'This is the staircase?' asked Elda. In response, Bianca growled at him and sat down at the edge of the drop, letting her legs dangle.

'Yep' she said, staring at the twisted structure. 'Still want to go for it?'

'Uh...' replied Elda. He was speechless; when Bianca had told him about a staircase that ran down the centre of the building, he had assumed that there would be stairs involved. Instead, the 'staircase' consisted of one great big empty shaft, rigged up with rusty scaffolding and crisscrossed with ladders and pipes. Floodlights ran down the sides of the shaft, but most were broken, producing the strange effect of having patches of light pressed up right next to pitch darkness.

'I'm not sure this is a-' began Elda, but was cut off by the high-pitched yell that echoed to them not ten metres away.

'Mister E! Lookit what I found!' called Lea, running up beside the teen. Elda, glad to forget the shaft, turned his attention to the Little Sister.

'What is it?'

'Come see, come see!' replied Lea, grabbing Elda's hand and pulling with a surprising amount of strength.

'Ugh' Bianca groaned, getting to her feet. Come on, we might as well see what's gotten her in a huff'. And with that, she walked over to Elda's side, gesturing for him to let the girl pull him along. Elda, tired and separated, didn't offer any resistance.

Lea led them a short distance down a side corridor, before turning a corner. The pathway ended abruptly, but was, much to Elda's delight, lined with vending machines.

'That's it?' muttered Bianca. 'I would've thought she found a plasmid or something'

Elda shot a glance at her that could melt steel, and sparks of electricity flickered across his fingers. 'This is good' he growled, 'I haven't seen one of these in...' He trailed off, unable to remember how long it had been since he had used a vending machine. Days, maybe? It was before he met Harlan, certainly.

'Don't get cranky, Little Daddy, especially not with me' Bianca replied, half-joking, half-threatening. She was smiling, but her grin was a little too predatory, her bloodied eyes a little too feral for it to put Elda at ease.

'Look, Mister E, look!' said Lea, pointing at the closest machine. The rose-red neon it was covered in, and the two statues of Little Sisters that flanked it, marked it clearly as a Gatherer's Garden machine, one of Rapture's mechanical drug-dealers.

That wasn't entirely true, of course. The machines simply synthesised raw ADAM into usable plasmids and tonics, but, emergency healing aside, no-one except splicers would use the mutagen until it had been processed by one of the machines.

Elda quickly rifled through his pockets, pulling out everything he had. What he produced was a mess of EVE and medical hypos, 00 and Electric Buck, several revolver rounds, and his wallet. After noting that he needed something better to hold all of his stuff in, he finally produced what he was looking for; a sealed ADAM canister, stolen from Harlan.

Elda grinned at Bianca's incredulous look, but his face fell when he examined the small meter of the base of the canister. Harlan hadn't lied when he said most of his ADAM was used up removing Lea's need to harvest; he had barely 10 units of the stuff left.

'Not enough' he muttered, reaching to put his stuff back into his pockets. He was stopped when Bianca grabbed the ADAM canister.

'Hey- You hand that back-' he said, twisting around, hands crackling with electricity. He was about to fry the splicer when she cut him off.

'You fucking idiot' she snapped, gesturing at Lea. 'You have all the ADAM you need right here'

'I am not about to...'

'I'm not suggesting that. How do you think they get ADAM from the Sisters anyway?'

'I... er...' Elda trailed off, glancing at Lea, who was regarding him herself, glowing yellow eyes seeming... confused.

'You... you want ADAM, Mister E?' she asked, uncertain. Elda looked at Bianca, who nodded vigorously. Slowly, the teen looked back at the Little Sister.

'Y-yeah' he said. The hunger was beginning to flare up in him again. The dull, burning ache in the back of his throat rising in intensity, becoming like an almost painful itch; he forcefully shoved it from his mind.

'Okie-dokie!' exclaimed Lea, clapping her hands together. Elda, put off by her sudden change in mood, watched as the younger girl yanked the ADAM canister from the hand of the older, and quickly began unscrewing the top.

