Author's Notes: Hello everyone! Wow…long time no see, eh? *Nervous laughter*
Okay, I'm sincerely sorry for the wait. Its unfair how long I make you guys wait for new chapters. I wish I had a good reason for this, but it just boils down to two things: having a hard time with this chapter, and real life draining me everyday. There isn't much I have to say here, but as is somewhat custom for me it seems, there is much more I say in the endnotes. All I'll add here is that hopefully it will become obvious as you read why this chapter was particularly difficult to finish.
As always, no spoilers in your reviews about future developments from Bioshock!
Here is the thirty-second chapter of "Total Drama Raptured": A Rapture Business
Courtney was in her element.
She didn't know how she ended up in a vast desert under a cloudless sky, but she didn't care. The sun was so warm on her rich mocha skin, and the air was pleasantly arid. More importantly, Courtney was doing what she loved above all else…winning.
They had appeared out of nowhere, men with features as black and devoid of detail as shadows. For no reason, they charged on her. Courtney didn't mind. Instead she fought. Her two hands became tiny tan comets that slammed into her doomed challengers with force. Her martial arts skills fell foe after foe, with every defeated opponent improving her mood. Few things brought more joy than looking down on her humbled adversities. It didn't matter if it was in an election or a fight, the euphoria of victory never changed.
Her strength, her power, her will, they all coursed through her veins like molten silver. Her muscles moved with precise grace beneath her skin. She knew she was invincible.
There was no fear, no pain…only the eerie keening of the wind, and the swirling of sand. Both had actually started to increase, gradually, with more force behind the wind and more grains of sand being lifted and thrown in every gust. Courtney didn't notice that.
Then, far off in the distance, something started to rise higher and higher into the sky. It was a massive grey shape, a lighthouse: a lighthouse with an Art Deco angel statue supporting the tower's light emitter. But as it stabbed more deeply into the sky's unwounded cerulean flesh, the structure began to endure a metamorphosis. The bottom began to grow wider, stretching out. The shining light was snuffed out and the angel was crushed, her metal wings breaking like matchwood and her human features all erased. Instead of a shining light or angel, the top started to shrink and sharpen into a fine triangular point. What had once been rusted but grey metal changed into collections of aged sand-colored stones. Courtney soon realized what had happened, an Art Deco lighthouse had turned into an Egyptian pyramid, into the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The C.I.T. winced as she stared at that imposing stone structure build on the sunbaked backs of tens of thousands of murdered men. But its cruel construction was not why. It brought back bad memories, memories of toil and exhaustion, of pain and heartache.
Courtney started to feel a little cold. The pyramid's grim girth was blotting out the sun.
Only now did she notice the wind, which kept growing stronger and stronger. Spurred by curiosity, she turned behind her, to the direction of the wind that was draining the heat.
Courtney's eyes widened on reflex while her body became a rigid as an electrocuted man. Even with the roar of the wind and the considerable distance between them, she had recognized the voice. She didn't want to believe it, but her ears knew that voice well.
"Princess," the voice repeated, louder this time.
After the second time, the C.I.T. forced herself to turn around, back towards that pyramid. Through the swirl of the ochre-grey air that whipped across her face, she saw a familiar figure, standing at the base of the monument. Facing voice's source, her last stubborn blister of denial was forced open. There could be no doubt. It was him…
Tears shimmered in Courtney's eyes but did not fall.
Total Drama's Delinquent stood there, looking just as he had always. Her heart fluttered a bit and her face heated up. His black shirt with a skull logo on the chest and drooping blue jean-shorts popped in the uniformly tan terrain. But that was nothing compared to his green Mohawk, which cut through the sand-charged air like a shark's fin through the waves. And, at least to Courtney, his face stood out the most. But it was more than the uni-brow and various piercings present. It was his chiseled and rugged good looks, the confident swagger and devil-may-care attitude, the commanding gaze of his teal eyes, and that sexy smirk that radiated the machismo that made her loins ache with desire.
That face, so wonderfully masculine, so uncompromising, so attractive, angered her. She hated that despite how nice it looked; it personified a handful of lethal lies—the thrill of breaking the rules, the virtue of being carefree and living solely in the moment, the tenderness in the hearts of brutes. Courtney hated that face. Her hands itched to hit it.
With no warning, Duncan started to approach her, with a frustratingly slow pace. Every new step added the tiniest amount of arrogance to that infuriating grin. That only made Courtney madder. He had the sheer gall to approach her after he broke her heart!? She really wanted to hit him now! Her two hands curled into fists that threatened to cut flesh.
Then she noticed an added weight in her hands. Confused, she looked downward, and saw that she was now holding her Tommy gun. Her face contorted into a devilish grin. The C.I.T. readied herself as she primed her Chicago Typewriter to engage in the action most befitting a counselor-in-training…turning her ex-boyfriend into Swiss cheese!
She unleashed barrage of gunfight, holding the trigger like a squirming fish, relishing the recoil of the mighty weapon that made her body vibrate and her eyes close on instinct. Hundreds upon hundreds of bullets were sent flying through the air and sand at speeds too quick to be noticed by the naked eye. When she finally thought that she had done enough, Courtney released the trigger and opened her eyes to marvel at the carnage.
