BioQuest: Dance & Diversion

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Elizabeth rested her hand on Jack’s shoulder, but all she could think of was getting him home. “You’re right, Jack. No one can own you, and we’ll keep it that way.”

Booker stepped up to join them. “Well, that’s the point, Elizabeth,” he teased.

“So you’ll do anything to make it work? Oh, that’s perfect!” Taking her hand off Jack’s shoulder, Elizabeth turned to smirk at Booker. She hadn’t even explained her plan and he already had a grimace creeping onto his face. “You know Cohen will fixate on us if we dance to the music.”

“Dammit, Elizabeth,” Booker groaned.

Jack chuckled, hiding the lower half of his face behind his hand and his eyes lit up behind the bunny mask.

“Well, it will work,” she answered, smiling and moving towards the storage room door leading back to the main area of Cohen’s apartment. Grumbling, Booker followed her out.

Jack waited to give them the head start, and Cohen greeted them with a broad, sweeping wave and bow when they returned. “Sweet Songbird, you return! Have you changed your mind from the guitar?”

“Oh yes, it’s all this glorious music!” She exclaimed, taking Booker’s hand and leading him past the piano deeper into the apartment… Leading Cohen and Fitzpatrick to turn away from the exit. “You’ve inspired my muse to dance, we simply must! You do understand, don’t you?”

He erupted into cascading laughter, tapping Fitzpatrick on the shoulder. His words washed over her as they danced, Booker almost relaxing as he guided her through the steps.

In the front of the apartment, she saw Jack’s white ears vanish into the hallway as the door whispered shut behind him.

• • • • •

POV switch

• • • • •

Tenenbaum struggled to buy clothes for Jack out in Rapture, since she could not take him along. This button down shirt, those slacks, a sweater, something to sleep in, so many aspects to consider… He would grow like a weed anyway.

But imagine her surprise when she got back to the Sanctuary, and the little ones reported that Jack had gone after the grumpy man and pretty lady.

They went off to play and Tenenbaum settled into a chair where she could see Jack the moment he returned. A bottle of Red Ribbon brandy kept her company in her watch.

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A little one let him in. Her footsteps echoed and his arrival was barely audible in her reminders to hurry. Jack was at the top of the stairs, fingers deftly undoing his vest buttons when he finally saw her there and froze.

“Oh, uh. Tenenbaum, I…” He bit his lip for only a moment before he gathered himself to stand firmly before her. “I’m sorry.”


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BioQuest: Choices

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Silence filled the room, sitting between the three of them as real as any of the instruments in Cohen’s storage room.

“Booker,” Elizabeth began, putting her hand on his arm. “Go easy on him.”

“You can’t be serious,” he snapped, stepping back from her and pointing to Jack. “Elizabeth, he–”

“He’s been trapped all his life, told where to live and what to do.” Lowering his arm, Booker turned around and scoffed. She put her hand on his back, turning to face Jack again. “Jack deserves a chance to explain himself.”

He held the bunny mask in his hands, running his fingers over the curves. As she approached, he glanced up to her with a flicker of a smile. “Well, Jack? What are you doing here?”

Still toying with the mask, he continued, his voice and eyes distant. “…I wanted to help. You rescued me before you even really knew me, and…” He exhaled, putting the mask down and sitting on a box with a handprint on the side.

“And?”

“I couldn’t help before the programming was fixed. But I can now.” He finally looked at her, sparing a quick look for Booker. He must’ve had his back turned still because Jack locked his eyes hers and continued. “Let me help.”

“You wanted to help,” Booker growled, striding up silently beside her. “You should’ve stayed with the girls.”

“Booker!”

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Undaunted, he moved to stand in front of Jack and gave him no choice to meet his gaze. “They’re alone right now. You know they can open that door, and they’re not free from whatever those lab coats did. If they wanted to go looking for angels, they can.”

Not many stood up to Booker’s ‘investigative method’, but Elizabeth watched as Jack calmly processed the speech. Where his face had once seemed faraway, he now seemed as alert as a student during a pre-exam lecture. “They needed you, Jack. And you left.”

Huffing, Elizabeth forced her way between them and pushed Booker back. “Don’t take your issues out on him!”

“I’m not–”

“He’s right.” He got off the box, picking up the mask.

“Jack,” Elizabeth sighed.