'I've seen this before' said Bianca, 'you may want to turn away'

'Why would I-' began Elda, but was cut off by the sudden sounds of Lea retching, doubled over with the canister to her mouth. More than a little repulsed, he turned his head as the sound of thick liquid falling into the canister reached his ears. Only a few seconds passed before the sound was replaced by the sound of the canister lid being re-sealed.

'All done, Mister E!' chimed Lea. Elda turned back to see the Little Sister offering him the steel canister. He took it, and quickly checked the meter; the numbers now proclaimed that the canister contained 50 units of ADAM. Grinning, Elda turned his attention to the Gatherer's Garden Machine, ignoring Bianca's snide remark about encouraging anorexia in small children.

He accessed the machine, turning dials to see what was available. Plasmids were well out of his price range, but a Gene Tonic certainly was not. A few moments passed as he contemplated his choices.

Strength, speed, toughened skin, invisibility... he pondered. His fingers twitched, and a few sparks flew from the tips. Elda's eyes caught the points of blue light, and he grinned.

He quickly inserted the canister and pulled a small lever, listening as the ADAM drained into the machine. After a few seconds of tense waiting, a small syringe dropped out of the slot near the machine's base, filled with a glowing, light green liquid.

'You sure you wanna do that?' asked Bianca, leaning on her spear. Elda growled at her and snatched up the tonic, stabbing it into his arm. A searing pain spread from the needle; he could feel it spreading through his blood, through his bones. Electricity arced between his fingers and down his arms, everything he saw was tinted bright blue; he doubled over, nearly collapsing on the ground.

And then it was over. Breathing deeply, Elda glanced at the worried expression on Lea's face, and the slightly bemused one Bianca wore. He scowled, and pulled himself properly upright, examining the changes.

He looked at his hands; electricity flowed under the skin, as it used to, but brighter, stronger. The glow spread up his arms, disappearing under his coat sleeves. A faint tingling was everywhere; he could feel it in his very bones.

'Electric Flesh' said Bianca, 'Weren't you throwing enough lightning before?'

Elda growled, and in response, flung his hand towards the wall. A bolt of crackling blue light flew from his fingers; he could hear the air crack and sizzle in its wake. He looked over; the stricken tiles were partly melted together now, and scorched pieces of decorative ceramic fell to the ground.

Elda stared at his hand; this was much more powerful. He felt a smile twitch at the edges of his mouth, and found himself chuckling. Those splicers didn't stand a-

The air turned warm, carrying the smell of smoke and blood on a hot wind. He could feel his heart in his ears, and his hands sparked to life. His twisted around, and the world blurred red. She was standing there, just looking; lank black hair falling over her eyes, dress red like blood. Elda's breathing caught, and he brought his hand up, the blue light washed away by the red haze…

She was gone. Just tiles and dirt. Was she really there? His frantically beating heart attested yes. Behind him, he could make out her voice, addressing him.

'You tripping out or what? Still with us?' she said. She sounded concerned, almost. Elda shook his head, trying to clear it.

'I'm fine, I just saw-' he began, his voice suddenly drowned out by the animalistic roar coming from behind them.

'I got them! A little one!'

Elda's eyes flicked over to the sound, his hand flicking to his pistol. He needn't have bothered; he saw Bianca blur, and then she was there, standing next to a splicer in a worn-out suit, her spear driven neatly through his neck.

'Bloody things' she growled, her head perking up when more yells and screams began to cut the air.

'Come on! We have to go!' she screamed at Elda. The teen leant down and scooped up Lea, depositing her on his shoulders.

'Hang on tight' he told her, though she was already clutching his head in a death-grip. He pulled Old Buck from his belt and raced after his ally. He twisted around the corner, in the last second seeing Bianca hurl a splicer over the edge of the Stairway.

'Most of them aren't here yet' she barked at them, 'get a move on!'

And with that, she ran towards the edge herself, gripping the edge of a bit of scaffolding and dropping down. Hearing the approaching screams of the splicers, Elda slipped Old Buck back into his belt and followed her.

