(Revised, Edited, and Generally More Awesome than Before!)
Verse: Bioshock 1/2
Pairing(s): OC/Sinclair (?) OR OC/Atlas/Fontaine (?) - So, it's pretty undecided at the moment.
Warning(s): language, violence, thematic elements, drug use, alternative universe, unfortunate OOC-ness, no Jack. . .
Disclaimer: Chandler is, yes, mine. I guess. But nothing else is. . .
A/N: GASP! I know. It's back. Yay! I missed you awesome guys and this dumb story too much to just discontinue everything, so. Here it is. Molly is mostly still Molly. I tried to make her a little less annoying and more realistic. Some things are the same, some things are different. Hopefully 'better' different. Sinclair, though, is still wildly out of character. I know. And I apologize. But it's only fair to give you a warning before you start.
Anyhow! Without further ado. . .
1. Beyond the Sea
It almost seems like one of my nightmares. Almost. Not quite. Because, this time? I don't think I can wake up. Because, this time. . .I'm don't think I'm dreaming.
I don't know. I don't know! I mean, it starts like the nightmares do. . .but I know right away that something is. . .wrong. And I can't shake the feeling until it's too late.
The skies are blue and clear. The air is warm. The sunshine is bright. I'm happy and I'm safe and I'm. . . I'm not alone. At the edge of everything, there is this man. He stands shrouded in a weird, swirling haze, so I can't see him very well. In fact, I can't see anything other than his eyes.
Blue eyes. He has cold, dark blue eyes, with a frozen, intense stare. He watches me, and he doesn't even blink. But there's something familiar about those eyes. It's. . .weird. Not a good weird. Or, maybe it is. I don't know. These nightmares are so confusing.
I stare back at the man and frown. I feel like I have so much to say to him, even if I'm not quite sure who the hell he is. I want to yell at him, scream at him, pound my fists into his face and bury myself inside of his arms and never, ever let him go. Tears burn my eyes.
But when I open my mouth to say something to him. . .to say anything at all, the stretch of ground we're standing on suddenly opens up.
The strange man is left alone on the surface of the world, and I think I hear him calling my name as the abyss swallows me up. Falling, falling. . . Plummeting like a dead weight from a vast, blackened sky bruised with planets and galaxies and millions of shooting stars. The wind sounds hellish, screaming in my ears like the symphony of the damned. Puncturing into my skin, carving me out and bleeding me dry, slicing me through with nails, razorblades, and knives. I'm falling and flailing and crying and choking until-
Until I can't breathe. And I can't breathe because I'm drowning.
Because this time, it isn't a nightmare. This time, I know it's real. I'm drowning. And not only am I drowning, but I am going to die. Yup. That's it. I'm going to die out here, in the middle of the ocean, where my numbed limbs are blocks of ice and I can only sink, deeper and deeper and deeper. . .beneath the blazing inferno that blankets the ocean.
Well. This kind of sucks. I'm so tired, and everything feels so strange. Float-y and disconnected. I can't feel my hands and a thick black fog is crawling in across the waves above me. Can't swim. . .can't breathe. . . My body stills, shuts down, and I drift as the fog closes in. . .as the shadows overwhelms me. . .
As I, effectively, give up.
I'll be dead at nineteen years old. Isn't that a shame? I'll be just another nameless face on the 6 o'clock news. Another tragic victim among the rest of these sinking, ghostly bodies. Who cares about who I am or who I was or who I might have been? Like it matters now. I'm just me, dying as a nobody, buried amidst the wreckage of some miracle airliner on its maiden flight.
A polished mass of metal that is now heap of smoking rubble, drifting towards the bottom of the sea.
A miracle airliner? Yeah, okay. I can pretend that I'm not going to be killed, in part, by such a bizarre stroke of irony, but why bother? I mean, there are worse ways to die. Though, I think the combination of irony and lungs exploding with icy salt water is pretty damn bad.
Oh well. It's going to be over soon and. . . .and. . . .wait a minute. . . .
Nope. That's all, folks. Darkness. Gone.
But. . .no. Wait. Suddenly, I'm not gone. Suddenly, I'm jolting awake, freezing, burning, with my body screaming in agony and my throat a torn and bloody mess, as what must be half of the entire Atlantic rushes up and out of my mouth and gushes from my nose. Fuck me- it hurts like you wouldn't believe.
