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The Lion and the Lamb

Chapter Text

The Lion and the Lamb

Prologue

Jack Wynand of rural New York took a long draw on his cigarette and sighed heavily, the smoke from his mouth emitted as a dense cloud. The trip to see his cousins in England had been sudden and he was still getting used to the fact that he was leaving the US for the first time, along with his state and even the farm. The ride to the airport had been interesting, what with all the sights to see. He had never seen so many people together in one place before. Trips to the nearest town from his family's farm had been rare, and it wasn't that big of a town anyway.

Taking his cigarette out of his mouth and flicking it to get rid of excess ash, Jack took out his wallet and flipped it open. A picture of himself and his parents looked back at him, their smiling faces bringing back warm memories. He smiled back as he gently rubbed the picture with his thumb before closing his wallet and putting it away. It was time for his present.

His parents had given him the package just before he had boarded his plane, telling him to read the attached note.

It read: To Jack with love, from Mom & Dad. Would you kindly not open until 630 2' N 290 55' W. An odd note to be sure. Jack had requested an atlas at the beginning of the flight. He had been able to calculate how long it would take the plane to reach the coordinates, and it was about that time.

Opening the box, he found himself squinting to see what was inside. Flicking on the overhead light, he froze as he saw what was within the present: A revolver and another note.

The gun filling him with an icy fear, Jack took up the note and read it.

Would you kindly hijack the plane and crash it into the ocean.

What? Why would….

Something clicked in his head, and the why didn't matter anymore. His body seemed to act before his mind had completed sending out orders. Tossing the box into the aisle and raising the pistol, Jack stood up and leveled the weapon at the stewardess. The pistol felt like a natural extension of his arm, like he was familiar with using it, even though the only guns he had ever touched had been his father's rifles and shotgun. Just behind her was the cockpit, where the pilot and copilot were. All he had to do was get by her, kill them, and fly the place into the ocean. Just as he was ordered.

As the stewardess cowered against the wall and begged him not to kill her, Jack became aware of something behind him. Suspecting that one of the other passengers was trying to get the drop on him, Jack turned around to confront them.

There, standing right behind him, was a young woman, but she was no passenger. Her clothes were dirty and torn, spattered with blood and grease and torn in several places. Her face, beautiful as it was, was bloodstained as well, and her blue eyes…the only word to describe them was haunted.

She looked him dead in the eye, and then spoke.

"Save us, Jack."

L&L~L&L~L&L

Jack awoke with a start, his heart hammering in his chest.

Confusion set in for a moment as he looked at his surroundings, then he remembered where he was and why. He sighed loudly, jumping when it came out like a whale's call. That's right, the modification, or mauling, of his vocal cords. Yet something else to get used to.

It was only a few days ago, yet it felt like a lifetime. Three days ago, he had been an American farm boy on his way to see his English cousins. Now, he was the pseudo-king of a ruined underwater metropolis who had begun life as a science experiment/weapon and had killed his way to the top. A few hours earlier, he had arrived back at Tenenbaum's from killing Fontaine/Atlas and after dinner, had fallen into a very deep sleep. From that first splicer all the way up to Frank Fontaine himself, he had become the undisputed apex predator of Rapture.

Between the Rapture Welcome Center and Point Prometheus, there was a trail of bodies that marked his path. Only a few had names: Dr. Steinman at the Medical Pavilion, Peach Wilkins at Port Neptune, Martin Finnegan, Silas Cobb, and Hector Rodriguez at Fort Folic, Andrew Ryan in his office at Hephaestus, Sander Cohen in his Mercury Suites Apartment, and Frank Fontaine at the highest point of Point Prometheus. That didn't take into account all the Thuggish splicers, Leadheads, Nitros, Houdinis, Spider splicers, and Big Daddies he had killed. In the genetic jungle that Rapture had become, he was King. A lion among hyenas.

Maybe part of the reason he was top dog in Rapture was the fact that he wasn't really human. After conception, he had been taken from his mother's womb and artificially grown by Tenenbaum and Suchong. Accelerated growth and memory implantation had replaced a normal childhood, along with who know what else. He was scarily proficient with firearms, could hack Rapture machinery like no one's business, and his affinity for plasmids and gene tonics was amazing. He had spliced whenever he could and so far, he wasn't showing any symptoms of ADAM sickness. And if the behavior of Rapture's inhabitants, before and after splicing, was typical of human beings, then he was definitely something else.

The only people who had escaped his wrath had been the Little Sisters. Taking pity on them, he had cured them of their condition, freeing them and turning them back into little girls. Getting only half the available ADAM from them had been a good price for keeping his soul (if he even had one).

Rubbing his eyes, Jack sat up and straightened his back, a round of soft pops ringing out. Stifling a loud grunt, he turned and set his feet on the floor and looked around.

Tenenbaum was asleep in her room, a little girl cuddled to her chest. Jack had no idea how to feel about her. She was responsible for the discovery of ADAM and thus the destruction of Rapture, for the existence of the Little Sisters, and for his upbringing and condition. She had also known about the trigger phrase, and while it wasn't clear if she knew that Atlas was really Fontaine, she still didn't do anything to stop that. Also, his vocal cords were now mutilated to the point where he sounded like a dying whale.

On the other hand, she had been rescuing Little Sisters before he had arrived in Rapture and she had been the one to give him the Little Sister Cure plasmid. Without that plasmid, harvesting the Little Sisters would have been his only option. The ADAM and other supplies she had provided more than made up for the ADAM shortage from saving them, plus her voice over the radio had reminded him that he wasn't alone in Rapture, both before and after Atlas' betrayal.

She had a lot to make up for, but at least she was on the right track.

Most of the other little girls were fast asleep on the multiple beds set up around the safehouse. They all had a tendency to sleep two to a bed. Considering all they had been through, it was more than understandable. Behind the main support pillar, he could hear a couple of voices conversing in whispers along with some flickering lights.

Jack got up and walked over to the support pillar. He was wide awake and not going back to sleep any time soon, plus the girls had taken a shine to him. He was probably the only adult besides Tenenbaum that they trusted not to implant an ADAM slug in their abdomen or to rip it out. They were definitely adorable little things, their lapses back into their Little Sister programming more sad than anything else.

Peering around the corner, Jack spotted the girls. There were three of them, grouped around something on the little table. Surprisingly, they were ignoring the toys spread around them on the floor in favor of whatever it was on the table. Peering closer, Jack saw tears forming in the eyes of the little blond girl. If there was one thing that tugged at his heartstrings, it was a little girl crying.

Glancing around the room at the sleeping girls, Jack made the quietest grunting noise he could. Talking was practically impossible now, not that he did much of that in the first place, but still.

When the girls all looked up at him, he recognized them. The blond girl was the final one he had saved in Hephaestus, one of the brown-haired girls had been saved in the Fighting McDonagh's, and the other had been in Fort Frolic. Odd that the Little Sisters all looked somewhat alike before they had been cured, their natural features revealing themselves afterwards.

"Mr. Bubbles!" the blond one whispered-shouted. Jack cringed and held one finger to his lips. Tenenbaum wouldn't be happy if they woke everyone up.

"Sorry," the blond whispered. Jack smiled and nodded before craning his head like he was trying to get a look at whatever it was they were poring over.

They all made room for him to kneel down. It was an old poster, likely something from Rapture's heyday.

"We were looking at the pretty lady," the first brunette explained as he picked it up for a better look. The first face he recognized was that of Sander Cohen's. He suppressed a shudder before moving on to the rest of the poster, only to freeze in shock. There, on the poster, was the young woman from his dream. The dream itself was obviously a memory, but that last part with her, that had to be a dream, part of his subconscious going weird on him, right?

The girl was even more beautiful without the bloodstains on her face and clothes. Presenting…Elizabeth, the poster read. Cohen's New Songbird! "You Belong to Me" Available in Stores Now!

His hands shaking, Jack set down the poster and took a deep breath. This had to be some more weird brain stuff going on, right? Who knew who he knew in Rapture before Suchong and Tenenbaum screwed up his real memories with his fake ones.

"Mr. Bubbles, what's wrong?" the other brunette asked him, concern in her blue eyes.

Giving his head a good shake, Jack picked up a piece of blank paper and a crayon from the table. He wrote "Who?" on it and then pointed at the young woman.

"That's the pretty lady," the blond girl explained. "She saved me from the bad man a long, long time ago."

Jack raised an eyebrow. Someone else had faced off against Atlas to save a Little Sister? What if she was still alive? "Alive?" he wrote down and then waited patiently for the girl to sound it out.

Tears reappeared in her eyes again. "No," she choked out. "She gave the bad man what he wanted, and he…he," her jaw shook so badly that she couldn't talk. Jack hurriedly leaned down and hugged the little girl before she could begin bawling. She instead cried softly in his shoulder, soaking his sweater.

"She helped us too," the first brunette piped up. When Jack looked up at them, the other brunette continued.

"She helped us to turn scary monster into Mr. Bubbles." Jack raised an eyebrow at that. "Not you Mr. Bubbles, other Mr. Bubbles."

Jack patted the blond girl on the back as he considered what he had been told. This girl, "Elizabeth", had helped Little Sisters before being killed at the hands of Fontaine himself. Who was she, and why had she given her life to save a Little Sister? From what he knew of Rapture before its current state, the Little Sisters were seen as a commodity or resource, not as people. Had she been the blond girl's mother, her aunt, her older sister?

And why had she appeared in his dream? Was she a friend of Tenenbaum's, someone who also saw the Little Sisters as something to save instead of use? Maybe she was someone he knew in Rapture before leaving? Who and what was she? Did it really matter when she was dead now?

"Save us, Jack." He remembered her voice from his dream. Save us. Not just them, me too. Well, he had nothing better to do at the moment. Down here, he had nothing but time.

The blond girl was done crying now, pulling away and rubbing her eyes. Jack patted her on the back and waited for her eyes to clear before writing more.

"Where?" he wrote before pointing at Elizabeth.

The blond sniffed loudly. "Po-Poppa Suchong's Free Cl-clinic," she managed.

Jack raised an eyebrow. He hadn't seen any corpses there that looked remotely like her. Then again, it had been a "long, long time ago".

"She's in a secret place," the blond girl answered his unasked question. "Only I know where."

" Save us, Jack."

He was silent and still for a long moment, and then he wrote once more on the paper.

" Show me please."

Chapter Text

Chapter 1: The Songbird

Jack took a breath as he exited the bulkhead from Olympus Heights to Apollo Square, and promptly gagged, just as he had the first time he visited. The stench of burning garbage, human refuge, rotting corpses, and stagnant sea water mixed together to create a smell that could curdle vinegar.

Jack found himself missing the helmet for his Big Daddy suit. He had abandoned the horrendous thing in the elevator to the highest floor of Point Prometheus. It had been horribly hot and the viewport had limited his vision in the proving grounds, but at least it would have provided some protection from the stench.

Shaking his head to clear it, he hefted his shotgun and moved forward. He had endured Apollo Squares' stink before, along with the more lethal facets of the place. At least this time he wouldn't have to worry about his plasmids changing on him every few minutes. The random plasmid thing that had started up with the first dose of Lot 192 had actually been interesting, forcing him to think up ways to use the one plasmid available to him at the given moment, breaking him of that habit of exclusively using just one or two powers. Still, plasmid versatility was one of the best things in his arsenal.

Jack passed by the corpses of the splicers and Big Daddy from his first trip. He didn't encounter any splicers until he came to the actual Square. Once one of Rapture's transportation hubs, the area's proximity to the slums of Artemis Suites had turned the industrious tram stop into a dump. Just like last time, a couple of Nitro splicers were examining the bodies that hung from the gallows in the middle of the square. The "Gene Traitors", evidently the victims of a splicer-witch hunt, dangled on their ropes while the Nitros tried to dislodge them in order to pilfer whatever their pockets had to offer.

Jack opted to hypnotize a passing Rosie Big Daddy, bringing the hulking workman to his side. A few connecting shots with the pistol at the Nitros was all it took to send the Big Daddy at them. Watching it alternate between shooting them with rivets and bashing them with its gun, Jack made a note to thank Tenenbaum for giving him the plasmid. It was a great help, with the exception of that one time when his Static Discharge tonic went off right when he was standing too close to the hypnotized Daddy.

He hadn't been prepared for the plasmid to instantly wear off and for the Rosie to attack him. It had just taken a few rivets to the back and one to his head to send him to the nearest Vita-Chamber. He made sure to never have Hypnotize Big Daddy and Static Discharge active at the same time after that.

Once the splicers were taken care of, Jack and his new companion headed to Artemis Suites, the actual living space for Rapture's working class. The stench was the worst there and at Hestia Chambers. A "Baby Jane" splicer was making fun of the corpse with the camera, likely a partner of the paparazzi man who had enabled him to gain access to Fontaine's penthouse. A flick of the wrist with a polyps of Security Bullseye brought a swarm of Security Bots to take her out, courtesy of the Security Camera in the middle of the Suites.

The Big Daddy's protective instincts for him came to an end moments after the Baby Jane went down, rumbling and turning to walk away. Thinking of the money and inventing items that he could get off the body, Jack flicked his wrist again, siccing the security system on his former ally.

While the camera's alarms blared anew and the Rosie roared at the attacking bots, Jack leaned back against a support pillar and watched the fight. It wasn't that he enjoyed watching the Big Daddies die, quite the opposite. They were easily the most benign of Rapture's inhabitants, only killing to defend themselves and the Little Sisters. In fact, they were the most like himself, altered and conditioned to be tools instead of men. Killing them for inventing parts, money, and research photos was necessary for his survival, plus it was basically mercy killing. They had to be beyond miserable in their current states, and there wasn't a Big Daddy cure plasmid.

A few Security Bullseye polyps later (one of the best strategies for taking them down) the Rosie came crashing down with a defiant growl and high-pitched wheeze. Ducking to avoid the spinning rotor of one of the bots, Jack moved forward to pilfer the spoils of a hollow victory. Pocketing the money and slipping the parts into his bag, Jack then knelt by the Rosie and patted its head.

Tenenbaum hated the Big Daddies, calling them "brutes" and "golems". He would too, if it wasn't for the Little Sister who would usually be crying over this scene. Their presence had never failed to make guilt surge through his heart, like he had murdered their father or something. Mindless slaves they were, they still protected the girls, and that separated them from the splicers.

Sending up a quick prayer for the soul of the unfortunate creature to anyone who was listening, Jack stood and turned up the stairs to the second floor.

After he had crept up the stairs, he took up position by the Little Sister vent across from Suchong's Free Clinic and scanned for splicers. After a few minutes of hard looking and listening, satisfied that there were no splicers in the immediate area, Jack took out his wrench and gave the vent two hard whacks. A moment later, the blonde girl poked her head out from the vent.

"Hello, Sir Bubbles!" she greeted him, holding out her arms. Jack gently took her underneath the arms and lifted her out of the vent and onto the ground. As she began to cautiously walk to the clinic door, clutching the pieces of a doll to her chest, Jack trailed behind her, hoping that this wouldn't turn into another escort through the proving grounds. Frankly, the fight against Fontaine with his overly-strong powers, security bots, and splicer allies had actually been easier than protecting the little normal girl from wave upon wave of splicers. Honestly, he should have gotten an ADAM reward from her at the end, even if the only thing he would have gotten from that last Gatherer's Garden were Health and EVE Upgrades.

At the door to the Clinic, the girl peered through as it automatically slid to the side. Jack joined her. The hacked camera and turret in the main room and the one outside would have kept splicers out, but it wasn't bad to be too careful. As unlikely as it was for an uncoordinated, idiotic splicer to disable and hack the security measures to be in their favor, especially with the outside one remaining unhacked, it wasn't impossible.

When neither of them saw anything that could be a threat, they entered. A couple of new bodies had added themselves to the mix. Jack picked up the little girl and shielded her eyes until they were past them. Just because she had been draining and drinking blood from corpses for about a year, that didn't mean she needed to see a dead body. She pouted at him when she was set down before moving to the other wall.

"She's behind here!" she announced, pointing to a section just beside the entrance to the hall to Suchong's office. He hadn't really noticed it last, just a section of the wall that had been repaired with boards, some pipes poking through them vertically.

Jack examined the boards, frowning at their strength and the quality of their placement within the wall. Whoever had done this had taken great care to make sure their work was top-notch. Down here, there were only extremes to the quality of products created and services rendered: They were either shoddy, as no one could really go anywhere else for better, or they were incredibly well-made or well-done, following Ryan's ideology of excellence-only to the T.

Seeing that it would take a Big Daddy to rip out the boards and its drill to get through the surrounding repairs, Jack opted to use explosives. Something he had learned early on in Rapture was that proximity mines were best used when they were grouped closely together. The first time he had tried to use them, he had set them up in a line, intending for the Big Daddy he was targeting to run through them. Unfortunately, he had spaced them too close together. When the first one had gone off, the rest had exploded one after the other in a chain reaction, ending with the next to last one exploding right in front of him. He had been blown backwards like a rag doll, only for the very last one to go off as he was flying over it, throwing him straight up. Amazingly, he had still been alive and in agony when he hit the ground, only for the Rosie to rush forward and shoot him repeatedly. That had been a dumb way to die.

Since then, Jack would group several proximity mines together so they would create a far larger blast when they went off. One of his favorite tactics was to put mines on an object, preferably an oil barrel or an oxygen tank, and then telekinetically throw it. Telekinesis was easily one of his favorite plasmids.

Setting up three of his mines on the boards, Jack picked up the little girl and hurriedly put her in the restrooms after thoroughly checking them. Back when the girls had been Little Sisters, he hadn't needed to worry about hurting them while fighting their Big Daddy. Any damage they sustained during the fight was almost instantly healed, something he had been a little jealous about. Now, they were little girls, and susceptible to injury and death, especially in Rapture's ultra-violent environment.

Once the girl was a safe distance away, Jack loaded a frag grenade into his launcher. From what he knew about explosives, and it wasn't much, the frag grenades were misnamed. Instead of throwing out a cloud of shrapnel, they simply exploded. "Concussion Grenades" would have been a better term, but it didn't quite roll off the tongue. Concuss grenades? Nah. Frag grenades it was.

Putting himself diagonally across the room from the mines, Jack aimed down the launcher's sights as best as he could. Whoever had made this thing hadn't made aiming it very comfortable. He was able to approximate where the grenades would land pretty well, so he hadn't really worried much about accuracy with the launcher. This time was pretty different though. Usually when he wanted to set off an explosive at a distance, he simply shot it with one of his guns. He would have done this now, but considering how well the repairs had been put into the wall, another explosive to the mix wouldn't hurt.

Taking a breath and letting out it like he would with the crossbow, Jack squeezed the trigger and let the grenade fly. He ducked behind the dividing wall in the middle of the clinic just before the blast rang out. A smaller explosion followed, adding to the smoke and dust that billowed through the air. The cause was revealed by the remains of the turret landing right next to his cover, sparking and smoking. His ears ringing from the explosion in the small space and his coughs sounding like his larynx were made of corroded metal, Jack peeked out and smiled when he saw that a hole large enough for him to squeeze through was now available. It was smoking around the edges and the pipes were now ragged bits of metal to cut himself on, but it was passable.

"Mr. Bubbles?" He looked over to the restroom door to find the girl peeking out at him. "Can we go to the pretty lady now?"

He nodded and she fully emerged from the restroom, walking over to the new makeshift door. Jack followed her, pausing by the turret. The turrets had been well-made, but when they finally did go down, they were really broken. He was able to scrounge some bullets from the remains before following her.

He made sure that she didn't hurt herself going through the hole in the wall and took care himself, though it didn't stop him from ripping a hole in his suit on one of the jagged pipes. Inside there was a short passage with another hole in the opposite wall, this one much larger and cleaner around the edges. The first had likely been like this one before it had been repaired. Once the blond girl had stepped through, she began running and disappeared into the dark.