The scaffolding was old and worn, but surprisingly sturdy. With as much haste as he could muster, he let himself hand from the edge. With Lea of his shoulders, he couldn't turn his head to see down. Hoping that he wasn't making a huge mistake, he let his fingers slip from the metal edge.

In half a second that lasted a lifetime, Elda fell. His breath caught, and he knew he had made a mistake. He and Lea were going to plummet to a very messy death. Or they would if he hadn't immediately landed on a platform below, Lea's weight driving his to his knees.

Suddenly, he felt a hand grip his collar, and was yanked to his feet. He found his face uncomfortably close to Bianca's; he could smell her breath, like stale bread and dried blood.

'Over there' she barked, releasing his collar and pointing below them, across the drop. Taking quick stock, Elda saw what looked like a busted elevator shaft with the door jammed open, a single plank crossing from it to a platform on their side, directly below them and connected by a ladder. Thinking furiously, Elda guessed at a twenty metre decent via the ladder, and another ten across the drop.

'Okay, we're gonna need rope or someth- gah!' he threw himself at the ground as a bullet flew past the spot where his head was an instant earlier, momentarily forgetting Lea's perch on his shoulders and subsequently smacking his head into the scaffolding's steel floor.

Swearing loudly, he wrenched himself to his feet and drew his pistol. He could see a splicer taking aim at him from the ledge using some kind of rifle. The thing never got another shot out, however, as the next second saw Elda firing wildly at it, a bullet shattering its knee and sending it tumbling over the edge.

Elda glanced at the ladder to his side, lashed to holes in the metal. He saw Bianca's hand release the first rung, and looking back up revealed two more splicers with guns on the far side of the drop, and another scrambling over edge.

Electricity crawled over his left hand, and the descending thug copped a blast of Electro Bolt in the back of the head. It released its grip on the edge and fell, clipping its head on the side of the scaffolding.

Elda rushed over to the ladder, passing his pistol to the Little Sister still latched firmly onto his head.

'Hold this' he ordered, as Lea tentatively gripped the too-big gun and pulled it away from his hand. Elda thought she heard her say something, but Bianca's scream from below cut over her.

'Get a fucking move on!' she yelled from the platform beneath them. Hurriedly, Elda lowered himself onto the ladder, descending as quickly as he could. Above him, he heard a splicer scream.

'He's taking her away! Kill him!'

And with that, bullets began pinging off the ladder. Twisting his head as best he could, he released one hand and swung around to face the offending mutant, pointing his hand at the thing.

A crackling bolt of electricity struck the splicer in the gut, making it collapse, but a split-second too late. Elda yelped at he felt the splicer's final bullet go through his thigh. His leg slipped off the ladder, and he nearly toppled down; his arm felt like it was almost pulled from the socket. Gritting his teeth, he swung back around and gripped the ladder with both hands and kept going down, mostly using the strength of his arms.

He was almost near the bottom when his strength gave out, falling the last metre or so, slamming various body parts on the rungs on the way down. He was grateful when he felt Bianca pulling his to his feet.

'Get across the bridge, and I'll cover you! Got it?' she yelled, before pulling away. Elda was dimly aware of her pulling his pistol away from Lea, and he hand digging into his pocket, pulling away a handful of bullets.

'Go, Mister E! We have to go!' squealed Lea, who had somehow managed to stay latched firmly to him. Nodding grimly, Elda took a step forward on his injured leg, sicking dangerously near the ground –and edge– when the pain shot through him.

No, he thought, I can do this. Ignoring the pain as best he could, he faced the single metal plank, a little under half a metre wide, crossing the ten-metre gap. He took a deep breath, and bent as low to the ground as he could, began to run.

The plank was solid, and didn't shake, but Elda did. The pain lanced through him, but he kept going.

Eight metres.

He heard Bianca firing on the splicers above, Lea's squeals in his ear. He kept running.

Five metres.

