The Hoverboat's engines barely reached the edges of Monument Island, before spluttering and dying out just as they landed roughly.
"Booker, catch!" Anna exclaimed as she threw at him a machine-gun —probably picked up from the corpses of the Vox.
"Thanks," he mouthed back grabbing it tightly.
He could see way up, near the statue's head, Comstock's Zeppelin having landed already. Closer to the monument's feet was instead…Songbird.
Waiting like a Cerberus, the giant bulk of machine and leather was holding itself barely —its ears had been smashed by something, maybe gunfire? The figure was probably waiting for something; its patched wings torn had made it impossible for Songbird to lift off…had it broken them by its own will?
Would you kindly.
No, it probably hadn't.
Maybe Daisy had tried to sing the right lullaby to kill it, but had failed someplace with the notes. She had gotten close, but not enough. Or there could just be any other possible explanation to why he, Booker DeWitt, was now walking closer to where Songbird was waiting.
"You want to wait here?" he whispered to his daughter.
"Not a chance Booker," the girl snorted. "The big bird scared me last time…not today; I'll just open a tear and send him to die in—"
Anna frowned, her right hand moving forward as she tried to open a Tear. One that refused to be opened, apparently. "But I thought…"
"The Syphon is probably active once more," Booker muttered. "I suppose the entire island is a massive sponge."
"Wait," her voice was now actually showing a slightly fearful edge. "Do you really want to fight him?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Anna? Aren't we already past the 'Songbird scared me but now no longer' part?"
"Well," she hesitated. "I thought I had my Tear powers back then," as she whispered that, her hands went to grab his own arm. "We could go, right?"
"We don't have to go forward," she pleaded. "We can go back. Just, leave the monument! We could take the Sky-Line from here to the closest floating spot and…and go to Paris!"
"No," Booker sighed as he gently held Anna's chin. "This thing…all of this, it ends today."
"All right Booker," she muttered taking a sharp breath. "All right."
He nodded back to her, before taking another step and passing through the solid gates. The white stairs that led upwards to where the twin wood doors stood were covered in thick oil and leather straps. A Devil's Kiss grenade could easily burn through it, burn through the open wounds that Songbird had and kill him on the spot.
Yet the machinery of leather and metal gurgled and groaned as its giant claws moved to stand to a sort-of sitting positions on the stairs. Its broken mask hung loosely by thinner straps.
Booker's breath hitched.
It couldn't be.
That had to be wrong. It couldn't be right. There wasn't a way!
What are you…afraid…of?
"You can't be," his breath hitched. "You can't be."
"You lied to me!" he snarled.
I cannot…hear you.
"Why go through all this!? Why!?"
I think…I can understand you…
Songbird's head dropped a few inches down still. Anna tensed by his side, but didn't move.
A blank page, Booker…do you understand…its beauty? Songbird's voice hitched, but he wasn't actually speaking was he?
There is nothing…more beautiful…than possibility. A blank page, Booker…the first words you can write are a choice.
A loud noise of mechanisms whirled from behind Songbird, as his neck snapped slightly up.
Knowing all…is tedious… is impossible…is wrong. A blank page…cleanness…clarity. A blank page… possibility… choices… not obligations.
"How?" he softly whispered.
When…you tore the machine…we were scattered. We were one and all…many died…infinite screamed…more vaporized… few could survive. Fewer could understand…and only one could stay the course. Rosalind…was the same.
Another hitch, a wheeze…and a cog somehow cranking and snapping in half from the back of the machine's right shoulder. The right arm fell on the ground, gushing out blackish oil that smelled strongly of petroleum.
We were…castaways…on a raft in the midst of an ocean…and we couldn't row back to our coasts…because we had no lighthouse to guide us.
We had no-one to guide us.
"Why lie to Rosalind then?" he asked. "Why go through all this? Why hide into…into other people, why give me their thoughts, their memories, their ideas and choices!?"
You had to be…prepared. Between two points…there can only be one line.
"I'm to be a lighthouse," he muttered. His eyes snapped shut for a second as a staggering thought reached the side of his brain. He could feel dribbles of blood fall as his mind worked to find the reason for why he would…why he would…
"No, I'm to be a sacrifice," he mouthed slowly. "One of me alone can understand infinity…and it's not me. It's another me…I just need…to last enough…" his tone grew enraged, "so that you fuckers can find a way home!"
