You can’t spell Aperture without Rapture.
= something which occurred to me out of nowhere and I can’t seem to shake, like the aftershock of a particularly sharp nightmare. I said it to Womble earlier and he came back with:
“You can’t spell Nier Automata without ‘mutation’ – what’s your point?”
At which point I dropped the topics of anagrams.
Nevertheless, we find ourselves – not for the first time – in an enclosed environment with no obvious way out, a lack in natural light, oppressed on all sides by the natural world. Situated deep below that world, where they do not belong, someone built another manmade cathedral dedicated to twisted sciences, with a keen disregard for morality. Andrew Ryan and Cave Johnson could have almost been drinking buddies*.
Then there’s the other meaning. Rapture; a segregation of humanity at the end of the world. This far down, there certainly isn’t a lot of world left, just those testing and those being tested. Womble and I find ourselves occupying the middle ground, having brought it along with us, myself hoping we’re not forced to join one side or the other. I’ve had more than my fill of being ordered around; and as for giving the orders, that’s just a little too Timelord for me.
Although, from what I’ve seen of the testing areas, my immature side can’t deny it almost looks……fun? Like the cross between a laboratory and a theme park. Guess that makes it a hat trick for Rapture (n) “a feeling of intense pleasure or joy.”
None of which detracts from another highlight of this adventure: Womble as the leader. Let’s just say, his tour-guide skills leave a lot to be desired. Even before his input, I knew an elevator and array of piping when I saw one, with no reference made to the blue, orange and white goo. And more than once, to the question “and then what happened?” he has answered “then she went mad and killed everyone.” No idea who “she” is, mind, and whoever “she” turns out to be, there’s something pressing a lot harder on my mind.
“What the hell, I’d say I’ve waited long enough. So there’s more than just one Womble?”
The original remained silent.
“And in trying to find the source, we arrive in a massive underground lair, full of science stuff and angry crows, my, what a childhood you must’ve had. Is that what they do, here? They make Wombles?” I’m not going to sing the song, we may be underground, I’m still not going to sing the song…
Ah hah! One miniature step in the right direction. “So how can there be two of you?”
“Pfft. I’m up to four versions of you.”
“Ooh, he’s a you from a different moment in time?”
I’d be clutching at straws right no except I have no straws. “Then…the Other You and this Aperture place, confusing as hell, but both completely unrelated?”
Fuck. “Can you tell me anything useful?”
“Never stand up in a canoe.”
I know the difference between someone not in the mood to talk, and someone trying to hide something. This was both. I decided to pay Womble a courtesy I don’t extend to many. I didn’t shut up – barely anyone gets THAT courtesy – I just changed the subject.
“So who is “she” then? The genocidal lady of yours?”
A few dozen test subjects and a bunch of old men in tweed and lab coats, hardly a genocide. It was more a cull of idiots, while several of their pets got in the way. You’ll know when I’ve committed genocide. Well, actually, you won’t.
It’s an incredible thing, to flinch at an omnipresent voice. You never quite know which way to duck. And what a voice, too. Robotic, auto tuned, finished with the condescending attitude of a British librarian. Capable of destroying us and/or delivering this century’s hottest new remix. I wasn’t sure whether to retort or laugh.
Womble, Captain Cool and Collected, seemed to have been expecting her voice. He froze like a dog hearing their master’s call. Or, more worryingly, like a nagged husband hearing his spouse. Suddenly I had a pretty good idea as to whom would win his prize “Most Likely to Go Mad and Kill Everyone.”
“You okay, Wombes?”
Just called him ‘Wombes’ and got away with it. Either he didn’t mind or we’re in too much danger for him to notice.
So. You came back. And you brought a…beggar, with you? I’ve been listening in this whole time and wonder, can it do any other tricks besides asking questions?
“I prefer the term ‘hitchhiker’, it sounds more eventful. HH for short.”
“And before you start throwing names around,” Womble cut in, “you’re one to talk. How many street dwellers actually received their $60 in the end?”
