A/N: A little. . .okay, alot late, but, the next chapter is here! Thank you for the reviews, everyone! Also, a good point brought up by XxCheshireGrinxX that I forgot about Sinclair and ADAM. I've added that below. So, thank you for letting me know!


3. Fistful of Lightning

If only I had taken karate classes instead of violin lessons. . . Or, no. Would knowing karate save my ass? Well, I'd be in much better shape. . . So, hey. It wouldn't hurt. As it is, I'm standing at the bottom of a staircase and am about to be flattened by a flaming couch traveling at approximately eighty miles an hour. Anything probably would have been better than violin lessons. . .

Huh. And I though that today couldn't get any stranger. Weird, how I'm too busy gawking at the inevitable inferno that is going to roast me alive instead of running far, far away from it.

"Molly. . !" A voice echoes distantly. But all I can honestly hear is the sound of popping and sizzling fabric. . .and a mocking cackle from the top step-?

"Molly!" Atlas is screaming so loud that the speaker buzzes like a swarm of furious hornets. "What the fuck are ya doing? Get the hell out of there!"

Atlas? Oh, shit! I give a startled gasp and stumble backwards out of the doorway, my heart crashing so hard and so fast into my ribs that it must have broken at least a couple straight through my chest. My foot catches on a piece of jagged stone and with a whoosh of air, gone straight from my lungs, I'm staring up at the vaulted ceiling with pain exploding at the back of my skull.

The couch just zooms on by and crunches against the wall where it didn't quite fit through the entrance. It spins, tumbling past me for another four feet until it hits a sideways pillar and bursts into a cloud of ash.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. I just lay there on the ground and try to regulate my breathing, nose wrinkling at the acrid smell of rubber and, well, couch material. The world is tipping beneath my crumpled, bruised frame, and I'm afraid to lift my pretty battered head, because I know the pain will spear me right between the eyes if I move too soon.

"Bloody hell. Molly? Shit." Atlas trills, sounding panicked. . .and sounding pissed. Incredibly pissed. "Can you hear me, Molly?"

"Yeah. Ouch. I hear you." I groan. Is anything broken? No. Just. . .badly damaged. Thank the heavens that the radio still seems to be in one piece. I close my eyes, reopen them grudgingly, and then drag myself up off of the dusty floor. Bits of stone and who the hell knows what else cling to my clothes, and I don't even bother to brush it off when I stand, holding my aching head between my hands.

Wonderful. I feel. . .just. . .fucking. . .wonderful.

"What the hell? Fuck! What were you thinking, kid? Were you even?" Atlas demands frostily. His tone is hardly louder than a growl, and I feel the low pitch reverberate through my chest, down to my curling toes. Slow waves of molten fire licking through my veins as the memories slip, crumble, and burn. I can't even try and remember them before they've gone again.

"If you weren't in that camera's range, I wouldn't have seen you! For the love of. . ." His sigh is more of an irritated grumble. "You might survive if you start paying attention to what the fuck is going on! Come on, Molly. This isn't a game."

I lean my battered body against the doorframe, and it takes a long, painful eternity to even bend back down and pick up my wrench. It's. . .humiliating. Shame bubbles up in my stomach, complimenting the heat that flushes across my face. Okay. Fine. It's obvious enough that I need help. I know that. But, at this rate. . . Shoot. Atlas probably thinks I need something like a babysitter!

And I don't! Is it my fault that I survived that plane crash and ended up here? I mean, how the hell can you honestly prepare yourself for a situation as skewed as this one? The blush burns to anger over my cheeks as I slowly angle up the staircase.

"Well, you could cut me some fucking slack." I argue back, grinding my teeth. "Do you think people on the surface, in the real world have to deal with this kind of shit? Why the hell do you think I'm not prepared? Dammit!" I swing my wrench into the wall as the mounting fury pushes through my exhaustion, my fear.

