A shift in mind and
mentality arose from the ravaged toy store. An awakening of sorts, one where
feelings of loss and remorse were mitigated, replaced instead by doubt. My path
was unclear, the direction washed away with a multitude of uncertainties. I
came in with steadfastness and hope. Even with my knowledge of the terrible
afflictions that arise from hope, I refused to give in. Now the realization of my
foolhardiness finally penetrated though my armor. There was nothing left to
hold back the gloom and misery to follow; I was a slave to my own humanity.
And so I continued with this state of philosophical pondering for thirty long minutes, sitting down on the floor and staring into the blank, empty eyes of a ceramic teddy bear. My body was littered in scars, the clothing was shredded and beyond filthy. Maybe this was a representation of my journeys end. The moment you reach the lowest point of your physical and mental state, the lowest possible catharsis seeps into you, constituting the purgation of all previous aspirations. Whether it be in a warzone or getting lost in the Sahara desert, that negative catharsis will come and who you were previously will become nothing more but a shattered memory.
“Will!” Garvey screamed in the distance with uncontrollable glee. He and Dennis finally found me and ran to my direction. “Jesus we thought you were a goner, shoulda known better.”
“Did you find another elevator?” I asked him in a brooding manner, still looking at that damn bear.
“Yeah, down that hallway to the left, there’s an elevator shaft that leads directly to the 9th floor, though we should take a few minutes to-“
“No . . . No more games from Rustamov, no more waiting, we end this now.” I said, standing up and injecting two syringes of ADAM into my bloodstream. I could feel my scars healing and was ready to go through with this, walking ahead of my comrades and heading straight towards the shaft.
“Sullivan wait, we need to plan, figure out how many are up there! We could be dead the instant we get on th-“
“Like you said Garvey, when you’re with me, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Now are you with me or are you just going to get in my way?” I said to them, not a single expression on my face. There was a change and they felt it.
“Sullivan . . . what happened here?” Garvey said concerned, coming closer, trying to understand why I was like this, but I did not have the patience or time to explain. “It’s simple fellas, you can come with me or stay here. Either way I’m killing Rustamov.”
Dennis did not say a word, he just nodded in agreement and Garvey gave in. We left that terrible toy store and entered a narrow metal hallway that soon led way to the elevator. It was open, looked hazardous, and had none of the decorations commonly placed in elevators. It must have been for the workers, instead of a button, there was a lever. I pulled it and immediately heard a rumble from the elevator as it slowly went up. Usually this period would be associated with either controlled excitement or complete hysteria. Neither was to be found here, rather, amazingly, it was relief that touched us. No sweat flowing down our faces, just calm breaths and a steady heart beat. Whether it be our staggering confidence or an embracement of death, we were ready, ready to finally take on the author of all our suffering. I could hear the loud clicks and quacks of gears being turned at a clocklike pace, running the nooks and crannies of an inhospitable domain. We were close, nearing the gateway of Rustamov’s palace, the center place for all life in the building. Turn the power off and everything dies. Whether that makes me a hero or a genocidal maniac is inconsequential, there’s no moral high ground in a place such as this. A speaker in the elevator turns on and makes an all too familiar ringing sound; we all knew what this meant.
“I understand now, the reasoning behind your unbreakable will and body. I rained fire to the warehouse, sent multitudes of my finest men after you, and force you down in a high speed elevator that should have instantly killed you. Yet, you’re still here, by some miracle you’re still alive. Then it hit me, your true identity, the authoritarian elite that punishes all transgressors. You’re the angel of death. Whatever ground you touch, a trail of blood follows. From any hallway you walk, a graveyard comes into being. How you wave your scythe and strike down all those you perceive to be ready for the next life. Come, it’s almost over. I’ll be with all of you shortly.”
The speaker turned off, it was followed by heavy breathing and shot up nerves. He knew we were here, there must be thirty men on the other side waiting to turn us into lifeless corpses. Garvey and Dennis could have panicked any second but instead they kept their calm, indifferent by what was to happen next. Both of them point their Tommy guns at the door and I follow their example. The elevator grinded to a halt and the door slowly slid open.