You understand… Songbird clattered, as its mask came slightly looser. That…that is why…I told...her…not…but she…
"You threw me into this!" he snapped. "I'm not going to—"
Songbird's hand came up, close to Booker as if pleading to be…absorbed, spared?
"N-No!" he snarled. "I am not…"
Help the little sisters…
"YOU…NO," he coughed as he felt his hands spasm and clench. "I will not…I WON'T…"
A slave should let a man make the choices for him.
"I. AM. NOT. A. SLAVE!" he roared as he threw the Devil's Kiss grenade against the machinery that was Songbird. Fire burned quickly through the petroleum, through the leather and the flesh that belonged to the man within. Within seconds, Songbird burned to a crisp among agonizing screeches and horrendous screams…and he gasped for air as he swept his forehead from the sweat.
"Booker?" Anna asked worriedly next to him.
"I'm fine," he spat out as he watched the last dying shudders of Songbird in front of him. "I'm fine." The beast's right claw opened up in a spasm, to reveal…
Was that a Voxophone?
Booker snorted as he carefully stepped forward, his machine-gun aimed at the corpse of Songbird…of Robert…still not trusting the thing from moving again even as charred as it was.
He pushed a button on it, hearing the tell-tale click as the machinery began to speak with the voice of Robert Lutece.
I suppose…you defied me. I should have expected this from the moment Rosalind spoke. I knew there was the risk, the gamble…but did you know that King Lear had its ending changed by the people? Not the writer, but the people. Not the author, but the people. And when the people did change the ending then…I wonder…which became true and which became false? Is the word of the writer worth more than that of the reader? Or is the opposite true?
DeWitt…if you are hearing this…then it wasn't heads that came up on the flipped coin, but Tails.
Tell Rosalind she lost.
"What was that about?" Anna asked taking a careful step forward, eying the Voxophone. "What did Rosalind lose?"
"A bet, I suppose," Booker remarked as he warily stepped beyond the clawed hand and moved towards the doors. "Let's just…go."
In silence, Anna nodded and walked right behind him. They stepped inside the entrance Hall of Monument Island quietly, as the girl took deep calming breaths. He could hear her skittering on the edge of a frightful run…and with good reason. He supposed that without him, she wouldn't have even taken a step inside.
In the deafening silence the girl's breath hitched repeatedly, the more things they saw the more her skin seemed to turn green with disgust.
"We never passed by here," she pointed out as they walked past the bloody sheets with the words 'menarche' written on top of it. "And I'm glad we didn't," she added with a choked sound. "So that's where my Teddy went, I suppose."
"It's all going to be over soon," he whispered as they reached the Syphon's room. There was a loud sound, a cackling noise as if it was sputtering to work.
The blue curtains that once covered the sides of the hall with their clothes were now moved to the side, revealing three downwards stairways that probably led beneath the monument itself, to where the Syphon 'uncharged' itself.
These were outright uncharted waters…and he didn't know which of the three directions was the right one.
And there was no-one but him, who had to make a choice.
"Oh," Anna whispered. "It's tingling," she said, holding her necklace with her right hand. "I think they went down there," she muttered, pointing at the stairs to her right.
He sighed. "Should we really trust that thing?"
"The Lutece gave something similar to the other Anna…"
"They didn't give me this," she said back. "Another Anna did," she added. "I think I can trust myself, right?"
"I hope so," Booker sighed. "Stay close," he added as an afterthought as he began to descend the stairs. "And don't wander off too far!"
"Yes, Booker," Anna's drawled reply was a far better one than the scared tone she had been using before. It was a notable improvement.
The stairs led down to a badly lit corridor that seemed to end in another pair of doors —these ones of metal, closed by a lock.
Anna merely hummed, as she carefully grasped her hairpin to open it up. She stilled halfway through her motion, her hands travelling to her neck where she unclasped her pendant, pushing it on the lock's keyhole. There was a clack, soon followed by the door swinging open.
"How did they know?" Booker murmured, gently pushing Anna behind him as he gave one last look to the pendant. He pressed his right shoulder against the door, opening it up. It was in that moment, that he realized just why there had been three stairways.
