Chapter 1: Waking Up in 1959
Dying was a strange feeling. It had been funny, especially so now, but Elizabeth had always thought it would be like being born except in reverse. Being in a tower all your life and immediately being thrown into bloodshed and violence, seeing the life slip from someone’s eyes for the first time, makes you fear death. Taking a life makes you accept it. It was natural, and no matter how much money men like Ryan had to throw at scientists who could create chambers to cheat it, to death he was no different than a beggar in the slums of Pauper’s Drop. It was the ultimate equalizer. While some such as Daisy Fitzroy and Booker faced it with dignity, others like Fink, who made an image of themselves as haughty and better than everyone else, spent their final moments on their knees, pleading for mercy.
Elizabeth knew she was going to die. From the moment she had stepped foot in Rapture, a plan had been set in place that would end with her joining the bodies that would soon fall. For a time, she had forgotten, doubted even herself, but she understood now. Death was not something to be feared. It was an old friend, ready to be embraced. Finally, she could get the one thing she had longed for all her life. Paris. Peace.
The world had no place for her, but by giving herself up for Sally, for Ryan’s poor test tube bastard, Jack, for all the other little girls who suffered under men like Ryan, Fontaine, Suchong, they now could. The doors had revealed themselves to her, and while Fontaine ranted and raved, she could see the future. How his vision of control over Rapture would be struck down seemingly by the heavens in the form of the children he wronged, their needles as sharp as their now cleared minds and their taste of revenge as bloodthirsty as he.
A pathetic end for a pathetic man.
But that wasn’t all she saw. The doors were kind, giving her glimpses of a future in which a boy bred to be a science experiment breaks free of the chains that tie him down to become a man. A father to girls who bond over their abuse, and while he struggles, he does them right and loves them unconditionally. The doors gave her visions of Sally, letting her watch a scared, cowering little girl in a bathysphere transform into a prom queen, a graduate of medical school, a bride, a mother.
Though the Little Sister gripped her tiny, cold hands tightly around hers, pleading that she didn’t leave her alone, Elizabeth was ready. Her vision was blurred, due in part to the searing pain in her skull and the blood pooling in her eyes, but she stared in Sally’s large, clear, glowing ones before losing consciousness. Hard to believe they would be a beautiful blue- as vibrant as a tropical sea.
Now, she felt nothing.
Just as it was before her birth, she was now one again with the universe. Her essence spread across the Sea of Doors.
But, then the pain came back. Her senses were overwhelmed with music and lights and the screams of children that made her throbbing head seem ready to explode. Bile at the back of her throat was swallowed as she finally opened her eyes. She had thought she was dead. She had been so sure that this was it. Yet, unless there was a heaven, and it smelled like a sewer and had a dozen little girls conversing, bickering, and playing with each other, Elizabeth was very much alive. She contemplated being happy or disappointed as she weakly examined her surroundings.
She was on a bed. An uncomfortable, hard bed that was most likely tossed from Mercury Suites. Her ratty, stained blanket was harsh against her skin and did little to give her warmth. Her head was spinning too much for her to sit up, but when she placed her hand up to where Fontaine had struck her with the wrench, she felt thick, heavy bandaging.
Someone had brought her here. Someone had saved her.
Tiny shrieks filled the air, making the pain nearly unbearable. She groaned and rubbed her temples. For a moment, there had been dread. Elizabeth had forgotten what happy children sounded like when they played. It was different than Sally’s when she was stuck in the hot vent, getting her little hands burnt, or when she was strapped onto a gurney and nearly lobotomized by Fontaine. It was light, like a song, and if her skull hadn’t been cracked, she would have found it lovely.
“Masha, what is the rule?” A woman’s voice says sternly, like a mother scolding child. Her German accent thick. “We have rule here, no?”
Elizabeth recognizes one of the little girls running about, being chased by another one. Her blue dress is torn and her tight ponytail is now undone, revealing her short, black hair. She had been in Suchong’s lab, cowering with her friend and terrified of the wounded Big Daddy. While Elizabeth had saved him, it didn’t take long for her to put two and two together and realize what fate he suffered shortly after. He had killed Suchong. A death sentence.
“We have to use our inside voices,” Masha replies, and Elizabeth cannot help but be taken aback at how aware she is. When they had met, she rambled nonsense, repeating the same phrases over and over again.
“So the Bad Man and the splicers don’t get us.”