So. What the hell?
How the fuck. . .am I still alive? I can't even hold myself up. So weak, shivering hard enough for my teeth to ache. I'm shocked that my eyelids aren't peeled back over my eyes and frozen solid against my brows. Well, they might be, actually. You never know.
I think someone is sitting next to me. The ground isn't rocking, but I can still feel the cold ocean spray soaking straight through my clammy flesh. Seeping into my bones and painting my insides with ice. I'm fairly confident that, if I'm not dead, I'm never going to be dry again.
But where am I, then? And how? Ha. At least the temperate drop means that I'm not in hell, right? Unless, of course, you go by Dante. And only the ninth level of hell is encased in ice, so. . . Oh. Shut up, brain. You aren't helping!
As I choke out most of the seawater from my lungs, I regain slow awareness throughout my body. The material I happen to be draped across is slick, black, wet. Unforgiving and uncomfortable. It feels like I'm being supported by angles. . .stairs? Blunted stone ridges dig into my sides and grind against my knees.
It has to be a staircase. A staircase. . .at sea. Okay, so that's weird, isn't it?
I wipe my mouth on the back of a trembling hand, then run my tongue over my lips. The rough skin is chapped and cracked and stinging like hell. From all of this salt that, really, can't be salt. It burns like a bitch and it tastes like acid. My eyes water and sting from their overexposure to the liquid, a predictably swollen and bloodshot mess lodged inside of my throbbing head.
"Hey there, kid. . . Chandler? You hangin' in there?"
No. No, I'm not. Thank you. Isn't that obvious, jackass? But I force myself to nod, succumbing to another fit of coughing after a brief respite. My lungs expand and greedily gulp in deep, shuddering breaths. The night air sticks into my chest like vines of briars.
I think this is the moment where I fully realize multiple things. Like I am honestly not dreaming, that this, this, whatever the hell this is, is my reality. I'm sitting twisted on a staircase in the middle of the ocean. . .
Alarms blare off in my ears as I attempt to scramble backwards. Panic slams home, a surge of adrenaline searing through some of the chill.
Who the hell is here with me? And how the hell did he know my name?
"Whoa. Hey, kid. Be careful." The voice from before. A man, with a curl of a funny accent. "It's not exactly springtime. . . and I sure don't want to go swimming again anytime soon.
Strong hands clamp down around my upper arms as I pinwheel, back, back over the edge, into empty air. . . And a wave of nausea and vertigo sweep through me the moment he yanks me safely onto the stone again. The blood is screaming in my ears. My heart is pounding so fast. . . It doesn't even feel like it's beating.
I squeeze my eyes shut for a minute and cling to this stranger, as tightly as I can. Because, hell. I can't help it. He just saved my life.
So instead of thanking him, like any normal person would have, I garble out something real smart. Something that sounds like, "Uungh." Half sob, half groan.
My head still feels congested. And, when I try and think back. . . .the memories are jumbled. There was a plane, and there was a crash. . . .but why was I on that airliner in the first place? Where was I going?
I can't remember. And, naturally, that doesn't help me understand any of this.
Blinking groggily, my sights finally register the man sitting crooked on the stairs in front of me. Black hair, short, slicked back off of thin, pronounced features. Thick brows. Deep, dark eyes ringed with even darker shadows. He scrutinizes me with an air of concern. . . .or wonderment. Studying me, like I'm under some kind of a microscope.
I. . .don't know him. He isn't even a little bit familiar. So, I just stare at him. Disbelieving, slightly delirious, you know the drill. My waterlogged brain can't seem to wrap around the magnitude, or the insanity, of this situation. . .
After a long, painful minute, I get the impression that I should try and break this awkward silence. "Um. H-hey." I rasp weakly. My throat burns with even the slightest vibration. I swallow, embarrassingly aware of the cracks in my voice and the blush spreading across my face.
"Sorry about. . .well, ah. . . You know." I motion around us vaguely. "I mean, thanks. Is what I'm trying to say. If you hadn't, I would have drowned-"
. . .maybe I should have just stayed silent. I sound like a complete, stammering idiot. But, hey, what else is new? My face flushes so hot I can feel the saltwater sizzling right off of my skin.
