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Hide From The Sky (The Ocean Won't Judge)

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Carlos was introduced to the idea of Rapture by Doctor Sylvia Kayali, the leading supervisor on his PhD project. When she found him he was hunkered down on the outskirts of a small town in New Mexico, frantically packing his bags and getting ready to escape the townspeople. She knocked on his door and let herself in, sighing loudly at the sight of the blood splashed up his arms, still wet and smearing across all his belongings. Carlos scowled at her tapping foot and rolled eyes, tucking the knife he’d readied for his defence away and returning to his packing.

“I thought I taught you better than this.” She said, pacing dismissively around the small house while Carlos ran to and fro, packing clothes, tools, books and all his notes.

“It was an accident.” Carlos growled, forcing his suitcase closed and heaving his backpack onto his shoulder. “Are you here to help me or scold me?” Carlos pushed past Kayali and out his front door, throwing his bags into the trunk of the car he’d stolen three states over and climbing into the driver’s seat.

“Oh, to help for sure.” Kayali answered, climbing into the passenger seat carefully and tutting at the blood streak Carlos had left on her dress.

Carlos said nothing as he pulled out of the driveway, throwing the car into gear and racing down Main Street, and later the highway, as fast as he could.

Carlos continued to drive in silence, on edge and aware that they were likely being followed, until the sun set. He pulled over into the first motel he saw, a dingy little place with two storeys and maybe ten rooms in total, another car of the same model and colour in its parking lot. Kayali bought them two rooms for the night, both on the second storey and both with windows opening onto the fire escape. It paid to have an escape route handy.

Carlos carried his belongings to his room and shut himself in for the night, ignoring Kayali’s hammering on the door and offers of food, too focussed on trying to sort out which of his things were too stained and which could still be salvaged. The final verdict, after lots of cursing and ineffectual throwing of shirts, was that most of Carlos’ wardrobe had to be dumped. Too much had blood smeared across it, already dry and settled deep into the fabric. His books were less affected, and his notes and tools already had so many body fluids smeared across them that a little more blood wasn’t really noticeable, but Carlos would still have to find time and money to get a new wardrobe.

Frustrated with himself, Carlos took a rough shower, running the water so hot it scalded him as worked the blood out of his skin where it had dried with harsh scrubbing that left him red up to the elbows. He dressed in one of his blood-smeared sleep shirt and fell into bed, sleeping fitfully and waking up well before the sun rose.

Carlos laid in bed for a minute, sighing and watching the sky brighten slowly behind the gossamer curtains in the front window. It had been an accident, this time, hurting this kid, but the townspeople either didn’t believe or didn’t care. Carlos pulled himself upright with a groan and dressed quickly, haphazardly pulling on a shirt and pants from the ‘clean enough to pass for now’ pile and grabbing a screwdriver from his backpack before creeping out of his room into the chill morning air, knocking on Kayali’s door to wake her as he passed her door on his way to the parking lot. Carlos approached ‘his’ car slowly, meandering along and watching the lazy driving of commuters along the highway, and crouched down to inspect the number plate, slipping his screwdriver from his pocket and unscrewing the plate, keeping the screws tucked into his palm and catching the loose plate before it could clatter to the ground. With the plate tucked under his arm, Carlos made his way to the other car in the lot, unscrewing its plate and replacing it with his car’s plate, muttering a soft, unheard, apology to the car owners as he attached their plate to his car. It was for his own safety. If anyone from that town caught up with them they’d follow this car instead of Carlos’.

His work done, Carlos made his way back upstairs, rapping on Kayali’s door again, waiting to hear a confirmation that she was awake before continuing on to his room emptying it of everything he wanted/needed to take with him, leaving a lot of his clothes strewn about the room from where he had thrown them the previous night.

Carlos left his room, backpack secured over his shoulder as he let the door swing shut loudly behind him. He stood outside Kayali’s door and knocked on it again, counting thirty seconds before knocking yet again, and then another thirty before Kayali opened the door, leaving Carlos to catch himself mid-knock, all perfectly coiffed hair and delicately applied make up.

“Took your time.” Carlos grouched, now hyper aware of his own rumpled state of being.