Duncan was still advancing towards her, without so much as a scratch. His grin was only bigger now, goading her into another wave of coursing anger. She unleashed hell again. This time she forced her eyes to stay opened, to make sure she hit her creeping target. Thousands upon thousands of bullets were fired; blasting, flaring like a dragon's maw.
None of them hit their mark. They all plowed into the shifting sandy surface at his sides or his front, leaving him unscathed and unfazed. Plumes of kicked up grit resulted in a second sandstorm that only ravaged the feet. Rather then the satisfying sounds of flesh being torn and screams of agony, the only sounds aside from the roaring of the lingering sandstorm was the clinking thud that was the sound of metal slamming into sand.
Courtney's shock was only outweighed by her anger, her refusal to accept this truth. So she simply kept firing bullets. Duncan didn't register them as he continued to push forward through the sand and wind towards her with the confident gait of a slasher villain from those dumb horror movies that Courtney hated so much.
Her nerves were laboring under the strain. She found herself getting worked up by the situation. Even the vibration of her gun didn't help. She felt the horrible sting of fear. The sand was already a furious bombardment, filling her eyes and ears. But it got worse. She stood there, choking, on sand and terror. Finally, unable to take it anymore, Courtney vented some of her emotional tension by shouting as loud as she could, "S-stay away! Y-you're nothing! You hear me…nothing! I'm better than you! I'm stronger than you…I'm strong enough! I'm-I'm good enough! I'm good enough to be class president! I'm good enough to win Total Drama! I'm good enough, I'm good enough! I—I am! I AM! I—"
Without breaking his slow stride, Duncan looked downward while he grin only grew.
Courtney's eyes followed his, and they widened in absolute horror at what she saw. Her machine gun was missing…and one of her arms was only a bloody stump!
She would have screamed, if not for a hand squeezing her throat. As air was blocked and her lungs started to burn, Courtney looked and saw that Duncan was suddenly right in front of her. He had been at least a mile away but now his breath crashed into her face. The Delinquent flashed that oh-so-punchable grin as he lifted Courtney into the air by her neck, tightening his grip as he did so. She balked at his unnatural strength.
Her toned legs kicked at the sandy air as she tried to break his chokehold on her throat. It was useless. All of her strength amounted to nothing against his shorter, attractive form. There was nothing she could do to free herself, and she hated herself for that fact.
Courtney's emotional turmoil must have been seen on her face as Duncan sneered nastily. Without saying a word, he raised his other hand over his head, which started to change. It became wider, much wider, as did the rest of his arm. The fingers started to fuse together, becoming a conical shape with a spiral. Everything became rusted grey like aged metal. It spun and twirled in place, emitting a monstrous roar in the sandstorm.
The C.I.T.'s onyx eyes widened as she recognized that sound, the sound of a power drill. Courtney started to cry her eyes out as feelings of failure blazed and burned within her. She no longer knew she was invincible. There was much fear now. She remembered now. She remembered Rapture, the Big Daddy, and her inability to be strong when she had needed it most.
The power drill continued to rev up. Duncan's smirk grew even larger, even cockier.
"Why would you think I'd ever want to be with someone as pathetic as you?" he asked.
Failure. That's all she could focus on, what she feared she had always been. A failure; a pathetic, helpless, and crying failure. What was once a fearless and confident young woman was now a shriveled wreck of her former self.
The drill started to speed towards her. But even before it made contact, Courtney screamed. Her arm started to come to life with horrible pain, akin to being ripped off. The desert, drill, and Duncan started to fade away like mirages, as did everything else.
The C.I.T. was soon by herself in a dark void while her arm writhed and seethed with hot pain, searing her muscles and forcing its way through bone and blood, pushing them.
She didn't stop screaming or crying.
Courtney wasn't in her element.
Courtney's eyes flashed opened, her brow sweating from the end of her ADAM vision. Along her face, she felt some lines of dampness, pathways craved by streams of tears. She wiped away the lingering liquid around her eyes, but felt a little off while doing so. Something didn't feel quite right.
She looked around, noting the carnage that had been wrought by the previous battle. She saw Gwen kneeling down over Noah, who wasn't moving, holding his hand. This confused her. Despite feeling a little flimsy under her weight, Courtney willed her legs to stand upright. Acting on reflex, she touched her face as she forced her body to stand up.
There was that same indescribable scene of some detail being alienating. But this time there was a more concrete understanding as to why. A touch, a object; a physical feeling. She recoiled at feeling something press against her face, something small and numb. Her eyes followed the thing against her face, and then threatened to pop right out of her skull.
Her right hand. It had returned! Her gaze soon traveled from the hand to a long connected piece of fully exposed mocha skin. She couldn't believe that she had her right arm back!
It felt numb, like it had been asleep for years. It was like having an old, hard lump of bread attached to her body. Her left hand started to rub its sister limb, sliding over the replacements for fingers that not too long ago had been violently ripped off. The sleeve that had once covered a small portion of her upper arm was still ripped off, leaving the miraculous limb as bare as a newborn babe. That made something click in her brain. She suddenly realized why her recent arm stump had hurt her so much during her vision. It was so much for her mind to take. She had experienced something no human ever had, the unimaginable pains and unbelievable happiness of a torn limb growing back like new. Her mind flashed back to the Little Sister that had healed herself from a fatal injury, and realized that she had experienced the same borderline miraculous effects of ADAM.