"Don't worry about it, kid." The man interrupts, waving a casual hand to brush off my horribly awkward. . . .awkwardness. "I wasn't gonna leave you to the sharks. I ain't that bad of a guy." A crooked grin pulls across his face. "The name's Sinclair. Augustus Sinclair."
Right. Speaking of introductions. . . "Okay. Uh, hi? And, um, not to be rude, but how did you know my name?" I stammer nervously.
Sinclair points to the front of my sopping wet army jacket. "Chandler. It's your last name, right? It's embroidered on your pocket, there."
Wow. Score two for me on the loser front.
"Right. Right." I run a palm over my eyes in humiliation. "Of course. I knew that."
What the hell is my problem? Did that crash landing dent my brain? Hell- maybe my skin will take on a permanent reddish hue. I could be hired at a circus as The Amazing Tomato Girl, with skin as fiery as her hair, not to mention the complete inability to grow tomatoes. . . It'll be one of those ironic acts. Or something.
Sinclair's answering smirk broadens. His dark eyes glint oddly in the shadows. "Of course." He reiterates lightly. "You took a pretty bad hit, there. Take your time."
He. . .doesn't sound like he's mocking me. But his accent is distracting. He puts strange emphasis on certain letters and messes with the inflection behind his sentences. I think he's purposely being evasive or something. I shake my head, wince, and heave out a bewildered sigh.
"I'm Molly. Molly Chandler."
A corner of his smirk flits up for a moment, before his expression smoothes over into something more serious. His eyes are still shining, though. It's kind of unsettling. "Under these unfortunate circumstances. . . It's as nice to meet you as it possibly can be." He drawls. "So. Shall we?"
I blink at him, then, I shrug. The effort its takes to honestly move my limbs is startling. I'm exhausted, and sore, and stabs of pain shoot down my arms when I roll my shoulders back. It's. . .well, enough to make me worry. I hope I can make it to wherever the hell it is that we're going. . .
Sinclair pushes himself to his feet carefully, straightening out his drenched black slacks and his collared white shirt. His thin, silk red tie is askew and black with oil. He scowls at it, grumbles something under his breath, then extends a hand without fixing it.
"Come on. I'll help you out."
Grateful beyond what I can express (without actively making our awkward situation worse), I grasp his strong fingers, trembling, and he tugs me to my feet with a surprising amount of strength.
"Other than nearly dying, are you okay?" Sinclair wonders. He lets me go and furrows his brows. Damn. That stare of his is incredibly intense. It kind of scares me. The back of my neck prickles when he doesn't blink.
"I think so." I mumble, trying to find my footing as an excuse to look away. My knees feel like they've been filled with water and knock together unsteadily. "I mean, I don't know. I must have hit my head or something. . . .because I can't really remember how I got here in the first place."
"Hmm. Nothing about the plane nose-diving into the sea?"
I manage something that might be half grimace, half grin. "Not really." Stretching my mouth too wide makes my lips sting irritatingly.
He nods, considering this. "Maybe a slight concussion." He decides on, eyeing me closely. "But there isn't much I can do for that. Not unless someone miraculously happens on us way out here." He turns around and moves to start walking up the winding staircase. When I stay frozen in place, horrified at his choice of words (unless? Unless someone finds us, and not until?), he raises a questioning eyebrow over his shoulder.
"D-do I have a choice?" I mutter, and take a shaky step after him.
"Not particularly." His strange, lopsided smile dances once more across his face. "You know? I like you. Glad to have the company. Even gladder than I was able to get to you in time."
What a. . .weird time for a compliment. Wait, that first part was a compliment, right? I flush involuntarily, not quite sure what his implications are. "Yeah. I'm, um. Definitely glad you got to me, too." I murmur, shuddering in my sopping wet clothes.
"And not to be any more of a downer, buddy. . .but where the h-hell are we?"
At once, the almost-friendliness in Sinclair's face hardens. It happens so fast, shockingly fast. I blink and his eyes are suddenly cold, black, and empty. As vast and depthless as the far reaches of space above our heads.
Right. Great. Should I be worried? Did I get stranded in the middle of nowhere with a psychopath? That would be just my luck.
His gaze flashes sharply, and then he's turning away with tense shoulders. "We're in hell, kid. Or we're going to be." He replies gruffly. "I've got some unfortunate business to see to, and. . . .actually, it might be crueler to drag you along with me than to leave you freezin' to death out here." He shoots me something along the lines of a sympathetic look. "But you don't want to stay out here, do you?"