“Yes, well. A girl does have to look her best.” Kayali countered, securing her grip on her bag and leading the way down to the car. “So what was your plan? Where were you going to go next?” She asked, placing her bag gently in the trunk and climbing into the passenger seat gracefully.

“I don’t know. Away from New Mexico.” Carlos answered, slinging his own single bag into the back seat unceremoniously as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

“What if I told you I knew of a safe place for people like us?” Kayali asked, smirking as Carlos pulled back onto the highway.

“‘People like us’.” Carlos scoffed. “Scientists or monsters?”

“Both.” Kayali said simply, pressing her red-shaded lips together to keep from smiling.

“I’d tell you you were delusional.” Carlos answered bitterly, pressing his foot to the gas to match speed with the cars around him.

“Get on a road heading East. I’ll tell you all about it on the way.” Kayali directed, a slight smirk on an otherwise stone-set face telling Carlos that she wouldn’t budge on this.

“Fine, okay.” Carlos sighed, scanning the upcoming exit warnings. “Anywhere particular Eastwards?”

“New York would be good.” Kayali answered, settling in for a long drive and humming a soft tune to herself.

“New York it is.” Carlos muttered.

oOo

As Carlos drove, Kayali told him about Rapture, the city that Andrew Ryan built at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. A city where no one ruled, ‘No Gods or Kings, only Man’ was Ryan’s tagline. Rapture was a city where scientists ran free and held no fear of Ethics Committees, where writers told all the tales they wished with no fear of the Board of Censors, where actors and performing artists took ‘Audience Participation’ to a whole new level, while the unaffected audience members laughed as they watched, only grieving when the curtain fell.

Kayali sold it well, giving Carlos names of Unconventional Scientists who had dropped off the radar and presumably retreated to Rapture, of writers she knew he appreciated who were presumed to be there too. By the time they stopped for the night, Carlos was thoroughly sold on the city and rearing to restock his belongings and jump on a boat to the middle of the Atlantic. Kayali’s offers of his own lab space, an almost unlimited pool of test subjects and contemporaries who fully shared the same limitations Carlos found on the surface, only added to Carlos’ already long list of pros. Rapture was perfect for Carlos, and who was he to deny the siren’s call of what was undoubtedly Andrew Ryan’s greatest achievement?

That night Carlos dreamt of a vast city full of playthings, bodies he could do whatever he wanted with, and coworkers who wouldn’t think he was crazy for wanting to do them. He dreamt of making his PhD hypothesis a reality, of making an actual Frankenstein creature and being rewarded, not disgraced for it. Carlos woke in the morning well-rested and ready to put in a long day of driving, but first he needed more clothes, more notebooks, fresh scalpels and a new lab coat. Luckily, Kayali was also wanting to get new clothes and notebooks and was easily convinced to delay their leave for an hour or so while they shopped and, especially luckily for Carlos, was willing and ready to pick up the tab, to be repaid in hard work done in Rapture, where she would technically be in charge.

With their shopping done, and the back of the car now filled with extra luggage, the pair got on the road again, Carlos driving as long as he possibly could in his eagerness to get to Rapture, to be able to stretch his wings, as such. As they drove, passing through state after state on their winding path to New York, Kayali told Carlos all she knew about Rapture, which was not much beyond the project dates. She told him that construction had started in 45, and that people who were suspected to have gone to Rapture had started disappearing as early as November in 46.

“They trusted the structure that soon?” Carlos asked incredulously, taking his eyes off the road for a moment to raise an eyebrow at Kayali.

“Evidently.” Kayali said dryly, pressing a finger against Carlos’ chin to turn him back to face the road. “Eyes on the road, Ramirez. We don’t want to crash now, do we?”

Carlos huffed but kept his eyes on the road from then on, just humming and nodding as Kayali continued to talk about the way the construction was still going on, the new areas being built in Rapture, and giving non-committal answers when Carlos asked how, exactly, she knew everything she did.

That day Carlos drove until he was dozing off, Kayali having fallen asleep long ago and the sky long since dark. After one particularly bad incident, with Carlos jerking awake barely in time to steer the car away from the roadside, leaving him gasping for breath with his heart hammering in his chest, Carlos vowed to stop at the next motel he saw.