In a weird way, it gives me strength. It keeps me going. I have the swelling pulse of the anger to direct my attention on and not the bone bruises running up and down my arms and legs.

"I mean, I'm stuck in some madman's underwater city and there are druggies freaks trying to kill me!" I practically yell. "I'm SORRY if I'm having such a fucking PROBLEM adjusting to this new lifestyle!"

Does he think this place comes with a handbook? All things considering, I believe I've handled myself pretty well for having this thrown in my lap! But Atlas doesn't miss a beat either after I pause to draw in a sharp, pained breath. The metal of the radio seems to dig into my hip.

"Maybe you haven't noticed it yet, but it's a dog-eat-dog world in Rapture nowadays, sweetheart." He intones sharply. "There's no time to adjust to it. None. You're here, and that's that. There isn't anything we can do about it. And, I'm. . . I'm sorry." There is hardly an ounce of fight left in his quiet, drained voice. I hear him sigh, and can almost picture him running a tired hand through his hair on the other end.

I know. I know. It's true. Everything he said is absolutely true. I swallow back the taste of rising guilt, thick and bitter in my mouth. My stomach clenches, muscles twisting unpleasantly at the thought of us. . . At the though of Atlas being upset with me. At us not getting along. I don't want that at all. It just. . .it feels wrong.

I can't bear his unhappiness. I want. . .him to see that I can defend myself. I want him to be. . .well, proud of me. Where that overwhelming need stems from, I don't know, but I know that's how I feel.

"I want to help you, Molly." The Irishman reassures sincerely. "I don't want to fight. I don't want to fight about anything. But you've got to work with me, not against me. Please. We're on the same team, aren't we?"

Pausing near the top of the stairs, where the edge of the cracked wall still hides me from view, I hastily rub at my eyes. My heart burns against my chest as a flood of emotion washes through me. It almost feels like one of those puzzle pieces. . .is staring me right in the face. And I can't see it.

"Of course I'm on your side." The words stumble immediately from my lips, without conscious realization. "I don't want to fight either, buddy. I can't afford to lose you. So, I'm . . .sorry. I'm just scared." I add, barely above a weak, shamed whisper.

The radio stays quiet. I twirl my wrench in my fingers and almost drop it, I'm shaking so much. But I force myself to exhale, long and slowly, pushing the miscellaneous pains in my body to the very back of my thoughts.

"You have no reason to apologize. I promise you, I will get you out of this place." Atlas finally speaks. There is such conviction in his voice that I can't not believe him.

"Can I call a truce, or is to soon?" He asks after a moment.

I've barely known the man and I can already recognize that joking lilt in his accent. Somehow, I feel a grin beating the misery off of my face. How the hell does he do that? I swear, the sound reminds me of storm clouds parting and daylight streaming through the rain.

"No. I back that truce." I agree. It's a little ridiculous, the effect he has over me.

"Good." The radio honestly beams. "Now, I hate to kill the mood, kid. . ." He trails off gently.

An icy lead weight drops into my stomach. The smile is practically slapped from my mouth. But I know why he gave the warning even before I make myself ask. I take a nervous peek around the corner of the wall, and there's that splicer guy. The one who kicked the couch down the stairs at me. He's talking to himself and rooting around in some spilled trash with a long, bent pipe clutched in his right hand, and a torn black backpack strung over a crooked shoulder.

I could use that pack. That pipe might come in handy, too.

Biting my lip, I definitely appreciate the silence from the radio as I test my wrench in my left hand, then, my right. It's an understanding kind of silence. A patient one. Or maybe it's just an ordinary silence and I'm reading too far into it. Well. . . . I'm hoping it's one of those two, anyways. I don't want Atlas thinking that I'm a coward.

. . .whether I am one or not is a completely different matter.

Ultimately, I end up squeezing the wrench handle tight in my left hand and sucking in a short, stilted breath. The splicer is entirely unaware of my presence as he babbles on in a hoarse voice.

