Christmas Eve, 1968.
It was Christmas time in the Ryan household and the entire mansion's halls were rightly decked. And just in time too since Christmas Eve was the day of the annual Ryan Family Christmas Party. Jack had invited Dick and his wife along with Jean and her daughter. Dick's son, Michael, or Mike as he was better known, was also invited. Jack had extended the invitation to Julie's family, but her Sheriff's deputy uncle was all she had left, and he attended anyway, and had been annually since Jack and Julie's marriage. Jack was in his best suit as he, Dick, Jean, and Julie's uncle, Stephen, sat in the den. Stephen was almost the spitting image of Franklin but was several years younger and his hair had miraculously and naturally retained its hazelnut color.
"So then Jack here puts the kibosh on the whole situation and says in the immortal words of his father, Andrew Ryan, "that's not a parasite, that's my wife." Jean said with her best impersonation of Jack's voice, earning laughter from Dick and Stephen while Jack sat with a narrow eyed smirk, rapping his fingers on the arm of his chair.
"Jean, you're fired." Jack said with a sip of eggnog. He was being good humored naturally.
"Oh come on, Jack. She's just kidding." Dick said with a laugh as Jack nodded.
"I know." He said before he noticed what seemed to be a fireball fly by outside the windows. He then saw what looked like a bolt of lightning and he immediately knew what was going on. He was relieved by the fact that he was the only one facing the windows.
"Would you excuse me for a moment? I need to deal with something real quick." Jack said as he stormed out the door.
"MASHA! BECKY! FRONT AND CENTER!" He roared angrily, causing the two to immediately appear out from behind the bushes, both hiding their left hands behind their backs.
"Alright, what were you two thinking?" Jack asked with his arms crossed.
"Just trying to keep warm. Masha does have Incinerate after all." Becky said with an innocent grin.
"Are you daft? We have guests, and we can't afford to have people learning about the Plasmids." Jack said in a terse whisper.
"Tell that to Brigid." Masha said, glancing over her shoulder to see what appeared to be Brigid, sitting absolutely still on a stone bench as Sammy Rothschild kept plying her with various questions. Jack glanced around and saw what looked like a magazine sitting on a nearby tree stump, the pages turning themselves. They had discovered before Tenenbaum's departure that one of the tonics that Brigid had inherited was Natural Camouflage, so whenever she remained mostly stationary, she turned invisible. Jack scowled when he realized that Brigid was using a Decoy to fool poor Sammy.
"Do me a favor, distract Sammy, I'll deal with Brigid." Jack said as the girls scrambled to get in between Sammy and the Decoy Brigid while he stormed up towards the "magic magazine."
"Alright, Brigid, knock it off." Jack said as Brigid reappeared with an innocent grin on her face.
"I love you daddy." She squeaked, earning a narrow eyed smirk from Jack.
"And I love you too, that's why we have the no Plasmid or Tonic use in public rule." Jack said as Brigid stood up. Jack glanced over his shoulder and saw Suzy and Mike sitting on the porch in the porch swing, talking. Mike was a sophomore in high school while the girls were all freshmen. Jack had given thought to letting them attend an actual high school since they were more mature and at least Amy and Becky were more conservative with their plasmids.
"What do you think? Will he get a kiss or will he get stars and birdies?" Brigid asked as she noticed her sister with Mike.
"Preferably, neither." Jack mumbled as he glanced around but couldn't find Amy.
"Have you seen Amy anywhere?" Jack asked as Brigid nodded.
"Yeah, she's in with Mom and Mrs. Mycroft." Brigid replied as Jack nodded understandingly. He then felt a tugging on his pants leg and looked down to see Sammy Rothschild looking up at him. Sammy, now six years old, reminded Jack of the Little Sisters from Rapture in terms of appearance except she was blond…and completely clean in terms of genetic tampering.
"Mr. Ryan, what did you ask Santa for this year?" She asked as Jack smiled and took her by the hand.
"I asked for only one thing, Sammy. Come on, I'll show you what I asked for." Jack said as he led her into the house. He led her into the main hallway, and pointed to a framed photo of Dr. Tenenbaum.
"I asked Santa for my friend, Dr. Tenenbaum, to come home safely." Jack said as Sammy looked curious.
"Why? Is she okay?" Sammy asked.
