The glass shattered in a thousand tiny fragments, their crystal-like surface glinting off as it fell on the ground. The Sky-Hook's blades twirled as it widened the passage, removing the sharp edges of the glass. On the other side, Elizabeth had let out a scream and was now standing with her back against the wall. The way she looked at him with fear lasted only a few seconds, but in those seconds her extremely clear blue eyes showed all the fright a doe would, before being replaced by the outraged tiger-like temper she possessed.
"Who are you!?" she asked bitterly —her hands on her hips. Her mouth tried hard to bite its lower lip, probably to mask the girl's nervousness.
"No time Elizabeth," he replied. He had fallen into his routine words with the girl. He remembered the girl looking around and asking what a thing did or was, while he battled away enemies, and always yelling back at her 'no time, Elizabeth'. Habits were hard to die out, apparently.
"Get over here and let's get out. You want to get out, right?" he didn't have the time to worry about feelings or sweet words. He wasn't one to sugarcoat things to begin with, so that was really all he had to say. The truth he was trying hard to hide was that his heart was clenching from the desire to just hold the girl between his arms and never let her go. She wasn't just a young girl he had taken pity on during their trip through Columbia now.
She was his daughter.
She was supposed to be his ray of sunshine, if such a cheesy string of words could be considered of the girl whose powers scared him terribly.
"How do you know my name?" she asked, her eyes narrowing as she took a step forward. Even when faced with a complete stranger, the girl had been eager to get out. He knew that as long as he showed her the way outside, she would follow him like a lamb. The False Shepard assumed an even more eerie tone, now that he realized just what he was doing.
"Mr. Crow! It's the lamb of Columbia!" Eleanor exclaimed from behind his leg. The girl's blue eyes shined brightly as she looked in awe at what was probably a mythical figure for the citizens of Columbia.
"Not now, Eleanor," he replied brusquely. "Elizabeth?" he turned to the woman —no, his daughter— with his right hand extended to help her out of the window. "Grab my hand, and you can be free. We can go to Paris: we can be there by tomorrow without anyone knowing if we are quick."
"How…" Elizabeth barely whispered, her eyes looking at him with a mixture of hesitance and curiosity. "How do you know about that?"
"Oh for the love of—" he snapped, "Do you want that damn bird on us!? We can talk while we move!"
Elizabeth seemed to hesitate for a moment more, but finally her small hand clasped around his, and he pulled her out of the window and into his arms the next second. She smelled of soap and oranges, as he held her maybe a bit too tightly to him for a fleeting instant. This was Anna.
His daughter was within his arms. His precious, little daughter was now in his arms.
"You can let go," the girl huffed in displeasure. He winced slightly, before letting her go and turning to the lift. He picked up Eleanor once more, before entering the lift together with Elizabeth. As he pushed the button and the elevator's doors closed, the girl turned on him.
Bad choice, the elevator.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm…" his throat parched up. The words 'your father' rung in his head a hundred times, and a thousands more were the times he imagined himself telling her those two words and her reaction to them. Would she cheer and hug him, crying out for the lost time? No, he suspected she'd be angry at him. She'd ask where he had been, why Comstock believed he was her father, and so on. It wouldn't do.
"He's Mr. Crow!" Eleanor piped in, standing on his shoulders and giggling as she said that. "He fights bad guys!"
"Is she your daughter?" Elizabeth asked next, looking at the girl on his shoulders with perplexity.
"No," he answered. His inner debate dying down. He wasn't lying to his true daughter. He was just…avoiding the truth, for a foreseeable amount of time that could span from a weeks to maybe a couple of years. He might tell her in the event she would get married to someone and asked who would bring her up to the altar.
Of course, he'd probably make double sure the man was a righteous guy, afraid not of God but of him, before even letting her go anywhere near another male. Still, he knew the girl could take care of herself. She had never been wounded during a battle, so either her luck made her resilient, or something else did. Maybe her tear-abilities?