After herding Kayali, first to reception to get rooms for them, and then to said rooms, Carlos was ready to fall into bed and pass out cold. But when he laid himself in bed, just stripped of his day wear rather than dressed in his pajamas, Carlos found himself staring at the ceiling, fingertips tingling in his excitement as he realised they were less than a day’s drive away from New York and, by extension, Rapture. His toes twitched and his mind ran and Carlos found himself utterly exhausted by morning, not having slept with his mind too busy planning the experiments he’d run.

Kayali ended up driving the last few hours to New York, initially muttering about how rude it was for Carlos to make her drive when she’d been paying for all of his expenses, only letting up when she realised her protégé was fast asleep, leaned uncomfortably against the car window with his glasses pressed off-center. Carlos woke when the car came to a jolting stop, Kayali having hit the cement block marking the end of the parking spot she had pulled into.

“We’re here Ramirez. Wake up.” She said curtly, ignoring the startled yell Carlos had given as he woke.

“Where’s here?” Carlos asked, climbing out of the car and stretching out his cramped body.

“The ship that will take us to Rapture. Now get your things, it’s not going to wait on us.” Kayali snapped, shutting the trunk and walking off, her bags in hand, leaving Carlos to gather himself and follow or get utterly lost.

Carlos gathered his bags, fumbling and almost dropping them in his haste as he tried to hold them and shut the car, all while keeping an eye on Kayali so he could catch up to her. Carlos jogged after his supervisor, still trying to get his backpack straps properly situated on his shoulders without dropping his suitcase again.

Carlos caught up quickly, not that Kayali was trying particularly hard to lose him, and finally settled his backpack right, freeing up a hand to block the sun from his eyes as he looked up the side of the ocean liner they were approaching.

“Do we actually have tickets for this?” He asked, turning his attentions back to the flow of the crowd being directed to one of three gangplanks, presumably depending on where their cabins were located.

“Of course we do, Doctor Ramirez. What kind of woman do you think I am?” Kayali said, digging around in her handbag for a sheet of paper, which she showed to one of the porters giving directions.

“Welcome aboard Doctors,” The young man said, grinning and bowing to the pair. “Second gangplank along if you please, there will be someone there to give you further directions.”

“Thank you, have a good day.” Carlos said, nodding to the porter and trailing along after Kayali as she strode forwards through the crowd.

They joined the stream of people making their way up the gangplank, chattering loudly amongst themselves while Carlos and Kayali stood in silence, stepping forwards when there was room and otherwise being generally jostled around by the movement of too many people in a relatively confined place.

The porter at the top of the gangplank directed them to a cabin down one level and three quarters of the way along a corridor which happened to be little more than a closet, with two beds, storage space under the beds and a divider curtain down the middle of the room. As they were storing their suitcases, Carlos found out they could barely even stand back-to-back and retain room to move.

“This is ridiculous.” He sighed, flopping onto his bed and wincing as it groaned under his weight.

“We’re only going to be here for the rest of today and tomorrow.” Kayali snapped, lowering herself onto her bed more delicately, picking up a notebook and pencil she’d laid out and starting to write something down. “Use the time wisely, Ramirez. It would be beneficial to have an idea of what exactly you’ll be doing when we arrive in Rapture.”

“Speaking of,” Carlos said, sitting himself up and ignoring Kayali’s rolled eyes. “How exactly are we getting from here, on this ship, to Rapture? I can’t imagine it will stop to let us off.” He continued, rummaging around under his bed blindly, looking for his backpack and notebooks.

“No, it won’t.” Kayali sighed, tapping her pencil against her lips before adding another note to her page. “You are going to go and find a crewman who knows about the lighthouse, between Greenland and Iceland.” Kayali explained, talking slowly like Carlos was a young boy. “And when you find this crewman, you will bribe him to alert us as we are passing the lighthouse, which should be sometime tomorrow night. You will also bribe him to give us a lifeboat, and help us and the boat get off this ship, so that you can row us across to the lighthouse.”