The world was turning red, the sounds of the battle above muted. He was slowing down. He pushed as hard as he could against the air, but he moved as if he were forcing his way through honey.

Two metres.

A man stood before him, looking down. He was dressed well, in a black suit that the bloodstains didn't show up well on. Short brown hair, not very old.

Elda's blood ran cold. He felt Lea gripping him like a vice; dead weight pushing him down. He could see murder in this man's eyes. Not hate or pity, but a slightly smug look, like he knew something Elda didn't.

Elda could hear the whispering in his head. Her whispers, he was sure. He man leaned down over Elda's almost-prone form, and spoke.

'You were born here, under the water' he said, softly, like he was talking to a dying man.

'You couldn't feel her before, could you? I could'

He leaned in closer. Elda's eyes cleared a little, and he saw dried blood caked around the man's mouth. The smell of fresh meat assaulted his nose.

'But you can feel her now, can't you?

'Yes. Now, you have work to do'

The red was gone, and Elda was flying through the air. The plank flew underneath him, and he fell through the pried-open doors of the elevator. He felt lea's grip slacken, and she tumbled off him when they collapsed onto the floor. Moaning, Elda turned himself around, looking behind him. The only trace of the main was a swirl of black ash, blown away by that damnable wind.

He saw a blurred body flash across the plank, tumbling into the elevator. Quickly as she came, Bianca got to her feet and wrenched the doors shut. Abruptly, frenzied screams and gunshots were muffled, and the air was still.

Elda lay there for a few seconds, breathing heavily. The might have blacked out, but the searing pain in his leg brought him back to reality. Finally, he bothered to check his surroundings.

They were in a very cramped elevator that looked like it had never seen actual use. Everything was covered in a layer of dust and dirt, with Elda's blood leaking out into the floor.

The teen shifted his weight, yelping as Old Buck's handle dug sharply into his back. That seemed to grab Bianca's attention.

'Oh you went and got yourself shot, did you?' she snarled.

'Shut up' snapped Elda. Bianca bared her teeth, then knelt down beside him, shoving Lea out of the way, much to the Little Sister's very vocal displeasure. Elda saw her put aside his pistol, and reach into her pocket, withdrawing what looked like a small pair of pliers.

'You know, I reckon I can handle tha–' he began to say, before getting the wind knocked out of him by Bianca's sudden strike to his chest. Muttering something about 'clumsy, ugly work', she eased the tool into his wound with surprising care. In a short time, she had grasped the bullet and yanked it out.

'You got med on you?' she asked, and Elda quickly dug around in his jacket pocket, pulling out a med hypo and offering it to the girl. Bianca snatched it up and stabbed it into the bullet-hole. A familiar numb sensation emanated from wound, smoothing over the pain. Elda let his head roll back, enjoying the sensation, only for it to snap back up when in his peripheral vision, he saw Bianca unravelling a bloodstained bit of cloth around her upper arm, exposing a badly torn sleeve and a faint scar.

Quickly, she wrapped the stained bandage around Elda's leg, before leaning back to survey her handiwork.

'You'll be fine' she pronounced. Elda flexed his leg; it worked fine.

'Is this really necessary?' he asked, indicating the bandage. 'Never needed one before'

'And you got all scarred up' countered Bianca. 'Don't want to end up looking like them, do you?'

Elda shivered, and Bianca got to her feet, grabbing her spear. The teen looked on in puzzlement as she began to use it to poke the ceiling.

'Come on, stupid hatch…' she muttered, before giving the spear an almighty shove, and a piece of the ceiling came loose, falling to the floor with a loud crash, uncomfortable close to Elda's head. He took this as a sign he should get to his feet.

Once upright, Bianca addressed him again. 'Silverfish lane is just there, you see?' she said, pointing through the hole in the roof. Staring through it, Elda saw a short length of elevator shaft, an open grate letting light stream through.

He blinked, and then Bianca was there, already through the hatch, reaching down to him.

