So...I'm still alive. And updating. Hope you guys enjoy!
As the realization of what I had just done finally dawned on me, I could do nothing more than to drop the Hand Cannon, which clattered to the ground, quickly engulfed by the pool of blood forming at my knees. Fitzroy's final expression of surprise was permanently fixed onto her limp body, and the sight of her bulging eyes, forever stunned by my words, was seared into my memory.
I felt sick to my stomach, and as her words echoed through my brain, a hint of regret wormed its way into my mind. Had I been too quick to dismiss her accusations, as wild as they had sounded at the time? Should I have just blindly put my faith into Comstock? At the time, it had seemed like such an easy decision to make, for Elizabeth's sake. But now, as I really began thinking about the letter, and what Fitzroy had said about it…
"It was for the best." Comstock's voice pulled me back into reality and out of the swirling cloud of thoughts muddling my mind. What game was he trying to play with me? Was this all part of some sort of manipulation, to get me to do whatever he wanted? Was I anything more than a slave to this man, blissfully unaware of the chains that he had been wrapping me in? And now, I had just killed the only person who had tried to untangle me from my fate.
"You made the right decision." He added, as I stiffly got to my feet, eyeing him the entire way up. I felt the blood boil in my veins at the sight of him. Did I really make the right decision? Or did I make the right decision for Comstock? I really didn't know.
"Did I?" I asked, "I'm not all that sure."
Comstock looked befuddled, "Booker, what are you saying?"
At his words and innocent tone, I felt a flash of anger.
"I'm saying that you owe me some damn answers!" I spat out, an accusatory tone in my words as the interrogation skills that made Pinkerton consider me as a detective started to surface. I definitely had a mean streak in me when I heard enough bullshit. And right now, I had definitely heard enough bullshit from Comstock.
"Now Booker, I understand that you are feeling emotional right now…" Comstock began gently. What did he think I was, a child?
"I just want to hear the truth." I interrupted brusquely. I needed answers. And I needed them now.
Comstock looked shocked at the way I was talking, but he slowly nodded.
"I will not withhold anything from you."
I opened my mouth, not sure where to begin. Where could I begin? I suppose I had a thought.
"Why did you really offer me this position?" I asked, "And don't give me some hokey religious nonsense. I want the truth."
Comstock nodded, his lips pursing as he thought of an answer, "Because you were the only one who could protect her."
"Yes. Who else?" Comstock said as I studied his eyes, searching for any hint of dishonesty. I found none.
But still, something about what he said didn't sit well with me. "You have guards all over the place. And you have the money to hire anyone you could ever want. Why am I the only one who can protect her?"
"Because you are the only one capable of taking her away." At that, I saw his shoulders fall in defeat.
Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.
Of course. He had to have known about the contract I had taken on. He was too powerful a man not to have known. But still, just because I took that contract didn't mean I would have succeeded. I couldn't have fought off Songbird without Fink's equipment, and I couldn't have kept Elizabeth alive without Samuel. I probably would never have even made it past being captured at the raffle. Could I have?
None of this was making any sense. But yet, as I stared into Comstock's eyes, I couldn't see anything but a man telling the truth. And suddenly, I felt guilty for what I had thought about Comstock. He wasn't making sense because nothing he did had ever made any sense. He wanted to protect his daughter, like any father would, and he was willing to do anything and everything to make that happen. And that included giving me a position and paying off my debtors. All so that I wouldn't be tempted to take his daughter away.
Frankly, I couldn't blame him. I probably would have done the same thing if I were in his shoes. Especially when my daughter was as innocent and pure as Elizabeth was. Speaking of which…
I whipped around to see Elizabeth cautiously walking into the room.
"No, stay back!" I said far too late as her gaze settled on Fitzroy's corpse. Instantly, Elizabeth's eyes bulged and she placed a hand over her mouth as she quickly turned away and ran out of the room.
I froze in my spot, as I internally debated whether I should continue questioning Comstock or not. Fortunately, he made the decision for me.
"Go to her." Comstock said softly, "I'll still be here when you come back."
"Wait." Comstock called out as I began to take a step towards the exit, "Booker, I know that you are feeling confused right now, and understandably so. I just want you to know that we have more in common than you think. We both want the same thing."
"And what is that?" I asked.