"I dunno. She left in July to go look for her family in Germany. We haven't heard anything since. I hope she's alright. I asked Santa that if she can't come home for Christmas, then let us at least hear something from her." Jack said with a heavy sigh.
"If that's what you asked Santa for, then he's bound to bring it! Unless you've been naughty." Sammy said tauntingly. Jack smirked at her and chuckled.
"You are your mother's daughter." Jack said as Sammy furrowed her brow.
"Why does everyone keep saying that?" Sammy asked, confused as Jack led her into the den with the kitchen where Julie, Rosetta, and Amy were standing around and talking.
"Well, look what just walked in." Julie said with a chuckle.
"Looks like you've made a friend Jonathan." Rosetta, or Rose, said with a chuckle.
"Please, Mrs. Mycroft, call me Jack." Jack said pleadingly.
"I can't do that. My brother's named Jonathan but we call him Jack. Calling you Jack would only confuse me." Rose said as Jack sighed in defeat but with a smile.
"Alright, I surrender. Jonathan it is." Jack said as Julie chuckled.
"Come on, Mr. Ryan, let's go see if it's snowing yet." Sammy said as she bounced up and down excitedly.
"I think I could make it snow, daddy." Amy said, earning a glare from Jack.
"Amy." He said warningly.
"I'm only kidding." Amy said with a shrug as Jack, being dragged by Sammy, was pulled towards the backdoor.
"Did I miss something?" Rose asked.
"It's a family thing. Nothing you need to worry about." Julie said casually. Rose seemed satisfied with the answer.
A few hours later, everyone had gathered in the den, where the Christmas tree was set up. They had just gone through the gift exchange, Jack personally giving Dick, Jean, and Stephen copies of Bioshock (Which still wasn't officially published) along with whatever else they got. Julie had also gotten Jack a golf club which was privately bemusing to Jack considering his sole memory with a golf club was beating his own father to death with it. Poor Julie, having as yet to read Jack's book, was oblivious to this and missed the 9-Irony (Plus 1 Achievement). They were surprised however when Dick stood up…
"I would like to propose a toast!" Dick said as he raised a glass mug of eggnog.
"You got anything special in mind Dick?" Jean asked.
"Actually I do. To the one person who is absent amongst us. Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum." Dick said, with a smile.
"Really, Dick?" Jean asked in surprise.
"Oh, he just enjoyed singing that old German Christmas song, Oh Tannenbaum only deliberately substituting her name instead and then hearing her politely correcting him with that accent of hers and calling him Herr Mycroft and then muttering something in German that I'm sure was an insult." Julie said as Jack nodded quickly.
"Oh yes it was." He said, in reference to the German insult.
"What does it mean, Jack?" Jean asked as Jack chuckled.
"Jean, please, there are actual women present." Jack said with a smirk before dodging an airborne candy cane.
"But in all honesty, I'm sure Tenenbaum is toasting us a Merry Christmas in Germany right now." Stephen said as the others nodded.
"We even got her a present." Brigid added.
"What did you get her?" Jean asked curiously.
"Well we didn't so much as get it as we did make it." Amy said.
"You made her something?" Rose asked.
"They certainly did. You want to see it? We haven't wrapped it yet. The paint's still drying." Jack said proudly as Amy and Masha scurried up the stairs to retrieve it. After a few moments of careful maneuvering, they emerged from the second floor with a painting of a young Brigid Tenenbaum with the five girls before a dark blue-green backdrop. If you looked closely you could see the outline of what appeared to be a cityscape in the background.
"Would you look at that? It's gorgeous!" Rose said in awe as the girls propped the painting up on a stand.
"We took pictures of Mama Tenenbaum from when she was younger and painted her in. Then we took pictures of us from 1960 and painted ourselves in. We call it Tenenbaum and her Little Ones." Suzy explained.
"Well I imagine she will greatly appreciate it when she gets it." Stephen said with a nod.
"She's gonna end up having to wait until she gets back though. She keeps moving around Germany looking for her family. She's staying away from Berlin what with the Communists and all." Julie said with a sigh.
"My father moved to this country to escape the Communists. I have to admit, I can understand why from what all I've heard." Jack said as he glanced towards the Rosie Diving suit, which was decked out with tinsel and a few ornaments. Instead of the rivet gun, it now had a large fake candy cane.