“Good, good, mein kleine mädchen,” the woman said. It was hard for Elizabeth to make her out. She stood in another room with tinted windows, but she could see the cigarette in her silhouette. There was a trail of smoke when she waved the girl off. “You can continue to play, just quietly. Perhaps, some board games or hopscotch?”
Masha nodded. “Okay, Mama Tenenbaum,” she said sadly as she held her head down.
“Soon, child, soon,” Tenenbaum softly replied. “You will play in the sun and can be as loud as your heart contents.” She took a puff of her cigarette and sighed. “Just a little longer, hold out, please?”
The girl nodded again, more determined. “Yes, Mama Tenenbaum.” She turned to her companion, a slightly younger girl in a pink dress that Liz also recognized. “Do you want to draw?”
“No,” Leta replied. “I’m almost done Charlotte’s Web, so I think I’m going to read.”
“Can I borrow it when you’re done?”
“You’ll have to ask Sally. I told her she could read it next.”
Elizabeth’s eyes shot open. Was it her Sally? Sure, it was a pretty common name, but who else could it be? She had thought the doors told her truth, but given how she wasn’t dead, that didn’t seem to be the case. Her heart stopped as she peered at the crowds of various little girls, and while she swore she could see Sally, there were so many blondes. She could feel panic setting in. What if Fontaine hadn’t kept his deal? What if she had ran off and encountered a splicer? She would have never survived for long on her own.
“I sense you are looking for your little one,” Tenenbaum began.
“Where is she?” Elizabeth croaked, cringing at how dry her voice sounded. “Where is Sally?”
“You look at wrong places. All you need to do is look down. She is closer than you think.”
Sure enough, by peering over her bed, Elizabeth found the tiny form of Sally curled up on the ground. Her hair and black dress was just as dirtied and ripped as it had been before, but her skin now had a pinkish tint instead of a corpse like grey, though the bags under her eyes were still prominent. The young woman watched her little chest rise and fall as she slept. Seeing her on the floor while she had the bed broke Elizabeth’s heart.
“She came to me,” the scientist continued. “She guided me to where you lay. You are lucky, Fontaine’s aim is poor. If he had hit just a little closer, a little harder, your brain would have bled.” She took another puff of her cigarette. “Concussion is not ideal, but better than dead, no?”
Elizabeth’s brows furrowed. “You know Fontaine’s Atlas?” she asked as she turned her head slowly to Tenenbaum’s secluded room.
“You ramble in sleep,” the other woman replied. “Gibberish, mostly. But, I was able to get that.” She paused for a moment. “I had my suspicions, though.”
“You’re Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum,” Elizabeth began, sitting up some more. “You created the Little Sisters while working at Fontaine Futuristics and then ran away with them. Most people think you’re dead, others think you’re a traitor.”
She scoffed. “If I am a traitor for trying to undo the cruelty I have committed against these children, then I wear it proudly like badge.” The words came out bitter, but through the edge, Elizabeth could make out the fatigue and depression in the scientist’s voice. “I ask: what do you think of me?”
Elizabeth frowned and truly thought about her answer for a minute. She was an angel compared to Fontaine, who had taken no time in making it real clear he was going to kill her and took pleasure in jamming ice picks in children’s eyes, but that wasn’t much of an accomplishment. Fontaine could even make a toad like Augustus Sinclair look like a beacon of morality.
“We’re all terrible people down here,” she finally said. “It takes a lot of guts to right your wrongs, though. I would know, I guess.”
“This place was supposed to be safe haven from surface.” Tenenbaum sighed. “We all mocked them, but what would those people think of us if they saw what we have done to these children?”
“They’d think we’re monsters. Probably send us to hang like in Nuremberg.”
“I cannot say we do not deserve it,” the scientist murmured, taking another drag. “That I do not deserve it.” Her self-hatred was strong. Elizabeth knew that feeling all too well.
“I guess it’s my turn to ask: what do you think of me?” Elizabeth asked as she stared into the glass, watching as the other woman stood there, unmoving. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know you became instant success over night working under Sander Cohen, but just as soon as you appeared- you disappear. No one knows who you are, where you come from, or why you came.” Tenenbaum paused. “And you are not Suchong’s lab assistant.”
“What gave it away?” Elizabeth scoffed, though it turned into a cough. God, her throat was so dry.
Tenenbaum was not so amused. “You are very lucky Fontaine was not in right state of mind. He does not take well to liars. However, mysterious as you are, my little ones trust you.” She motioned towards Sally, who still laid there still on the cold, dirty ground. “She trusts you.”
Elizabeth frowned, slowly reaching her hand down to brush a loose strand of hair away from the tiny girl’s face. “She shouldn’t.”