He could understand chance.
He could understand the slight possibility of things happening because some sort of casualty had brought them forth. He couldn't, however, understand how it had become possible for Comstock to stand —smiling as his usual self— in the same room with the murderous Daisy pointing her gun at him.
The circular room with white walls and a sort of sterile smell of alcohol was eerie. It reminded him of the hospital camp where he had awakened days after the battle of Wounded Knee, with Slate laughing at him from the bed next to him. Right beneath the Syphon, there was a chair holding what looked like the dried husk of a small figure. The child had been strapped down to it, and her entire body was a mass of burnt skin and exploded pustules.
He pushed the memory of the dead man away, just like the sight of the horrible corpse, from his mind. Both Comstock and Daisy seemed to have noticed his arrival. Comstock was alone, just like Daisy…albeit she was holding a gun to Anna's temple.
"Comstock," Daisy snarled. "Whatever this weapon does, I want you to tell me how it works!"
"Of course," Comstock acknowledged. "The Syphon is quite the bit of technology, it can—"
"I asked how it works, Comstock! Not what it does! Is it off now?"
"It can never be turned off, Daisy," Comstock smiled. "Would you kindly drop the gun?"
"Huh? Have you gone insane you—"
And then the corpse on the chair screamed.
Booker's blood froze in his veins as the realization that whatever dried husk of a child was on that chair…the child was still alive. The Syphon flared as its arcs of greyish energy flew in the air, surrounding them all with the familiar sight of a Tear enlarging itself.
The next instant, Daisy's hand dropped the gun.
"Tell me what I want to know, Comstock!" the dark-skinned woman snapped. "Or I'll snap the girl's neck!"
Booker blinked…the woman had no idea what had just happened, did she?
"There are so many choices," Comstock chuckled. "So many things have happened, Daisy…so many things will happen, but in the end… they all lead back to the same shore."
Why were those words familiar?
"What are you talking about you—"
"Would you kindly let the girl go?"
Another high pitched scream from the child strapped to the machine, as the skin on the body seemed to bloat and break itself repeatedly through the process.
"A stabilizing factor is always required," Comstock spoke calmly. "Mind over matter, rather than mind over body."
Another Tear bubbled up, enlarging and surrounding them all… and Alternate-Anna was free to go as Daisy stopped holding her a prisoner.
"No-one tells me where to go," Comstock said next with his small smile. "You, on the other hand…a man chooses…but a slave? A slave obeys."
And Daisy's eyes widened as Comstock's hand went to his own broadside, firing a shot that struck straight in the chest the Vox Populi leader. Daisy fell on the ground, her breath hitching as she drew her lasts breaths.
"Power over the people," Zachary spoke smoothly. "Power over the weak-minded fools who cannot understand!" he laughed heartily as he spun around, his gun pointed at Booker. "Do you understand, Booker DeWitt? It took me a while, a moment…a heartbeat, but I understood in the end. Isn't that all that matters?"
"What is there to understand?" Booker snarled back his own arms holding the machinegun ready and primed. "You can't control me!"
"No? But then again tell me, DeWitt, how much do you think it would take, to get the might of Columbia in this very room?" and with a mock-bow, Comstock spoke again. "Only three words…Would. You. Kindly."
And with those words the dried husk of the trapped prisoner screamed again in unholy pain. The Tear expanded into a bubble, which widened with unprecedented speed to display…an entire mob of Comstock's guards. During that instant, however, Alternate Anna had managed to dash right behind him together with her other self.
So in a certain way…he had the girl.
The problem would be getting out of there alive, as somehow the Tear had also closed all the doors.
"Anna?" he whispered. "Can you open a Tear for cover!?"
"No," they both spoke at the same moment. "There's something…"
"Booker!" Anna exclaimed, "Give us some time! I've got something I need to test!"
Return to Sender worked just in time to hold the barrage of incoming gunshots and bullets against their position, as Booker screamed before sending the mass of fused metal back at its senders. His machinegun rattled the first bursts of fire, as the guards screamed back as quite a few fell to the shrapnel of the exploding ammunition-ball.