Carlos huffed, pausing halfway through pulling a notebook from his bag. “And with what money am I to bribe him?” Carlos asked, freeing his notebook and slumping back onto his bed.

“The money I will give you as soon as we are underway.” Kayali said, shaking her head slowly. “Really, Ramirez. I thought you were smarter than this. How did you ever manage to complete your PhD?”

Carlos frowned and huffed again, looking away from Kayali and straightening his glasses. “I think I’ll go sit on the deck. Enjoy some of the last sunlight I’ll be able to get.” He snapped, tugging a few pencils out of the pencil case he’d tucked into the side pocket of his bag. “I don’t know when I’ll be back, don’t wait up.” Carlos sneered, leaving the cabin and only just keeping himself from slamming the door shut behind him. He may have been mad, but he was not a child throwing a tantrum.

oOo

Carlos spent the remaining daylight hours on the upper deck, soaking up the sun and taking notes diligently through the noise of people shouting farewells off the side of the ship, at first, and then the general noise of people on a cross-atlantic trip for the first time. The upper deck only got busier as the sun slipped towards the horizon, more people coming out to watch the ocean as the sun set, couples walking around holding hands, parents trying to herd their children, crewmembers moving amongst the rest of them, just to offer help if it was needed. And Carlos sat, tucked away in a corner with his notebook and pencils, watching it all dispassionately and trying to come up with at least three experiments he could run in Rapture.

By the time the sun had set and the deck had been filled just by couples seeking a quiet, romantic, place to sit and talk and cuddle , Carlos had the beginnings of an experiment, one to reaffirm what his PhD hypothesised, and one that he could easily run, practically in his sleep due to his familiarity on the subject. After the third time a young couple had stumbled into him, lips pressed together and hands roaming only to jerk apart with a giggle and a ‘Oh gosh I’m sorry sir’, Carlos had packed himself up and wandered back down to his and Kayali’s cabin.

Kayli greeted Carlos with a soft noise, shutting her notebook with a snap and sitting up to stretch delicately.

“Shall we try and find something to eat?” She asked, tucking the notebook under her pillow and standing to slip her feet back into her shoes.

“I suppose.” Carlos answered, suddenly aware of the hunger gnawing at his stomach. He tucked his notebook away in the same fashion Kayali had done with hers, and took a moment to straighten his shirt before he followed Kayali out of the cabin and towards the dining room.

“Any luck finding a crewmember yet?” She asked as they walked, mostly side by side but occasionally in single file as another passenger came along.

“Not yet.” Carlos answered, tucking his hands into his pockets and tucking himself behind Kayali as a pair of kids came barreling down the hallway. “I spent most of the afternoon ignoring everyone.”

Kayali tutted, leading Carlos around a corner and into the noise of the dining hall. “Carlos, darling,” she started, voice scathing as they waited for a waiter to direct them to a table. “You need to step up and pull your weight or we will end up sailing right past Rapture to Liverpool.” Kayali smiled widely, expression contradicting her previous tone of voice as a waiter approached and guided them to a small table at the edge of the main lighting.

Carlos sighed heavily, picking up his menu and scanning the items on offer, definitely not using it to shield him from Kayali’s anger.

The meal passed in comparative silence, each of the scientists eating quickly, trading bites with sips of wine and only acknowledging each other with hums and soft ‘this is good, isn’t it?’s. When the meal was done and they were leaving the dining room, Kayali fixed Carlos with a look and cleared her throat pointedly.

“I think I will retire now. Do try not to wake me as you return.” Kayali said, voice chilled like their wine had been as she slipped a small purse into Carlos’ hand and sashayed down the hallway.

Carlos tucked the purse into his pocket with his hands and started off in the other direction, whistling a soft tune to himself as he followed signs to the closest set of stairs to the upper decks.

It took Carlos a half hour to find a crewman who knew about the lighthouse, and once he found a crewman it was easy to bribe him, considering Kayali had given him almost a hundred and fifty dollars with which to bribe the guy. After a brief hushed conversation, where Carlos pressed three rumpled twenty dollar bills into the crewman’s hand and promised him more when he woke Carlos and Kayali as they passed the lighthouse, Carlos was done with his job and ready to turn in for the night.