"Oh come on, let's get off the topic of the reds and focus more on the red and greens, or in the case of this candy cane, the red and whites." Dick said with a chuckle.
"I agree. I say we all-…" Jack was said but was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell.
"Now who could that be at this hour?" Jack asked as he headed to the door.
"Maybe its Santa." Sammy said excitedly. Jack checked through the peep hole and saw a boy. He then opened the door.
"Can I help you?" Jack asked curiously.
"Western Union, sir. Uh, is this the home of one, Jonathan Ryan?" the boy asked as Jack nodded.
"Yes, that's me." Jack said as the boy grinned and handed him a clipboard.
"This is for you then. Sign here, please." He said as Jack signed the paper on the clipboard and handed it back to the boy who took it back and gave Jack a small brown envelope.
"Here you go, sir. Merry Christmas." The boy said as Jack gave the boy two dollars (which was a lot back then).
"Here, for your trouble. And Merry Christmas to you too!" Jack called as the boy rode away on his bicycle. Jack walked inside, looking the envelope over curiously as he shut the door.
"Who's it from, Jack?" Julie asked as Jack opened the envelope and pulled out a folded letter. He unfolded it and read silently…
"Found little ones (Stop) Now in Iceland (Stop) Need your help (Stop) Await package in mail (Stop) - Tenenbaum."
"It's from Tenenbaum. She's stuck in Iceland and she needs me to help get her out." Jack said as he pocketed the telegram.
"Well good luck getting out there before Christmas. The airports will be closed." Dick said as Jack nodded.
"I know. She wants me to wait for some sort of package to arrive first anyway." Jack said with a shrug.
"Package? What sort of package?" Jean asked curiously. Jack shrugged helplessly.
"I dunno. She just said to wait for it." Jack said.
"Then I guess we'll just have to wait and see." Julie said as the others nodded.
"See! See! It was Santa! He granted Mr. Ryan's Christmas wish!" Sammy exclaimed as Jack laughed.
"Yes…yes he did Sammy. Yes he did." Jack said with a sigh of relief. He definitely slept well that Christmas night.
December 29, 1968
A little over five days had passed since receiving Tenenbaum's telegram, and they had yet to receive Tenenbaum's package. Jack was in his workshop in the old barn which had been refurbished since Tenenbaum's departure, working on a new product for Ryan Vendors. A cold product vendor called "the Gatherer's Garden." Naturally he intended it to look exactly like the old Gathers Garden machines from Rapture but only he and the girls would know. Its new intention was, instead of selling Plasmids and Gene Tonics, was to sell cold or refrigerated products such as bottled soft drinks and fresh water, bags of ice, chilled soups, ice cream, etc. As he worked on building the framework for the machine, he heard what sounded like shouting. He turned and saw Becky and Brigid running towards the workshop.
"Daddy! Daddy!" they shouted as they ran.
"Calm down girls, what's the matter?" He asked, standing up and wiping the grease off his hands with a rag.
"We just got a package in the mail!" Brigid exclaimed.
"The return address is from Iceland!" Becky added. Before they could even blink, Jack was running towards the house.
"Julie! Where is it!" Jack shouted into the house as he walked into the hall.
"Kitchen!" Julie shouted. Jack hurried inside and saw rectangular wooden box marked "Fragile" on the kitchen table.
"Drat! I forgot my crowbar in the workshop." Jack grumbled before he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"But we didn't." Brigid said as she held up a crowbar. Jack snatched the crowbar from her and quickly started prying the lid off the box. Finally it popped open, revealing it full of straw.
"There's nothing here but straw." Suzy said, disappointed.
"I can burn it away." Masha said with a grin, toying with a flame on her index and middle fingers.
"Masha, what did we tell you about fire-starting Plasmids in the house?" Julie scolded. Masha obediently extinguished the flames. Jack in the meantime dug into the straw and found under it was an Accu-vox audio recorder from Rapture.
"Ah ha! Leave it to Tenenbaum to send us another message like this!" Jack said cheerfully as he carefully picked up the audio diary and carried it into the library. He sat it down on a roll top desk and then sat down with a pen and pad of paper, ready to write down whatever instructions Tenenbaum might have sent them. He then paused and grimaced.