One charged forward with his baton raised, and to that Booker answered with the twirling blades of his own Sky-Hook —slashing the neck's carotid— and spraying with blood the pristine white floor.
The body was used as an impromptu shield from a shotgun wielder moving too close, before he answered back with a Bucking Bronco wave.
The moment they were all in the air…
He threw them against the Syphon itself. With loud screams of agony, the arcs of energy of the Syphon itself burned through them and tore them apart to skeletons…
But a few survived and fell on the ground.
The two who did held the colors of the Vox rather than those of the Guards.
"For Booker DeWitt!" they screamed just as the husked corpse shrieked again. The moment the Tear came once more…they were utterly vaporized.
"You think you can win, Booker?" Comstock yelled from behind a sphere of Return to Sender. The energy for it was probably given by the Syphon. "Destroy the Syphon, and you will never win! Leave it, and this will continue forever!"
"What are you talking about!?"
The new Tear brought forth two Firemen, who flung their Devil's Kiss grenades with precision, before charging at him. He moved to Undertow, washing the two away as the grenades exploded in mid-air while in contact with the water wave.
The next usage of the same Vigor brought the Firemen closer, just in time for him to throw them at the Syphon. Like before, the two screamed as the machine itself began to break.
There was a louder screech than before and in that moment Anna —or the Alternate Anna— yelled.
"We've got it Booker! We're overcharging the thing!"
He gave just a quick peek behind him, in time to see one of the two Annas hold her right hand forward —arcs of the grey energy flying out of her and hitting the Syphon dead on— while the other had both of hers clasped around her other hand.
A loud wail of pain…
And three Handy-Men arrived followed by five Crows.
"Oh god," he murmured. "Oh…Oh hell…"
He was literally surrounded as one of the Handy-Man's giants slammed into him, sending him to fly and smash against the wall. He yelled in pain as he slid off the cracks in the wall and fell on the ground, his machine-gun dropping with a small clatter on the ground as Comstock's men neared the two girls.
"No…" he whispered, his right hand moving up as he slowly crawled a step forward. "No…"
Call upon us, Booker.
The Syphon's broken sides arched with energy, as one of the rays began to travel towards him.
"You are going to die, DeWitt! Like I have been told!" Zachary laughed at his sight. "Fool of you to try and defy me! Even if I were to die, another would take my place! Another…just like you!"
You don't have to fight alone.
And so he breathed slowly, before roaring and standing back up with both hands moving towards the ray of grey energies —weren't those quantum molecules to begin with?— and then, with a flash of outright pain…
Jack Ryan's wrench hit the open palm of his hand, as a swarm of bees flew from his hands and towards the Crows.
Andrew Ryan's hand popped up a reddish sphere, which he threw with grace in the air as it crashed against one of the Handy-Men.
Delta roared as it pounced with its drill on another of the Handy-Men.
Alternate Booker brought both hands up, mixing the electricity of both Electro Bolt and Shock Jockey as he flung thunders like a Zeus.
Comstock's hands burned a brighter green of Possession than ever, as a wave of said energy formed a sort of leash on the last of the Handy-Men.
And Booker DeWitt wobbled back on his feet, breathing in deeply as he narrowed his eyes on the screaming Crows —who were trying their hardest to avoid the bees— before whispering.
"I walk my own path now."
The hypnotized Handy-Men smashed one against the other, while Delta's own drill tore apart the ceramic hands of the third one while repeatedly slamming bolts of electricity into him.
Jack had charged inwards, his hand now sporting icy gales of wind that seemed to freeze whoever ended up beneath it long enough. Surprisingly, Andrew was apt in using his golf cue as a club, because he was slightly behind his 'son' in smashing down the now ice sculptures.
"It is a refreshing change!" Andrew exclaimed. "It also seems quite therapeutic!"
"In the name of the almighty God!" Alternate-Comstock roared. "Be gone!" and with that, his hypnotized Handy-Man smashed down to a pulp one of the Crows —too slow to fly elsewhere.
"No! No! This wasn't supposed to happen!" Comstock snarled. "You had to destroy the Syphon! You had to grasp its powers! You had to realize! Why aren't you doing what I'm asking you to!?" the Return to Sender field disappeared around Comstock as the machine's broken bits cracked and splintered while the quantum particles began to float around in a twirling of spheres.