Uttering a loud moan that should have been a loud "stop", Jack began to hurry after her, cursing in his head. Why did kids have to do stupid stuff like this, running off in the middle of a dangerous city? Had he been like this when he was a…oh. Never mind.

Squeezing through the second opening (his Big Daddy suit was bulky), Jack began to hurry after her. He stopped short when his eyes, quick to adjust to Rapture's darkened halls, caught sight of something. Right in front of him was a Gatherer's Garden machine.

Despite their wares, the plasmid and tonic vending machines always creeped him out a little. The two girls by their sides were parodies of the real Little Sisters, their oversized heads and contented expressions mocking the fact that the Little Sisters were ADAM slaves. For all his talk about freedom, his father had no qualms about turning others into slaves; the Big Daddies, the Little Sisters, and the splicers themselves.

Shaking away thoughts of his massive hypocrite of a father, Jack turned down the hall and began to hurry after the girl. More Gatherer's Garden machines lined the hall, broken and looted, their wares long gone. This place had apparently been a dump for the machines. As if one of them hadn't been unnerving enough. At least they weren't spewing out their annoying little jingles.

" My daddy's SMARTER than Einstein, STRONGER than Hercules and lights a fire with a SNAP of his fingers. Are you as good as my daddy, Mister? Not if you don't visit the Gatherer's Garden, you aren't! Smart daddies get spliced, at the Gardens!"

He snorted as the advertisement played though his head. Thank God the Big Daddies didn't splice. That would be the stuff of nightmares, and so many more trips to the Vita-Chambers.

He spotted the girl at the end of the ruined hall, kneeling besides a body propped against a large window looking out over Rapture. From outside, the city didn't look so bad, beautiful even. If only it wasn't for the sad pair at the window to dispel the awful truth. He hurried towards the girl and the corpse.

As he approached, his vision grew hazy and gray, a stray memory from his ADAM appearing as ghosts to him and him alone.

Five men stood around in a half-circle, waiting for something. Two of them stood off to the sides, the remaining three facing the hall. One of the three was restraining a struggling little girl, a Little Sister.

"Hey sister, over here," the man in the middle said. Jack started as he realized that he knew that voice. Atlas, Fontaine's Irish alter ego.

A ghostly young woman walked through Jack, making him jump. That was a first. Apparently, the ADAM that gave him this memory was from one of the five men present.

The ghostly Little Sister tried to run forward, the man restraining her going to one knee to better hold her still. She continued to struggle against him.

"Do you have it?" Atlas asked as the young woman came up in front of him.

"I have it," she affirmed, a note of finality in her voice.

"Give it over, then," Atlas ordered. "I'm keen to get this brat off me hands."

The young woman removed a slip of paper from a pocket, handling it like she'd rather not be touching it.

"You know what?" She began, "Andrew Ryan said I was a rube. But he was wrong." She held out the paper to Atlas. He started for it, staring like it was the keys to Heaven. "I'm not the rube, Atlas"she continued, flipping the paper up and out of his reach. "You are."

The other two men closed in, like they were expecting her to run or something. One of them, the one on the left, seemed to be wearing an odd mask. She glanced at them both and there was a scoff in her voice as she looked back to Atlas.

"Now, we both know what happens next." She held the paper out again, allowing Atlas to take it this time. "Just get it over with," she finished. Atlas turned back to his men and held his hand out to the remaining one.

"Well, love…" the man handed Atlas something. A wrench. "If you insist." With a grunt, Atlas brought the wrench up and struck the woman on the head, hard. Jack gasped loudly as he watched the ghost crumble to the ground, dead or not, he couldn't tell.

The Little Sister decided to bite the man holding her back. She ran off into the shadows as he howled, holding his hand. The others began to run after her.

"Don't bother with the brat," Atlas ordered. He was eyeing the paper greedily. "We'll catch up with that little one sooner or later."

Atlas turned to the window, unfolding the paper while smiling the whole time. As his eyes swept over it, they turned from satisfaction and joy to confusion and then panic. On the ground, the girl groaned and tried to get up.

"What is this?" Atlas rushed over to her and shoved the paper in her face. "It's just a buncha gibberish!"

The girl went down again, the blow winning out over consciousness.

Atlas got angry. "What does this say, you little whore?", he roared, his accent slipping at last. "Hey…hey, hey, hey!"

The woman looked up again, her cranial injuries obvious in her movements.

"What does this say?" Fontaine insisted.

It took a moment for the woman to focus on it. When she spoke, she was breathless from pain. "It says…" Her eyes finally seemed to focus. "…'Would you kindly'."

Jack's breath left him, the familiar words bringing a chill up and down his spine as his hair all stood on end. This was where his part in this sad story had truly begun.

Fontaine brought the paper back up and smiled down at it before standing back up and turning towards his men.

"We've got the activation phrase," Atlas' accent slipped back into place better than a genetic key into its slot. "Now all we've got to do is get that genetic freak of nature on an airplane, and Rapture's ours."

He glanced back down at the woman, and with another loud grunt, brought the wrench back down on her head. She collapsed and laid still.

Colors came back into Jack's vision as the ADAM memory ended. He just stood there, processing the information, before walking over to the little girl and the corpse by the window. He kneeled down before and studied the young woman responsible for his return to Rapture.

Despite the decomposition that time had wrought upon her, he could still recognize the young woman from his dream and the poster. Unlike most of the bodies he had come across in Rapture, there were no ADAM growths or tumors on her, not that he could see anyway. The killing wound was apparent by the trail of dried blood down her forehead. She must have had enough strength to pull herself over to the window and sit against it after Atlas left before she died.

This…this was all her fault. The deaths of all those people on the airplane, his fear when he arrived in Rapture, the physical pain of being shot, slashed, and attacked, the emotional pain of Atlas' betrayal and manipulations, and the mental pain of learning his true origins, she was responsible for all of it. If she had just left well enough alone, he would still be topside, blissfully unaware that his home and parents were all a well-constructed lie.

Glaring down at her, Jack got to his feet and turned around. He had seen the woman responsible for the blond girl's escape from Atlas, now he was going to wait at the exit for the girl to get tired and want to go back to Tenenbaum's. Tomorrow, he was going to get to work on escaping from this damned city, leave it and every corpse and splicer in the place to rot on the bottom of the sea.

Just before he was about to enter the hall, he noticed something on the floor to his right, leaning up against the wall. It was an audio diary. Summoning it with telekinesis, he grabbed the thing out of midair. Judging from the thick layer of dust, it had been sitting there for a very long time. The diary had originally belonged to "Lonnie Lobley", an older man with white sideburns and moustache and two of the coldest eyes Jack had ever seen. The diary was titled "Don't Piss Atlas Off". Jack clicked it on with a clacking whirr as he headed to the exit.

Atlas' voice came through: "Two weeks."

A moan followed. "Uhn…what?" It was the woman. Elizabeth, he remembered. Her name was apparently Elizabeth.

"You've been down two weeks, love." Atlas replied as Elizabeth coughed. "Feckin' doctors. Better off hirin' a million monkeys." Jack couldn't help but snort at that. It came out as the strangest sound he had ever heard from a Big Daddy.

Elizabeth finished coughing. "Our deal was to break you out of prison. What, did you expect me to win your war for you too?"

"I'd tend to your own knitting if I were you," Atlas replied. "Now darlin', being that you were Suchong's lab assistant and all, why not tell me where me Ace in the Hole went to?"

Jack stopped short at that. Elizabeth had been Suchong's lab assistant? Ace in the Hole, that had been what Fontaine had called him in Ryan's Office. Had she been involved directly in his creation? And she had apparently let Atlas out of some prison? Man, she really got around down here.

"I don't know what the Ace-" Elizabeth started.

"As I said," Atlas interrupted, "I'm no doctor. But that doesn't mean I don't find the field fascinatin'. I keep up on all the medical journals and the like."

"I hope you have someone to help you with all the big words," Elizabeth retorted. Jack let out a Big Daddy's version of a guffaw. It sounded like a whale gagging on an anchor. Elizabeth may have been Suchong's lab assistant, but she had a sassy streak.

"You know what part a' the brain free will comes from, stubbornness?" Atlas continued. "The pre-frontal lobe. Now, I think it's fair to say, you're a bit of a stubborn one, are ya not? Man named Steinman taught me this. He's a bit of a lunatic, but a fine surgeon."

Jack rolled his eyes. Only in Rapture would it be ok for a lunatic to also be a surgeon. Now that he thought of it, Steinman was likely responsible for Atlas' facial differences from Fontaine's.

"He calls this little trick a 'transorbital lobotomy'." Elizabeth's breathing picked up at that, like she was suddenly scared. What was a lobotomy? "Take a hold of her lads."

"You're wasting your time," Elizabeth protested.

"Now, if you can't remain still, I can't be held responsible for what comes next," Atlas said, the mockery in his voice twisting Jack's guts. Elizabeth sounded like she was tied down and attempting to escape. Her fear was audible in her rapid and panicked breathing.

"Here we go," Atlas said. Grunts of pain had come into Elizabeth's breathing. "You feel that? I'm moving…the pick…across your eyeball-ah!"

…What the hell?

"Still now, and restin' it on your skull," he finished. Holy freaking crap.

"There's about a bit over a quarter of an inch of bone between the pick and your pre-frontal lobe." Damn it, the man sounded like he was teaching an anatomy class. Hearing this madman talking in Atlas' voice was making chills going up and down his spine. How had he once considered the possessor of that voice to be a friend and ally?

" And that's where this little fellow comes in."

"I don't-" Elizabeth began to protest. She was interrupted by a resounding ping and her cry of pain.

Atlas shushed her like he was comforting a child. "It was just a wee tap, but I don't expect it'll take more than a few of those to reach the meat. And then we might find you a bit less the mule. Where's me Ace in the Hole?"

" I don't know. All right?"

Atlas didn't even wait for her to get done. "You know what else rests in the lobe? Creativity."

" Wha-" Ping! "Ah!"

" Individuality."

Ping!

" Ah!"

" Personality"

Ping!

" Ah!"

"In short, everything that makes you, you," Atlas finished.

Jack had jumped at each ping, imagining a sharp pain behind his eyeball boring into his skull and towards his brain. He had known that Fontaine/Atlas was a manipulative, heartless son of a bitch, but this was a whole new level of evil. Elizabeth's pain was obvious, her breathes labored and fast.

"Ah, I'm just about through now," Atlas crooned. "Last chance, pet. Where…is…the Ace…in the Hole?"

Elizabeth did the one thing that Jack wasn't expecting: she laughed.

"Or what?" Jack could almost feel Atlas' surprise through the audio diary's speaker.

"What? You'll put a hole in my head and take away my memories? You want me to forget all this? You want to make me not care anymore?" A sardonic, mocking edge had come into Elizabeth's voice, something that somehow chilled him more than Atlas' sadistic mockery.

" Go ahead. You'll be doing me a favor."

What…what on Earth had she been through to make her sound like that, to make her wish she could just forget or not care about anything? Didn't she have something worth fighting for, living for?

Then again, did he?

With a roar of frustration, Atlas…did something, it sounded painful, like bones were being broken. "Bring in the monster!" There was a sound of him hitting something, likely Elizabeth.

"You're a regular hero, ain't cha?" There was the accent slipping away again, Fontaine's disguise disappearing with his temper. "Can't risk rippin' the only part a' you that's worth a damn. Well, there more than one way to fry an egg."

Atlas' Irish lilt came back as a familiar sound came in. The double-toned crying of a Little Sister.

" Now, little one…are you familiar with the term 'trans-orbital lobotomy'?"

Jack found himself clenching the audio diary. If that son of a bitch had tortured a little girl, he was going to burn his corpse. Even if a Little Sister could heal the damage instantly, they could still feel pain.

"No…please, let her go," Elizabeth pleaded.

"It's a simple matter," Atlas ignored her pleas. "All I need do is insert this pick into your eye…."

"No…please….Please." Elizabeth was frantic now, begging for the girl. "I don't know anything. I-"

"…and give it a few taps with me hammer." Atlas was not messing around, Jack could hear it in his voice.

"I don't know anything!" Elizabeth screamed.

"Better to show by example." Atlas was going to torture a little girl to get his Ace in the Hole.

Elizabeth was full-out screaming and begging now. "Oh, please! Please don't. I—I don't know anything. I—I don't know! Please!"

With a loud crack, the audio diary broke in Jack's hands, he had been clutching it so hard. The pieces of the diary and its tape slipping through his fingers, Jack collapsed to his knees and just shook.

He jumped when a small hand gently patted him on the back. He looked up at the blond girl, who was smiling at him even as tears slid down her face.

"She saved me," she said quietly. "The pretty lady kept them from hurting me."

Jack felt his anger for Elizabeth melt away, and he hugged the little girl, tears pouring from his own eyes. Whatever Elizabeth was, whatever she had done or seen to make her the woman who told Fontaine to go ahead and stick a pick into her brain, she had enough humanity to care for and save an innocent little girl. And for that, she had been bludgeoned to death.

Since he had arrived in Rapture, all he had seen was a ruthless selfishness, with little to no concern for the innocent, other than to protect them for how much they were worth to one's own interests.

With a start, he realized that the splicers had once been people. People, yes, with all their flaws and crookedness, but people all the same, most of which had come down to Rapture just because they had wanted a better life. Thanks to the evil devices of two men, they had been brought down to the same level as a rabid animal, to kill or be killed. And he had forgotten that simple fact, forgotten that they had once been people, and had begun to see them as animals to be put down. They were victims, all of them, victims that had been caught in the uncaring jaws of this horrible metropolis. And he had forgotten that, and had nearly lost himself in slaughtering them, in making little games for taking them down and killing them.

After letting out his sorrow for Elizabeth, for the little girl in his arms, and for the city, Jack leaned back and smiled at the girl, his nose desperately needing a tissue. He desperately wished that he could thank her without sounding like a freak.

"It's alright, Mr. Bubbles," she said brightly. "The bad man who hurt the pretty lady is dead now, and he won't hurt anyone ever again."

Jack nodded fervently. Glancing down, he noticed that the girl's doll was still in one piece. After he had saved her, he had used a touch of his Incinerate plasmid to reattach the doll's head to its body. No, he hadn't completely lost himself to the slaughter. If he had, if all he wanted was more ADAM to get more plasmids and tonics to kill splicers more easily, he would have straight up harvested the slug from the Sisters. His father was right in one regard: He had made his choices, but his choices had made him.

And he was a savior, first and foremost.

Standing to his feet, hand in hand with the little girl, he walked back to Elizabeth's body. Reaching down, he very gently closed her eyes. If she wasn't in the advanced stages of decomposition, she would have appeared to be merely sleeping.

"Thank you, Elizabeth, for helping me to come here and save them," he thought. With the little girl still at his side, he turned back to the entrance and began walking away.

It was between the two walls that he found another audio diary, which he had missed the first time going through the passage. It was by Deacon Krueger and titled "What a Stink". Jack flicked it on.

" God, what a stench! I'm in here, repairin' this damn hole in the wall, and they haven't even moved Suchong's corpse from his office! Yes, he's been drilled to his desk, good riddance, but is it really that hard to rid of his body? Just send in Steinman or someone to cut him up and take him out. If it's this bad out here, I can only imagine what it'll be like when I fix up the false wall in his office, hide away that big, secret lab he's got in the back. I peeked back there earlier and there's a lot of weird stuff, like this big glass tube called a Vita-Chamber or somethin'. Ryan's payin' me to keep my trap shut and my hands to myself though. Hopefully, the smell of money will get Suchong's stink out."

As the audio diary whirred down, Jack's mind was whirring to life as did hope in his chest.

If Suchong had a secret lab behind his clinic (Mad scientist much?) with a Vita-Chamber, it was likely that it was the prototype, the first. It would therefore be easier to modify, to gain access to whatever part stored the information for the genetic frequencies of the individuals it would bring back to life.

Jack looked back towards Elizabeth's corpse and smiled. He was great at taking life; it was time to see if he had just as much talent at saving it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Mad Science

Suchong's body was still drilled to his desk, right where Jack had found him the first time. Before he could shield the little girl's eyes, she walked right past him into the room and up to the desk. She glared at Suchong for a moment before rearing her head back as far as it could go and then blowing a very long raspberry at him. Jack snorted and patted the girl on her head.

An idea popped into his own, and he smirked wickedly. After shooing the little girl to a safe distance, he snapped his fingers at the impaled corpse with a glowing-red hand, setting it alight with a flourish. A posthumous "screw you", in place of what should have been an utterly one-sided beatdown. Then again, this was probably better than cold-blooded murder.

"Ooh, marshmallows!" the little girl squealed in delight. She clapped her hands over her mouth in confusion, while Jack just gave her an odd look. What…the hell had the Little Sisters been conditioned to see and say? That was wrong, in so many ways.

Brushing away his amazement at how Rapture never failed to shock him with its unique mixture of depravity and insanity, Jack moved past the desk with its flaming corpse and studied the opposite wall.

This Krueger fellow was meticulous in his work. The cabinets and oven had been set into the wall with the same care that the repairs in the hole in the wall had been placed. The wall itself had been another story. Either someone else had been brought in to color it, or Krueger's expertise lay entirely in repairs and cabinets. It was an off-white color, obviously done with subpar materials, and there was black mold growing over it now. The first time he had come through looking for the second dose of Lot 192, he hadn't even looked that hard. He had only eyes for the vial of bitter-tasting liquid that would give him back control over his plasmids and put some color back into his vision.

Stepping around the glass on the floor, Jack studied the divide between the two halves of the room. The glass, likely a two-way mirror, had separated the room into a doctor's office complete with desk and bookshelves, while the other half was part of a laboratory. The door to the laboratory part was heavily padlocked, which was way more than the rather small collection of chemicals and supplies warranted, especially for a scientist of Suchong's caliber.

Jack approached the wall, noting its uniformity. Taking out his wrench, he began methodically whacking the wall with it, listening for any differences in the resulting impacts. In the middle of the wall, there was a notable difference from the rest, running from top to bottom. Making a mental note to buy more proximity mines at the next Circus of Values to have them, Jack laid out his last three, one just above the counter, one close to the ceiling, and one right in between.

Going back to the desk, where Suchong's makeshift funeral pyre had gone out, Jack motioned for the little girl to take cover behind it along with him. Once they were in position, Jack loaded the launcher with a frag grenade, aimed it, and fired, ducking down as soon as it had left the barrel. He shielded the little girl's body and ears as best as he could.

The blast was much louder this time thanks to the even smaller space. A cloud of obliterated wall plaster and mold burst out from the impact, settling over the rest of the office in a foul-smelling cloud. Snorting to get the noxious particles out of his nose, Jack stood and observed his explosive handywork.

Sure enough, there was a room behind the false wall, which had apparently been a large, two-door entrance to the laboratory. Jack glanced down at Suchong and sneered. Mad scientist to the end: A secret lab, no sense of morality or empathy, an inflated ego, and death by one of his own creations. Cohen could have used the guy for the mad scientist role in his movies; no need to act, just film him going about his daily routine, making horrifying abominations of science and performing bizarre experiments.

The little blond began coughing from the debris. Jack leaned down and gently patted her back until she was done.

"Thank you, Mr. Bubbles," she managed once the foreign particles were out of her lungs. She looked over at the shards of glass littering the ground, and then held her arms up to him. "Uppsies?"

Jack indulged her, lifting her up to sit on his shoulder while he walked over to the newest door in the place. A nice vertical slit had been blasted in the wall, revealing where the old one had opened up. Setting the little girl down on the counter, she poked her head through the gap and looked around while he struggled to get on the surface with all of his equipment.

