One.

Cities.

Cities, cities, cities. Would he ever grow tired of them, feel a cease in his need to build them, sculpt them, become them?

Rapture was not his city. It was a jewel, a marvel of psychetecture, to be certain, but it did not hold him captive, tormenting him in the way her sister, Radiant, did. Rapture had been nearly as complicated, but in an entirely different way- he still could not understand why Andrew Ryan had felt the need to build the damn thing fifty fathoms deep, and the fact that his marvelous creation could not be openly displayed only slightly bothered X. Working in the medium of blue, and such a dark blue as that of the ocean's depths were, it had been very difficult to lead the design away from sheer depression.

Madness, depression, blah blah. A mistake was a mistake, never the less; but this time, it was not X's mistake to correct. Ryan hadn't built Rapture to suit anyone's needs but his own, and he was a coward, to hide himself and his twisted ideals away from everyone in an Atlantis that X had worked so hard on.

But it was not X's place to argue. After all, the man had given him incredible leniency, and the budget had been no object… the freedom he had had to create had almost been too good to be true. The Rapture he had seen in his mind and on his plans had been nothing short of a masterpiece, and Ryan had insisted that everything be built, to the last detail, exactly as X had described and imagined. There was nothing missing, in Rapture… except perhaps a decent sense of control. X didn't know rightly who was to blame- Ryan, for his ridiculous new form of government, or X, for being drawn into it?

Perhaps his were just swings and misses.

A match flared in the dark compartment of the airplane, and X looked away from its reflection on the glossy window. About him the passengers slept peacefully in the caressing hum of the moaning plane engines that permeated the air with a slight, compressed vibration that X felt in his chest. Across the narrow, carpeted aisle, a rough-cut looking young man puffed up a cigarette, waving his match out as darkness returned to the compartment. Smoke wafted into the air, and X could see the stranger lift a thin wallet from his lap, apparently looking at a tattered photograph. Dark tattoos banded his wrists- was he a criminal?

X tasted the smoke and thought he might have a cigarette himself, before he realized that there was no time for it, now. They'd be landing, soon.

X continued to watch the man through his dark glasses. Next, the stranger lifted a gift-wrapped package, a small, fond smile touching his lips. Who was it for, X wondered?

But such thoughts were cast aside as there was a violent jolt in the compartment, and the plane began to list at a dangerously sharp angle to the right. A woman's scream erupted, before it was overtaken by the roar of the engine, and the dark air outside was suddenly alive with bright sparks. X calmly checked his watch- half-past midnight. The idiot was late, and didn't he know that X had work to do, important work that required all of his time, all of his attention? With a soft sigh, X gripped the handle of his worn and abused briefcase and braced for impact.

The concussion of the fuselage connecting with the surface of the Mid-Atlantic shredded the wings of the plane and knocked X nearly silly. When he again returned to his senses water was invading his mouth and nostrils, and he gasped and sputtered, a slight panic gripping him as he realized that there was no air to seek out, in the dark, submerged compartment.

Many of the passengers had simply died with the impact, the traumatic force snapping their flimsy spines in one quick, effortless motion. Others still had drown in the chaos, their listless bodies blocking any clear view of an escape. X pulled his lap belt apart and kicked free of his seat, pushing a corpse aside as he searched. He could feel pressure building in his ears and behind his eyes as the plane was sinking rapidly, and water rushed past him as he still gripped his case, the pull of the air within the luggage tugging him toward the surface. Muscling between a few more lifeless forms, he made his way toward to back of the compartment, finding that the tail had snapped away, a gaping hole accounting for the rapid sinking. He squeezed out of the wreckage and kicked for the surface, his lungs too near bursting to pause and watch the plane disappear into the murky depths.

His throat burned as he burst from the water, hacking and choking in the salty air. X belted up a few quarts of the nauseating water, his head dizzy and aching. He opened his eyes and exclaimed with pain at the brightness of the burning fuel that surrounded him atop the waters surface- his glasses must have been lost to Neptune with the rest of everything.

He hugged his briefcase to his chest- good, good briefcase. This had been the fifth time the thing had saved his life, and he was ever the more fond of it.

Surveying his surroundings, X saw the slowly sinking tail of the plane, water frothing at its edges, and in the distance, a dark, jutting pinnacle shining under the light of the full moon. Shifting the briefcase in his grip, he made for the sculpted island he had only seen in his mind.

