Fort Frolic, the one place in Rapture where you can unwind
your mind and entangle yourself in salacious desires. Some come here for the
strip clubs, paying ludicrous fees to engross themselves in base pleasures to
satisfy their unholy addiction. Some come to visit the art galleries, staying
in a room for hours to unlock all the mysteries of a single painting. And what
do I do with the variety of options presented to me? I drink excessively at the
bar, ordering one vodka after another, pondering upon what the hell just
happened to me. I came to an underwater city, met the founder of the city upon
the first few hours, acquainted myself with a maniac of an artist, saw a man
shoot lightning out of his arm, and witnessed a mechanical beast repairing a
grocery sign. After witnessing all this, any sane human being would try to get
drunk. But I’m not sane; I’ve adjusted to all these supernatural occurrences
and abnormalities. The reason I’m here is because I can’t sleep.
It’s the same dream over and over again; the same blurry empty room, the same man sitting across from me, and that phrase, that damn phrase. I probably should see the doctor, but I wouldn’t dare go back to that hospital room, that was a living nightmare. So my solution to this series of unfortunate naps was to go through one drink after another. This isn’t the first time man has tried to find relief at the bottom of a bottle. No matter how many scientific facts there are on the negative effects of alcohol, men will always come back to bars and drink excessively to temporarily alleviate the tension one goes through in his daily life. It is part of human nature, desire always come first; common sense comes second, and responsibility is always at the bottom of the list. Men have destroyed their lives in the pursuit of finding good alcohol; their family, their jobs, their homes, all of it gone in a heartbeat. People are so quick to judge us, can’t they just except that some of us are weaker minded than others?
I got up from my chair, tipped the bar tender, and exited the bar. I drank quite a bit today; my mind was spinning in all directions. Of course, I wasn’t drunk. I have to maintain certain standards, which means that I have to be able to stand, say things consciously, and stay balanced. The Rapture society thrives off reputation, mine will not survive if I am framed as a gifted drunk. That did not go so well for Mozart during his lifetime, only after it did his work really thrive. I will not be burdened with the same mishap.
As I walked through the Fort Frolic center, I was stopped and congratulated by multiple people who either saw my performance or heard about it. I got compliments like ‘That was a truly stunning show’, ‘keep it up old boy’, ‘you are Sander’s true heir’, and it goes on. This is what life has been like for me in the past five days. Not only did I make a handsome sum of money, but I also sparked a small fan base. Signs of my performance were put up all across Frolic, mainly signs to sell recordings of it though. I felt like the face of Rapture, now I just have to continue this spree to maintain this image.
“Buchanan?” said a familiar British voice
I turned around and to my surprise I saw William Firth, the man who interviewed me upon my arrival to Rapture. He was walking towards me with a smile of glee and opened his arms to prepare for a mighty hug. He was accompanied by a middle aged woman and a tall teenage boy.
“Firth!” I said stretching out my arms to receive his hug.
“Haha so good to see you again! Especially in such a celebratory time for you. Congratulations on a marvelous performance!” Firth said
“Thank you that means a lot coming from the watch dog of Rapture”, I said jokingly
“Well this watch dog certainly knows how to choose Rapture’s livestock, you’re a bloody celebrity right now; I can’t have a drink without seeing a poster of your bloody performance.” He said, he looked at the woman and teenage boy accompanying him and was slightly embarrassed. “I’m sorry; I forgot to introduce my darling family. This is my wife Amelia and my son Rupert.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintances,” I said to both of them, shaking their hands.
“The pleasure is mine; William speaks very highly of you.” Amelia said, she has a very deep British accent, making me think she is a descendent of the queen of England herself.
“Does he now”, I said looking at him with a smile, “So what brings you all to Frolic, don’t you know this is the dominion of the artist?”
