plundered in a whirlwind of chaos. Pandemonium touched each and every room in
this living complex. Mutilated carcasses confined to barren corners of a once
glorious building. Cribs for babies burnt to a crisp, dolls and other such toys
smashed up into small indiscernible pieces. There was nothing left here to
save, all we could do is pass by and imagine what life was once like here
before the splicers. Fontaine created a parasite that has the ability to
manifest itself across the entire globe and threaten our existence. Under the
wrong hands, the capitalist centric greed of those who sit in their ivory
towers will bring about catastrophic results, and there would not be a single
thing I or anyone else can do to stop it. Better this place stay hidden than to
be discovered in the surface.
I checked Thompson’s map keenly looking for a central control room but there was nothing to be found, the only hint that we have is that it’s somewhere on the 9th floor. Garvey and Dennis followed me but kept silent, showing bitter disapproval of my decision. What we all did agree on was leaving this morbid place, moving through one ransacked room from another was nauseating, making us devoid of any hope. I checked the map again for even a small clue as to where the control room was. The 9th floor was mainly composed of mechanical and engineering sites that kept the building functional. The problem was that they all looked identical to each other, just pictures of indistinguishable gears running in a straight line across the map. It would take hours to search that entire area and we did not know how many guards were up there. We could end up walking into the hive of the communist movement. I checked my bag and pulled out all the syringes I had left.
“I got five left, what about you two?” I asked Garvey and Dennis.
“Should be enough for one final confrontation against these pricks, let’s get to the nearest elevator.” I said, determined to come out of this alive and well, readying my Tommy gun for battle. Out of all the ideological fanatical insurgents I had to deal with, communists were the most prevalent. This was nothing new to me, the ones I dealt with in the surface were special ops, and in here I’m mainly fighting an ex-labor force. Maybe Atlas was right about my odds here, but I was no superhuman, I had to be wary of my encounters with them.
“For Gods sake, we won’t make it another hour if we keep doing this! Garvey tell him we’re through with this, let’s get on our way and end this-“
“Shut the fuck up!” Garvey screamed, Dennis looked at him in shock and did not say another word “I appreciate you saving our asses down there, but you’re an ignorant little shit. We run and Atlas won’t back us anymore, either way we’re dead men walking. I’ll take my chances here. You can go hide in whatever basement you want but I won’t be joining you. So leave me out of your shit.”
Another long silence insinuated. Dennis looked down once again in defeat and gave a loud snarl. Garvey ignored him and pressed forward, I followed. The tension we all carry will not be put out through a friendly exchange of words; it will most likely continue to burden us throughout our time together. Though things could end very poorly if we continue to alienate him. I look at Thompson’s map again to see if I am missing something and at the same time to avoid any conflict.
“You know, goddamnit it’s all coming back to me.” Garvey said, annoyed by something.
“What’s that?” I replied back
“Why she hated my guts, my wife I mean. Apparently I was a fantastic father but a really bad husband. I’d spend the whole day with my little Angeline and take her all over Rapture while my wife would do the groceries, make dinner, do the laundry, and on and on it went. She felt like she was being cheated on, taking away the man she loved and turning him into ‘Angeline’s play thing’. She didn’t have the stomach for it. We would have arguments about that; she would blame Angeline for everything. It was wrong . . . doing that to a six year old girl. She went hysterical and we would go days without seeing each other. Eventually she probably stopped loving me. She wanted a divorce and custody rights towards Angeline which I refused. Funny thing is she didn’t have to do a thing, Ryan’s goons locked me up and she got complete custody over her. I’m hoping a long absence might change how she feels, but that’s just me being hopeful.”
“W - Why tell me this now?” I said as we continued to walk down the long corridor of rooms.
“ ‘The fear of death follows from the fear of lif-’ ,”
A loud ringing noise came from all over the complex. We all dropped our guns and covered our ears, trying to prevent the penetrating sound from rendering us unconscious. My eardrums felt like they were about to explode but I kept from screaming. It came into focus and all I could hear was a calm static coming out of some speaker.
“What has propelled you brutes to come to my little utopia and stir such a ruckus? Let me guess, Atlas put you up to it. Only he most probably gave you an obscure task, one that seemed so simple to complete. ‘A little chore’ is how he’d usually put it. I know why you’ve come, and let me tell you this, I, William Rustamov, will unleash the wrath of this entire building before allowing you to desecrate my most cherished works and accomplishments, you have my word..”