He sloshed his way up a flight of wide, low steps, his clothes heavy with water as he clutched the broad, stone rail for support. This is not how he had imagined at last meeting his creation, smelling of seaweed and looking like a drowned Siamese cat, but his breath suddenly caught in his lungs as he looked up at the massive bronze doors that towered above him, resembling the burning gates of the gods in the light of the fire. A lithe, powerful depiction of the Greek god Atlas decorated the two doors, and three words were etched above his graceful labors, as if he held them above all others- Science, Art, and Industry.

He'd made it so beautiful- what right did Ryan have to go and ruin it?!

X took the opportunity of a pause to try fiddling with the catches of his briefcase, only to find them stuck. He rattled the luggage with a frown, and paused as he heard someone gasp to the surface, hacking and coughing. He turned to look out, spotting the same young man he had seen on the plane blinking in a daze at the flames, taking deep breaths of shock and fear. X swallowed, and went to the doors, pushing them open to let himself inside, and he suddenly paused. Should he leave the door open, and give the stranger a chance? Or shut and bolt the door, saving him from the hell that was sure to lurk beneath the surface…?

Unable to reach a conclusive decision, X left the door open only half-way, and made his way into the dark. Now, if Ryan had done as he had insisted he had, there would be a bathysphere somewhere around that he could take into the city- but getting out again, that had always been the real problem. Ryan had insisted that there be no way to return to the surface. Once you were in Rapture, there was no turning back.

Unless, of course, you were one Mister X. In which case, it would be as simple as the use of a secret air vent. Writing those into the plans unnoticed had been much easier than he had imagined, even if he had never planned on returning to Rapture.

Stumbling down another broad set of steps, X crossed the threshold of the circular, brass-colored vessel and settled himself to drip on the lush, red-velvet interior, quickly punching the release switch with the base of his hand. The thick, glass doors slid shut, hissing as the compartment sealed itself, and there was the jolting, rocking feeling of a weigh being released, as the bathysphere began to sink. X was slightly delighted to find that they had even used the colors and textures of interior he had selected. But again, the thought of Ryan's ineptitude embittered his mood.

The brief introductory spiel Ryan had recorded for new citizens was ignored as X wrestled once again with his case, only to find the catches had jammed in the crash. It accounted for its airtight effect, but left him devoid of eye coverings, placing him at a considerably more self-conscious state to which he was unaccustomed. He'd just have to get a tool of some kind and pry the damn thing open-

The pod surfaced at the underwater docks of the city as there was an explosive collision that rocked him from his stable stance to slam against the cushioned wall, "What the hell-?!"

There was another impact, the bathysphere tilting wildly. A loud, angry howl filled the air, something between the squealing breaks of heavy machinery and the screeching sound of a ship running aground. X looked up at the thick glass window, terrified of the dozen round, glowing, red eyes that peered in on him. X let out a cry as the sound of a massive drill started, and the creature began to rip into the steel door of the compartment.

This thing- Ryan had spoken of this thing, he'd seen pictures of its workings; a massive helmet on a hulking body covered in tubes and iron plating, a hellish depiction of a deep-sea diver, only much, much bigger. What had Ryan called them, the fool? Big Daddies, something like that? A harmless enough name, for a juggernaut!

But they had been built for protecting- what had gone wrong?

X scrambled to his feet, his pail fingers digging into the velvet to steady himself. The corkscrew-like tip of a massive drill was boring through the side of the bathysphere, and X looked around desperately in search of escape. The impact appeared to have caused a small tear in the side of the craft, and X climbed onto the seat to reach it, using all of his strength to pry it open, to no avail. Exclaiming in panic, X pulled on the opening until his muscles screamed in protest, when suddenly, the drilling desisted. X looked over his shoulder, swallowing in fear.

"Is it an angel, Mr. Bubbles?" came a high, soft voice.

X gaped as a young girl crawled through the torn front of the bathysphere, straitening to dust her tattered dress. Her golden eyes glowed eerily as she spotted him, staring.

X could say nothing, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

All at once, the girl screamed in horror.

"Run away, Mr. Bubbles! It's not an angel!" She scrambled out of the pod, "He's a devil, Mr. Bubbles! He's got strange eyes-!" X watched as she disappeared around a corner, her gargantuan companion lumbering after her. It was only after they had gone that X could breath once more, clutching at a stitch in his chest.

What the hell had Andrew Ryan done to his city?!

xXx