Okay. If I make it through this, I'm asking Atlas about everything and anything I can. Plasmids. ADAM. Doctor Tenenbaum. That Lamb person mentioned earlier. Everything about Rapture, I need to know. No excuses. No more wandering around blind and being caught unprepared.

. . .damn. Stop stalling, Molly. Put on your game face and lets get this over with. I'm getting a horrible feeling that I'll be doing a lot more splicer bashing in the next couple of hours, before I get out of here. So. Might as well get used to it. . ?

My strides are long, but careful, as I creep out from behind my hiding place. The blood roaring so loudly in my ears that I can't hear myself think. I don't even know if I'm breathing as the space between me and the splicer gradually shortens. Seven feet, four feet, two feet. . .


I can't believe that just happened. Suddenly, time seems to freeze, and it's one of those absurd, nearly comical moments where I look down, see the plastic potato chip bag I've stepped on, and then glance up in terror to meet the bloodshot, lopsided gaze of one very surprised splicer. We stare at each other for a second. Then, he growls, and lunges at me with that crooked pipe.

Oh. Shit. I'm going to die.

Something hot gushes through my veins as I flinch, stumble back, and swing my wrench up in shocked defense. There's a clang of metal on metal. Pain shoots down arms from the recoil of our clashing weapons, and I'm startled that my head is still attached to my neck. How?

What happens next. . . I don't know if worse is this right word to use. But, what happens next definitely scares me. Something indefinable and fiery races through my veins, something searing hot and feverishly cold at the same time as I duck another wayward jab this way, lunge and feint that way, and generally act as I actually know what in the hell it is that I'm doing. But I don't. I have no clue on how to fight, remember? I took violin lessons!

Yet it seems. . .it feels. . .as if my body knows. Like it knows exactly what to do, and I can't even begin to comprehend how impossible that is. Some bizarre, natural instinct does all of the work, figures out all of the secret moves and keeps my limbs twisting in bending in all of the right ways to avoid nearly every blow.

Nearly, every blow, I repeat. The splicer has a couple of tricks up his sleeve, too, and when I attempt to land a swing that will no doubt shatter one of his kneecaps, he jumps away, spins around me, and brings that pipe down with full force against my back.

Stars explode in front of my eyes and, hell, I go down fast. My back doesn't feel broken, but it sure as fuck doesn't feel good as I gasp in a breath and roll out of the way, just as the splicer gives a furious yell and slams a foot down where my head would have been not two seconds ago.

"Just give up, little girl!" He screams. "I know you have it on you! I know you're hiding the ADAM!"

"For fuck's sake, I wouldn't hide the ADAM!" I yell back. "I'd just give it to you if I had any!"

The splicer actually hesitates. He stops moving for a split second, halts his brutish swinging, and without even thinking, I leap to my feet and smash my wrench into the side of his head. There's a sickening squelch of metal against skin, and the Splicer drops to the floor with a dent in his skull the size of New York.

Almost immediately, the strange sense of not-quite-adrenaline coursing through my system wears off. Then, the agonizing pain in my back kicks in as the bloodied wrench slips from my fingers. I take a step back, panting, sweating, gasping. It hurts to breathe. Everything. . .hurts.

An ocean of red is pooling around the splicer's head. I watch it, transfixed. Horrified. Mesmerized. Numb with shock that I was able to do such a thing.

"Holy shit." Atlas comments bluntly. "Where the hell did you learn to move like that, kid?" He sounds. . .impressed. "I think I highly underestimated your ability to defend yourself."

"Yeah." I manage to choke out, a clammy hand scrabbling against my chest as if might, pray, slow the frantic thrashing of my heart. "Yeah, you and me both."

Atlas laughs. "You were amazing, Molly. Give yourself some credit."

He thinks. . . .that was amazing? Really? I sink to my knees and an odd, hoarse sound punches its way out of my mouth. Something that might have been a sob or a manic chuckle that sends a fierce throbbing up into my head.