“She told me you saved her life. Went through hell and back to give her a chance.” Tenenbaum put out her cigarette, rubbing it on the ashtray that rested on her desk. “Anyone who goes that far for my little ones is someone I can trust.”
“Trusting people in this shit-hole is the biggest mistake you can make.”
The scientist crossed her arms before saying brusquely, “You are more than welcome to leave when you recover. The door is up the steps and you will be in Olympus Heights. I am sure Fontaine and Ryan will be thrilled to see you alive.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. She was right. The moment she stepped out of the sanctuary, she was a dead woman walking. Between Fontaine and Ryan, the carnage of the ongoing war, and the splicers who would attack her on sight for ADAM, she’d be lucky to make it outside of the Adonis before being swarmed. Besides, what would she do anyway? It wasn’t like she could leave. Ryan had every bathysphere locked to his genetic code.
Unless she managed to make it down to Persephone to cozy up to Lamb, she didn’t have any other ‘friends’ but Tenenbaum. Of course, she knew Elizabeth wasn’t going to leave. At this point, they both had to rely on each other.
The oldest girl, a lanky, awkward thing of about eleven-years-old in a dress far too small for her, brought over a pitcher of water to her bedside and poured a glass of water. She held out the plastic, slightly stained cup to Elizabeth nervously as she played with a strand of her greasy, dark brown hair. Liz took it with a soft smile, and even though it had a disgusting salty, grimy aftertaste, she savored it.
“Thank you.” She placed the cup on the bedside table after she was finished downing it. Immediately, the girl refilled it. “Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied. “Are you hungry? I could get you something to eat if you want.” She fiddled with the hem of her torn green dress, which was now up to her thighs.
Elizabeth frowned. She needed new clothes, and desperately.
“I’m good, I’m good,” the older woman replied with a wave of her hand.
“Are you sure? You were sleeping for a while and I thought you’d be hungry. I know I would be.”
“Wait, how long was I out?”
“A month,” she answered. “You woke up a couple times, said some weird stuff, and then you’d go back to sleep. We all thought you were gonna die.” She looked down at Sally. “She’s been right by your side the moment you got here. She didn’t even want to sleep- she was afraid you were gonna wake up alone.”
The girl nodded with a grin. “She’s gonna be real happy you’re up, though!” Her attention turned to two of the former Sisters arguing over a candy bar. “Hey, hey!” She marched right over there and gave them both a scolding. “I have more Pep Bars, but none of you are going to get any if you keep fighting!”
“Well, tell Trudy to get her grubby, butterfingers off of people’s stuff!” A ten-year-old with medium length, dark copper hair and an orange dress huffed. “I don’t even know why you want it, your diet mostly consists of your boogers anyway.”
“I don’t eat my boogies!” Trudy, most likely the youngest of the girls at roughly four, stomped her tiny feet. “I don’t eat my boogies!”
“Oh, yeah? What were you doing, like, ten seconds ago? I saw you pick your nose, look at your finger, and then stick it right into your big mouth.”
“Not a boogey!”
“Well, then what was it? The air?” The red head turned to Leta, who had been trying to read her book in peace. “Did Trudy just eat her booger or am I still hallucinating?”
Leta looked up, slightly anxious due to being suddenly put on the spot. “I mean, yeah. She does it a lot. It’s gross.”
“See!” the older girl cried. “I have witnesses!”
Elizabeth’s brows raised. She was so used to children acting like little robots she wondered if this was how they were supposed to behave. A glance towards Tenenbaum, who sat hunched over at her desk, rubbing her temples, cemented that this must be a regular occurrence.
As entertaining as this was to watch, firing up an angry toddler was like poking a bear with a stick, and things were sure to escalate. Even the eldest of the Sisters wasn’t going to be able to diffuse this. Trudy’s face was a bright red as she continued to huff and puff. Steam was practically coming out of her ears.
It was like a tea pot on a stove or a thermostat pushed to its limit. She’s going to scream, Elizabeth thought. She’s going to scream and all hell is going to break loose. Hell, it could even alert the splicers, and then they’d all be dead.
“I have another Pep Bar, see!” The oldest girl pulled one out of the pocket of her apron. “See, Trudy! I have another one, so Rosie can keep hers!”
“I’ll have it, she already contaminated mine with her germs.”
“I did not!”
“Hey,” Elizabeth called out sternly. The dryness of her throat made her voice raspier, even slightly intimidating, or so she thought. “What’s going on here?”