"To protect Elizabeth."
I couldn't argue against that. Especially after that speech I had given before I…you know. And I knew in my heart that he was telling the truth. Comstock really did just want to protect Elizabeth, and I could sympathize, because I felt the same way.
"Now go. She needs you." Comstock prodded.
I didn't need any more motivation as I sprinted after Elizabeth, finding her steading herself against a wall.
I was cut off by Elizabeth wrapping me up in a tight embrace.
I reciprocated her action by wrapping my arms around her tiny frame protectively, "I'm so sorry. I know how you feel about killing, and I…"
"No, don't be sorry." Elizabeth said, nuzzling her cheek into my chest, "I'm just glad that you're safe. When I heard the gunshot…I knew that you had the gun, but I was scared that maybe she had taken it from you, or that she had been hiding one, or…"
"I assured her that you were perfectly capable of handing yourself. But she insisted that we return to check on you." Robert said, with a small little smirk on his face as he watched us.
At the sound of his voice, we immediately let go and both jumped backwards, embarrassed at being caught in our position. And well, the fact that Elizabeth had been concerned about me definitely wasn't doing my blush any favors.
"I should go and help Samuel out there." I said quickly, eager to leave the uncomfortable situation.
"We'll go check on Zachary and make sure that he is safe." Robert answered on behalf of Elizabeth, who was busy avoiding eye contact with me.
I realized that I had effectively ended my chance to question Comstock further far too late as Robert and Elizabeth began heading back in the direction of his room. At least I knew that he wasn't lying to me. But still, one thing in that letter still bothered me.
"My past self." I whispered to myself, pondering the meaning of those words. What could that have meant?
Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to think about it before I heard a roar outside. Something big was going down outside, and I had to get out there.
I practically jumped down the staircase before I dashed to the front doors of Comstock House. Checking my Hand Cannon to make sure it was loaded, I threw the doors open.
I paused at the sight of dozens of rifle barrels pointed straight at me.
Samuel began stepping through the crowd of soldiers, which parted like the Red Sea to make way for him until he reached the front of their ranks. The soldiers, thankfully, had already put their guns down by the time he stopped. I know that they weren't really going to shoot, but I felt infinitely more comfortable without guns being pointed in my direction.
"Sorry about that. We were getting ready to storm the place to take out Fitzroy and any Vox that had slipped by during the fight. Is Elizabeth all right?" He asked softly, so that the rest of the men couldn't hear us.
I nodded, "Yeah. She and Robert are with Comstock right now."
Samuel released a sigh of relief.
"That's good to hear."
"Yeah, it is." I said, my mind drifting off to the conversation I had shared with Comstock.
"Booker, are you okay?" Samuel asked, noticing that he had lost my attention and waving a large metal hand in front of my face.
"Mr. Booker, are you okay?"
Stanley shook his head as he fussed over my tie, "You know, there isn't any shame in telling me you need this loosened. That's what I'm here for."
"Stanley," I interjected, moving his busy hands away from my neck, "It's fine. I look like I just got out of the tailor's. You've officially made me into one of them."
I gestured over to the Founders huddled up over their meeting table, deep in side conversations with each other. I'm not saying that I didn't like them. I did actually like a few of them, but the fact of the matter is that they all had expensive taste in clothes.
Growing up with the kind of money that I did, just having a jacket so that I wouldn't freeze to death at night was a blessing, fashion be damned. But now that I was here in Columbia, my room had a closet that would make a prince blush, and someone to make sure that I looked put together every morning. It was quite the change.
Honestly, I couldn't care less about it, but getting dressed up seemed to make Comstock happy, and I owed him that much at least. Even knowing what I know now about him and what he did to get me here, I still had to feel a little bit of gratitude towards him. Whatever his reasons were, he gave me a new life, and…I noticed that all eyes briefly turned to Elizabeth as she walked into the room…he gave me a new reason to live.
"Booker." Elizabeth greeted, as Stanley stepped away, shooting me a knowing look. What was it with people always assuming things about me and Elizabeth? First Samuel, then Robert, and now Stanley.
"Elizabeth." I returned, giving her a quick once-over with my eyes. As usual, she was stunning, with her hair tied up with a baby blue ribbon this morning. I noticed that she had a habit of switching up the color of the ribbon slightly each day, although it always seemed to be some shade of blue.
