A breathless scream ripped from Elodie, as her bottom half connected with a smooth metal surface, sliding down the slanted platform while attempting to keep her dress covering her thighs. She came to a stop on a circular perch, yelping as it wobbled, and chanced a glance over the side.
What had to be a twenty-foot drop greeted her, an enormous pool of water resting at the bottom.
Elodie froze up, her limbs locking, as quakes shook her body. Remaining on her backside, she slid to center herself on the perch, eyes moist with anxiety.
Oh, God, I'm going to fall.
Her lungs were suddenly too large for her chest cavity as she gasped out breaths of air, the sound echoing throughout the cavernous room.
"Is something the matter, Darling?" A familiar face questioned, causing the trembling woman to give a start, her heart thundering against her frame. Gripping the hem of her skirt with white knuckles, she glanced around, eyes narrowing with a sharp look of betrayal. Nygma was on the same cherry picker machine, reclining luxuriously on the rail.
"Why do you even have a room like this?" She yelled more than asked, aversion and disgust clear in her voice. Fear was making her snippy and abrasive and she did not appreciate him mocking her discomfort. Edward took notice, brow quirked, and leaned forwards in interest.
"It serves varying purposes; today, however, it will be used for our game." The word game caused her to bristle; she retorted out of instinct.
Standing herself up, Elodie pointed an accusatory finger at him, eyes ablaze with anger resulting from not-quite misplaced fear.
"All of this is just some twisted game, to you, isn't it?" She asked, voice wavering as she tried to sort herself out, which showed through her altered mood. Although her question was rhetorical in nature, she made it impossible for him to respond. She began spouting off all the repressed thoughts she had kept silent, since they had struck up the agreement that had backfired on her.
"So you get your kicks out of proving that you're better than others and playing puppet master. You maintain whatever imaginary right you may think you have to use others as playthings-pawns-to entertain yourself and to get what you want." Finished her venting, she sat back down to catch her breath, and glanced over, curious of his reaction.
Edward looked, to put mildly, peeved. His grip on the platform's handrail turned knuckle-white and she was sure that she saw a vain on his otherwise slate-stoic face. She was not deterred from her shift in mood, however, and continued to stare at him curiously, her anger steadily dying down.
"A game? Admittedly, yes. But just a game? Elodie, darling, you underestimate me. This all serves a purpose, which I am sure you will be able to discover on your own, in due time. If you want to understand this purpose, then you will have to play the game, regardless of whether you win or not." A ball of led anchored her to her spot as the realization hit; although not said aloud, she wouldn't be leaving, anytime soon.
At her crestfallen expression, his icy expression chipped, a sharp smirk lightening his eyes. He leaned forward a bit-if that was even possible-and, to Elodie, resembled a panther about to pounce.
"Allow me to lay down some more…specific guidelines, which may help clear some things up. I can, and will be, kind, considerate of your personal needs…a mentor, if you so wish, and someone who can lend an ear. I hold no personal qualms with you, so there is no reason for me to treat you as a prisoner. I expect the same to be expended towards myself, of course, but you will certainly have little trouble with that."
The bottom of her stomach dropped out as a reoccurring thought entered her mind.
How long will I be here? She felt a wave of anxiety wash over herself. I have priorities at home and school. Only Meg knows that I came here; didn't give her an address. I did say that I'd be back, in two weeks, so she'll have to know something's up. If I survive two weeks here, I'll be set.
With some amount of ire, she took notice that Edward was observing her silently; waiting for her to finish floundering.
"Alright; let's get started. What are the rules for this 'game'?" She watched as he fell back into the casual stance he primarily held. His mood seemed to have lightening, as well, as he was once again in control of the situation.
"I'm glad you asked! The name of the game is trivia. The subject: Gotham and other miscellaneous items. For each correct answer, you may ascend one level. However, each incorrect answer will cause you to descend one level. Falling below the line provided, will result in failure, while reaching the top tier will be considered a point in your favor. Are you ready to begin?"
Elodie had become worried at the mention of trivia, concerning Gotham. There was very little that she knew about the city, seeing as her only other visit was brief, and mostly consisted of her being tortured and interrogated.
