Callum Lynch knew what was going to happen the moment he leaped from the edge of that building.
The Apple of Eden created a weight in the pocket of his coat. A reminder of the blood that remained slick against the metal of the blade that had been given to him; created by a test subject that he would probably never meet. The fall down was met with his boots hitting the wet asphalt, knees bending to take the force of the blow, in the same way as he had when he was hooked up to the Arm.
Another difference that seperated him from his ancestor, from who he once was, Aguilar de Nerha. They were similar after all if not the very same in most ways. Though there was something different. The same thing that made all descendants placed through Sophia Rikkin's Animus Program different. The same thing that allowed him to land from his Leap of Faith on his feet instead of on the tarp of a stall or cart full of hay. It was what gave him and the others such an intense Eagle Sense when compared to what their ancestors had. What made them stronger, faster, and more agile than what the average man or woman was supposed to be able to do.
It all comes down to the Animus, Moussa had told him, and the Bleeding Effect is the icing on the cake. The latter had only seemed to intensify after the Archive of the Animus had opened up in his last Regression. His mother had appeared only one more time. A shadow watching him from another building as he looked over London before that familiar sensation filled his mind. The presence of Aguilar had settled, unlike the others that seemed to bury themselves into the deeper parts of his mind, the Spaniard always remained upfront. Curled and waiting like the cat that he used to feed during his time in the streets of Houston.
Moussa had been the only one to openly speak as they made their way silently through the streets and alleys. Police would drive by ever now and then, lights flashing, as they raced down towards the Temple. The death of Alan Rikkin would remain in the public eye for weeks-possibly months-creating a big blow to Abstergo'a public image. Though something told him that the public image wasn't their biggest worry. That perhaps he should have killed Sophia when he had the chance instead of hanging onto the last bit of hope he had for the woman who had done nothing but manipulate him.
A quick brush against his shoulder pulled him from his thoughts, and turning his head down he noticed Lin eyeing him sternly. He had not met her ancestor yet. Then again he had little to any information as to who Emir and Nathan once were either besides from the snippets Moussa had told him. "Is Aguilar talking to you?" Lin questioned. A look of suspicion and something he could not place lingered across her face before she returned to a more stoic look.
"No. Though he doesn't speak to me very much either."
Lin hummed, watching before turning away from him as if she had expected something. Nathan was watching too; the Brit still didn't seem to fully trust him, remaining close to Emir's side as they stopped at a rather run down motel. The attendant, a plump woman who looked more suited for a comfortable inn rather than a shady motel, sat behind the stained, peeling reception desk looking up at them with weary eyes. "Cash only." She said before slidding a clip board and a broken pin across to them. Moussa grinned, enrolling a was of cash from his pocket before scribbling down a name that Cal could barely read. The woman pursed her lips, accepting the money and the clipboard back before giving the group another distasteful look. "I expect nothing inappropriate from all of you and if you plan on stayin' then I expect rent at the first of every month." Moussa gave another charming smile before taking the keys. "On my mothers grave." The older man sworn before giving a mischevious look to his companions.
The room they had been given was less than idealistic, but Callum had slept in much worse conditions. The place was open: two broken beds had been pushed against the stained white wall, the kitchen appeared to be a slightler better condition, with a two-seated table pressed against the only window provided. Nathan was the first to speak up, "Home sweet home," he said before falling down onto a mattress that he would surely be sharing with a possible family of rats. Callum went to the corner, placing himself between the kitchen and the table before he tried setting up some sort of plan. They all did. Going over possible scenarios and suggestions they could attempt for what was to happen next, yet it all seemed to lead to a dead end. Nathan was becoming more and more grumpy and even Moussa had seemed to tone down from how he had been only an hour before.
Sleep had become the only thing they could agree too. Nathan remained on the worse of the two mattresses. His back remained ram-rod straight as he seemed to pass out with all of his weapons still on him. Moussa and Lin had taken the other, the latter curling up like a contortionist against him, while Emir had taken his own spot next to the door. Callum wondered why it was just them. How only five people could be the only ones to escape the facility. But any question seemed to die on his tongue as he tugged off his hidden blades. They weren't his though. They weren't Aguilar's.
Speak his name and so he shall appear. The Assassin seemed more solid than he had before. Tendrils of mist like smoke still lingered around him, but it still didn't compare to how it had been before. Aguilar looked down at him before looking towards the hidden blades that were not his. It almost made him feel guilty. Like when he had taken his mothers necklace without telling her just to find her searching frantically for it later that night. "Sleep." He spoke, English coming from him, heavily accented, and completely unnerving. Callum would have spoke up, said something in the time alone that they would have together, but all he could do in that moment was lean against the wall.
Sleep came easier that night.
Perhaps that should have scared him.
Chapter 2: The Shape of Things to Come
The night was fast approaching, cold wind blew harshly against her research papers, and the chill she felt run up her spine as she sat up from the Animus made her shudder.
Layla Hassan wasn't the most conventional employee at Abstergo. When the chance came to work at the Abstergo Foundation in Madrid she had been so keen to take it. Sophia had offered her a good deal and even better salary than her last job if she worked as a technician for the Animus. Then Layla had seen the test subjects and to say the least, she immediately rejected the offer.
The test subjects were ticking time bombs and they thought keeping them all together was a good choice?
Layla wasn't about to call her boss an idiot, but she definitely couldn't remain anywhere near Spain after that. Sophia had told her that she still had a home at Abstergo. The woman still gave her work and even offered her a new Animus she had been building.
It was almost too good to be true. It had been too good to be true. This Animus weighed down on her body more than her mind; liver failure, kidney failure, heart failure, the list of possibilities made her feel dizzy. The Bleeding Effect luckily didn't seem to be taking a hold of her just yet. The information that she was retrieving, however, was worth it no matter how many times she had to rearrange the wires hooked up to the mummified remains or puke up her cheap lunch.
Her job was simple in the end: go through the memories of Bayek and determine what the next course of action should be. It was more work and in a different field than what a technician should do, but Sophia trusted her to do so. There were only three descendants of Aya of Alexandria, and Sophia's last email sent from the Foundation was not discrete over what was needed. Sophia wasn't risking placing the descendants in if Aya was a dead end of information. On the other hand that email had also been sent before the Foundation was destroyed and her boss's father died. The test subjects would be dead. Any information Sophia had still wanted from Bayek in the last few weeks before the silence came was still relevant.
Setting up from the Animus she stumbled towards her computer.
A new email had been sent-the user unknown-the subject stated simply as 'open'.
To Miss Hassan,
It has come to our attention that you have been going through the memories of Bayek of Siwa. The data would have been overlooked if we had not noticed previous emails showing your attention to Aya of Alexandria. We have come to inform you that we will be taking the information from you before it falls into more, risky hands. I'm sure Sophie will understand.
Layla quickly scanned the contents of the email, as her mouth twisted into a grimce, her brows furrowing in confusion. Tracing the email out here would be nearly impossible since she didn't have the proper resources to do so, especially since her every move would have to be reported back to Abstergo and this email was definitely not from Abstergo.
