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: I Won’t Let You

Trigger Warning: Torture


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Booker… Stayed behind to ensure their safety. Air felt thick, and her feet carried her to the doors out towards the sewers. The voices of Tenenbaum and Jack were audible but indistinguishable from the pulse pounding in her head and the reverberation of each step she took.

“Always leaving,” she breathed to herself, resting her forehead and a hand against the cool doors. She didn’t know how to reach the docks or where he may have been taken.
Or if the worst had happened. This city was dangerous and she had little research on it, but Elizabeth…

Her hand tightened into a fist at her side. “Well. I won’t let you leave me this time.” The energy of a tear surged from her core to her hands, and she opened one right before the door. Shimmering and deep blue, it cast a light back at her and she heard a man.

‘So you don’t work for Fontaine, huh?’ A heavy voice, an accent from New York, and the tone of a man who knew his orders well. He wasn’t where she could see him, the tear was behind something… A waterfall?

Another man was tied by the wrists to the pipes, his head hanging down. And yet she recognized him instantly. “Booker,” she whispered.

‘Not a day in my life. I’m a guard to the doctor–‘ She took a careful, deep breath. This was not her Booker, only one option of many. If she could just get a map, Elizabeth could begin her search.

Tentatively, she tried to seek the map she knew had to be in there. If she could pull through a turret from another reality, she could get a piece of paper.

‘Yeah, yeah, and you ain’t ever been to her place. We heard the story.’ The other man circled around, standing beside a device strapped to Booker. ‘Now we wanna hear the truth.’

A dry laugh, barely a breath, and he answered. ‘The truth hasn’t got anything to do with me. You want Fontaine, Sullivan. Get him under the docks.’

‘Have it your way.’ Sullivan walked away again, his voice still ringing clear. ‘I’ve got all night.’

She wasn’t ready for the shock, Booker’s convulsions, the screaming– but the tear finally closed, a folded, damp piece of paper in its place. Elizabeth knelt to retrieve it and unfolded it delicately, trying not to damage it further. It was Rapture, all of it, and uneven red lines pointed her to the docks where Fontaine worked.

“Miss Elizabeth…?” Turning, she saw Jack standing in the hall leading back to the safehouse. He looked to her with a furrowed brow and slipped his hands into his sleeves. “What was that window?”

– – –

What do you want to do, Elizabeth?

Read the next chapter.

– – –

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Carol Peletier: Development

I started watching Walking Dead on a whim because I needed background noise while sewing. You will be certain after this brick here that it is no longer background noise to me. And one of my favorite characters, hands down, is Carol Peletier.

What prompted this analysis on her character was this idea from the Walking Dead Amino from TyReeses Puffs with support from Crescent.

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Let’s #MakeCarolGreatAgain and show her some love!

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SPOILERS BELOW


 

Naturally, we start at the beginning.

Carol was mousy and quiet, but people liked her. They wanted to protect her from her husband, Ed. That kind of thinking around Carol does factor into her persona later in the series, but it’s a slow build, so just bench that memory: Carol started as someone timid and in need of protection.

And most people who end up in abusive romantic relationships either had abusive relatives or are the sort of passive personality that will sit in silence through abuse. I believe Carol falls into the second category, having grown up as a quiet girl that people felt the need to shield from the world.

Ed likely started off as a firm guardian, developing to the relationship they have in season one where he owns her and she’s “in debt” for all the protection he’s given her. He found a passive partner who would allow him to continue the cycle of abuse (as I think Ed himself was abused as a child— but this isn’t about him).

< Source for typical patterns of abuse >

Ed teaches her that she’s helpless and she has to do as he says for things to go well. Obedience and control are his goals and making him the center of her universe is how he does it. That’s why he’s able to hit her publicly in season one, episode three, and she’s upset that he’s hurt afterwards.

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In the abusive structure he built, he protects her and she “deserved” to be hit for the failure of her friends to stay quiet. In her manipulated mindset, he protects her from everything. And when he’s killed by a walker, she loses the person she thought was responsible for her continued existence.

Her pain wasn’t at the loss of her spouse— as she explains in a later episode at the church while Sophia is missing, she knew Ed deserved to die— her pain was mainly at the loss of someone she’d been abused into being dependent on and now she was alone.

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The first change.

This was actually Carol’s first introduction to the thought of doing and bearing the burden of horrible things for those you love. She was supposed to love her husband, and so she made sure he didn’t turn. She did love her daughter, so Carol made sure she would never have to see her father as one of the undead.

But there are hints at Carol’s deeper personality before this as well. She takes her husband’s abuse quietly, but she protects Sophia from him. When Ed basically tells Sophia to keep him company in tent, Carol coolly insists that she wants to go out, takes her daughter by the hand, and leaves.

