50th BioQuest: Jack vs. Atlas

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Leading Elizabeth out of the Kashmir Restaurant by the hand, Jack wove around couples dancing, people laughing, and spared only the occasional wary glance to the security posted at the party.

As much as he’d wanted to help Booker get Lot 192… He was grateful that Booker convinced him to go to the party instead. The brief time he was there with Elizabeth and simply talking – even about their plans against Suchong and Fontaine – felt normal for a change.

But when music cut to screaming and gunfire, Jack stopped and a chill overtook him as surely as if the walls had shattered around him. He might’ve preferred the ocean rushing over him, to be honest…

“Fontaine,” he muttered. His hand tightened on Elizabeth’s first and he took in a sharp breath. When he glanced back, it was to Elizabeth—the Kashmir behind her—and her again. She studied him, waiting for his decision. “The labs. Go find him.”

And Jack let go of her hand, running back towards the restaurant and the fight he knew he couldn’t avoid. He skidded to a stop beside a dead security guard, lifting the pistol from his cooling corpse.

Fortunately, he hadn’t gotten many shots in before he’d been taken out. Jack checked for spare ammunition, blood spotting on the sleeves of his white suit jacket in the process…

Booker would know how to get blood out of anything. If not him, Tenenbaum.

He looked back up to Elizabeth watching him and for a second, he cringed in embarrassment. “Go! Please, go.”

She examined the restaurant too, taking a steadying breath. The smoke from grenade launchers and gunfire rolled out of the entrance now and the fight wouldn’t be far behind. She pointed to the doorway of the restaurant, shouting, “There’s, it’s a crossbow! Keep yourself hidden, stay safe.”

“No, you—” It was no use, she took off without another word. “Be safe too.” He stopped to pick up the crossbow, pulling it over his head and one shoulder by the strap to drape across his torso. It would be a useful backup if the worst were to happen.

Stooping low, Jack used the smoke as cover to get behind an overturned table and listened for the movements of Fontaine—Atlas—and his men. Sobbing and disoriented groaning replaced the music and between pained cries, someone kept shouting, “Long live Atlas!”

“Be quiet now,” he ordered in a heavy Irish accent. It sounded so real, he really was… the best. Jack gulped and gripped the pistol closer. He was genetically designed by Suchong, who was paid by Fontaine, to make sure he would be a hell of an opponent. Time to make good on that. “I think we’ve got ourselves a guest.”

Jack set one foot forward, heel first, rolling to his toes to minimize noise. One cautious step at a time led him from the overturned table to the bar counter.

“To hell with ‘em!” One of the thugs screamed, shattering a glass and getting a muffled cry from someone else in hiding. “Oh, who’s this?”

“Would ya shut your gob?” He snapped, footsteps carrying Atlas closer to where Jack hid. An easier target at a closer range. “It ain’t her.”

His voice faded away slightly in the second sentence, but kept its distance. Atlas had turned his back on Jack without even knowing it. A smile came too easily and Jack took his position, elbows on the counter and just barely visible behind the staggered counter of the bar. Only enough visibility to aim.

As he settled Fontaine in his sights, Jack shivered and a tremor nestled in with the cold coursing through him. His finger hovered over the trigger but he couldn’t—He’d be so angry with Jack.

Who knew what else Atlas had on him? Were these trusted men of his, or would he hesitate to use trigger phrases around them? Biting his lip, Jack turned his aim to a woman past Atlas, putting her down in one shot.

“Shite,” he growled, sprinting to a battered table for cover in turn. Jack’s bullets strayed or ricocheted off furniture, never quite hitting home. Jack dropped down behind the counter, reloading and Atlas’ throaty laugh cut through him across the room.

“Real cute, that,” he taunted, continuing to talk to let Jack know exactly where he was moving. He knew it would be worse to know what was coming next.

The rebels with him were dragging their weapons against the walls, the floors, tables, anything to add to the mind games. There had to be four of them left including Atlas and yet it felt like an army. “Tell me, did ya come up with that yourself, boyo?”

Underneath it, he could still hear Fontaine just as plain as if he wasn’t trying at all. Or was that in his head? Jack maneuvered away from the bar towards a fallen pillar, pressing his back against that and straining to hear anything that might give Atlas away.

“Or did ya let the pretty lass do the thinkin’?”