Herself and Dee had been the ones to find the tomb that had been buried away from the sight of archaeologist. The mummies inside had been placed in odd sarcophagus; reflecting that of Gods and Goddesses rather than Pharaohs as they nornally did. The walls held images depicting the Goddess Amunet, with white hooded figures, and the God Amun, with priest-like figures in mask of royal blue and gold. There had also been artifacts and writing in Latin carved into the walls, scrolls written in a mixture of hieroglyphs and the Roman writings.
Inside the sarcophagus was another oddity, a mixture of Egyptians and Romans based on their clothing and the names that were written, and placed above the rows of sarcophagus were two spaced out sarcophagi. Each positioned differently from the others and placed upon a higher level of ground. Both marked by the names Amunet and Amun, named for the Gods, exactly as the Gods. With a mummified bird and cobra sitting at their feet. It was a historical find-one that Abstergo would never allow to go public unless it went alongside their agenda.
“I should’ve known.” she said to herself. Of course, Abstergo wouldn’t give her any credit. They wouldn't allow her to go through every mummified bodies memories once they found what they wanted, but this email didn't seem like their doing. Sophia would place her above that.
Layla looked down absently at the dark wood of her desk, only for her eyes to widen at the source of the slight sound evident on the worn down wood.
She put a finger to the corner of her lips and felt warm, hot liquid. Blood was evident on the tan skin of her finger. “Shit.” she cursed, spots of blood flew onto the wood surface with her every word. The Bleeding Effect wasn’t supposed to be like this. She had helped improve the Animus, and-should have listened to Deanna, a smug voice reminded her-the realization came all too soon.
And that’s when the voices came.
Layla’s knees gave out on her conveniently at that very moment. Coldness seeped throughout her body and spread to her fingertips like that of a disease, paralyzing her. A sudden pressure pushed down on her heaving chest.
Sand sputtered out of her mouth as she took in ragged gasps of air. It felt like someone was stepping on her chest with a weighted iron boot. Her breathing labored, and heart rate increasing...these signs could only signify that the Bleeding Effect was getting worse. Or whatever someone in her condition was supposed to be called; the physical health issues would always trifle the mental. It wasn't her mind as much as her body and perhaps for that she should be thankful.
A voice hissed at her, akin to that of a snake, but she could not pinpoint it.
The rhythmic clicking came closer and closer until the sound was right beside her ear. Strangely, the sound reminded Layla of that of a bird, more specifically an Ibis clicking its beak in a condescending manner at her.
Layla groaned and pressed her head against the sand in the futile hope that it would muffle the sound of the deceased as well as the weird shit that was happening to her. She spat out blood into the rough, crystalline grains of sand below her. The soft movement of cloth swaying registered in her ears, before the sound faded. The hiss of sand trickling down and water echoing in the distance only further made Layla wonder one thing.
“What the hell is happening to me?” She spoke into the ground. Her voice muffled and suppressed by her very surroundings.
A blissful silence came after her statement, yet it was not to last. The much welcomed silence was pierced and shattered by the fierce roar of a Roman soldier from her last visit into the Animus. The sound of metal banging against its owner’s armor deafened her hearing. The very air around her seemed to shake and shudder with the cries and clammers of the Roman soldiers approaching.
And as the sound of weapons cutting through the air towards her came closer, Layla could only feel the weighted gaze of those blue and golden masks staring impassively at her as the taste of blood filled her mouth even more. Only there were no Roman Soldiers, or worshippers of Amun standing before her. Instead, there were three figures clad in black hooded trench coats, a familiar crimson sash wrapped around them with a crimson cross placed back upon-she had seen that before, the birds skull.
"Hello, Miss Hassan. We have a bone to pick with you."
The weather in London was dreary: the skies held dark grey clouds that remained from the rainy night before, the few people lingering in the streets at the early hour seemed to prepare for another round of rain that seemed to be coming.
His black leathered boots slapped against the wet concrete alongside Lin's more cautious steps as they made their way around the perimeter of the hotel's block. Despite the presence of Aguilar, his sleep had been rather peaceful, more so than his time in Abstergo and the death row had been. Because of that, he had volunteered to go with Lin while Emir and Nathan searched for a better place for them to hunker down without having to watch behind their backs for the civilians that resided next to the hotel's thin walls.
Moussa, however, was another matter entirely from the little that Lin had spoken of. The unofficial leader of the group had gone off before anyone else had awoken to communicate with the other descendants that had escaped the facility. Callum had to bite his tongue to keep from asking the questions that ran through his mind. There had only been five of them after all, but surely there had to be more than that.
You seek a Brotherhood, Aguilar spoke, his voice carrying like a hushed whisper in the wind.
The sudden voice felt like a shock. As active as his ancestor-who he once was-had been while inside the facility the man had hardly spoken to him. The Creed was spoken more often, the Arabic words rolling from the Spaniard's tongue in a way that had reminded him of his father, while the little remains had been pressed towards one word. One name. Maria.
It was a name that Callum was as familiar with as he was with breathing. Only before his last Regression, it had been just that, a name. One that didn't hold much meaning until the moment her palm went over his and she sunk the blade into her neck as his own mother had. Then the name held meaning, it was so much more than that, and he remembered those things with a much better clarity.
"Did you listen to anything I just said?" Lin questioned, voice clipped and sharp as her eyes narrowed at him. It was the same cold, suspicious look that she had given him in the Commons when they had more or less met. Clearing his throat, he almost wished he could tell her about everything that he was experiencing. She of all people would understand it in some way.
"Completely out of it? It's fine, Jun does that to me more than I would like."
Jun-that was her ancestor-Callum didn't know anything about her or any of them for that matter. "Your ancestor, Jun, who was she?" The question could go back to bite him. Telling anyone about Aguilar almost seemed wrong, like telling secret that could come back to stab you in your sleep. Lin's lips curled into a smile, breaking the stoic look that had been across her face, "Shao Jun was born a little more than a decade after Aguilar's, well you know. She had been an Emperor's concubine before the Brotherhood took her and then there was a point-a long one-where she was all that was truly left." Her tone had grown solemn, brows burrowing into an almost saddened look. Callum didn't know what to say to comfort her either.
"Sophia wanted her memories?"
Lin snorted, her expression twisting in complete disdain, "Sophia always wants an Assassins memories or a Templars. It didn't matter that we all became insane. It didn't matter if our ancestor could practically override us and control us either." With a huff, Lin snatched his arm, pulling him to a halt before he could protest in any way at the sudden movement. Few people were in this area save for a taxi parked across the street and a businessman chatting away to the phone against his ear. "I get that she manipulated you, why you would feel sympathy for her, but you shouldn't, Cal. What she did to us was unspeakable. Sometimes she would place two people into the Animus together, other times three, not even caring about the damage that would be done."