The next day passed quickly, both scientists sleeping in and spending the main part of the day shut off from each other working on their own projects. Carlos worked straight through lunch, though Kayali returned with some kind of vegetable-filled pastry in a paper bag for Carlos, which he are gratefully even as he kept working on his experiment notes, writing formulae and drawing sketches, filling page after page with his cramped scrawl and half-finished sentences that trailed off into new formulae.

By the time the sun set and the dinner crowd passed towards the dining room, Carlos had the beginnings of a secondary experiment, to make a sentient cloud, outlined and designated to be finalised when they got to Rapture. Carlos passed on dinner when Kayali asked if he wanted to accompany her to the dining room, waving her off with a promise that he’d track down a sandwich later as he chewed on the end of his pencil and flicked back and forth between different pages of his notes. He settled on a blank page, the last one he had left himself before his initial notes on the cloud project, and started a basic to-do list, starting with establishing his lab space and finding test subjects. Carlos’ head drooped as he stared at the two-pointed to-do list, trying to come up with a more thorough list even as he slipped from consciousness.

Carlos was shaken awake by Kayali, jolting back and hitting his head on the wall behind him with a bitten-off curse as he realised what was happening and, once he saw the crewman hovering anxiously in the doorway, why he was being woken.

“It’s time?” He asked, muffling a yawn with the back of his hand as he hurried to stuff his notebook into his backpack and heave it onto his back.

“It’s time Ramirez.” Kayali said, her teeth gleaming in the muted lights of the hallway as she grinned at Carlos.

They gathered their belongings and followed the crewman to the upper deck and around to the other side of the boat, where the man started undoing the cover of one of the lifeboats and prepared to drop it over the side.

“You’ll have to be quiet.” He said, hushed and hurried as he helped Carlos get Kayali and their cases settled into the boat. “At least until you’re a mile out. Keep low and wait or you’ll be spotted and I’ll lose my job.” The man kept looking around, sticking his head up to make sure they were clear before ducking again to untie some knots and retie others and make sure the paddles were secured until they would be needed.

“Thank you for your help.” Carlos said, patting the man’s shoulder as he climbed into the boat.

The man gave a half-smile, straightening once more and letting out a loud whistle before ducking again as Carlos and Kayali gaped at him.

“What was that?” Carlos hissed, grabbing the crewman’s collar. “Who did you just alert?”

“No one! My friend! I can’t lower you myself and it’s okay you won’t have to pay extra, I’ll split it with him just fine I promise!” The man explained hurriedly, hands raised in defence.

“Let him go Ramirez, the boy’s right.” Kayali said, sighing and checking her nails. “But you had best make sure you pay him enough to split decently.”

Carlos grumbled but let the crewman’s collar go just as another crewman appeared, young-faced and bouncing.

“This them, then? Good. Let’s go before we’re caught.” He said, already untying the first securing cord and helping his coworker swing the lifeboat out over the edge.

“Here. The rest of your pay.” Carlos said, tossing the purse to the floor at their feet as they started lowering the boat. “Ninety dollars. Thank you.”

“Thank you, sir. Have a pleasant trip.” The second crewman said, heaving on the ropes and lowering the boat further, leaving them to a controlled descent down to the water level.

They hit the water with a muted slap and a jolt for the boat’s occupants, waiting for the go-ahead from the crewmen before Carlos started rowing them towards the lighthouse.

It was a long row. The ship’s route had put them quite a ways from the lighthouse and by the time they could see it clearly enough to be able to gauge how far away they were, Carlos’ arms were burning from the strain of rowing. As they got closer, Kayali turning in her seat to watch the lighthouse grow in her eyes, they could see the lighthouse wasn’t lit up at all, just a pillar of whiteness reflecting the moon’s light outwards from itself.

Carlos pushed on, grunting softly with the strain of rowing, too eager to get to the lighthouse to want to stop and give himself a break. As he rowed, Carlos couldn’t help but look down, eyes straining to catch a glimpse of the city that was hidden leagues beneath them. He could see a glimmer of light, either the scales of a sea creature reflecting the moonlight or one of the city lights, winking and shimmering with the undulations of the sea as Carlos and Kayali inched towards the lighthouse, towards their entry point as Carlos grew impatient to arrive already.