"There are no bad men, Mr. Bubbles," she said once he had gotten up on the counter. Jack carefully lowered himself through the hole, gently picking up the little girl and setting her down on the floor once he was in. Smiling up at him, she took his hand and began to lead him forward.

The tile floor was patterned just like a chess or checker board, both of which were favorite games of his. Cables crisscrossed across the floor, cabinets had been left open after being ransacked. Someone, likely Ryan's employees, had been in here after Suchong's untimely demise, getting his stuff to a safe location for further research. From the lack of blood, no splicers seemed to have come through here. Still, he tightened the hand that the little girl had a hold of and readied his Sonic Boom plasmid in the other.

After going down a small ramp, Jack found himself walking through a few inches of freezing water. A swipe through it with his free hand and a quick lick confirmed that it was indeed sea water. Jack picked up the little girl again and deposited her on his shoulders, her wet feet dribbling water onto his suit. Ignoring the cold water that saturated his shoes and pant legs, Jack soldiered on.

The window that lined the hall after he turned to the right wasn't the source of the leak. Jack couldn't help but jump as a large, streamlined shadow swept across the hall towards him and vanished. Of all the sea life that passed by and through Rapture, sharks unnerved him the most. Fast, cold, and calculating, they were the epitome of the perfect predator, more so than the larger fish or even the squid or octopi. What better creature could hope to personify his father's philosophy than they?

At the end of the hall was a door and one of those chalkboards with wheels. Jack approached it cautiously, glancing down the hall as it continued to the right again for any threats. Spying none, he turned his attention to the board's chalked contents, which had miraculously survived the moisture.

* Cognitive Conversion * Subject is to undergo a series of  Reconditioning Therapies

Jack felt a chill go up his spine, like how the Winter Blast plasmid did his hands whenever he used it. Beneath the title was a diagram of a human head with the brain prominently outlined and filled in. Two sections of it were made note of: The prefrontal cortex and the visual cortex. Underneath a blank space where something, a photo maybe, had been was a formula he didn't recognize along with more text.

Note—All therapies have been  outlined  in notebook 11A.  Strict guidelines  have been provided.

Jack knew the nature of what was sitting behind that door. What shape it would take, he didn't know. Taking a breath, he walked up to the door and waited for it to slide open.

The door slid up, allowing the shallow water that filled the hall to flow in. Stooping so the little girl wouldn't hit her head, Jack entered the room and looked around.

Almost immediately, a torrent of memories surged through Jack's head. Whatever had been used to make him forget, it was starting to break down. He could remember when his eyes had first looked out upon the world, reaching up to a man and woman, Suchong and Tenenbaum, crying to be picked up. He remembered them standing over him as they poked him with needles to give him the hormones and nutrients necessary to accelerate his growth far beyond normal. He remembered them putting a strange helmet on his head and new things filled his mind, teaching him concepts, words, shooting, hacking, and other things. He remembered cuddling a cocker spaniel puppy and loving it with all his heart. He remembered Suchong testing out the trigger phrase, forcing him to kill his beloved Lucy. He remembered Tenenbaum injecting him with a final needle, going to sleep as Jack, and awaking as Jack Wynand.

With a snap, Jack was back in the present, breathing hard and leaning heavily on the room's desk.

"Mr. Bubbles!" the little girl cried from his shoulder, "are you ok?"

Jack nodded vigorously to dispel her fears before taking her off his shoulders and placing her on the desk. He could remember the room clearly now, and beyond the obvious cracks, small piles of rubble, and few inches of water on the floor, it was exactly the same as before. The desk with its bookshelf and cabinets for documents and storage were right in front of him, where Tenenbaum and/or Suchong made notes and prepared the next round of "treatments". His old bed was right where he had last seen it, the sheets rumpled, the "learning hat" as he had called it right above the pillow, the television set flickering above it, and the medical bag where Tenenbaum had drawn the needle that made him forget it all on the surgical table at its foot. In the back was a sink and the door to the bathroom/examination room. This was the place where his life had begun, and where it had been stolen from him.

"Mr. Bubbles, look at this," the little girl held a piece of paper to his face. "It has Mama Tenenbaum's writing on it!"

Jack took the paper and read it. It was a letter from Tenenbaum to Suchong.

Suchong, of all the things I know, I know this. It is in your power to be different man. What can Ryan take from us that we have not already sacrificed at the alter of discovery? They are children, Little Sisters, and yes, they will forget. But you and I won't…. The memories of what we have done fade only with the dimming of all lights. -Tenenbaum

Jack gave the letter back to the little girl and looked back down the hallway to Suchong's office. What would things have been like if he had joined Tenenbaum instead of continuing down his path? Would Jack and the Little Sisters have been able to forgive him? Had he truly forgiven Tenenbaum for the part she played in creating them and him?

He had no idea, and right now, he had other things to worry about. Picking up the little girl again, Jack ducked out into the hall. He looked back as the door slid down, giving his first home and prison one final and silent farewell. From there, he moved forward.

Another ramp brought them out of the water, and Jack could let the little girl roam around without getting her feet wet and catching a cold. After passing through a large room with hooks hanging from the walls (Jack ignored them as best as he could and hurried along), he found what he had been looking for.

"Vita-Chamber. Stage-1 Prototype," the signs on it announced. The sides to it lacked the ornate curved decorations that had been on the ones out in the city. It was basically just a big glass tube that spat out sparks and arcs now and then. On the adjoining wall was a chalkboard. Above and to the right of the Vita-Chamber's diagrams were notes. Suchong must have loved to put up reminders for himself and/or his assistant; either he himself was forgetful or he thought his assistants were pretty stupid. That certainly wasn't the case for Elizabeth from what Jack had seen and heard.

" Vita-Chamber"  Project—Ryan Industries.

A combination of  plasmids  reconstructed within a field of  quantum entanglement  results in fantastical  restoration  properties.

Fantastical? Now that there was a funny word.

I have fast-tracked this project for immediate mass production and distribution throughout Rapture—This completes  Stage One .

They had really done a good job with the distribution part. There had even been a Vita-Chamber in the smuggler's tunnels between Port Neptune and Arcadia.

Note—All chambers must be tuned to  Andrew Ryan's  specific  genetic frequency  before proceeding with distribution.

Thank God their genetic scanners weren't reliable. As Sullivan had put it, "anyone in the ballpark genetically" could bypass those. At the time, he hadn't really thought about that. He just figured that maybe a distant relative was in Rapture and had managed to get on Ryan's good side. In his defense, he had been focusing on survival at the time, plus he had only known about his "English cousins" a short while.

Before getting to work on the Vita-Chamber, Jack decided to have a look around for any tools or other information that would be useful to him. There was an island in the next room, overseen by a security camera. Jack easily hacked it before moving on to rest of the place.

This seemed to be the atrium of Suchong's secret lab. From the chalkboard, it was apparent that he was studying some girl. Alongside a chart featuring dashes and the letters A, C, G, and T over and over was a partially erased DNA helix and an outline of the girl. Over the helix and outline, Suchong had written "Imprinting Solution NOT Found in Genetics". Interestingly, the audio diary that Jack had found with Suchong's body had revealed that the scientist had been having trouble with getting the Big Daddies to imprint on the Little Sisters. A problem that he had unknowingly solved, unfortunately for himself.

On the other side of the board were some chemical models and more notes, none of which pertained to the Vita-Chamber. There was a clipboard with Suchong's logo on it along with what looked like some kind of code. Jack decided that he would try and solve if he had to.

There was a huge screen next to the camera, showing a view of an area that Jack wasn't familiar with. It was centered on some strange new device, something he hadn't seen before. From the static and the flickering, he was just barely able to make out the words "Bad Juju" written in either blood or paint in front of it. Huh, intriguing but not helpful.

On the island alongside an audio diary was a jar labeled Subject Hair Sample along with some papers featuring genetic formulas, notes, and outlines. They had been written on in angry, red pen: No Genetic Link and No Goddamn Causality.

Apparently, Suchong had been trying to use one girl and her genetic code to get the Big Daddies to imprint on the Little Sisters. Either something else was responsible for the bond between the Daddies and the Sisters, or he had succeeded with the genetic imprinting and it had just taken a while for it to set in.

Jack picked up the audio diary after examining the jar and papers. There was no name or picture on it, and its date was January the 14, 1959. Jack clicked it on, and a newly familiar voice came out of the speakers.

" Well, this is it. I've done all I can, done some horrible things, and some amazing ones. How many people can say that they've traveled to a parallel dimension to run errands for a mad scientist? Even if the hair sample I took from Columbia was genetically identical to my own, I did it. I didn't create a paradox by interacting with my past self and Booker, and I learned a few things."

Elizabeth sighed heavily, mental and physical exhaustion evident in her voice.

" When I came back to Rapture the first time, I thought that there was a chance that I would find a way to beat Atlas, Fontaine, whatever his real name is, and get away with Sally. It's like Rosalind said, 'Trading croissants and omniscience for death and mildew'. There's no way I'm getting out of this, no version in which I win out over Atlas. All I can do now is hope that somehow, someway, Sally is saved. That sounds more like…a miracle."

The diary came to an end with a whirl. Jack almost reverently took the cassette tape out of its diary and put it in his bag next to the others. He wasn't sure of what Elizabeth had meant with some of the things she had said, but she had gone forward to Atlas, even knowing that she was going to die for…Sally.

Hearing someone sniffling, Jack turned to find the little blond right behind him. She was crying again, her huge sky-blue eyes looking up at him, the doll clutched in her arms.

Putting the dots together, Jack picked up a piece of paper and took a pencil out from his bag. He scribbled the word "Sally?" on it and then showed it to the little girl. She cocked her head after sounding out the name, and after a few moments, her eyes brightened and she smiled even as more tears poured from her eyes.

"Sally", she whispered happily, "that's my name." She looked like she would pop with happiness. "That's my name!" she cried, joyfully.

Jack raised a finger to his lips in warning. The little girl-no, Sally, clapped her hands over her mouth and looked around fearfully. When nothing came out of the shadows to menace them, she dropped her hands behind her back and rocked back and forth on her heels, smiling the whole while. He smiled down at her and patted her head before moving on.

The first piece of good news was that Sally remembered her name. Not many of the former Little Sisters could. The second was that he wouldn't have to get a gene sample off of Elizabeth's body; he had a hair sample of hers, though he wasn't sure what exactly had been going on with her, getting it, and this Columbia place. Maybe he could ask her all about that when she was back.

The last room was larger than the others and focused on Big Daddies. Another clipboard with an encoded message lay next to a grease-covered drill, the spread of the stains from the oil onto the counter revealing that it had been there a long time.

Bouncer suits hung from the ceiling on more hooks above a sort of dais, revealing that their use wasn't as macabre as Jack had originally thought. The body of one was displayed behind a glass casing in the opposite wall, like some kind of weird zoo exhibit. For some reason, Jack had always wanted to go to a zoo and see the different animals. Maybe it was a childhood desire that the conditioning hadn't quite wiped out?

Another chalkboard had a complex diagram of a Bouncer's drill along with engineering notes.

Issue: Hydraulic fluids/gases within drill cause subject to become  unreliable, unstable.

Huh, did Suchong mean the drill or the Big Daddy when he wrote "subject"?

Launching option to be  removed  from drill in future models.

Launching option? At one point, the Bouncers could launch their drills like projectiles? Hell, that would have made them just as bad as a Rosie, maybe even worse. Using the drills laying around the lab as projectiles, that likely would have taken him out in one shot. It would only be one shot, thankfully, unless the Bouncer had a way of retrieving the drill, like a cable or a magnetic device….

Jack shook away his thoughts on improving Bouncers. Who in their right mind would want those things improved, especially after having fought and killed a lot of them?

At the very back of the room was a locked door. It was one of the traditional ones, with a handle and a lock, not one of the automatic ones that made up the majority in Rapture. Jack figured that if worse came to worse, meaning a splicer mob, or a bunch of crazed Big Daddies, or Fontaine, or the ghost of Andrew Ryan himself, he could just break down the door and make a getaway with the gir—with Sally. Dang, it was going to be hard remembering to call her that.

Before turning back to loot all the cabinets and gather everything he might need, Jack noticed an audio diary laying in a locker. He couldn't help but roll his eyes at this point. Some of the diaries he had come across had been made for their owner's ears only as audio memoirs or reminders. Only a few, like Elizabeth's, had been meant to be found and played for other ears.

The audio diary was by the con artist himself, Frank Fontaine, on November the 1st, 1958.

" Suchong, what the hell were you thinking? Drinkable plasmids? We're burning through ten times the amount of ADAM compared to the injectables. And if you failed to notice, them sea slugs ain't exactly growin' on trees. Switch back to the injectables and let the eggheads in marketing worry about selling it to the chumps."

Jack couldn't help but snort, no matter how guttural it sounded. It was funny to know that Suchong had gotten in trouble with Fontaine over something. He could imagine the earful that Suchong was getting down in hell from Fontaine about how his weaponized slave had turned out. Now that was something to smile about.

The thing to frown about was the fact that there weren't any of those drinkable plasmids left. Remembering the pain of sticking his needle into his arm (he had kept the first one from his Electro-Bolt injection for hygienic reasons), he pushed down his sleeves to reveal the scars left on his arms from injecting ADAM and EVE into his body. They were big, circular, gaping things, testaments to how big his ADAM needle and the EVE hypos were. Thankfully, he preferred long-sleeved shirts, so they weren't easily noticeable. Had the EVE been drinkable too? Damn, that would have been so nice.

Now that the area had been secured and searched, and his weapons, bag, and suit left on the island, he could begin work. Sally sat on the pneumo in the atrium and swung her legs while watching Jack gather and organize the stuff he had managed to find in the cabinets and drawers. Diagrams and notebooks that had either escaped notice or had been ignored for some reason. Parts and tools that weren't needed or wouldn't work with any other projects. Suchong was like a packrat, holding on to everything and anything and making a huge mess, but that was perfect for this situation.

Gently opening up the sides of the Vita-Chamber with the help of the tools and diagrams he had found, Jack carefully analyzed the components of the device, making note where each removed part went after taking it out. For once, he didn't have to go on a district-spanning search to find the pieces he needed. No chlorophyll, distilled water, and bee spit for a Lazarus Vector. No pictures of dead ex-disciples for a mad artist's masterpiece. No dangerous parts for an EMP bomb. No turning himself into a bigger freak than he already was to get through a door.

Nope, none of that. Just him, his tools, blueprints and notes, parts, and a device to modify and fix. This wasn't work; this was actually fun!

Once he had located the genetic scanner, he painstakingly removed the hair sample from its jar with a pair of bent needle-nose pliers. He then carefully and meticulously maneuvered the strands into place within the component, his hands steadied by the hacking tonics active in his genes. Once the hair was in place, he put the parts of the Vita-Chamber back together, working quickly but skillfully. He wasn't sure if it was the tonics working or his learned knack with hacking, but he was good at this…what kind of job was he performing?

A mechanic, he was acting as a mechanic. He liked it.

Smiling at this satisfaction of a job well done (hopefully), Jack wiped the grime from his hands and moved the tools and other things off to one side. If this brought Elizabeth back from the dead, he preferred she didn't stumble over his mess when she got out of the chamber.

Sally joined him when he had finished moving the miscellaneous clutter off to the sides, cradling her doll and smiling up at him. Blue eyes suited her so much more than glowing yellow. With the machine in front of him, ready to be turned on, Jack smiled back at her and held up his hand, two fingers crossed over each other. Sally mirrored him with one hand, and he grinned. With a flourish, he re-connected the Vita-Chamber with the power, turning the most amazing of Rapture's machines back on.

With a flash, a single arc of bright lightning appeared in the chamber, lighting up the room like a beam of sunlight that had survived all the way down to the ocean floor. Jack and Sally were forced to cover their eyes from the intensity of the light, which burned even without their long sojourns from the surface. The afterimage that flashed across their eyes in the resulting dark of their eyelids and crossed arms was that of a young woman within the chamber, standing up and alive.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: A Second Chance

Oblivion wasn't that bad, as Elizabeth had learned.

After the darkness had blotted out the green light coming in from the window and the odd glow from the back of Sally's eyes, it was peaceful and quiet. She couldn't feel or move her body, she couldn't smell or taste anything, she both existed and she didn't. There was nothing but herself and the calm of the void.

For the first time since Booker had literally crashed into her life, Elizabeth was at peace. Serenity, tranquility, no violence, no chaos, no death, and no guilt. Her role in the play was at an end, and she was fine with that. Not that she really thought about anything anymore, but that didn't really matter. It was over.

So it was with some shock when the world exploded into chaos, first light and then color blazing through her vision. With a whoosh of nonexistent wind, she was pulled inexorably and rapidly from her resting place, through the Gatherer's Garden dumping ground, through the clinic's waiting room, by Suchong's decomposed corpse, through the false wall, down the twisting hall of his secret lab, by the odd examination room, and into the large, glass tube.

With a jolt, her body came back into existence, energy pulsing through and around it. She could feel every atom in her body vibrating as she was made whole once again. Her cuts sealed, the dent in her skull and brain smoothed out, and the hole behind her left eye filled in with bone. Life coursed through her veins, and she remembered her will to survive, to live.

The process took a mere instant and then it was over. Elizabeth stood in the tube, gasping for breath as she tried to comprehend what had just happened. Realizing how confined the tube was, she hurriedly shoved it open, breathing hard and fast as her heart pounded in her chest like a Motorized Patriot's Crank Gun. She wavered in her stance, muscles trembling from a massive adrenaline surge as she tried to simply balance herself and think.

"Wha-what's going o-on?" she managed as she carefully stepped out of the tube, one hand to her head as her eyes tried to adjust to the sudden light.

"Pretty lady!" Something latched onto her legs and Elizabeth almost kicked it off before realizing that it was a little girl. Realization dawning, she gently moved the child back and looked down into a pair of eyes as blue as the sky, framed by sun-yellow hair.

"Sally!" she cried, kneeling down and engulfing the girl in a hug. "You're safe, you're safe," she repeated, the little girl's arms wrapping around her as far as they could go. Elizabeth could feel tears falling down her cheeks from relief and happiness, and she could feel Sally's getting her blouse wet.

Looking up, Elizabeth saw him.

It was the same man from her vision just before her death, only the light was shining on him instead of outlining his silhouette. He was young, the small amount of residual fat on his high cheek-bones putting him at maybe a year or two older than her. He was broad-shouldered, his form speaking of strength and fortitude. His hair was a dark-blond, its tousled state giving him a rather boyish look. His green eyes were intelligent and wary, a fusion between those of a predator's and a prey's. His large hands hung at his sides, clasping and unclasping like they were restless and needed something to do. Unlike in her vision, his white sweater and pants were ripped and dirty, stained with blood and grime. The rips and tears revealed either bandages or scars, a testament to whatever dangers Rapture now held.

Releasing Sally, she stood and took a few steps towards her savior. She stopped in front of him, her eyes never leaving his face. His hadn't either.

"It's you," she finally managed. "You're him, the Ace in the Hole."

He grimaced when she said, the nickname likely bringing up something painful.

"Sorry, that's all I know you by," she said quickly. She held out her hand. "My name is Elizabeth…DeWitt," she decided. She had only begun calling herself Comstock when she had learned that he had begun going by Booker DeWitt again. "It's good to meet you, Mr….?"

The Ace smiled now, white teeth shining in the light. He shook her hand, which was swallowed up in his own. His grip was strong, yet gentle, his control and awareness of his own strength evident in his every move. He remained silent though.

"Can you not talk?" she asked after he let go of her hand. His smile disappeared, replaced by sorrow. He raised his head and lowered the collar of his sweater with his hands, revealing a massive, fresh scar over his Adam's apple, which was absent.

"Oh God," she said, her hands covering her mouth in horror. "I'm so sorry," she finally managed.