Lin spoke quickly, dark eyes observing their surroundings, as her grip on his arm only seemed to tighten before letting him go. An exasperated sigh left her lips, "Monima Das. A descendant of an Indian Assassin who had operated in London during the Victorian Era. She had been new, but because of who her ancestor had been Sophia had her placed in the Animus with two of the Frye descendants. Her synchronization rates didn't match up and she ended up dying in the Animus. Those two were never the same again. Always fighting back whenever they had an Animus session and Sophia didn't care."
"You must understand why we had tried to stop you from working with her. Alan Rikkin may have been one thing, but he never tried to hide it when he manipulated someone and trust me when I say this, Cal. Some of the things Sophia hid from you, those things could come back to hurt you, Callum, especially when Aguilar is involved."
There was a stir in him-like a cat stretching out after it had been curled up-building up more and more tension until finally, he felt it. The feeling reminded him of the beginning of his first regression before the Spaniard appeared. You need to heed her, Cal, Aguilar spoke, his dark eyes observing him as they had when he had woken, submerged in water.
I know, Callum wanted to say, but the look upon Aguilar's face said otherwise.
Chapter 3: Once
The Grand Templar Hall had been lost; it had been built during the mid-Victorian Era by the Knights Templars, used by the Freemasons during the first World War, before finally falling in the hands of Abstergo in the sixties. It was an architectural marvel and like most of Europe it was a historic one at that. Only now, it was gone from Abstergo's hand from a gas leak, that wouldn't allow anyone back inside until it was fixed, and she already knew that it would never be fixed. Abstergo had a public image to hold and the death of her father by a gas leak was one they would hold until no one remembered him.
And to think that it was all because of her own careless mistakes. When it came to Callum Lynch she had done what she always did with test subjects, offering him a new life, manipulating him to see what she did for her life's work. Only that had come back to destroy her. Then there had been her father. After what she did to her brother their relationship had become strained into a thin line where they danced around each others work. Finding the Apple after the failed memories of Maria's descendants was what brought them together again; it was why he even stepped foot into her facility again. A desperate attempt on her part to rekindle their relations despite their disagreements.
Though how does one ask for forgiveness from the dead?
Sophia had asked herself that a lot once she took over Warren Vidic's failed Animus program. When she took people from their lives-killing them to all those who cared about them-only to truly kill them with her life's work. It was karma, if such a thing exist, that her father would tell her that her work-herself-was the only proof of violence that was needed. That he would die only minutes later because for a mere second she considered Lynch as family. Only it was too late for regret. The Grand Templar Hall and the Abstergo Foundation had been lost, years of research and data and findings all gone, and just like Pandora she had released something into the world. Descendants. Violence. That would all come down upon her in the end.
It didn't matter that she had failed in so many ways. The Apple would be given to the Elders, her mistakes would be killed, and Lynch would die by her hand with his own blade. For it is not ourselves, but to the future give glory. Glory that would come by any means.
As instructed by Ellen Kaye, her Head of Security, reluctantly, had pulled her away from the police taking reports and the crowd that had gathered. Straight towards the transportation that would take her and the Elders to the nearest residence for them to settle the matter at hand.
Sophia knew that she should think logically, follow the orders that would be given to her, but impulse had won over as she latched her hand tightly around McGowen's wrist.
"I want you to hunt them." She told him. No other words needed to exchanged at the acknowledging look in his eyes. He would hunt them: Lynch, the descendants-all of them. But, still, one more statement escaped her lips impulsively, "You can do anything to the descendants, but remember," Sophia, for once, looked at her Head of Security straight in the eyes, "Lynch is mine to kill."
Lynch was her most regretful failure, but Sophia took care of her own mistakes. She would fix the violence-the descendants- and restore peace-order- with his own weapon lodged in his throat and his comrades left in the same predicament.
The Philadelphian native that was bound and unconscious in the back seat of the black SUV they had stolen hadn't so much as buzzed since they drove through Cairo. It was rather unfortunate that the technician had decided to take upon Sophia Rikkin's task of going through the memories of those found within his ancestors tomb. If she had simply taken data they might not have even had to have taken her with them. She might have made it out of this alive, the poor thing, his ancestor mocked, a complete opposite of his counterparts view on the subject. Bringing the car to a halt he looked out of the window towards the plane that awaited them.
There was a storm coming-miles of sand and harsh wind-ready to block their path and cut off their time to get to England.
"We cannot risk it," his partner spoke as ever so rational as always, "the memories are ours."
"I had tried to warn her, but Miss Hassan was rather persistent."
When they had transported her away from the place she had hidden there were precautions that they had needed to take. Aya and Bayek's bodies, along with the others, had been placed back into the tomb before they had sealed it up once more, this time with a desperate attempt to hide the entrance for the time being. The data she had on her laptop was now in their possession, however the Animus she carried was shut down and destroyed for the most part.
The little friend she had was missing-for lack of better words-though Abstergo was most likely the cause.
It was one of Abstergo's precautionary standards to eliminate anyone who could come back to being a threat to them whether it be their public image or their more hidden agendas. Most test subjects families and friends were killed; all discrete and hidden away until them and everyone they've known become nothing more than distant memories.
Stepping out of the vehicle he moved to open the doors to the backseat where Layla was tied up and her laptop locked away.
The plane would take them to England, what would come next was completely unknown with Abstergo taking a hit to their public front. They would have to watch themselves and Layla Hassan was an unknown until they could judge on whether she was more useful alive or dead.
They had been running through the streets and rooftops of London for two weeks now. Learning through trial and error on how to work with each other, or more importantly how to work with each other's ancestors.
Callum had only known them for little over a month; he was new, unresourced and a liability if he made the wrong step, but he had proved to be useful enough for them to keep him around. In that time span of them being on the run they had only encountered Abstergo a few times. Sophia had disappeared from the public eye while the break in at the Cathedral in Seville and the gas leak at the Grand Temple were still being reported on following the death of Alan Rikkin. As for other descendants, they had come across a few groups who decided to step foot in England even if it was only for a few days. Not many wanted to go near the heart of Abstergo when they had just gained a sense of freedom back and that was as understandable as it was frustrating.
Being the only active members-of whatever this is-was frustrating at times. The memories of Aguilar were becoming harder to suppress, like the Animus had broken the dam in his brain, and ever since what seperated Callum Lynch from Aguilar de Nerha had become nothing more than a smudged line.
The only good thing to come from the developing mental illnesses was that his ancestor no longer tried to kill him, nor did he stand watching over him silently at night. Aguilar began to speak to him more and more, transitioning from the Spanish he spoke to the Spanish Cal had grown up with, to roughly accented English. Moving with him whether by using his body through brief moments of running beside him across the roofs. It made the man feel like an actual person that Callum could interact with, someone who cared.
"Did you think that I didn't care before?"
The voice startled him, almost causing him to lose his footing as he caught himself against the roof of the abandoned train station near the edge of London. The place was their new home after Moussa spent a week tracking down the train that sat within it. "Well, things were different between us. You told me things, tried to kill me on more than one occasion." Callum said leaning against the glass, his foot pressing against the edge, while his wrist held him steady without triggering the hidden blade.
