This is long overdue, but I sort of forgot about it after everything that happened with my son.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you read it and read the whole thing I really, really love you. No, really.
And without further ado, here's Part Four.
Matt felt sick. She’d watched Jason’s fight –if you could call it that – in growing horror, panicking for him. At first she was impressed with the way he skillfully avoided his opponent’s attacks, but after a while she began to worry. His attacks seemed to have no effect on the giant he was facing, and he was getting tired.
And getting tired meant making mistakes.
With the size and power of the man he was paired against, Matt realized that one mistake would be very costly for him. Her worry turned to dread, which in turn led to panic.
As soon as the first hit landed, she took one look at the way his arm was hanging and began screaming.
“Stop the fight!” she yelled. “Stop it; stop it now!”
The other spectators around her, who didn’t possess her superior eyesight, threw her dirty looks. The fight was finally getting interesting and she was hollering to stop it. They couldn’t see what she could; that Jason’s arm had not only been ripped from its socket, but the muscles and tendons had been torn. His arm had literally been ripped half off.
The crowd roared, cheering; excited. They couldn’t wait to see Jason get beat up. They didn’t understand that the fight was already over.
He began running, terror in his eyes. Blood was beginning to ooze from his shoulder, slowly running down his useless arm swinging by his side.
“Lie down, Jason!” Matt was screaming again, tears in her eyes. She was afraid; so afraid. “Lie down and default, you big, stupid idiot!”
His opponent leapt onto him, and Matt thought she heard the bones splinter from where she sat. Jason shrieked at a volume so loud he actually overpowered the crowd, and they fell silent; uneasy. Matt watched him lose consciousness and realized that big gorilla was just going to keep sitting on him until time was called.
With a shriek of her own she plowed her way through the crowd; flying down to the ring so fast most of the spectators she knocked over didn’t even see her. She tore open the door of the cage, ran over to the giant and grabbed him. With all her strength she lifted him and tossed him to the other end of the cage like a rag doll.
“You bastard; you’re killing him!” she screamed.
There was a murmur of surprise from the spectators; the infamous Ice Queen was in a rage, and over a fighter from another organization, no less.
The sight of her pulverized limbs made her sick. He would never be able to use them again, she realized. If he lived.
She dropped and felt for a pulse. When she found one she began shaking with relief. Her entire body heaved as she realized that Jason was still alive. She didn’t know how she would have lived in a world without him.
“Thank God,” she whispered, tears streaming down her face. “You can’t die. I can’t watch anyone else I love die.”
In that moment, she knew. She loved Jason. He was necessary to her, just like water.
And at the same time, it all came back to her. Her childhood; her happy memories as Ishtar. Her memories of Jason. She had loved him, with that intense enthusiasm and innocence that children love with. She had been looking forward to seeing him again as much as he had been to seeing her.
But then the explosion happened – the one that killed her family. She remembered her parents, remembered how much they loved her. How her father opened up his wings and wrapped them and his arms around her, shielding her from the flames that last day. He might have been able to get away if it hadn’t been for her. He gave his life to save hers.
The guilt and the pain were unbearable; and she blocked it out to protect herself.
She cried uncontrollably, hunched over Jason’s prone form, and blacked out herself.
The following weeks were difficult for Matt. There was no news of Jason. Her newly found memories made her miserable and confused. Her head hurt. Constantly.
And her wings ached. She wanted nothing more than to rip off her bindings and fly. She didn’t care anymore what people thought or who saw. Her whole being was filled with the desire to fly away.
She fought with mechanical skill, and appeared to be ruthlessly taking down her opponents. But she was more careful than she’d once been. She didn’t want to hurt anyone too badly. She wouldn’t hurt someone else’s Jason the way hers had been hurt.
“I want out.”
Mother Superior – Charles – blinked at her.
Matt took a deep breath. “I want to leave the convent.”
Mother Charles nodded slowly. “I thought you might.”
Matt felt surprised.
“The way you cried over that boy – the fact that you blacked out over his body – was enough to make me think that this conversation was coming.”
Matt nodded. She felt a little ashamed that she had embarrassed the other sisters, but she didn’t regret her actions. She explained everything that had happened, knowing a full report would be sent to the sisters in her home convent. She hoped they would understand her desire for freedom. Her desire to be with Jason; no matter how broken he was.
“I’ll finish the rest of my fights before leaving,” she offered.
Mother Charles nodded. “Thank you, Matt – Sister Mathilda – Ishtar, I suppose I should call you.” She grinned, and Matt – Ishtar – smiled back. It was the first time she’d smiled with anything like genuineness since the incident.
“Call me Matt,” she said, quietly. “It’s been my name for so long there’s no point in changing it.” She hesitated. “And it’ll feel like I’m taking part of you all with me if I keep it.”
Mother Charles smiled at her. “I’m glad.”
As she left the office, Henry rushed up to her.
“You’re leaving; aren’t you?”
She blinked at her friend. “Does everyone know?”
“Of course not,” Henry looked smug. “Not everyone knows you as well as I do.”
Another smile flickered across Matt’s face. “Shall we pair up together when we leave? That is; if you don’t mind having a half-dragon-half-Iluthian for a business partner.” She grinned, with more of her old self in her smile this time. Henry squealed in delight.
“Really? You mean it?”
Matt nodded, her face growing serious. “Someone needs to teach people that winning doesn’t need to involve incapacitating.”
Henry nodded, her face softening as she looked at her friend.
“I will be.”
They stood in silence for a moment.
“Any news?” A hopeful note crept into Matt’s voice.
Henry shook her head. “Kyou didn’t tell me anything.”
“You talked to him?”