BAM BAM BAM
Bullet after bullet came out of Dennis’s gun as he shot into the opening, screaming in the process. I point my gun and immediately fired where Dennis was shooting and soon Garvey followed. We continued unloading hell to the supposed marauders on the otherside, but then I realized, why weren’t we dead yet?
“Guys,” I screamed, though the sound of my voice dissipated by the sound of wasted bullets. “GUYS!” They stopped firing and looked at the results of their carnage.
Nothing . . . there was nothing on the other side; no soldiers, no automated turrets, it was just us. We slowly crept away from the elevator and started checking every corner of where we were. This was the 9th floor, the heart of this entire complex, pumping blood through metallic machinery that kept everything afloat. Large metal gears were turning; steam was coming out from a maze of pipes. It felt like I was a first hand witness to the coming of another industrial revolution. Everything was moving and gave life to the building, and for the small insignificant human visitors, we get a narrow wooden walkway leading to another door. Only this one was larger, grander than anything I have seen, the only thing I could compare it to was the door in the lighthouse.
We continued moving forward in a slow pace, checking in any place we could for a potential attack. But how could there be any? The pathway was so narrow and there was no room for any sort of attack. More speakers around the mechanical site began to turn on.
“It’s alright now there are no traps or macerations in store for you, no need for bloodshed. If you two gentleman would be so kind as to let me talk to your CIA counterpart, we have a great many things to discuss. You will find my office through the relief door in front of you, do hurry we don’t have much time Mr. Sullivan.”
The speakers turned off. Dennis and Garvey looked at me for guidance, as if I had any clue as to what Rustamov had planned for us. Though this did not weaken my resolve; in fact it only strengthened it. The balls this man has to face me head on upfront. The important thing was to kill him before he has a chance to talk.
“Will, you know it’s a trap. Think this through before you d-“
“Stay here,” I told both Dennis and Garvey while staring at the tall relief door. “Rustamov will get what he wants. Make sure no one comes through, I won’t be long.”
Garvey did not respond and gave a reluctant nod. They both turned around and made camp near the entrance. I paused for a great deal of time before I opened the door, still in awe that I somehow made it this far and by the huge beautifully carved door in front of me. There were eight panels on the door, each telling a different story through the use of relief statues. They all seemed biblical, telling tales of Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, The plagues of Egypt, David and Goliath. Yet in the center was the largest panel, in it was a large snake and next to it an apple. A sly innuendo of what to expect once opening these doors. I put my hands on the handles and push forward with all my strength. The door moves forward at a grueling pace, making heavy creaking sounds echoing across the mechanical site. Soon the door finally came to a thunderous halt. I look back to my comrades who were staring at what lied beyond those doors, perplexed by what they were seeing. I step forward into the supposed office, the hard wooden tiles of the mechanical site was replaced by soft sophisticated carpets. I hear loud creaks coming from the door and turn around to see the enormous relief door shut itself. I was no longer able to hear the loud clocklike rhythm of the gears turning nor could I see my comrades; everything was silent in the room. All I could hear was soft jazz music being played from a phonograph not far from me. Persian carpets, original classical paintings, small evocative statues, highly ornamented furniture made up the entirety of the office. The place was enormous; the roof was at least forty feet above us. In the center was an elaborate fireplace, the only light source in the entire room, and two judge’s chairs. One of the chairs was being sat on; I could see his feet and arms. It was Rustamov, it had to be. I take out my luger and walk towards him.
“Violence is not always a forthright solution.” Said the man sitting on the chair, surprisingly he had an American accent that had a sophisticated undertone. “Sometimes instead, a nice chat mixed with some ludicrously expensive brandy ends up being a better alternative. No need to stain my humble home with the dismal chaos lurking outside this door.”