"I told you to kill Sophia. I fought you. Then I helped you. Your own memories shouldn't be that corrupted, Cal."
Callum bit his tongue. In no way did he want to bring on an argument with Aguilar, not when he couldn't walk away, and even more so when the Spaniard might decide to ignore him. Times like those had become the worst in two ways. For one, when Aguilar ignored him, it felt as if he was missing something, and when he did return Callum didn't enjoy the relief that would wash over him. On the other hand, it only proved that there was definitely something wrong with him psychologically. No healthy normal person should react and feel the way he does now.
"You were deceived, Callum. Templars have a history of doing that." His ancestor remarked bluntly. Cal almost barked out a laugh. Almost wanted to see his remark as amusing. Who knew his ancestor had a sense of humor beneath his rather grumpy exterior, and an extremely dry one at that.
"You didn't seem this forgiving when you attacked me."
Why did Cal have a feeling that Aguilar's training was like a parent punishing a child while declaring 'it was for their own good'? The times when he had to fight Aguilar had always come before something had happened to him: Sophia, the orderlies and guards. Preparation that had left him on his kness in front of McGowen the second time.
"Did you have children with her?" The question was random. One that lingered with the many other questions he had when it came to his ancestors. The others had years locked away in their cells to learn everything, but Callum would have to learn in a different setting. Maria, the name Cal didn't dare speak. The word brought a mixture of emotions to the surface that felt foreign and yet all too familiar at the same time.
"Once." Aguilar's presence curled in on itself, and his ancestor retreated from Cal's mind. The descendant breathed out. It felt as if the man had punched him before ignoring him as a cold bare presence field the front of his mind instead.
Once. Callum repeated, collecting his thoughts in the jumbled mess that they were.
When they had left the dingy motel Callum had stolen a cheap leather journal from a store along with some pens. It was the only place where he could attempt to assess who he truly was. 'Once' he marked down with a small question mark beside it. Once did not mean that the child went on to continue his bloodline. Once did not complete the connections that he needed to piece together what Abstergo had of his bloodline.
Chapter 4: I Can Feel It in My Bones
It said a lot about him when he walked in on his fellow descendants surrounding a woman who was screaming Arabic at anyone who met eye contact with her. Callum wasn't sure how he knew what she was saying was Arabic; it was unlike what Aguilar had spoken, yet it sounded familiar enough for him to identify. Looking to Moussa for answers the older man merely shook his head and motioned for him to be silent. Bruises and cuts dotted the woman’s face as a kind of morbid makeup.
"You are trying to defend yourself, but we already know what you have done." Emir was as cool and collected as always accept an air of hostility seemed to surround him as he kept his hook blade open.
“I don’t see how this is any of your business. Those memories, my Animus, are mine! That is my work! I didn’t steal whatever the hell you are talking about!” A scowl marred the woman's features and a renewed vigor to escape made her struggle once more to free herself despite the sword being pressed into her back by Nathan.
At this point, Cal didn’t have a clue on what the hell was going. All he saw-more than heard-was two strangers donned as any other descendant from Madrid and a bound Abstergo employee by the sounds of it. Cal made a questioning look to Lin, this time. The woman only shrugged him off before continuing on with her own form of interrogation, stepping out from behind Moussa and Emir.
And so once again, Callum was left out of the loop.
‘Be more observant of your surroundings and situation, Cal.’ An all too familiar voice piped in, his words echoing in Cal’s mind. The man had neglected to notice Aguilar’s presence stretching out in his mind, much like how a cat would stretch after its sleep. Cal almost laughed at the thought if he was going to allow his mind to wonder.
“-Cal.” He snapped out of his thoughts. Lin was looking directly at him as were the other descendants and with them, the newcomers.
The man looked young with piercing blue eyes watching him from beneath a dark, hooded trench coat. Callum then noticed the female, and a nostalgic feeling entered his chest. The girl had long brunette hair appearing from her own hood and a knowing look in her eyes. Her attire was nearly identical to that of her companion as was the black and gold cane the two held tightly in their hands.
Suddenly, Aguilar’s presence flared in the back of his head, almost like a bloom of heat. Whatever it was that caused it, Cal did not know and his ancestor didn’t explain his actions with his silence.
"Callum, this is two more of our family, Jason and Lara." Moussa introduced before cutting his thumb back at the tied up woman they had been thoroughly interrogating. "This is Layla Hassan: Abstergo technician, one of Sophia's favorites, that went through memories she wasn't supposed to see." The older man's voice turned, twisting into a tone that was more than likely to come from Baptiste, as Moussa's hand curled tighter around his machete.
A heavy silence filled the air as he stepped forward, closer towards the abstergo technician that had been captured. Callum had always seen them looking regal in their plain white uniforms, yet the woman before him looked like any other he would pass on the streets. She looked innocent, but that didn't take away the fact that she worked for Abstergo and had done something warranting the two others of Moussa's group to leave the assassination of Alan Rikkin for.
Cutting his gaze back to the two newcomers he studied them quickly-the part of him that had lived on the streets sized them up-before the Assassin side studied them properly.
"What did she do?"
An exasperated sigh left Nathan before he heard the sound of the Abstergo technician hit the ground. The Brit glared sharply at Cal before pointing his ancestors sword back down at her, "She went through their ancestors memories." Nathan snapped pointing towards Jason and Lara.
Was it even possible for someone to see another's ancestors memories? The thought of someone going through Aguilar's felt wrong. Taboo in a sense.
"If it hadn't have been for Aya telling us then we wouldn't have known. We would have gone to London immediately to liberate it. However, Miss Hassan went through our ancestors memories, disturbing her burial site. One of the things we tried to keep from happening." Lara removed the hood from her head, showing more of her braided back hair that only brought his mind to Maria before he looked away. In her hands was a pair of hidden blades: the leather worn down and old, the gold smooth and worn as well, with ancient tan wrappings hanging from them. By far it was the oldest pair of hidden blades he had seen when compared to Aguilar's and the identical omes of black leather and gold that the two newcomers had.
The other one set down a bag gently, unzipping it to show the ancient weapons inside, along with what appeared to be scrolls. "We had to rebury Aya, seal up the tomb that holds the Hidden Ones and the Order of the Ancients. That was before we found what she had removed from our ancestors sarcophagus. It needs to remain hidden from Abstergo which is why we had to take her. You understand that don'tcha Callie?" The accent Jason held reminded him of Alan and Sophia all to well. Focus Callum, Aguilar reminded him with a stern yet soft tone.
"Then what do we do with her?"
Jason smiled at that, an almost unnaturally wide grin that flashed all of his teeth. "Why it's simple, we use her to assassinate Sophia."
The funeral had been a solemn affair. All past and present co-workers came to the visitation, those who called him a friend remained longer, and in the end all that remained was herself as they lowered his body into the cold, wet ground.