She wasn't about to break down again, however, as not trying would result in a worse outcome than failing miserably.
When she nodded, he offered a toothy grin, before beginning with the first question.
"Who is currently at the top of Gotham city's most wanted list?" He questioned, grin still in place as she stared blankly at him.
How am I supposed to know? Maybe I'm not. Think, Elodie! He's a narcissist, and must be aware that I have no idea who it is, so there's only one option.
"You?" She ventured, smiling in amusement as his eyes lit up.
"That's correct; please, move one column up." As she peered up at the pillar ten feet higher and six feet away, wondering how she could, a mechanical noise filled the air as a set of stairs rose from seemingly nowhere.
Wasting no time, she moved up the stairs, taking great care, as there were no handrails. She settled herself on the platform and returned her gaze to the masked man.
"Now, a miscellaneous question: if you play as the black set, on a game of chess, and move the fourth pawn from the left two spaces up, which position will it land on?" It was a simple and straight-forward question, but had Elodie all mixed up, as she had been playing with the white set. She bit her lip and traced a line in the air, counting the squares as she went.
"A-b-c-d-e…Oh, e5." He nodded, approving of her feeble memory that had the potential to be improved.
Not very quick, but she's clairvoyant enough to remember moderately complicated patterns. There's always room for improvement. Feeling as if his time hadn't been completely wasted, as of yet, Edward quickly moved on.
"That's correct." The same flight of stairs moved into position and she scurried up them. A quick glance upward showed that she was eight pillars away from the top.
"Try this one on for size: which of Gotham's buildings is the highest?" Elodie groaned at the pun, but otherwise remained serious, her mind drawing a complete blank.
Well, what did I see, on the outings I had here? Traffic, skyscrapers, and a lot of…whoever that "Wayne" person is. Could that be it? There was that one building…"Wayne" what?
"Is it Wayne tower?" She guessed, quirking a brow as he frowned slightly.
"A very lucky guess; proceed." She did, and several questions later, she was only one tier above the one she had reached-climbing up when correct and sliding down when wrong.
"You can't win them all, my dear. You are nowhere near the line, which is impressive, seeing as you have only ventured the streets of the city twice."
Elodie blinked, startled at the seemingly sincere yet offhanded compliment. She was aware that it was difficult, if not damned near impossible, for him, and felt some of the sharp spite for him dull.
Not good, her inner voice warned, sobering her up enough to focus on him.
"Thank you…what was the next question?" She floundered to change the subject, this uncharacteristic behavior making her uncomfortable, but shortly came under fire.
"Just how did you learn to become so observant?" She stiffened, the subject of her past nothing she wanted to share with him. "I'm merely curious about such a useful talent."
"Well, ah…" It occurred to her that no amount of stalling would work and that the game would not proceed, until she answered his question.
Elodie cursed to herself and matched Edward's gaze. The crane he remained perched on moved a full range of the room's height; he was able to keep a critical eye on Elodie, the entire time, making her feel self-conscious as she tried to come up with an answer to each trivia question.
No point in lying, she decided, remaining earnest throughout the entire ordeal.
"I used to work as a guide at a bird sanctuary. We were expected to tally the number of each species of bird we saw, daily, on each tour. This was all while giving the spiel about wildlife preservation and answering questions, so it took some about of concentration and the ability to multitask."
She could feel the skepticism radiating from him. Her pale complexion boasted that she had spent virtually no time outdoors, but she was aware that her tan faded quickly, even if she initially got very dark in the summer.
"It's true." She insisted, her pout dissolving as his amused expression grew.
"I am not doubting you, Dear. I just don't picture you as the outdoors type." Elodie rose a brow at his doubt.
"I spend every spare moment I have outdoors." She confessed, wondering how long she had been trapped inside for.
A day and a half, at the most, right? The fact that she wasn't sure was not comforting.
"Really? I'll have to remember that. Are you ready to continue?" Sighing in relief, she nodded, and had gotten through with two correct answers, before realizing that the difficulty level was rising.
I can't very well have you win and have it go to your pretty little head, now, can I? Edward mused, determined to keep his notoriety as the Prince of Puzzles fully intact. Not that he minded watching her scurry up those stairs, in the least.