Well Mr Johnson wouldn’t have had to resort to such smelly, desperate measures, if you hadn’t had your episode.
I glanced between Womble and the ceiling, a frown settling into place. Their level of familiarity mixed with mutual indifference……almost like we’d bumped into Womble’s ex. His ex-what, though? Ex-prison-warden?**
“You two know each other, then?”
Oh look, it can understand, too. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll win a banana.
“Or a potato,” Womble muttered.
I’d be more offended, but who am I to deny a chance to whip up a banana daiquiri?
I hope your…’hitchhiker’ is well trained, Test Subject, because this is the perfect opportunity to try out the Dual Subject test chambers. Your survival and well being shall depend a great deal on the skill of your partner. You will need to work together.
We exchanged glances.
Best of luck.
“…is it alright if I use the bathroom, first?
*A man chooses…to build combustible lemons.
**Ex-aminer? Geddit?…………..I’ll show myself out.
Freedom has never tasted so good.
The bathysphere door swings open after passing some very tall statues holding up numbers. Maybe they’re diving judges. Anyone willing to dive to 18fathoms has got to see something interesting.
Anyway, the lighthouse smells faintly of salt and seaweed, and has pleasant violin music in the background. Saying that, if I don’t hear “Beyond the Sea” for another millennium, I’d be happy. Other than that, there’s not much else besides an ugly bust of Andrew Ryan, one of his quotes and some propaganda.
There is a rather late addition of a big blue box, sitting there waiting like a faithful dog. Or a bored tour guide. Whatever the metaphor, I’d give it a hug if I could reach.
My mind’s finally given it a rest. I don’t agree with what I saw or did, but I learnt something. Maybe that’s all there is left in the end. A moral. At any rate, I can sit on this low wall, watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and try to reach some kind of serenity. Besides nervously awaiting Womble, of course.
…speak of the resourceful devil…
Just as the sun breaks over the water, Womble breaks through the surface. I can only laugh as he paddles towards the steps; with relief, surprise, confusion or at the priceless look on his face that would suggest all is normal here.
His arms look a bit different though. A bit more…noticeable than normal.
Ah, count your blessings HH. Trial by Rapture that smashes my morality and alters Womble’s arms – we got off easy. The TARDIS medical bay is open to him should he want it.
Womble reaches the top of the stairs and joins me in the sunlight of a new 1959 morning. He opens his mouth to speak…
…a starfish falls out…
It lies there between us. A tale to tell, no doubt, didn’t I say? I burst out laughing; it may not be the correct response to a mate spitting out live seafood, but I might have missed that life lesson.
Womble seems momentarily stunned- either my laughter or the starfish has rendered him a vegetable.
I glare at the starfish. Full-on, now-you’ve-gone-and-done-it glare. I could send Godzilla into counselling with this glare, if I wanted to. But I don’t.
“Fancy a drink?” He says.
Undoubtedly, unabashedly and most definitely, yes.
There truly are no Gods or Kings down here, so I praise whichever man left a bathysphere outside Hephaestus. There was a tense moment earlier when the lever wouldn’t budge. Ryan’s genetically-locked travel arrangements may have their bugs, but are still fairly reputable. Happily, none foresaw the arrival of sonic technology. One little hack and there’s a lot of ocean going past the window.
All I have for this upward trip are my thoughts. Which, at any other time, I wouldn’t mind. But given recent events, I’d give my top hat to silence the monologues going on underneath it.
My morality keep complaining, like it’s indecisive. Until now, I believed to have a grasp of “right and wrong”, but Rapture smashed that right up. Survival down there won’t come easily. Some part of your brain has to accept little girls being chemical factories is okay. That “Say No To Drugs” is a suicide note. And murder is much more than a second nature.
Womble asked me, very soon after we arrived, why I brought us here. I didn’t answer then. But I have one for him now, wherever he is. We should remember our time here. How we learnt about choice, how lives look without it, and sometimes there is no right answer. Only the final outcome.