The girl in the orange dress, Rosie, pointed at Trudy with a scowl. “I had a Pep Bar, and she tried to grab it right out of my hand!”
“I wanted it!”
“Trudy, you just can’t take things that don’t belong to you,” Elizabeth reprimanded from her bed. “If it was her Pep Bar, then you either ask to share or get one for yourself.” She then turned to the red head. “And you! Rosie, don’t stir the pot! Don’t be mean! We all don’t have to like each other, but we got to respect each other, understand?”
The girls both glared at each other before the older of the two handed her bar over. Well, more like dropped into the other’s hand before grabbing another one from her friend. Elizabeth couldn’t help but be impressed with herself. Problem solved, and no one cried or got their eyes clawed out. She didn’t even have to do that much. She could even see the beginnings of a smirk from Tenenbaum.
Trudy smugly grinned, feeling victorious and blew the older girls a raspberry as she walked upstairs to play hopscotch. She then proceeded to stop to stick her finger in her nose, stare at it, and lick it.
Elizabeth swore Rosie flipped her off.
Sally woke up shortly after. How she managed to sleep three hours on the ground, Elizabeth had no clue, but she seemed refreshed after her nap. As a Little Sister, she probably had to sleep in worse places. She rubbed her large eyes with her fists, yawned, and smacked her lips, completely unaware that Elizabeth was trying hard not to giggle at her. She was just too stinking cute.
Of course, Elizabeth’s breaking point came when the seven-year-old blew away a strand of hair from her now loose ponytail. The strand came back and Sally repeatedly blew it away for about thirty seconds before letting out an aggravated sigh and tucking it behind her ear.
Wide, bright blue eyes met her darker ones. The little girl gasped, her face frozen in shock as she stared up at Elizabeth, who beamed down at her. They remained that way for close to a minute before Liz finally broke the silence.
She leaped into her arms. Elizabeth was so taken aback by the sudden force she let out a grunt as Sally practically buried her face into her neck. The whiplash made her head ring.
“You’re okay!” She squeezed the woman’s neck so tight Elizabeth was afraid she was going to be choked out. “I was so scared! Atlas hit your head really, really hard and I thought you were going to die, but you didn’t die and-“
She shushed her gently, cutting off the girl’s ramblings. “And I’m okay,” she whispered, “I’m okay.” Still, Sally gripped her as if she was going to leave if she didn’t, and Elizabeth did the same when she heard tiny, muffled sobs. “It’s alright.”
Sally pulled away. Her eyes were bloodshot and snot dripped down her nose as she wept. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks. “I-I t-thought… I thought you were gone!” she said in between shaky breaths. “I thought h-he got you and I-I was gonna be all-all alone!”
“Oh, but he didn’t,” Elizabeth replied, her own voice wavering. “See, I’m here.” She wiped away her tears with her torn sleeve. “See, I’m right here. I’m here.”
And still, she cried. And Elizabeth held her, and even when they petered out into whimpers, she still held her and never wanted to let her go. The other girls gawked. Some of the more empathetic ones got teary-eyed themselves, while the rest awkwardly went back to playing after a few minutes. Tenenbaum watched them through the glass as she smoked another cigarette.
Leta had wandered over, clutching the book she had been reading close to her chest. She slowly placed it down on the table before backing up. Masha grabbed her by the arm and led her to the chalk, but they continued to watch from a distance.
With one hand wrapped around Sally, Elizabeth leaned over to pick up the book with the other. Charlotte’s Web. “Sally, what is this?” she asked.
Sally, whose head rested on the other’s chest, stared up at the book. “Charlotte’s Web. Leta had been reading it. I asked her if I could borrow it when she was done.” She paused, biting her lip. “I-I was going to read it to you while you were sleeping, but I-I’m not really good at reading so-“
“No, please read it.” Elizabeth smiled. “I’d love to hear it.”
“And if I stumble over the big words?”
“Then, I’ll help you.”
Sally wiped her face with her arm, sniffling before taking the book. She moved towards the end of the bed, allowing Elizabeth to lay back and rest her aching head. She glanced over at her nervously and received a reassuring nod. She opened the book and began to read.
“‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were sett… sett…”
“Oh! said Fern to her mother as they setting for b…break-fast.”
Though none of them could see it through the tinted glass, Tenenbaum smiled as the other girls stopped their activities to sit down on either the floor or beds nearby to listen.
Chapter 2: 1959 (Part I)
The war continues.