Tears after Tears sprouted around the white hall, all showing the same scene and yet a different one.
"For all that you gathered, I harvested!" Comstock snarled. "For all that you saved, I condemned! For all the Heads, I had the Tails!"
The hands of Comstock morphed to a thick oozing grey color, one that only Atlas time before time had held. One from overexposure to Adam, one that Zachary Hale Comstock hadn't possessed the first time around.
"I DID AS I WAS TOLD!" he screamed slamming both fists on the ground as cracks appeared on the floor and fiery flames emerged like a scene depicted from hell itself. A tremor shook the entire room, as the arches of energy flew erratically. One of them slammed into Delta, tearing him apart from his very armor and destroying him to thin particles.
Another of the arches spun in a circular way, slicing in half the body of one of the Handy-Men. The halfs morphed one into that of a Fireman, the other into that of a Crow's vest. The screams however…they were the same on both sides as they fell on the ground with a spluttering and the blood gushing out.
"You think I'll let you get away with this!?" Comstock snarled again as he charged. His speed, enhanced further by the wind of the Charge Vigor brought him straight against Alternate-Booker and Alternate-Comstock. His hands grasped at their heads, squashing them like melons as he roared and they both screamed. "What you can make, I can destroy!"
A wave of water of Undertow poured out of Comstock's hands then, but Jack was faster as ice froze the water into a wall.
Another zap of energy, and ice became a wall of metal. A wall of metal that somehow was torn apart by deep claw-like cuts so familiar with Songbird's hands.
"You think you're so special," Comstock snapped as he pushed aside the torn walls and passed through.
Booker's pistol fired, but the bullets just ricocheted against the shields of the Prophet.
"You think you've got the answer to all your problems," the man's face was a horrendous mixture of melted features, some of Jack, some of a scarred face that belonged to Delta, some of his own…
"But guess what?" another step, and a massive wave of Bucking Bronco intertwined with Telekinesis slammed both Andrew and Jack Ryan against the Syphon, tearing them apart.
"You can't always win."
The Prophet was in front of him in a flash, grasping with both of his hands Booker's neck.
"BOOKER!" he could hear Anna's screams behind him, "DAD!" Alternate-Anna's too.
And in that moment, Booker heard also other screams. He heard those of the rotten body still on the chair, and he breathed slowly. His heart was beating erratically, but he was calm even as air was starting to leave his lungs, even as the man known as Comstock was choking his very life out of his body.
Leave the thinking to us. Fight. Maim. Kill.
He lifted his right hand, the one still holding his pistol. The Prophet laughed as his skin so close reflected its bullet-proof properties. Yet Booker…he just fired a shot from his Broadside.
The bullet flew past the Prophet, who merely laughed at that display. "You missed."
"Depends on who I was aiming for," Booker choked out, as the screams in the room suddenly stopped.
Comstock's eyes widened to near comical proportions.
"Fool! Without a stabilizer they'll—"
And then the world exploded.
It was white.
The start of the world was white.
It was like watching the door-stars, only…it was white.
Thank you, Mr. Crow.
A voice whispered, low and childish.
"Eleanor?" he murmured, looking around in the infinite extension of white around him.
No voice came back, but as he stood there in that infinite white palette…
"Ahem," a light cough attracted his attention, forcing him to turn around with his pistol still cocked and ready to fire.
Rosalind Lutece stood there, her face somber and her eyes sad.
"It wasn't supposed to go like this," she admitted quietly. "It was supposed to become a self-sustaining loop. A mere test on loops theory shouldn't have become this."
"That was what Comstock was blabbering about?"
"Yes," she nodded. "He was supposed to be you with memories of having a chance at making things right, again. The girl on the chair, a replacement for Anna. The Syphon in this universe was unstable, far more than that in the other universes. I suppose Robert knew this was a possibility, when he made the gamble…stupid man: he should have known that when you play with probability and infinity, chances become certainty."
"Where are we?" he asked, still hesitant in lowering his gun.
"I was supposed to say 'crossroads'," Rosalind sighed. "But we aren't —not really…not any longer," she looked around into the vast white surrounding them.
