Actions

Work Header

Batya

Chapter Text

APRIL 28, 1958

Frank Fontaine had been killed on an otherwise uneventful night just a few days prior. In that time since, Andrew Ryan had yet to feel any cause for celebration.

He visited the detention center under cover of night, and one more time he traveled into its dimly-lit depths, past empty cells and prisoners bound for Persephone. The thick-cloaked and heavily armed security officer at his side said not a word. He knew better than that; the exact knowledge of why Andrew Ryan was making this visit, however, was far above his pay grade.

Angry chattering echoed from the furthest cell down the hall. It wasn’t quite the sound Ryan would expect to hear in this place. But that hardly mattered now.

Beyond the bars of the cell sat two of the scientists previously in Fontaine’s employ. The source of the chattering was the tall Asian man, ranting in tirades against the state of this place and how he was being treated and don’t they know who he is?, while the woman accompanying him seemed not to notice or care. But both of them took notice when Andrew Ryan stood in front of their cell.

“Dr. Tenenbaum. Dr. Suchong.”

His voice was curt as he looked to each of them in turn. Then he looked to the guard, and did not speak again until after the man had left.

“Explain to me what was that...thing I found in your laboratory.”

Tenenbaum looked away. Suchong, on the other hand, made a low chuckle.

“That thing just might be the crown jewel of scientific advancement in Rapture,” he said slyly. “In the world—in all human history, maybe.”

“It’s yours,” said Tenenbaum, voice flat, gaze fixed on the wall.

A wave of revulsion swept through Ryan at those two words. He fought hard to keep it from showing through the expression on his face.

“What do you mean, it’s mine?

“Your genetic material, of course.” Suchong seemed only too willing to answer. “And that woman Jolene’s, but that is no matter. Fontaine insisted. Genetics is key in Rapture, but Ryan genes are king.”

Ryan couldn’t fight back an angry twitch of his lip at the mention of Fontaine.

“And what use, pray tell, did Fontaine have for my genes?”

“A failsafe,” said Tenenbaum. Suchong scowled at her interruption, but didn’t try to interject. “To slip past your genetic locks, make use of your Vita-Chambers, should he ever have need of it.”

“Not that it would ever need a Vita-Chamber,” said Suchong with a scoff. “It is much too strong for that, Suchong is certain. There is not even the slightest possibility that—”

“What use did Fontaine intend for this creature?”

In truth, Ryan already had a strong hunch as to the answer. He took Suchong’s sudden silence and newly averted gaze as mere confirmation.

“Of course...” Suchong removed his glasses, looking at them instead of Ryan. One of the lens had been cracked in the fray that resulted in the scientists’ arrest, but he continued to wear them as if nothing had ever happened. “The use Fontaine intended may not be the same use that Ryan intends. Yes, Ryan can put any use to it that he likes.”

The wave of revulsion took him again. “If you’re implying that I would have any use for Fontaine’s would-be assassin, then you’re deeply mistaken. No, it will be destroyed at once.”

Suchong squawked and sputtered before he could make a proper reply. “Destroyed? Do you have any idea how many years of work are in that thing? Destroy it and you will waste everything Suchong has done, everything worth doing—”

“And why shouldn’t I destroy it?” Ryan raised his voice over Suchong’s, stopping him cold. “Should I keep it around and wait for it to stick a knife in my back instead? That’s what you built it to do, is it not?”

Again, Suchong sputtered. Tenenbaum answered for him instead.

“It was programmed to respond to a trigger phrase. Anything it is told to do, it will do.”

“Ah—yes, the trigger phrase.” Suchong, having apparently recovered, spoke with a sly voice again. “All Ryan needs to do is say three little words and the creature hops right to it... It would even kill Fontaine, if Fontaine were not already dead.”

The existence of a trigger phrase didn’t exactly sweeten the pot in Ryan’s mind; if anything, he found the idea repugnant. A child of his own flesh and blood incapable of answering to his own free will... No. No, it would not do.