"I can't believe I killed him." I rasp, unable to look away from the splicer's broken, crumpled form. This is what it takes to make Atlas proud?

"Hey. It tried to kill you first. Remember?" The Irishman lightly chides. "Don't go feeling guilty for it. Make no mistake that it wouldn't have felt guilty if it had killed you."

"I know." I whisper, running my trembling hands over my eyes. "I know."

These awful images are going to stay with me for a very, very long time. It will be a wonder if I'm ever going to be able to fall asleep after this, always suspecting an ambush, replaying the bloodshed over and over in my head. . .

"Have you killed someone, Atlas?" I wonder quietly, and my voice is surprisingly steady for such a terrible question. It's stupid to ask, I know. Of course he's killed before, to have stayed alive down here for. . .however long he's been in Rapture. But. . .I don't know. I want to hear him say it out loud.

I just want to know that I'm not the only one. That I'm. . .not a monster. Even if the splicer wasn't technically human anymore.

Time stretches uncomfortably. I watch a single rivulet of blood wind its way down from the splicer's smashed face, onto the floor, circling underneath its neck, dripping down through a crack in the wood paneling.

"Yes. I have." The Irishman responds blankly. There's a note of cold finality in his voice that I know better than to press. It's. . .well, unsettling. I drop the subject immediately and push myself up onto shaking legs. But I'm still partially relieved that I asked.

"So." I clear my throat, still unable to tear my eyes away from the corpse. "I should take that pack. Maybe even the pipe, just in case. Right?"

"You're a quick learner, Molly. Definitely get into the habit of doing that. Check crates, bodies, trash cans, and whatever else, along the way. You never know what might save your life." Atlas instructs.

Good advice.

Quickly, trying not to injure myself more, I yank the bag off of the body and scoop up my fallen wrench. It feels like. . .something is watching me. Actually, I betting something is watching me as I limp towards the far side of the room. Rapture just seems like that kind of place. Eyes, everywhere. Great. I shake off the shivery sensation and attempt to look around.

This new area reminds me of a café and a waiting room. There are tables and chairs sprinkled about here and there, upturned, stained, or broken. A round, latched door is settled between two more giant windows, casting in a haze of that bluish light. Weird. I'm still not used to seeing schools of fish swim by windows. . . .

Anyhow, on my right, as I lean up against an almost intact section of the wall, a carpeted staircase winds up and out of sight to a second level. And. . .wait. I think I hear someone talking. A little girl. . ?

"My daddy is smarter than Einstein, stronger than Hercules. . ." She trills.

My brows furrow. What the hell? It sounds like some kind of a recording. . .

"Hey, Molly. What's in the bag?" Atlas politely interrupts my bewilderment.

I blink, forcing my eyes away from the stairs and looking back inside of the damp, musty backpack clutched in my hands. "Uh. . .let's see. . ." Though I'm having a hard time concentrating, as I strain my ears for that little girl again, I grin broadly at the sight of my spoils and feel something jump in the pit of my stomach.

Something like hope.

"Hey, there are medical supplies in here!" I tell Atlas happily, and pull out a bottle of aspirin, bandages, disinfectant, a sewing needle, and some thread. This is so unbelievably awesome, I'm half expecting the items to turn to dust the moment I touch them.

"Sweet, I hit the jackpot!"

"Excellent. But try to conserve as much as you can, okay, kiddo? It isn't everyday you find useable supplies like this around."

Right. Obviously. "Um. . .gotcha." I recap the bottle of water I was also lucky enough to unearth, though it's dangerously empty, now, and swallow down the four aspirin I had stuck in my mouth. Oops?

"Anything else?" The Irishman wonders.

"Hmm. . ." I carefully replace the bottle and move a few other loose scraps of material around. "No, I don't think so. Oh. Wait a minute. . ."

