The Search Is Over, But Not Yet BegunMature

"Alice?" Tenenbaum's call echoed through the bridge, the door behind her sliding closed with a small thump. The two women had already taken note that the room was vacant, and were hoping that Alice was still somewhat nearby. But as their luck would have it, they received only silence in return. "Well it's not like she could have gone far, " Tenenbaum stated, her scrutinous gaze scanning ever inch of the room for a hidden smile, her ears the tell-tale laugh of a little one playing games with them. Spending so much time around children makes one truly aware of their surroundings. It was an effort made in vein.

"You'd think we would have seen them by now, " Eleanor said quietly, gazing at a random spot on the ceiling as a thoughtful look crossed her face. She'd been speaking mostly to herself, but this wasn't reason enough to keep Tenenbaum from stating her opinion.

"The Splicers? No, they seem to be long gone. You said yourself that their scent - "

"That's not what I meant, " Eleanor interrupted, then continued in the same tone. "The Sisters. Except for Alice, I haven't seen them at all. But, " with her fists clenched by her side, she tore her gaze back to Tenenbaum, afraid of how the woman would react. These might have been her Sisters, but the girls were like Tenenbaum's daughters. "I can't smell them either. And with all of their Adam, I should be able to smell it anywhere on the ship. It's like..." Eleanor couldn't bring herself to say what was on her mind, but Tenenbaum didn't take long to get an idea.

"You mean that you think -"

"Let me finish, " Eleanor spoke, eyes now glued to the floor. "As soon as we got back, I told you that I smelled a massive amount of Adam, in addition to all of the Sisters. Well, the scent of whoever had that Adam began to dissipate at the same time, and at the same rate, as the Sisters. If these were normal Splicers, they would have harvested their Adam." Eleanor took notice of the way Tenenbaum's forehead wrinkled and her fists clenched at this statement, but continued on.

"Also, since they disappeared all at the same time, that means they all left together, with the wind blowing on them at the same speed and direction. It can only mean they all went the same way at the same time, and that the Sisters were still very much alive when it happened. And, " Eleanor took a breath, feeling her leather suit shift on her body, like a reminder with impeccable timing. "The only living things that I can think could both swim to our bathysphere to take the Sisters, and not to take their Adam, is another Sister." The Adam needle seemed to weigh a little more heavily on her arm as she said this. "A Big Sister."

Eleanor had seen the way that Tenenbaum acted around her little ones. She'd predicted the older woman would have reacted in either a disbelieving way, and shrug off her thoughts as foolish, or surprised and angry with her, and blame her for ever leaving them alone. Eleanor almost wished Tenenbaum had been. Eleanor was more than angry enough at herself, for leaving them for so long, without ever even telling them that she was going. It was all just supposed to take a second, but things had gotten out of hand so quickly...

"It would make sense, then, " Tenenbaum spoke after a moments silence. Her voice was stoic, calculating, not at all what Eleanor had expected. "A Big Sister was what scared off the Splicers attacking my submersible, and they hardly ever pass through Poseidon. But, if they had wanted to get into the water..."

Her eyes seemed to sparkle with energy, an idea being born, and a plan of action taking form. "We must go back to Poseidon, " she said urgently. "If we could beat them there-"

"But how?" Eleanor interrupted. "I'm not modified, I could never run or swim as fast as them even if they were holding the Sisters. I only have the suit. Not to mention, they probably just teleported."

A smile slowly began stretching across Tenenbaum's face, an expression the older woman didn't wear often. Eleanor couldn't quite suppress the feeling that she was being stared down by a clever predator. "No, they couldn't have. You don't have any of the mental conditioning, so you can use your teleportation plasmid like any other. But to the other Sisters, it's seen as a last resort. It's what happens when subpar scientists start doing your genetic modifications."

The smile stopped spreading at this point, but showed no signs of disappearing any time soon. "At first, the teleportation plasmid was just a prototype, and there were just as many successful jumps as dismemberments. Sisters appearing without their eyes in the right place, sometimes entire limbs would simply vanish. We never could figure out where they'd gone. But, as the plasmid was perfected, this inhibitor was never removed."

"So, we could catch them." It wasn't a question, but the idea made Eleanor feel a little sick. What if all this time that they'd been searching the bathysphere, those Sisters had made it back into Rapture? What would happen to them? "Then we have to leave now, give me your hand."

"And what of Alice?" Tenenbaum asked, though she wasted no time in complying.

"If we don't go now, we could be too late." Again Tenenbaum remained silent, and Eleanor took that as her consent. She closed her eyes, images of the submersible flashing through her mind. Concentrating on those images, she tried to tap into her Eve. But, where there should have been a steady flow, there came not even a trickle. She concentrated harder still, until her neck was tense and the veins stood out. But there was just no Eve left. She'd used it all.

"Is there a problem?" Eleanor heard, her eyes still closed, jaw tight.

"I don't have any Eve left. I've spent it all."

"I can help with that!" Both Tenenbaum and Eleanor reacted at the same time, one drawing a pistol and one extending a sword-like syringe, both taking aim for the staircase that descended into the black expanse of unlit hallways. But with a voice as sweet as honey and a smile to match, Alice just stared back at them, her hands held behind her back.

"What do you mean?" Eleanor asked. She wasn't sure if she was more startled or stunned from her appearance, as only minutes before the girl had been too upset to speak. Now, however, she stood before them perfectly happy, like nothing had happened at all.

The Sister tilted her head slightly to the side, as if examining something she'd never seen before. "There's loads of Adam and Eve stored downstairs." Eleanor and Tenenbaum exchanged a glance. Big Daddies AND Adam, Sinclair? But Alice merely interpreted their silence as a prompt for her to continue. "Plasmids, too, if you want any."

The End

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