He stands up and faces me, holding two shots of brandy. His look was striking; he had an upright posture, wore a brown checkered suit, and was permeating a sophisticated mood never before seen in the Department Store. He begins to take a few steps forward. “You should really try some, it’s actually quite-“
A gunshot exits the barrel and goes straight through his forehead. Rustamov’s head flies back and he crashes to the floor with a tremendous thud. Then all was silent, smoke dissipating from my luger as I hold the gun in the position I shot it, breathing heavily and finally smiling. It was over, it was finally over. Now all that was left to do was to turn off the life support and await my ride. I look at the deceased Rustamov, a little more. Blood was pouring from his head and stained the Persian carpets along with that expensive brandy. Good riddance, I’ve had enough of these elitist cockroaches to last me a life time.
“You monstrous ape.”
Oh shit, shit, shit! I turn around with all my speed . . . but it was too late.
A gunshot went through my leg and with excruciating pain; I fell on my knees, covering the gushing blood soaking through my pants with my left hand. I painfully try to pick myself up and point my gun at the direction I was shot.
Another gunshot came through my other leg and I instantaneously fell on my face, the gun slid away from me. Blood was pouring out of both sides and I was grunting in pain. So much blood was lost, I was fading. But I did not give in to defeat and continued with all my strength to retrieve that gun, with one painful strode at a time. I was so close, it was in the palm of my hand. But then a sudden kick from my mysterious intruder and the gun was out of sight. Two heavy boots were in front of me, I looked up as I lied on the floor, desperately clinging on to a strand of life. My eyesight blurred and so did the figure. He tilted his head sideways, picked up one of his feet and smashed it into my face. And like that, consciousness was gone.
“Wake up,” said a distorted voice from the distance, echoing inside my mental palace. Light finally began to shine through. “Wake up you sack of shit!”
That light was suddenly replaced by a wave of liquid that ran through my body. My eyes immediately opened, and I found myself staring directly at the fireplace. I was dripping in water and was panicked; my hands and feet were tied to the chair and my legs covered in bandages.
“You were supposed to be different.” Said the perpetrator of my pain, looking agitated and frantically moving left and right. “You were supposed to be my messiah, my savior. Instead I got a damn brute.”
My vision cleared and now I clearly saw the man in front of me. He was a timid, small man who wore working clothes. His voice was that of a high pitched American and he spoke in an incredibly fast pace. It was a stunning contrast to the man I just shot, this can’t be Rustamov. He continued with his frantic state, biting his fingers and talking to himself. “Atlas Atlas Atlas Atlas, I-I can’t escape you wherever I go. I run here, I run there, but-t it all comes back to me.”
“What are you babbling on about?” I said in pain. It hurt every time I opened my mouth.
“Shut your mouth!” said the man, grabbing a snow globe from across the table and smashing it on my head. I then coughed out blood and stared at the floor. I pick my head back up and sternly looked at him.
“Shit-shit I’m sorry,” he said running from my side to get a handkerchief, cleaning the blood from my face. “I get these spells sometimes, changes in mood. Dunno what to call it. L-let me introduce myself, names W-william Rustamov.”
Rustamov? This was him? The conniving fiend that perpetrated all those sinister mind games? This was him? He was no better than a splicer and a fool? What was I missing here? He gave a gleeful smile at my stupendous surprise. “Yes yes, looks can be deceiving. If I’m going to be honest, I-I was just the . . . what do you call it . . . Ah yes the figurehead of all the operations here, but that man you shot, he was the brains. And you just blew his head off.”
“If it’s any consolation, I thought he was you.”
“Yes yes! That’s what we were going for,” he said with surprising exuberance “I personally thought we should lock you up but he thought we could negotiate and be, um, c-civilized. Boy was he wrong. L-look pal, let me get straight to the point. Sullivan, that’s how you say it right? Anyways we’ve been watching you ever since you’ve came here and goodness gracious, you’re a dynamite sort of guy. Watching you take on one impossible task after another was enlightening! And then it hit us, you’re the man to do it, the one who can save us all.”
Rustamov tightly grabbed my shoulders and placed his head inches away from mine. “S-somewhere around this God forsaken place lies the heathen that will light the world on fire, and only we have any chance of stopping him.”