With that the speakers were off, leaving the unnerving ambience to take its place. We raised our guns, wondering if they knew where we were. We moved at a steady pace, checking every door for some superfluous surprise. Every diminutive sound could be heard; droplets of water pounding the floor, the rocking of a lifeless crib, the weight of the ocean floor crushing all in its path. These were all the signs of an impending doom, a lurking shadow waiting ever so patiently to strike. Yet nothing came; nothing broke through the doors of the living complex. I took a deep breath and lowered my gun, Garvey followed my example. I unstrapped one of the Tommy guns from my back and hand it to Dennis.
“If I give you this, I shouldn’t expect a hole in my back right?” I said nervously gripping the barrel of the gun.
“Scouts honor,” Dennis said grabbing the Tommy gun, tensely looking at all the doors of the living complex. It was a relentless maze with a possible surprise at every turn. We make a right turn and to our disbelief, find an elevator. It was five meters down the bleakest corridor we could find; soot covered the ground and none of the lights were functional. Why was so much of the building renovated yet here I find myself in the worst type of hell? It was odd, but maybe there was some deeper meaning behind it all that I could not get a fix on. We pass one closed room after the other, pointing our guns directly at the door in anticipation of a dreadful encounter. One of the doors was narrowly open, against my better judgment I take a peek inside only to find another ransacked home with ripped carpets, destroyed bed sheets all across the room, and behind all that a bloodied couch holding a dead man with a pistol in his left hand. On his right, there was an audio diary of some sort. The speakers once again gave out that wretched wail.
“There lies your future, a result of your so called luminary’s empty oaths. Here lies a once proud member of his noble vanguard, a man who was led to believe that all would be well and that he was someone who held value. ‘Atlas would save me; dear, noble Atlas’ he said to himself over and over again. Poor man, I truly do pity the hopeful.”
The speakers fell silent and I stared at the dry corpse. Garvey ran up to me to grab my attention. “We should leave now.”
In opposition to my own instinct, I enter the room. Broken wine bottles were scattered all across the floor along with ripped pictures of a woman. The man was bloodied and his skin deteriorating must have been weeks since he shot himself. Yet even with all that rotting skin, I sensed sadness in him, a sort of misery reminiscent to a past life of mine. Who was this man? I take the audio diary from his hand; curiosity got the better of me. I needed to understand what drives a man to be deprived of any hope and wallow away into an endless sleep. Garvey and Dennis soon enter with confused expressions on their face, wondering if I lost all hints of my sanity.
“We need to go!” Garvey said, placing his hand on my shoulder, but I did not listen. All I did was tamper with the controls of the diary, trying to figure out how it worked.
“Just . . . give me a second here, I–I need to hear this.” I said in response. I found the play button, but I could not find it in myself to press it. Feelings of dread flowed within me. A profusion of uncertainties clogged my ability to think. I knew this was a trap, but Rustamov was playing some sort of game. He does not want us dead, not yet anyways. For a split second, that dread dissipated and I pressed the button. I could hear the tape and the reels start moving and static came out of the diary.
“They got me cornered; I’m in this damn wine cellar and can’t get out! Why haven’t they raided it yet? Gotta find some way to prepare, set up traps, anticipate how they’re going to attack.” Said a voice that came out of the diary, he had a thick Western accent and was speaking in an nervous frenzy. “If I can hold out for long enough, then Atlas will come and get me out of here, I know he will.”
“It’s been a couple of hours and they still haven’t broke through. I don’t know what the hell is going on but I know these bastards are right outside the cellar so I can’t get out. Wait a second, I get it! They’re trying to wear me out, make sure I’m off guard. That won’t happen, for as long as I’m here, I’ll point this Tommy gun right at the door. I got The Lord on my side and Atlas’s blessing. Nothing’s getting through!”
“Two days passed, and still nothing . . . Haven’t slept or eaten yet and I don’t think I can hold it for much longer.” Said the man, only this time the excited fervor he once felt dissipated into exhaustion and exasperation. His words began to slur, it was hard to make out what he was saying. “What do ya’ want . . . why won’t you cowards face me. I KNOW YOU HEAR ME, COME OUT AND FIGHT!”
“Five days gone by. They’re giving me water and loaves of bread to make it past each day while I rot in a cellar. I slept yesterday and nothing happened, no one grabbed me. I don’t know what sort of sick game this is, why they’re keeping me alive. God’s eye is waning away, every day I stare into the endless stockpile of liquor stashed here and . . . I’m tempted to take it. But I can’t, Atlas will come for me . . . I know it. Just gotta look out the window, wait for a bathysphere, get ready when it comes.”
“It’s been over a week. I stopped praying . . . stopped hoping . . . stopped pretending that Atlas was going to show up. I sometimes stare out the window, just hoping I’d see something; a fish, a hook, a goddamn mannequin even, anything but the empty blue.” He said, this time his voice was cracking and he began to sob uncontrollably, panting for air. “Nothing changes, nothing in this fuckin’ place changes. PLEASE LET ME OUT!”