The next few words were lost on Jack, staring at the vacant, clouded gaze of a heavily armed security guard gaping at him. A single grenade hung from a belt over his chest and Jack snatched it off him, dropping back against the pillar and pulling the pin. With all their racket, they didn’t even hear the grenade roll across the ground to their cover—

He hunkered down at the blast, a distant ringing stuck in his ears even as it faded. “—just a dirty lit’le maggot,” Atlas raged, storming behind the bar and Jack hurried out of his sight to the cover where is dead men waited. “Hide like a stinking coward, go on ahead! You won’t last pissing time.”

Jack exhaled and knelt by the blasted remains of a person, keeping his eyes on Atlas.

Fontaine.

Who screamed next, Jack or the man at his feet, he didn’t know. Fingers coiled around his ankle and locked here, the splicer howling and pushing himself forward despite his legs ending in crude stumps.

Where’d the gun gone, when did he drop it? Jack pulled the crossbow over his head, beating the man over the head once, twice, again and again and again—

Breathless, he sat by the destroyed body and caught sight of the shoes at the other end leading up to the sneer on a familiar face. “I oughta kneecap you for that, boyo,” he drawled, gesturing with a gun to the dead man between them. “He was a right fighter, but I guess you figured that out.”

Every plan, every time he’d gone over this moment in his head, it was all gone. Jack backed away without even getting up and even the brief darkness of blinking, never mind looking away, had panic twisting his insides.

“Still an’ all, I’ve got one more experiment for you, Jack,” Atlas almost praised him and came down to his level, squaring the gun against his chest. “See you on the other side, boyo.”

The shot rang out and at first, it was just a tight pressure in his chest and a ragged breath ripped from his throat. After came the fire bursting in his chest not too much unlike the doses, the prodding, and his eyes rolled back.

“Don’t bleed out too quick, now,” Atlas taunted. “I’ll need a head start if I’m to get to the chamber before you. Remember,” his voice warped, pulse pounding in Jack’s ears. “God hates a quitter.”


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BioQuest: Down One

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“Hm,” Elizabeth stalled and tried to do a quick recount in her mind of their supplies in Olympus. They’d need them for Booker for sure, maybe Jack too depending on where all that blood was from… She closed her eyes and rested a hand against the craggy wall. “What does Tenenbaum have for supplies?”

“Bandages, antiseptic ointment, a small lab of chemicals…” His voice strayed and she opened her eyes as he looked at the tunnel roof. “Footsteps above us,” he dismissed. “They can’t hear.”

“What’s it matter?” Booker interrupted, exhaling sharply. He had to be feeling that injury now, the adrenaline was fading. He shifted to take a knee, continuing. “Anything she needs, you can find easier at your lab.”

As her eyes adjusted to the weak lighting, she saw Booker brace a hand against his head. Elizabeth turned to him so quickly she nearly stumbled on debris by her feet and she hovered a hand near him. “Booker, what is it? Are you–”

“Tell me someone else sees this blue light,” he mumbled, wincing. The tunnel had sparse orange lights burning low, some flickering, and even that was enough to catch the sweat beading on Booker’s face.

“Lot 192,” Jack whispered. He put his hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder, moving past her to Booker. “He got the dose…?”

“Listen, Jack, it– ngh,” Booker grunted and dull blue electricity arced on his forearm, blinking out just as suddenly.

“Down to one.” Jack breathed the sentence, sinking to the floor. “And Booker could die.” He pulled at his tie, ripping the shirt collar open so forcefully that the top button rattled off down the tunnel somewhere.

“I’m not going to die,” Booker forced out the sentence, getting to his feet with the wall as support. He shuffled ahead against the wall… going nowhere fast. “Not here. We’re getting out of here.”


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BioQuest: Runaway

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Footsteps and rose petals fell, coming closer as the three of them waited behind cover. The crossbow was gone and they had two weapons between them… If they didn’t know about the tunnels, they’d have nowhere to go but the dead end in Kashmir.

So this is what it looks like when he’s not faking his own death.

Elizabeth kept low and reminded herself – this was good intel against Fontaine. “The tunnels,” she whispered to Booker. He nodded, tapping Jack on the shoulder. “Take the lead.”

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Following him again by the hand, Elizabeth went with Jack to the tunnel’s entrance. Nothing but a vent beside the restaurant to the regular citizens and even smugglers. These tunnels, they belonged to Tenenbaum and her runaway family.

“There’re plenty o’ ways to find you, son,” Atlas taunted. Jack crawled into the tunnel ahead of her, waving her in once he’d shuffled forward enough. “And I will save you from Ryan’s men, you mark my words.”

Keep talking, Fontaine. Tell me your story.