She held her hands, both of them, to her forehead for a few moments, as she made sure she wouldn't topple over. The world around her seemed to be spinning, like a power drill. Courtney wanted to cheer to the heavens, but stopped herself to maintain her dignity. Still, despite the pain, the fact that she had two arms again caused her to smile sincerely.
Then, her eyes were guided to another sight, one that only inspired far sadder emotions. The fate of the one person who had suffered more than her during the Big Daddy fight. She had not seen Cody's fate, due to her being rendered unconscious after her trauma.
It was so strange, seeing the headless, bloody remains of someone she had once known. Her mind struggled to reconcile that fact.
Hearing a few footsteps behind her, she turned and noticed Noah approaching. His eyes were soon drawn to the Tech Geek's fate. The C.I.T. heard several ragged gasps.
The Bookworm stared at the remains before him with disbelieving eyes that wouldn't shut. He hadn't seen every bit of Cody's death but he had gathered the gist of it. Now his suspicions were confirmed with fatalistic finality. Noah stood there motionless. He felt sick; his stomach that had already been purged once churned and writhed. Even after being in Rapture for what felt like eons, the grisly matter of Cody's death still got to him. But as was often the case, the sickening sight wasn't the true source of despair. That grim honor belonged to the implications and unspoken circumstances surrounding it. The only thing that felt worse than his belly was his brain, which was a disheartening maelstrom.
Noah had been a cynical person for some time now, for many years in fact. Due to that, he had build up a mental wall against the absurdities and injustices that constituted life. He was able to resist giving into the sense of futile outrage that had once burned him. Even so, looking at this, his practiced cynicism cracked. It was just all so very unfair. Cody had been one of the few people he could recall who he didn't hate being around. Sure, like everyone else Cody had his flaws, but they didn't warrant this death. He actually had a personality and tastes that were not only his own, but also compatible with Noah's. They had not talked much, but especially in Rapture, those talks meant a lot. Despite his growing lust for a certain coffee-colored cutie, he felt the closet to Cody. And now he was dead. As was somewhat usual, his mind drifted to philosophical territories.
It was moments like this that made Noah hate the idea of fate. It was the cruelest concept. If the idea of fate was to be believed, then Cody's life, everything from birth to death, both drenched in blood, lead to this moment as if it were a subway train on a track. All of the Tech Geek's choices, all of the seemingly random events that affected him beyond his control, all of his wants and hopes and dreams…they had all lead to this final moment.
To a painful death, within a rusted tomb miles underneath the sea's indifferent depths.
Nothing could have been done to avoid it; nothing could have been done to delay it.
Was Noah's own fate just as chiseled into the stone tablet of destiny, unchangeable?
Could Noah be getting a sneak peak at his future?
When Cody had signed up for Total Drama, had he been signing his own death warrant?
Then, amid the storm within his skull, Noah remembered something, a particular moment from not so long ago that really reinforced the fickle hand of fate at work within Rapture. He remembered something that Cody had said.
"I promised myself that I'd do anything I could, even jump in front of a Big Daddies' drill, to make sure that Gwen gets out of here!"
Noah didn't know whether to laugh or cry at realizing how correct Cody had been. In the midst of that stark duality, he did neither. Instead, he just stood their numb and stagnant. The Bookworm got more depressed, and misty-eyed, but didn't cry.
Courtney was more or less in the same state, though for less metaphysical reasons. She continued staring at the remains of Total Drama's Tech Geek with uncertain onyx eyes. This had once been a person, someone she knew (if only a little bit), someone she had mocked and belittled so viciously just because it made her feel less pathetic and scared.
The C.I.T. of Total Drama had always prided herself on her unflappable resolve, her ability to stay focused on completing a task and not letting her emotions stop her.
But that didn't seem to matter as she felt something gnawing at her, burrowing within her chest. It was something she rarely felt, something that felt as invasive and wrong as a gopher on steroids chewing up a defenseless golf course. It was her worst enemy.
Guilt, white-hot, unwanted, searing guilt.
The Counselor-in-Training shook her head back and forth, trying to purge the unwanted emotion. But it lingered, with its tendrils coiling around her core like a band of pythons.
A part of her wanted to bury that guilt so deep that she couldn't even feel it anymore, or better yet, destroy it as if she were taking a flamethrower to a defenseless gopher. Then she started to subconsciously rub her right arm, which still didn't quite feel right. That had been the worst pain she had ever experienced, thinking about still made her wince. Cody had faced something a million times worse, and he hadn't survived it like she had.
That happened to someone she was wrong about, who she wrote off as just a pervert, who had died saving one of the only people that the mocha skinned girl truly cared about.
Courtney stood for another few moments after seeing Cody's body. Then, with tears streaking down her cheeks yet again, she slowly walked over to the blue couch under the rhinoplasty sign and curled up in the fetal position. About five minutes later, Noah came back by and looked at her. She was rocking herself slowly, trying to find her happy place.
The cynical nerd was moved by the pathetically sad nature of the scene playing itself out.
For a few moments, Noah didn't know what to do. What lead-in can there be for what she had endured? Eventually, knowing he had to say something, despite his anti-social streak still being strong, the Bookworm asked, "H-how are you?"