"So why is she with you?" there was a frown on Elizabeth's face now, her eyes narrowing down in her usual inquisitive face. Had he been blind the first time around? The girl's face when curious or suspicious was so much like his that it was a wonder he hadn't realized it.
"Circumstances," he warily replied.
"Mom fell," the girl softly whispered, her face apparently dropping on Booker's head. "I held on Mr. Crow, because he's strong and protects the weak!" she added then, growing a bit more excited in her tone. Was he some sort of hero in her eyes? He hoped not. He was nobody's hero.
Elizabeth's eyes softened for a moment, before she turned to look at him with a curious face now.
"Why did you come?" she whispered the question.
"I…" 'am your father', four words: it was only four words. He could say four words, couldn't he? "I protect the weak, and I heard your plea for freedom."
"How did you hear about that?" she was back to being suspicious now. Why could he lie with a straight face to the Crows and he couldn't even say one tiny lie to save himself from his daughter's wrath? What was he, stupid?
"You were really sick, Miss Elizabeth!" he was saved by the girl, of all people. "The prophet said you got really hurt, and so nobody could come in to see you. I prayed day and night for you to get better, and so Mr. Crow must have come to get you out now that you're healthy!"
That was an inescapable logic, and Elizabeth's face once more morphed into an amused one. He had to remember to get a kid whenever his daughter was angry at him: shove the kid in front of him and use him or her as a meat shield. It would probably work wonders.
"Does Mr. Crow work for the Prophet then?" she asked sweetly.
He knew sarcasm when he saw it. He blearily shook his head slowly, but it was enough for her to see and for Eleanor to not see.
"Yeah! Crows protect the Prophet from the enemies!"
"He must have a really important job then," Elizabeth smiled, but there was that coldness in her eyes…he knew what that coldness was about, really. It was the same as when she had decided to go and murder Comstock. Probably, his daughter believed him some sort of twisted psycho who had kidnapped the girl for some reason. Maybe as a meat-shield against her. It was kind of ironic how the same thing could be interpreted in two different ways…
Was that what the Lutece twins meant with 'understanding'? Did they mean these sorts of similarities?
"So, Mr. Crow," Elizabeth huffed her chest out, "as the Lamb of Columbia, I can ask you to tell me where we're going?"
Was she playing the boastful lady part? Where had she read something like that? He rolled his eyes as he answered back.
"Lady Comstock's zeppelin. We can take it and go."
"I read about zeppelins: they work on the principle that—" and just like many times before, Booker zoned her out. She was his daughter, but that didn't mean he was all for the science-stuff that she had read. He just numbly nodded every now and then to make her believe he was listening, or muttering 'uh-uh' whenever an assent was liked.
He waited patiently for the lift to reach the ground floor, and once it opened he walked outside first.
"What is this place?" Elizabeth's question caught him unprepared. The last time, they had escaped through the air, crashing down in the middle of one of Columbia's beaches of all things. Now instead, they were walking their way out. The Syphon room seemed incredibly haunting, now that it was silent. Probably without Elizabeth within the rooms, her powers were no longer syphoned? It was as they reached for the heavy twin doors that Booker realized what 'walking out' really meant: walking out meant to pass by those rooms that held pictures of her changing, films of her trying to pick up locks, collection of her stuff…
"Were they…those are photos of me!" she muttered heatedly, her gaze settling on the dark chamber just to the side of the now open doors he had pushed aside earlier. "Of me naked!" her tone was scandalized, rightfully so too. His blood was still boiling over the entire affair, and her indignation only fueled his own.
The first time around, he had just 'archived' her words on 'they were watching me'. Now however, those words coupled with her actually destroying the various photos made him feel. There was something of cathartic he supposed, in watching his daughter tear picture after picture of her, before moving to where the cinema was.
The button on the camera was easily pushed by the girl, and after she watched the bare beginning of the film, she pushed the thing down and actually kicked it.
"I was watched!" she exclaimed, turning to face him. Eleanor tightened her hold on him, probably scared by Elizabeth's outbursts. "They…They were watching me!"
"Yes," he admitted. "We have to go now," he added, turning to leave.
