“You’re covered in blood,” Elizabeth said.
A dream: the kind you have when you’re awake. The kind that let you see what could nearly be and what is nearby. A tear.
Dead eyes, tired eyes, eyes that have seen too much and need to see more. “It’s not mine,” it’s a statement of fact, but an uncertain one. Elizabeth read somewhere that there are giant beasts living in the ocean, but she’s never seen them for herself and couldn’t tell you if the book was lying. This is like that.
She keeps walking, through the tear, to where she is needed next, and she’s crying for her father and looking out for her mother and living for all of her sisters and Elizabeth can see all of it as clearly as she can see the giant beasts at the bottom of the ocean. She’s read it somewhere, but she couldn’t tell you if it was real.
“You’re covered in blood,” Eleanor said.
She’s seeing through time and space and she knows this because she can dance that dance and she’s never met anyone else who could before.
Eyes that need a rest but know they will not get one for a long time and that know this rest will either be evenescant or eternal blink. “It’s not mine.” There’s an absolute certainty born of knowing everything that can be known about one particular spot in one particular reality at one particular time and it’s painful. Eleanor can feel her father’s consciousness humming in her chest, telling her to reach because he’s had and he’s lost and he doesn’t want that for his little girl.
She keeps walking with her shoulders set strong and stiff and her eyes filled with tears she won’t shed for a father she can’t decide if she can mourn and a mother she never understood and the loneliness of a lifetime and Eleanor could see it all just like she could see her mother in a wheelchair that she could no longer stand out of reading to the daughters she stole. It’s plain as day and she wishes it could be different.
“Mother, I’ve got to go,” Eleanor tells Sofia, “I’ve got to find her.”
Sofia scoffs, “You’ll never find her: you said yourself she’s in a different plane.”
“You said my father was dead.”
“Fine. Go. It’s not like I’ve ever been able to stop you from doing anything before, and now that your father broke my damn legs–”
“He saved your life,” Eleanor snaps viciously, “Those legs were a result of your own attempts to break the glass.” Then she regains her calm. “You’ll look after the girls won’t you? While I’m gone?”
There’s a deep sigh, “They’re in their teens now, darling, I don’t know what you think I could do to them now.”
“Yes, yes, I’ll make sure they don’t do anything unseemly.”
“Eleanor are you leaving now ?” Sally cries petulantly: she’s in the middle of getting dressed for school, summer school. Her grades are not what they should be, but she’s thriving socially and that’s more than Eleanor could have ever hoped for.
“Yes, Sally, now do you want a hug before I go? I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone.” Sally leaves off with finishing her braid and darts out of the bathroom to wrap herself around Eleanor’s waist, and that sets off a chain reaction that drags Persephone, Alex, and Wanda to come rumbling down the stairs at breakneck pace to make sure they don’t miss their big sister as she tries to inch away to a distance safe for teleportation. “Okay, okay, girls , I’m going now,” she’s laughing, and she needed that, so she’s smiling and hugging them back before realizing that there’s a million things she almost forgot: “You know Mr. Reed’s number? By heart? And you’ll plug your ears if Grandma Sofie says anything weird? And you can wake yourselves up? Sally, you’ll get to the bus on time, right? Oh, don’t forget to eat properly while I’m gone!”
Then the girls are begging her to leave, and so she gives them each one last hug, and she steps into the dining room, and she teleports as far as she can in one burst.
She has a starting point, but she’s not sure if she wants to go there. It’s a lighthouse, and Eleanor is no longer fond of lighthouses, but if it’s for this then she’ll do it. She’d teleport to every lighthouse in the damned country if it came to that, but luckily she doesn’t need to. She knows exactly where this lighthouse is– it’s the one she’s least fond of. It’s the one where she lost her father and saved her mother, when neither of them deserved that. Her father’s consciousness insists, gently, that nothing is all bad, and not to let the past cloud the present– or, at least, he says something like that. It’s very hard to tell when it’s his neurons interacting with hers in a big jumble of general feelings.