The Ace nodded and shrugged, raising his collar again. Stooping down, he picked up a sheet of paper and a pencil from the floor. There was a pile of stuff all around the walls of the room: Tools, odds and ends of mechanical and electrical parts, blueprints, and notebooks. He had gone through all this trouble to bring her back from the dead?

He wrote something down on the paper and then handed it to her. A single word had been written: Jack. Looking back up at him, she could see that it was a visually-fitting name.

"Jack, huh?" She glanced around at the mess again. It also looked like he was a Jack-of-all-trades, so that made it even better as his name. "That's a nice name, and it certainly fits."

His smile reappeared, and he ducked his head in silent thanks.

"No last name?" His smile disappeared again, and this time his expression was a fusion of sorrow and confusion, with a dash of anger, not directed at her, added in. He shrugged sharply and turned away, signaling that he didn't want to talk about it. Sally followed him, skipping happily.

"…Ok," she said quietly. She was about to follow, when her nose picked something up. Sniffing, she glanced down at her hand and then brought it up to her face, taking a whiff. She gagged when the smell fully registered. The hand that Jack had shook stank of oil, rusting metal, dead fish, and other rotting organic scents. She hurriedly put her hand down and hoped that Jack didn't notice. She had no idea how long he had been down here, but no one should smell like a Big Daddy. Maybe one had fallen on and then bled out all over him?

He hadn't noticed her reaction to his smell, though Sally had looked over at her before resuming her skipping. Elizabeth followed after them.

On the island where Suchong had left her hair sample, there was half a dozen weapons, a research camera, a wrench, a bandolier of EVE hypos, and a large bag close to bursting with its contents. A Big Daddy suit and boots lay on the floor, propped up against the island. The bag reminded her of the smaller one she had used to store her medical kits and ammunition. It, her guns, crossbow, and air grabber were likely still at Fontaine's Department Store in his office, if they hadn't been raided by some splicer.

Jack was looking at the Big Daddy suit, and then at her. He motioned towards the suit, signaling that it was hers if she wanted.

Elizabeth knelt down by the suit and raised one of the arms. The canvas was very thick, providing protection from both the ocean pressure and from attack, but damn, it was heavy! How had Jack managed to move around in this thing? Either he was uncommonly strong, he had a SportBoost gene tonic, or both.

"Sorry, but I don't think I could even move in this thing," she explained as she got up. Jack nodded and then made the same motion towards his guns.

Glancing over them, Elizabeth noticed that those that weren't cobbled together from spare parts had odd modifications and add-ons attached. Apparently, as plasmids and gene tonics had evolved in Rapture, so had firearms evolved to compete against those who favored splicing over weapons.

Remembering her old weapons, Elizabeth chose the pistol, the shotgun, and the crossbow. The pistol was modified with some kind of accelerator on the barrel and a much larger clip, holding twenty-four shots instead of just the standard six. The shotgun sported some green bulbs and pipes leading from them into the gun, gas whistling from them periodically, along with some kind of plate with gears spinning around in it located right where the mechanism for discharging spent shells from the chamber and loading more was located.

The crossbow was a far cry from the one she had used, requiring two hands to hold and cobbled together from spare parts. A wider, secondary set of limbs was set up in front of the first, its function likely to prevent the bolts from breaking upon impact. A large five-bolt clip rested on top of the firing mechanism and flight groove, the mechanisms inside probably for accelerating the bolt and increasing damage. A lever made it clear that the crossbow could be reloaded much in the fashion of some firearms.

How bad had things become in Rapture that such devices had been added to the guns and other firearms? This would have been overkill in Columbia, except in the cases of the Motorized Patriots, the Handymen, and the Crows.

And even then, he still had those scars and bandages….

Remembering her air-grabber and how handy it had been to simply knock out an unaware enemy without needing to engage them, Elizabeth glanced at the wrench, the rust coloring along its head signifying what Jack had been using it for. She suppressed a shudder as she remembered Fontaine striking her with his wrench, killing her. It felt like it had only happened minutes earlier, instead of who knew how much time had really passed. The adrenaline rush from being resurrected was already subsiding, putting a tremble into her body that she hated.

She wasn't out of the woods yet. Now that she was alive again, and still in Rapture, it was best that she used every weapon at her disposal to ensure that she, and Jack, survived this nightmare. Gritting her teeth, Elizabeth picked up the wrench and hefted it as best as she could, needing both hands to wield it.

While she had been choosing her weapons, Jack had found a large doctor's bag with a sling and emptied it, stuffing it with half of his first aid kits along with the ammunition for each of the firearms she had chosen. That done, he picked up the bandolier of EVE hypos and held them up with one hand. With the other, he brought up arcs of electricity and blue energy passing though his veins, before an open flame of blue and green appeared and his skin grew dark and charred with red heat flowing through it. He then pointed at her, a questioning look on his face.

Elizabeth nodded as she divined his meaning. "Yes, I have plasmids too," she answered. She brought up her own hand, allowing frost to overtake it and ghostly vapors to roll off. She changed it to her first and favorite plasmid, Peeping Tom, her entire arm passing out of the visible spectrum. Seeing that was a relief; when she had awoken in that Room, she hadn't been able to use her plasmids at all. That doctor must have done something to her, something the Vita-Chamber had fixed.

Jack nodded in acknowledgement, taking out five of the nine hypos from his bandolier and putting them in the bag before snapping it shut and giving it to her. She slipped it over her shoulders as he began to wrestle his way inside the Big Daddy suit and getting the boots on over his shoes. Once that was done, he slung the bandolier diagonally across his chest, hung what looked like a launcher and a flamethrower over his back, put his bag on the other way diagonally, and then hefted his Tommy gun.

Elizabeth had her new bag slung over her shoulder, the pistol in a side holster on her opposite side, the shotgun over her back, and the crossbow was ready for use in her hands.

Sally made sure that Sarah was secure in her arms.

"Well, that's interesting," a familiar, feminine voice rang out through the silence.

They all jumped about a foot in the air. Jack pivoted towards the entrance on his way down and fired off two short bursts towards the figures at the entrance to the Vita-Chamber room. Incredulity took over his features when he realized that the two red-headed figures hadn't even flinched from his gunfire or appeared to take damage at all.

"Excellent shooting, but no reward for you sir," the male of the two responded.

Elizabeth instantly recognized the pair. "Rosalind! Robert!" she greeted them, staring with surprise. "What are you doing here? I thought you two were done with me after you dropped me off at the lighthouse."

The ginger-haired Edwardian/Victorian twins glanced at each other and then at her.

"Whatever made you think that?" Robert asked.

"After all, you were the one coming back to the place of your demise, not us," Rosalind chided.

"We are here for one more experiment," Robert started.

"And then we may never bother you ever again," Rosalind finished.

"You mean, I'll never see you again?" Elizabeth asked. The Lutece Twins weren't friends of hers, not by a long shot, but they were the only concrete things she had for a long time. They were both calculating, they had helped Comstock build his nationalist, racist city, they only helped Booker and herself enough to figure stuff out on their own, and they had a manipulative streak a mile wi-.

"Wait a minute!" Elizabeth burst out. "You manipulated me into killing Daisy Fitzroy, you bastards! You turned me into a killer so you could have your revenge on Comstock for killing you!"

The twins had the decency to look a little ashamed.

"To be fair, we were trying to help you as well," Robert replied.

"We were planning on getting you out, across multiple realities," Rosalind added.

"But thanks to the way we were killed, doing the deed directly just wasn't an option," Robert continued.

"Giving up our current state wouldn't have helped matters," Rosalind finished.

A loud groan filled the air, interrupting the conversation. Elizabeth was the only one to jump this time, whirling to find the Big Daddy before it could attack. With another start, she realized that Jack had been the one to make the noise. He gave both Elizabeth and the Luteces an annoyed glare, before holding out both arms in a gesture that plainly said "who are these people and what is going on?"

Elizabeth cleared her throat. "Jack, these are the Lutece Twins, Robert and Rosalind," she introduced them, motioning to each one as she said their names. They both nodded their heads to Jack. "They are…acquaintances of mine, and not all there, both figuratively and literally."

Robert gave her a look, prompting Rosalind to elbow him.

"She's not entirely wrong, you know," she told him.

Robert acknowledged that with a curt nod, and their expressions became schooled to their usual calculation.

"It's good to meet you, Mr. Wynand," Robert spoke, drawing Jack's surprised gaze.

"Or should we call you Mr. Jack Ryan?" Rosalind asked.

Jack's expression turned from surprised again to horror to a firm anger. He glared at the Luteces before raising a finger and slashing it across his throat. It was easy to see that he wanted this conversation over now.

Elizabeth couldn't help but stare at him. He was Andrew Ryan's son?!

He certainly had the high-cheek bones, but the rest of his looks must have been from whoever his mother was.

"As you wish," Robert replied.

"As I was saying before," Rosalind continued, "there might be a chance that you never see us again."

"And with that in mind, we decided that we would conduct one final experiment," Robert concluded. A pillow with a little box appeared in each of the Luteces hand, the latter which they opened. "Lighthouse?"

"Or the Chain?"

"What," Elizabeth couldn't help saying.

"Or perhaps the Lighthouse?"

"Nothing beats the Chain."

They were doing the exact same thing that they had done with the Bird and Cage pendants from before, down to who said what. She could remember the worlds where Booker had chosen the Bird and where he had chosen the Cage. It was amazing that she wasn't insane now, having two different memories of the same event, and many more.

Well, she had lost her pendant in the Big Daddy fight in the Toy Department. She hoped that if there were any other versions of herself that were alive and well, they were about to make the same choice that she was.

Walking up to Robert, she plucked the Lighthouse pendant from its box. "I choose this one," she said, pocketing the pendant when she remembered that she also needed to get a new choker.

"Not surprising, not this time," Rosalind said as she closed her box.

"Didn't even need him to make the decision," Robert noted. "Goodbye Elizabeth, and good luck."

They both nodded to her as she stepped back. The lights flickered above them and then winked out. When they came back on a moment later, the Lutece Twins were nowhere to be seen.

"Goodbye," Elizabeth said quietly. She turned back to Jack and Sally, who were staring at the space the Luteces had occupied moments ago. Rapture had strange things, but the Luteces were their own kind of weird.

"I take it that you have a safehouse that we're going to?" she asked them.

Jack looked up at her and then nodded.

"It's where Momma Tenenbaum takes care of us!" Sally piped up, her smile large and happy. Some part of Elizabeth grimaced at that.

"Well," she gestured to the space left open by the Luteces' departure, "lead on."

Squaring his shoulders, Jack strode forward, reloading his Tommy gun as he went along. Sally was right behind him, skipping along, free of danger with Jack and herself. Elizabeth took up the rear, glancing behind them to make sure no enterprising splicer who had figured out how to open the backdoor would get the jump on them.

Up head by the Vita-Chamber, Jack paused by the wall and looked at something hard before shaking his head in disbelief and continuing on. Elizabeth paused by the same spot and saw what he had: The impact points of his two Tommy gun bursts at the Luteces. Both consisted of three or four bullets, both grouped small enough to have gone through a human head. Had the Luteces been corporal, the bullets would have blown their brains out and all over the chamber room. She had seen this kind of accuracy only once before, with Booker.

At the hallway where the examination room was, which she now realized was likely Jack's, there was a few inches of water. Jack helped the barefoot Sally onto his shoulders. He glanced down at her own shoes and made a face. Glancing down at her feet, Elizabeth could see why: her heels would give her no protection from the water and running for long distances was a no-go. She should probably raid a shoe and clothing store when she got the chance.

"I'll be fine," she reassured Jack. "I was dead just a few minutes ago."

Jack raised a finger in acknowledgement and then began trudging through the water, Sally giggling on his shoulders. She could smell him better now, and he definitely smelled like a Big Daddy. Remembering what she had just said, Elizabeth sniffed the sleeve of her blouse and gagged again. She was in no condition to judge Jack for his stink when she and her clothes smelled like a long-dead and still-decaying corpse.

In Suchong's office, they all stopped by his body, still drilled into his desk, and burned to a crisp. Sally, who had decided to keep riding on Jack's shoulders, blew a very loud raspberry, while Jack rolled his eyes and smiled up at her. Elizabeth just stared down at the impaled and burned corpse.

"I saw this happen, you know," she finally said. She pointed to the fake wall. "I was coming out from there. Suchong didn't see me because of the two-way mirror. He was going on about how he was having trouble getting the Daddies to bond to the Little Sisters. If he had known that all he had to do was get the Little Sisters to give just a little of their ADAM to the Daddies…." she trailed off. "Men like Suchong mistake an ounce of empathy for a pound of science," she finally added, quoting herself.

Jack nodded in agreement, his expression thoughtful. He gave Suchong one last glare before going out the door, ducking down so Sally wouldn't hit her head on the door frame. Elizabeth couldn't help but smile at the scene. The created "monster" was far more humane than his creator or his sponsor, or his real father for that matter.

Outside, Jack stopped at the Gene Bank. Slipping the large syringe out of its holder, Jack played a flame along its needle to sterilize it before injecting it into his arm. The only thing that Elizabeth had ever seen Comstock use the banks for was to purchase plasmid upgrades. The bank worked by first analyzing Jack's genetic code and displaying the plasmids and tonics available to him. Jack then chose which plasmids and tonics he wanted active in his slots. The bank secreted an ADAM-based serum, which he then injected into his arm. The serum would interact with his DNA to suppress the tonics and plasmids he hadn't chosen and allowing him to use the ones in his slots.

It was a pretty good system, perhaps the only smart thing about the whole ADAM/plasmid industry.

"Those used to sell upgrades for drinkable plasmids," Elizabeth told him. "Are any of those still around?"

Jack shook his head and made a jabbing motion to his arm. That made sense, given the newsboard at the newspaper kiosk that proclaimed an ADAM shortage was currently going on. Of course Ryan would switch back to the injectables, quantity winning out over quality in wartime.

It was right at the entrance to the clinic that their first obstacle came up. The security camera completely ignored Jack and the Little Sister, but as soon as she came into view, its green light turned white and the whirr as it turned its cyclopean gaze towards her broke the silence. Before she could jump back behind the divider, an alarm began blaring.

Sally squeaked. "Oh no! Hide!"

Elizabeth instinctively turned invisible, hoping that the security bots still used sensors attuned to the visible spectrum. She almost tripped over one of the dead bodies decorating the floor.

Jack shot right by her, going straight to the gene bank. He fumbled and almost dropped the syringe when the bots flew in the door. Elizabeth crouched by the divider, the bots passing within inches of her. Jack quickly plunged the syringe back into his arm and turned back to the bots, watching them intently.

The alarm ended much sooner than Elizabeth had anticipated, the bots whistling as their target had apparently given them the slip. Jack breathed a throaty sigh of relief before focusing on a spot about a foot to her left and flashing a questioning thumbs-up. Elizabeth slipped back into the visible spectrum and nodded.

"I'm ok," she said, "sorry about that. I take it you hacked that camera earlier and set it to identify splicers as enemies?"

Sally looked down at him from her perch. "Oopsy, Mr. Bubbles."

Jack grimaced and nodded. He held up one finger and went back to the bank, readjusting his genetic code once again. That done, he walked back out into the glare of the security camera and after loading a different ammo drum into his Tommy gun, opened fire on the camera. It went down with a burst of sparks. Jack smiled and waved her over.

Holding up a finger again, Jack walked out the entrance and opened fire on something. Whatever it was exploded, and he signaled her that it was safe. A destroyed turret lay across the walkway from them. Jack glanced around before hurrying over to the turret and searching through its ammo container. Elizabeth followed and alternated between watching their backs and observing Jack scrounging through the guts of the machine. She couldn't help but notice that despite the size of his hands and fingers, Jack was very dexterous with them, deftly slipping the recovered bullets into a drum.

That done, he kept an eye on the ground floor as they walked over to a vent much like the one that Sally had been hiding in at Fontaine's Department Store. Jack gently lifted Sally off his shoulders and placed her in, smiling at her as she turned back and waved at them.

"See you back at Momma Tenenbaum's, Mr. Bubbles, Pretty Lady!" she announced before disappearing back into the shadows. Elizabeth felt a bite of guilt as she remembered how she had flushed out Sally from the first ventilation system with burning heat. She had paid her debt to the little girl in full, but the guilt was still there, and as Booker had once said, she was just going to have to learn to live with it.

The staccato bursts of gunfire interrupted her reverie; Jack was opening fire on a security camera situated on the ground floor in the middle of Artemis Suites. Nodding in satisfaction when the camera finally went down, he went down the stairs first, his eyes watching for possible danger while she watched their trail, making sure no one came up behind them.

She was able to suppress her gag reflex when she smelled the stagnant air of Artemis Suites. Burning garbage and oil, rotting corpses, backed-up toilets, it was worse than when she and Comstock had arrived at the Department Store. She was just so used to these kinds of odors from her own explorations of Rapture and Columbia that they didn't register so much anymore. At least in Columbia, there had been plenty of breezes to blow away the scents of death and decay.

Nothing of any real significance happened until they reached Apollo Square.

Elizabeth had seen the horrifying growths, tumors, and mutations on the bodies they had passed, but seeing the same things on a living being, especially one that had been a person once, was a different kind of horrifying.

She and Jack were hiding just out of sight by the entrance to the Square. She was invisible, while Jack had done the same after standing still for a few moments. It was probably some kind of gene tonic, his shift out of the visible spectrum had been different from hers.

The splicer was walking around, dragging a section of pipe around and occasionally banging it around. From what Elizabeth could see of his face, this one had forgone a mask, the corner of his mouth had ripped upwards, exposing his missing and jagged teeth while putting a horrifying half-grin on his face. The eye on the other side of his face bulged out like insect's, far too large for a human's. His nose was twisted at an angle, enlarging one nostril while the other was practically gone. Odd bulges and lumps in his clothes where there shouldn't be any were present on his arms, legs, and torso. He was muttering about his troubles with the ladies, and how Steinman was going to fix him right up.

With the exception of the Frosty's, most of the splicers at Fontaine's Department Store had been identifiable as such thanks to the cosmetic damage on their faces, and their insanity of course. The genetic damage from ADAM had only gotten worse while she had been dead, time and ADAM rotting their DNA into things barely recognizable as human beings.

She felt Jack stirring right beside her, probably preparing to attack. From the number of fresh bodies laying around, she could surmise that Jack had a similar skillset to Booker. Back in Columbia, she had depended on him to get through their enemies, slaughtering them as they stood in their way, mercy not an option with their fanatic loyalty to their Prophet. That was before she discovered her natural aptitude for stealth and enhanced it with Peeping Tom and experience. Now, she could actually help Jack out with this kind of stuff, her way.

She reached up and settled her hand where she had correctly guessed that Jack's shoulder would be, getting his attention.

"Let me take care of this one," she whispered. "It'll be quick and quiet."

She could feel him pause in thought, then nod his entire body so she'd feel it.

Elizabeth crept up on the splicer, turning invisible when he was looking her way and turning visible when his back was turned. As he went around one of the pillars that supported the Square's roof, Elizabeth crouched on the other side of it, watching his white outline walk around it. Turning invisible as he came back into view, Elizabeth came right up behind him, breathed in and out as she felt hefted the wrench in her hands, and then swung as hard as she could.

The wrench literally bounced off the splicer's head as it made contact. He stumbled forward, holding the back of his head and yowling. Before she could bring the wrench back up for a second shot, he shot around and looked down at her, his eyes a mixture of rage and lust as they settled on her.

"Scream for me!" he roared as he raised his own weapon. It was happening too fast for her to react, he was too fast.

The only thing that Elizabeth could think as his pipe began to descend towards her was "Not again!"