I immediately shake my head, even if that means I'll have to follow him to wherever it is that we're going. Obviously he knows where these stairs lead, and obviously, he isn't happy about it. And I'm just still so damn confused about everything as I crane my head back to see how far this staircase goes. . . .
And I see a pure, silvery white beam shooting out from the top of a sleek black structure, towering above us like a sentry, sweeping over the carnage being carried out to sea. It takes me a minute to put some coherent thoughts together. And then my mouth flaps open uselessly at the illogicality of this. . .entire stream of madness.
"What-? Is that. . . Who the hell builds a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean?" I finally manage to blurt out. Frowning, I drop my eyes from the flashing light and look at Sinclair for some clarity, some actual answers, or for anything at all.
Reassurance. Warmth. Understanding. Anything.
But I should have known better than to expect emotion like that from a guy like this. Because he just glances at me again with a thinned mouth and a pitying expression before starting to climb. "Guess you'll be findin' out soon enough, kid."
My legs tremble unsteadily as I take a step after him. Hell, he might be a psychopath and we might be venturing into hell, but I will get sick and die of some sort of slow and horrible illness if I just wait out on these steps with the wind and the spray. And from the sound of his previous, grim reveal, help is a long way off. If it will even come at all.
So. I'm left without a choice. Again.
I clench my jaw, take another uneasy step forward, and my knees buckle.
"Watch it, kid- shit!" Sinclair swears. His hand lashes out and wraps fully around my upper arm. The power behind his grip is as fierce and immobile as a vise of iron. I can already feel the bruises forming on my bones when tugs me closer, keeping me upright, and pretty much saving me from splattering all over the stone.
"Come on, now. You've got to be more careful." He chides. A flicker of annoyance crosses his face, but it melts into something fairly. . .human. Less condescending, and something maybe even gentle. A stiff smile pulls his mouth at an obviously uncomfortable angle.
But it's the most honest expression I've seen on him, yet. It isn't anything like that crooked grin or arrogant smirk. And this, above any other kindness he has shone me, is what eases the frantic thundering of my pulse.
I swallow. "Yeah. I just. . .got dizzy. I'm sorry."
He doesn't let my arm go this time. "It's okay, kiddo. I should have asked if you were ready to get going. My fault." He hums. I feel his hand slide down until he's politely gripping my blue, numb fingers. "Do you mind?" He cocks his head, "I kind of don't want you fallin' in again after all that trouble the first time."
Okay. This is. . .weird. I'll add it to the growing list. But it's comforting, too. He might be a virtual stranger, mental sanity in question, but at least he's not leaving me to fend for myself.
I nod sheepishly and try to convey my overwhelming gratitude without humiliating myself further. "It's fine. I don't mind." I whisper hoarsely. ". . .thanks."
"Of course." His eyes glitter. Blackened diamonds in his pale, smooth face. "Not a problem, kid."
He pulls me along and I fall obediently into step behind him. We begin our slow, treacherous ascent to the stars. . .and I'm wondering, what have I gotten mixed up in? Who is this man, really? How does he know where we are? I want to ask. I'm bursting with so many questions that my ears feel stuffed.
I remember my previous thoughts on waking up in hell, and his comment about us journeying into hell. "Is it really that bad?" I frown. "Where we're going?"
Silence stretches between us. I'm sure that he's ignoring me, so I'm about to ask something else when he, astonishingly, answers.
"It might be." His tone is flat. "It's been awhile. I mean, hell. It used to be my home."
I blink. Wow. Definitely wasn't expecting such a reveal. But, if anything, it makes me even more curious.
"You used to live in a lighthouse?" I echo blankly. "That's. . .um. Nice? Yeah. Definitely not weird."
Sinclair stares at me. After a strange second, he barks out a short laugh, mouth curling, eyes as warm as I've seen them. But the moment barely lasts. He shakes his head, expression sobering, and the shadows return.
"I'm sorry, kid." He mutters, gaze skittering from mine evasively. "I really am."
I frown, perplexed. But he offers no clarification, and I lapse into an unsettled silence.