As they crawled closer, Carlos felt a jittery sort of anticipation build up in his stomach, making his heart pound in his throat and his fingers and toes tingle while his arms shook from exertion and his vision blurred with sea water on his glasses and excited tears pooling in his eyes. They came to a halt with a soft crunch of wood scraping against wood as their boat jolted up against a small makeshift dock, mostly hidden beneath the higher ocean waves. The dock was a flimsy thing, its height varying as it bobbed with the ocean water, and it didn’t seem to be supported by anything underneath it, so Carlos used a single paddle to propel their boat along the length of the dock, wedging the end of the paddle between the sodden slats and heaving along it to drag them, even more slowly than when they had been rowing, towards the lighthouse stairs. Kayali huffed and tutted, muttering comments like ‘can’t you do this any faster’ and ‘good gracious Ramirez what are you doing ? You’re wasting time.

Carlos huffed and ignored Kayali, continuing the slow wedge-push-retrieve-repeat action that was getting them closer to the steps of the lighthouse with each passing second. They reached the lighthouse with a muted grating noise and the flicker of two light posts set at the end of the stairs lighting up. Carlos pushed the boat out just a little further, grabbing hold of the closest light post and turning the boat so the back of it was wedged between the little dock and the lowest step, making for a somewhat stable stepping stone to the first of the dry steps.

“Here, I’ll help you out first and then pass you our bags” Carlos said, balancing carefully and reaching a hand out to help Kayali to her feet. “Go slowly so the boat doesn’t capsize.” Carlos said softly, shuffling around the boat as she moved so it didn’t tip and only picking up his canvas backpack and Kayali’s handbag as some water splashed over the edge, threatening to soak their notes. Carlos helped Kayali step across to the dry steps, grabbing frantically for the light post to stabilize himself as her evacuating weight nearly made the boat tip and send him into the icy ocean water.

Carlos swore softly as he regained his balance and slowly passed all the bags to Kayali, standing impatiently on the steps and watching dismissively as Carlos passed the bags and then jumped off the boat himself, leaving the boat to rock gently and drift away from the lighthouse as he swung his backpack onto his back and picked up his suitcase, letting Kayali lead the way up the steps and to the huge doors marking the entrance to the lighthouse.

Carlos shivered in the cold breeze coming off the ocean, wishing for a thicker coat as more lights flickered on in their approach to the doors, making a figure tucked beside the door straighten up and step forwards to greet them.

“Doctor Kayali, I presume?” He asked, voice rough like he spent most days shouting over loud machinery, and held a hand out for Kayali to take, brushing his lips across her knuckles.

“Yes. And this is my protégé, Doctor Ramirez.” Kayali said, gesturing to Carlos and smiling gently.

“Doctor Ramirez,” The man said, nodding to Carlos respectfully and shouldering one of the huge doors open. “My name’s Steve Carlsberg, I usually work down in Hephaestus, that’s in engineering, but we each have a rostered day to come up here and wait for guests.” Steve said, ushering Carlos and Kayali into the lighthouse with a soft chuckle. “It’s mighty chilly out, it’ll be warmer in Rapture. Speaking of, you’re almost late. Any later and Ryan woulda gone to bed and we’d be stranded here til morning.” Steve babbled, flicking a switch on the wall and lighting the lighthouse up to reveal a looming statue of Andrew Ryan himself, leering down at the group with a banner proclaiming ‘No Gods or Kings, Only Men’ hung beneath him. “Welcome to Rapture.” Steve joked, gesturing to the statue.

“Welcome to Rapture indeed.” Carlos murmured, stepping over to a railing in the middle of the room and peering down the round hole to a metal contraption bobbing in the water beneath them.

“Right this way, if you please.” Steve said, guiding them beneath Ryan’s statue and down a set of stairs that doubled back on itself and opened out into a sort of docking area, filled with the scent of the sea, the soft slapping of water against a metal hull and a gentle tune being played from hidden speakers. As they followed Steve down a swooping staircase to the dock proper Carlos recognised the song, chuckling to himself as his fit the title ‘La Mer’ to the melodic violin and guitar.