"Is it just me, or does it feel emptier in here?" Elizabeth remarked, her eyes settling on a few empty seats at the table. I nodded in agreement.
Things had returned to normal, or, at least, as normal as things could be, given the circumstances. Columbia, despite the uprising, had stood strong, and most of the destruction had already been repaired, under Robert's guidance. As for the Founders, while they had taken a hit and suffered losses, the death of Fitzroy had cut the rebellion short and sent the remaining Vox running.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I mused as I watched Fink smugly twirl his mustache, most of the Founder leadership had survived, although Comstock seemed to now be in a diminished capacity. Nonetheless, he was still the Prophet, and when he called for a meeting, no one had refused him.
"The Prophet has arrived." A guard announced, causing the chatter to die down as everyone's eyes turned to the entrance. The doors swung open to reveal Comstock sitting in a wheelchair, being pushed in by Robert. No doubt Comstock was sitting in that wheelchair on his insistence. For all of the scientific talk that Robert spouted sometimes, the fact remained that he was good friends with Comstock, and had been fussing over him for the last few weeks as we tried to put Columbia back together.
"Prophet, should you be up and about so soon after the attack on your life?" An elderly Founder asked as Comstock was wheeled to the head of the table.
"Marlowe, I have been on bedrest for long enough. I cannot continue resting when work needs to be done." Comstock replied as Robert moved to stand at his side.
"No offense, Prophet," Clark began, as I rolled my eyes. The man was loud and boisterous and frankly, I had no love for him. It always seemed like he was taking any and every opportunity to try and take Comstock's power away from him, "But would it not be more responsible to allow someone in better health lead the way for now?"
"Actually, that brings me to the reason why I called our meeting today." Comstock answered, bringing a hush over the group of people assembled, the gravity of his words dawning on them.
"Prophet…what are you saying?" Fink asked, clearly as shocked as the rest of the Founders. In fact, it seemed like the only person who didn't have his jaw hanging open was Robert, who kept the same impassive look on his face. If I didn't know any better, I could have mistaken him for a statue with the way that he stood ramrod straight, his lips pursed in a serious look that never faltered.
Zachary quelled the reactions with a wave of his hand, "I've never been one to mince words, and I won't start now. I am now stepping down as leader of Columbia."
As Elizabeth and I shared a look, scarcely believing what we had just heard, the rest of the Founders exploded in a flurry of loud words and fist shaking. Whether they were excited or disappointed or just surprised by the announcement, I honestly couldn't tell. But over all of the chaos, a single voice rang clear.
"So does this mean you have chosen your successor?" Clark asked, a smug look on his face, no doubt expecting to be handed the reins by Comstock.
"Not you." I muttered to myself.
"Although the circumstances are not what I had envisioned, the prophecy still stands. The Lamb of Columbia is still the one fated to bring us to salvation," Comstock declared, as all eyes in the room turned to me and Elizabeth, "And I can see no reason why she will not fulfill this destiny with the Guardian at her side. It is meant to be."
"But Prophet!" Clark stammered, taken aback by the turn of events, the smirk wiped off of his face, "She is only a child! She cannot lead a city!"
Comstock frowned, "And who are you to decide that? The prophecy that states she is fated to be our salvation was given to me by an Archangel doing God's Work. Do you truly believe that you are above the Will of God?"
"I…I…" Clark trailed off, knowing that he had no way of winning this argument, "Of course not, Prophet."
"Any other objections?" Comstock asked to the rest of the Founders, who had fallen silent after Clark's submission.
"Good. Then this meeting is adjourned."
At his word, the other Founders quickly filed out of the room. If they had any objections, they kept them secret. It was a shame, because I had really been hoping for Fink to be knocked down a few pegs as well, but I contented myself with watching Clark stumble out of the room hurriedly, embarrassed beyond belief. Serves him right for talking about Elizabeth that way.
Robert wheeled Comstock over to Elizabeth and me as the door to the meeting room slammed shut behind the last Founder.
Up until now, I hadn't realized that Elizabeth had been shaking. But with all of the commotion gone, I could clearly see that she still had a shocked expression on her face to match the slight vibrations running through her petite frame. I gently took her hand in mine, and instantly, I felt her still.