"You were supposed to accept your last self, the seventh. Songbird would have tied yourself to the ideal of the protector, the guardian…and then you would have ended up finding out that the girl on the chair was to be Eleanor. Your Delta side would have recognized the name, and the rest would have worked out by itself as a chain, forcing you to try and save her by sacrificing yourself. In taking the girl's place, you would have ended up at a crossroad: let the girl die of the radiations, but live afterwards with your daughter or try and go back in time to save her? Even destroying the Syphon would have given you a choice…but you never got to hear the girl's name. You never got to hear her whimpers because Anna kept on feeding energy to the Syphon, keeping her in a nigh screaming phase."
Rosalind clenched her fists. "That too…how you managed to find her, after all the things…how she managed to escape…" the woman shook her head. "It doesn't matter I suppose."
"Why did you say it was a loop?" he whispered harshly. "What did Comstock…"
"Just as you returned back in time, you would find yourself aged and alone. Alone in a world where no Columbia existed…alone in a world where written into your brains were the wonders of Comstock's Columbia…and the need to find Eleanor again to 'protect' her. You would rebuild Columbia, but then…then you would start meeting the other side of the coin," she breathed in slowly. "As I realized something was wrong, I began giving Comstock insight with the other sides of what you had chosen. The loop was meant to settle finally just as you ended up battling your past self in the Syphon room. Always expecting to emerge victorious, while in truth…"
"In truth I didn't," Booker finished. "Now…give me a good reason why I shouldn't fire at you."
"You only have one bullet left," she answered back. "There is nothing else in here but us two. We have ended up falling through the cracks, beyond them or maybe even before them. You have one bullet; there is only me and you." She shrugged. "Choose wisely."
And to that, to those damn words, Booker's hand began to tremble. He could fire at the woman, he could fire at himself or he could fire in the air…
"Why do I have to choose now, of all times!?" he snapped back closing the distance between the two of them. "Why did it have to be me!?"
"Why not?" Rosalind replied. "Should it have been Anna, like last time? She at least used those energies in a creative way…always a man, a lighthouse and a city…" there was a light smile on the woman's face. "Interesting choice…incorrect in the bigger scope, but still…"
"And what would be the correct choice?"
"There is. Always." Rosalind shrugged as he turned around, giving her back to him.
"Why a man and not a woman? Why a human and not a dog? Why a lighthouse and not an airport? Why a city and not a hamlet, a cottage, a house? There is always…and that is all."
Rosalind crossed her arms over her chest, as she moved her head to the side. "Albeit there might be a way I suppose," she admitted. "One to get us all out of here, that is," she added softly. "Not a terrible long way either."
Booker didn't speak, but he holstered his pistol to his belt. "And that would be?"
"Give or take," Rosalind shrugged. "Understand, Booker: it isn't quantum particles that create infinite universes, but the wishful thinking of humanity by itself. 'If only I hadn't left my house! I wouldn't have been mugged!' or 'I don't want to die, why did I enroll!?' are just a few of the situations…quantum particles are just a matter that is the same in every, single, universe. It is the basic brick of reality, Booker: it cannot be changed, no matter the amount of wishful thinking we try and make of it…at least, because there are infinite amount of universes around who deaden the will of the few who wish for it to change."
She chuckled. "Do you know that until observed, we cannot determine if a quantum particle is active or not? And while we do not observe it, what is it of the two? Active, inactive, both…or neither?"
"You want to create an alternate universe?" he muttered shaking his head. "Have you gone mad?"
"No," she sighed. "There is no 'alternate' to nothingness. There is nothing in here, Mr. DeWitt, except for us two. You are the cause, and I was lucky enough to be 'around'…except before there were quite a bit more of things to look at." Her eyes glazed over, "Unfortunately, we are now the only two sentient beings who can actually change things. So I have to ponder if you understand what I'm asking of you."
"No," he shrugged. "You're still going to tell me, I suppose."
"While we cannot stop universes from being created…we can stop them from interacting with one another. Understand, Booker: there will always be a universe where you smother in the crib your daughter," here he clenched his fists. "Just like there will always be one where you don't. You cannot defy the laws of the university: every head must have a tails, every yes a no…it's the law. Probably the only law that can ever exist. 'All exists' is the first, 'There is always a possible different ending' is the second."