Ellen Kaye lingered along the edge of the cemetery next to the ride that would take them both to her father's home just outside of Crawley. Sophia knew though that the woman could care less about condolences and mourning. The only reason she didn't order her to leave following the trip to her father's final resting place was because she saw something. Perhaps it was potential, or simply a replacement that won't be a threat. But nonetheless she remained.
It would have felt comforting if the cold steel gaze wasn't burning holes into her black shawl.
Hesitantly, Sophia dropped the crimson rose down into the ground, watching it land against the black coffin, skimming with raindrops. A shaking breath left her before she even dared to look away.
What comes next is a new step in her life, in her research and every work that she had ever done. There would be no new program, no amount of funding can cover up a whole new set of test subjects presumed deaths, but Sophia always had a knack for picking up new projects just as she did with the old ones. The Shroud of Eden had been researched as soon as it was found in the later months of 2015. The more finer details remained unknown, but enough was for her to develop a hypothesis.
A new project that would lead her straight to the Apple of Eden and to Lynch.
However, a price would need to be paid, and this time it would be her own soul or whatever remained of it.
She had a bloodline of her own after all. An ancestor with a lifetime of memories that remain untouched upon any research that would have been done. And to think I had known her all along, Sophia thought, that I had been touching the Apple within my very own ancestors.
William Miles was having, to be frank, a shitty day. First, there was the issue at hand with Abstergo's public image being assassinated by outside forces months ago that was still causing ramifications. Second, Layla Hassan got abducted before he could even reach her.
A shame considering her work on the Animus and necessary skills due to the Bleeding Effect. The death of her friend by Abstergo would have… motivated her to ally herself with the Assassins.
But, alas, things rarely go according to plan and ever since six years ago he almost expected it to be that way. Cairo was only one instance of that happening. A sharp yet all too familiar pang hit the Mentor’s chest, but he knew how to bury it down.
And bury it, he did.
“Bloody hell,” William heard Shaun curse. The historian started to mutter under his breath about those ‘bloody, mentally deranged lab rats’ and so on.
“What?” he asked sharply. Shaun gave him a look before typing in something. The monitors suddenly showed an image that made William himself curse.
A figure in a fitted black and white suit was seen on the monitors, black cap and sunglasses covering his face for the most part, yet William identified the Templar cross and sword cane in a heart beat. Following closely behind him was a younger girl, regularly dressed as any punk would be, except for the hidden blade she held against Layla Hassan's throat. Something about them nagged at him in the recesses of his mind. Could they be-
“Look into the descendants held at the Madrid facility,” He stared at the image, his eyes burning into the frozen figures on the monitor.
“And whatever you do,” The Mentor paused, "tell me immediately if that is indeed who I suspect it is. The last thing we need is Jason Rikkin returning."
Chapter 5: Payback
The years had been as kind to him as they had been unkind in the matters of family; his marriage had dissolved, his sons had all become distant with each passing year, and there was an unfillable void where Desmond had been.
When William Miles met his wife, Alice Parks, he hadn't expected for her to have a bloodline; he didn't know that he had one. And while he never regretted his marriage and the children that came from it, Abstergo seemed to always be close behind, despite the sanctuary that the Farm provided.
Desmond had been that exception though, and for that William became almost bitter over it.
His eldest brothers had all come out of training as the top students on the farm, the youngest surpassing Desmond at every step, yet as much as he pushed and pushed no progress was ever made. Alice wouldn't consider their son a failure, but William had always been different in the reguard that he was more harsher. He would be strict towards Desmond more than he was with anyone else and each time that Desmond ran off he always came back. Until the one day he didn't.
Alice had screamed at Desmond, chased after him for as long as she could until William found her collapsed by a ditch near the edges of Rapid City. Alice had then screamed at him; days, nights, until he awoke one morning and she was gone.
His sons knew nothing of her disappearance and the others on the farm waved it off that she was searching for Desmond.
William might have believed it if she had returned. If Desmond had returned.
It wasn't until his death that he even tried contacting her again. Shaun had been the one to track her with Rebecca's help after four long weeks of searching. He placed in a message to her, to meet him at a Park near Rapid City instead of the Farm itself, and she knew from the moment she saw him of what had happened. She had cried, screamed, hit him until her knuckles turned red and somehow he knew he deserved it. He had never been the best father--he hadn't even tried searching for Desmond--yet he saw him in his final months of life when his mother couldn't.
Everything that followed became a downward spiral: his two eldest sons had ceased communications with him, his youngest left the farm altogether, and Alice had given up their marriage with a stern yet shaking hand once she removed the ring. He had plans to go to Egypt, a mission, but before he could Alice had been taken from him just as Desmond had been.
Abstergo was out for her bloodline; Tahira, Altaïr Ibn La'Ahad, Jean Jacques Lahoche, Matsu Hanzo, Jiāmíng Xìnhóng.
The data was in blocked black letters against a glowing screen as Shaun sent him the information. That Abstergo had gone through her ancestors from Jiāmíng Xìnhóng, a farmer turned Assassin during the late 1800's when Taiwan was controlled by China to Matsu Hanzo, an aristocratic woman turned Assassin in the Edo-Era of Japan. There was Jean Jacques Lahoche during the French Revolution and Altaïr Ibn La'Ahad that William knew all to well. Finally there was an ancestor named Tahira who was older than Altaïr, his Egyptian ancestor to be exact, and Abstergo was becoming desperate to find her memories within his wife.
William was almost going to forget the mission, to go to Alice as he had done for Desmond, when he read the attached note at the bottom of the file.
11-29-16, 12:28 p.m
S. Rikkin, Lab 2]
Test Subject 248, Alice Miles, died while inside the Animus this morning after another failed attempt to synchronize her with her ancestor Tahira. The data retrieved perfectly for the other four ancestors, however, when we first attempted to synchronize her, the test subject began to seize. DNA was pulled again using the Animus as we did the first day with her only she still wasn't synchronizing.
I report that I have never seen this before in a test subject. Never had I had to relapse their DNA and to pull it again.
Autopsy of her neurology will hopefully allow us to find the problem. It is suspected though that perhaps Tahira was the reason for what had happened, but when compared to past data it remains as nothing but a hypothetical reason.
It is a shame truly as we have no more resources to find any other children she may have had. Although her remains and DNA is fully secured for later research.]]
Alice was gone, her fate resting with the Rikkins, and the only way he could find out why Abstergo wanted the memories of Tahira was if he continued with his mission to Egypt.
There was a spike of Abstergo activity in Egypt following a clean trail right back to Spain. Two Abstergo Technicians had left a paper trail behind them as they traveled from city to small town to village in search of something. A convoy of Abstergo security lurking behind them with every move that they made and considering that Abstergo would kill their own if information was found it only confirmed what he needed to do.
Layla Hassan had been his key to find out what Abstergo had been searching for in Egypt and with Tahira.
And she had been snatched right from under his nose.
Her fingers lingered on the cool, plastic surface of the device. Once Sophia made the call, there was no going back. Juhani Otso Berg was notorious for his resilience and determination in completing the mission... according to his own "practical" ways, of course. But as time went on so did the increasing danger the descendants posed and Layla Hassan had not fallen back into Abstergo's hands. The research she was conducting had gone missing-presumably stolen-with any trace of her that remained being minimal if not completely useless.