“Can it be removed? Deprogrammed, if you will.”

Suchong scoffed again. “You are joking, yes? Without the trigger phrase, what would be the point of it all?”

Ryan turned to Tenenbaum instead. “Can it be removed?”

Tenenbaum still didn’t turn to him, but her eyes flickered downward before she answered him. “Some of the imprints... The memories Fontaine had us implant in its mind, perhaps they can be removed, or replaced. But the trigger phrase is too deeply rooted in his subconscious mind to be easily removed.”

“Yes, very deep,” said Suchong with a nod. “So deep, it has no idea it’s even there. Very useful, if you ask Suchong.”

“I don’t, nor do I care to.”

Whether it was deeply-rooted or not made little difference to Ryan. If anything, he was now even more convinced to put it to rest.

“I believe we’re done here,” said Ryan, and he turned to leave.

“Wait, bitte.

Tenenbaum spoke with more fortitude than she had before, and that was enough to make Ryan stop and turn back. She looked at him now, and that same fortitude shone in her eyes as well as her voice.

“Perhaps we can make a compromise.”




DECEMBER 31, 1958 — 11:52 PM

The Kashmir Restaurant, as in years past, was positively the place to be on New Year’s Eve. The band was swinging, the drinks were flowing, the dance floor was jumping, and Diane McClintock sat alone with a cigarette in her hand.

She didn’t know what she expected, of course. How silly she was to think that Andrew would spare a single night for her—at least, by her second drink and third cigarette of the evening, she was certain that was what he thought. She could hardly remember a time when he agreed to spend any time with her outside the bedroom, and even that had seemed too long ago. At this point, even that seemed like too much to hope for.

She looked upwards, above the heads of the masked revelers and gleeful dancers, past the glittering gold statue of Atlas and his terrible weight, through the great glass window and the towering buildings beyond. The city swayed as if moving to the beat of the music; its shimmering lights illuminated the dark waters of the Atlantic deep, casting its gleam on a school of fish that flickered by.

Rapture was just as beautiful as she had ever been. But that beauty was little consolation to Diane. All it did was remind her of how beautiful her own life used to be.

She had never expected being in love with the founder of Rapture to be an easy task. It had been the greatest thing in the world once, when her days were filled with pleasure and joy. But she had never imagined it would ever be this difficult, much less that her love would ever falter.

So it was with a heavy and bitter heart that she reached for her drink, a new and yet-untouched flute of champagne. “Let’s have a toast to Diane McClintock...”

In that moment, a hand closed over hers and an unseen voice spoke in her ear: “You mean the most beautiful girl in all of Rapture?”

The voice startled her, but only in its suddenness. She stared with wide eyes as Jack Ryan slid into the seat beside her, with a sly grin on his face all the while.

Then she scowled.

“You’re lucky I didn’t slap you, Mr. Ryan.”

“Please, Diane, how many times do I have to ask you to call me Jack?”

There couldn’t possibly be enough times, not in Diane’s mind. Jonathan A. Ryan, known to the rest of Rapture as Jack Ryan, the twenty-something-year-old son of Andrew Ryan and sole heir to his wealth and legacy, wouldn’t ever be more than Mr. Ryan to her, not as far as she was concerned.

“I suppose your father sent you here, did he?” With anyone else she might have made an attempt to mask the bitterness in her voice, but not with Jack.

“Why, not at all. I’d heard he made a date with you for tonight, but when I saw him still working in Hephaestus, I figured you must be all alone. So here I am.”

It was almost enough to make her laugh. “Please, Mr. Ryan. I don’t need anyone’s pity, least of all yours.”

His brow lifted, though not quite enough to make him look truly taken aback. “There’s no pity here. Why would you think that?”

This time she did laugh. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that you couldn’t possibly have anything better to do with your time? I’m sure there are plenty of girls just lining up around the block for you, so whether Andrew sent you or not, I can promise you that you don’t need to waste any more of your night with me.”