"Elizabeth, are you alright?" I asked, silently happy with the knowledge that my touch could calm her down.
I received a slight nod in reply.
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I should have let you know about my decision, but I thought that it would be more appropriate to reveal it to the others as well." Comstock sighed as Robert stopped his chair.
Elizabeht shook her head, "No, don't be sorry. I was just…surprised. Are you sure that I'm the right person to be doing this? I mean, I've only spent the last few weeks learning, and these men have lifetimes of experiences, and…"
"Elizabeth," I cut her off, "I know that if there's anyone who can do this, it's you."
She cracked a smile at that, "Thank you, Booker. But still, running a city, just like that? It's a little much, wouldn't you say?"
"Of course, I wouldn't throw you to the wolves like that. I will try to do everything that I can do to help, as will Robert. However, they say that the best teacher is experience, and I know that you are a fast learner." Comstock said with a reassuring smile, "I've known from the beginning that you would succeed me. And that you are destined to do great things. Have faith, Elizabeth."
She nodded slowly, "I will try."
Comstock looked to Robert, "This has been a lot for her to take in. Perhaps you can take her back to her room?"
"Of course." He took Elizabeth's hand from my grip, shooting me a little look, before he led her out of the room, leaving me alone with Comstock.
Comstock craned his neck to check if anyone was left in the room. Seemingly satisfied with his scan, he brought his attention back to me, "So Booker, we never got to finish our talk."
"There's not much left to say." I replied.
Comstock looked confused, "Are you sure? I did promise that I wouldn't withhold anything from you. And I do intend to keep my promise to you."
That was good to hear. At least I could tell Comstock was doing his best to be truthful with me from now on, "I know, but really, I don't know what's going on, and even if I ask you to try to explain everything, I doubt I would understand. All I know is that you were right."
He tilted his head, "Right about what?"
"Elizabeth. I thought about what you said…and I realized that I didn't care. You brought me here, gave me a new life, and without you, I never would have met her. I'm not sure exactly what you think is so special about me, but I am sure of one thing. I'm sure that I would never let anyone take Elizabeth away. She means too much to both of us for me to let that happen. If anyone tries to take her from me, it'll be over my dead body." I stopped short, realizing what I had just said. I had basically just admitted that I wanted Elizabeth. To her father.
But to my surprise, Comstock just smiled, "I'm glad to hear that my daughter is in such safe hands. Most fathers aren't so lucky, you know."
"I-I didn't mean it in that way." I said, putting my hands up to dispel any notion that I was talking about Elizabeth in any context outside of my position. Unless I had missed something, there was absolutely nothing going on between us. Okay, that wasn't true. I wanted Elizabeth more than any woman I had ever wanted before. But we were so different. I knew that nothing could ever happen between us. Not when she was going to be running a city, and I was a glorified bodyguard. It wasn't like I was living in some fairytale.
Comstock chuckled, "Don't worry Booker, your secret is safe with me."
And with that, Comstock put his hands on the tires of his chair and began wheeling himself out.
"Do you need some help?" I asked, rushing over to push him if he needed it, but he dismissed my help with a wave of his hand.
"Don't worry, Robert was just fussing over me earlier. I'm fine, Booker."
Comstock noticed my disbelieving look, "Really."
At his insistence, I relented, "If you say so."
As Comstock wheeled himself out of the room, he stopped in the doorway, "Just between us, I'd let her know soon. I've had more than a few suitors come to my door, and I'll have a much harder time holding them off now that I'm stuck in this wheelchair."
My cheeks turned scarlet at his comment.
"It's not like that."
Comstock continued wheeling himself out, shaking his head with mirth.
"Whatever you say, Booker."
So I hope you guys enjoyed this latest chapter. I know I probably made out the whole Comstock and Booker argument to be less intense than it could have been, but really, what has Comstock done so far to make Booker suspicious of him? All he's done is give him a job, a home, and a new life, along with introducing him to Elizabeth. So really, it's not like there was any underlying issues between them that needed to be resolved.
Also, Elizabeth's perspective is probably going to return in the next chapter, mostly dealing with her transition into her new role as Columbia's official leader, and her introduction to the rest of Columbia as such.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and keep following this story. I actually do want to finish it, even as inconsistent as my updates are.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions, leave it in a review or PM. Thanks for reading!