“Finally!” Henry looked slightly irritated, and Matt tried not to laugh at the thought of her friend’s predicament. She was keeping the “friends” label with Kyou until after she had left the convent; but her not-yet-boyfriend failing to keep in touch for the first few weeks after Jason’s accident had made her irate.
“He did tell me something interesting, though.”
“Oh?” Matt tried to force interest, though it was hard to be interested in anything while Jason’s condition was still unknown. She’d seen too much the day of his fight to allow her to think about anything else.
“Uh huh. For the late entries, the Science Center has managed to enter a cyborg! He’s part man, part tank!”
“Really?” Matt frowned. “Isn’t that against the rules?” Cyborgs were almost as hated as Dragons.
“Nope. They checked.” Henry chuckled nervously. “I hope you don’t have to go up against that thing, Matt.”
“I’ll be alright,” she assured her friend.
Matt continued to win her matches. And, from what she heard; so did the cyborg. It was a machine that had been built to fight machine battles in the Science Center’s games; combined with a man who had volunteered to be melded into the machine.
Matt went to one of his matches. He fought brutally; hurtling his opponents against the walls of the cage with his robotic arms. He wore a mask so that even his face looked inhuman. And the crowd loved it.
“Tank!” They roared. “Tank, Tank!”
Whatever identity he’d once had was gone; he was now known as “Tank”. Matt, who knew what it was like to lose her identity, wondered what kind of idiot would voluntarily choose to give it up.
Eventually the inevitable happened, and she and Tank had defeated all their other opponents. It was just the two of them left. Matt prepared for her match with Tank with growing dread. She kept a cheerful face to her friends, because they were worried about her. But she did her best to smile in front of them, and blame any apprehension she showed on the continued absence of news about Jason.
She faced off with Tank in the ring. He loomed over her, saying nothing. He was always silent; at least in public. She wondered if he regretted his choice at all.
As they began to fight, it quickly became apparent that, while Matt far outmatched her other opponents, she was outmatched by Tank.
She was whipped and tossed around the cage like a rag doll. Any other opponent would have been down by now; but not Matt. She kept leaping to her feet and trying again. She was outmatched in strength, but not in speed, and she began using that to her advantage. She ducked, dodged, and dove away from all of Tank’s attacks while she prepared her own. They had little effect, and her bound wings screamed in agony, making it more difficult to give her all.
She went for his face, and yanked his mask off. She stared in horror.
“Jason.” She felt like she would go mad. The man she loved was now a machine, who might not even recognize her.
“Hello Matt,” he said softly. “Long time no see.” Her knees almost gave way in relief.
He’s still in there. Still Jason.
“Why?” She felt fury filling her. “Why would you do such a stupid, dumb-ass thing as turning yourself into a tank?”
“Why?” He looked surprised, troubled. “Because my body was broken beyond repair. This way I can have some semblance of a life. This way I can be useful to the Science Center, and their cause means too much to me for me to ignore it. I’m sorry, Matt; you mean so much to me; but I can’t hold back on you anymore.”
He moved to attack; but Matt leapt out of the way. She landed behind him, at the opposite end of the cage. A tumult of emotions ripped through her. Rage, relief, pain, and sorrow. As well as a complicated emotion that left her breathless. He had sacrificed his humanity for the Science Center. He was giving his all. It was admiration she felt.
As much as the Science Center meant to him; the convent meant more to her. They had given her a life when she had none; a home, a family, a name. She needed to give her all for them. And she couldn’t do that as she was.
All this ran through her mind in a fraction of a second, and without even considering the consequences she reached under her habit and ripped off her bindings.
Her wings tore through the back of her gown and her tail slithered free. Her two natural weapons. The crowd gasped and shouted. When Jason turned around he stopped and stared in amazement.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
“I know,” Matt answered, and launched herself into the air. The roof of the cage prevented her from gaining altitude, but she was able to fly over Jason’s head and wrap her arms around his neck from behind, squeezing as tightly as she could, hoping to make him black out.
But the ref called time, and she stopped.
“Dragons aren’t allowed to participate,” he said.
Matt stared. “But I’m not a Dragon. I’m a half.”
The ref shook his head. “We still can’t allow it.”
“There’s nothing in the rules about half’s. And-“
“I don’t have a problem with fighting her.” Jason cut in. The ref stared at him. “If her opponent doesn’t have a problem with it, why make it an issue?”
The ref scratched his head. “Let me check with the directors.”
Jason and Matt stared at one another when he left.
“You really are beautiful,” he said, quietly.
Matt blushed. “You really look like a monster.”
Jason laughed. “Honest to a fault,” he teased.
“Well, what was I supposed to say? ‘Gee, Jason, you’re beautiful, too.’?”
“The eyes of love make anything beautiful,” he quipped.
“Who says I love you?”
“Henry says. Or at least that’s what she told Kyou. By the time I heard about it, it was too late to change my mind about the operation. I guess when this is over I’ll have to beg your forgiveness and hope you can still love a brute like me.” His tone was light, but his eyes were serious, and there was fear in them. Fear of being rejected.
Matt glared at him. “Yes, you will have to beg me to forgive you on bended knee.” She softened. “But I still love you, even if you are a monster.” Her tone was light, to match his, but the eyes she looked at him with were full of love. If he could love her as a half-dragon, she could love him as a cyborg. He smiled at her, his entire face showing his happiness.
“But don’t think this means I’ll go easy on you,” she warned him.
“Back at ya,” he grinned.
The ref came back then, and announced that the fight would continue. The audience murmured in excitement.
“You ready?” Jason grinned at her.
“Born ready,” Matt replied, and they both began to move in to attack. Both of them, giving their all for the causes they believed in.
I thought about ending it with a winner, but I decided to leave it up to you to decide who wins and who loses. I couldn't choose who I wanted to win - they both value their causes so highly. I decided it was better this way.