“What are you talking about?” I said annoyed, everyone here speaks in riddles.
“The bastard who built all this, the one everyone in their ivory towers assume is dead. he’s planning something big, something that will put everyone in this green Earth to their knees. He’s the spawn of Satan, no, he is Satan. A snake with no true face, mischievous, lying piece of shit who’s taking everything.”
“Christ, can you stop speaking in riddle-“
“FRANK FONTAINE!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. I gave him a bewildering look, all I remember was endless storied about him in Rapture, a barbaric opportunist with no moral compass. Could it be? Can he actually be alive? “Frank fucking Fontaine.”
“… Go on.”
“He’s here, roving the place like a goddamn vulture. So many myths riled up about him I can’t believe he’s real. Frank’s a fable story that somehow escaped the pages, and yet no one knows it. H-here lemme tell ya where we are. Friend, this is none other than Fontaine’s apartment. All this from the wealth he managed to accumulate; the carpets, the lamps, the statues, and a whole lot of other stuff I’m too stupid to name. Though ironically, on top of that lovely fireplace is a picture of the red devil himself. Come on Sully, the parallels are all there. But that’s beside the point . . . just listen, I know where he’s at, who he’s disguised himself as. You wanna know?”
“Look I have no quarrel with Fontaine or with anyone else in Rapture, I’m just trying to find my way out of here. Once that’s done I’m not coming back.” I told him in the clearest way I could.
Rustamov went back to his state of hysteria, words were slipping from his tongue, but he eventually found his footing and began screaming. “Why can’t you comprehend what you’ve been doing this entire fucking time? Are you blind? How can you miss what was right in front of you this entire time?!
“Get to the point!” I said in frustration
“THERE AIN’T NO ATLAS! NO SAVIOR THAT’LL SEE US TO SALVATION. THERE’S JUST FONTAINE, THE CAPITALIST SCUM BAG THAT MARX HIMSELF WARNED US ABOUT.”
“Wait . . . no that can’t be right, it makes no sense.” I said bewildered by the possibility of such a thing. “The following he’s garnered, and no one notices?”
“That’s my point saint!” Rustamov said in exuberance, jumping in glee at my revelation. “He’s a snake that one, shedding one coat of skin for another. Now you see? What I’ve been trying to tell you this entire time?”
“No goddamnit I don’t!” I said, the man was speaking in riddles and muddled whatever story he was trying to tell. “Look, Rustamov, take a deep breath and start from the beginning. Who is Atlas and what do you want me to do?”
“D-don’t try and patronize me I’m not in the-“
“I’m not!” I said trying to calm him down. “I just need you to start from the beginning of all this.”
Anger was bursting from his eyes and he reached his hand towards the bloodied snow globe. I was not able to reason with him, Rustamov was mentally handicapped in some form or another. But, to my surprise, he puts his hand away and then takes a deep breath. “Alright . . . alright, here’s how it went-
Before he was able to speak, static was coming out of a radio on a stool. A voice was coming out of it, it sounded like a plea for help. Rustamov quickly grabbed it and answered.
“What’s wrong? I-I told you not to interrupt me.” He said. I could not make it what was being said on the radio, but what was clear was that there were gunshots being fired. “W-what do you mean? T-they’re here?!!! No no that can’t be right he never would have risked . . . unless . . . oh my god.”
Rustamov looked at me with sheer terror on his face, and suddenly the building began to shake from a far off explosion. All was silent and still, after that, Rustamov was trembling. What was going on? Another explosion, closer than the last, rocked the entire building. Lamps, cups and other such fragile objects hit the floor, dust came off the ceiling and made its way to the ground.
“Sullivan, I’m about to endure a very horrible death.” Rustamov said, his hands shaking uncontrollably as more of his radios went off one by one with cries of help from his men. “Damnit we don’t have any more time, listen to everything I’m about to tell you. S-someway, somehow Fontaine will get this building up and when he does he’s going to unleash every splicer in this complex and kill everyone in Rapture. But I promise you, it won’t stop there, with that sort of greed, he’s going to want much much more. He trusts you, that I’m sure of. Get close to him, pick up a machine gun, and fire as many shots into him as you can. Make sure the fucker is dead. If not, you, your daughter, your family and everyone else will be on their knees.”