Okay, so the comments on here have made me so happy! Ah, I love all of you so much! I know this is pretty early, but take another chapter! I'll respond to comments later tonight!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She didn’t know how long she was down there. Maybe it was a few days, a few weeks, a few months. Time seemed to blur. Soon, though, the pain in Elizabeth’s head stopped and she was able to walk without feeling as if she was going to fall over or vomit everything she had ever eaten.
She most likely recovered so quickly because she had an excellent little nurse. Sally was always there, practically never leaving her side. She helped change bandages, washed the grime and dried blood from her face, brushed her greasy, tangled hair, and sung her to sleep when her migraines were especially bad.
La Vie En Rose had become their song. Elizabeth had heard it in the Paris of her dreams, and while Edith Piaf was hard to beat, she liked Sally’s soft, sweet vocals better.
Her French was terrible, though. They’d have to work on her pronunciation. They had plenty of time, though. It wasn’t as if they were going anywhere anytime soon.
Elizabeth quickly got to know more about the other girls. Trudy was a little brat. She was the daughter of some worker of Ryan’s who was used to being handed everything she wanted and waited on beck and call. No was not in her vocabulary. That didn’t suit well for the other girls, especially Rosie Andersdotter. Rosie was a little spitfire. She was crude, she had no filters, and once she got fired up there was no stopping her. She said she got it from her mother, who apparently had been a designer of the shoes Elizabeth wore. When they reunited, Rosie had plans of getting into a partnership with her mother and creating a fashion empire. She’d do the designs while Rosie would handle the business aspect.
Monopoly was banned after Rosie made several girls cry.
The eldest of the Sisters, the one who had poured her a glass of water, was named Janice. Janice was a sweet girl, slightly on the bossy side, but that was only because she took the role of being a big sister very seriously. She considered herself Tenenbaum’s right-hand man, or well, child. When the doctor went out to find more Sisters or scavenge for supplies, she was the one calling the shots.
Masha and Leta, the ones who were in Suchong’s lab, had been practically attached to the hip. They both evened each other out perfectly. Leta was shy; a contrast to Masha’s extroverted nature. Masha was an artist while Leta was a voracious reader, even going so as to use the labels off of shampoo bottles as reading material. Leta never knew her parents, Masha did.
Masha was convinced her mother and father were out there searching for her. She told stories about them all the time. Her father was from Colorado and met her mother while he was stationed during the war. He came to Rapture to work on the Atlantic Express. He was the strongest man to ever exist and her mother was the most beautiful woman on the planet! Those were Masha’s words, not Elizabeth’s.
When the bloodshed died down, she wanted to go to her home in the Fighting McDonagh’s and bring them to the surface. She had very specific plans. They’d move back to Colorado, and they would live in a cabin on the mountains with a bunch of dogs. It’d be just the three of them, playing in the snow and sun forever.
“I wanna show Mama I’m not afraid of trees anymore,” Masha told Elizabeth one day as she flipped through the pages of a large atlas for children. It had most likely been smuggled in from the surface. In Ryan’s eyes, the only place that mattered was Rapture. Everywhere else was probably a radioactive waste dump because apparently everyone left behind had brains the size of lima beans.
Elizabeth hummed as she slowly sat down on the floor beside her. Her back would most likely be forever sore from that damn bed. “You’re afraid of trees?”
“Well, Mama took me to Arcadia one day for a picnic, but we had to leave early,” Masha began with a frown. “I was really scared.”
“You were scared of a tree?” Elizabeth hadn’t meant to sound incredulous, but the thought of anyone being terrified of a tree was so absurd to her.
Masha was not too happy with her response, giving her a glare. “I never saw one before! I thought they were monsters that were gonna snatch me and Mama up with their hundred arms!” She turned back to her book. “I know they’re branches now, though.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Elizabeth said as she put a hand on the other’s shoulder. “I guess, coming from the surface, I have a hard time putting myself in your shoes.”
“I have to go to the surface.” Masha turned another page. “I have to see what’s out there. Like, look at this!” She positioned the book so Elizabeth could see the forests of Washington and Oregon. “Oh, and this!” She pointed to another page that featured the Eiffel Tower. “How could Mr. Ryan say that this is bad?”
She shrugged. She didn’t quite have that answer herself. Thankfully, though, Masha answered it for her.
“I think it’s cause he’s stupid.”
Yeah, that worked.
As Masha rambled on about all the places she’s read about in her atlas, Elizabeth found her eyes drawn to a doodle of a large tree that was so tall it went through the clouds, smiling at its friend the sun. The sun was beaming back.
