vanished.
“I saw one of your fights. I must admit, you were very impressive. They say a person only ever lasts a few months when they’re taken to cage fight. So naturally, when I heard of a fourteen year old girl who somehow managed to stay alive for over two years, I was quite interested.”
“I don’t know what you’re taking about.” I reply, but my voice is beginning to break and I sound anything but convincing.
“I think you do.” Simon says, watching me carefully. “Please forgive me, though. You must understand, I was quite curious about your ability.”
“Forgive you for what?” I ask, not sure what he means.
“For your last fight. The first fight you ever lost.” Simon turns to look at Nikki. “I had to know if you were different. If you were special.”
I turn to see Nikki, still studying me. Still watching and that’s when I remember. I was fourteen. I was scheduled to fight against a new girl named Mariah. They had taken her only weeks before and I was going to be her first match. I found this extremely unfair. She should have gone against someone else. I used to hate when they made me fight new girls. They knew I would win. The girls would never even have a chance. But that day everything went horribly wrong.
They forced us into the cage. As always, I could hear the roar of the crowd echo throughout the entire arena. The Cage was made of solid steal. There was nowhere for us to run. Nowhere for her to run. That was when I noticed the young woman. I’d never once seen a woman in the arena before. Underground Cage Fighting was extremely secretive back in Santo Domingo. So secretive, authorities didn’t even know it existed. Imagine children, women and men all being kidnapped, drugged and forced to fight to the death like dogs for the entertainment of others, all the while knowing they had no hope of recue. No hope of escape. Only win. Win or die.
The young woman looked extremely out of place in a stadium filled with mobsters, gang bangers and murderers. Only the scum of Santo Domingo ever paid to watch innocent people fight to the death. She was sitting in the front row, literally feet from the cage. And she kept watching me. No, more like studying me. I was so focused on the woman, I didn’t even notice when the lights when out signaling the start of the match. Mariah ran up behind me and placed a square kick to my back, knocking the wind out of me. I fell to the ground waiting for the heat. Waiting for the Fiery Hot that always helped me win. But it was gone. I felt nothing.
As it turns out, Mariah wasn’t new. In fact, just like me she’d never lost a fight. They had moved her from Bonao, a city not far from Santo Domingo. She was an excellent fighter, but even without the heat, so was I. After almost an hour of going at each other, I finally managed to put her in a choke hold. I almost had her too. Only a few more seconds and she would have been dead, but while she was struggling underneath my weight, my eyes somehow managed to meet the woman’s again. And she was studying me from the other side of the cage. She had a look of pity, but not just for me, for Mariah too. For the girl being killed, and for the girl being forced to do the killing. It was a look I hadn’t seen in such a long time, I’d almost forgotten what pity felt like. What being human felt like. And I let Mariah go.
Needless to say, I lost my fight.
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