He stopped and turned for a moment, eying the girl.
"Why did my father do this?" she whispered. "Why did he…why did he have me watched, why did he lock me up in here, why did he…why did he do this?" there was the start of a crack in her voice, as her eyes were bleary with tears.
And the answer was in Booker's mouth before he could even control it. The answer was there, visible as the light of the day and without all that bullshit concerning the 'seed of the prophet' or similar. The answer for all of this was only one.
"He was afraid."
Elizabeth's eyes snapped to his own. "Afraid of what?"
In the silence that followed, Elizabeth's arms hugged herself tightly, her gaze down on the floor as she rocked her body to the right and left gently. She stood there, lost in thought with tears trickling down her chin for what could have been like hours, albeit it was probably only minutes.
By the time she looked back up, she blinked at him once. "Why are you helping me?"
"I help the—"
"Mr. Crow, is the lamb hurt?" Eleanor's voice piped in now, interrupting his words as the girl seemed to be huffing. "Did something scare her? Mr. Crow! You have to protect her too!"
Booker stilled for a second, before a small chuckle escaped his throat. The chuckle was soon followed by a light laugh that resounded in the otherwise silent room.
"You heard the missus, Elizabeth," Booker commented. "I have to protect you from the scary things now."
Elizabeth tried to tug her lips up in a smile, but all she managed was a half-forced grin. "I heard her…"
"Now we should go, before Songbird catches us." Booker's voice turned serious as he began to walk, this time being wholeheartedly followed. They had barely stepped outside those dreadful rooms, all with Elizabeth growing more and more silent, when the last bit of ill-planned escape fell into bits.
The gates of Monument Island were being opened, as the members of the police corps slowly began to trickle in after opening the gates. On a smaller hover-boat, the figure of the prophet was apparently inspiring the fanatical guards.
"Find the False Shepard and bring me the Lamb unharmed!" among the numbers of guards pouring in, Booker's eyes narrowed as dread settled in his throat once more. Zealots of the Lady were among those pouring in, and two hard-looking Handymen were looking around with their usual scarred faces. He had fought off waves upon waves of enemies on Comstock's zeppelin…
But that had been when they had trickled in one at the time. Now that they were advancing up the stairs… thankfully they hadn't seen them yet.
"That's the Prophet! Hey mister Prophet! The Lamb is here and she's fine!" Eleanor's voice was met with the dreadful face of both Booker and Elizabeth, as the screaming young girl was soon the undisputed attention of every single man in their proximity, Prophet included.
To his right, Booker saw the singed hole he had created the first time around to enter.
"What is this? Are you the False Shepard, to shield yourself behind a child?" the Prophet intoned, before his eyes snapped on Elizabeth. "Elizabeth! What are you doing outside you foolish child?"
"Father! You were spying on me!" now that was a cracked and angst-filled voice.
"It was for your own safety!" the Prophet rebuffed. "Come here, my child. Bring the girl too, the False Shepard isn't—"
And Booker DeWitt knew what he had to do in that moment.
"There's a hole in the hedgerows to your right, Elizabeth. Go the moment I give you the signal," he whispered that, his eyes locking with those of his daughter who was looking back at him with a mixture of worry and distrust…he just hoped she would obey.
He settled down the girl in front of him, who seemed to squirm as she fought her way free from his arms, before turning to stare at him.
"Booker DeWitt!" he screamed then, his right hand pointed at the Prophet. "Do you cherish the deaths you took at Wounded Knee!?"
The Prophet's eyes widened to saucers, or so Booker hoped. He hadn't been filled with bullets then, so maybe he was actually good at this 'lying' and 'theatrics' things. The two of them were the same person: if another-he could pass off as a Prophet, then why couldn't he pass off as one too?
"That name…" the Prophet's voice came through the microphone on his hover-boat. "How do you know that?"
"Booker DeWitt! What have you done with yourself!? Is this how you repay those lives? By bringing more death around you!? Is this the meaning of God to you!? To steal another's man daughter!?" behind him, he saw Elizabeth standing slack-jawed. He was actually talking back to the 'Prophet' a figure that was basically a few steps below God for those around these parts. He gestured with his left hand to her, and she quickly recollected herself before sprinting through the hole.
