BioQuest: Return the Favor

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Face to face, Cohen seemed the broken man even more so. Through his overdone makeup, sweat beaded on his skin.

He stood tall yet his clothes had clearly been worn for several days. Paint splatted the front of his white Oxford shirt, or at least she hoped it was paint, and his eyes were glassy as they flicked from her to Booker and back.

“Well, little song bird? Are you prepared to begin?” He presented his hand to her and somehow the piano started up again. Booker’s words disappeared in the notes, but she knew from his sour tone that it was for the best that Cohen did not hear him.

She afforded him an empty smile. “This is quite the honor, Mr. Cohen,” Elizabeth began, pointing to indicate Booker behind her rather than taking the artist’s hand.

“But Booker here is my inspiration. My muse,” she corrected, trying to get Cohen to accept him without question. “I will not perform without him close by.”

“Oh, I see, I see…” He paid in exaggerated thought, resting one hand on his chin and the other on his opposite elbow. “Very well, I will not mock your muse, song bird. You may bring along your man,” he chuckled, looking Booker over once again.

“Though of course he is not for the stage, no, no.” Cohen shook his head, making a grand sweeping gesture with both arms. “The music does not sing to him.”

“Thank you, you are a model for all artists.” Flattery worked with him well, but she needed to be careful… He would notice if she put it on to thickly. Her heart raced, and the music did seem to encompass her like electricity.

Tilting her head slightly, she held her delicate smile. “May I ask you another question?”
“Of course, my dear! As your mentor and an artist, I am here to answer all questions posed to me.” He bowed forward, splaying his arms out to the side but keeping his eyes locked on hers.

“What do you plan to do with me?” His face fell and he stood, arms stiff… Cohen’s grandeur evaporated and Booker’s boot steps drew closer, one, two steps.

“Where the hell is Ryan?” Sullivan muttered, a quiet shuffle suggesting he was adjusting his stance as well.

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“Were you not listening to me, little song bird? To the music?!” His face must have been red beneath the paint, his eyes like daggers, and as he closed his hands on her shoulders, she braced for him to be forceful.

…only he made gentle strokes along her arm, as if he were comforting a child. “Yes, wait, you cannot help it… So young, so new…” The music rose, swelling, but somehow faraway. His eyes, full of admiration and madness, kept her there. Absorbed her. “I will help you to see… See and show the others the beauty of my artistry!”

It was when Cohen turned, walking aways off with that dance to his step, that she stepped back and into Booker. The meet each other’s gaze for only a moment before the artist returned.

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“You will sing to my music, and your man may be the first to take in our splendor. So I will see you both tomorrow, song bird,” he announced, bowing again as he gave her two bunny masks. They were smooth in her hands. The raised ornate swirls were the only texture to them, and there was something ominous in its simplicity.

“Tomorrow, and don’t you forget! I’ll remember,” he threatened, a smile on his face and an edge to his voice.

He withdrew, humming and lights clicking on asking his path.

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And Sullivan’s radio crackled, the voice of Andrew Ryan rushing out.

“Sullivan, this is urgent! We can discuss Cohen’s infraction later.” Sullivan holstered his gun for his radio, but this voice was not the concise, practiced man she’d heard in announcements during the few hours she’d been in Rapture.

“Fontaine, that foul hoodlum, is making his move in the docks!  Get there immediately.” The radio fizzled out before Sullivan answered and that seemed to suffice. He looked at Booker, nodding up to the Bathysphere at the top of the stairs.

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“You screwed up your end o’ the deal, but I’m still collecting. Let’s go,” Sullivan said, moving up the stairs with surprising speed for a man of his build… But Slate was much the same.

“Listen, Elizabeth, I have to return a favor.” He propped the shotgun on his shoulder for the moment and continued. “You come with me, or go home.”

– – –

What do you want to do, Elizabeth?

– – –

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