There was issue with McGowen as well. He had been gone for weeks ever since the assassination and in that time period she had not heard one report from him. Call her distrust worthy, but having observed and studied descendants of all kinds had left her with one conclusion to them all.
They were like flies to dead flesh, attracted to anything that holds a piece of resemblance of who they once were, no matter what side of the occultist war they had been on. It left for them to be unpredictable. Forming groups with others that they would have been against as their ancestors. McGowen could remain as Head of Security in Abstergo for all he liked, but Sophia would remain watchful and as such it was time to send in a different force.
It was time to call in the man who hunted both the Assassins and Templars who lost their way.
She swiped the screen with her thumb and typed in the phone number her father had once told her. The device on the line rang once, twice, thrice until the muffled sound signaled someone had picked up. Not even bothering to go through meaningless pleasantries, Sophia took the initiative, "I have a mission for you."
"...I'm listening." A voice lined with a barely detectable accent answered.
"Those descendants from Madrid," Sophia paused, her mind filled with an odd sort of clarity, "McGowen was supposed to have hunted them, yet despite his ancestry has gone silent. I want you to hunt them now. But keep Callum Lynch alive."
The call was cut, phone snapping shut in her hands, and all she could hope for was that Otso Berg didn't let personal rivalry crowd his judgement. The Apple of Eden was at stake. Justice for her father was on the edge of her finger tips. Though the threat remained as long as violence thrived and her life's work had escaped out into the world.
Her intent with her test subjects was to never truly give them a new life; doing so would be the equivalent of Pandora opening the box. The Animus had rebuilt them into predators, damaging them mentally, while rewiring them neurologically far past the inhuman qualities that their ancestors possessed. Though blame didn't fall onto her Animus alone. Their very DNA held a genetic mutation in their MAOA gene--the warrior gene--causing one to react violent as a natural reaction before the natural fight or flight response. Causing them to act out on physical and mental feats that normal humans wouldn't dare to attempt, yet their success rate was higher than those without the mutation. It had been an interest to Sophia before she began building Animus's for her own use.
That was where she began studying the DNA of Assassins and Templars more closely. Discovering that no matter what century they lived, what national origin or ethnicity they had been, they all had the same genetic mutation. Scientifically it made no sense, it was unexplainable when compared to modern research on DNA and genetic mutations.
Then again Leaps of Faith and the Second Sight where unnatural phenomenons that the ancestors had presented.
"Mr. Jones has been notified to continue Ms. Hassan's work in Egypt with better results if he values his life as an employee rather than a test subject."
There was a bluntness that Ellen Kaye possessed, the fragments of someone who creeped their way into your very thoughts until your desires matched her own. Only now the woman held a look of utter stoicness as she signed the documents that were needed to shut off Abstergo activity in Spain temporarily.
"Acquiring the Shroud from Álvaro Gramática I'm afraid was like taking a small child's toy. He wants to be apart of your project though I left that for you to decide my dear."
Run, that was all he could think of as he ran from rooftop to rooftop, never accessing if it was him or Aguilar that was truly thinking it.
It had been a routine perimeter run around the surrounding blocks of the city that encased their current hideout. He had been with Jason and Lara for the past week during runs and stake outs for Abstergo, and he had almost found the company to be reassuring. What he hadn't counted on though was that their experience in London over weighed his so once the gun fire busted the window behind them they had ended up splitting up. Though now was certainly not the time to be accessing his situation.
The gunfire had come from a rifle--what had been shot at him though was no bullet--that much he had found out when he fell down a fire escape after not making the jump. Instead of a bullet it was some form of dart that left a punch if the dented insertion in the old metal was anything to go by.
Balancing back up onto the escape he jumped down, cursing when his grasp onto the bricks of the building slipped, sending him falling down onto the hard pavement below.
Focus Cal, Aguilar's voice remained firm, reassuring to him against the panic that was trying to take over. You were caught off guard. Do not let that get to you, Cal, you can save your questions for when you are out of this situation. What you need to do now is focus and get out of this area.
"Where am I supposed to run? I don't know where the shots are coming from anymore and I would prefer to not run into whoever it is."
Run until you can find a firm enough platform and then climb. Just as Maria and I did in Seville, remember?
A shaking breath left him before he jumped back up, sprinting down the narrow alley that he had landed in and towards the opening. Beyond that appeared to be more abandoned railway buildings. Spray paint covered the chipped away bricks and stones. The windows were no longer transparent although some showed signs of being broke. Skidding against his boots Callum redirected himself towards the metal doors that had once been used to haul in cargo. Pushing the small space open even more in order to slip his body inside. If luck was on his side and he was able to lose the attacker through the abandoned buildings by doing this.
Callum weaved himself through the metal beams and leftover crates that were scattered with evidence of people being in here over time. He was almost close to reaching the other side of the building when he felt something hit his back roughly knocking him into the ground.
Chapter 6: Ghost
When Callum awoke the first thing he registered was that Aguilar was no longer at the forefront of his mind. The missing presence was becoming more obvious and even more unbearable each time his ancestor did it; not that Cal wanted to admit that the Animus had affected his brain that much. Pushing it aside he focused onto the environment--or rather the location--that he was now in.
In front of him were two marble pillars stretched out towards a ceiling of green and gold, guarding an alter where a shrine of gold was placed in front of a mosaic of dark glass. Behind him was a bare room. Light flooded in only from the mosaic windows giving him enough to see the dark wooden double doors on the other side. It all seemed familiar.
"The War Memorial, Grand Temple, London. You haven't been in this part of the building, have you?" That voice...
"You," Cal stated simply.
"Me," McGowen acknowledged. The Head of Security's steps could be heard to be approaching him. A increasing pressure kept on building up at the back of his head and a ringing filled his ears with the man's every step. Aguilar's presence stirred almost as if agitated by what was happening. Callum lay prone on the floor as the Templar came closer and the ringing got worse. The sensation he felt could almost be described as a migraine... if migraines were amplified by a thousand.
Why the man had hunted him down simply to take him back to the place of the assassination instead of straight to Abstergo and Sophia left a wave of anxiety in him.
"This was the last time I saw you--in this building--before you ran." McGowen dragged out placed something down upon the floor in front of him. His stoic expression gave nothing away for Callum to pull apart as he had done with Sophia during his first few days in Abstergo. Though the observation only made the growing pain in the back of his head increase.
Callum slowly got to his feet, "What do you want with me?"
With little pause McGowen slid the item that he had placed down across the floor. It was only when it was a few feet away that Callum saw what it was: a leather case for, judging by its size, a laptop. Curling his hand into a first he flicked his wrist as he had done months ago in this very building. The hidden blade released with a sharp snick before Callum prepared to launch forward across the room. To push aside the growing pain and anxiety that was attempting to overtake his reasoning. Only when he looked back up McGowen was already stepping out of the doorway.