Out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning shot by her and hit the splicer, making him spasm and scream incoherently. Elizabeth ducked to one side, giving Jack the opening he needed. Gunfire erupted as he ran forward, Tommy gun blazing. The bullets impacted the splicer with wet, squishy thunks, his ADAM-riddled blood spraying out of the holes drilled in him. He collapsed after a few short bursts, electricity still arcing over his body as he hit the ground.

Jack hurried over to her, stooping down and making sure she was alright. Her heart was pounding as it pumped blood and adrenaline through her body, her hands shaking as the need to either fight or fly was gone. She nodded to Jack's concerned face.

"I'm fine," she managed. She stood to her feet, his large hand steadying her. "I just…before I died…they weren't nearly that tough. Before, that would have knocked him out cold." She sighed as her heart began to calm down. "Survival of the fittest, and I wasn't that fit to begin with. Splicer were just barely tougher than normal people when the war started."

Jack glanced around before guiding her to a small alcove to the side, where several vending machines made their homes. Jack gave her his wallet before heading over to a machine that she wasn't familiar with. After purchasing some ammo from the Ammo Bandito machine (they didn't sell weapon upgrades anymore, pity), Elizabeth joined Jack at the "U-Invent". Elizabeth remembered reading about the scrap metal drives of the Second World War, which Ryan condemned as a parasitic practice. The U-Invent was apparently the Rapture equivalent; put in a number of scrap and other items, and the machine rewarded the donation with a special type of ammo. Looking over the selections, Elizabeth could only shake her head in amazement at the morbid selection. Not even Columbia had gotten that creative with its weapons.

"Explosive buckshot," she said incredulously. Jack nodded and held out a box of said ammo to her. Elizabeth took it and then sat down, opening her bag and seeing just what kinds of ammo she had. The wrench wasn't going to be as much help as she had originally thought.

For the pistol, there were "normal" bullets, anti-personnel, and anti-armor. For the shotgun, there was 00 buckshot, along with explosive and electric. Someone must have really liked buckshot back in the day. The crossbow had bolts, incendiary bolts, and trap bolts. She wondered if there were any laws on the surface that prohibited these types of ammunition, not to mention the modifications made to the weapons themselves.

After getting their ammunition supplies squared away, Jack and Elizabeth continued on their way.

Glancing at some of the fresher bodies that lay around the Square, Elizabeth pointed towards one.

"Your handiwork, I presume?" she asked.

Jack visibly winced and looked away, an odd look crossing his face. Elizabeth had seen it only a few times before on Booker's face, and later on Comstock's. Shame.

What could he possibly have to be ashamed of?

"Jack," she said quietly. When he didn't look at her, she repeated herself. "Jack!"

When he looked at her, she continued. "You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of." She gestured to the bodies laying around. "It was you or them, your life or theirs. When it comes to survival, there are no real choices."

Jack's expression changed, looking like he had bitten into a sour fruit. He turned and began walking towards the tramway to Olympus Heights. Elizabeth stared after him, breaking into a jog when she realized that he wasn't going to stop. She couldn't seem to stop putting her foot in her mouth around him.

Beyond the crashed tram car and the body of the Rosie Big Daddy, there was nothing worth noting in the tram tunnel to the Heights. Elizabeth noticed the Little Sister needle resting besides the Rosie's rivet gun and couldn't help but smile. The son of the biggest parasite in Rapture had given freedom to the lowest of the city's slaves; A merciful death for the Big Daddies and a cure for the Little Sisters.

The bulkhead to Olympus Heights was entered without incident. When she had first arrived, Elizabeth had sometimes wondered how a city like Rapture could function with such small areas and connections. The answer was simple; it was supposed to have a small population. The issue was that a lot of people had come down to Rapture to work their way up from the work forces to the captains of industry. The problem had been that Ryan hadn't made his city large enough, fast enough, turning places like Artemis Suites and Pauper's Drop into slums, a far cry from the paradise he had promised.

The bulkhead opened up to a Bistro, a rest-stop on Olympus Heights' own system of trams and apartment complexes. Elizabeth had eaten at similar places during her time as one of Cohen's disciples. Figuring out the best places to eat had always been a risky endeavor; either the food was excellent and therefore expensive, or it was terrible and therefore cheap. Finding a balance of the two wasn't the easiest thing in Rapture. The extremes of the two were the norm in Andrew Ryan's paradise.

Elizabeth started towards the Bistro, only for Jack to stop her with an upraised hand.

"What's wrong?" she whispered. He pointed to a destroyed security camera lying right in front of them before holding a hand to his ears. Elizabeth did the same.

No Big Daddy groans, no insane voices in the distance, no whirring of security cameras or turrets. Nothing.

It was the calm that settled in just before hell would break loose.

Jack began going through his weapons, switching their ammo to stuff that would be tactically better for a splicer ambush: anti-personnel Tommy guns bullets, grenades of some kind, and napalm. Elizabeth did as well: anti-personnel pistol bullets, explosive buckshot, and incendiary bolts. Jack cycled through his plasmids as well, mentally preparing the order to use them in. When he glanced over at her, she nodded, showing that she was ready for whatever they were about to face.

Jack raised both his hands and crossed them in an X, and an exact copy of himself, sans suit, guns, bag, bandolier, and apparently bravery, right above the stairs leading up to the Bistro.

With a loud cry of "There he is, get 'im," five splicers shot forward and began waling on the copy with their weapons. Within mere moments, the splicers are waling on each other, their blows and bullets having gone through the dummy and hitting each other. Jack ended the fight by firing a single grenade into the mass of infighters.

Screaming about "brain-dead imbeciles", another splicer jumped out from behind a pillar and threw a grenade right at Jack, who simply brought his hand up. The grenade's path turned from an arc into a straight line, shooting towards Jack and stopping right in front of him. Smirking, he made a throwing motion and the grenade shot right at the splicer, hitting him and exploding.

Elizabeth saw her chance and opened fire with the pistol, aiming for his chest and face. Despite her inexperience with the weapon, it was similar enough to the hand cannon that most of the shots she fired connected, bringing him down.

Jack suddenly spun to the opposite side of the room, glaring at a spot before snapping his fingers and engulfing the Houdini splicer in flames just as she finished reforming. She screamed for only a moment before he fired off a bolt of lightning at her and then opened up with the Tommy gun. Her body fell, still burning and arcing.

"Plan B, boys!" someone yelled out. A blue glob sailed out of the Bistro and struck Jack coating him with a blue slime while glowing insects began to fly around him. Out from behind the sides of the Bistro, multiple objects were tossed out. They landed on the ground, stayed still for a mere moment, and then popped up, each revealing a tiny gun barrel. All at once, they opened fire on Jack, targeting only him. Jack roared with pain as some of the bullets penetrated the thick suit he was wearing.

Elizabeth opened fire with the shotgun, discovering in her panic that it operated like a semi-automatic firearm instead of a pump action. Jack zapped another and shot it until it exploded, running for cover, leading the fire of the miniaturized turrets away from her.

As her turret finally exploded, Elizabeth turned to fire on another, just in time to see the familiar warping effect of a Peeping Tom plasmid wearing off just head of him, revealing a splicer armed with what looked like an elephant gun.

"Jack, look out!" she screamed. Jack's eyes snapped forward, just in time for the splicer to open fire right in his face. The back of Jack's head exploded in a cloud of grey and pink. His running feet went ahead of the rest of him, flipping him on his back. His green eyes, now lifeless, stared up at the ceiling.

Jack was dead.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: The Safehouse

With an enraged roar, Jack burst through the doors of the Vita-Chamber just above the entrance to the Olympus Heights sewers and charged straight for the Bistro.

Damn, cheap-shot Houdini splicer! Shooting him in the face with that monster of a rifle, he was going to tear that asshole apart! Ambushing him with some fancy new turrets, he was going to tear them all apart, show this city why he was top-dog down in this hell!

Jabbing a syringe of medical ADAM into his neck and depressing the plunger, he tossed away the first aid kit and readied his chemical thrower, continuing his roar like an insane Big Daddy. He was mad now. Dying always made him angry, and he was going to give those splicers a taste of their own damn medicine.

Right after he made sure Elizabeth was alright, of course. He could hear gunshots and yelling up ahead, and that didn't bode well. If she died, not only was he going to have to make the trek all the way back to Suchong's to bring her back, but she was going to experience dying violently, again. The only person he'd wish the experience of death and resurrection on was Fontaine, and only if he could do it to him multiple times without having to fight his ugly, naked ass.

Rounding the corner of the hall, Jack spotted a splicer almost immediately and twisted the makeshift handle of the launcher. Fiery napalm engulfed the Leadhead splicer, allowing him to use Sonic Boom to send the screaming mutant crashing into a wall. Another jumped from the shadows, shrieking that he had "earned it" and fanning the hammer. Jack responded with a well-aimed Sonic Boom, which severely hurt the second Leadhead's neck. Colliding with the side of the Bistro completely broke it, finishing the splicer off.

Jack rounded the side of the Bistro, fully expecting to find a crowd of celebrating splicers around Elizabeth's corpse. Instead, he found a massacre in the making.

The Houdini splicer who had killed him was teleporting around, shooting his fellow splicer and screaming "not this time!" Something like a green ghostly woman followed him around, whispering into his ear. Good Lord, that was creepy.

Elizabeth was firing off his pistol nonstop at the splicers, which was amazing considering that the little turrets were firing on her and that she should surely have run out of ammunition by now. A swirling blue vortex surrounded her left hand, which now looked like it was made of gunmetal or something, the individual digits resembling gun themselves. Whatever it was, it seemed to be absorbing the bullets fired at her. Damn, now that would be a nice plasmid to have.

Seeing that the remaining splicers, about six, were occupied by the Houdini and Elizabeth's gunfire, Jack opted to begin destroying the mini-turrets. A few quick shots of Electro-Bolt shorted them out, long enough for him to switch over to electric gel for the launcher. When the turrets came back online, Jack summoned another decoy for them to shoot at, allowing him to finish them off without getting drilled full of holes again.

Elizabeth was able to get behind the cover of the entrance's support pillar with his distraction. He heard her call out his name, sounding surprised and beyond relieved.

The splicers had finally managed to bring down the Houdini and were focusing on beating him to a pulp, much like the group he had found in the Grotto after Langford had sent him after that rose. This time, Jack walked right up to them and Sonic Boomed them all right into the wall besides the Circus of Values machine. Switching to the grenade launcher, he fired off two missiles into the group. Once the smoke cleared, it revealed that they were down for good, and that the vending machine was blackened but otherwise undamaged.

Jack could only shake his head. Even with the Machine Buster tonic equipped, the vending machines were impervious to explosives and other weapons. Thank goodness there weren't any splicer equivalents to negate his Damage Research tonic. Without that, splicers were basically walking damage sponges.

"Jack!"

Turning towards the sound of his name, Jack was surprised to have Elizabeth jump on him and wrap her arms around him. He almost shoved her off before remembering that this was a sign of affection. Blushing at the thought, he brought up one hand and awkwardly patted her on the back. She pulled back enough to face him after a moment.

"I saw that splicer kill you," she gasped out. "How are you alive?"

Grinning now, Jack gently removed her arms (she jumped back a little and blushed when she realized how close they had been) and began rifling through his collection of audio diary tapes. Finding the one where Sullivan was talking about the genetic scanners onboard the bathysphere and how they let close relatives through, he put it in his diary player.

After listening to it, Elizabeth could only snort. "The fingerprint scanners in Columbia were better than that," she muttered.

Jack quirked an eyebrow upwards at that. What was this Columbia she kept mentioning?

Elizabeth noticed his questioning gaze and cleared her throat.

"I take it that the Vita-Chambers use the same genetic keys?" she surmised.

Jack nodded and then brought his arms out from his sides and looked all around, like he was gesturing to all of Rapture. The cameras, the bots, the sphere, and the Vita-Chambers, all of it had been subverted by the DNA he shared with Ryan. He had truly been created for the task that Fontaine had given him.

"The first time must have been…" she trailed off. "Shocking," she finally managed.

That was an understatement in every sense of the word. He nodded very empathetically.

"Well then," she continued, reaching into her bag and taking out an EVE hypo. "I'm out of EVE, just let me…." She pushed down a sleeve and hesitantly inserted the needle into her arm before depressing the plunger.

"OWW!" she shrieked as the huge volume of EVE was emptied into her flesh, quickly leaving her arm and spreading throughout her body. Jack was right beside in her a moment, putting a hand on her back to let her know that he was there.

"Son…son of a bitch," she gasped out at last. "That…that really hurt. I miss drinkable EVE already."

He missed it already too, and he had never even had it. He gently patted her and gave her a questioning thumbs-up. She nodded.

"I'll be fine, just give me a moment," she told him. He gave her the A-ok sign and then turned towards the corpses.

He stopped just before he began going through their pockets. He had felt so dirty the first time he had done that, and then it had become just a normal thing. Kill the crazy splicer and then take whatever they had in their pockets to survive. What would Elizabeth think of that, along with stealing from cash registers, safes, and already-dead bodies?

She came into view at his side. He glanced over at her and felt a shiver of relief go through him as she began turning out the pockets of another body. He turned back to the corpses in front of him and got to work, glad to know that he wasn't the only one to know the cost and meaning of survival. Well, at least not survival at all costs.

After looting the bodies, he continued leading her to the Safehouse. He had to choke back a laugh at the face she made when a draft came up from the sewers. Until he caught a whiff and made a close approximation of her expression, to which she laughed. It was a beautiful sound.

She was beautiful, gorgeous in fact. Despite the dried blood and the grimy and ripped clothes, she was a very beautiful young woman. Her shoulder-length, dark brown hair and dark sky-blue eyes were a nice contrast to her porcelain skin and red lips. The latter two were probably due to living down in the sunless Rapture and makeup, respectively, but that wasn't a detractor. And not that he was ogling her or anything, but she had a really nice form under her clothes from what he could tell.

She didn't just have it good in the looks department either, but in the brains department as well. He could see it in her eyes as she looked around, analyzing everything for possible danger or gain. He had also seen how she had conducted herself in combat after he had died. Instead of panicking, she had turned the tables on their foes by first turning the most powerful of them against the rest, and then negating their turrets with that one plasmid while shooting at them. He had to learn where she got those plasmids; they were beyond cool and useful.

Down in the sewers, there was a thuggish splicer with electricity arcing off his body at the entrance to the Safehouse, banging away at the door with a crowbar and demanding to be let in. He sounded like he thought that his wife had locked him out of his house.

Elizabeth took out his crossbow and aimed. The first shot missed the splicer's head by a few inches and let out a small blast of flame where it hit the wall. The Thuggish stopped hitting the door, looked at the remains of the incendiary bolt and its burn mark, and then spun around, just in time for another bolt to hit him right in the eye. He went down with a groan.

Jack gave her a thumbs-up as they approached the door. He didn't miss her smile, or her blush. He couldn't help but find both cute.

After looting and telekinetically throwing the body away, Jack stood at the Safehouse door. Banging twice on the door and letting out a Big Daddy groan, he waited for them to let him and Elizabeth in.

A few moments later, the Little Sister door opened and Sally crawled out.

"Mr. Bubbles, Pretty Lady!" she sang, jumping up and down in joy. "Everyone is waiting for you!" She opened the main door to reveal a happy sight.

Every little sister in the Safehouse, both the twenty-one he had saved, and the eighteen Tenenbaum had freed before his arrival, were assembled. When they had been Little Sisters, they had all looked alike, save for differences in dresses and hair colors. With the slug gone, they had all reassumed their individual characteristics. Their ages ranged from five to nine, either shooting up in height or shrinking. Racially, they were a mixed bag. Instead of a sickly grey, there was white, black, Asian and others from across humanity's rainbow. Ryan hadn't discriminated by race in Rapture, and he had certainly applied the same mindset when making Little Sisters. Their unwashed faces had their own characteristics once again instead of the rounded shapes with those glowing, yellow eyes.

There was only thing that they all held in common, and that was the smile each of them gave him. They were alive and free, and it was because of him. Jack felt a tightening in his chest like his heart was swelling up or something. Something wet trailed down his face, and he realized he was crying. Dammit, this was embarrassing.

And he didn't really care.

As soon as he and Elizabeth had crossed the threshold and Sally had closed the door behind him, chaos broke out. Sally and four of the Little Sister nearest him, the ones who saved him from Fontaine, ran forward and tacked him to the ground. Jack hurriedly dropped his weapons to the side to avoid a nasty accident, doing it discreetly to avoid hampering their celebration. Elizabeth looked on, tears of pure joy in her own eyes.

"Mr. Bubbles is back!"

"Did you get us any pep bars, Mr. B?"

"No silly, he brought back a princess!"

"She doesn't look like a princess."

"Well he doesn't look like a knight, stupidhead!"

"Don't call me a stupidhead, stupidhead!"

"No fighting! Be nice for Mr. Bubbles and the princess!"

If Jack could laugh without sounding like a beached whale choking on a large fishbone, he would have. When Atlas said that the Little Sisters weren't human anymore, he couldn't have been more wrong. He should have realized right there that Atlas was dirty or at least that he was lying about Moira and Patrick; no true parent wishes harm on another's children, especially a father on a little girl.

"Guter Gott, what is this noise?!" burst out a familiar voice from downstairs.

The girls nearest the stairs parted like the Red Sea before Moses as Tenenbaum came up, looking ready to bust one of her own guts.

"I am about to be calling Jack, and here you are fighting and-" she stopped short when she saw himself and Elizabeth, mainly him though. "And where were you being?" she demanded. "I get up, make medicine for you, and then you are gone. Du Unruhestifter," she added in German.

Sally spoke up from her perch on his arm. "Sorry Momma Tenenbaum. I was taking Jack to see the pretty lady."

Tenenbaum looked back at him, mad now. "And you took her with you!? Verdammt it, Jack!"

"Bad word!" a bunch of the little girls chorused. Jack couldn't help but snort at that. Tenenbaum gave them all a stern look at their own giggles before focusing back on him and Sally.

"What is this about a pretty lady?" she asked.

"There was a pretty lady who saved me from the bad man after…somebody died and they took me." Jack couldn't help but notice that Elizabeth winced at this, like she was remembering something painful.

"The bad man broke the pretty lady until she died, and Sir Bubbles brought her back, and here she is!" Sally announced, gesturing towards Elizabeth.

Tenenbaum seemed to actually notice her for the first time. She drew back in surprise and then surveyed Elizabeth with an analytical eye, noting that she had Jack's weapons and the girls were at ease around her. Well, more at ease than they were around most strangers. He was the one getting dogpiled; they were admiring her from a safe distance, except for Sally.

"Miss Comstock," Tenenbaum began, "I was unaware that you were having a hand in protecting one of my little ones. For that, I thank you." She held out a hand to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth took her hand after a moment and shook it firmly. "You're welcome," she replied. "I couldn't let them hurt her, and besides, I owed her a debt."

Both he and Tenenbaum gave her an odd look. Owing a debt to a child? How did that work?

"And please," she added, "don't call me Comstock. My real name is…DeWitt. Elizabeth DeWitt," she announced, looking satisfied at something.

The mysteries wouldn't stop popping up around her, huh?

"Well then," Tenenbaum said, "it is good to be making your acquaintance, Miss DeWitt. It is surprising to see that at least one of Cohen's people had a heart."

"Yes," Elizabeth made a face. "Cohen. I only worked for him because I needed the income and I always enjoyed singing. The arts as a whole, Cohen ruined a good part of them for me."

"I can imagine," Tenenbaum said flatly. Turning to the girls, she clapped her hands, getting their attention. "Little ones, be getting washed up. Scrambled eggs for breakfast!"

The girls cheered and began filing downstairs. Sally and the four other girls reluctantly clambered off Jack and followed after them, looking back at Jack and smiling and waving at him. He waved back, and noticed that Elizabeth was waving too.