“No. He’s right, I left when they needed me. We can’t change that.” Jack put the mask on, adjusting it on his face until it was straight and he was comfortable.

“But we can work together now so I can get back to them quickly. Keep Cohen busy and I’ll slip out.” He smiled, looking from her to Booker. In the mask, he looked kind of adorable…

Clearing his throat, Booker went over to Jack again and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Listen, Jack, I…” Booker put his hands in his pockets, rolling his shoulders. “Just be careful.”

“Thank you, Mr. DeWitt.” He nodded, giving Booker a soft hug. Elizabeth held back a laugh as the few seconds passed with Booker looking helplessly at her.

Her grin turned to a smile as Jack faced her. “Elizabeth? I just want to say…” He looked down, his gaze pausing briefly just past her shoulder, before smiling at her.

“Don’t go easy on me. I’ve only been alive for two years, but I’m not a kid. I can think like Tenenbaum and fight like Booker. What I’m missing is experience.”

He shrugged, tugging at the bottom of his vest to straighten it. “For the first time, all my choices are mine. Good and bad.”


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BioQuest: Take the Mask Off

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“Elizabeth,” he beckoned, annoyance drawing out her name when he spoke. “Your muse is calling.” Cohen stared down the hall, eyes wide with wonder, and Fitzpatrick stifled a laugh.

“You gonna go, or…?” Fitzpatrick asked, addressing Elizabeth directly for the first time. As his sentence trailed, his eyes drifted to Cohen posturing beside him at the piano.

“Oh, you must go, little Songbird! Fly, fly away,” he cooed, waving her along.

“You are too kind,” Elizabeth replied, rising yet again… She wouldn’t have guessed that Booker would seek help so quickly. Giving a quick smile to the two men, she started off down the hall. “I’ll only be a moment.”

Turning into the doorway, Elizabeth found Booker hissing threats, probably, at the attendant slouching before him. She sighed, smoothing her skirt and stepping into the storage room packed with instruments and equipment.

She folded her arms and addressed the back of his head. “Booker, I…”

He muttered one last advisement to the man with him before he stepped aside, leveling a deadpan gaze at Elizabeth. And she could finally see the attendant wasn’t wearing his mask any longer.

“J… Jack?” He shrugged, scratching absently at his arm.

“Uhh. Hello.”


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BioQuest: Why Even Ask

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As the song came to a close, Elizabeth worked out a plan to get Booker alone with that attendant. Something was going on with him and they would get more from him than Cohen directly… even if it was only a hint to Cohen’s network, it would be a place to start.

Clearing her throat, Elizabeth stood from the bench and played with her pinky… This time as an innocent ploy. “I apologize, Cohen, I didn’t get to warm up my voice first. Do you mind if I rest and restore my voice?”

“For the music, anything!” His voice cascaded, resonating in the auditorium-esque foyer of his apartment. With a wistful sigh and a broad gesture towards the ceiling, he continued, “An artist must be patient and insistent; it’s a delicate balance.”

She curtseyed and approached Booker, guiding him to a bold, bright mural of Cohen’s latest album cover. The artist himself started shouting at the pianist as she stood beside Booker, as if observing the mural together.

“Booker,” she started, speaking softly. “That attendant.”

“You saw it too, good.” He adjusted the guitar strap absently, his other arm resting on the shoulder of the guitar. “I’ll get him alone.”

“Now don’t beat him.” He shook his head, but she insisted. “We just need to talk to him. He might’ve seen something, he might already be scared–”

“Alright,” he cut her off. “I’ll pull him off to the storage area where he got the guitar. Then I wait for you?”

“No.” Elizabeth smoothed her hair, a smile coming to her face. Well, she was proud of him… He really wouldn’t interrogate the man military style, that was progress. “No, I’ll distract Cohen.”

“I’ll be down the hall,” he reminded her. “Shout and he’s as good as dead.”

“Okay, Dad,” she teased, and he coughed out an awkward laugh. “If he does anything, I’ll let you take care of him.”

“Uh, so…” Booker looked past her and settled his gaze on someone over her shoulder. “You there, with me,” he ordered and she turned in time to see the attendant jump to follow Booker.

“Little Songbird,” Cohen chimed, “where is your delectable muse off to?”

“Oh, he wants to practice. He’s aiming to impress today,” she answered and took a seat beside Fitzpatrick. “Shall we continue?”

