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New Year

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“They’re an interesting brood, that’s for sure.”

Rosalind watched the odd little girls in their tattered dresses with their dirty faces as they drew on the floor and the walls with their crayons. Others scooted around the rooms in wheelchairs aimlessly, or played hopscotch, or with dolls cobbled together with scraps of cloth and discarded buttons.

“‘Interesting’ is one way of putting it, I suppose,” Brigid drawled, taking a long huff of her cigarette and tapping the ashes into a tray.

Be careful, Rosalind thought as she watched the ashes glow bright red before fading to black. It would be disgustingly ironic if you were to set the place on fire. Burning to death in a bubble under the sea would certainly be an unusual way to go.

Brigid’s eyes were on the television screen in the corner of the room. Though the majority of Rapture’s population had been reduced to living corpses (as well as the more traditional sort of corpse), apparently someone had been mad enough to set up a New Year’s Eve broadcast for the ones who were still alive enough to care: ‘Happy New Year 1960, Rapture!’ was emblazoned across the screen for any and all to see. And given that the public television screens were one of the few things in Rapture that still reliably worked, chances were quite a few people were watching this, Splicer or no.

The girls seemed to be having their own form of celebration with their toys; evidently they didn’t quite understand what a New Year’s Eve celebration typically looked like, because the one they were having more resembled a birthday party. Still, who could begrudge them the exercise? Their parents were all dead (or worse) and they were trapped in a relatively limited amount of space in a city under the sea.

“What is your plan, exactly?” Rosalind inquired, reaching out her hand.

Brigid twitched a little, as though she’d just been woken from a trance, and looked to Rosalind before handing over the cigarette and crossing her arms. “I have a few. The problem is not the planning- the problem is executing.”

Rosalind took a drag off the cigarette and blew out the smoke, watching it swirl in the air in front of her. “The executing,” She repeated.

“Yes. I can think of ways to get to Bathyspheres, but this requires that no one shoot us down on the way up. So I must find a way to kill Atlas and Ryan; there are ways, but they are not easy. I am still thinking.”

So you don’t actually have a plan yet.

Rosalind had to bite her tongue, resist the urge to get snippy the way she might have with Robert. Brigid was less fond of being prodded than Rosalind’s brother was, and she had the sort of temper that might lead her to banishing Rosalind from her presence until further notice.

The fact of it was, though, that Brigid and her Little Sisters were trapped at the bottom of the sea. And they had been trapped at the bottom of the sea for about a year while Brigid gathered the Little Sisters and reversed their conditioning. Her concerns about trying to get what girls she had to the surface were valid, because Ryan and Atlas would shoot down any craft trying to leave Rapture. But that wasn’t the only reason why she wasn’t leaving.

By Rosalind’s mark, Brigid was scared and guilty. She had spent years performing unethical and disturbing experiments on little girls who had been snatched from their homes or supplied by less-than-honest men, and she had done them a great deal of harm and caused them no small amount of suffering. Rosalind didn’t judge her; she had committed her own sins against Annabelle DeWitt as a child, and then done further damage to Elizabeth as an adult. She did not fault Brigid for her regret and her shame at what she’d done.

The infuriating fact of it was that Brigid, for her part, did not feel she had a right to leave Rapture. She felt she had to stay in this underwater purgatory and suffer for her crimes, sink and drown as Rapture did. She wanted a burial at sea, her name and face forgotten by all who had ever known her, the finest gift she felt she could give to a world that she had unintentionally done great wrong to.

But as it was, the Little Sisters could not leave Rapture without Brigid. They lacked the ability to work the Bathyspheres effectively. So Brigid must go with them whenever they finally go to the surface.

Furthermore, whilst Brigid had gathered maybe seven or eight girls so far, there were other Little Sisters in Rapture that had not been found and deprogrammed. And as Brigid had put them in their sorry state, she could not bring herself to leave them behind, especially when their fates would be so relentlessly grim.

So Brigid stayed with her girls, in this little sanctuary where very little changed because Brigid lacked the ability and the courage to go out and put her plans into action.

They are going to die down here, Rosalind thought, fingers tightening on the cigarette. They are going to spend the rest of their lives in this bloody sanctuary of hers, puttering around because they can’t bring themselves to act and do what needs to be done.

Rosalind could see a myriad of futures laid out in front of her.

And one of them, in particular, featured a young man about Elizabeth’s age, with sandy hair and green eyes. In some worlds he has happened, in some worlds he is happening, hacking his way through the wreckage of Rapture. In some worlds, he saps the Little Sisters of their ADAM and drops their corpses to the floor; in others, he places his hand on their little heads and frees them of their conditioning. In some versions Brigid survived, and in others she didn’t.

As of this world, in this moment, Jack Ryan would happen to Rapture, but had not happened just yet.

Rosalind sighed, handed the cigarette back to Brigid, and hoped that this version of Jack was a good one.

Brigid, for her part, was staring at the TV will an unusually dull look in her eyes. She wasn’t as lively as she had once been, when Rapture had been in its heyday and she’d still been unapologetically involved in some of her more ethically dubious experimentations. Rapture had drained her, exhausted her; Rosalind might have thought about bringing her to Columbia if she didn’t know how those idiotic bigots would react to her accent.

…Among other things.

“Two minutes,” Brigid sighed.

“You need to get the bloody hell out of this place,” Rosalind said without anymore noticeable feeling than her usual. But Brigid was used to that, and Rosalind felt her hand settle on the small of her back.

“I will.”

Rosalind blew out some smoke and shut her eyes. She couldn’t call it as a lie, but it certainly wasn’t the God’s-honest truth.

This is what I get for being caring.

This is what I get for having a lark.

This is what I get for trying to be human.

She straightened up at one minute, and the girls started counting down. They were lost well enough in their own little pretend-world, which hopefully was as delusional a vision as the one Brigid had programmed them to see as fully-conditioned Little Sisters; children and imagination and all that.

“We’ll get out,” Brigid intoned, hand still on Rosalind’s back. “We’ll all get out, and I can come to that strange cloud-city you’ve told me about. I can find all of the Little Sisters and deprogram them, and then we can leave.”

“Now that’s just sophistry,” Rosalind muttered, and kissed her when the clock struck midnight.