“Yes well we are taking something of a family vacation, but I just received a call from The Upper Wharf and they require my presence.” William said, “Something urgent came up and I can’t get into details right now. These two are heading back home while I have to take a bathysphere to Neptune’s Bounty by myself, unless the great Buchanan would like to give an old lad such as myself some company.”
“Yes!”, I said quickly. Honestly as lovely as Fort Frolic was to look at and walk around, there was just so much sin occurring in every corner that I grew a little nauseous. I would be happy to accompany Firth to this Neptune’s Bounty. I didn’t really know much about it, other than it being the finding place of ADAM and something about cargo delivery.
“Wonderful! I’ll see you two in a few hours,” he said to his wife and kid, blowing a kiss to his wife in the process. He then looked at me and said, “Come now, my clients won’t wait long for me.”
I followed him to the bathysphere station. We made small talk here and there; talking about family, my boss Sander Cohen, how Rapture is treating me, and whether or not I fancy those portraits of me on the posters. We arrived at the crowded station and I immediately went in line to get a ticket. William looked at me in disbelief.
“Get out of there!” he said grabbing my arm and pulling me away from the line to my ticket. “When with me, there is no need to act like an indigent. Follow me and I will show you what an opulent life is like.”
He led me away from the crowded station and into a desolate area that had a multitude of bulky security guards surrounding it. William approached the one at the center of the space and showed him a piece of documentation. The guard let me and him through. In this desolate space were multiple rooms that were covered in red curtains. William went into one of these rooms and I followed, I entered the room and it was completely dark, similar to the time I went to the lighthouse for the first time.
Lights automatically entered the room. In the center of it was a bathysphere, but it was much different from the ones in the station. The metro bathyspheres were round, bulky and relatively ugly. They had no exterior design and looked like they came straight from a factory. The opposite applies to this one. This bathysphere is made of stainless red metal, has a slick oval like design and looks like one of those elegant space pods you would see in Hollywood movies.
“This is the Tigershark Bathysphere,” William said proudly “It’s twice as fast as the metro version and can be driven manually. Due to their being no regulated traffic for manual driving of the bathysphere, privately owned models aren’t mass produced and the expense is absolutely ludicrous. But with the right amount of money, an old geezer such as me is able to buy a submersible Ferrari. Now come on, get in.”
The hatch opened andI slowly entered the bathysphere, admiring every detail of it. This is truly a thing of beauty;there was not a speck of dirt on it, though I suppose constantly being underwater helps. I sat down in one of its leather seats and William entered right after. The hatch closed and the platform started to sink into a deep circular tunnel. We soon exited the tunnel in Fort Frolic and came in view of the city in its full glory. It’s hard to believe that anyone over here can get used to this city. It’s practically a modern version of Atlantis and people are just wandering about their lives as if nothing about this place is truly spectacular. I suppose we all have different attitudes on what is considered incredible and what is considered customary.
We went away from the routes of the metro bathyspheres and created our own course to Neptune’s Bounty. We went passed many more of those hulking mechanical giants known as protectors. This time though, I saw different types of models. There were the ones with the abnormally large hands, diving helmet, and drill that cut through enormous rocks as if they were paper. Then there was another model that more so resembled a human than the other. Though it was still huge, this protector did not have abnormally large body parts or a large drill to make up its right hand. Instead it had a massive nail gun in which it used to nail shop signs or repair walkways. Looking at these protectors, I could not help but feel sympathy for them. Knowing that they were once men now turned into mechanical slaves is hard to fathom, especially for an objectivist society. Then again if what Andrew Ryan told me was true and these people were terminally ill or dying from age, then it’s not hard to see why they chose this fate. It was either live the rest of your life with free will but being a burden to society or to lose that free will and help that society in ways that even the most physically capable human beings could not do. Even I would choose the latter option.
William and I were talking quite a bit on our way to Neptune’s Bounty. The small talks elevated into discussions about morality, philosophy, and the faults of the world above. But we eventually moved on to lighter topics.