“Twenty days here, constantly hearing that crazed maniac running the building spout on about pointless crap in the speakers day in and day out. Not that I could tell the difference anymore, it’s all the same shade of blue down here; the same fuckin’ color, the same bullshit motionless frame that we call a window. I’m down to my last bottle of booze, after this it’s all over. . . Once upon a time I was a devout believer in The Lord, a man who believed that the sun was a reflection of His eyes. There ain’t no sun here, no God to look after me. After weeks in this . . . room . . . I can safely say I’m a full blown cynic and sinner now. My name is Richard Walkens, and this is my last act of defiance.”
The audio log continued but nothing else was said, not a word was echoed from any of us. Was this to be our fate? To be locked up in a colorless, lifeless building with nothing but dark corridors and ransacked homes and shops to fill the empty voids? To be cast away as experiments of an insane asylum gone wrong? Anger swept through me and I threw the audio log across the room while giving out a high scream. I fell on my knees, and looked at the body dumbstruck, paralyzed, incapable of thinking or performing any action. “You fucker, Atlas you piece of shit.”
“We aren’t getting out of here . . . are we.” Dennis said, completely flabbergast. “He doesn’t care if we live or die; we’re just livestock to him.”
“Now wait, we’re
getting ahead of ourselves.” Garvey said, putting his hands up and trying to
calm us down. “This could all be some sort or rouse Rustamov’s cooked up. For
all we know this could be some sort of setu-“
“A setup? Y-you think this is a set up? Put the pieces together! Atlas sent the three of us to do his dirty work and turn us into martyrs for his cause, after we do ‘this small chore’.” Dennis screamed, clenching his fists as tightly as he could to express his anger and devastation. “We’ve all been made fools out of.”
“It’s our only shot.”
Dennis and Garvey look at my direction; these were my first words since the reveal. I continued to look at the body, but came into grips and made sure to hold on to the fragile balance we had left as a team. “Nothing’s changed; we go to central control and turn the life support off. It’s the only chance we got of getting out of here.”
“But, the audio dia-“
“Garvey’s right, it could be a rouse made to split us further.” I said, finally picking myself up and gripping my Tommy gun tightly. I look to my peers and hide my emotions to the best of my ability in order to reassure them. “Atlas has access to the only bathysphere in this entire complex; we have no other way out. The only thing we can do is do what he says or die trying.”
Both of them were silent, giving off looks of confusion and paranoia, not knowing what to believe anymore. The truth was that I knew this was no rouse. This was real; Atlas sent this poor boy to do his bidding and in his time of need, never came to save him. For once Dennis was right, but what choice did we have? We had to do Atlas’s bidding, otherwise there’s no point in fighting. The bastard had us trapped from the very start. But we press on, knowing that there’s still hope of a rescue, and we cling on to that hope until proven otherwise. “Get yourselves ready, we’re ending this now.”
They were ready to protest, Dennis attempted to put his hand up and Garvey opened his mouth. But nothing came through from those actions; they knew I was right, no matter how much they wanted to deny it. So instead, they picked up their guns and waited for my queue. I marched out of that abomination of a room and headed straight towards the elevator. Questions began circulating in my head; how many guards were up there? Is there a central control room of any sort? Does this keycard work? There were so many variables and moving pieces that were needed to make this plan work. If even one of them went awry, there will be no reconciliation for our failure.
Past the endless corridors and never ending number of doors, we reached the elevator and entered it. All of us were breathing in heavy anticipation of what happens next. The instant I press that button, war breaks out, bullets will be flying in every direction and the long haul will begin into the control room. With great fervor and anxiety, I press the gold ornamented elevator button that may very well send us to our doom . . . only nothing happens. I repeatedly press it again and again, annoyed by how nothing was going our way, but the door did not shut.
“Power seems to be out, I’ll take a look at it, you two watch the corridor. Take cover behind some doors if you have to.” I told them both. Without hesitation they went outside the elevator, opened the doors to the nearest rooms and took cover inside the room right outside the hall. I found the fuse box to the elevator and immediately took out the cover. There were two fuses that were completely fried; thankfully they had an abundance of spares. It was an easy remove and replace process. The lights turn back on and I could hear volts of electricity moving into place.
“Alright I think that about does it, get in-“
The elevator began shaking at a rapid pace, making a loud rumbling noise and causing me to lose balance. I fell face flat to the floor as it continued to shake. I could feel a downward momentum, as if I were sinking. The elevator was going down; I could not see anything but the grey metal that made up the elevator. The speakers turned back on again.