"I'll see you again, Cal."
When Callum had returned there was a heavy silence that filled the abanddoned station they were holed up in. For a moment he had been concerned that Abstergo had taken the others until he saw the sprawled out form of Nathan lying on the make-shift set up of technology that Emir had set up. The sight of the Brit calmed him down, a relief since the headache hadn't let up since the moment he awoke inside of the Grand Temple.
Emir was gone, while Jason and Lara were no where in sight. On the other side of the room Moussa and Lin remained asleep near the maintenance room that they had place the Abstergo Employee, Layla, in.
Callum pressed his lips into a thin line as he made his way to the corner that he had claimed as his when they took the place. The leather case that McGowen had given to him weighed against his hand as he sat down with his back against the wall. Hesitancy crept on him as he opened the leather case to see what was inside, yet what he was seeing left him off guard. A thin silver laptop sat inside of it, placed snuggly inside of the case, and on the top of the case behind thin netting were two different sets. One was made up of a set of three CD's, while the other held five USB drives; a note written inside of the thin netting.
Thank me later.
Hakkasan Mayfair. 8:00. 12-07-17.
I'll send you a package an hour beforehand. Don't worry about Sophia.
Setting the note beside him he took out the laptop, finding that there was no password needed, and in the inside of the desk top were files. The first read in large, choppy letters: MADRID-TS-GENE. Next to it was a folder labelled emails. Most coming from Sophia, others from Alan Rikkin, and many more from Abstergo Employee's if Callum was to take a guess. Then there was another file marked instructions, a memo was written, with a detailed list typed out:
USB 1: Animus Archive
USB 2: Bloodline 245
USB 3: Occupants
USB 4: Eden
USB 5: Bloodline 19
CD 1: R1
CD 2: R2
CD 3: R3
The sound of the stations door opening caused Callum to snap up, hands going to snatch the note and to put the laptop back into its case as quick as he could in order to hide it amongst his things. As much as he wanted the others to trust him and for him to do the same he still didn't want the information getting out. Whatever was on there had been something that McGowen had wanted him to see; the note alone would cause a mutiny.
"Callie!" Jason shouted running to met him with a look of concern on his face. Lara following more calmly close behind.
The embrace that he had given him was not something that Callum had expected from the descendant. Let alone the once-over check that Jason proceeded to give him before he slapped his hands against his cheeks. Vivid blue eyes burned into him as Jason began to stare. "We thought we lost you! That Abstergo had taken you! And Jacob wouldn't let me go back."
Jacob. That must be his ancestor. Callum thought as the Brit began to go on in an accusing tone of how Jacob and Evie had been stubborn and had down right refused searching for him. I wonder if Aguilar will care for me like that.
The thought only seemed to draw out the Bleeding Effect as the black hazy, mist began to appear from the corner of his vision, the sounds of his surroundings becoming nothing more than a dull.
"Callum," Aguilar's voice was both distant and close at the same time and had an undertone of... just something lining his words, "I-"
Whatever his ancestor was going to say was drowned out by the all too familiar ringing sound that filled Cal's ears. A muffled-because he couldn't hear a thing except for that damned noise-curse escaped his lips as the mist that had been creeping into his vision claimed him.
The sky, the hot sun, burning down upon him as the flames scrapped higher and higher.
His mother, his sister, his wife, his son. Fond memories buried deep down by every hit of a spear that he takes.
The desert, a city, the rolling tides of the sea. Large ships from foreign lands with odd weapons and items that the Brotherhood takes.
Flying, his mother, a hooded figure, sky, sun, his wife, the eagle that the Brotherhood had taken.
A never ending cycle, that only seems to slow down as he stares into blue eyes surrounded by black coal and markings, breathe, she tells him, breathe, her voice carries before he lunges towards Ojeda with a dagger in hand.
The Madrid facility looked like a warzone with bodies still scattered across the glass-littered floor and the Animus broken. Nothing unexpected though. From the second he had heard about this damned place, he knew that the Madrid facility was ticking time bomb, a waiting disaster so to speak. It had only taken one more descendant being brought in to bring this entire place, that trained and equipped those descendants, to the ground.
Otso Juhani Berg closed his eyes briefly, trying to concentrate, before opening them once more with gray bleeding into his vision. Templar Vision, a neat trick it was in hunting Assassins. It was only ten seconds later did his vision abruptly bleed back into full color, but that was all he needed to see.
"The Assassins," Berg began, "Took a majority of the weapons and are armed. One of them is injured, bleeding fatally if the blood is coming from one person."
"They couldn't have gotten far," Violet interjected. She held her phone and snapped some pictures of the scene, "I'll send these to numbskull. Being synchronized with an Assassin Hunter should have that numbskull be able to help us." Ah, yes. "Numbskull" was the new recruit that helped flush out the Assassins and wreck havoc. Berg didn't regret bringing in the analyst into the Order, with how useful the Bleeding Effect proved to be at times.
"Where is the security footage?" He turned towards Violet as crimson-stained glass crushed under his boots.
She shook her head with frustration evident in her eyes, "Some of the footage is recoverable, but it'll take some time. They had gotten into the surveillance room, and wrecked havoc."
Otso Berg sighed but knew that this was to be expected. Assassins were quite tricky to hunt considering their nature and training, but they too slip up at times. William Miles during the Cairo Mission was a testament to that. It didn't matter how hard all 211 of the descendants tried to run or turn the tables against him and his team.
They would hunt them down.
"Traffic cams caught several persons of interest whose facial features coincide with that of the targets. Their current location is Carabanchel Prison on the outskirts of Madrid." A voice crackled over the comms.
"Well," Violet drawled with a smirk on her lips at the new intelligence brought to light., "It looks like the hunt has just begun."
Two Korean nationals, Mother and daughter, seven Americans, and one Norwegian.
A total of ten descendants were located in Carabanchel Prison on the outskirts of Madrid, yet despite the insignificant number they consisted of the best of the 211 in terms of physical condition. However, mentally... not so much.
Berg looked over at the profiles of the targets held in manila folders. All of them had psych evals that suggested them to be deranged and "more in touch with the past than present". Those words vaguely reminded him of his predecessor, Daniel Cross. The words the deranged man had said to him during that spar echoed in his mind vaguely, like a ghost.
The car rolled to a stop, and Berg exchanged a look with Violet. The several units of Abstergo agents were at their use for hunting these specific targets, and the perimeter was already secure.
It was time.
The mid-afternoon sun of Madrid beat down on them as the two made their way to the guards lining the perimeter. A figure with batons attached to their belt and a modern air rifle slung across their back showed their back to them.
"Numbskull," Violet greeted.
"Miss de Costa, Master Berg." The analyst greeted.
"What are you doing here?" He hadn't given any orders for her to participate in the mission at hand.
"Providing assistance as is my role, sir."
"Tactical assistance from you is not required, Analyst."
"But you may follow de Costa as is your role. She will be heading the Unit A in the attack from the rear-side."