“You have a lovely family”, I said. “Your son looks like a fully-fledged man, your wife is beautiful, and you’re a well-known business man. You all seem to be a whole and fully functional family.”
“Well not quite”, he said a bit hesitantly. “My wife and I also have a fewother members in our family.”
“Is that so”, I said a little surprised, never thinking that William would be a caring family man as well. “How did that come about?”
“You see I used to be a religious man of sorts,” he said looking a little ashamed.
“Wow, I could have never guessed.”
“Anyways in my more youthful years on the surface, I was an amateur businessman and a devout servant of God who had a longing to have children. I specifically wanted one boy and one girl. I married Amelia and soon afterward she gave birth to Rupert. I wanted to start the process all over again but then opportunity came to my doorsteps and I got a letter giving me a set of coordinates. Those coordinates led me here and a whole new world opened up to me. I started to focus less on the Christian teachings and more on the expansion of my business, giving my family the lifestyle I always dreamed of, and eventually becoming a prominent businessman. We were so distracted by our success it hadn’t occurred to us that we still did not have a girl in our family. So just two years ago we decided to start the process all over again and I started praying more than I ever did in my life. I wanted a girl more so than anything else in the world; just one beautiful, young baby girl. Eventually Amelia gave birth again and soon afterward I gave up on God and decided to live a material life.”
“So you got a boy?” I said a little confused
“No”, he said a bit grumpily “I received two girls.”
We both started laughing hysterically, oh the irony of that situation. There is a saying that goes with what he just went through, ‘be careful what you wish for. What you want may be more than you can handle.’ In this case God really did give William more than he can handle. How he makes time to enjoy the more soothing pleasures of Rapture is beyond me.
“I have a question that has been bothering me for days and I was hoping that you might shed some light on it,” I said to William. “When we were in the welcome center, I couldn’t help but notice that it was completely empty. I’m just curious on how many visitors do you get in Rapture.”
William looked at me with great concern, I suppose he was trying to avoid answering that question and hoped I wouldn’t notice.
“It’s complicated,” he said
“I’ve got time,” I said to him, at this point a little suspicious about his concern
He gave out a sigh and then said, “A few years ago Ryan was under quite a bit of political turmoil. A man by the name of Frank Fontaine came to Rapture in 1948. In a matter of weeks he created a smuggling ring to bring contraband items that were high in demand; this dramatically expanded his income. He created his own business, Fontaine Futuristics, which was designed for making advances in medical research. His methods to get those results were nothing short of barbaric. He took advantage of the less privileged residents of Rapture and forced them to undergo terrible experimentation.Ryan didn’t know he was performing such volatile tests and let him continue on with his business. I mean for God sakes he disguised his research building as ‘Fontaine’s Home for the Poor’ and was looked at as a champion of the people, no one knew about this. But soon Andrew Ryan discovered the criminal arm of Fontaine’s enterprise and saw it as a genuine threat to the entirety of Rapture. His smuggling operations might avail the location of the city to those who live on the surface. So he sent his security chief to put an end to the smuggling ring and prove that it was connected with Fontaine. The connection was made and Ryan ordered his men to arrest Fontaine so he could face justice for his heinous crimes, but Fontaine refused to give in and then a shootout instigated. Fontaine was found dead shortly after and the smuggling ring was disbanded. He closed the visitor’s center after this, fearing that another parasite from the surface worse than Fontaine may try to do the same thing, he would not allow it and from that point on, we isolated ourselves completely from surface dwellers.”
“What political turmoil did he face?” I asked, as he really didn’t elaborate on that
He gave off another sigh and shook his head, then said. “Fontaine was a cruel bastard. He was vicious and sick. But he was also a brilliant businessman; he brought products from the surface that you could get nowhere in here, and for reasonable prices. Soon people started turning to him for their material needs. Ryan offered the people eloquent words and well-drawn speeches, Fontaine offered things that the people could never get from Ryan. That’s how he gained so many followers at one point, even today people complain about their restrictions on getting products from the surface.”