Distracting Cohen was a simple task although a touch unproductive… At least Booker had the chance to gather information from the attendant. Songs came and went, Cohen flickering between his artist chic and potent, stewing rage… Usually at Fitzpatrick.

When a few songs passed, she caught herself wondering about Booker. She felt the need to check on him, but she held back. Cohen might see her as nervous and with his paranoia… No. They needed this lead. Finally, his voice came from down the hall.

“Elizabeth,” he beckoned, annoyance drawing out her name when he spoke. “Your muse is calling.”

Cohen stared down the hall, eyes wide with wonder, and Fitzpatrick stifled a laugh.


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BioQuest: Rise, Rapture, Rise

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Observing the man at the piano, his carefully averted eyes and stiff posture, Elizabeth felt a rising need to somehow get him out of here… But she took a breath and reminded herself why they were there: the girls.

Her pleated skirt swirled around her as she turned on a heel, looking into the glassy, piercing eyes of Cohen. “I implore you to choose, sir. Inspire me,” she prompted, and he hummed in return.

“You are one to challenge me, aren’t you? It’s perfect,” he said, patting the pianist’s shoulder absently. “Simply perfect! Why not…” He started, weaving in a lazy circle to side of the piano opposite her. “Rise, Rapture, Rise! We all know the words, now don’t we?”

The musician at the bench just nodded, his fingers leaving their place above the keys only to nimbly turn the page of his music book. There was no time for panic; her mind whirled ahead of all that. This was her battlefield – years of observing and studying and learning while trapped in her tower, this was where Elizabeth shined.

The song was commissioned by Ryan, so it had to be grand, and Cohen would never relinquish his piano. “Ah, of course!” She beamed, continuing as she took a seat beside the pianist – where she could see the sheet music.

Booker and Cohen both watched her, she could just feel it prickling at the back of her neck, but… Soon, they’d both understand exactly what she wanted them to. “The rise of the music with the lyrics… So elegant, masterful.”

Looking to Cohen again, she made her first request. “Might this gentleman have a guitar?” Booker bit back the scoff, but a quick glance at him showed tensed shoulders, locked knees… He was going to give her an earful later. She smiled.


“As my muse, it would make it easier for me to feel the music if he were to play.”

“Yes, yes, of course! Brilliant!” He clapped twice, voice dropping to an impatient sneer. “You there!” The man in the bunny mask jumped, rushing over. “Fetch the guitar for my songbird’s muse, and be quick about it.”

He was only two steps away before Cohen lashed out again. “No, no, no, not that way! You idiot, they’re in the gallery!” The pianist nodded to the hallway behind them, and the attendant took off in that direction without a word.


“Hurry! Fools,” Cohen muttered, straightening his vest for emphasis.

Booker looked on as the staff turned into a doorway near the far end of that hall, and he thought aloud. “New staff, is that–”

“No excuses!” Cohen shouted, his voice straining and escalating as he went on. “I’ve had this staff for years; years, I tell you, and he knew, he knew, he knew!!” At the last scream, he slammed his open palm on the piano, getting a faint echo of notes from the instrument.

“S-sir?” Guitar in hand, the attendant approached Booker and gave Cohen a wide berth. “For you.”

“Thanks,” he grumbled, ducking through the guitar strap as he raised it over his head.

“Now,” Cohen chirped, standing over her and the musician beside her. “There’s no need for guitar in our fine city’s anthem, but he’ll have his chance. Fitzpatrick!”

As easy as that, the pianist began. While they played through Rise, Rapture, Rise, she caught glimpses of Booker’s gaze drifting from the guitar to her or Cohen or the attendant on loop… Almost as if he were one of those people trapped between times. Almost.


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BioQuest: For the Music

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They stood in the hug, silent… As Elizabeth gradually brought her arms up around Booker and let out a long breath. Exhaustion hit her right then, a sudden fog closing in on her mind.

“I…” His voice resonated from his chest and above her. One of his arms drifted away from her, his hand resting on her head. “Anna,” he muttered and the fog instantly cleared.

She stepped back. Booker didn’t even seem surprised by it… Just waiting, shoulders slumped and eyes dull. He was a man who hadn’t known hope for years.

…And whose fault was that? Elizabeth felt her hands tighten into fists but… She walked a few beds down and spoke over her shoulder, “Good night, Booker.”