There's something. . . .glowing, at the bottom of the pack. Curiously, I reach in deep and remove a syringe. Hang on, a syringe? My throat tightens as I stare down at the needle laying flat in my palm. There's a strange, glowing blue substance swirling around inside of it.

Like it might be alive or. . something equally sinister.

"What is it, Molly?" Atlas asks with a touch of concern, when I don't speak

"I think. . . .I think it might be. . . ." I try to swallow, but my throat feels as coarse as sandpaper.

Could this be ADAM? That drug. . .Sinclair mentioned? The one that created the splicers?

"Is it a syringe? With a blue substance in it?" The Irishman guesses lightly. "It's called EVE." He pauses. "Molly. . ." His voice echoes strangely in the cavernous room. "What, exactly, do you know about Rapture?"

I put the needle back into the bag, feeling an overpowering rush of relief, though it doesn't last long. Because as little as I know, EVE might be just as bad as ADAM. Just as potent. Just as addictive. I swallow back a bitter flavor filling my mouth as my eyes drift towards the staircase again.

"I hardly know anything." I grumble sullenly. "And I want to know everything, Atlas. Sinclair was only able to explain a little before that splicer interrupted us."

Something flashes through my head, then. Faded posters. When Sinclair and I were inside of the bathysphere. What had he mentioned, about. . .power, at the tips of your fingers? Plasmids. That was it. Well, at least I can cross something off of my endless list of questions. . .

"But I know about ADAM, in part." I amend quickly. "It's a drug that. . .what? Messes with your DNA or something?" I squint, rubbing at the back of my neck as I try and remember what Sinclair said.

"People kept shootin' up until they just spliced themselves out of the human race."

But, in all honesty, how awesome would it be if I could light fires with my fingers, like it showed on that Incinerate poster? Or bend and move objects with Telekinesis? The image is sorely, sorely tempting. Which probably isn't such a good thing.

"Something like that." Atlas confirms wryly. "The moment the ADAM touches your bloodstream, it alters your DNA. Twists it so you can harness things called plasmids, which grant the user specific, unique abilities. ADAM in its purest state, though, is what you actually trade in for the plasmid injections."

Hmm. I consider this with a scrunched expression, trailing my hand carefully along the smooth railing as I ascend the stairs. Whatever happened to that voice, that little girl, I haven't heard her since. What could it have been?

"That doesn't sound healthy. Or particularly safe." I decide on. But I can't help feeling somewhat. . .curious. Okay. A lot curious. I'm too curious for my own good and, really, that's probably what is going to kill me.

A warm ghost of laughter filters from the radio, and I feel a swell of pride at the sound. "I suppose, yes. You can look at it that way." Atlas acknowledges, evidently amused. "But believe me, sweetheart, if you're going to make it down here. . ."

He trails off and I stop in the middle of the staircase. My heart thumps nervously against my chest.

". . .you're going to need the upper hand on these splicers, Molly, if you're going to survive." He tells me quietly. "Not all of them are going to be as easy to push over as that thuggish one you beat back with a wrench."

Oh. Comforting. But he can't mean. . ? No. No, absolutely not!

I let out a slow, unsteady breath and heft my wrench over a shoulder. My stomach clenches, and I don't know whether it's from fear. . .or anticipation. "SO, you're saying that. . .to defeat the Splicers, I kind of have to. . ."

"Become like them?" Atlas finishes for me, as gently as he probably can. "Unfortunately, that is exactly what I'm saying. You aren't strong enough to face them as you are, and I know you are definitely smart enough to stop if the effects of the plasmids become too much for you. There is nothing to worry about." He reassures. "I'll walk you through the entire process. I promise."

It would be so easy to believe that warm, comforting voice. And I. . .maybe. . .kind of. . . As awful as ADAM clearly is, the lure of it is almost sweetly irresistible. I don't care if cigarettes can kill you, I still want to smoke one and see what the big deal is.