Masha notices and closes her book. “That’s General Sherman,” she began, “he’s the tallest tree in the whole wide world. He’s almost three-hundred feet tall!”
“Wow, that is pretty big,” Elizabeth replied, actually impressed. “Did you learn that from your book?”
“Yep!” The little girl nodded. “He’s a sequoia! They’re in California.” She grinned. “I’m gonna ask Papa if we can go visit him when we get to the surface. I want to give him a big hug!”
“You’re not scared of him?”
“I was,” Masha said, “but then I read about him. He makes oxygen and he gives a home to the birds and squirrels for free! I like to think he’s so big so he can watch over and protect everybody.”
Elizabeth softly smiled. “You know what, I think you’re right, Masha.”
The fighting and screams were starting to get too close for Tenenbaum’s comfort. As the war dragged on, she’d set up traps. Some miniature turrets outside the door and trap bolts were placed throughout the sewers. No one had attempted to get in yet, but as more and more spliced, it was only a matter of time before they tried. If there was one thing Elizabeth knew for certain about Brigid Tenenbaum, it was that she was always prepared. Always, always one step ahead of everyone else. She had to be to make sure they all survived.
“The more they splice, the more unstable they will become,” Tenenbaum explained as she and Elizabeth checked the turrets a few weeks later. “Even with all the precautions I have set place, it might not be enough to hold them back.”
“What do you suggest we do?” Elizabeth asked, turning her head to watch the other woman as she knelt down to check some wiring.
Through dark, puffy eye-bags that marked weeks of sleepless nights and grimy, tangled hair, Tenenbaum was a beautiful woman. She might not have considered herself that or bothered to care much about her appearance, but it hadn’t just been her intelligence that had gotten Fontaine’s attention. Elizabeth considered her to be a classical beauty, a Greek sculpture that came to life.
“I would say scavenge,” Tenenbaum finally replied, her weary green eyes meeting Elizabeth’s vibrant blues. “But, I am sure at this point, every vending machine in area is empty.” Ignoring the dirt on her fingers, she ran a hand through her dark curls. “I promised to save them,” she said softly. “I can protect them from the splicers, but I cannot put food in their bellies.”
Elizabeth sighed. “We only got a few Pep Bars left and with more girls now it won’t last us a week. I guess they’ll have to split them.”
“They need nutrition,” the other woman replied. “These snack foods, they are not enough. They need fruits, vegetables, meats, not this processed garbage.” She threw her hands up in frustration. “Everything is rotten. No one is filling up the machines and it is too damn expensive!”
“I can go out and look for food.”
Tenenbaum stared at her as if she had two heads.
“I can go out and look for food,” Elizabeth repeated.
“No.” Tenenbaum waved her off before continuing to work on the turrets. “No, that is suicide. You have only just recovered.”
“I’m feeling fine. Besides, you’ve done enough. Let me earn my keep around here.”
“If Ryan and Fontaine know you are alive, they will send all their men after you.” She paused, her face emotionless. It sent shivers down Elizabeth’s spine. “If that were to happen, I do not know if I could allow you back in.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and stared at a pile sewage by them.
“I’m sorry, Frau Comstock,” she murmured. “These risks, it is something I cannot afford with the Little Ones. What Fontaine and Ryan would do if they found them-“
“They won’t,” Elizabeth said, cutting her off. “No one will ever see me.”
Tenenbaum’s brows furrowed. “And how do you know that?”
She was startled when Elizabeth seemingly disappeared without a trace. The doctor glanced around the corridor they were in, almost frantic as she tried to find her companion. She stood up and cursed under her breath. However, before she could call out her name, Elizabeth was back. In fact, she hadn’t moved an inch.
“Peeping Tom? It was discontinued after Ryan sunk the department store.”
“I got it from the sex shop down there.” Elizabeth smirked. “Turns out perverts aren’t the only ones who can have a use for it.”
Tenenbaum stared at her from head to toe for a moment. Her eyes closed as she let out a deep exhale. “Okay,” she finally said, though Elizabeth could tell she wasn't convinced. “We’ll try.”
“Here is a list of what we need. Food, of course, is a must as is fresh water-“
Elizabeth stared down at the piece of crumpled paper in her hands. It had been ripped out of Tenenbaum’s journal, and while it wasn’t long, the items that were written down were not going to be easy to find. Not when the world was burning around them.
“Some of the bigger Little Ones need new clothes,” Tenenbaum continued. “Shampoo and soap would also be nice. Girls are filthy, they need bath desperately.”