"And as for you," Tenenbaum said, giving him a real stink-eye, "my laboratory, now." She glanced over at Elizabeth. "You can come if you wish, I be thinking that it has been long time since your last medical check-up."

Elizabeth's face twitched again. There was a lot of stuff that bothered her, wasn't there?

"I…it has been a long time, yes," she finally answered. Tenenbaum nodded and began going back down the stairs. He gathered up his weapons and they followed after her.

"So, this is what you were up to when you disappeared," Elizabeth asked as they came into view of the main room.

The Safehouse was basically a big maintenance room that Tenenbaum had converted into a makeshift nursery/orphanage/infirmary. Little bunk beds were arranged in rows on side of the room, while the rest was basically a living and play area for the girls. A room off to the side served as Tenenbaum's lab and room. Between the Little Sister vents on the opposite side of the room by his cot were gratings which the little girls were slipping through, probably off to wherever they washed themselves and where Tenenbaum kept her supplies.

Tenenbaum guided them to her laboratory. Her workspace was really just a desk with all kinds of stains and burns on it. Jack couldn't help but wonder (and hope) that none of the more recent ones had anything to do with why Tenenbaum wanted him in her laboratory. Two memories came into mind. The first was of Tenenbaum jabbing that final syringe into his arm, and then waking up as Jack Wynand, farm boy, not Jack, lab rat.

The other was of something Fontaine said: That Tenenbaum ain't what you think. Florence Nightengale, huh? That'll all come crashing down 'fore you can say "canned tomatoes". I've seen good bunco, and I've seen great bunco. But, when you waltz through Rapture and World War Two without even a scratch? You got more than leprechauns watching over you.

No, if Tenenbaum was going to betray him, it would have been when he returned after the showdown with Fontaine and his tour of the areas he had secured to clean out the Gatherer's Gardens of everything he didn't already have with Fontaine's ADAM. He had been completely at her mercy when he slept here the second time, and she hadn't raised a finger against him. She had rewarded him for saving the Little Sisters, and then she had freed him of…of "WYK" and helped free himself of "Code Yellow". She had earned his trust.

"Have a seat please, Jack," she motioned towards her desk while she walked to the cabinets and began rifling through one of the drawers. "I hope you don't mind standing for a moment, Miss DeWitt."

"Elizabeth, please," his companion replied. "And no, I don't mind." She leaned on the wall besides the window to the main room as he leaned his weapons against the desk and sat down on it. "I've been laying down for quite a while now anyway. What's the date? When I was last conscious, it was two weeks into the war."

Tenenbaum looked up from the cabinet at her and gave her an odd look. She told her the date; it had been over a year since Fontaine had brained her.

"1960?" Elizabeth looked like she had swallowed something really nasty. "That's….that's a disturbing thought, an entire year gone like that."

"Be glad you weren't here for most of the war," Tenenbaum replied. "What World War Two had in quantity of horrors, this one made up for in quality." She glanced up again from her rifling of the cabinet. "What is that little girl saying, when she says that Jack brought you back from the dead?"

It took Elizabeth a moment to answer. "Suchong had a secret laboratory behind a false wall in his office. He had a number of projects back there, including the first Vita-Chamber prototype. Jack must have adjusted it to accept my DNA, bringing me back as soon as he turned it on." She glanced at him. "I have to wonder though, why did you help me?"

Jack gave her a look and raised an eyebrow. She was asking the mute guy with a massive scar across his throat?

"He is young man, you are pretty young woman, you do the math," Tenenbaum replied shortly. Elizabeth blushed at that, and he could feel the heat rising in his own cheeks. "But no," Tenenbaum's face softened and she smiled at him. "He is good young man, far more than I could have ever hoped or asked for, and I hope he knows that."

Jack beamed back at her for the praise.

"Ah, here we are." She stood up, an ADAM medical hypo in one hand, casting a purple glow in the office along the green coming in the window.

"What's that supposed to be?" Elizabeth asked, while he nodded in agreement with the question.

"This is a little something I began working on while you were becoming Big Daddy. And now that we are speaking of it," she pointed at Jack's suit, "would you be minding getting out of that suit?"

Jack stood up again and began wrestling his way out, again. The thing provided protection from damage and attacks, but it was a real bitch to get off and on. Unless he was going back out, he was staying out of it.

"I thought of this while you were becoming Big Daddy," Tenenbaum continued. "I was thinking about how your voice box was going to be…modified, and I remembered this little project I shelved so I could be helping little ones. A super-specialized form of medical ADAM." She reached up and tapped two fingers against the ADAM hypo. "From my calculations, this will heal your voice box. It won't be fixing the scar on your throat, but you will have your own voice back. It is the least I can do after all you have done for me and the little ones, and for Elizabeth."

Jack didn't have to think twice about it. He almost ripped his sweater off the way he grabbed his collar and pulled it down, baring his neck.

As Tenenbaum approached, Jack suddenly felt an odd fear settle in his gut as memories played out in his head. Suchong and Tenenbaum standing over him and giving him injections while he cried and reached up for them, too young to understand why they were hurting him or to even question why. Before Tenenbaum could bring the needle up, he quickly raised his hand to stop her.

Tenenbaum stopped short and then gave him an odd look. "What? What is it, Jack?"

Jack silently grabbed the hypo telekinetically from Tenenbaum. Ignoring her surprised curse in German, he plucked it from the air and turned towards Elizabeth. He carefully took the hypo in both hands, and held it out to her, requesting that she do it with his expression and body language as best as he could. He barely knew her, but she hadn't hurt him in the past. Not yet, anyway.

Both Tenenbaum and Elizabeth stared at him before the latter softly took the syringe from his hands. He smiled gratefully and then bared his neck again. He could feel Elizabeth carefully seeking a place to inject the ADAM, touching his neck with her delicate fingertips. An odd shiver raced up his spine at the sensation.

Before it could travel to the rest of his body, he felt first the tip of the needle against his skin, then it broke the surface and lanced into the flesh of his neck. He bit back a cry of pain as the ADAM flowed from the needle into his neck, thankfully in a much smaller volume than the plasmid, gene tonic, and EVE hypos. The needle was withdrawn as soon as the ADAM was fully injected, and she stepped back.

Jack clenched his fists at the bizarre feeling that played throughout the remains of his destroyed voice box, a strange fusion between pain and pleasure. The usual medical ADAM that healed his cuts, bruises, and other wounds always stung as it healed his tissues, followed by relief as the scar tissue formed. This super-specialized serum took both up a notch and mixed them together.

When the sensation finally ceased, he reached up and carefully felt his throat. Beneath the scar tissue, there was the bump that formed the Adam's apple (ha), back in one piece. He swallowed, and then smiled as he felt the bump disappear upwards into his neck before coming back down.

Glancing over at Tenenbaum and Elizabeth, he held up one finger and quickly left the room. Once the door had closed behind him, he leaned against one of the bunk beds and swallowed again before clearing his throat. Now, what were to be his first words with his repaired throat?

How about "Good evening, which one of you fine ladies would care to accompany me to dinner"? He smiled as he imagined how one of his hypothetical "English cousins" would ask them to dinner. Then again, that may be a few decades old.

Then again, when was the last time he had a good laugh? Smiling at an idea that popped into his head, he quickly whispered the words that came along with the joke. Smiling at the fact that his voice was back to normal, he prepared his joke.

Uttering a high-pitched shriek, he turned and tore back towards Tenenbaum's room, pausing only long enough for the door to open. Both women jumped when he came flying back in, looking terrified and horrified out of his mind.

"Tenenbaum!" he cried at the highest pitch he could muster, "what have you done to my voice?!"

The effect was immediate. Elizabeth's face took on a strange fusion of horror and a denied compulsion to laugh, while Tenenbaum could stare at him, her face a perfect blank.

"I sound like Betty Boop!" he added. Thank you, Fontaine, for allowing some culture into the conditioning, you psychopathic bastard.

Elizabeth was now covering her mouth, trying her best not to laugh at his "predicament", while Tenenbaum began muttering and rambling in a mixture of English and German, grabbing a notebook from the cabinet and flipping through it, trying to find where she went wrong.

Jack was able to hold it back for only a moment before he burst out laughing. Guffaws that boomed through the room leapt past his lips, forcing him to crouch over. He couldn't remember the last time he had laughed, or if he had ever laughed this hard at all.

"I'm sorry," he managed between laughs. "I-I couldn't resist. It wa-was just too good to pa-pass up," he hiccupped.

Elizabeth joined him now, her laughter a bright and cheery sound, a nice contrast to his own.

He continued to laugh, even when Tenenbaum smacked him over the head with her notebook and cursed him out in German. Elizabeth just laughed harder.

Privately, Jack wondered if she needed this more than he did.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Team-Building

Dinner was an interesting affair, to say the least.

The little girls returned, washed up, and with boxes of eggs in their hands. Tenenbaum evidently stored her supplies behind the grates where the girls could easily reach them and anyone larger couldn't. When asked how she kept the girls from eating all the food, Tenenbaum shrugged and said she kept the sweets and other such stuff in her office under lock and key. For a woman who had only been a caretaker for a year now, she had good instincts for how children behaved.

Jack helped Tenenbaum to make scrambled eggs, allowing Elizabeth to help with settling the girls down. The little girls giggled and bickered while they waited for their dinner. Jack made batch after batch of eggs, flipping them in the pan above the small portable stove Tenenbaum brought out, sprinkling salt and pepper with a flourish like a French chef, making the girls giggle. They loved the sound of his renewed rough baritone, which she did admit sound very nice on him.

By the time Jack got around to making eggs for himself and the two women, most of the girls had finished eating and had gone back to playing amongst themselves. Five of the little girls peeled off to sit by Jack. Elizabeth recognized Sally, while only two of the other four, one in a blue dress and the other in a red, were familiar somehow. The two recognized her, however.

"See!" Sally cried out and pointed to her. "I told you I knew the pretty lady!"

Elizabeth smiled at them. "Please, call me Elizabeth." She cocked her head at the two. "Do I know you two?"

"I'm Leta and this is Masha!" the one in the blue dress exclaimed. Jack started at the latter name and stared at the red-dressed girl like he had just seen a ghost.

Leta didn't notice his reaction and continued excitedly. "You were there in Suchong's lab!"

Elizabeth was aware of the looks directed towards her from both Jack and Tenenbaum. Jack looked like he was connecting the dots to a forgotten puzzle, while Tenenbaum just looked puzzled.

"You were there when we helped Mr. Bubbles and he stopped being a monster!" the other one, Masha, chimed in. "You told us he needed ADAM, and we gave it to him."

"Those little girls, those were you?" Elizabeth was surprised. She hadn't expected to see those particular two Little Sisters ever again. What were the odds?

Oddly, Jack had relaxed upon hearing Masha's tidbit.

"You have been making quite the impression on some of the little ones," Tenenbaum commented, spearing a chunk of egg with her fork. "At the rate Sally here has been telling your story, you will be as big of a hero as Jack here."

Now Jack gave Tenenbaum a look.

"Me, a hero?" he managed to say through a mouthful of eggs. Tenenbaum frowned at him and gestured at his mouth. He shut it and swallowed before continuing. "I, uh, never thought of myself as that."

"Jack, you are hero!" Tenenbaum jabbed her fork in his direction, sending a stray crumb flying. "Not only were you curing little ones, you were following them to be making sure they got into vents safely, and the little one who got you through the Proving Grounds did not even get scratch! If that is not hero, I do not know what is."

"Well, when you put it that way," Jack said as he stuffed another forkful into his mouth. Swallowing, he added, "Then again, since almost everyone in Rapture is sh-"

Jack abruptly remembered that he was in a room full of young children and that five of them were sitting around him and listening to every word he said.

"-nasty, I could be a normal, halfway-decent person and you've simply forgotten what those look and act like," he finished.

Elizabeth smiled while Tenenbaum rolled her eyes and they continued with their meal. The five little girls all sat around Jack with Sally and the other two between him and Elizabeth. The hero worship in the eyes of the five girls and of any of the others when they looked at Jack was beyond endearing.

"Any particular reason why Sally and these ones are so attached to you?" Elizabeth asked after a few moments of silence with the exception of chewing. "You save them from a particularly bad situation?"

"They saved me, actually," Jack replied. "When I was finishing up the fight with Fontaine, he clocked me with a cheap shot, sent me flying across the room. He took his sweet time walking over to finish me off, blathering about how he was responsible for my...creation. Just when he was about to get to mauling me, these five little angels-" He gently ruffled the heads of the girls, making them giggle, "-jumped out of the vents and stabbed him to death with their needles. Ironic justice at its finest."

"Did you get in any whacks with your wrench, by any chance?" Elizabeth asked. "Particularly in the head?"

"That I did." Jack grinned. "Somehow that was more satisfying than the electric gel, the exploding buckshot, or even the bees."

"Bees?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow.

Jack raised a hand and the most revolting thing happened. Crusty, leprous growths broke out on his hand, engulfing most of it within microseconds. Elizabeth had enough time to note the the honeycomb shape and structure of the red-brown growths before the worst part kicked in. Out of the individual honeycomb cells, winged insects emerged, born from human flesh instead of an egg in a wax cell. They crawled all over his hand like it was their hive before disappearing back into the cells only for others to emerge.

"Gah!" Elizabeth shot up and away from his hand, sending her plate to crash on the ground. The remainder of her eggs splattered on the floor. "What the hell is that?!"

"Insect Swarm," Jack said, staring at her. "Are you alright?"

"No, I am not!" Elizabeth couldn't stop staring at his hand. "I hate bees, and those ones are crawling in and out of your arm!"

"Ms. DeWitt, please be lowering your voice," Tenenbaum snapped. "You are scaring the little ones."

Elizabeth glanced around and saw that she was right. The ex-Little Sisters were all staring at her, wide-eyed with fright. For the past year, raised voices had meant splicers and danger. For most of them, the nightmare had only stopped not even a day earlier. And the nightmare was only a wall and a door away from beginning anew.

Elizabeth smiled weakly at the girls. "It's ok. I was just...startled." When the girls turned back to their toys, she sighed before bending down and picking up her things. Jack had left some eggs in the pan, thankfully.

"Sorry about that," she said quietly. "Just...please put that away. You'd think I'd be over my fear of bees by now." How long had it been since that first day with Booker, when she had opened a Tear in an elevator just to get rid of a bee? About...two years now? Felt more like two lifetimes ago.

And she had been dead for about half of that time to boot.

"Well," Jack murmured as the bees and honeycomb growths disappeared back into his hand, "I didn't like mice on the surface, and I still don't like them. I can't help but think they're going to crawl up my pant leg or something whenever I see one."

"Thanks," Elizabeth smiled at him. Both for putting away the bee arm and for the fact she wasn't alone in the miniscule fears department.

When she got back to the group with the last of the eggs, Jack was holding out his hand to Sally, apparently asking for her doll, Sarah. The little girl was very hesitant to part with either of the pieces of her doll. Tenenbaum was assuring her that it was alright and that Jack would give it back to her. As she sat down, Sally looked up at her, her big, blue eyes asking whether she should trust Jack with her most precious possession.

"It's ok, Sally," Elizabeth assured her, smiling at the girl. "Jack will give Sarah back to you when he's done."

As Sally acquiesced and gave Jack Sally's plastic head and torso, Elizabeth realized that despite everything she had done to Sally, using her as bait for Comstock, then leaving her in the Department Store to be grabbed by Atlas and his men. Dear God, why was the girl looking up to her? She wasn't a hero, not at all.

Elizabeth cut off her inner turmoil over Sally's apparent admiration of her as she watched Jack deftly handle the doll head and body. For a man with such big hands, he had a talent for handling items, big and small, with a grace and care that belied his build.

Holding Sarah's pieces so that the her neck and the bottom of her head were sticking straight up in one hand, Jack raised his other hand and snapped his fingers, summoning a small flame. He carefully applied the flame to the neck and head, warming the plastic and softening it while avoiding outright melting it. When he was satisfied, he extinguished the flame and rotated the head until the warmed stumps met. He then applied pressure, studied the doll's neck, nodded, and gave the now-whole Sarah back to Sally.

"Here you are, Sally," Jack smiled at her. "Take good care of her now."

"I will, Poppa Jack!" Sally cried as she jumped up and started off for the other girls to show off her fixed doll, the other four following after her.

Elizabeth couldn't help but laugh at Sally's new title for Jack. Once she got a look at Tenenbaum and Jack's expressions though, she abruptly stopped. Jack looked like someone had just slapped him, while Tenenbaum uncomfortably gathered the last of her eggs on her fork, eyes downcast and avoiding Jack's.

An uncomfortable silence descended on the three as they finished their meal. As they got up and began gathering the dishes and utensils, Elizabeth caught on to an important part of the reunion with Masha and Leta.

"How much are they remembering?" she asked, "besides their names and me?"

Tenenbaum sighed heavily. "Sadly, that is the most that any of them have remembered. They are all remembering their names after they are cured, but the mental conditioning has taken away all other pieces of their past." Self-loathing came into her gaze and her voice. "In some ways, what we did to their minds was far worse than what we did to their bodies."

Jack gently placed hand on Tenenbaum's shoulder to comfort her.

"Brigid," he hesitantly said instead of her surname, "it might be better that they don't ever fully remember their pasts."

Tenenbaum batted his hand away and shot around, glaring at him. "How can you say that?" she hissed angrily. "Their bodies are now cured, but their minds are still twisted by me and Suchong's wretched conditioning! How is it better that they are still forgetting?"

Jack sighed and looked her in the eyes. "Because I remember," he said quietly.

"Remember what?" Tenenbaum asked.

Jack looked her steadily in the face. "Everything, Momma Tenenbaum." He raised the pitch of her voice as he said her name, sounding younger than he was.

Horror dawned on Tenenbaum as she realized the meaning of Jack's words. Elizabeth remembered the room where she had found Tenenbaum's last plea to Suchong and that one heart-wrenching audio diary that chronicled the testing of that horrid phrase, and shuddered.

"Oh Jack," Tenenbaum whispered, this time putting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry."

"It's alright," Jack said, a thickness in his voice as he laid a hand on hers.. "Just, thanks, for believing in me, in the Medical Pavilion."

Tenenbaum smiled before disconnecting and turning back to collecting the dishes. "We are going to be needing more supplies now that you've doubled the number of little ones here," her tone turning all business. "We need to make enough to last here until we can escape, and then more before we can reach dry land."

"Don't forget figuring out a way to get to dry or where we want to go," Jack drawled as he placed his pile of plates to one side and reached into his pocket. He took out a pack of cigarettes, Nico Time to be exact, and lit one up with a snap of his fingers. He held out the pack to Elizabeth and Tenenbaum.

"We also need to figure out how we're going to do that without alerting the authorities on the surface of Rapture's existence," Elizabeth added as she accepted one. "The last thing we need is for either the Soviets or the US government getting their hands on ADAM, or any of Rapture's technology."

"That, as you say, goes without saying," Tenenbaum muttered. "If we are going to be smoking, please let us be doing that after we've cleaned up and in my room." She nodded towards her closed off office space. "It is bad enough when I was being only smoker around the girls."

After they cleaned up the dishes and inventoried their remaining supplies, Jack, Elizabeth, and Tenenbaum closed themselves off in her office and discussed their plans for acquiring more food and supplies and for escape.. They kept an eye on the girls through the office's window, smoke curling from their mouths and filling the air. Eventually, even they couldn't stand the choking haze and had to leave the room. By that time, the girls were all trying to suppress their yawns and failings.

Tenenbaum declared that it was bedtime for all of them, and despite the sleepy protests of forty little girls, they were all in bed and asleep within an hour. The adults managed to scrounge up three sleeping bags as the cots were all taken up and set them up in the office after the cloud of smoke had dissipated.