Now that Eleanor is actually here though, actually at the lighthouse, with a small backpack holding her old suit, she realises that she’s actually ridiculously underprepared for all of this. She knows she last saw this girl– Elizabeth– in Rapture, and that’s about all she knows. She figures she’ll start kicking up old stones and maybe she’ll find someone down there who knows, or something. You know what– she realizes– Sander Cohen probably knows, that creep knew everything about the underwater metropolis (although, that tends to happen when you sleep with three-fourths of Rapture).
She enters the unfortunately familiar lighthouse, gets in the bathysphere that awaits, and changes into her big sister suit on the way down.
She had forgotten how wonderful Rapture had been, and how dilapidated. To her, growing up largely in the aftermath of the civil war, Rapture had been a wonderful, if stifling, place to grow up– as all children see their homes. It had been all she knew, and so it had been perfect. Now, five years since her feet last touched the leaking puddles and five years since she dodged schools of fish when she went for a stroll outside, Rapture is revealed for what it is: a lost civilization, a sunken ship to plunder. Although, Eleanor supposes that she is here for a more organic treasure.
There is no one there to stop her leaving the bathysphere when she gets to the docking station, and so she doesn’t waste time leaving it. Never trusted those things.
And that was where the plan ended. From here it was purely guesswork searching. Eleanor knew next to nothing about Elizabeth, and therefore had no way to even predict where she could have gone or intended to go. She just knew she was here, somewhere, as of yesterday.
She wanders, mainly. Once in a while, she’ll hear the whale-like, wailing moans of the big daddies, but so far no echo of the ghostly, ghastly laughter of a little sister. That’s as good as could be hoped for, she supposes.
There isn’t a single splicer around– or, at least, no living ones. From the looks of things, there had been some sort of battle between splicer factions, or something of the sort; or maybe a group of them thought they could take down a big daddy for his adam. All Eleanor knows is that there are a lot of dead splicers around, and that whatever had killed them isn’t around. That makes her nervous. She sticks to the shadows, muffling her footsteps as best as she can, trying to keep her teleportation to a minimum, because she doesn’t want to run out of EVE before she finds Elizabeth and teleports the both of them home, and that one jump will take quite a bit of EVE. Hepatitis and Tetanus were never really anything Eleanor wanted to obtain.
The hallways of Rapture feel nothing like what they’d been when she had lived in them. They’re dreary, and cold, and dark, and somewhat foreboding. Before, they had been canvases to paint on and windows to look out of and so insulated that you felt safe. Now, they’re smudged with blood and algae, clouded by age and dust and ice, and so isolating from her sisters, and even her mother. Eleanor isn’t used to being alone: first it had been Mother, and then Father, and then the reborn consciousnesses of hundreds. By now, many of those consciousnesses have passed on their memories and information and wisdom, and then passed away. Mostly, it’s just Eleanor and Delta, with other voices murmuring the occasional guidance.
And here was one of those voices now– a sharp, accented voice with many, many regrets. This way, it pulls her. Now turn. Turn again– no the other way, stupid girl. Now straight ahead and you should see it.
There was a corpse on a desk, impaled by the drill of a big daddy, and rotting away to the point where there was almost no smell anymore. Ah, yes, there it is– claims the other voice– so many regrets, so, so many. Eleanor lets the other voice linger a moment, lets it take advantage of her eyes to mourn the loss of itself.
Then there’s a noise behind her, the deranged scream of a starving splicer, it echoes down the hallway and is cut off with a dull crack. Eleanor knows that sound: that’s the sound of a split skull. Immediately on high alert, she readies her needle and unlocks the safety on her harpoon, creeping back into the hallway just in time to hear “So I went this way first, right?”