The contraption bobbing in the ocean turned out to be an enclosed vessel, with warm lighting and velvet-lined benches inside and a door made almost entirely of glass with a heavy-duty seal around the edge.

“I’ll just call ahead, let Mr Ryan know we’ll be needing him to manage the controls. If you’ll take a seat in the Bathysphere, doctors.” Steve said, reaching into the Bathysphere for a hand-held radio and turning away to make the call to Rapture.

Kayali crossed the small metal gangplank with no qualms, settling into a seat and tucking her suitcase between her feet even while Carlos hovered, unable to clear the image of it crumpling under the pressure as they were lowered down.

“Is this safe?” Carlos asked, fiddling with the straps of his backpack and jumping as Steve returned from his radio conversation and slapped his shoulder.

“Of course it is, Doctor! Why this Bathysphere has carried many sets of settlers down without even the tiniest of leaks! Mr Ryan had the best engineers money could buy on this, you know? Not just for Rapture,” Steve laughed and shook his head. “No sir, not just on Rapture but also for the Bathyspheres and this lighthouse. I can assure you they’re perfectly safe.” Steve said, giving Carlos’ shoulder another pat and climbing into the Bathysphere himself.

“Doctor Ramirez, if you are doubting the methods of travel here, how will you manage in Rapture? If Ryan can build an entire city at the bottom of the ocean, I do not doubt that he can build a safe way to get down and back.” Kayali called, voice echoing oddly from inside the Bathysphere.

“It is one thing to build a city at the bottom of the ocean, you only need to build it well enough to withstand a continuous amount of pressure. It is more straining to materials to have to undergo changing amounts of pressure along a journey.” Carlos argued, leaning forwards to see Kayali better in the Bathysphere.

“Be that as it may, if Ryan thinks it is safe, then I believe him. And it would do you good to believe him too.” Kayali said, a second short of stamping her foot against the metal floor. “Stop being so stubborn, Doctor Ramirez, and get in the Bathysphere.”

Carlos huffed to himself but climbed into the Bathysphere, swinging his backpack off his shoulders and settling into a seat across from Kayali, his backpack and suitcase squeezed between his feet..

“Don’t pout about it Ramirez. You’re an adult now, not the frowning boy you used to be.” Kayali said dismissively, sighing and looking out the front window as Steve stepped forwards with a grin to pull the door shut, pushing and tugging on it to ensure the seal was tight before he lifted the radio to his mouth and spoke into it again.

“House to Rapture. We’re all settled in Mr Ryan, ready for descent, over.” Steve grinned and listened for the affirmative response before slotting the radio away and stepping over sit beside the single lever in the back of the Bathysphere “These can only be controlled by Ryan’s DNA, you know? It’s why your entry time was scheduled, so it wouldn’t interrupt important business.” Steve said, grinning as the Bathysphere jolted downwards, making Carlos swear softly. “Oh, I’m supposed to tell you, as we go, you’ll likely feel your ears pop once or twice. At first we have a vertical descent to Rapture’s level, and there’s a short film from Mr Ryan himself about Rapture.” Steve finished, leaning back with a relaxed smile as the Bathysphere started to descend in earnest, depth measures passing by as they dropped and dropped, Carlos muttering quiet pressure calculations to himself and fidgeting in his seat as they went.

After the 18 fathom mark a screen dropped down in front of the window and the lights in the Bathysphere dimmed as Steve let out a small laugh.

“Ooh this is it, this is good .” He laughed, mouthing along as the video started.

“I’m Andrew Ryan, and I am here to ask you a question…” The video started, the screen filled with an image of Ryan sitting at his desk. As the video played the Bathysphere creaked gently and Carlos’ ears popped at the pressure change. He could hear the sounds of the ocean outside the Bathysphere, the movement of water around them and the song of whales as they swam.

The image on the video changed, a man wiping his brow to a man fleeing an eagle to a man fleeing the hand of God to a man fleeing a sickle representing the Communist Regime. Through it all Ryan was talking, but Carlos paid him no mind. He was already approaching Rapture, he didn’t need to be preached to, he didn’t need to know what was wrong with the surface world, all he needed to do was survive the trip.