'Come here', he told Lea, and scooped up the Little Sister, who promptly climbed up onto his shoulders. Elda was momentarily pleased that the girl didn't wear shoes; that would have hurt.

After taking a second to retrieve his pistol, he gripped Bianca's hand and hoisted himself up through the hatch, before following the splicer up the ladder that ran down the side of the elevator shaft. Finally, he pulled himself out of the shaft, pulling Lea from his shoulders and depositing her beside him.

'Silverfish Lane' he breathed. He was so close now, he could feel it. It was a small, badly lit place, made of wood as much as metal. He just had to get to that surface import shop, Mercury's Hideaway, and then all that separated him from the Gaia District was one bulkhead.

Still, it had been a long time since he had been to Mercury's Hideaway, years really, and that was well before Rapture went to hell.

He turned around, just in time to get a good look at Bianca running her spear over her tongue, the splicer blood still wet. Mildly disgusted, he turned his back to her, but that was arguably worse as she let out a sound that he could really only identify as a purr.

'Are you done?' he asked, turning back. Bianca grinned at him, licking her lips. Elda felt his face heat up, which only seemed to amuse the splicer more.

'Oh, not quite yet' she chuckled, looking positively predatory. Elda shivered, then jumped when he felt a hand tug as the hem of his coat. He turned around, to see Lea looking up at him, glowing yellow eyes wide.

'Are we going, Mister E?' whined Lea. Elda rolled his eyes; this kid just would –not– let him catch a break. Sighing, he addressed Bianca.

'We're looking for an import shop. Lots of blue neon; shouldn't be too hard to find' he said, turning to look down the street. As he pulled Old Buck into his hands and began to walk, he thought he heard Bianca giggle behind him. Strange how it sent cold shivers down his spine.


'Come on, you son of a bitch. Open up!' growled Harlan as he pulled uselessly at the rusted-over hatch on the steel door that stood before him. Almost snarling, he heaved with all the force he could muster, but to no avail; the handle stayed infuriatingly immobile.

'Rustproof steel my ass' the old man muttered, having long ago stopped caring whether or not he talked to himself. There was no-one around to call him crazy, after all. And if there were, he wasn't entirely sure they'd be wrong.

Abandoning the brute force approach, Harlan examined the rusted door; the thing was barely recognisable, covered almost entirely by rust and corrosion. The internal mechanism was probably warped beyond all recognition, probably due to the ever-present ankle-deep salt water. Harlan thought there must be a malfunctioning bulkhead somewhere, letting water in from a flooded chamber. A smaller leak would have just frozen over, after all.

Or maybe not. Abandoning the door, he leant down and dipped his hand in the freezing water, scooping up some of the salty liquid and quickly depositing it on the back of his neck, sighing wit relief. The damnable wind that kept blowing from behind him had long ago gotten terribly hot, to the point that his flesh was red and almost burned, despite the cold and wet environment.

'I know you won't kill me with the bloody wind' he muttered. 'So you think you could leave it off?'

There was no response, except perhaps a whisper, carried in the next burst or scalding air. Harlan gritted his teeth as the painful sensation reached him. 'Fuck you', he whispered into the wind.

Turning his attention back to the door, he reached into his satchel, pulling out his hacker's toolkit. Quickly, he pulled out a small chisel and hammer. The tools were far too small to break through a steel door with, but he had a different idea. Carefully placing the chisel on the point where the rusted handle slid into the door, Harlan began to chip away rust, tiny piece by tiny piece.

Soon, he broke through into the mechanism. Glancing inside, all he saw were indistinct, rusted shapes. He returned the tools to his satchel, and removed from it the last handful of bullets he had; unfortunately, the salt water had ruined all his actual firearms. Carefully, he pulled the bullets apart, pouring gunpowder into the door mechanism. Soon, the contents of a few shotgun shells joined the mix as well. Harlan finished off the mix by inserting a Phosphorous Buck shell he found lying in the bottom of his satchel.