Something tells me this will become more important someday soon. Womble said it well. Flash forwards…
Ahh, I need a distraction. My mind can continue trying to discover some new form of reasoning. In the here and now, I need a new swish bit of kit. With a combination of my TARDIS key and sonic, I should be able to reposition the TARDIS externally. Have it ready and waiting at the lighthouse, for instance.
I’m not entirely sure if it’ll work on relocating Womble too, but I trust his resourcefulness, and I’ve left him some form of message. We’ll be reunited, eventually; he with a tale to tell, no doubt.
Right now, what I’m looking forward to, most of all, is fresh air.
If there were ever an appropriate time to leave my Sanity behind, right now could work.
I kneel beside a body of metal, a demonic child sobbing beside me. I have no words to comfort her; and fear to even touch her pallid skin.
Like her, I have shed a tear for the fallen guardian. There was enough time to scan his mind before he passed.
It all came down to choices, and the lack therein. Again. Twice in less than an hour, I learn more of humanity’s cruel experimentations. Take a man, merge him with metal and genetically bond him to a child. There’s no need for ‘love’; it’s all relative on a molecular level.
And the man doesn’t even mater. She’s the walking ADAM factory, the living embodiment of Rapture’s currency. He’s just a bodyguard, and I’ve seen the production lines down here. There’s no other word, Big Daddies are disposable. I could sit here and another would walk past soon enough. He’d fall, with no choice in the matter, and only one person would care.
Speaking of which…
The girls’ still here. I know my own choices now open to me; the mask showed me before. I can see the actions, the benefits and the repercussions of each. A choice is better than none, didn’t someone say, no matter what the outcome?
I feel the same as Ryan’s son and Big Daddies right now; I don’t even have choice. I have neither the ability to rescue the girl, nor…I can’t even consider the alternative. Just like that, I have to take the last option.
I walk away.
I need to find Womble and get out of here. I’ve had nothing from his TARDIS key, I’d better send him a message. Please let me find him, alive and safe. This trip has been far hard enough already.
She’s still crying…
Rapture really is just one, long nightmare.
I left the void of family issues and power struggles that was Ryan’s office, forced my way out of the shell of Hephaestus and managed to wander right into some more warfare.
On one side: the usual red-splattered, fancy-dressed, nonsensical lunatics…excuse me, locals. On the other: one of the drill-wielding diving suits, and his ‘daughter’. Chemical warfare at its most extreme.
I must say, these metal men, the ‘Big Daddies’ are just incredible. To utilise such energy and speed when your hand’s a drill and you’re over 70% metal is beyond belief. Yet here they are, taking out Splicers like it’s just another day. This one, the ‘Bouncer’, he’s definitely worth a sonic-scan. Just a little one.
Okay…that was a mistake. A typical “don’t press the red button” moment. No sooner than my finger presses the sonic’s switch, Big Daddy turns with eight, red LED lights glaring at me. Then the drill starts spinning.
My feet are tearing me away, long coat flapping, before I even realise it. The massive dentist crashes along behind me, spurred on by cries of “Unzip him, Mr B! UNZIP HIM!” from the little one. I’ve been chased by a great deal of things, but this particular sprint will stick with me.
As I run, my mind’s on PANIC settings desperately clutching at anything resembling a plan. There’s no negotiation this time, no clever way out. There’s only the last solution. The least I can do is make it quick.
One thing I will admit in Rapture’s favour: brilliant for scroungers. (Funnily enough, given their strong disposition against parasites.) But there’s always something lying around; bullets in bins, health kits under staircases…or a grenade launcher on a work bench. Thank you Hephaestus.
Grabbing the weapon comes close to another drill rush from ‘Bubbles’. His attack keeps him travelling, a good distance away when one is without damage immunity. Three blasts in quick succession, hiding the guardian in a burnt cloud of smoke, from within which, he roars. In that moment, I get the chance to snatch up some proximity mines from a nearby desk.