The Bathysphere creaked again and moved upwards a little, just as the screen dropped and Ryan pause for effect. “I chose… Rapture.”

Carlos gaped as he looked out over the city, incomplete as it was. The outermost parts of the city were still being worked on by hulking figures in dive suits, but the finished parts were breathtaking. Buildings stood tall and defiant at the bottom of the ocean, windows lit and neon signs advertising Fleet Hall and Cocktail Bars hanging on the outsides. There were power lines and glass walkways crossing between buildings, some full of people stopping and waving cheerily at the approaching Bathysphere before continuing on their way. Carlos stood and pressed himself to the glass, amazed at this feat of engineering, this feat of Ryan , and stared. Carlos saw schools of fish flutter by, he saw barnacles and starfish fixed to the glass walkways, he saw hundreds of tiny luminescent jellyfish floating their way along, and all the while there were these buildings full of people who would welcome him, would see the wonder in his achievements.

Carlos was trembling by the time they reached the Bathysphere dock, precluded by a series of rings with the statement ‘All Good Things On This Earth Flow Into The City’ written on them, his fingers tingling and barely able to hold his suitcase as the Bathysphere entered the dock and raised them up to ‘dry land’, a lavish entry hall filled with plush carpets and the bustle of other new arrivals. The seal on the Bathysphere hissed open and Carlos heaved the door out of his way as he rushed straight down the walkway to press his face against the cold window, staring out as a whale drifted lazily past and just gaping at the city.

“Welcome to Rapture,” A smiling voice said, pulling Carlos away from the window to meet the eyes of Andrew Ryan himself, holding a hand out for Carlos to shake.

“Mr Ryan! A pleasure to meet you! I’m Doctor Carlos Ramirez, protégé of Doctor Sylvia Kayali, over there.” Carlos babbled, gesturing over to where Kayali was disembarking with more care than Carlos had shown, sniffing and patting down her hair before picking up her case and making her way down the walkway. “You have a wonderful city, Mr Ryan, I can’t wait to get settled in.” Carlos continued brightly, turning away as Kayali arrived, feeling his cheeks flush as his eyes filled with excited tears again.

He’d made it. He was in Rapture. Carlos couldn’t stop grinning as he trailed after Kayali and Ryan, Steve following along behind him as they were led through the rest of the welcoming lounge, past groups of people eager to give a smile and a wave as they passed towards a doorway, to one of the glass walkways, and across to the next building over. Ryan was speaking as they walked, but Carlos wasn’t paying attention. Kayali could fill him in later. For now, Carlos was more focussed on gaping at all the brightness and lightness, and how non-claustrophobic Rapture felt for a city at the bottom of the ocean.

They were led through more walkways and on another Bathysphere ride until they arrived in the Medical Pavillion, and shown down two levels to where their labs would be. Carlos took in the room, all big spaces and stainless steel fittings with a wide window looking out over the ocean floor, and had to take a series of deep breaths so he didn’t squeal or pass out from excitement. They were given their keys, little cards that would slot into place beside the door control lever so they could open it and no one else could, and then were shown to their apartments, in the lower levels of Olympus Heights.

“I’ll leave you here then, let you both get settled in. Rent is free for the first month, but I’m sure you won’t have to worry about the cost” Ryan said with a smile after having shown Carlos and Kayali their small apartments, just across the hall from each other. “If you ever need anything, just let me know.” Ryan said with a smile, nodding to the pair and accepting their thanks before heading off and leading Steve away with him.

“I’m going to unpack and then sleep. Goodnight Kayali.” Carlos said, giving a half-wave and retreating into his apartment.

“Goodnight Ramirez.” Kayali muttered, barely heard by Carlos.

Carlos weaved his way past his small living room and into his bedroom, stripping quickly and pulling on a sleep shirt before flopping onto his bed, already made up with possibly the finest sheets he had ever felt.

“I made it. I’m here.” Carlos sighed happily, drifting off to sleep with a smile and lingering eagerness to get to work.