Carefully, he pulled a few matches from a tiny, waterproof capsule; his last source of fire. He struck them on the rusted door, bringing them flaring into life. Quickly, he stuck the burning sticks into the hole, diving out of the way as, an instant later, the volatile gunpowder/phosphorus mix within detonated with a vicious crack and a plume of flame, pieces of rusted metal flying out into the inky water.

Grunting, Harlan seized the handle and pushed down with all his might. The rusted metal started to move, and with a horrendous shriek of metal on metal, it gave way, almost dropping Harlan into the water. Grumbling, the old man pushed against the door, ignoring the horrible grinding noise it made as it finally swung open.

Harlan stepped over the threshold, breathing in an unusual mix of the scents of salt and dust, carefully examining his surroundings. Shelves lined the wall to his left, piled high with audio-dairy tapes. Opposite from it, desks were lined up, piled high with papers that Harlan recognised as research notes. Down the other side of the room, two doors flanked an old, rusty elevator.

'Home sweet home' Harlan muttered to himself, striding through the still water to the elevator. Half-knowing it was futile, he attempted to pull the grate open, to no avail. Sighing, he turned his attention to the doors. He remembered them; the one to his right led to cleaning closets, a recreation room, and sleeping quarters. Nothing he was interested in.

He turned left, facing the remaining door. A few steps and a pull of the handle, and he crossed it. He found himself in a small, cramped room, a single desk facing him, cluttered with papers and a battered typewriter. Shelves lined the walls, filled with tapes, pictures, boxes of old reports. He could practically recite those papers; they were so familiar to him.

His was standing in his old office; a wave of nostalgia hit him, mixed with nausea. This was where he worked for years, almost as long as Rapture had existed. This was where he devised the experiments, issued his orders…

Ruined a life. He shivered, though he was used to the cold. Hesitantly, he walked around the room and sat down at the old desk. He needed time to think, to plan his next move.

He needed to get down that elevator shaft, but obviously, everything down there was underwater. He needed to find some way to close the submerged bulkhead and drain the chamber below; not an easy task. Momentarily, he wondered if he really needed to. After all, if she was underwater, how much harm could she ever do, compared to what Rapture was doing to itself?

The hot wind stirred, and the old man's knuckles went white. No, this needed to be done, and he was running out of time.


'How much longer is this gonna take?' asked Bianca, for the fifth time in as many minutes. Elda growled at her in response, backed up by Lea delivering a swift kick to the splicer's shin.

'Ow! I'm gonna wring your little-'

'Shut up!' barked Elda, turning towards them, away from the combination lock that he'd been fiddling with for the past half-hour. 'Both of you!'

Lea began to pout, Bianca just growled, like she fully intended to attack the Little Sister. Elda sighed, and turned back to the lock, fiddling with the dial.

They stood in front of Mercury's Hideaway, having somehow found their way to the, quite thoroughly locked, back door; the entire front of the shop had long collapsed. If it weren't for the shards of blue glass that had once been its neon lighting, Elda would never have noticed it.

Now, they had to get into the shop, and head down a corridor within that Elda remembered would take them directly to the bulkhead that separated Silverfish Lane from the Gaia District. The teen thought it a little odd that only way to an entire section of the city was through a long-closed export shop, but reasoned that the shop probably appeared after the passageway, by someone hoping to capitalise on foot traffic. Either that or Rapture's city planning department was comprised entirely of brain-dead monkeys; at this point, he'd believe either.

So now all that separated him from safety was one bloody 4-digit combination lock. The previous owner seemed to possess some measure of grey matter, and had welded a few pieces of moulded metal around the mechanism, preventing Elda from tinkering with the lock itself. So he was stuck trying every possible combination, one after the other. No idiot would leave their password lying around for him to find, certainly.

'I'm boooored, Mister E!' whined Lea, which earned her a snarl and a narrowly-dodged kick from Bianca. After Elda snapped at them both to knock it off, the splicer turned away, muttering under her breath. Elda ignored her, returning to the lock.