Jack and Tenenbaum were asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows. Elizabeth managed to stay awake for about five minutes, watching the patterns from the light coming in the circular window to the ocean outside. She glanced over at Jack and couldn't help but smile at the sight. Asleep, he looked as youthful and healthy as any young man his age should have been. As handsome as he was, his face was haggard with the stress of surviving in the deadliest city on this particular Earth.

Watching the green-blue light dance on his face, Elizabeth drifted off to sleep, welcoming the dark within her mind as an old friend.

L&L~~L&L~~L&L

"Hope you don't mind me asking, but what exactly are your plasmids? The only one I've recognized is Winter Blast."

After waking up early and a quick breakfast, Jack and Elizabeth had headed out to begin scrounging for whatever odds and ends they could find that would help them. Tenenbaum had the girls going throughout Rapture's vent system to scout around for caches of supplies or juicy tidbits from the splicers' ramblings. If they found anything out, she would radio Jack and Elizabeth about it and give them directions and advice about the area. If needed, they would also take anything found back to the safehouse via the vents.

So far, they had cleaned out the businesses and stores of High Street, which as Jack pointed out could now be renamed "Hell Street". From the audio diaries they found and from the decay and destruction around them, High Street was one of the first places hit by Atlas' army after the Kashmir bombing and it had been hit hard. Dead bodies everywhere, stores long smashed and looted of their original products, barbed wire and splicers lurking in almost every corner.

At one point, she had seen a familiar face: The jeweler of the Golden Rule, basically the apex predator of High Street thanks to his ability to have something of a functioning mind along with a few plasmids. When he recognized Elizabeth however, he completely flipped his lid and attacked. The bright side of putting him down was that most of the Golden Rule's merchandise was still in the store. The man had been paranoid with his security long before the Civil War, saving his life early on and now giving them something to pawn off on the surface.

They stood in front of the elevator connecting High Street to Market Street. High Street was empty of both goods and living things, themselves excepted.

"Actually," Elizabeth brought up a ice-covered hand, "this is Old Man Winter. It was basically the drinkable version of Winter Blast, and it's not ice. It's dry ice, frozen carbon dioxide."

Jack took a closer look at her hand. "It doesn't have Winter Blast's icicles either. Those things hurt like hell."

Elizabeth clenched her fist, icicles growing from the frosty crust. "It does create icicles. They only appear when I'm charging it up for a trap, though."

"Traps?" Jack asked as the elevator dinged and they entered.

"Each of the drinkable plasmids have a charging ability," Elizabeth explained as the doors closed behind them and she pressed the button. "Most of them manifest as a trap that can be laid out in advance. Triggering the trap can have more of an effect than the normal shot of the same plasmid."

Jack snorted and ruefully held up a hand with a small tornado swirling around his fingers. "The only plasmid of mine like that is Cyclone Trap, and all it does is lay down wind traps. I take it that when the war started up, Ryan decided that quantity mattered over quality?"

"I guess," Elizabeth shrugged. "It was two weeks into the war when Fontaine murdered me, and I didn't really see much fighting. I do remember seeing a news bulletin about a plasmid shortage, which was probably caused by the drinkables in the first place."

"Still," the twister in Jack's hand disappeared and a large, dark red globule took its place. Pustules filled with red fluid accompanied it, sprouting out all over his hand. "You think they would have at least tried to keep the injectables from looking like leprosy's uglier big brother."

Elizabeth snorted as the elevator came to a stop and the doors dinged open. They both jumped to the sides in case the sound attracted any splicers. Jack poked his head out after a moment and surveyed the area.

"All clear," he said, putting his gun down. "Anything I should know about this area?"

"Mostly businesses and a couple of residential areas," Elizabeth answered. "There was one of those Little Wonders orphanages. I still can't believe that nobody figured out the connection between the missing orphan girls and the Little Sisters."

"Something tells me that they did alright," Jack said. "They just didn't care because it wasn't their kids being turned into ADAM factories. And what about the rest of your plasmids?"

"Oh, right." This time, Elizabeth turned invisible right in front of Jack, making him jump. "This one is my favorite. I can turn invisible and I can see certain objects through walls." She walked behind him, reappeared, and then tapped him on the shoulder. He spun around and she smirked. "It has gotten me out of so many scrapes."

"What's it called?

At that, Elizabeth felt something that she hadn't in a long time: the rush of heat in her cheeks that signaled the onset of a blush. Hell, she had gone through hell and back, and she was blushing over this?

"Peeping Tom," she finally said. "I found it in a peepshow."

Jack cocked his head to one side in puzzlement.

"A clip joint or a striptease."

Jack's eyes lit up with understanding just before his own cheeks lit up red. "Oh, right. I, um, saw something like that in Fort Frolic." An odd look came into his face, taking the red away. It was a fusion of remembrance, disgust, longing, and sorrow. It cleared after a moment and he motioned for her to continue.

Her hand turned a glowing lime green and a ghostly woman began flying around her fingers. "This is Possession; it turns enemies and machines into allies, except Big Daddies and stronger splicers."

Jack whistled. "Unreal."

Elizabeth nodded and smiled. This time the skin pulled back from her fingers, revealing her gunmetal gray phalanges. A swirling blue whirlpool appeared right at her fingertips. "And finally, this is Ironsides. It takes incoming bullets and turns them into ammunition for my gun."

Jack whistled again. "Now that is a handy plasmid. There an injectable version?"

Elizabeth shook her head. "Sorry, Ironsides wasn't really on the market in Rapture, and none of the others are available anymore."

"Ain't that a bite," Jack sighed. At Elizabeth quizzical look, he translated. "That's too bad."

Glancing outside the elevator doors, Jack looked around again before signaling the all-clear and strolling out into Market Street, Elizabeth watching their backs.

Market Street wasn't as torn apart as High Street was. After the initial attack above, the denizens of Market Street must have left for safer shores. Well, most of them anyway. There were still plenty of corpses lying around, though the majority didn't hold any loot. Now that she thought of it, neither had most of the bodies around the Golden Rule.

"Jack," she lowered her voice, "you remember that most of the corpses up in Hell Street had been picked clean?"

"By that one guy who attacked as soon as he saw you?" Jack was standing in a few inches of water by the window as he slipped the bullets out of a lost Tommy and into one of his own clips. A long line of bullet holes dotted the glass above him, none of them enough to fully penetrate. "What about it?"

"A lot of the bodies down here are the same way," Elizabeth squinted down at the corpse at her feet, "And if I'm not mistaken, a lot of them have similar wounds."

Jack shook the water from his shoes as he walked up the stairs and kneeled by the body. He had seen there injuries before, on others and on himself.

"Heated hooks," he traced over a wound with a finger. "A favorite of the spider-splicers." He frowned as he looked at the other semi-cauterized lacerations on the body before standing up and going over to another corpse only a few yards away. "Oh boy, this is going to be fun."

"What's wrong?" Elizabeth asked.

"Spider-splicers either throw their hooks or slash at you depending on how far away you are," Jack said as he turned his attention to the empty gun the second cadaver held. "All of these wounds were caused by slashing hooks, which means the apex splicer down here likes to get up close and personal."

"Oh," Elizabeth said, glancing around. Splicers were bad enough, crazy splicers doubly so. She couldn't help but notice how quiet Market Street was; it was either the proverbial quiet before the storm, which she had found to be real in both Columbia and Rapture, or it was the quiet caused by fear of an alpha predator.

She and Jack proceeded quietly and carefully through the apartments of the Andalusian Arms complex. There were only two apartments that hadn't been completely looted. One had both a number lock (which Jack hacked) and a pin lock (which she happily picked). The other had three turrets set up so that going after one gave the others plenty of time to fire. While Jack made a run for the one that he had zapped, Elizabeth froze the other two and successfully hacked one of them while Jack finished up with the last one.

They happened to make a pretty good team.

They passed by the water feature that proclaimed "Art, Science, Industry" after leaving the Andalusian. A body lay in the lowest tier, the water fetid from its decomposition. Jack found some film on it.

907 Market Street turned out to be a bust, literally in the case of the elevator. Elizabeth supposed that the repairman who had been working on it when she last been there had never finished it.

As they mounted the stairs that led to the Little Wonders "Educational Facility", they heard it at the exact same time: The double-toned voice of a Little Sister, lifted in a heart-wrenching scream, the frustrated growling of a splicer mixed in. Jack took off up the stairs, taking them two at a time with Elizabeth close behind.

Jack ran towards the source of the screams, towards the Little Wonders facility. As he turned the corner, he slid to a stop, mouth open in horror. Elizabeth came up behind him just in time to see the spider-splicer rip its hand out of the Little Sister's abdomen, its prize squirming in its claws.

The moment the ADAM slug was out of the girl, a sickly green mist began pouring from her, momentarily obscuring the splicer. Liz caught a whiff as it dissipated and almost threw up; it stank of rotting flesh, as though the entire decomposition process was happening in mere seconds. As Jack gagged to her right, Elizabeth realized with a new surge of bile that that was exactly what was happening. The Sisters were so dependent on the slugs that removing them not only killed the Sisters, it rotted their bodies away in seconds.

As the mist fully dissipated, it revealed the splicer chucking away the Sister's empty dress and holding the ADAM slug aloft, her eyes and mouth open in pure adoration as she looked up at it. That look after she had committed such a heinous act snapped both Jack and Elizabeth out of their stupor.

"MURDERER!" Jack roared as his left hand blazed with fire. A single snap ignited the splicer, who dropped the slug and began dancing around, screaming in pain. Elizabeth brought her pistol up and began shooting, the rage focusing her mind and eyes on the splicer's chest and head.

"Get your own Little Sister!" the splicer shrieked. "That one was mine!"

Jack's hand lit up with blue arcs and sparks as he readied a lightning bolt. Instead of a splicer, it struck the wall behind his target. The red particles of a Houdini splicer dissipated with a whoosh of rushing air, leaving only the dress, the slug, and bullet-holes in the wall.

Jack swore. "Elizabeth, back-to-back!" He yelled, prepping another lightning bolt and his tommy. Elizabeth shoved the pistol back in its holster and raised the shotgun as she got into position, her back to Jack's.

"Teleportation and spider powers," Elizabeth groaned. "Seen anything like this before?"

"No," Jack said, eyes darting everywhere. "I've never seen two splicer types mix like this. She must have kept to herself, followed her own path of adaptation." He reached into his knapsack and pulled out his camera, hanging it around his neck. "At least I've got something new for the album."

Elizabeth snuck an incredulous glance behind her. "We're in a fight for our lives against a splicer you've never seen before, and you want to photograph it?"

Before Jack could retort, the splicer rematerialized - right above them in mid-air. She kicked both of them as she came down, separating them and knocking them to the ground.

She went after Elizabeth first, only to get a chestful of buckshot. The blast was enough to spin her around and gave Jack the time to get up and hit the "Spider-Houdini" with a lighting bolt. The splicer was stunned long enough for Jack to snap several photos before adding to Elizabeth's second round of buckshot with some tommy gun bullets. Before Elizabeth could get a third round of buckshot in, the splicer teleported.

This time, she rematerialized next to Jack, slashing at him with the hooks. Jack screamed in pain as an 'X' was slashed into his chest before his legs were swept out from under him. He crashed to the ground as the splicer raised both hooks and aimed at his neck. Before she slice his throat open, Elizabeth raised her hand and fired off a burst of Old Man Winter. It struck the splicer, ice burst over her and covering her from head to toe.

Jack skittered backwards until he got to his feet, breathing hard. He raised his hand towards Elizabeth and his wrench flew out of her bag. Grasping it with both hands, he yelled as he brought it down again and again on the frozen splicer until she shattered.

Her head came down to rest at his feet. He glared down at the head before kicking it, sending it flying to smash against the wall next to the Little Sister vent where she had likely dragged the girl from.

"Rot in hell," he spat, breathing like he had just run a marathon.

He glanced towards Elizabeth. Despite her knowledge that he was a good man, that he wouldn't hurt anyone unless they gave him a good reason, she couldn't help but feel a thrill of fear shoot through her.

"Elizabeth, you alright?" he asked, approaching her carefully. She nodded, breathing hard herself. Jack let his wrench slip down through his fingers until he was holding the head. He offered the handle to her. After hesitating for only a moment, she took it.

As they patched themselves up with hypos of medical ADAM from the first aid kits, Elizabeth noticed Jack approaching the ADAM slug where it had been dropped. It had barely moved an inch, the stress of being removed from its host's body almost killing it. It squirmed weakly as he picked it up.

It was a truly ugly creature. About a foot long, it was a dark brown with the exception of the bright orange eyespots, arranged in two rows along its sides. A sucker-like mouth gaped at him, reminding her of a leech's. It continued to wiggle in his grasp before giving a final twitch and going still.

Jack was silent as he held the dead slug. After a few moments, he took out a flask from his bag. Poking a hole right in one of the bigger eyespots on the slug's head, Jack put the flask to the eyespot and squeezed the slug. Raw, unprocessed ADAM, sickeningly thick and green, began to fill the flask.

"What are you doing?" He glanced up at her. She could feel disgust twisting both her face and her voice. "That splicer murdered a little girl to that ADAM and you're taking it?"

"It's for Tenenbaum," he explained. "I have more than enough ADAM from Fontaine, even after I re-visited the Gatherer's Gardens for the Health and EVE upgrades. Besides, I'm not leaving this for some splicer to come and suck out."

Elizabeth grimaced but accepted his explanation. "We'll finish going through Market Street after you're done, then."

Jack nodded in agreement as he squeezed the ADAM out of the slug like an almost-spent tube of toothpaste. His grimace matched Elizabeth's. To think, he had to deal with this temptation of so much ADAM while fighting his way through Rapture. So much ADAM, and all he had needed to sacrifice was a little girl and his soul.

Thank God he was better than that.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Back to Fontaine's Department Store

They found a veritable treasure trove of loot and supplies in the back office of the Little Sisters building. Occupying the top position of the food chain was nice. Jack wondered when in the Civil War his father had exchanged Social Darwinism, which was the backbone to Ryan's philosophy, for actual Darwinsim. Those splicers with the better plasmids and gene tonics won out over those with lesser or no splicing at all.

It didn't matter how smart, strong, fast, or rich one was, if one wasn't spliced with strong enough plasmids or gene tonics, Rapture was their grave.

Jack remembered his father's words to him prior to gaining access to his office: "Rapture is coming back to life. Even now, can't you hear the breath returning to her lung? The shops reopening, the schools humming with the thoughts of young minds? My city will live. My city will thrive. And, when that day comes, we'll use your tombstone for paving tiles."

While Elizabeth was going through the loot, figuring out which they could carry and which they would deposit by a vent for the girls to pick up, Jack picked up a framed photograph from the desk and studied it.

It depicted a pretty blond woman in a black outfit standing just behind a group of little girls. Looking closer, he noticed that the girls' expressions were off. Their faces were done up in white facial paint, and their eyes were far too docile for children. Little Sister conditioning, he realized, just before the slugs were implanted.

Turning his eyes to the blond woman, he frowned and then squinted. The outfit of the Spider-Houdini Splicer had been a ragged, torn version of the woman's. And now that he thought of it, hadn't some of the hairs still attached to her head been blond?

Scowling now, he summoned his telekinesis and sent the photo flying out the door, down the hall to crash against the wall. Elizabeth jumped about a foot in the air.

After getting a scolding from Elizabeth for scaring her and possibly attracting attention, they explored the Satyr Lounge and the Rapture Tribune kiosks. Other than alcohol and old newspapers, there wasn't much.

At the very end of the Street was a curving staircase. Around the middle of it was an old advertisement for Sander Cohen's "Greatest Album Yet!", "Why Even Ask?" 'Buy "Why Even Ask" and invite Sander Cohen into your home today!'

"Oh hell no," Jack said, making a face at the poster. Elizabeth was looking at the poster as well and let out a short laugh.

"How on Earth were you able to stand that guy?" Jack asked, aiming at the poster and setting it alight with a snap of his fingers.

"I needed access to his information network," Elizabeth replied, flipping the burning visage of Cohen the bird.

The staircase led to a long balcony that served as a walkway for a second floor. Unfortunately, the walkway had collapsed and the resulting void was too great to jump across. Only the first residence/business was accessible.

Jack almost didn't see Elizabeth freeze when the door came into view.

"Hey, is everything alright?" he asked peering around her at the door.

Printed on the door was a single name: Booker DeWitt. Underneath, separated by a line and some dots was the name of the business: DeWitt Investigations.

He remembered their brief introduction: "My name is Elizabeth…DeWitt."

Who was this "Booker"? Her father, her brother? Heck, even her husband? If he remembered, she had seemed hesitant to give her last name.

"Um, family of yours?" he asked, hoping he wasn't treading on sensitive ground.

Elizabeth glanced back at him and he couldn't help but flinch. Her face had turned hard as granite, the blue in her eyes as cold as ice, her entire profile radiating with a chilling rage.

"He was an imposter," she growled, her rage focused not on him (Thank God). "His real name was Zachery Comstock. He took my father's name and fled here to escape his guilt and forget. He dared to tattoo her initials on his hand, where they would fade with time along with his memory!"

His pistol was shaking in her hands before she suddenly calmed down.

"He's dead now," she almost whispered, "and I'm far from innocent myself." She glanced at Jack and then at the door.

"Let's just search it and go," she sighed, "I doubt there's much in there but beggars can't be choosers."

Before Jack could reply, she pushed the door open, disappearing inside. Jack almost bit his tongue to keep from crying out after her. Just going into a room like that wasn't a good thing to do; one never knew what was hiding inside, waiting to spring a trap.

He hurriedly opened the door and then started. Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen in the one-room apartment.

The only light was from the window and it wasn't much thanks to the blinds. A fan hung from the ceiling, leaning to one side and preparing to fall off at the slightest provocation. In the middle of the room and on each wall was a desk, each covered with various appliances and junk. At the back was a bed and some cabinets, all of them wide open and one of them laying on its side. A door, probably to a bathroom, was on the left wall about opposite from the desk. It was a mess, various objects thrown around the room and laying on the floor.

"Elizabeth!" Jack whisper-shouted into the room, "where are you?"

Elizabeth abruptly popped back into existence by the door, aiming her pistol towards it as she made to open it. She raised a finger to her lips to quiet him before easing the door open and peering inside. Once she was satisfied that there were no splicers hiding in the bathtub, she lowered her pistol and motioned Jack inside.

"The room's clear," she said as he closed the door behind him, "far as I can tell, at least one person ransacked the place before realizing that there was nothing valuable here and left."

Jack looked at the pigsty and had to agree with her. The place was an absolute mess. He wandered over to the desk and looked over the papers and odd bits covering it.

The papers were racing forms; gambling was a thing in Rapture, but horse races? Jack wondered if it was something else they raced down here; dolphins, sharks, fish, maybe even Big Daddies?

A desktop calendar lay on its side on the ground. He telekinetically picked it up and set it back on the desk. The date on its front read "1958, 31 December", the day before Rapture went to Hell. On the surface that day, Jack remembered spending New Year's Eve with his "parents", completely unaware of the madness that was raging down beneath the Atlantic Ocean. The whole world was unaware of the tragedy and atrocity that was Rapture.

Something glinted at him from under a paper. He moved the racing form to the side and found a badge laying on the floor. Summoning it into his hand, Jack examined the piece of metal. "Pinkerton's National Detective Agency" it read around the number "727".

Jack frowned as studied the badge. He remembered reading about the Pinkertons (that didn't mean that he had actually read it though). They had been a private detective and security agency; they were most infamous for their expertise in breaking up strikes back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Maybe Zachery Comstock had a relative who had been in the Pinkertons? Unless he was old enough to have been one himself. That sounded just like the kind of person to come down to Rapture.