"So Comstock would still exist…but he wouldn't have the Tears," Booker muttered. "He wouldn't have the chance to use them, to find the Vigors, to build Columbia…"
"Oh no, Columbia was built by man…but it did not fall because of the Tears," Rosalind admitted. "Our machine kept the best possible ending available for Comstock, which is why only a 'potential' Comstock could fight him."
"I understand…" he whispered, before closing his eyes and making a slight grin. He chuckled then, as he shook his head firmly. "I understand. What of us, however?"
She shrugged. "We'll cease to exist and our memories will be wiped out. We cannot be here, 'beyond' time, without the chance of the Quantum Particles interacting with one another throughout the universes."
Booker swallowed anxiously.
"Did I really kill Anna?"
"One Booker did," Rosalind acknowledged.
"Did I kill Anna?" he gritted his teeth as he asked again.
"You know I can lie to you, right?" she replied calmly, without batting an eye-lid.
"Tell me the truth for god's sakes!" he yelled, grabbing her by the shoulders. "DID I KILL ANNA!?"
"No, you didn't," she admitted slowly. "I lied back there. I just…I was simply angry at you."
"But another me did," he whispered. "Right?"
Thick, heavy and filled with tension, it slowly came down between the two of them. "You've got to be kidding me…" he snorted. "If…If I do this, then what makes me better than Comstock?"
"You'd live in this white eternity?" Rosalind remarked. "I would rather take a bullet, so that —in the event of an afterlife— I might meet Robert again."
"No, come on! You're the smart one! Can't you just think of another solution!?"
"You could…" Rosalind blinked. "Well, that would be quite the ironic statement."
"Mr. Booker…how old is the universe?" Rosalind asked him.
"Huh? A lot of years?"
"Millions. Yet no-one has an idea of what the Big-Bang was. By the same token, what if the theory of big-bang was just a fat lie? What if the universe didn't have a lifespan of millions but just…minutes? Hours? Days?"
"What exactly are you…" Booker blinked. "You're an evil woman."
"I know," Rosalind nodded sagely. "And extremely selfish."
"Wishful thinking, right?"
And just like that, next to both of them, in the milky white eternity…something snapped as one of the most fundamental bricks in the universe...changed.
"And that will be all," Rosalind Lutece, theoretical physicist, spoke to the assembled classroom. The door of the faculty was swung open a moment later, as her brother —theoretical physicist him too— stepped in with his usual smile.
"Rosalind! I finished my class before you!"
"Robert!" Rosalind chided her brother. "It is not a race ours!"
"Excuse me, professor Lutece?" a timid female voice asked, making both brother and sister —twins as they were— turn.
"Yes?" they both asked in synchronicity.
Blue eyes blinked back at the two, as the girl hesitantly asked. "You asked to meet my father, to discuss about my thesis, right?" her voice was meek. "He said he'd like to talk over it at dinner…if you'd like, this Saturday…your brother is invited too!" she blurted out the last part quickly, giving a shy glance at both of them like a fearful rabbit.
"All right Miss DeWitt," Rosalind acquiesced. "I have my schedule free on that particular day."
"I also add my own thanks for graciously extending the invitation to myself," Robert nodded again.
The girl bolted out a second later, as the two Lutece simply looked at her retreating back before turning to one another and grinning slightly.
"She's such a dearie, isn't she?"
"Quick mind too," Rosalind admitted. "I think she has an older sister."
"Rosalind!" Robert exclaimed. "That is improper!"
"Dear brother of mine," Rosalind sighed. "You will die a horrible death if you keep up refusing to meet with the proper ladies I present you."
"When you will meet one of the proper men I present you, I will do the same."
"Enough," Rosalind chided Robert. "Let us discuss about the quantum entanglement field known as…"
Meanwhile the young Miss DeWitt was already sprinting out of the wide halls of the university, heading off towards the tramcars a few streets away. She'd have to walk a few more minutes after a thirty-minute ride, but afterwards she'd be just outside her father's office.
She breathed in as she steadied herself. It wasn't her fault her heart was beating that hard! Her father always had that sort of gruff attitude that was somewhat scary —the 'criminal' glare he gave to some people was really top stuff— but she should know that in the end he was just a big daddy and nothing more.