'Seven six nine two… no. Seven six nine three… no. Seven six nine four… n-' he muttered to himself, suddenly cut off by the wonderful clicking noise of the mechanism as it finally ratcheted into place. Elda gave the door an experimental push, and it swung open easily.

'Finally!' said Elda, half-shouting. He scooped up Lea and placed her on his shoulders, nearly getting stabbed in the neck by her needle. Turning back, he called to Bianca.

'I got it open! We're almost there!' he said, before turning back towards the doorway. He stepped over the threshold just as the splicer called back:

'Wait! You should check for-'

Brraaaaaaaaaap, brraaaaaaaaaap, brraaaaaaaaaap, brraaaaaaaaaap, brraaaaaaaaaap.

'…alarms'

'FUCK!' yelled Elda, pulling Old Buck free, Lea wrapping her arms around his neck. He turned around, just in time to see Bianca blur towards him, grabbing him by the collar and shoving her face scant centimetres in front of his.

'Where do we go?' she screamed at him, blood-scented breath blasting into his face. Too shocked to really speak, Elda mumbled something unintelligible, forcing them to stand there until a security bot, a strange contraption comprised of a gun, a box of ammo and a propeller, appeared at the doorway and opened fire.

Bullets sprayed out, and would have perforated both Elda and Bianca, had she not thrown the teen out of the way before jumping back herself. The splicer landed expertly on her feet, while Elda, top-heavy with Lea's weight on his shoulders, landed unceremoniously on his ass, his head flying back and cracking against the floor.

His vision was hazy as he struggled to pull himself upright, with dazed as he was, and with Lea having practically wrapped herself around his head, only succeeded in rolling onto his side. He caught a glimpse of the bot flying into the shop, turning towards him, ready to unleash lead death.

Off-balance and weighed down by Lea, Elda screwed his eyes shut, expecting to be torn to ribbons. He heard the bullets crack the air as they were spat from the bot, shattering the tiles as they impacted the floor next to him.

Elda opened his eyes, and saw Bianca with her arm wrapped around the bot, struggling to rein it in; bullets sprayed from the flying machine, wrecking the walls and floor even more than they were already. Snarling, Bianca threw her other arm around the bot and blurred, moving impossibly fast towards a wall. Elda barely glimpsed her swinging the machine as she moved, but the following impact of the bot against wall, and subsequent falling of wrecked rotors and spilled ammo, was rather hard to miss.

Turning towards him, her lips pulled back in a furious snarl, the splicer proceeded to wrench Lea's limbs from their position around Elda's head, finally allowing him to pull himself upright. Breathing heavily from a sitting position, the teen looked up at the splicer.

'You stupid, ignorant, fucking moron! You don't stop and think; you just walk off and leave me to save your sorry…' Bianca half-screamed at him. The shrieking alarm had shut off, leaving only the angry girl's reprimand. Something about that bugged Elda. One alarm, but only one bot…

'I should have left you to get gutted by those bloody…' she continued, but Elda was looking behind her, towards the doorway into the shop. He saw shattered glass, dust and dirt and blood, a discarded crowbar, a spinning propeller, just coming into view…

'And that's why your mother is a –HEY!' she shouted as Elda launched himself forward, pushing her out of the way. Blue light raced down his arm, and a lance of electricity connected viciously with the security bot sneaking up on them. The machine sputtered and hovered for a second, almost as if confused by what just happened to it, before dropping to the floor.

Bianca stared at the sputtering, jerking bot that lay on the ground. Elda drew his wrench, and brought it down on the machine, silencing it with one swift blow. The teen glanced at Bianca, who simply glared back at him. They stood like that for a few seconds before the splicer shrugged her shoulders and turned away without a word, heading back towards the open door. Elda muttered under his breath and tucked his wrench away, before scooping up Old Buck and turning to follow her.

'Mister E…' whined Lea, reaching up to the teen with her arms outstretched. Elda rolled his eyes and knelt down, allowing the Little Sister to climb up and take her favourite position atop his shoulders, nearly jabbing him with the massive needle she still carried. A few steps later, and he stood beside Bianca, staring at the open doorway. It entered into a short tunnel that grew very dark, very fast. The smell of murky water emanated from it.