The voice sounds more sane than otherwise, but Eleanor knows the deception of plasmids just like she knows there are no more humans in Rapture– aside from Elizabeth, presumably. A muscular form rounds the corner, wearing a disgustingly dirty, tan sweater and holding a wrench in his left hand. Upon seeing her, he immediately backs up, raising the wrench over his head and making direct eye contact with her, as if wondering whether or not she’d attack. He looks, for lack of a subtler word, sane. No screaming attack, no obvious bodily mutations, and even a reasonable survival instinct. He’s not from around here, that’s for sure.
“Wait!” Eleanor cries on instinct. That had been her father, who had assessed the situation and didn’t want his little girl going it alone in the city of the lowest lows. From there, Eleanor scrambles to find some reasoning, and she eventually manages to spit out “You’re not a splicer.”
This new person with the wrench manages to say “They didn’t put a voice-box in you?”
Then they just stare for a good few minutes, until Eleanor realizes she’s had her helmet on this whole time, and she pulls it off cautiously to smile and say “Sorry, I’m Eleanor, I’m down here looking for someone.”
And the wrench person returns “Oh, yeah, hi. I’m Jack, and likewise.” Curiosity seems to get the better of him, however, and he asks “That suit… are you from here?”
“Yes, I was one of Sofia Lamb’s little sisters, and then I borrowed this suit to escape.”
“Oh, thank god,” Jack sighs, “I always worried I had missed a few.”
Several memories that aren’t hers click into place within Eleanor’s mind. “You’re that Jack? You saved Rapture from Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine!”
Jack seems uncomfortable with her recognition, and he switches his wrench to his right hand. “Well, not really, that was all the little ones’ doing. I just beat my dad to death with a golf club when he asked me to and then held off Fontaine for a minute.”
Eleanor has no clue how to respond to this at first.
Jack sighs heavily, “Dammit,” he mutters, “Sorry, I don’t do well with small talk. Wasn’t socialized much when I was young.”
That kickstarts Eleanor’s tongue again and she reaches out a needle-pointed hand, “Oh, no, don’t worry I understand. I killed my father as well, in a manner of speaking. He lives in my head now, with several others. Socialization was never my strong suit either.”
Then there’s more staring, but Eleanor squashes the silence with “Who are you looking for down here?”
“Brigid Tenenbaum,” Jack answers, sobering significantly. Delta provides Eleanor with a rough outline of Tenenbaum’s appearance– dark curls, blue eyes, squared shoulders– and she felt familiar, but Eleanor supposed that was to be expected, what with how famous the woman was.
“I’m looking for an Elizabeth, although I’m not sure where to start my search,” Eleanor admits, and Delta adds “Maybe we can help each other.” Delta likes Jack, feels a kinship to him that his consciousness can’t quite explain, and appreciates the fact that he looks battle-hardened, with callouses on his hands from holding a wrench and a silent step. He looks like a dad, Delta realizes, and that’s why he likes him. He can entrust his daughter to another father, and he trusts Eleanor to get away if the man loses his shit suddenly.
Jack nods, and he starts to lead the way, and he’s heading for Siren Alley.
Delta nudges, and Eleanor listens, “Jack,” she starts, slightly embarrassed, “this might not be the best direction.” He stops, turns toward her. “If you’re heading towards Siren Alley… my mother flooded it.”
Jack sighs, “This place somehow got even worse than last time I was here.” He’s half-joking.
“Where will we find Tenenbaum?” Eleanor inquires.
“Probably in the Olympus Heights sewers, like last time.”
“You have a history with her?” Eleanor pushes.
“She saved my life– a lot more than that.”
As she follows a few paces behind Jack, Eleanor ponders this: “more” than a life? What’s more than a life? Delta responds: a soul. She saved his soul the same way Eleanor had saved Delta’s soul. “You must love her a lot then,” Eleanor murmurs, and it carries loudly in the cavernous ballroom they’re passing through.
Jack lets out an unconscious half-grin, “I guess. I mean, she’s the closest I’ll ever have to a mom.” Yes, Delta likes this man. He’s just like Eleanor.