“We all do,” Elizabeth said. “I’d kill for a hot bath right now.”
That got a smirk from Tenenbaum. A rare sight to see. “Sadly, my friend, you might have to wait a bit longer for that. I find that I have gotten used to the smell, though.”
“How did you manage to do that?”
“When you are in German prison camp, hygiene becomes least of concerns.” Tenenbaum took a puff of her cigarette.
Elizabeth winced and rubbed her arm, growing uncomfortable as this conversation was quickly taking a very awkward turn. She didn’t even know what to say to that. What do you say to that? Tenenbaum must have noticed, as well, choosing to drop the subject entirely and move on.
“Anyway,” the scientist began, “even if you do not find everything on the list, the food and water will suffice for now. Get non-perishables, hopefully it will last us at least a month.”
She nodded and put the list into her pocket. Grabbing the crossbow, pistol, and radio that was laid out on the desk, Elizabeth had already started to make her way out the door of Tenenbaum’s room when she was called back. The doctor stared at her in bewilderment.
Tenenbaum leaned back in the doorway with her arms crossed, pointing at the other woman with her whole hand. She scoffed. “You are going out like this? Really?”
Elizabeth stared down at her outfit. It was still the same one she had since she arrived into Rapture, stolen right out of that sex store. It was a far cry from the head turner it had been when she seduced many a man who knew Comstock while she worked for Cohen: the sleeves were torn, the once pristine, white shirt was now stained with her blood, and her tights were ripped. The heels held up, though. Rosie was right, her mom did make some solid shoes.
“Yeah, I know, it’s not ideal, but I’ll be fine.”
“No, no,” Tenenbaum argued. “You honestly expect to sneak by splicers in heels? What if they hear you? It is not as if you can run very far-”
“I’ve managed it before,” Elizabeth replied, checking the crossbow for ammo. There were some gas bolts. However, most of the ammunition was to kill. Hell, she doubted if tranquilizer darts would work on splicers anymore. “You know, Dr. Tenenbaum, just because you can’t walk in heels doesn’t mean everyone else can’t.”
A brow raised. “Is that so?”
“And may I ask what happens if your ankle gives out? If you accidentally get caught on rubble?” Tenenbaum asked deadpan. “Do you expect to run with a broken leg?”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to answer.
“I’m sure if Ryan or Fontaine see your pictures in security footage, they will not recognize you, no?”
It was a real damn shame her face was plastered all over the city. She had already regretted ever having to associate with Sander Cohen as it was. Ryan could spot her, and Fontaine, well he made it real clear he wasn’t going to forget her face anytime soon. For multiple reasons.
She pursed her lips. This femme fatale look had never suited her well. Staring at herself in the mirror after a show at Fort Frolic, her face caked in heavy makeup, Elizabeth could barely recognize herself. The only time she felt normal-or whatever one would consider normal-was scrubbing it all off when she got to her room in the Sinclair Deluxe. She wasn’t a Songbird, then. She wasn’t an easy broad, as so many of the men that lingered around to get a sight of her called her. She was just Elizabeth.
If there was one thing she didn’t miss about Rapture before things went to hell, it was having to worry about rent. Maybe all the poor people Sinclair had fucked over got their revenge. She certainly wouldn’t shed a tear for him or any of these industrialist hacks. He could join Ryan and Fontaine in hell soon enough.
“You have any suggestions, then? Cause, I kind of don’t have anything else to wear.”
Tenenbaum nodded and knelt down to open the small metal crate under her bed. She pulled out a light blue, denim jumpsuit, a white t-shirt, and boots. It was an outfit for a worker; someone who could get dirty if they had too and not have to worry about being constrained by an unbearably tight skirt or tripping over high heels.
“I have had it for a while,” Tenenbaum said as she handed the outfit to her. “It has been collecting dust. Besides,” she smirked, “you need it much more than I do, anyway.” She motioned to the curtain. “Go, now, and get changed. I want to see how you look.”
Elizabeth didn’t even have time to say thank you before she was dragged into the makeshift dressing room.
Rosie picked up the piles of napkins that were scattered on the floor curiously. She inspected them carefully. “What are these for?” She asked before gasping, it finally registering. While Elizabeth couldn’t see it as she changed, she knew there was a mischievous grin. “Oh, you stuffed your bra didn’t you?”
“And what made you think that?” Elizabeth attempted to play it off, but she found her cheeks heating up.
“Not even Steinman makes boobies that big,” Rosie replied. “Trust me, I know my stuff.”