Time passes. Night wears on. The ocean waves are fierce. They knock into the side of the staircase and drench us constantly, reeking of spilled oil and something rotting, something sour. I grit my chattering teeth and pretend that every dousing of ice water isn't like being showered with bits of sharp metal.
At least Sinclair has sure footing. And his hand is strong, firmly secured over mine. Without his guidance, I'd have slipped and definitely drowned more than a hundred and fifty stairs ago. And they keep spiraling, the worn black stairs, up and up and up, until the spray fades into a fierce and frigid wind clawing at our damp clothing.
My feet are nearly solid ice by the time we arrive at the top of the lighthouse. I'm freezing and miserable and tripping over my soggy trainers, while Sinclair is forced to practically drag me along behind him. I can't even keep my head up.
"Not much farther, Chandler. Hang in there." He reassures me. The stairs widen out underneath our feet into a flat, open expanse. I feel him shoulder open a door, hand moving to my waist, helping me inside so I don't fall flat on my face.
Then, there's silence. Darkness. Solid walls muffle the crash of the ocean below us and soften the roar of the wind. Shuddering, near the verge of sobbing out with relief, I kind of cling to Sinclair as I attempt to adjust to the sudden climate shift.
The air is. . .thick. Humid. Briny and almost bitter, but more welcoming than the below freezing temperature outside. I stumble forward and, well. . . I might accidentally crash into Sinclair's broad back as he finally lets go of me. But it's too much. I forget that I still don't know this man and actually have the nerve to bury my face in between his shoulder blades. . .
But only for a second! Only until my stinging eyes acclimate to the darkness. Only until I can actually breathe without the sharpness of pain swelling against my lungs. Only until my thoughts. . .slow. Before their crushing weight collapses over my head and buries me alive.
I hope the poor guy doesn't mind. Yeah, this is kind of uncomfortable. His muscles are tight and tense beneath the fabric of his shirt as I hold onto him, but. . . I can't. I just can't help it. And he stands there and lets me collect myself without a word.
Moments tick by. Sinclair shifts, and I hear his soft voice near my ear. "Still with me, kid?" He honestly sounds. . .worried.
I choke back my discomfort and take a big step back. The floor tilts, but I keep my balance this time. "Yup. Still here, buddy. You can't get rid of me that easily." I huff.
He grins, I think. And I think I grin back, if only to mask the tremble in my bottom lip Because, I am. . .okay. Fine. I'm scared. I'm terrified, actually. Nothing is making sense, and I feel sick to my stomach . Quickly, I move away from him and try and draw in some deep, steady breaths. My gaze flickers through the gloom as a distraction from my aches and pains.
. . .it doesn't work. But I can see that there isn't anything special about this place. I mean, it's a lighthouse. It's plain and old and looks like it hasn't been used for a long time. Otherwise, there's no radio, no equipment, no radars, no personnel. Nothing.
So what the hell kind of a lighthouse is this?
And then I realize something else, as I wander away from the vaulted doorway and deeper into the heavy darkness. "Where's that music coming from?" I frown.
It's strange music. Nice, but strange. Echoing hollowly off of the wet walls, with a funny brass ring to it. Big band music from the 40s and 50s, sounding as if it's being played from a record player or one of those old gramophones. What would something like that being doing in a lighthouse?
"This way, kid. If you're coming with me, you've got to keep up."
"Huh?" I turn in a full circle, but I don't see Sinclair anywhere. My heart gives a sudden lurch against my ribcage, and a burst of panic suddenly closes off my throat. "Hey!" I squeak. "Where'd you go?"
Oh. My eyes narrow and then I see them: more stairs. Sighing, I jog in place for a minute to get my toes warm, and then I run down two more flights after the man before he vanishes entirely. Because that might be bad. The music gradually grows louder down every step, but not to an overwhelming degree. It's almost kind of comforting.
Almost. But it's still more weird than pleasant.
The lights start flickering on as I hurry after Sinclair. One by one by one, until the full extent of the lavish marble and bronze interior is illuminated by hazy golden bulbs. It's breathtaking. Just, wow. It's absolutely beautiful.
My eyes wander over dated brass plaques covering the walls. They seem to celebrate things like art, industry, and science, and I feel myself slowing down to read them. I'm not sure why. . .but an uneasy feeling prickles at the back of my neck as I scan the plaques over. I don't want to get better looks at them. I don't want to be anywhere near them, for some reason. . . . I can't explain. I don't know.