“That’s not true, Diane.”

Hearing her name shaped by his voice—low and resonant, just the sort of voice that would seduce any other girl, surely, but not her—rankled her more than it should have. “What is it, then?”

He glanced down, smoothed out the tablecloth beneath his broad hand. “Well, if you want me to be completely honest with you...”

“I do.”

He paused, then looked up to meet her gaze. It was in moments like these that Diane, for all her thinly-veiled contempt for the man, couldn’t help but be struck by his similarity to his father. His face wasn’t as narrow as Andrew’s, nor were his features quite so gaunt, but there was a piercing quality in his dark eyes that echoed his father’s in a way she couldn’t quite ignore.

“Ever since I first came here, I can’t help but feel like you’ve had some kind of grudge against me.”

Jack had her there. In her defense, she found it difficult not to hold a grudge against him, or even against Andrew for bringing him down here. For as pristine and beloved as his public image among Rapture’s social elite had ever been, there had always been mutterings of Andrew making his hypocrisy plain, breaking the one law he had set forth himself—no contact with the surface, not under any circumstances—just to bring a bastard son into his city. (And how could he be anything but a bastard, if no one had ever heard of him before now?)

But that wasn’t quite the reason Diane felt such ill will towards him. That would be the conversation she’d had with Andrew some few short weeks before news of Jack’s arrival came to light, when she had suggested bearing his child and heir herself.

It had all seemed far too convenient at the time, and it still did even now. Convenient for Andrew, that is.

Still, when Jack confronted her with the truth of it, it seemed maybe the tiniest bit irrational. But before she could answer or explain herself, he went on.

“Now, you have to understand, normally I wouldn’t let such a little thing bother me. I’m not that sort of man, to get all worked up just because one person doesn’t like me. But it does bother me to think that you don’t like me, Miss Diane, or that I’ve done something to offend you somehow.”

That just made her feel even more rankled. “And why is it so important that I like you, Mr. Ryan?”

“Well—maybe it sounds a little sentimental, but...” He moved his hand to cover hers again; she barely managed to tamp down the urge to snatch it away. “You’re important to my father, whether he shows it or not. So that makes you important to me, as well.”

That struck Diane more than she would have cared to admit. Jack smiled, as if he’d noticed the rising color in her cheeks.

“Besides, no one should have to be alone on New Year’s Eve.”

The dancing stopped, the band leader said something over the microphone, and the band struck up a drum roll in preparation for the countdown. At that she managed to come back to her senses, at least a little bit.

“You’re a charmer, Mr. Ryan,” she said with a slight huff, “just like your father. But you won’t be able to run this city on charm alone.”

“. . . Eight, seven, six . . .”

“I’m well aware of that,” he replied, his smile spreading into a grin. “But a little charm doesn’t hurt, does it?”

“. . . Three, two, one!”

There was a loud bang, then another, and another—balloons crowded upon the ceiling high above began to burst one by one, sending showers of multicolored confetti swirling down through the air. Golden streamers crisscrossed the air and settled in drapes over great Atlas’s shoulders as the band played Auld Lang Syne.

“Come on, now. How about a dance?”

Jack was standing now, extending one of his hands to her. If it weren’t for the fact that she hadn’t danced all night, Diane might have felt more strongly about refusing.

Then again, if it weren’t for the words Jack had just spoken to her just minutes before—or if it weren’t for how eerily like his father he seemed now, tuxedo-clad and standing tall, framed by the light of Rapture’s finest gilded glamor as though it had been made just for him—she might not have even considered accepting.

Diane pursed her lips at him, but there was hardly any use in fighting a smile like his. She fished a piece of confetti out of her champagne, knocked it back, and took Jack’s hand as daintily as she could manage.

“If you think you’re getting a midnight kiss, Mr. Ryan, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.”

He only laughed and said, “We’ll just see about that.”

Jack swept her into his arms, and she damned her lovesick heart, for she couldn’t help but feel that he might just be right.