"Run, little mouse, run." He muttered, the cavernous room making the words slightly more audible.
Elodie would have frozen, mid-step, if she hadn't been sliding down the ramp in the most dignified matter she could muster.
"Mouse?" She whispered to herself, not minding if he heard her incredulous voice.
I've accepted that this is a game, but that's just belittling, and insulting. There was no further discussion about his comment, however, so Elodie took to focusing on his trivia questions.
After another eight rounds-and now six platforms from the top-Nygma was losing patience. His guest had a larger assortment of odd facts than he had anticipated and, coupled with her observational skills, she could answer some of his moderately difficult questions.
Time to bring out a stumper, he decided, grinning to himself while turning to his silently despairing guest.
"Every three months or so, a maintenance crew is in charge of driving along the streets of Gotham, and monitoring the life cycle of the bulbs in the streetlights.
Within the perimeter of two city blocks, one-hundred and sixteen light bulbs consisted of four blown out ones. Assume that this month's batch of six-thousand light bulbs, throughout the crew's assigned streets, has the same proportion of blown out bulbs as the two city blocks. How many of these bulbs need replacing?"
Elodie's eyes widened at the imposing mathematical problem-she was terrible at everything above simple arithmetic-and she could not bring herself to object that it wasn't trivia, as he threw in elements clearly only found in Gotham.
Well, shit. Her mind blanked, then, but she shook it off and began to recollect the important parts of the question.
There's a ratio to this…I would divide six-thousand by one-hundred and sixteen, right? Shit! I can't do this in my head. What the hell? Is that considered cheating? Huh, probably…not that he'd ever admit it. With her mood now successfully ruined, Elodie turned a put-off stare towards the masked man, bristling as his smile widened.
"I don't know." She sulked, sighing as he feigned having misheard her.
"What was that?"
"I don't know the answer." She repeated, huffing as the platform tilted, sending her down another ramp as the Riddler began to gloat.
"Do not fret, my dear. There are plenty of other opportunities for you to answer correctly. That was just a simple math problem." Elodie did not quite appreciate his reassurance. She continued to stare blankly at him, allowing him to continue his showboating, until he realized and cleared his throat.
"Well, let's continue."
It went straight downhill, after that, as Elodie's resolve broke and she began to grow tired and impatient. Even when she felt she knew the answer, she would say something slightly off, until she reached the fail line.
Cue next bout of showboating in three, two…
"Well, that didn't go as planned, now, did it? Ah, well, there's always the next time." The platform he stood on began to lower towards her, and she did not at all like the combination of his expression and stance. That combination set off a spark in her mind, concerning a non-too-distant and painful memory, effectively sending her into a panicked state.
A razor sharp cold stabbed at her insides, obliterating the broiling annoyance that had planted itself there. She felt her center of gravity shift, her head snapping back automatically, and realized that she had taken several steps back and was balancing on the edge of the platform. All she could manage to do was to glance back at Edward, only to have his face replaced by one that sent a shock through her.
Predator; run or fight. Do it. Do it, now! Not about to bowl into someone twice her size, Elodie glanced over the side of the pillar, her weight shifting so suddenly that she found herself plummeting towards the awaiting water below.
"What are you-!" Her own heartbeat drumming in her ears drowned everything else out. She stared blankly in front of herself, not comprehending what she had done, but soon came to.
A short-lived scream burst from her throat, before she impacted against a flimsy surface, the water she had expected there, but something preventing her from sinking.
Pool cover? She mused, mind fuzzy, as the freezing water caressed half of her face and tossed the skirt of her dress around. No energy left…so tired, and cold, but tired. Sleep? Yeah…Functioning solely on instinct, Elodie let her eyes flutter shut, the distant sound of a platform lowering of little consequence to her.
Well then. It took me longer to update than I'd like to admit. Sorry for the wait. I temporarily (only temporarily!) lost motivation in working on this story. Blame the fact that it's summer time. And that I have to type everything that I have previously hand-written.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed Edward's version of "Chutes and Ladders!" This was fun to write. Although, I'm pretty sure Elodie didn't enjoy it much. Please R&R!