"You! What are you all standing there for!?" the Prophet turned to his guards who had stilled —the sin of curiosity was the easiest to fall in than all of the others. "Arrest him!"
But it was too late: with a well-timed jump Booker DeWitt jumped through the hole in the hedgerows and began to run forward through the canopy of green. Behind him, the gunshots and loud noises mixed with the cawing of the crows and the screams of Eleanor, whom he had left behind.
He supposed the Prophet wouldn't harm a kid, and having her in front of him…
He felt his throat tighten. He had actually used a kid as a meat-shield.
But now, as he ran while watching Elizabeth's back he realized they were nearing the edge. If he remembered correctly…
The girl stilled at the edge, looking back at him with fright and probably already forming the words 'What now?'
"Wh—" and he simply barreled against her, grabbing her by the waist as they both fell downwards.
"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!"
"Trust me! I know what I'm doing!" he screamed back, his left hand extended. The clouds slowly began to drift, as a Sky-Line appeared with its usual glint. "Hold tight!"
And the next instant, they were attached to the rail, the girl tightly gripping him back.
"Don't let me go! Don't let me go! For heaven's sake don't let me go!"
"I've got you, don't worry!" he replied as the Sky-Hook rolled across the Sky-Line acquiring speed. He had begun to breathe easily once more, when a sudden high-pitched scream caught his attention. Why couldn't he remember the entire events? Why did he always have to remember only bits of them!?
The giant leather bird screeched as it crashed against a nearby set of freighters, tearing apart the Sky-Line. He closed his mouth, trying to avoiding biting off his tongue, as the creature nearly managed to grasp them from the Rail as they went. Suddenly, the rail lurched by itself, snapping just like the last time.
Differently from the last time, Booker DeWitt used the Murder of Crows to reattach himself on the rail. They passed by the beach as they sped up, the bird hot on their heels. The rail passed extremely close to a stone archway, of what was probably one of the high buildings of Columbia. They barely managed to go through, before Songbird came crashing against it. The Sky-Hook suddenly spluttered, as the inclination of the Sky-Line began to go in the opposite direction.
Instead of fighting it, he swapped the rail.
Songbird passed by them, his gaze looking all the more murderous as it was perplexed.
"So long sucker!" Booker yelled at the bird, the need to laugh at the desperate situation rising up. The giant monster turned its head to them, and by doing that he ignored a hover-boat who had probably moved to check on the ruckus and the damage. The two impacted in a shower of fire, and as Booker's gaze went to where the monster had begun his fall, he gritted his teeth.
It would take more than that to kill the beast, but at least for the moment it would be off-commission.
He finally dropped down in a nearby square, landing roughly as he held Elizabeth tightly to himself. He ended up falling on the ground from the momentum, his back grating against the cobblestone of the plaza as his body finally came to a halt near some greenery. Holding Anna between his arms —the girl's dress a veritable mess of leaves and bits of hedgerows— he took a deep, calming breath.
"We're out," he whispered.
Anna blinked, before looking at him with her big eyes, which looked even bigger since they were so close now. She seemed puzzled for a moment, before she finally relented and spoke.
"Mr. Crow…you are a madman."
And to that, Booker DeWitt chuckled.
It was good to have Elizabeth back.
And this chapter is done!
One of the Cut-content is a supply shop and the first 'Song-bird fight' which was inexplicably removed. (Which IS sad: I mean, we 'escape' from Songbird through the Game but…how many times do we actually end up harassed by him? Once? Maybe?) Songbird here will harass and 'hound' the two quite constantly. As it probably was meant to be but never turned out to become.
Elizabeth didn't trust Booker in the beginning in the game, but he was a 'gate' for the outside. She probably does have a lot of questions to ask, but with the 'adrenaline' of the escape she didn't find the time.
And Booker called Booker out on some stuff. How funny, self-accusation is always the best.