The others had moved on.
Tenenbaum felt she had redeemed herself and was working as a researcher and trying to be a foster mother to Jacks daughters. Jack had his daughters to care for. Porter worked in computing, turning down several offers from the government to work on secret projects. He had moved on from his dead wife Pearl at las, although he had not found a new love.
I had father in my head. I had taken a job working as a nurse and was going to medical school to become a doctor. I had grown tired of surface life. I travelled the world for a bit, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, but I felt rapture calling me back constantly. Nothing compared to the hidden city.
I had travelled to Iceland then hired a small boat to take me out towards the lighthouse. I examined the genetic key again, such a strange little device. Apparently, it would read as Andrew Ryan’s DNA to the scanners in Rapture if any of them still worked. Jack had given it to me so that we could have some final closure on rapture but instead I wondered if I could keep the city as my personal retreat from the mundane surface world.
The lighthouse wasn’t visible until I came within a couple miles of it. I had sunk Sinclair’s lifeboat down to the bottom again and removed the lightbulbs from the lighthouse. People must have found this by now but without a bathysphere they probably just assumed the lighthouse was alone out here.
Brigid had destroyed the slug inside of me so I would need to be more careful about catching lead down in the city. The old suit was a little too small now and I had replaced most of the fabric, but the metal parts still fit me. I sat on the edge of the lighthouse with a metal weight to help me sink down to the city without a submersible. I wondered how no one had asked questions about this place, perhaps someone was covering it up on behalf of Ryan or Fontaine, it was possible they had been paid off in advance. Maybe the secret agencies of the world knew about it all along and just watched it all unfold.
I leant over and took the plunge into the frigid depths. I counted four lonely spotlights still illuminating the city. Several tall buildings, surface scrapers, were flooded completely. I manoeuvred over to the top floor of the old welcome centre and into the flooded Kashmir restaurant.
I turn on my torch and drag myself along the banister of a staircase. Starfish coat the faded scarlet carpet, barnacles on the bar and empty plates stripped clean by bacteria. Several skeletons were strewn about the place. None of the lights worked so I decided to move on.
I swam over to the glowing hole where I had been imprisoned. Vibrant sea creatures swam around inside the trench. I see something big down there and go to take a look. Just a long shark, unnatural, three times as long but not as wide. I head away and towards the drop where my sisters are all stationed. I spot the Amusements and Dionysus park where Mothers followers lived. There is so much here for me to explore and rediscover.
I know once my presence is known people will want me to do something if there are any people still down here. Father’s feelings stir memories of the Kashmir and I return to see where he took me for my last walk as a little sister. Where he met mother
There are lights on in Paupers drop, Hephaestus and Arcadia. I have to go and see the survivors, indulgence can wait, they will want time to gather their belongings and several will likely want to stay.
I wonder if I could blow up the city if I knew someone was inside, unaware of their doom or accepting of it. I scan the view one last time and set off down to the drop. Fathers memories of Sinclair resurface, and my memories of aunt Gracie stir.
I used to spend the day with her in her room before mothers’ experiments required me. I wish she had come with us to the surface and hope she is still alive down here.
I look through the windows to discover the drop has changed little other than the lack of mother’s posters and splicers, in fact it seems a bit better maintained. I take a peek in more of the windows and see people moving around.
A big sister taps me on the arm.
I jump back and push myself off the window to face her. My heart starts racing, and a chill runs down my spine. She points towards the airlock and swims off. I follow her. I feel the lack of confidence in my combat abilities against the other sisters. Father has fought my sisters; I have fought my sisters, I could if I had too.
As we swim, I notice she has no needles with which to stab me. There are no metal supports on her legs either. We swim through a broken walkway that has been sealed outside, through coral crusted pillars that hold the Atlantic express and through a shoal of oncoming fish.
We stand inside the airlock and the water drains. She has removed her helmet before the water has reached my ankles. Her skin is slightly greyer than mine, a sign that something is off with her. She looks at me with her green eyes, they swirl slightly, she has some bio luminescent fluid in them, and green is a display of her emotional state. Her hair is black and long, the family would have kept it short.
Tenenbaum warned me that the slugs probably wouldn’t just stay in us forever, they would want to reproduce and most likely detach themselves eventually. She said she didn’t know if it would be a deaths sentence or a release into a normal life free of the parasite.
“You are Eleanor, right? You have come to rescue us and take us to the surface?” she asked excitedly.
“I am Eleanor, I will take you topside. what’s your name?”
“How many of you are there here?”