They look familiar. Like the strange, staring man from my dreams. Those cold blue eyes of his. Their images are familiar. . .hauntingly familiar. I feel like I should already know why. But I don't. I don't know anything.
My skin crawls unpleasantly underneath my clothing. Suppressing a shiver, I tear my eyes away from the frozen images and resume my stumbling along. Though. . .the feeling stays with me. The itch. It's nearly impossible to ignore, but I force myself to consider the more pressing problems at hand. . .
"Sinclair?" I jump over the last two steps and my feet thump down heavily onto the slick metal floors.
Sinclair is standing inside of an odd, metal. . . .sphere. . . .device, thing, that kind of reminds me of an elevator. . . .only not really. It's made of dull, tarnished bronze and full of flashing lights and levers, both on the outside and around Sinclair in the interior.
"Um, what are you doing?" I wonder curiously. . .warily. Please, no more surprises. My head might just explode.
I eye the ominous threshold with painstaking reluctance. A thin strip of metal is separating the misty gloom of the lighthouse and the eerie, faded light inside of the sphere.
To cross, or not to cross, that is the question. . . .
"Tryin' to see if I can get this old bathysphere up and running." Sinclair grunts. "It should already be working, but. . . .shit. I don't know what happened to it." His gaze is narrowed and focused on the wires he keeps tugging at and rearranging. He looks so sure of himself that he must have some clue as to what he's doing.
At least one of does. As far as my limited knowledge extends, bathyspheres are primarily used for diving. As in, under the ocean, diving. So. Wherever it leads. . .has to be infinitely better than staying here in this lighthouse alone, right? Disregarding the statements about us going to hell? No. No way. I don't want to stay here by myself if Sinclair is leaving, no matter the destination or how eccentric he is. I might even, kind of like it. A little.
When it isn't scaring me, of course. Guess that means I crossing, then. Biting my lip, I leap over the serrated edge of the floor and the metal sphere sways, just a little, as my weight is added to the overall bulk.
"Are you ever going to tell me where the bathysphere leads?" I hedge innocently, peering over his shoulder at the jumble of wires. I'm not expecting a straight answer. And I don't get one, either.
"You'll see." Sinclair murmurs. How unsurprisingly cryptic. Thanks. A heated frown darkens his face as a red wire rains out a shower of sparks. He wrenches his hand back and gives it a vicious shake. "Fuck!"
Hmm. I watch him cross a thick blue wire with a yellow wire and unconsciously shake my head. "No. . . .no." I scratch the back of my neck, puzzled, but this itch. . . It burns somewhere deep beneath my skin, too deep for me to reach no matter how far I dig my nails in.
It's like an itch inside my brain. Does that make sense? Actually, it makes me sound like I'm tripping out. Which, hey, I might be. Not that this is like any Wonderland I've ever heard of. . .
"What?" Sinclair spears me with a funny look. "What the hell are you taking about? Fuck it- if you know how to start her up, be my guest." He sidesteps out of the way and the blue and yellow wires drop back into the rainbow tangle.
My brows crease deeply as I study those vibrant wires. A droplet of sweat, or maybe seawater, trickles off a strand of my hair and lands with a faint zap on a red wire. After another long, silent moment, something just clicks. I don't know what, or how the hell it happens, but my hands are suddenly acting on their own accord and weaving a bizarre sort of pattern between green and yellow wires, parallel to the blue, but hooked up adjacent to the red, and the orange doubles back underneath, connecting to the main power supply. . . .
"There." I step back from the electrical box happily. "That's how it's supposed to look." I flash my beaming grin at Sinclair.
He stares at me in shock with his dark eyes impossibly wide.
"This is the switch, right?" Maybe I should have waited. Maybe I should have done anything other than wrap my hand around the wide lever. One simple tug and the big metal door on the bathysphere clangs shut.
"Shit, kid." Sinclair hoarsely manages. He runs a hand through his slick black hair, then shakes his head. His surprise twists into something sharp, something definitely more than a little suspicious. A fire crackles to life in the depths of his black eyes as they sear into mine.
He looks positively manic. "How did you do that?" He demands, stepping closer to where I am desperately attempting to make myself small. "How the hell did you know which wires went where?"