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And Ed doesn’t argue or fight her. Granted, he’d also just been beaten very recently at that time, but she stood firm and he didn’t even try to put her in her place. I think she’s always had that line drawn in the sand, especially since she also admits later in the church that he “looked at his own daughter” (heavily implying a sexual interest).

Her loyalty to her family and willingness to do anything for them goes as far back as that in canon. She wouldn’t protect herself from Ed, but she was unafraid to stand up to him for Sophia.

But then Sophia goes missing. That led to the other role for Carol, a mother, being threatened too. As much as Carol tried to defend her child from Ed, she still instilled in her the idea of living in fear (as many abused spouses do unintentionally by example). When Sophia was cornered under a car by walkers, she ran and as Carol later says, “running wasn’t enough”.

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The discovery of Sofia’s fate is the breaking point for Carol. She was not a wife or a mother anymore, and all she had left were those who reached out to her while she still had been those things.

Daryl, who held her back when Sophia was first seen, and who brought her hope throughout the search, played a massive role during this time. His kindness as well as his wounded cruelty later on both impacted Carol.

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Carol resumes control of herself

Take a moment to see Daryl through her eyes. He’s kind in times of need, but genuine when he’s upset. What he said about Sophia not being his problem, that was hurtful— but true. He also introduced the idea of starting over very uniquely: “Fuck the way I was.”

And this next part can be difficult to understand, so bear with me. Ed took control away from Carol. She was weak, helpless, and pathetic to him— she needed him to survive. Even the people who tried to protect her from Ed reinforced that concept (although with best intentions and you can’t fault them).

With Daryl, the control over her life was put back in her hands. She could start over, and she could be tough when she had to be. And that’s a heavy burden and it hurts to know that she could’ve saved her daughter if she’d done more to prepare Sofia better to protect herself before her life was on the line.

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But for someone who had gone through years of abuse and feeling like she had no control, this was empowering in a weird way. She had more control over what happened than she thought. And while she couldn’t change the past, there was always the future. Her connection to Daryl and his honesty was the final catalyst for her growth.

There’s a large time skip between the fall of the farm and their discovery of the prison, and she goes through a lot of development in that time. She learns to rely on herself and displays loyalty through doing more than being someone to protect. She did the protecting then, and Carol was just starting to discover that she was good at it.

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And one of the most powerful scenes for Carol’s transformation is at the prison. Talking to another survivor, she said that she’d like to think that if Ed walked in that door and told her to go with him, she’d tell him to go to hell.

But she knows she wouldn’t (or at least she fears she couldn’t).

The building blocks of her survival are supported by the fact that she was abused. She learned what inaction costs through abuse. She learned to seem harmless and get people’s guards down through abuse. And she learned to read people because she always had to anticipate the next attack from her husband. These symptoms of abuse are now her weapons for survival, so she can’t remove one from the other.

And abuse never goes away. As an abuse survivor myself, I can say that the emotional cuts turn into scars and stay with you. Trust becomes difficult and all that much more necessary. This insight from Carol explains quite a bit down the line, so hang onto this too.

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The prison is where Carol really latches onto the idea of saving the future by learning from the past. She teaches the children how to fight under the guise of storytime – not because she fears repercussions, but because she knows Rick won’t approve of why she’s doing it.

He understands, and she knows he does, but he’s not accepted it yet like she has by then. Considering Rick family as she does, she trusts him but isn’t afraid to do things for everyone’s benefit (even if they don’t like it).

It escalated after that to the point where she’d confirmed that she’d killed Karen and David to protect the rest. In a later conversation with Rick before her exile, she tells him that he doesn’t have to like what she did, and she didn’t, but he had to accept it.

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Action does not mean victory.

At this point, Carol is taking her life by the horns. She’s taking control where it had been denied for so long, and she felt she was doing the right thing. But then the disease spread anyway and the prison was lost. Even though she took action, the end still came. This was Carol’s first failure after taking control to prevent people she cared about from dying.

And then she was exiled by Rick, only to come back and end up with Tyrese, Lizzie, Mika, and Rick’s baby, Judith. Still on edge after losing the community she was with, Carol tries again to restore her sense of belonging with this smaller portion of her family.

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And we know how this goes. This was the harsher reminder to Carol that you have to do terrible things for those you love and more recently, that even if you try, you can’t save everyone. Lizzie and Mika were substitutes for the daughter she couldn’t save. Only Lizzie couldn’t handle the world the way it was, and she ended up being a danger to Mika and anyone else she met.

When Rick asked her at the prison if there was anything she wouldn’t do for these people, and she said no. If killing Karen and David wasn’t evidence enough of that, this scene drives that home. Carol has lived a life of pain and she’s willing to be hurt time and again for the chance at a life of being safe and loved.