“heh, you’re out of your mind,” I said, losing my cool and patience with his delusions. “I’ve seen Atlas’s little army, and though while I’ll admit it’s impressive to look at and might very well cause trouble in Rapture, you think that it qualifies as world conquering? You’re out of your depth.”
“T-think bigger than that,” Rustamov said pleadingly. “Open your eyes, this isn’t a world where armies dictate the course of power, it’s become more complicated and you know it. Nuclear weapons, monopolization of industry, these are all within the range of a man such as Fontaine. You need to stop him.”
Gunshots echoed out through the corridor, whatever was causing this mayhem has made its way to the ninth floor, and yet neither Dennis nor Garvey has answered their radios. I look at Rustamov who looked ready to have a psychological breakdown. “They’re coming, shit they’re coming!”
He takes out his magnum and points it at the door. Though his hands were trembling, causing him to lose his grip and drop the gun. “Let me loose! I can help you!”
“No!” screamed Rustamov “Not a chance.”
“You can barely hold on to your gun. If you want to have any chance of surviving this then let me help you!”
Then it began, a loud monstrous crash hit the door, they were breaking through. Rustamov lost it, got out a key, and let me loose. He quickly handed me my gun and found cover behind a couch waiting for his mysterious intruders . . . it certainly cannot be denied now. Rustamov, before anything else . . . was a fool.
“Y-your supplies are on that drawer over there. Get it an-“
Rustamov’s eyes widened in disbelief. He slowly looked down at his torso and to his horror, saw blood oozing out of it. He began grunting and placed his hand on the wound. Rustamov turned around in pain to my direction as blood began spurting out of his mouth. I could see it in his eyes, all his hopes crushed with the fatal blow of a gunshot. He put his hand up and began crying excessively. “Saint . . . saint”
The final shot entered his forehead and he fell to the floor besides his checker coated friend. Smoke was rising from my barrel and I threw the pistol on the ground. Some impending force continued pounding on the door, yet I remained indifferent. All I did was sit in one of the many cozy chairs in this apartment, poured some of that expensive brandy into a glass and sat patiently, waiting for my comrades.
The metal relief door slammed open as heavy wind entered the apartment and created a ruckus; the chandelier fell to the ground, and the fire grew astronomically in size. Yet any form of amazement and wonderment I once felt in regards to the supernatural dissipated. I hadn’t a care in the world. I turn around only to see twelve heavily armed and armored men wearing straw masks enter. They immediately saw me, oh joy.
“You, over there! Hands where I can see them!” screamed one of the men. I put my hands up, one carrying a glass of brandy and the other carrying the bottle. Though I struggle getting up due to me being shot in both legs.
“Turn around,” he yelled again, and so I did. These men immediately recognized me and put their guns down. Behind the menacing straw masked men came Garvey and Dennis giving a sigh of relief.
“Out of my way, out of my way,” said a familiar Irish accent. The white working clothes, the small scrubby beard, it was Atlas. He entered the apartment and suddenly that frenzied rush turned into astonishment. He slowly walked inside with eyes of wonder. “Well I’ll be.”
“You see that body over there.” I said in a drunken tone from the fireplace, pouring more of that brandy into my glass, drinking away in low spirits. Atlas looked at me in shock and smiled. “yeah, that there is Rustamov and his compadre.”
Atlas looked down to see the bloodied Rustamov and kneeled down. He whipped the blood off his face to get a better look and smiled once it was cleared. Then, to our bewilderment, he pulled out his luger and shot him in the face five times. His men gasped in shock, I simply continued drinking. Atlas put his pistol away and looked directly at me. “What’s that you’re drinking?”
“Ohhh, just some sort of brandy. Care to join me?” I said to him, entering a realm of drunkenness I had not entered in years. Atlas gave another treacherous smile and replied. “Don’t mind if I do.”
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