BioQuest: What Happens Next

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“Have you nothing more important to consider than my activities, Mr. Ryan?” The overhead radio started, one of Ryan’s encouraging messages sounding in the halls of the Welcome Center as he smiled. Beyond him and his men, a whale coasted over the arched glass hallway to the Bathysphere.

“You’re quite right, Doctor.” He cast a fleeting, watchful look at Booker at her side and again locked eyes on her. He held his shoulders so firm and square, and the lights reflecting in his eyes seemed to sharpen his gaze.

Fortunately for Tenenbaum, this was hardly any different than the head guards of the prison camp. “I have much to attend to. And I’m certain you do as well, Dr. Tenenbaum.”

“See to it, then,” she replied flatly. She was running out of time with Booker, and she could feel the man’s impatience to keep moving like a creeping fog. As if he did not see the men before them for what they could do. She supposed he couldn’t.

Tenenbaum returned the cold, practiced smile Ryan showed her. “You will find more reward in your Great Chain than in following us.”

“Is that a threat, Dr. Tenenbaum?” Ryan’s voice took on the level tone he carried when he was truly angry, or so she’d heard from Suchong. His recordings were so passionate, it was hard to imagine before she heard his calm rage for herself.

And what could she think but that Ryan was so bold when there were no rioters and he had Sullivan as his protection. “You do spend far too much time with that Fontaine fellow.”

“You know better,” she corrected him. “That was no threat.” And in quiet seconds that followed, she sensed Ryan finally understood. His eyes lost their edge, his posture relaxing however slightly. “And I’ve no use for Fontaine any longer.”

“Tenenbaum,” Booker reminded her.

“Oh, did I forget to introduce you?” She slid her hand onto his arm, meeting his raised brow with a knowing look. He was smarter than he seemed, not a difficult task, and at least he did not pull away.

“He is here for these dangerous times you mentioned. I find the docks of Neptune’s Bounty to be stimulating for scientific thought,” she lied, stepping closer to Booker, “and he is armed to protect me.”

Pointedly not looking at Booker, just as she had hoped, Ryan continued undaunted. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible for some time. You see, there has been some criminal activity by the docks lately,” he said, watching her for a reaction that she did not betray even as the chilling weight of dread spread in her chest.

If he planned to move on Fontaine this soon… “So we’ve had to shut the area down. But don’t fret, Doctor,” he echoed the self-assured quality of his recordings, drawing himself up once more. “In a few days’ time, Rapture will be rid of these smuggling parasites, and all will be as it was.”

“How fortunate for us that we have so little time to wait.” She answered promptly, not hurriedly, and he took that as evidence enough of her indifference to Fontaine. It was not his staged death that worried her now, but the boy… Now with even less time to rescue him and a longer path to get there.

“That’s the spirit! Enjoy your casual stroll with your… escort.” Ryan turned, walking between his guards to head deeper into Rapture. Shadows enveloped him, the faint ocean light playing at his silhouette as his steps sounded off the mostly empty halls.

Sullivan was the last to leave, and Tenenbaum felt Booker’s arm tense beneath her hand. Glancing to him, she realized… Something had occurred to him just then.

“Sullivan?” His voice was low, heavy. Unlike the certainty, even harshness, he’d shown before.

“Huh? Have we met?” Spoken like a man with not a second to spare, which was good. Easy to get him to leave, even for Booker. He started this conversation, and it was his turn to handle this. But the automated lights of Rapture were dimming to mimic the sun setting, and Tenenbaum tightened her grip on his arm.

“N-no.” Like that, it was done, and Sullivan was gone. Booker pulled from her to put his hand to his nose. And when he took his hand away, she saw the dark stain of blood there.

“Booker?”

“I’m fine. Just– get these spells sometimes. It’ll pass.” He wiped the blood on his pant leg, repulsive but effective. The steeliness came back to him and Booker only waited for her next word to move on. “So what happens next?”

“We go through Arcadia, through the smuggler’s hideout,” she said, leading him down the arched hallway.

“You’re insane.” He said it like an observation, a fact as plain as saying she was a woman.

“Very few people will be there. Fontaine has plans for all his men these days.” Between his death, Jack’s journey to the surface, and Atlas, he had too many plans going to have men watching the maintenance tunnels. “With luck, we’ll get by whoever is left.”

“Luck?” His scorn was clear, but he followed after her as she went off the path in the gardens of Arcadia towards the tunnels.

“I have good aim, and you are still alive.” She observed, crouching to get through the entrance. They were like mazes, but she memorized their pathways while she was planning to get the little ones free. “Let’s see how much more luck you have, Booker.”

“No.” She stood tall from her crouch, glaring him down already. “We need Elizabeth, she can sort this out faster.”

“And how is that?!” Her accent thickened, rage starting to boil in her blood. She pointed to the tunnel, scanning the area for other people who might think to look closer. “We are here now, and to go back is to lose time.”

“…I can’t tell you.” For a moment, he almost seemed to soften his voice with regret. Almost, but then he thought better of it. “You take my word and we can get to him faster.”

– – –

What do you want to do, Tenenbaum?

Read the next chapter.

– – –

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