The C.I.T. didn't look at Noah, she just kept staring out in a random direction, her gaze vacant but unweaving, streams of tears still staining the disgusting blue couch cushion.
"He—he…" Courtney began to say, her usually loud voice weak and hard to hear, searching for words that rarely passed her lush lips "I-I…I was wrong about him."
Noah realized normally he would have fired off any number of clever quips at that remark. But he couldn't will himself to say any of them. This moment felt too big, too sacred, to belittle with half-hearted attempts at humor. Besides, for reasons he knew but still couldn't fully believe, he didn't want to make Courtney feel any worse.
He wanted to say something, anything, to help her, but he found himself tongue-tied. Eventually, feeling very tired and not able or willing to put up with this kind of shit, he just decided to go for broke and say what he believed in most, brutal honesty.
"I know you have this 'Iron Lady' persona thing and all, but I think in this case, you should drop it. A little expressed emotional honesty never killed anyone," Noah said, looking off to the side slightly, his voice monotone, his manners reserved, and abstract.
The C.I.T. finally turned to Noah, with an expression conveying her inability to understand. That's what Noah would say at a time like this? Then, she thought about, and Courtney actually kind of appreciated his answer. He didn't say he was sorry, or any other well-meaning comments that people say when someone dies that she always hated. They made the survivor sound weak, feel weak, and Courtney couldn't handle that now.
Her emotions were too jumbled up to know for sure, but she felt like she would feel gratitude eventually. She wiped the tears from her eyes, and tried to smile bravely at him. It wasn't very convincing at all but Noah did appreciate the effort. He returned the favor.
The faint forced smiles drooped as Gwen approached them, looking worse than either of them. The small limp she had from stabbing herself in the leg had been healed with a first aid kit. Unlike the others, you wouldn't have known she had battled a Big Daddy, at least until she spoke. "Come on guys," she said with a graver forlorn tone in her raspy voice, "Let's tell Atlas."
Not waiting for a reply, the Goth fished the shortwave radio out of her pocket. She told the Irishman everything, all of it, with the exception of what she did to the Little Sister when the others were unconscious. Atlas didn't speak for what felt like a miniature eternity. When he finally did, his voice was hoarse, choked by sympathy and sorrow.
It felt good to hear something resembling compassion after the latest trail of Rapture. But amid that, Gwen noticed something else, or at least she thought she did. Not knowing if it was her imagination or not, she thought that Atlas was restraining himself in some way, like he was holding something back. Probably just greater sorrow, she mused.
"L-listen…" Atlas began, "ya gotta keep on movin' forward. Ya gotta."
"How can you—?"
"Please, just trust me. I've gotta hunch is all, but I don't wanna get your 'opes up for nothin' if I'm wrong. I just 'ope that one of 'em Rapture businesses is still workin'."
"Hunch? A Rapture business?" asked Gwen. "What are you talking about?"
She waited and waited, but Atlas didn't respond.
"Atlas?" Gwen asked. There was still nothing. "Atlas…ATLAS!" she loudly shouted.
The radio was still silent. It took all of Gwen's remaining restraint to not throw it and roar at the top of her lungs. Ultimately, only her aching throat stopped her from doing either. She looked at the others; they were just as lost as she was.
Moving on, to distract herself from her frustration with Atlas, Gwen searched the Big Daddy. She remembered what the Irishman had said before, about these grim golems often having great wealth on them, and that advice turned out to be correct. There was over five hundred Rapture dollars on its body. With no thoughts about this massive increase of cash, she just pocketed the loot. She didn't feel like dividing it up now, it would just remind her that it would be spilt between three instead of four.
Without nothing else to do, but a million thoughts buzzing in their heads, the trio moved on. They walked as if they were in a funeral procession, stepping with lifeless resolve. If a splicer came right now and attacked them, they wouldn't have put up any sort of a fight.
Deep within themselves, each of the three teenagers almost welcomed the idea.
While not a long trek, the journey back to Emergency Access seemed to just drag on. The entire monstrosity that was Rapture had settled down into an eerie postmortem quiet. They passed by the rubble and corpses they had felt in their wake; the piles of both in the area surrounding the En-Well lobby. The horrifying remains of the mismatched woman nailed to the wall. The left staircase destroyed by the massive sign that had once swung.
They traveled down the right staircase, leading into the lobby of Medical Pavilion itself. It pretty much looked exactly the same as if had when they were last here. Dust and debris covered mostly everything. Dozens of dead and deformed bodies littered the floor. The Circus of Values machine continued to play cheerful pipe music and creepy laughter.
One area though had a greater variety of colors to offer the eager eye, the space surrounding the bulkhead that had brought the teenagers into Medical Pavilion. There were the musty yellow florescent lights on the ceiling, the mildew-infested fabric of a baby blue couch, and the burgundy and gold of the poster for Dr. Steinman's services.
But the most eye-catching color was the milky, eerie green light bathing everything else. Like moths to flame, they stumbled towards the light's source, the vita-chamber.
They had noticed the device before, of course, but they hadn't really looked at it. It was starting to make some strange sounds, it was rumbling and whirring to life. Not knowing why, maybe just because it was a nice shiny distraction, the teenagers all inspected it.