I don't think he means to scare me. Or maybe he does. But, shit. I'm terrified! Sometimes his mood swings are so. . .alarming, that I'm guessing he has some issues going on upstairs. I gulp back the bitter flavor of panic in my throat and stumble backwards. Something pointed jabs into my arm.
"Um, I don't know. I swear I don't know." I mumble, flushing a nervous, pale red. "I've never seen anything like this place before in my entire life, but, it almost. . . .feels like I have. I can't explain it. I just knew how to fix it. Please. I'm sorry." I babble inanely. The blush spreads like a wildfire across my cheekbones.
A horrible moment of silence passes after my idiotic ramble. Sinclair's tightened expression drops into a frown. He blinks, and the fire in his irises begins to ebb. Like the tide. Sometimes, you want to go swimming with its gentle current. And other times, one wrong step, and you'll be washed out with the rolling waves.
Sinclair reminds me of that. The ocean. His shifting emotions. Okay, I just heard that, and it sounded pretty lame. Wow. The ocean? Really? I am such a dork.
"Alright. Relax, kid. Breathe. I didn't mean to attack ya." Sinclair holds up his hands in the universal gesture of surrender. " I just wasn't expecting. . .any of that. You got anymore aces up your sleeve?"
"I sure as hell hope not! I've always been real lousy at poker." I breathe out, sagging back against the wall with relief. "And if you weren't expecting that, than how the do you think I feel, buddy?"
Well, that wasn't any more awkward than usual. I guess.
He rubs a hand along his jaw and watches me. The second the shutters close over his face, he becomes impossible to read. I mean, I can't read expressions as it is, but Sinclair seems to be something entirely different. I'd hate to play cards with him, though, that's for sure.
Then, as he casually stares back and folds his arms over his shirt, there's a flash of white, straight teeth. This smile is like the Cheshire Cat's.
"Well, ain't that fascinating." He hums, as the bathysphere gives a sudden lurch.
I open my mouth. . .only to bite down on my tongue, scrabbling for purchase as we swiftly descend into darkness. About four seconds later, I'm breathing so hard and so fast I'm sure I'm about to have a panic attack. Little lights even start to flash in front of my eyes, but then I blink, and I realize that the lights are coming from an electronic system I didn't notice earlier. A projecting screen is positioned on an upper portion of the curved metal wall. Hazy shades of black and white roll across the screen as it buzzes to life.
This is. . .huh. I frown at Sinclair. He leans back, away from the screen, and rolls his eyes in reply. His hands clench into fists over his shirt. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, for the main event. . . ." He mutters mockingly under his breath.
Right on cue. A picture of a man flashes into view. He's sitting in a chair, staring confidently at the camera as he smokes a pipe.
"I am Andrew Ryan, and I'm here to ask you a question," He says. His voice bounces powerfully around the walls of the sphere, with faint interruptions of static crackling from the little speakers. I listen, transfixed, despite Sinclair's huffs in the corner.
"-is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?
"No," says the man in Washington. "It belongs to the poor."
"No," says the man in the Vatican. "It belongs to God."
"No," says the man in Moscow. "It belongs to everyone."
I rejected those answers.
Instead, I chose something different.
I chose the impossible.
I chose. . . ."
Mr. Andrew Ryan pauses for a moment. It's as if he's timed his speech perfectly with the second that the Bathysphere emerges from the shadows and speeds into the bright, bluish glow of the ocean, so many fathoms beneath the surface. And what I see sprawling out before me, as I trip over to the wide front windows and press my face against the cold pane, is the most magnificent sight I have ever laid eyes on in my whole life.
A city. A beautiful, mesmerizing, underwater utopia, glowing with life and stretching for miles and miles into the rippling darkness beyond.
"Rapture." Andrew Ryan finishes, his voice nearly bursting with pride.
"Home sweet home." Sinclair adds dryly.
I miss the sarcasm in his statement. I'm just too hypnotized by my surroundings to notice anything else. My wide eyes are simply glued to every surface, every sign, every neon light, every little sea creature that swims on past us. . . .
I can hardly breathe from the sheer wonderment of it all.
"A city where the artist would not fear the censor." Ryan continues to explain. "Where a scientist would not be bound by petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small.
And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well."
IT'S DONE! *phew* Man, revising is exhausting! I hope it's off to a better start than before, though. Thank you all for tuning in! The next edited chapter should be up soon.