That's how I'm feeling. And, hell. I'm sure my life expectancy was cut into thirds the moment I ended up here, in Rapture. What harm would it do if shooting up evened out the playing field for me? I mean, if I'm going down already, I might as well go down swinging.

"So, where does the EVE come into all of this?" I wonder, taking another step, and another, closer towards the top floor. My heart is about to burst right out of my chest as I realize that I am seriously going to do this. I can hardly catch my breath.

I'm going to listen to a man I barely know and inject an unknown substance into my veins that is going to screw with the entire fabric of my existence. And the twisted tingle snaking down my spine. . .is telling me that I'm not only terrified, but excited.

I think, maybe, the blow to my head knocked a couple of screws loose in my brain.

"Well, you can only use a plasmid for a limited time." Atlas begins.

"Oh! Then, the EVE syringe is like an energy kick?" I surmise, amazed at how fast I'm able to grasp the fundamentals of this madness. Because it definitely is, madness. All of this. And I'm beginning to think that I don't particularly care anymore.

"It kind of. . .replenishes the plasmid's strength?"

Atlas hums an impressed note under his breath. "Exactly. I'd keep the one you found as safe as you can." He ends his sentence on a definitive note, but it still feels like. . .

It feels like he left something vital out of his explanation. I touch the tuning dial unconsciously as I hesitate, wavering on the last stair. What would Sinclair have to say about all of this? I can practically see his face, his narrowed black eyes and the cynical lift to his mouth as he huffs.

"You've seen splicers before, kid. That's gonna be you right quick if you listen to Atlas, and then, what?" His honeyed accent drips through my startled consciousness, sounding much too real for only a figment of my imagination.

"You'll never be able to get out of here if you turn into one of them monsters." He sneers, jabbing a finger at me. "Besides, it ain't a good idea to mix business with pleasure. I figured you'd be bright enough to know that."

I freeze the moment his flesh connects with the fabric of my jacket. Because, what? What the hell? I blink and vigorously shake my head, which hurts, but the image of Augustus Sinclair vanishes abruptly as pain lances through my skull. That I was. . .not expecting. What the fuck was it? A hallucination? I mean, there's no way I could have predicated his response!

. . .not which such frightening accuracy, at least. Especially when I hardly know him.

My throat sticks when I choke back a swallow. Come on, Molly. Keep it together. This place is going to break you within the hour at this rate.

I jerk my hand away from the radio, strapped securely to my hip, and a shudder spasms through me. Okay. I'm okay. He wasn't really here. It must have been an aftereffect of my previous, blinding adrenaline rush.

Yeah. It must have been. . . Right?

"Molly? What is it? Are you okay?" Atlas asks in concern. The sound slices across the haze and I shake my head again, slower, but the apparition of Sinclair still haunts the back of my thoughts as I step onto the landing.

What he said. . .it made sense. . .

"No. I'm not." I mutter. "I'm not okay. I have the distinct feeling that I'm going crazy, and there isn't anything I can to do to stop it."

The Irishman sighs softly over the line. "I truly am sorry, sweetheart. But you have to know what you're up against. You have to be strong. And, remember: you aren't in this alone."

"Thank you." I whisper, voice cracking.

The line stays comfortingly silent. And I force myself to brush away the tears before they can slip in betrayal down my face.

Stepping onto the topmost floor, my stinging gaze is immediately drawn to a machine against the far wall. My eyes widen in disbelief.

It's tall, and glowing with an eerie purple light in the bluish shadows. Not to mention the fact that there are these giant, plastic little girls molded on to both of its sides, with these scary, plastic smiles on their scarier, plastic faces.

And, you know what? The thing looks like a damn vending machine. A vending machine! There's a thick glass plate protecting dozens upon dozens of tiny vials, all shining dozens of different colors, arranged methodically on an array of black shelves.

But the slot where the money is supposed to go. . .isn't a slot. It's a strange, curved tube that juts out at an angle, like you have to pour something into it to get what you want.