It was large glass cylinder with a thin crease suggesting that the glass opened like doors. There was a kind of hatch that was opened on the bottom of the chamber. From the hatch an arc of lightning shot up towards three large electrical diodes on the chamber's ceiling. The diodes were rotating at a constant angular rate as they started absorbing thin bolts of bright blue-green that hugged them around their waists. Similar currents of energy mingled with the main power surge from a similar device on the interior's back. Waves of energy started to flicker more frequently, discharging once every few seconds. Every time they did, the air became acrid with the smell of burning ozone and scorched metal.
Gwen thought the device would have belonged in the laboratory of Doctor Frankenstein. That should have made her feel a little better, since Frankenstein was one of her favorite films. It didn't. She felt just as hollow. A part of her wondered if that would ever change.
The chamber began to rumble violently. Everyone took a few steps away. Not knowing what else could have caused it, the merging of the surges seemed to be spawning thick mists that churned like gentle grey sea waves. Then there was another detail within the chamber, one that hadn't been there before. At the nexus of the bolts of energy, there was something else, something obscured by light, and mist, and the dirtied glass doors.
In the mists, with the flashing lights behind the shape, the teenage trio could see no identifying details, could not make out any features that would hint at what this was. All they could grasp was that it was a standing silhouette of vaguely humanoid outline.
The trio all primed their weapons and Plasmids; sure it would be another brutal fight. They weren't taking any chances, the second this machine stopped; they'd blow it to bits. The faded green light bathed their faces, hardened by battle trauma and determination.
They prepared themselves for whatever monstrosity of mad science would step out. After both Steinman and the Big Daddy, nothing Rapture had to offer could scare them.
The storm churning and surging within the glass case reached a thunderous crescendo. Blue-green bolts crashed into glass and metal, hissing and sparking like dragon maws. The chamber was shaking and rumbling so much that corners briefly left the ground, as if trying to uproot itself amid the pain caused the overload within! The machine roared!
Then, it all suddenly stopped. With a violent jerk, all of the commotion came to a halt.
A few rogue ribbons of electricity danced among the thick clouds still within the chamber. After the violent cacophony just experienced, the silent and near unnoticeable parting of the chamber's glass doors seemed especially surprising, and noticeable. The glass doors slid opened, tumbleweeds of grey smoke rolled across the filthy floor.
The trio flinched on reflex, and then felt just the tiniest bit silly for doing so. Their nerves were on-edge, to be fair. They knew that another fight was about to begin.
The shadow surrounded by smoke and shimmering spark stood there for a few moments. Then it began to slowly push forward, taking tentative steps. The movements were delayed. Despite that, the figure soon passed through the smoke, and left the chamber.
All of the color drained from the trio's faces. At this moment, Courtney and Noah were both as pale as Gwen. They knew this because they looked at each other, and saw faces that matched their own. All of the determination and resolve left their confused faces. Courtney, Gwen, and Noah all gasped and felt all logic and reason violently leave them.
Noah forgot how to breathe. Courtney couldn't stop herself from hyperventilating. Her eyes flared like a cornered animal's. "I—I don't…It—it can't…" she said disbelievingly.
All of the fight drained out of Gwen's body. Her legs wobbled. Sweet Charity fell to the ground. The collision was so loud. She couldn't take it. Gwen too fell down, dropping back on her rear. She hardly even noticed. She couldn't peel her eyes away from him.
This was not what was supposed to happen.
This was not the way it was supposed to be.
Cody was dead.
Yet he was standing right there!
Less than five feet away, very much alive, and breathing.
Her mind couldn't accept that fact. It was too impossible, even in Rapture. Dead is dead!
And yet their Cody was.
Cody snapped back to reality, after being in a trance, like he had fallen sleep unintentionally after staying awake for three days straight. The world in which Cody had awakened in the vita-chamber proved a hazy shade of gray that always shifted.
That was infinitely more preferable to the world Cody could now only vaguely recollect. It had been nothing, absolutely nothing. It had been neither Heaven nor Hell, nor any of the other imagined afterlives. It wasn't black, it wasn't cold, and it wasn't even a void. It had been nothing, plain and simple.
Compared to that, darkness, normal darkness, was one of the most beautiful things ever. The familiar backsides of his eyelids were a masterpiece of life-affirming artwork. As wonderful as that was though, Cody remembered, vaguely, that there were other beauties to behold. With that, he opened his eyes. Light and form and color flooded in, a stunning and incomprehensible deluge. The countless colors hurt his eyes. The contrast was stark, so stark that all of the colors pouring in were as overpowering as the utter lack of color from before. There were no shapes or forms outside of splashes of pigment like abstract paintings. Eventually, however, the different hues separated themselves from a lone monolithic tint. The dim glow of a light like old mustard made his teal eyes squint by themselves. In that light, shapes and forms glowed, which Cody could now recognize.
There was a loud ringing in his ears. Something had been very loud, very close to him. It wasn't there anymore but it still faintly rumbled in the spirals within his ears. Then again, it seemed like any little noise would have been unbearably painful right now. Such was the case when one of the people staring at him said something, maybe his name? Cody couldn't be sure. He paid more attention to the voice itself; it was raspy and sexy.