“11 big sisters and lots of humans, almost a hundred! Come, I show you!”
The inner door of the airlock opened. 11 was a lot considering there had only ever been 26, father killed 7, Porter killed 2. There was a crowd waiting for me, they had got the message I sent a month ago in a small watertight canister. I remove a sealed tube from my back that is filled with newspapers I had collected for them.
“Hello Eleanor. My name is Sidney.” a man with a faint cockney accent greeted me.
“Hello, I take it you have all heard of me. I have news from the surface.”
I handed the papers around.
“I don’t know what you have heard but I am here for some closure and to reminisce. There is more advanced technology and culture topside, but I cannot allow ADAM to escape this watery prison.” I told them.
“What about people with a few plasmids, or your sisters?” He asked.
“There is a machine on the surface that Porter and Tenenbaum have built that can remove ADAM from a person, the sisters on the surface are normal again.” I explain.
“What if we want to stay?” a woman asked.
“Then You will be left down here, But I have not decided, there is a way to detonate Hephaestus. This is Andrew Ryan’s Genetic Key.” I hold it out to show them. “It can be used to destroy the city.”
“Not, if we don’t let you. Ryan’s old office is mine now. I put a lot of work into maintaining the core, you can’t just come back and blow it all up.” A man tells me.
“I understand. I know you may view me as your salvation or your messiah, but I am not, Mother was mad, and I stopped her.”
I am relieved that I don’t have to blow the city up. The people seem fine. I take a tour of the drop and see how much it has changed. Walls have been painted; broken windows boarded up. The smell is far better than it ever was.
The cameras are gone, the vending machines are dismantled. A bathtub has been placed to collect water that drips down onto the street from a small leak above.
“What happened to Grace Holloway?” I ask.
“She still lives here, just as a citizen.” Sidney tells me.
“I would love to meet her again.”
“She spoke to me earlier; she wasn’t sure if you would kill her or hug her, or if you were fucked up enough to do both. But she asked that I let you if you wanted too.”
“I would see her and don’t worry; she is quite safe.”
He takes me to a small cafe and buys me a coffee. Its bad by surface standards, really bad, but still coffee. He seems to enjoy it as do the other patrons. I ask what it is made from and he tells me that they are growing the beans in Arcadia.
I saw that it would not be the wild ride I was hoping for, no more feral splicers to deal with no daddies to save, and worst of all they were expecting me to bring them up to the surface. There was little profit now as well, technology had evolved and apart from ADAM there was nothing that would make me a fortune.
Sarah is following us with some other tall women that I presume were big sisters. They mostly wear oversized shirts apart from a pair in well fitting ones made from odd pieces of fabric sewn together. I will meet them in good time I am sure.
In a small nook there is an apartment with “Grace Holloway” written on the door. I knock then let myself in, aunt Gracie never did lock her door.
“Who is it?” she called.
Her hair is grey, and her stick has been replaced by a wheelchair. Same dress just faded some more. She has old posters on her walls and a crate filled with odd audio logs. Some where hers, others mothers or Ryan’s, Atlas and one from Anna Culpeper.
“It’s me, Eleanor.”
“Baby Eleanor!” she turns to see me. I bend down and we hug.
“I’ll leave you too it.” Sidney announces as he steps outside.
“So, how’s the surface?” she asked.
“everything you ever told me about it is true and more.”
“How are old Sinclair and Delta?” she asked.
I took a deep breath.
“They didn’t make it, Mother got them.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“it’s alright, father is still with me, mothers project worked in a way.”
“Your mother, is she dead as well?”
I didn’t answer at first. My biggest shame, after all she had done.
“No, she isn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.” I confess.
“It’s alright child.”
“No, I killed dozens of her followers but when it came to her I didn’t. she was drowning, I saved her life.”
“Where is she now?”
“I don’t know, she left me. I need to make sure she isn’t down here again, and I need closure.”
“I see, well she isn’t here.”
“Good, I met with Tenenbaum and Porter, there is a man named Jack as well and several of my sisters.”
“No nuclear fire?”
“Not yet, Men have been to the moon though!”
“Really! Oh, I missed you Ele. But I don’t know if my old bones have what it takes to return to the surface.”
“Do it for me, Please.” I lean back and stand up again.
I can hear voices outside; my sisters are following me.
“I will be back for dinner at some point aunt.”
“Yes, yes, your audience awaits dear.”
On my way back to the door I spot one of my old sketchbooks and a worn rabbit doll on a shelf and smile to myself. Retirement has been good for her.