“You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?”
“Shit the cables are loose,” Garvey screamed, running as fast as he could towards the elevator, reaching down to grab my hand. “Take my hand.”
“Goddamnit put your hand away now!” I yelled, unable to my balance myself. “It’s going to collapse any second from now!”
“You could do it pal!” Garvey screamed, extending his hand ever closer to me. He was not listening and was about to get his arm ripped off. With all my effort, I pick myself up, grab Garvey’s arm, take out my knife and cut his arm ever so slightly. He immediately groaned in pain and pulled it back.
“I’ll see you on the other side pal,” I said to him. With that the elevators final cable was cut. It goes down in an unprecedented speed while I hit every corner of the elevator, grunting in pain as I hit one spot after the other. I felt pain on my forehead, neck, arms, legs, everywhere. I had no control over what areas of my body would get hit and could only put my arms up to avoid any fatal injuries. Everything was dark; all I could see was sparks of light coming from the grinding metal and hear the unbearable screeching of two metals clashing at lightning speed.
The elevator came to a halt and I crashed to the ground head first. I try to get up but the results were futile. Blood was oozing out of my head, my vision began to blur and consciousness was lost. I was confined to a deep sleep.
It began with feelings of a frigid calm as I slowly began to open my eyes again. I had a desire to stay and remain on the floor to avoid anymore strife. But as more of my bodily and mental functions began to turn back on, the realization of things hit me and I picked myself back up, but not without immediately feeling an overbearing amount of pain first. I look at myself to see what was damaged. My entire body was littered in scars and my head was covered in dried up blood, but there were no fatal injuries and I was able to walk. I slowly pickup my supplies, struggling with bending over from all the pain. I quickly glance over my surroundings to get a glimpse of where I was. In front of me were a ludicrous amount of burnt dolls with missing buttoned eyes. They were all staring at me, looking right into my face. Was I dreaming? This was all bit too unnerving and out of this world for my taste. I exit the run down elevator and realized that I was in a toy store of sorts. There were large ceramic mushrooms and teddy bears that covered the store, rainbow covered columns, life size building blocks. This would all have been fine if some of the lights were working and the place did not look like a complete wreck. Now it just looks like any other part of this miserable wreck we call a department store.
There was not a sound to be heard; not a footstep, voices in the distance, or even droplets of water pounding the ground. There was only my heavy breathing and groaning. I quickly take out my radio and try to contact Garvey and Dennis.
“Garvey, Dennis, are you there?” I said nervously, wondering if they were still even alive and if Rustamov just ambushed them. I could not fathom such a thing and tried one more time. “Hello?”
“Oh thank Christ you’re okay. Where are you at?” said Garvey
I give a heavy sigh of relief and answer. “Some sort of toy department, I’m a long way down and pretty bruised up. I’ll find a way back up, just stay where you are.”
“Nonsense, we’re coming to you. Just stay put and we should be there in less than an hour.” He said, adamant in his resolve to find me. “Don’t do anything rash. Oh, I gotta ask, did you enjoy that arm slicing bit you pain in the ass?”
“Roger that, and calm down it was a scratch. Woulda enjoyed it a lot more if it was Dennis reaching out.” I said sarcastically while feeling an excessive amount of pain on my lower hip. “Just make sure to-“
Something touched the back of my forehead. It was small, cold, and rigidly placed. I knew what this was and what it meant, I was screwed. Caught in the final act of my plan to bring this place down. I drop my bag and put my hands up slowly. “You got the wrong idea pal.”
“I’m not your pal.” Said a strange, cold, familiar voice. It was a female, could this be? “Turn around, slowly.”
I complied with the order as my curiosity reached boiling heights. I turned around and these strangers’ eyes met mine. I smiled and felt overbearing heights of glee, it was her; the one I was seeking for so long. Her eyes widened in disbelief and the gun she was holding so firmly began to shake.
“What’s your name?” she said anxiously
What is your name!” she screamed, the barrel of her gun ever so closer to my head.
She gave a sigh of relief and put the gun down. She looked away from me and slowly sat down next to the nearest corner breathing heavily, holding on to her waist. Blood was staining her white blouse, it looked like a puncture wound. “I . . . I need help.”
“You and me both.” I replied, immediately coming to her aid and checking the wound. A bullet punctured her waist and blood was coming through. I ripped one of my sleeves and put it up against her waist to stop the bleeding. After that I check my bag for medical supplies of any sort. Before I could get anything out, she extends her hand and touches my arm.
“Will . . . it’s good to see you.” She replied weakly.
“It’s good to see you too, Elizabeth.”