"Julie, do me a favor and slap me." Jack grumbled, earning confused looks from the others.
"What? Why?" She asked curiously.
"Because I just thought of another product to market." Jack said with a scowl, turning around in the chair and pointing to the audio diary.
"Just play the message, Jack." Julie said with a chuckle. Jack complied and pressed the play button on the audio diary. The mechanical sound of it starting up was heard followed by Tenenbaum's voice over the faint sound of children at play…
"I know that you are probably assuming that I am dead. I assure you, I'm not. I sent the telegram to you ahead of time to let you know just that. As I also said in the telegram, I found the kidnapped little ones in Rapture along with something more. I found an old friend of mine and with his help we have managed to return to the surface with them. I was unable to destroy Rapture but I believe that Rapture is about to starve to death on its own without the little ones to provide them with ADAM or anyone to guide the Splicers. That being said, I must now ask for your help mien freund. I need money to help get the little ones back to their rightful homes and I don't have enough…let's say "acceptable currency" to do that on my own. Here's what I need you to do, Herr Ryan. I need you to come to Iceland, to the town of Ólafsvík, where we are currently in hiding. Ask for a man named Carleton Rede. He is a member of that Organization of Pawns that Herr Doctor Stein was a member of and is helping us. He will be staying in a hotel near the airport in the capital city of Reykjavík, called the Rook Motel, waiting for you. I look forward to seeing you again, Herr Ryan. See you soon. Tenenbaum."
With that the machine shut off. Jack, having written down her instructions immediately leapt up and started heading upstairs.
"Jack, you're leaving now?" Julie asked as she followed after him.
"Have to! I need to try and catch the first plane I can to Reykjavík as soon as possible. Do me a favor. Call Dick and have him spread the word to Jean and the powers-that-be in the company that I've gone to help the doc. I'll probably not get back until after New Years, but I will come back, and with Doctor Tenenbaum, I promise you that." Jack said with a smile.
"We'll let them know." Julie said as Jack started packing a suitcase.
"Oh, one more thing, and this is a precautionary measure. Very carefully go downstairs to my gun safe, use the combination and get my modified pistol along with the strongboxes marked Pistol and Pistol dash Splicers. Then grab the box that has all of my EVE hypos and bring them up stairs to me. Oh and have one of the girls go and bring my wrench too. The red one." Jack instructed.
"What's the Pistol dash Splicers mean?" Julie asked curiously.
"Its anti-personal ammunition. Good against people…and Splicers." Jack said with a shrug as Julie nodded and hurried downstairs. Soon she returned, carefully carrying the unloaded and modified pistol along with a box marked "Pistol" while Amy followed close behind with the box marked "Pistol-Splicers" and the box marked with a drawing of a blue apple.
"I sent Masha for the wrench. Though what do you need it for?" She asked curiously.
"To bash in heads, what else?" Amy asked, earning an incredulous look from Julie.
"Sad part is, she's right." Jack said, earning the same look as Amy set down the box on the bed and headed back downstairs.
"So, what's the plan, Jack?" Julie asked.
"I've already updated my will, so if anything happens, you and the girls get an even share of the family finances and the company. I doubt anything will happen though but considering what happened the last time I was on an airplane…well…better safe than sorry." Jack said dryly as he continued to pack.
"I didn't mean for us Jack. I meant for you. Do you know what you're doing?" Julie asked as Jack nodded.
"I figure I'm going to help her move all those kids back to their homes then bring Tenenbaum and her friend back here." Jack said as Julie nodded.
"I'll have the guest room made up then." Julie said.
"We might not be back for a while. There's no telling how long it'll be till we get everything sorted out. I'll send telegrams as often as I can." Jack said.
"I know that. But I'll still worry. This'll be the first time the two of us have been apart like this since before our wedding." Julie said as Jack paused and nodded with a heavy sigh.
"I know, and I can't begin to tell you how much I wish I could bring you. But I don't know what the situation is right now. I just want you and the girls to be safe." Jack said before Julie quickly kissed him lovingly on the lips.
"I brought the wrench-AUGH Come on Dad! I don't need to see that!" Masha groaned as she recoiled at the sight of her parents kissing. In doing so she dropped the wrench on the bed before turning and running down the stairs.
End Chapter 15.