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But she hits rock bottom at that point. Tyrese had sworn he was going to kill whoever killed Karen and David for several episodes by then, and I don’t think Carol told him for the sake of being honest. She was hoping he might kill her and put an end to the pain of repeated loss of who she loved.

But Tyrese really turned that around on her. After what he’d seen her do, angry as he was, he forgave her. Carol had unknowingly been a role model for him even just then. As much as it pained her, she killed Lizzie because it was the right thing to do.

And as much as it hurt him to lose Karen, he forgave Carol because that was also the right thing to do. She was surprised and touched by this— at last, a success in keeping someone she cares about through her protection by making tough calls.

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Fast forward to her rescue!

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Recently reassured that she was on the right path of showing love through indomitable strength, Carol wrecks this joint singlehandedly. She covers herself in walker guts, explodes the barriers, and murders anyone fool enough to get in her way.

But it’s her conversation and fight with the mother, Mary, that leaves a mark on Carol. Mary tells her, “You could have been one of us.” Mind you, this is after Carol shot her in the leg. Carol is in the middle of reclaiming her family, showing the world she will stop at nothing for the life she wants— and then this cannibal who was going to kill and eat her family says she could be one of them.

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It doesn’t phase Carol on the surface, at least, and she lets walkers into the room to eat Mary alive. Then, after finally getting back with her family, Rick and the others, Carol is rewarded for the devastating brutality she wrought by having her family back.

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Go to Alexandria.

And then comes their arrival at Alexandria. Carol becomes her sweet, mild self from the beginning of the series minus the nervousness. But no one would suspect her of being a killing machine, and that’s what Carol wanted.

These people were not her family. She didn’t trust them and to better watch them, she was willing to assume the persona from the very beginning of this analysis: the quiet one in need of protection.

Her interview includes her saying, “I sort of became their den mother, and they were nice enough to protect me.” This was her plan from the moment she knew the interviews would be happening. Carol would do anything for this group and she acts on her own instinct (not teamwork).

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But this is also the beginning of Carol’s realization that she still isn’t happy with this. To protect people, she feels she has to destroy anyone who threatens them— only remember that she knows that you can’t save everyone either. When the Wolves attack, her confrontations with Morgan and the sheer devastation finally hit home with Carol.

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She had grown to care about the people of Alexandria, even from behind her guise as timid homemaker. And she couldn’t save them for all the fighting and killing she’d done. Pair that with Morgan telling her during the fight that she doesn’t like killing, and Carol had a lot to think about.

Even the budding romance she’d started with Tobin in Alexandria… he said after the fight that she could do things “that just terrify me”. She had become someone else after losing her first family, and now she had the chance to reflect on if that was someone who she wanted to be.

One of the lines that stuck with me most at this point was from a conversation she had with Morgan, where Carol said: “I don’t trust you, but I never thought you were lying.” Carol was capable of love and belief in others, but she couldn’t bring herself to trust anyone. They were potential threats, all of them. And that wasn’t what Carol wanted.

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By season six, when Carol and Maggie are being held captive, Carol’s charade as the “nervous little bird”, as Paula from the Saviors called her, was part charade and part reluctance to be the other self she’d built up.

When Paula was the last one still alive there, she said to Carol:

“You’re good… Nervous little bird. You were her. But not now, right? … If you could do all this… What were you afraid of, Carol?”

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To which Carol answers:

“I was afraid of this.”

She’s seen the fear that she instills in others, and it scares her now too. Carol doesn’t want to be a killer, but there’s another part to what Mary of Terminus said that speaks to her situation fairly well: “You could’ve listened to what the world is telling you!”
She finally decides to leave and strike out on her own, and the reason she gives in her letter is, “I love all of you here, I do, and I’d have to kill for you. And I can’t. I won’t.”

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But then the world speaks to Carol again, to mimic Mary’s quote, and she encounters bandits who were after Alexandria. And when she realizes in a panic that they mean to kill people, she tries to follow in Morgan’s footsteps and stop them. But she doesn’t have the skills he does, and she can only follow what she usually does.

Get their guard down.

Kill them all.

Her bond with King Ezekiel and their personas for the apocalypse played a tremendous role in her recovery at the Kingdom. She had Morgan to help her connect to her brutal self (not much different from his own) and the King to help her realize that this persona had its uses— just as his did— and that it didn’t take away from her true self in any way.

Morgan’s descent into aggression is timed with her own coming to terms with the various aspects of who she is— victim, survivor, and den mother. And in season eight, I expect Carol will be able to fight with her full force but love with all her heart as well (platonically and romantically).

But I look forward to seeing the show air again and get the canon story at last!


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