Leisurely, memories started to seep back into his brain now that the senses weren't overloaded. Those memories slid within his skull slowly, like slugs, leaving slime trails. He remembered his family, his school years, and lastly Total Drama, and its contestants. That lead to the names of the three faces he was looking at…Courtney, Noah, and Gwen. Seeing them finally made the Tech Geek grasp what should have been obvious.
It took Cody a few moments to realize what had happened, to grasp that he was alive.
He attempted to shout for joy, but only a strangled gurgle came out. His throat felt dry.
Closing his eyes, to block out the weak but overpowering light, he tried to calm himself. Everything felt so numb. He carefully tried to flex and clench his outer extremities. His toes curled within moss-green sneakers still damp from countless exposures to seawater and less pleasant liquids. His fingers squeezed at stale air, feeling stiff and creaking with every new movement. Then he moved his arms and legs, looking at them as if they might vanish, as if this whole reality might turn into dust and be blown away within a moment.
Then, abruptly, his body became alive with pain, a bright, broad ache that seemed to radiate down underneath tortured skin to his toes. Cody had become familiar with pain in Rapture, but this was something else entirely. A pain so big his mind couldn't wrap itself around it. It was the feel of whole nerve endings torn from their roots and tossed aside, the biological response to having a chuck of your body violently torn and disemboweled.
That triggered something from a mind that was still almost as foggy as the vita-chamber. A memory, as clear and jagged as a shard of broken glass.
"I—I still feel it…"
The hoarse, wretched words got the trio to freeze. Their eyes were sullied with reddened rims. They could only soundlessly watch him. Cody began to gradually hyperventilate. He started sucking in air in great, shuddering lungfuls; stale air—air with the aftertaste of lightning. As his breath became more pitched, words left increasingly quivering lips.
"The—the drill…I-I still feel the—oh, God!"
With his stomach feeling like it was being twisted, Cody fell to the floor, overwhelmed. He remembered the death he had experienced, and that was as paralyzing as his pain. Even with the Big Daddy not here, the pain it inspired remained like a haunting phantom. Would it ever go away? That question caused Cody to start crying, tears falling onto the floor stained by ash and blood, cleaning little spots.
The floor was so cold, offering no comfort, but Cody was too powerless to move away. Even after somehow cheating death, he was so weak, so pathetic. He bitterly criticized himself, with each new insult producing a few more tears in a self-destructive cycle.
He sobbed and convulsed with ever increasing vigor. His limbs became rigid and numb. He was alone in pain. There was nothing else. He was so cold. He couldn't stop shaking.
Then, out of nowhere, a warmth draped itself around his body, pulling him close and lifting his upper body until he was sitting on his rear. His mind was too far-gone to question it. He simply basked in the softness now surrounding him and wrapped his meek arms around it as he kept crying.
The Tech Geek tried to see what was embracing him, but his vision was still too blurry. And yet he couldn't compel his arms to wipe away the tears; he didn't want to risk releasing whatever grabbed hold of him. He didn't want to be alone again.
Cody huddled tightly against the soft warmth, releasing all of his pent-up sorrow and dread. He held nothing back. There were sounds there, sounds that he couldn't make out in his current state. But they were raspy and soothing to him, even if to most they would have sounded labored. Eventually, his body stopped shaking, and the pain started to recede. His breathing became steadier, and the overpowering of his mental faculties decreased. Soon enough he no longer felt the pain of the drill, at least not in his nerves.
Finally, Cody wiped the tears away from his eyes, and couldn't believe what he saw. Right next to his face, he saw Gwen's face, with her eyes tightly closed and tears streaming down her cheeks. The sight was borderline surreal, and not just because this was the kind of closeness to his crush that Cody only knew in his most lurid dreams. No, the main reason was because Gwen's face looked so different from the last few times he saw it; it wasn't hardened or cold. The expression of guarded indifference normally present was nowhere to be found. Instead there was only genuine concern and raw hatred. The two states fluctuated wildly back and forth like a barometer in a lightning storm.
The paradox of facial expressions should have unnerved Cody but it didn't. That was Gwen, uniquely Gwen. Only she could juggle such conflicting emotions seamlessly.
Gwen wanted to say so many things, about how sorry she was, how wrong she was about him, and how happy she was that he was alive. Her voice was broken and cracked, stretching her raspy tone until it sounded like a kid's, but she didn't care. All pretenses were dropped; all barriers were lowered. Words contorted in the air on the way from her lips to her ears until she couldn't believe what she was saying. It was a long list of passionate insults. It was her saying how dumb he was for doing what he did, with much more savagely surreal statements and crazily colorful curse words. They sounded like the ramblings of a bath-salt broken bat-shit bonanza. Several of the highlights were threats to "pluck each pubic hair out of his ballsack in random clumps" and "to lobotomize him with a soup spoon and tuning fork" along with further atrocities on the English language.
The kinds of things she wanted to say would have to come later, when the shock wore off. Instead, she let her body do the talking, which only held onto Cody's body tighter. There was no restraint this time, no concern over making things too sappy or too cheesy, or of rekindling Cody's obsession with her. The hug wasn't rigid or brief. The Goth clung to Cody as if he were a flotation device in a violent sea.
She needed to be sure; to be sure that this was real, that it wasn't just a drug fever-dream. Not too long ago she saw her own face grinning at her like a demon on a severed head, after she had killed a hulking creature with a power drill. The later supposedly was real, while the former had just been a hallucination. But who could say which one was more real, or made more sense. Those notions might become irrelevant in Rapture.