Yet Fontaine wasn’t using his other code words against Jack… Tenenbaum knew about them, so they all know. His men didn’t know.

Elizabeth slid into the vent behind Jack with a smirk. That was leverage in the right hands. Booker hunkered into the tunnel behind her, pulling the vent cover on behind him, and put his hand on her back with a little too much force.

“We need to move,” he said as plain as small talk. Jack picked up the pace with them in line behind her, although…

“Booker, what did you do?” She ran her hand along the wall as they rushed forward, bumps and nicks mapping a mental image for her as they went.

“I got him a little present too.” The explosion rocked the frame of the tunnel and only Booker kept steady.

“Come on,” he ordered, helping Elizabeth hang onto her balance.

“Wait,” Jack interrupted. She could see the curve of the wall ahead… They were at a fork in the tunnel. “Which way? The medical pavilion or home?”


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BioQuest: Reunion

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She returned his second gesture to sneak around their potential attackers and he gave a curt nod, giving his attention to the thugs outside the bathysphere.

“H-he’s not here,” a third, jittery voice muttered, seeming on the edge of screaming, crying, or laughing. “He’s not, he’s not, he’s not.”

Elizabeth ran her hand along the floor of the bathysphere, smooth wooden flooring even underneath the seats.

At least Ryan’s consistently over the top…

Her fingers grazed the box, and she pulled it towards her as Booker wrapped his hand around her arm.

“I can smell him,” the woman breathed, her voice fading as if she’d turned away. A ploy…?

Booker led her out of the bathysphere in a walking crouch, passing them by towards the battered entrance of the Kashmir.

“Elizabeth,” he whispered, shooting her a half-hearted scowl. “When did you start keeping secrets?”

“I’m not, not from you,” she answered, resting her hand on his shoulder. “Jack was here. And so was Fontaine.”

Booker shook his head, but he held his position and simply waited. Seconds passed in stillness and the people waiting for them had wandered off in whatever madness had them…

Although Elizabeth knew. She knew too well exactly what it was.

“Well, they’re not here now and we don’t have much in the way of time,” he advised, taking out a pistol in addition to his shotgun. “We’re going to Fort Frolic, that’s where the Vita Chamber’s hidden.”

He stood and held out the pistol to her. “I am a detective, Elizabeth.”

“Booker.” That was a quiet, steady voice she recognized. “Can we go home?”

She stood and took him in, dried blood set into his suit. A sleeve was ripped at the shoulder and right over his chest, an entry point showed where he’d been shot… But he was here. “Jack, I…”

Booker grabbed them both, pulling them down, and then she heard it. Metal clacking overhead, faint humming, and last, an Irish brogue.

“Boyo,” the man’s voice was clear but far enough that she knew they could evade him. If only barely. “Where are ya now, boyo?”

But to where? The bathysphere, Kashmir, the tunnels? Jack held her hand tightly and met her gaze. She held onto the gift box in her other hand, and in his other hand, he had the pistol from Booker.


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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: 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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BioQuest: Return

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A beat passes, Elizabeth bringing her hand to her chin. Another beat. Finally, she releases a breath and shakes her head, trying to clear it. The man was dead. It was over, but… This was not the end.

“Sullivan,” she asked, and he heaved a sigh.

“Still here, miss.” He glowered at the door, arms crossed over his barrel chest as the leaner man continued to fuss with the lock… Sullivan was a cross between fatherly and frightening, she decided. It was no wonder he and Booker got along so swiftly.

Lowering her hand to clasp the other, she took a few steps closer toward the door.

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“What about Booker? Is he…?”

“What, him? Couldn’t be better,” he scoffed a laugh, cracking half a smile. “Once he gets those nosebleeds outta the way, he’s a terror out there. Glad he’s on my side.”

“You too, Sullivan. Now move it, genius,” he ordered, setting his hand on the shoulder of the smaller man at the door.

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“Booker,” she warned, folding her arms. Someday he might be polite if she was there to always remind him…

“I’ve almost got it, sir,” the technician dismissed, shrugging his shoulder out from Booker’s grasp and focusing closer on the lock. With a whisper from the door that almost sounded like relief, it slid open at last.

“Nice one, Milton.” Sullivan patted his shoulder, and this Milton man brightened to a smile. He nodded a tuft of blond hair from his face, the dim light catching in his hazel eyes and the thin scar on his cheek.

“Getting results, not bad.” Booker holstered his gun, heaving a sigh. “You ready to go home, Elizabeth?”

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