I stare at it wondrously for some time. A circular sign is perched askew above the products.


Wow. Just, wow. I approach the machine, awed. My wide stare travels over some of the organized vials and their tags: Hypnotize, a noxious, smoking shade of green; Winter Blast, a blue so pale it looks almost white; Cyclone, where whirling clouds spin angrily inside of the tiny glass tube; Enrage, a furious, almost pulsating red. . .

Damn. They have some pretty weird names. Their violent colors definitely don't make them look any more appealing, either. But I don't move. The colors might be disconcertingly overwhelming, and yet. . .they're entrancing, too. I can't help myself. Their terrible and beautiful all at once.

I blink, as a blinding shade of blue suddenly catches my attention. Nestled in the open pocket where the machine deposits the vials. . .is already a glass tube. A glass tube that seems to crackle with energy, its fluid shimmering like lightning.

My hands literally tingle as I stare at it. Then I start feeling this. . .ache. Dull, at first, in my chest. Until it starts to spread, a sharp, crawly sensation, blazing just under the surface of my flesh.

And that's when I know. I am truly going to do this.

With trembling fingers, I reach for the small vial. The glass is surprisingly warm against my skin. Warm and encouraging. There is a pocket of empty syringes on the nearside of the machine and, automatically, I take one, licking my lips. Beads of sweat slide down my forehead.

I'm waiting for something terrible to happen. Something catastrophic as I uncork the vial, stomach lurching, but nothing happens. A wash of ozone sears through the air and burns my nose, but the sensation is hardly unpleasant. Actually, that's the awful part. I think I might even like it.

Great. Crazy? That's probably the tip of the iceberg now.

Well. I don't hesitate or try and prepare myself for it, like I did before confronting the splicer. What's the point? I have no idea what to even prepare myself for, as I stick in the needle and suck up every last electric blue drop.

Here goes nothing, then. I hold my breath and the empty tube clinks across the floor. The syringe hums in my hand, poised just about my left wrist. I don't realize that the shakes have stopped as I close my eyes. . .

. . .and push down on the plunger.

The effect is instantaneous. And the effect is nothing but sheer fucking pain. I can't see. I can't breathe. My bones are shifting around in their sockets and I can feel this ripping, this tearing, deep inside of my veins, and it hurts like nothing I could have ever dreamed of.

Smears of blue crackle around my fingertips as I stumble backwards, tears streaming down my face. I'm in so much agony that I can't even open my mouth to scream.

"Steady now. Your genetic makeup is being rewritten." A distant voice is saying. Loudly. Slowly. I'm holding my splitting head in my hands and streaks of blue are winding around my arms like vines.

The air is thick enough with the acrid, burning scent of ozone to make me choke. I can't feel my fingers. I can't. This must be what dying feels like.

"Just hold on. . ."Atlas says.

I try. I really, really do. I try and hang on to the sound of his brogue as tightly as I can, but it keeps slipping farther and farther away

"You can do this, sweetheart. Everything is going to be fine."

I don't know how that's possible. My feet keep tripping backwards, and then something hits my waist. It takes me a moment to realize that it was the railing of the staircase, and the air whipping at my face and pulling me straight down means-

I've fallen over the edge. A sudden, blessed darkness makes the world wink out like a candle, and everything is gone.


The room is small and white. It kind of reminds me of a doctor's office, but the shiny plethora of tools on top of a metal tray, and the thick leather straps attached to the long white table in the middle of the floor. . . Yeah. They have me thinking more along the lines of 'torture room.'

Everything is just white, white, white. It gives the enclosed space a quarantined feel. Alien. A strong chemical odor burns my nose, but there is nothing I can see that suggests why the air is so harsh. I don't even know how I can register the antiseptic scent through the glass, because there are no doors or windows around me that lead into that room.