Despite himself, Cody just laughed, so happy to hear her after the pure nothingness and crippling agony. He just laughed and laughed, letting the laughter sooth him like a warm bath, carrying away all of the things weighing him down, purging him clean, for now.
Courtney stood there like a statue, watching the display playing out, not believing any of it. Like almost everything else she had seen since entering Rapture, her logical and rational side fought with impassioned tooth and claw against this development being real. More than that, even if this was somehow real, she refused to appear weak and fragile. The guilt that had been flaring inside her chest was attempting to manifest itself through tears, tears of joy at seeing that the boy she had been so wrong about was in fact alive. She tried to ignore that, to rid herself of such softness, to not admit that she had been wrong. It was stubborn and silly, she knew. She had already admitted it out loud, so why couldn't she put that into practice, into action? She guessed doing was harder than saying.
But then Noah's words from earlier came ringing in her mind, sounding quite sagely.
"I know you have this 'Iron Lady' persona thing and all, but I think in this case, you should drop it. A little expressed emotional honesty never killed anyone…"
With it seeming like a herculean effort, she slowly lowered her mental defenses. Similar to Gwen, the practiced expression of sincere strength receded, showing other emotions. She felt some tears roll down her cheeks, even so her lips bent into a light smile. With that look on her face, despite chiding herself for how idiotic it was, she walked over to the duo on the group, got on her knees, and wrapped her arms around Gwen and Cody.
Noah looked at this, its own subtle miracle amid so many more grim ones, and grinned.
'Well, would you look at that. She actually listened to me. I would have lost that bet. I just pulled that 'emotional honesty' thing out of my ass,' Noah thought to himself amused. Then his gaze turned to Gwen, who had refused to release the tiny Tech Geek. 'At least this time its Gwen doing the lion's share of the touchy-feely work. After helping both Cody and Courtney, I've done enough. Let her being this group's Dr. Phil for once.'
Against his usual proclivities, the Bookworm was actually ecstatic to have Cody back. The Tech Geek was pretty much the only person who Noah thought he could really talk to. Despite himself, Noah was moved to show that he was happy that Cody was alive. But he did so in a more reserved, more dignified and respectable, manner. He went to the other side of the hugging pair, and put one of his hands on Cody's shoulder, patting it. His patting wasn't as forced as it was before. His avoidance of giving the rabid NoCo shippers any more ammunition for their gay fan-fictions was forgotten…for now.
'I know, I might, key word might, have hugged Cody too…but there's a bit of a line. And I have a sneaking suspicion that he would rather have Gwen and Courtney embrace him. I know I would.'
Noah almost said that, as well as many other clever comments, but he didn't. In a manner similar to Gwen, there were many things Noah wanted to say, but he couldn't. Once again, for the second time in recent memory, the snarky smart-ass in a sweater didn't want to be snarky or a smart-ass. Tears began forming in his brown eyes, but not a single one formed enough to drop. He just wanted to bask in this truly miraculous moment.
Yes, that would be good. It helped distracting him from his mind conjuring up horrible nightmares, by-products of the implications of what he had just witnessed, and grasped. They were attempting to burrow into his mind, like maggots chewing their way through a corpse. His dominant cynical side knew they would soon be impossible to block. He knew they would have to divide up their resources, and their recently acquired ADAM. That notion made the Bookworm get a little tense, a little antsy, even as a hypothetical. He knew that they would have to likely deal with some latent trauma from Cody, with that making him not as able to help the group, and thus increase the collective risk. Even so, he could ignore that and just bask. Those kinds of thoughts would be saved for later.
Unbeknownst to the Bookwork, everyone had a million different questions about what had just taken place, about the latest wonder displayed by this abhorrent abyssal adobe. But similar to him, they were willing and able to put that on hold. They just basked.
They basked in the light above them. The sickly mustardy glow bathing them was too foul, too corrupted to be Heaven's light. But it was a convincing substitute given the circumstances. The buzzing aged wiring took on the character of angelic choirs singing.
Miles beneath the cold and indifferent ocean, there was real warmth.
It had been less than fifteen minutes since they last saw each other, but it felt like a lifetime. They were all content to let this moment drag out as long as humanely possible.
They had earned that much.
None of them would be alone.
And that was the latest chapter of this story! As always, I hope you all liked it. :)
So, let's get the obvious out of the way…CODY'S BACK! YAY! Lol. But seriously, I hope that everyone liked this development. I know I certainty did, despite the difficulty of nailing it to my personal satisfaction. I might put Cody through the wringer in every sense of the word, but I do have a soft spot for the geek. And I assure you that this development will have big effects on all of the characters.
Let's move onto the Vita-chambers themselves. I have a lot to say about those. I've always thought that those were a really cool and subtly brilliant design choice. For those of you who haven't played the game, Vita-chambers are basically Bioshock's checkpoints. When the main character dies, he returns inside one of those. Commonplace idea for a video game, right? Well, in Bioshock things are different. Unlike most video games, the checkpoints aren't just a gameplay feature; they are a part of the world itself, which is acknowledged by characters. It's a tangible thing.