Bubbles lunches at me again; I ungainly slide over the same desk and crumple behind it. Buzzing noises come from somewhere behind me: two security bots arriving to check out all the ruckus. I must have set off one of those cursed cameras during it all; still, each bot gets a sonic-induced hack and a proximity mine each. The noise of the sonic brings Daddy back around, as I launch into one last sprint away. My green-lighted bots swoop at him, I launch another grenade in the mix to be sure…
My silent thanks to the architects of Rapture. The explosion knocked me and a considerable amount of metal flying; but no extra leaks to report. Only a whimper came from the bang; a whine, a pitching shriek. Then, a crash of metal on metal.
I pick myself up, all dust and smoke clears, and before me is one ex-parent. Its ‘offspring’ weeps at his side, her sobs ands voice echoing. I find myself patting the outer shell of the protector. Time to retry the sonic scan. I truly hope this is worth it.
I’m currently running on instruments, as it were. Sonic screwdriver got a bit overloaded with everything going on here; so I’m just letting the universal residue trick do its thing. It’s a bit like a constant audio-tour, just creepier given the location.
Still, the sonic did help re-pipe a vending machine earlier, so I’m well stocked on pep bars and medi-kits (only nine per customer). Should be enough to survive the rest of this trip.
I’m just checking out the office of Mr Andrew Ryan. Any residue in here has got to be worth investigating. Have to say, there sure are a lot of shut-down mini helicopters lying around here. I wonder what…
Oh, hell. It’s like I’ve descended into a nightmare, one worthy of the definition. The red emergency lights in here aren’t helping, either. All possible residue traces have been wiped over; an event dominating all others. I’m picking up…a speech, something about separations, and memories (A farm. A family)…false memories, created ones…a ‘simple phrase’…and men, or slaves. And choice.
Through an invisible fog of truths and accusations, I see the body. One of the world’s most definitive thinkers; brought down by…three letters (WYK), a golf club…wrists of a prisoner…
I hate this ability sometimes. Knowledge can so often be such a curse. I see it all now. Ryan’s son, genetically engineered by his rival, created solely for this kill. And even mind control thrown in as well.
The child and I even had the same taste in wrist tattoos. Rapture’s full of nightmares, I knew that. But this one…
I vaguely hope Womble isn’t too close nearby. No one, least of all a friend, should ever see me like this.
Back in the fishbowl. I’ve already been and have yet to arrive. Time’s great ocean envelops me, as Rapture protects me from the Atlantic’s.
This trip is already harder. Last time, the city was more than finished. It had been raining in Rapture, but they had simply chosen not to notice, right up until the sea claimed most of its space back. In fact, getting the psychic-imprint mask was the only worthwhile result of that endeavour, and even that ended badly. Still, I’ve left the mask where future…past…a version of me can find it.
Otherwise, I’ve been ducking fireballs, avoiding turrets and been compared to a ‘parasite’. Womble and I have managed to stick together so far, but I grow concerned of the ever-growing noises coming from the ceiling.
Should this go the way of rabbits and Martians, I’ve cooked up a clever bit of kit. Both mine and Womble’s TARDIS keys now serve as locators, should we wish to find each other or the box itself. I’ve checked the maps in Rapture, and something like this would be useful if it transpired that Womble ended up in Point Prometheus and I get stuck in the Welcome Centre.
Still, there’s loads to be getting on with for now. I’ve done the ‘Splicer Tour’, now it’s time to look elsewhere. Find out what’s going on behind the scenes and what makes this place tick. The easy answer to that is ADAM, but I’ve no real desire to sink that needle home. Winter Blast and Electro-Bolt are all well and good, but addiction’s all the same. One day, ADAM and EVE will take a dirt nap. Where does that leave you? Singing ‘If I Didn’t Care’ while you check that the Health-Station sign doesn’t flash green.
Really plays with your mind, this place. I hope I can keep my sanity long enough to learn something useful. Or get out alive. Priorities change down here, and if you don’t believe me, just look at the children. God only knows I sure don’t want to…