“What products are considered contraband items?”
“Anything that is in conflict with the Rapture ideology; movie reels from the surface, newspapers that discuss current affairs of cities other than Rapture, the Bible, or any other religious items that people might worship. Look how I see it we have everything we need right here, Fontaine smuggled the few good things left on the surface that we might crave. But what happens when you smuggle in the things that made living on the surface a living hell? How would people react? What would happen if you smuggled in religious fanatics, guns, diseased ridden degenerates, politicians, weapons of mass destruction? We came here to get away from the political grief of the surface and start a new life. Fontaine sought to take that away from us and control Rapture for himself, Ryan prevented a disaster and I am thankful to him for that.”
A long silence endured inside the bathysphere. I made William uncomfortable with these questions, I’m sure of it. I doubt it had anything to do with me questioning the foundations of all this, in fact Andrew Ryan fully supports his residents in asking questions and doesn’t enact a law against it. So it must be our talk of Frank Fontaine that has made him so uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, but what is Frank Fontaine to Rapture? How did he stir so much commotion amongst everyone?” I asked
“You weren’t here during his rise.The scheming, the manipulation, the chaos; all of it instigated by him. I met him at one point to talk about a possible partnership between our two businesses. I entered his office and was…baffled; he had animal trophy heads covering every foot of his office; bear heads, lion heads, deer heads, they were everywhere. You see I have a personal philosophy about people showcasing their fortune. The manner in which one shows off wealth through decorations and ornaments is a representation of his or her character and what they have become to acquire that wealth. The instant I went into Fontaine’s office, I knew that this man did terrible things to acquire his wealth. He was sitting down, smoking a large Cuban cigar. He was a man with a menacing stature and had a thick Bronx accent. When he spoke, I was terrified; his mannerism was unlike anything I have ever seen in Rapture. I rejected his offer and he became furious. He got off his chair went up to me and said ‘when this shithole you call paradise comes crashing down and becomes a pile of junk. You can bet that the first piece of shit I’m going after is you. Not Sander, not Steinman, not even goddamn Ryan, I’m coming for you. No one crosses me, no one.’”
“Why didn’t you tell this to security?” I said
“Heh, it was the word of a small time businessman against the founder of a corporate enterprise, I had no chance. I just let it go, but I never associated with him, I simply couldn’t. A few days after his death, an article came out on the Rapture Tribune; Ryan’s men raided the research center and took pictures of the experiments he approved. It was horrible, he was using women, the elderly, even children to conduct his experiments, he ripped them wide open and taking their organs out as if they were nothing but spare parts. Those poor lads, not a day goes by when I think of that man and what he might have done to this city.”
“What was he researching that required so many human hosts”, I asked
“Who knows, Ryan never shared it to the rest of us and destroyed the lab along with all the research. He said, ‘I wouldn’t dare continue this abomination, all of it must go.’”
“Hey, I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable in anyway”, I said to William. “I don’t know much of anything about the history of this place and I was just curious. Our discussion of this Frank asshole is done. I mean the way he threatened you.. It’s just too much.”
“It wasn’t just me,” he said emotionally distraught. “He threatened my family. He said he would kill all of my kids and make me watch. How the hell can any human do that? Kill children to settle a score. He was a monster and I celebrated his death. I’m glad you came here when that mess was done with. Rapture was much gloomier back then. But that’s behind us, and yes if you wouldn’t mind young chum we should move on to a more mirthful topic.”
“Yes we should,” I said “You want to know what’s happening on the surface?”
“Blimey John,” Will said laughing “I said a bloody merry topic, have you ever heard of such a thing?”
We continued the small talk for five more minutes until we finally reached Neptune’s Bounty. Unlike the pristine skyscrapers that made up a majority of Rapture, this building was smaller; it reminded me of one of the many apartment buildings in Manhattan. This building had more rustic and was not managed well from the outside. I suppose there is no value in cleaning a fishery complex, as long as the building is functional and workers could do their job in it, that’s all that matters.