'So you're sure this is the way? Not to be rude, but you realise this is just a random tunnel in the back of an old export shop right?' asked Bianca. Elda sighed, and activated Electro Bolt, sending a neon blue glow through the tunnel. Tentatively, he stepped through the doorway.

'You coming?' he asked the splicer behind him. Bianca didn't reply, and the question hung in the air. Elda's finger twitched on the trigger of the shotgun; had the splicer finally decided that gutting him would be more fun?

The silence dragged on. Elda drew breath to speak, but the splicer finally spoke up before he could.

'Of course I am. You wouldn't last two seconds without me'

'took you that long to say it?' he replied. When Bianca glared at him, he shrugged. 'I handle myself well enough'

'Suuure you do' she drawled, and winked at him. Elda shivered; that was creepy. The splicer began walking forward. Together they walked down the tunnel; the blue light emanating from Elda's arm casting a garish glow on everything around them. Lea yawned, and settled herself into a more comfortable position on Elda's shoulders.

'You just let her ride up there?' asked Bianca, glancing at the Little Sister.

'She's not very heavy'

'Yeah, but still, don't you want to eat her?' she quipped, and Elda's head snapped around. Damn it, she reminded him of the gnawing hunger in his gut, and the tantalising smell the Little Sister carried with her. He imagined how much stronger her could be. How much better…

'No' he replied. 'I would never'

'If you say so', said Bianca. 'Hang on; I think we're coming up to something'

And sure enough, they were. At the end of the tunnel, mostly shrouded in darkness, was a great metal bulkhead. Elda grinned, and rushed over to the door, gripping the hatch with both hands. It turned easily, as though it had been oiled recently.

This is it, Elda thought. I'm safe. No more splicers, no more guns. I'm sure they know a way out of this hellhole, I'm sure of it!

'Uh, Elda? We may have a problem…' said Bianca from behind him. Tensing up, Elda noticed the green light that had just appeared, shining from a security light tucked away in the previously darkened corner of the bulkhead. It was focused right on him.

The metal door of the bulkhead swung open. Beyond it, Elda saw the barrels of multiple guns, gleaming in the shadows, all pointed at him.

'Drop the gun' growled a voice from beyond the light, 'and lose the plasmid'. Elda complied, letting Old Buck clatter to the floor and the light of Electro Bolt to fade. A foot flashed out from the doorway and kicked the shotgun away.

'Please, we need help'. I just-' began Elda.

'Shut up' said the voice, cutting him off. 'Until we know you're sane, you're a safety hazard'

'But I-'

'I said shut it. Hand any other guns you've got over; you'll get 'em back if we think you're trustworthy. 'Till then, you're a splicer, so far as we see it'

Splicer! The word shot through Elda's mind like a bullet. What about Bianca? He turned around, drawing breath to tell the girl to run, but saw nothing. For the first time, he noticed a missing weight on his shoulders.

Lea was gone. Bianca had taken her.

'Fuck' muttered Elda. Slowly, he pulled his pistol from his pocket and handed it to the large, grim-faced man that stepped through the doorway, who handed it to the man beside him. He watched as the man picked up Old Buck, testing its weight.

'Good gun you've got here. That's a point in your favour; most splicers don't care enough to keep their guns in working order' he said, before turning back to the men pointing guns at Elda.

'Okay boys, guns down. I reckon he's safe enough for now. Take him to the holding cells, but watch it. You saw that plasmid he was packing' he said, and the men muttered an agreement, easing off their aim on Elda's head.

'Okay, move out!' the man shouted, and Elda yelped as a hand grabbed him by the collar and pulled him forward, practically dragging him through the bulkhead door and into the dark. The men around him barked a few orders; don't talk, don't struggle, and don't flip out. Amidst the jumble of mutterings and orders, Elda heard a voice echoing fro down the tunnel. A female voice. Her voice.

I'll get you out of there.