Now to convince him to let go of the shotgun whenever a boy tried to ask permission to court her, that would a nice improvement.
She knocked on the door of the 'Private Eye, Private Protection and Private Affairs DeWitt & Slate' before slowly opening it and stepping through. There were a few desks, quite an amount of papers, a couple of mugs of coffee and hot-dogs bought from the stall vendor below, and a few wraps of chocolate loosely placed around. At one of the desks, a portly man wearing a toupee and with an eye-patch smiled at her entering.
"Ah! If it isn't the mousey girl!" Slate's laughter echoed through the room, as her father's associate bellowed with the finesse of a port-sailor a belch —the rest of what probably was an hot-dog still there on his carton plate.
"Hey uncle Slate," she replied with a forced grin. "Is dad in?"
"He is!" Cornelius nodded. "Go on, go and knock on the door: you'll make his day even if you wake him up."
Cornelius pointed to the door within the office —once her father had told her he had kept her crib in that room, before she too had outgrown it.
So she opened the door with a timid knock, stepping inside to look at the dingy mattress settled in a corner. On its soft surface was sleeping the sleep of workers Booker DeWitt, his right arm over his face. On the back of his hand was a bad burn mark, the result of an accident while trying to warm a milk bottle or so he had told.
"Hey dad?" she shyly said moving closer, and getting down on her knees next to him. "Dad?"
"Uh?" blearily, Booker DeWitt opened his eyes. "Eleanor?"
"Yes!" she nodded. "Anyway dad, the professor's fine for this Saturday. Her brother's coming too, all right? I mean, they were both there talking and I couldn't just—"
"All right," Booker mumbled as he slowly stood up scratching his eyelids. "Everything's fine," he patted her on the head then, before standing up.
"I'm not a kid anymore!" she pouted as her father's hand ruffled her hair. "Is Anna going to be home this Saturday?"
"I hope so: she spends too much time in Paris for her own good," Booker shook his head. "But what can I say? She's my little artist and you're my little physics prodigy…you have to have taken everything from your mother I suppose."
"Except the good looks?" she pointed out with a slight smile.
"Of course those are only Booker-prerogative," he replied before stepping out of the 'nap-room'. "Hey Slate! You free this Saturday? Anna's supposed to be back. You can bring your missus too!"
"Oh an old glory meeting huh? You sure your wife won't be angry at our reminiscing?"
"She'll be all over Eleanor and her professor: we'll get the professor's brother and have a drink between men."
"Dad!" Eleanor squeaked again. "Please don't embarrass me in front of the professor's family, please!"
"You don't have a crush on your professor's brother, right?" Booker's eyes narrowed. "He's quite older than you: actually, I'd better clean old faithful. Never know when you'll have to use it, what with Anna coming back home and all…we'll have a nice chat with your professor's brother."
"DAD!" red as a ripe tomato, Eleanor crossed her arms over her chest.
"Kidding, just kidding."
"Dinner time at seven?"
"Of course it is, come over at six though…we can get started on cleaning the weapons."
"I hate you dad," Eleanor mumbled to herself, as she began to walk outside.
Booker smiled before grabbing his hat and his jacket. "I'll bring the little woman home Cornelius, see you later!"
As it was, they arrived home just in time to receive a verbal lashing from Mary DeWitt, who was of course appalled at the fact they had taken their time to find and eat some chocolate muffins along the way…no matter the very well made point that the muffins were on sales, that they had brought her a few back, and that she actually was giving hesitant bites to them herself.
Booker was just about to turn around and leave to return to the office, when the doorbell chimed and he went to open the door.
Standing there, with her bright blue eyes, Anna DeWitt was holding her travel bags and sporting one of those most gracious dresses that were 'in fashion' in Paris.
She smiled at him, and he smiled back as they engulfed each other into a tight hug.
"I'm home, father."
And thus it is done.
As always, my muse went for her own road in the middle of the story, and of course I had to follow her as a kicked puppy. (Who hates their muses? I do! I do!)
Eleanor reappeared, see?
I could have probably 'prolonged' the story with a view on Comstock's (Booker's) descent into Comstock-persona, but then again, why keep going when the story's end just pleaded to be written?