We entered a tunnel and were lifted by a platform to the surface of Neptune’s Bounty. We stopped and entered a room similar to that of the one in Fort Frolic. The hatch opened and we both exited the bathysphere. There was a man waiting in the room, he was a short broad man who was completely bald. William immediately greeted him and then introduced me.
“This is the young prodigy of Rapture, John Buchanan,” William said to this stranger.
“I hear many great things about you, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see your performance but I will most definitely get a recording of it.” He said to me. “William we need to talk…. Privately.”
“I dragged him here all the way from Frolic!” Will said a little surprised “Surely you can make an exception.”
“I’m afraid not”, he said sternly “Mr. Buchanan, I am so sorry for the inconvenience, but the matters in which we are about to discuss is confidential business information. I hope you understand are discretion.”
“Of course”, I said “Will it’s alright just tells me where the nearest bathysphere station and bar is and I will be on my way.”
William gave another sigh and said “Go to ‘The Fighting McDonagh’s Tavern’ for the bar. The bathysphere station is right next to it. You can’t miss it. Truly sorry for dragging you into this.”
“It’s fine,” I said smiling “I’ll see you sometime soon old man.”
“Come by for dinner sometime,” Will said “My family and I would be delighted to have you.”
This is where we parted ways once again. It would seem that anything involving business separates us and I would be left alone to wander foreign land. I exited the room and entered a world completely different from the Rapture I’ve come to know. I was in the lower wharf of Neptune’s Bounty; no longer were there geometric ornaments, red marble floors, elegantly dressed individuals, or advertisement boards showcasing a certain product. Here there were rusty wooden floors, the atrocious smell of raw fish, lights that barely seemed to function, and unshaven dirty men who wore dirty clothes. The conditions here were unpleasant, but for strong willed individuals who were accustomed to this certain lifestyle, then this was more than functional. You could see dozens of men unloading fish from returning subs and storing them in large crates. It was arduous labor; I hope these men get decent wages for their work.
I felt like extra-terrestrial being while walking down these halls. Here were strong lower class residents of Rapture who made their living through hard labor. I was wearing a six hundred dollar suit and was spotless compared to the rest of these folks. When passing by these labor workers, they would give me a glare of spite and envy or a look of bafflement and confusion as to why I am here. People down here were so much different from the ones in the more lavish areas of Rapture; here they are gloomier and quieter. I tried to understand why this was, until it hit me. Rapture was the promise that anyone can pursue their interests without federal interference, that anyone can be officers of industry. But like anywhere else in the world,Raptureneeds a labor force to maintain the city. Someone to unload and deliver fish, someone to serve and make the food, someone to scrub the toilets. The destitutes, the disenfranchised, the insolvent, all garnered when enacting a system such as this. It is one of the many negative aspects of being human; to maintain a lavish lifestyle would mean taking advantage of the penniless by making them man servants and laborers who serve at the whim of their master. People like this never get chances to become captains of industry; there will always be a social hierarchy and those who are on the higher part of the spectrum will do everything in their power to maintain it. The same applies here. No wonder Fontaine was able to amass a great deal of support, because even in a utopia, a class system exists.