"Hey Elizabeth," he said, "how old was this Comstock guy anyway?"

Elizabeth looked up from the pile of clothes, papers, and other junk she had been going through.

"I'd say about," she murmured as she did some mental arithmetic, "about twenty-eight or so. Why do you ask?"

"Found this old Pinkerton badge," Jack said as he walked over and held it up for her to see, "Comstock must have gotten this from a relative or somethin', cause there's no way he was a Pinkerton agent."

"Actually," Elizabeth replied with an unreadable expression, "the Pinkerton agency is still around, the strike-breaking was just the most famous, or infamous, of their activities. Or so I've read," she added, tracing a finger on the badge's number.

"Huh," Jack said, studying the badge again. "Maybe he was a Pinkerton agent after-"

He paused when his eyes caught something on the wall behind her. He gave her the badge and stepped closer to the wall, squinting in the poor lighting to better make it out.

It was one of those boxes that people kept medals in and which was placed on a wall. What were they called again? Oh yeah, a shadow box. The number seven was prominent among them. Also, some of the insignias reminded him of pictures he had seen(?) of calvary men back during the Civil War.

"Seven and calvary, seven and calvary," he muttered, "why should those words make a connection in my head?"

"The Seventh Cavalry, best known for the Battle of Little Bighorn," Elizabeth sighed heavily before continuing, "and for the massacre at Wounded Knee."

"Oh right," Jack acknowledged, "well, one thing's for certain: These are definitely family heirlooms or something like that." He tucked the badge into his pocket and took the shadow box off of the wall. "Do you think Comstock would mind much if we pawned off his badge and family medals on the surface?"

He turned back to see what Elizabeth thought of the idea, only for his vision to turn white and staticy. Elizabeth was still there, but her outline had become blurred, her voice muted, as though her image couldn't exist in the past, with the ghosts. He slowly lost awareness of her as the memory began to progress.

The figure of a man materialized in a chair behind the desk; he was sleeping on it. Someone began pounding on the door. He started coughing as he awoke; he sounded like he had a smoking problem.

The door opened as the man sat in his chair, still coughing. The figure that walked in the door was familiar, though her gait, swinging her hips around, didn't fit with the person she reminded Jack of.

"We're closed," the man called out as his coughing finally settled down.

"You don't look the sort who can afford to turn down legitimate work," the woman said as she walked over to the window and looked out.

The man, evidently Comstock, groaned as he got to his feet. For being twenty-eight, he sure sounded older.

"What do you want?" he said, rounding his desk to walk up to the woman.

"How about we start with a light?" she replied, holding a cigarette up in the air to be lighted.

Comstock hesitated a moment before walking forward. The woman turned towards him as he approached.

"You got a name, miss?" Comstock asked as he raised his left hand and snapped, bringing a flame to life.

"Elizabeth," the woman replied, taking the man's hand and guiding it to her cigarette. The cigarette was lit and she blew a cloud of smoke out of the side of her mouth while she sized up Comstock. "You can call me Elizabeth."

"What can I do for you?" Comstock asked.

Elizabeth took a picture out of her pocket and gave it to him.

"There's a girl who needs to be found. Maybe you've seen her?" she asked.

"This girl…" Comstock said softly as he looked at the photo, "this girl's dead."

"You know her?" Elizabeth questioned walking away to stand in the middle of the room, facing away from Comstock..

"You'll see dozens of her type down by the docks or the slums in Apollo Square," Comstock said, bitterness in his voice as he looked back up at Elizabeth, "orphans. With Fontaine's charities shut, no place for 'em."

"But her you know?" Elizabeth asked..

"As I said," Comstock said as he took a small object out of his pocket and looked at it sorrowfully, "girl's dead."

"Lost," Elizabeth interjected.

"Look," Comstock started to snap, "I don't know where you get-"

"Lost isn't dead," Elizabeth interrupted, "Name your rate. I will pay you for this work."

She walked back to the door and then turned around.

"But you'd do this one gratis," she added, "wouldn't you?"

"I don't follow," Booker said.

"Something tells me you will," She turned on her heel and left the room, closing the door behind her.

Comstock's image and those of the original positions of the furniture faded out of view as the ADAM memory came to an end.

Jack was suddenly aware of a pair of hands on his shoulders, shaking him frantically.

"Jack! Jack, wake up!" Elizabeth practically screamed in his face. "Oh dear God, please wake up!"

She let go of him abruptly and took out her radio, switching it on. "Tenenbaum, something's wrong with Jack-"

"I'm fine!" he burst out, making her jump about a foot in the air. "I'm fine, it was just a...very intense ADAM memory."

Before Elizabeth could say anything, Tenenbaum's voice came on over the radio. "Fraulein Elizabet, what is going on? What is making Jack wrong?"

Jack took Elizabeth's radio and replied back.

"Nothing's wrong with me, Tenenbaum. Just a strong ADAM memory. I'm fine, we're all fine. Um, how are you?" He couldn't help but wince at the last part.

He could practically hear Tenenbaum rolling her eyes. "Fine. Be making to be careful," she sounded off on the radio.

Jack handed it back to Elizabeth. "Sorry about that," he said apologetically, "that ADAM memory was really tripping."

Elizabeth's confusion at his slang was only momentary. "What did you see?" she asked.

"It was Comstock, I think, and you."

At that, Elizabeth's eyes went wide and her face turned paler.

"Oh," she said hesitantly, "well I was looking for him at the time and that must have been when I found him." She leaned down and picked up the shadow box from where he must have dropped it. "I think it would be poetic justice to pawn both his medals and his Pinkerton badge," she added.

"You were hiring Comstock to look for a lost child, a girl," he continued, "and you sounded so...cold."

What was with this woman? She hates this guy Comstock and yet hires him to find a dead or lost girl. To get back Sally (who was probably said dead or lost girl) she worked for Atlas/Fontaine to spring him and his mob out of some department store. She was apparently both Suchong's lab assistant and Cohen's disciple, she was from some place called Columbia (wasn't that some country down in South America), and two of her friends were crazy-sounding, teleporting, bullet-proof pair of red-headed twins. This had gone far enough.

"Who are you, Elizabeth?" he said, getting in the way of her sudden trip to the door. "Those twins, this place 'Columbia', working for Suchong, Cohen, and Atlas, finding the guy who took your dad's name and hiring him to find a little girl?"

Now that he was started, he couldn't stop talking.

"I didn't ask these questions before because I was just happy to have brought you back from the dead for saving Sally and that my voice was back. Now I want to know-"

He stopped his tirade and took a breath to calm down. He reached down and gently laid a hand on her shoulder.

"Sorry about that," he apologized, "I think the stress of all of this is finally getting to me. Now, please, what is your story, Elizabeth?"

Elizabeth just stood, staring at the ground with the shadow box clutched in her hand. She was silent for the longest moment before finally answering.

"I can't tell you," she said, looking up at him strangely, "you would think I was insane. I'm going to have to show you."

"Show me?" Jack said, raising a confused eyebrow at her, "show me what?"

"Show you the truth," Elizabeth said with a note of finality, "I'll show you everything about my past and a bit more besides." She stepped around him to go out the door.

"Lets get our findings back to Tenenbaum," she continued as she opened the door while holding on to the shadow box hard with one hand, "maybe find some clothes that aren't a complete mess, and then I'll take you to Fontaine's Department Store. Everything should still be there, hopefully."

Jack hurried after her as the door began to close. While not entirely satisfying, answers promised were better than answers denied, after all.

L&L~L&L~L&L

"Well, that's not foreboding at all," Jack quipped nervously.

Fontaine's Department Store loomed over Rapture, just as its former owner had looked over Andrew Ryan's city and desired it. It was as if Neptune himself had risen from a deep slumber beneath the waves only to find that the mortals had, in the ultimate act of hubris, invaded his rightful home and soiled it with a city. Of all the statues in Rapture, this one easily took the cake for "most intimidating".

"Imagine it sunk into that trench right beneath it," Elizabeth replied, "and having to sink into the darkness first to reach it, leaving the city light behind for just one moment."

Jack peered down into the inky blackness and had to suppress a shiver.

"Why did it sink down there in the first place and how," he squinted hard, "is it staying up there with no supports?"

"Ryan used it as a prison for Fontaine's men and sunk it four thousand leagues down," Elizabeth answered, "and as for what's keeping it from sinking again, that's tied into what I have to show you."

Jack sighed heavily. "Just when you think you've heard all the shit that Ryan pulled, he dumps another one in your lap."

Elizabeth let out a snort. "I've been dead for over a year now, so I'm not quite up to date on what else he's pulled."

"We've got time," Jack said, the distance between them and the Department Store slowly decreasing. "For a start, he put a one thousand ADAM bounty on my head. He blew up a submarine that we both thought had Atlas' wife and child inside. He killed the plants in Arcadia and Julie Langford with a poison gas, almost suffocated all of Rapture. And finally, he almost blew up Rapture. Not to mention all the times he sicced his goons on me."

Elizabeth's eyes had widened with each item he listed until she looked quite comical. "He only 'sicced' his goons on me once," she said, shaking her head, "and that was one times too many."

Jack nodded in agreement as a column of lights lit up on the front of the building, leading to a bathysphere dock.

"Good news is," he said as he checked his weapons ammunition, "there's no one left to rule in this madhouse and make our lives miserable."

When the bathysphere door opened up and the air of the Department Store wafted in, they both gagged.

"Holy shit!" Jack coughed, "what is that smell?!"

"This entire building has its own air supply and venting," Elizabeth answered with a nasal tone, her nose held with one hand, "that's the smell of everything and everyone who's died in here, plus the general decay from being a leaky underwater building."

"I hate this city, so much," Jack groaned as he walked out of the sphere. The wooden planks on the floor that made a walkway above the water almost broke under his weight thanks to the rot that had claimed them long ago.

Elizabeth removed her hand from her nose, taking a deep breath and forcing herself to get used to the smell before following after Jack, making sure not to step where he had stepped.

Like High Street and Market Street before it, Fontaine's Department Store was a large open space. Signs proclaiming that the Store was "Closed by Order of the Council" had been slapped on over advertisements and were now threatening to fall off from age. Crabs scittered away through the water as he approached; if he got a craving for crab, at least it wouldn't be too hard to catch one.

The first corpse in the joint, a man who had died sitting down just ahead of them, was easily the most decomposed corpse that Jack had seen yet in Rapture. The eyes were milky-white and unrecognizable and human. The skin was sloughing off, and white bone poked out of the pant legs where little sea creatures had nibbled.

Jack glanced back a the crabs and grimaced. On second thought, he would wait until they were back on the surface for any seafood.

"Is it just me," he asked, glancing around the room, "or is this place in worse shape than the rest of Rapture?"

"It's not you," Elizabeth replied, kneeling down by the water's edge and studying what looked like the beginnings of coral, "the Department Store was ahead of its time thanks to Ryan. When New Years Eve rolled around, this place had a couple of months worth of splicers and decay on the rest of the city."

"Which means Rapture will be looking like this in a few months," Jack concluded, making a face at some barnacles. "Let's make sure that we're out of here before then."

"I'll drink to that," Elizabeth said, "when I have something to drink."

Jack couldn't help but snort.

They scrounged around for a bit, looking for any supplies, though Elizabeth said that it wouldn't be likely that they would find anything. She was right; the only thing they found was a Rapture dollar, in coin form. Jack stuck it in one of his back pockets instead of his wallet; he preferred to keep change separate from cash.

On the other end of the room was a large iron gate that would have been impossible to get over, if it wasn't for the huge hole right in the middle of it. Something large, likely sounding like a whale and wielding a drill, had broken through from the other side. A smashed seal lay on the ground, probably another reminder that the Council had closed the place down.

"At least we don't have to go up and over," Elizabeth said when she saw the hole, "last time I was through here, we needed Air Grabbers to get over the gate."

"Air Grabbers?" Jack asked as he walked between the bent metal of the gate, glancing behind them to make sure that the jail breaker wasn't about to slam them from behind.

"Basically, three hooks set up on a handheld rotor and magnetized," she explained, pointing up at an ornamental light, "perfect for getting to higher ground or riding on the pneumo lines."

"Huh, I'll have to be on the look-out for one of those," Jack quipped.

His short laugh turned into a groan when he saw the divide between them and the other side and the jet of water that sprayed out over the void courtsey of some burst pipes.

"Would those Air Grabbers come in handy for this?" he asked, pointing at the new obstacle.

"That burst pipe was here before," Elizabeth replied, "and I have just the thing."

She raised her hand and aimed, shooting an icy projectile at the jet. As soon as it struck the water, ice spread out from the point of impact, freezing it solid. When the ice reached both sides, the water was frozen into an ice bridge that spanned the chasm.

Elizabeth turned and smirked. "Last time, a passing splicer froze it for us. Not on purpose of course, it was still nice of him."

Jack snorted again. "How come I can't freeze water with my Winter Blast, but you can do that?" He'd tried that multiple times in the past in an attempt to slip up splicers or to at least keep his shoes from getting soaking wet and freezing. It usually just succeeded in leaving a small patch of ice on the water, not the feat of icy wizardry that Elizabeth had just performed.

"Dry ice freezes sea water much better than normal ice," Elizabeth explained, sauntering out onto the bridge. "Is that a tone of envy I spy with my little ear?"

"Yes," Jack answered, starting after her after realizing that he was staring, "yes it is."

On the other side, Elizabeth walked up to the large window and gestured for Jack to join her.

"Look," she said as he came up to the glass, "we're headed to Housewares over there. All we need to do is access the tram system between the buildings. It should be smooth sailing as I've already got Old Man Winter. Last time, we had to fight a bunch of splicers to get it and traverse more broken pipes like that one."

"I take it that the other person of this 'we' was Comstock?" Jack asked.

Eizabeth froze just as quickly as the dry ice had. For a moment, Jack feared that he had just asked a really bad question.

"Yes," she finally answered, her tone an indeterminate mixture of chilly indifference and sorrow. She abruptly turned away from the window and narrowly missed running into Jack on the way to the elevator. "Let's get moving, shall we?"

He stared for a moment before hurrying after her. Note to self: Avoid speaking directly about Comstock.

She was waiting for him in the elevator in front of a big advertisement for Nico-Time cigarettes. A pensive and thoughtful look was on her face, like she was contemplating something of importance that she had brushed off earlier that had just come back to mind. As soon as he had pressed the button and the doors had closed, she finally looked up at him.

"At the bistro, where we were ambushed, how did you do it?" she asked. At his own questioning look, she continued. "I saw you take a bullet from an elephant gun to the face, disappear, and then come back from the dead, roaring with life. If it's the Vita-Chambers, then how?"

Jack studied her good and hard. He had asked her a very personal question back in Market Street, and turnabout's fair play (sometimes). If he was going to trust her, he might as well give her a reason to trust him (not that she didn't already, but still).

"When I was in Port Neptune," he began, "I came across an audio diary by a guy named Sullivan, talking about how the genetic sensors on the bathysphere were only supposed to let Ryan and his inner circle use them. They turned out to be unreliable, let relatives come and go as they pleased. I didn't know what to think of that, so i just didn't think about it at all.

"After...killing Ryan, I listened to another diary, one mdae by Suchong. He talked about how the Vita-Chambers worked, that they had been set to Ryan's DNA…"

The realization stole over Elizabeth's face and he nodded.

"I'm Andrew Ryan's bastard kid," he said, "He got Jasmine Jolene pregnant and then she sold me when I was just a clump of cells to Suchong and Tenenbaum, who Fontaine had tasked to make him an 'Ace in the Hole'. Ryan's Heir, turned against his true father and working as an assassin slave for his greatest enemy. Fontaine must have loved that."

He slammed his fist into the side of the elevator, quivering with anger. Everything he had ever been, everything he had ever known, had been one huge lie. His entire life had been orchestrated so that he would return to this city and kill the man who sired him, and then die at the hands of a liar and schemer, thrown away like an emptied revolver. For all he knew, the only true memories he had was of the plane crashing and the beginning of his journey through Rapture. Could he truly be called a man when so much of his life had been decided for him?

He jumped when a small hand settled on his shoulder. He looked up to find Elizabeth standing right next to him, the comforting hand hers. Her sky-blue eyes peered into his own sea-green, and it was like he knew what she was thinking and feeling. Like she had finally found someone who could understand her completely, and he had found her as well.

I know what you mean, I know how you feel, and I'm here to help you through this crazy show called life. From this point on, we're in this together. Now and forever.

The rest of the world faded away and it was only them, their eyes gleaming into each other's, and her hand on his shoulder. They didn't even notice when the elevator finally stopped and the doors opened.

They did notice the loud, distorted scream that came out of nowhere and utterly destroyed the moment.

Instinctively, Jack grabbed Elizabeth and pulled her into cover right besides him, just in time for an Old Man Winter projectice to fly through the space she had just occupied and slam into the back of the elevator, covering the wall in a layer of frost.

"I cut my strings, you can do it too!" the splicer screamed as more ice projectiles hit the sides of the elevator doors, freezing them open.

Jack poked his head out for all of three seconds before pulling back to dodge another Old Man Winter, but he had seen the splicer. The man's face was craggy and wrinkled, his beard and remaining hair encrusted with snow, his clothes covered with frost, and his eyes glowing balefully at them. Growths that resembled crystals sprouted from his head, shoulder, arms, and legs, steam billowing off them. The air itself was tinged with cold, promising an icy death to the splicer's enemies.

"What the hell is that?!" Jack yelled as more ice accumulated in the elevator, "looks like a demented Jack Frost!"

"It's a Frosty!" Elizabeth yelled back, "fire is the best way to kill it!"

Jack willed fire into his palm and was rewarded with the sight and feeling of heat flowing through his veins and into his hands. Timing it jus right, he stuck out his head again, caught sight of the Frosty, focused on him, and then snapped his fingers.

The Frosty was engulfed in flames, his shouts and taunts devolving into shrieks of pain and fear. Jack snapped his fingers again and brought up his Tommy gun. Bullets slammed into the splicer, sending shards of crystalized ice flying everywhere. The flames died down abruptly, courtsey of the Frosty's powers, forcing Jack to withdraw back into the elevator.

He found Elizabeth loading exploding buckshot into the shotgun.

"That flame thrower of yours would be great for this!" she yelled as she pumped the shotgun, "hit him now!"

Jack hesitated only for a moment, which was covered for by the ice projectiles slamming into their cover. The moment it stopped, Jack popped his head back out and snapped again. This time as the Frosty yelled and hollered, Elizabeth vanished from sight and Jack felt her brush by him. As he readied the chemical thrower with napalm, he heard the shotgun going off, followed by more screams and cracking sounds.

Jumping out of the elevator, Jack found the Frosty was now shooting everywhere but at the elevator, trying to find and kill the invisible Elizabeth. Huge chunk of crystal lay shattered on the ground while flames still licked at the splicer's clothing. Blue blood was spattered on the ground and appeared to be freezing quickly instead of slowly congealing.

Jack applied Incinerate one more time and then let the Frosty have it with the chemical thrower. The splicer wasn't even able to fight back, the steady stream of flame keeping him from shooting back. He tried to run away, only to slip on one of his own crystals and crash to the floor. He thrashed around in agony on the floor, screaming bloody murder, before finally giving up the ghost and going still.

Jack turned off the chemical thrower, noting that the Frosty hadn't needed as much napalm as other splicers did, before looking around.

"Elizabeth, he's down, are you alright?" He called.

Elizabeth reappeared, laying full-length on the ground with her arms over her head and surrounded by icy shards. The shotgun lay on the ground next to her, steam rising from the barrel.

"Your shotgun kicks like a mule with double nought buckshot," Elizabeth groused as she sat up, cupping her shoulder and grimacing, "with explosive buck, it feels like being kicked by a Clydesdale."

Jack couldn't help but laugh.