She wanted to question how a ten-year-old knew what plastic surgery was, and more importantly, what Steinman’s limits were. However, some can of worms were not meant to be opened, so Elizabeth decided to leave it be.
“I’m sure you do. I am sure you do…”
“Dumme Gans,” Elizabeth heard Tenenbaum lightly scold the girl. “Let us not be so crude, no?”
“I can’t help it, Mama Tenenbaum. It is who I am.”
As she stepped out, Elizabeth felt awkward. Heavy. She had never worn anything so clunky before in her life. Hell, this was her first time wearing pants. It was strange, yet nice. There was a sense of freedom she had never experienced before. No corsets that shaped her torso, no tight, uncomfortable bras, no skirts or dresses that constrained her movements. Staring at her reflection in the glass window of Tenenbaum’s office, she doesn’t see herself. She sees another woman.
A woman who is strong and doesn’t have to put on an act to not only convince others she is but also herself. A woman who isn’t held back by the sins of both herself and her father. A woman who said goodbye.
Maybe, just maybe, Elizabeth could eventually be her. She put a hand to her neck; it was so bare without her pendant. She had begged Booker to choose it for her, both of the options being so beautiful that she couldn’t decide. He picked the bird, most likely to shut her up. She never went anywhere without it since. It had become her good luck charm, the one last thing she had of him. Of their experiences in Columbia.
It was lost in the chaos. The chances of finding it now were slim to none; like searching for a needle in a haystack. A haystack that’s the size of a major metropolis.
Booker would want this. He’d want her to get rid of all she has of him and Columbia. That’s what she tries to convince herself. Booker wouldn’t want her crying over a pendant. He wouldn’t want her crying over him at all. If he was here, and she imagined he was often, he’d tell her to pick herself up by her bootstraps and get to work.
Oh, Booker, fruit flies had more empathy than you.
“Are you alright, Frau Comstock?” Tenenbaum broke the few painful minutes of awkward silence. She frowned sympathetically.
Elizabeth nodded, more shakily than she liked. “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just weird seeing myself like this, I guess.” She paused. “I look so different.”
“Different is good,” Tenenbaum replied, “harder for you to be recognized.” She took a drag. “Besides, this is more practical. No more worrying about breaking your ankles.”
“Yeah, that’s a positive,” Elizabeth said as she put on the white gloves that hung out of the pockets of the suit. “I suppose I should be going now. Food isn’t going to just magically appear.”
If she still could make tears it would and their lives would be so much easier.
“I suppose you should.” Tenenbaum motioned to the radio attached to the other’s belt. “I will be in contact, but I have eyes all over the city.” She then pointed to the children playing outside the room. “My Little Ones will check up on you through the vent. They may drop off some supplies should you need it”
Rosie had picked up most of the napkins off the floor, and with a devilish grin on her face, turned to Trudy, who was playing with a doll by the door. “Hey, Trudy,” she teased, holding them up. “Booby sweat!”
The little girl screamed and took off with Rosie soon right on her heels. The two women glanced at each other, absolutely defeated. Perhaps, having a few hours to explore would do Elizabeth some good. Even the most patient of saints need a break now and then.
She had put on her satchel and was about to open the door when she was stopped by Sally. The tiny blonde twiddled her thumbs. Her already large, wide eyes were like saucers. Elizabeth stopped and knelt down to her level.
“You said you weren’t leaving me again,” she murmured sadly.
“I’m not,” Elizabeth said with a frown. “I’ll be back, I promise.”
“You can’t promise that.”
The words stung, reminding Elizabeth of what she told Booker back in Emporia as they both cowered from Songbird. “You’re right, I can’t. You need to trust me, though, okay?”
“What if Fontaine gets you again. He’s gonna beat you up, and I’m not gonna be there to help you!”
“Fontaine won’t even know I’m there.” Elizabeth gestured to herself. “He won’t even recognize me.”
“You do look different,” Sally said, though she still wasn’t thrilled.
“Is it a bad different?”
“No, it’s a good different. You look tough. Like, you’re gonna beat some bad guys.”
“Well, tell you what,” she said with a smile, “if I see Fontaine I’ll beat him up for you. Then, when I get back, we can read some more Charlotte’s Web, okay? Would you like that?”
Sally nodded. “Yeah, a lot.” The beginnings of a small smile dropped. “Uhm…”
“What is it?” Elizabeth asked.
“Do you think you can pick up ice cream?”
Elizabeth's new outfit is a reference to Tenenbaum's original 'Emily' outfit. I think it'd be more practical than wearing her Burial at Sea outfit.