I walk further down the sub docks, the laborers continued to frown on me. I soon came across a man who was working directly on my pathway; he was removing battered blocks of wood and was replacing them. I tried to get out of his way to not draw any attention to myself but he looked up and saw me. Suddenly he dropped his tools on the ground, stood up and started staring at me. It was a cold, sinister stare. There was not a single muscle moving on his face, it was motionless. All he did was move his head so his eyes would gaze upon mine. I looked away and passed him, trying to ignore him. I looked back and to my horror he was still staring at me with that cold, motionless face. My pace quickened, I now tried to leave the dock as fast as possible and find ground that was familiar to me. Everything here was alien. All I could see was suffering, an endless trail of misery. I finally found my way to The Fighting McDonagh’s Tavern. To my surprise it was completely empty, not a soul to be found. The tavern itself was not very accommodating. The tables and chairs were wooden and the bar itself was relatively dirty and not very well maintained, though it had an incredible view of the city that made up for it and a nice sense of intimacy. I went to the bar tender and ordered a cola, I had my fair share of booze today, and I needed to stay sober, especially in a place like this. I took a seat on a chair right next to the window overlooking the stunning view. I pulled out a cigarette pack from my pocket. Before pulling out one, I couldn’t help but notice the branding. ‘Oxford Club’ the highest quality cigarettes in Rapture, I put one in my mouth, took out my lighter and lit it. I was disappointed; somehow the damn Cubans are able to produce better quality cigars than the most technologically advanced society in the world. So yes this came off as disappointing, but I didn’t care too much at this point, I wanted my memory of the surface to be completely erased, it’s filled with nothing but somber memories of my misadventures. I took a deep breath and my distress dissipated into nothing and my mind was free of all burdens. I closed my eyes and took in the silence.
I opened my eyes and looked around the bar to see where that noise came from. The bartender was gone. I could not hear anyone from a distance.
It was coming from behind me. I slowly turned around to see what was making that sound. I gasped and almost fell off my chair in shock. It was the man who stared at me while I walked over here. Only this time he was smiling and looked almost joyous. He had a wrench in his hand and was tapping the table with it. I immediately assumed the worst and wanted to run, but he could have hit me while I had my eyes shut rather than make noise to wake up. I looked away and minded my own business, looking at the window and trying to relax in any way possible.
He continued to make that infernal noise, but I still ignored him.
“Would you please stop that?” I said angrily to him “Christ, restrain yourself.”
“Was that upsetting you?” he said curiously “Sorry pal, didn’t mean to be a bother, I just get curious, ya know.”
“Thank you”, I said turning away and trying to get back to my meditative state
“So what brings ya’ to this slum?” he said smiling “The cheap liquor I would assume, pricey stuff in the higher up areas.”
I picked up my glass to show him what was inside it and then put it down.
“Oh good for you pal, it’s hard to stay sober in Neptune’s, the work is too much, bad wages and such. Heh, one time I had no cash what so ever and was craving a drink, begging old Wilkins to get me a bottle from the winery. Of course he said no, so me and my buddies broke into the winery. They took as many bottles as they can carry, but you see here I’m a man of taste, and I looked for the best bottle of wine in there. As it so happens I found a bottle that was made in 1922 and hasn’t been opened until the day I stole it. I drank the entire thing and it was the best bottle of liquor I ‘ve ever had, it was out of this world.”
“Congratulation”, I said to him sarcastically, raising my glass of cola.
“Thanks! So what about you?” he said
“What about me?”
“Have you ever taken a bottle in the winery?”
My heart stopped. I looked at him in shock and bewilderment.
“What… did you just say?” I said in a nervous frenzy
“The bottle in the winery,” he said, his smile turned into a blank grim expression.
I fell off my chair and was gasping for air. This isn’t real, this can’t be real, I’m only dreaming, I’m only dreaming. He got up from his chair and walked closer to me slowly, with each footstep making an eerie sound as it hit the old wooden floor.
“Where is the bottle in the winery?”
I was sweating all over my body, I picked myself up and stepped away from him.
“You stay away from me,” I said breathing heavily and pointing my finger at him. “YOU HEAR ME, YOU STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!”
I quickly turned around and jolted away from the bar. I ran as fast as I could to the bathysphere station. This can’t be real, this can’t be real, this isn’t reality, this is all in my head. I continued to run and did not look back, I didn’t dare look back. I just ran and ran.
“I’M STILL WAITING WILL, STILL WAITING!”