Also, let's talk about something I have been keeping to myself for quite some time. I've been building up this reveal for…EVER! I have had the idea for this development in my head since chapter five, the first time we see a Vita-Chamber. And if you go back, you'll notice that after a certain point, at least ten chapters, I don't even acknowledge the Vita-chamber's existence. They are a feature of Rapture that was hidden by not referencing them. For a particular example of what I mean, please note how I have the teens going to the Circus of Values in the Medical Pavilion lobby before the Big Daddy fight, which takes them by a Vita-Chamber, without me re-saying that! Haha! But seriously, I hope I pulled off a balancing act. If I mentioned the Vita-chambers frequently, people would see Cody coming back a mile away (even though some of my more eagle-eyed fans did anyway. Nice job! lol). But if I never mentioned them, people would claim it was an ass-pull. But since I did mention them, only a couple times and just in passing, it set the perfect scenario without sacrificing tension or suspense. At least, that was my hope. Please give me your thoughts on this, okay?
Also, being the always insecure and self-questioning guy I am, I toiled over the reactions of Courtney, Gwen, and Noah to seeing that Cody has been resurrected. Do you think those reactions were good, bad…or just merely ugly? Lol
I'm sure it won't get the same level of coverage in your reviews as Cody's return, but what did you think of Courtney's dream sequence? And are you getting sick of me writing dream/drug-fever dream sequences yet? Lol
There are a few other things I want to say before I wrap this up. Firstly, the next chapter will be the last one in Medical Pavilion! That actually would have been this one, because I had more stuff planned, like the teenagers questioning Atlas on what just happened. But I was convinced by a close friend and fan of this story, crossover4, that it was better to end on an emotional high. I do believe he was right.
And lastly, another close friend and fan of this story, Ander Arias, made a suggestion that frankly I should have done ages ago! You see, from the moment that the teenagers got to Rapture, I've been keeping track of many of the gameplay details that I incorporated into this story. Examples being, what Plasmids and Gene Tonics each character has, how much ADAM and EVE and cash they have, how many weapons and bullets they have, and etc. Until now, this has been kept secret from you, not for any real reason outside of me just not thinking it was worth sharing. But no more! From now on, after each chapter, I'll show you each character's, for lack of a better word, stats and inventory. Here you go!
1. Cody: 140 total ADAM, 90 used ADAM, 50 remaining ADAM, 2 First Aid Kit, 0 EVE hypos (0 SHOT FIRED), Electro Bolt, Incinerate, Telekinesis, Little Sister Cure, Health Upgrade (I), EVE Upgrade (I), EVE Link, Hacker's Delight, 12 Rapture Dollars, 1 Pep bar, 2 Bag of Potato Chips, 1 Metal Pipe, 1 Pistol, 0 pistol rounds, 1 Crème-filled Cake, 1 Automatic Hack Tool, 1 thermos of coffee, 1 bottle of fresh water
2. Courtney: 246 total ADAM, 80 used ADAM, 166 remaining ADAM, 2 First Aid Kit, 0 EVE hypos (0 SHOT FIRED), Electro Bolt, Incinerate, Telekinesis, Little Sister Cure, Health Upgrade (I), EVE Upgrade (I), Wrench Jockey, Static Discharge, 8 Rapture Dollars, 1 Pep bar, 1 Bag of Potato Chips, 1 Metal Pipe, 1 pistol, 14 pistol rounds (five left in gun), 4 armor piercing pistol round, 1 machine gun, 30 machine gun rounds, 33 Antipersonnel Auto Rounds, 1 bottle of fresh water (mostly used)
3. Gwen: 251 total ADAM, 90 used ADAM, 161 remaining ADAM, 2 First Aid Kit, 0 EVE hypos (0 SHOTS FIRED), Electro Bolt, Incinerate, Telekinesis, Little Sister Cure, Health Upgrade (I), EVE Upgrade (I), Armored Shell, Wrench Jockey, Static Discharge, 504 Rapture Dollars, 1 Pep bar, 1 Bag of Potato Chips, 1 Crème-filled Cake, 1 Wrench, 1 Pistol, 8 pistol rounds, 6 armor piercing pistol rounds, 1 shotgun, 35 shotgun shells, (4 in the shotgun and the other 31 in the cups of her bra), 2 electric buck rounds (2 in pocket), 1 Hack Tool, 9 hack darts, 1 bottle of fresh water (almost empty)
4. Noah: 246 total ADAM, 90 used ADAM, 156 remaining ADAM, 1 First Aid Kit, 1 EVE hypos (1 SHOT FIRED), Electro Bolt, Incinerate, Telekinesis, Little Sister Cure, Health Upgrade (I), EVE Upgrade (I), EVE Link, Hacker's Delight, 5 Rapture Dollars, 1 Pep bar, 1 Bag of Potato Chips, 1 Metal Pipe, 1 Pistol, 8 Pistol Rounds (six left in gun), 0 armor piercing pistol rounds, 1 bottles of fresh water
5. Courtney's Bag: 0 first aid kit, 0 EVE hypo, 5 Bags of Potato Chips, 9 boxes of bandages and medical tape, 21 Rapture dollars
And that's about everything I have to say for now. Again, I must apologize for the wait. But I hope this chapter was worth it.
As always, no spoilers for the elements of the game yet to come!
Please read, review, favor, follow, and spread the word! :)