•••••

The following morning had been chaotic. Tenenbaum left to get clothes for Jack, putting him in charge of the Little Sisters. She was met with a chorus of protests that Elizabeth could barely say goodbye over.

And there they stood at last, outside his apartment in Mercury Suites.

“I expected he’d host us in Fort Frolic,” Booker commented, staring at the apartment door. Music flowed from within the residence, a sign of Cohen she’d come to accept. “Looks like we can’t be that lucky.”

“When have we been lucky?” She teased, smirking at Booker and seeing a trace of a smile on his face. “Well? Are you ready?”

“Are you?” They examined each other, but neither one answered… And when she admitted to herself that no one was going to, she knocked on the door.

A finely dressed server in a bunny mask answered the door, his posture perfectly straight. Possibly to compensate for being just a touch shorter than average, since she doubted Cohen required it. But then again…

The piano music swelled and fell, Cohen heard wordlessly shouting above it to the musician on the bench. The door man stepped aside and finally, he noticed their arrival.

“Ah, my songbird!” Cohen gestured grandly, swaying towards them in time with the piano. “Come in, come in! I see you’ve brought your muse.” Booker and the lanky man at the piano scoffed, Cohen eyeing him appreciatively all the same.

“We’re here for the music, Mr. Cohen,” she reminded him, walking past him to the piano. There had to be a way to hear about his networks under the guise of admiration, but first…

She ran her hand along the piano, fark and sleek, well used but gently cared for. She couldn’t help but smile. Uncomfortable as she was with Cohen, Elizabeth had always enjoyed singing.

“Right to the point, I like it,” he emphasized, following her to the piano but standing behind the musician, whose wide, watery eyes fell to the keys before him. “Well, my dear? Which of my masterpieces would you like to begin with?”


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BioQuest: Anything

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If the math from Fink’s stolen records could be trusted… Jack was a child in time spent alive only. Elizabeth smiled to him, tilting her head. “Jack, I promise to do everything I can for the rest of these girls.”

The tension in her chest surprised her and her smile weakened. For a moment, her and Jack locked eyes… The girls were quiet and the water in the pipes around Olympus Heights whispered to its destination. It could’ve been ages or seconds. “Nothing will stop us.”

In a second, he seemed taller until she realized– instead of hunching over, Jack was standing straight with shoulders drawn back. “I’m coming with you.”

“Nein,” Tenenbaum corrected, “You will stay here and watch the little ones.” She snuffed her cigarette in the ash tray for good, reaching for Jack with her other hand as his shoulders slumped again.

“Dr. Tenenbaum,” Elizabeth began, moving to stand beside the two of them. “What if–”

“He is not yet free of Fontaine,” she confessed and Elizabeth saw his hand tighten to a fist on the yarn at the edge of his sweater.

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“I have only removed the control he had over Jack’s mind. Without two doses of Lot 192…” She sighed, lowering her hand from his shoulder. “Jack. Stay here and watch the little ones.”

His head tilted down first, eyes glued to a section of wall above Tenenbaum… Until finally his gaze hit the floor too. “Alright, Mrs. Tenenbaum.”

“Now,” Tenenbaum continued, picking up her matter-of-fact tone again, “To bed with you both. You will need rest.” Without waiting, she retired to an office towards the back edge of the sanctuary.

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Elizabeth couldn’t even remember seeing it before. And when she turned back to where Jack had stood, he’d already curled up on a bed for the night. Her heels on the tiles were the last noise left, and even that hardly touched the peace of this place.

Stopping at Booker’s bed, she placed a hand on his shoulders and he immediately woke. Quietly, watchfully, but instantly alert… And his eyes softened when they registered her face.

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“Elizabeth?” His voice came out a little raspy, and she gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“I just… Wanted to say thank you.” He looked away from her then, but she knelt to follow his gaze. “Everything you’re doing here, it means so much to me. You are a father like Comstock never was,” she said, trying to express gratitude but twinging it with bitterness.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” he answered, leaning up as she stood. “It’s… I mean, uh… Just…” He struggled and she waited, unable to move… And he got up too, gathering her in a loose hug. Warmth radiated from him, and he placed a kiss on her forehead so light she barely felt it. “Anything for you.”


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BioQuest: Rapture’s Network

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Booker patted Elizabeth’s shoulder as he passed, and she turned her head as he walked towards one of the faded, bare beds.