But there's a door on the opposite side of the glass. A big white door with a tiny window at the top. It's a scary looking door. I can only imagine it being excruciatingly heavy. There are even bolt locks and chains nailed into the frame.

. . .damn. What the hell goes on in here?

Suddenly, I hear. . .screaming. Faint screaming, steadily growing louder. Suddenly, I'm not so sure I want to know what this place is used for. Suddenly, I could really care less about any of this at all, but my wide eyes refuse to tear themselves away from that looming white door as it clangs open.

A woman with pinched, angular features rushes into view. She's wearing a lab coat, and her thick, dark hair is pushed back off of her face into a messy ponytail. Her skin is bright with a sheen of sweat, as bright as her feverishly shining eyes.

"Hurry, Suchong!" She calls back over her shoulder, sounding anxious, but not frightened.

Funny, her German accent sounds familiar. I don't know why it does, though. It's just another one of those things I can't quite put my finger on.

After a moment, another person dashes inside the room and the woman slams the door shut, shoving all of the locks and bolts into place. Effectively trapping them, as far as I can tell. Why the hell would she want to do that?

I shake my head. Whatever. The other scientist is a shorter man with thinning black hair, glasses perched slightly askew on his tensed face. Well, if he's Suchong, then that lady must be Dr. Tenenbaum.

What is this? A dream? Another hallucination?

Pressing closer to the glass, I notice that Suchong is holding something strange in his arms. Something wrapped in a blanket, crying and thrashing wildly. Something that sounds like. . .

"He's got to know that she's missing already." Suchong grunts. He lays the violently struggling bundle down on the table and wipes the back of a hand across his gleaming forehead. "Christ, we must suicidal to even be considering-"

"Silence!" Tenenbaum snaps. She walks with brisk strides to the other side of the table, blocking most of my view when the blanket is pulled off of the little girl and they start fastening those leather straps around tiny wrists and ankles.

"I will not have that monster around this poor child any longer. She deserves a future, a chance to fight for a better life! Do you not agree? And she will find neither if she is forced to remain in Rapture." Tenenbaum looks down at the girl with a surprising, motherly tenderness. It softens her sharp facial structure and makes her look less. . .well, scary.

"If you say so, Tenenbaum." Suchong frowns. "Though I don't. . . I mean. . ." He shakes his head, watching the scientist stroke the girl's hair until her cries begin to soften.

"Why does she mean so much to him?" He murmurs. "She isn't even-"

"It does not matter." Tenenbaum says simply. "I do not care how much he claims to love her. He is a liar, and he will only use and exploit her for his own selfish purposes."

Suchong sighs, but doesn't reply. He moves to the cabinet where the tools are, opens a drawer, and beings rooting around for something. Tenenbaum's expression grows increasingly sadder as the moments tick by.

"Where am I?" The little girl sniffles.

I wish I could see her, but Tenenbaum is standing right in the way.

"You are safe, my child." Tenenbaum tells her gently. "I promise you, that man will never hurt you again."

Silence. The girl hiccups, and I can see her hands clenching and unclenching inside of those leather straps.

"B-but. . .he never hurt me. He wouldn't, ever." She protests in a small, wavering voice. It breaks my heart to hear it.

"I w-want to go home. Please, please take me h-home. I want my Dad."

Tenenbaum shakes her head. Her smile is forlorn, exhausted. She can't be that old, but there are strands of gray in her hair, and premature lines of age circle around her eyes and her thin, drooping mouth.

"You will be going to a new home soon, little one. A nicer home. You will see the sun, and feel the rain on your face. You will have a much happier life than the one you have here."

The girl breaks into quiet sobs again. "B-but I like my old home. I don't want t-to leave it. I'm. . .happy, here."

"Hush, my child. . ."

The room begins to fade out of focus, then. The edges of the scene grow dark and hazy, until I can't see anything at all. Time slips by, empty, unnoticed. Forever must have passed before tiny pinpricks of light begin to filter in through the shadow. . .