“What, where are you–?” She could almost feel Tenenbaum waiting outside of her view, but Elizabeth kept her eyes on Booker and frowned softly. He leaned his shotgun on the bedframe closest to him, removing his holsters and draping those across the back of the frame.

“You can handle this on your own. He’s your artist,” he scoffed and dropped himself onto the bed with a drained exhale. He turned his back as she did, and then it was only her and Tenenbaum.

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“An artist? So Cohen found you, and you plan to go to him.” As punctuation, she flicked some ashes from her cigarette into the ashtray on the end table. She raised it again to her lips and smiled… “Perfect.”

Her expression was nothing like the wistful look she gave the Little Sisters. Elizabeth felt an uneasiness creeping in, like her core was covered with pins and needles. She moved a stray piece of hair from her face and cleared her throat, continuing.

“At least you understand,” she answered, glancing at Booker on the bed. “Cohen is unstable, but he knows this city. He can–”

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“If he is not already part of this, he soon will be.” In the ensuing silence between them, the girls settled into creaking beds with small, faraway sighs and scarcely audible good night wishes.

“Ryan talks of his ‘Great Chain’,” she spat, nose wrinkling in disgust, “But he forgets there are other networks in Rapture. Cohen, he connects Ryan to those networks… Mark this,” she said, narrowing her gaze to Elizabeth. “With Fontaine free, Ryan will start up where he finished. More than anything, we need–”

“More kids will be in danger,” Jack said, shuffling up with a delicate smile and his baggy sweater. “And Miss Elizabeth is going to protect them… Right?”


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BioQuest: Teamwork

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“Well…” She starts, popping a hip and smirking at him. In the shadows, she could almost make out a faint smile on his face. “I did say you were my muse.”

“Not that I know what the hell a muse does,” he scoffed, scratching the back of his head absently. “But sounds like you’ve got an idea.”

“You can be there with me, Booker, but simply to watch from a distance. Monitor him.” She folded her arms, the smirk falling. This was business… The family business, as it were. “If he has an association with Ryan and Fontaine, we need to know. For the girls.”

The door opened, casting light on them both. Elizabeth lowered her arms, letting her eyes adjust to see Tenenbaum waiting with a little girl beside her.

“They’re back,” she shouted, feet slapping on the ground and her thin ponytail trailing behind as she ran further into the shelter… Presumedly to tell the other kids.

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Booker walked through, nodding to Tenenbaum as he passed.

“Doctor,” he acknowledged, turning to Elizabeth as she followed after him. Tenenbaum shut the door behind them as he spoke. “Stealth isn’t my strong suit, but…” He stopped, facing her completely and drawing himself up. “Guess you could say I owe you.”

They stood beside a line of dingy beds, all being certainly too small for Booker and Jack to sleep comfortably. But it was something, and they’d both had worse… The hopeful eyes of a teddy bear stared up at them from beneath one of the frames, waiting.

She put a hand on his shoulder, a bittersweet smile never quite reaching her eyes… Even she could tell that without seeing her own face. “You do, Booker. But… I appreciate this.”

“So glad you survived,” Tenenbaum announced herself, striding beyond them to an end table and burying a set of keys into her pocket.

“But you two look like garbage, and let me guess… You’re planning to go out again, yes?” Her accent weighted every syllable, bearing down even harder on consonants. From that same pocket, she drew a cigarette and lighter.

Positioning the cigarette between two fingers on her right hand, she looked at them like specimens under a microscope. “And just when were you planning to tell me about this?”

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BioQuest: Not Alone

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“Please. We’ve much to do,” Elizabeth agreed with Booker, turning back to the Bathysphere. When she’d first been in a gunfight with Booker, all that death… It chilled her to the core, nausea nesting in her stomach as she ran from him in Columbia.

She stepped over the corpse of a splicer, as Booker referred to them, continuing on the slightly uneven path. Elizabeth had an appointment in the morning and she didn’t dare be unprepared.

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Booker followed her, their footsteps and a distant dripping taking over the silence between them. Neither of them interrupted the quiet until they stood outside the doors to Tenenbaum’s sanctuary in Olympus Heights, and Booker finally spoke.

“You’re not going alone to see that lunatic artist tomorrow,” Booker stated, his face cast in shadow so she couldn’t make out an expression.

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Her eyes were still adjusting. All she could see was a scarcely noticeable droop to his shoulders and a lean to favor his injured leg.

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