"Yes, sir." The smile on the analyst's vague vaguely resembled that of Shay Cormac's from the memories shown to Berg. Perhaps, that was why he let her follow de Costa. More Templars were needed that followed the example of Shay Cormac.
It was only by the lat evening did the last of the Assassins be eliminated in the prison. The mother and daughter proved to be difficult yet clean in eliminating them with the traps laid out by the Assassins, but were soon flushed out by gas bombs. The others proved to be more messy and more unseemly measures were taken.
The mission was a success and only 201 more to hunt down.
The hunt had only just begun.
Ever since she had been thrown into the dark stingy room she had thought over the many things that had become of her life.
Before Abstergo there had only been Philadelphia, her parents, her brothers, and a few good friends that she would meet up with every other weekend. Layla wouldn't have considered herself a troubled child despite being a drop out and when Sophia Rikkin had come calling it had almost seemed like a moment where she could turn to her family and say, 'I told you so'. Layla would be lying though if she said that she took the job out of a sense of wishing to better herself when the real reason had been for the British woman's lips.
Though it had been good those first couple of years. Working on Sophia's Animus had her rising through the ranks of technicians until Layla was sure to get that promotion. Instead, Layla questioned the use of the unwilling test subjects, and following am accidental meeting with Ellen Kaye she had found herself going nowhere.
Sophia didn't even want her in the Foundation--her transition papers to the Abstergo Foundation and Rehabilitation in Paris had gone missing--let alone in Spain. The woman could say that she would always have a home in Abstergo, but from the moment that she had been sent to Egypt any praise fell through her fingers like sand.
And now Dee was more than likely dead. Her Animus taken or destroyed she didn't know. The research that she had picked up had been stolen from her by the more than pissed descendants, the tomb sealed back up with the artifacts mainly inside, away from any outside interference. Leaving her where she is now-
Beaten bloody by the brass knuckles and cane swords that she had fought back against once she had woken up in London. Tied up, chained, and placed in a windowless room that's cracked curling gave little light. Layla's only hope came from the possibility that they would let her go. Perhaps if she joined them. Only she was no descendant and if she sided against Abstergo then Otso Berg would kill her without hesitation.
Perhaps. That word implied uncertainty in the outcome, and in this situation, it wasn't enough.
It was never enough.
Chapter 7: Bleeding
He comes back later on, in a white and beige room that reeks of chemicals and is far too bright when compared to the unnatural lighting Aguilar has seen before.
Aguilar feels a seize of panic, because the room looks far too much like the one Cal was imprisoned in at that facility. The first time that Aguilar had seen it it had been through his descendants eyes, which had resulted in the panic that had surged through him resulting in him projecting himself until he was standing in that room. Looking at himself. Only in that sterile white room had been his descendant and not some witchcraft that had jolted him from the last memory he held; being in the haul of King Ferdinand's ship, dying.
He doesn’t know why anyone would wish to be somewhere so void of color, so impossibly clean. Aguilar simply can't understand it. But after a moment of examination, he realizes it’s not another facility he’s standing in right now: It’s an infirmary of some kind. He had seen glimpses of them throughout Cal's memories and in the few lingering traces that had belonged to Mary.
There is a white bed in the center of the room, machinery surrounding it, with a few chairs vacating the walls. Aguilar is standing beside the bed, and he can see that Cal has a strange little tube wrapped around his face, with a small piece that sticks up into his nose, and a needle connected to an IV drip in his arm. Machines and odd objects that only have names from distinct memories of Callum as a child.
He looks weak, but not dead.
Aguilar sighs with relief, reaching out to place Cal's hand into his own with solemn knowledge that the worst was hopefully over with.
Illness was easier to not contract with vaccines; modern medicine might as well have been witchcraft with how it fixed things. If such things had been around in his time then his sister might have lived long enough to save his parents. His wife, Christinà, might have given him cause to never become an Assassin; might have had enough strength against the Templars. The son he had never truly known might have lived with his true parents.
Callum is confused by it, he knows; what memories of Aguilar’s he’s witnessed and experienced took place after Aguilar had become a father, when he was smoldering with bitterness and grief and anger. He has only seen a small handful of memories beyond the fight for the Apple, and none of them give away normal interactions. Cal does not see his childhood that had been filled with normalcy, nor does he experience his sister before she had gone off to do the unknown work with his parents, nor does he see the love that Aguilar had before Maria and Joséphinà had come into his life.
Cal does not see the human that Aguilar had once been.
There is something else there too, some deeper reason why Aguilar’s behavior towards him troubles him, but Aguilar cannot see that deeply into Callum’s mind. He cannot truly know the mans emotion with their true intensity.
But again, this is why Aguilar thinks of himself as a spirit. Even if he looks down at himself he sees the man he was in 1492 he does not see the Aguilar that had lived peacefully in the village of Nerha. He does not even get to see the novice that had rebuilt his life through Maria and their daughter. He only sees the hectic climax that spiraled down to his death during his final days as an Assassin.
Callum is starting to stir after the clock ticks across the twelve after three full turns.
He twitches, frowns, moves his arms and legs in a restless way. Aguilar gracefully hops off the bed and steps back. Examining his descendant as he had when he was placed in a sencor-sensory deprivation chamber, the thing that was supposed to help with the Bleeding Effect and neurological split that had occured.
Then, the door to the room opens with a light slam, and a woman in a blue uniform steps forward. “Sir? Are you awake? Can you hear me?"
Callum stirs a little more, eyes creaking open as they had when he had began to experience Aguilar's memories through his dreams. His body is sluggish from the medicine that must have been placed in him, or at least Aguilar expects that until his eyes snap open.
He looks at the nurse with confusion, but not fear or hostility. He looks around, but does not seem to focus on his ancestor.
And then Callum looks down at his arm.
His eyes lock on the IV, on the needle in his arm. Every single bit of the color that might have toned his pale skin disappears.
“No! No, no, nonono!”
Callum rips the needle out of his arm and a spray of blood hits the bed, which he scrambles out of as quickly as possible.
Blood. He's bleeding too much.
Then a sharp sense of pain begins to throb in his head, his vision heightening to a point of painful intensity as his pupils attempt to adjust to the Bleeding Effect. The terrible sense that he was not himself, the sensation of doing things he hasn’t done and feeling things he hasn’t felt, all fogging up until he isn't sure what he knew and what he had given to him.
He’s in another sterile room, this one much darker, with people standing behind tinted glass. Guards. A woman wearing a mask.
“Be it known that Callum Lynch has been found guilty of capital murder and is sentenced to die on this day, October 21st, 2016. Does the prisoner wish to make a final statement?”
“Tell my father I’ll see him in Hell.”
The table rolls back to force him to look up at the ceiling suddenly making everything real and terrifying and oh God he was dying. They were about to poison him to death.
He breaks out into a sweat and starts breathing heavily as he watches the poison creep through the tube and into his flesh and everything becomes cold and he can’t move and he can barely make out the face of a pale woman in black on the other side of the glass.
Aguilar has experienced pieces of Callum’s memories before, but this is the first time he has experienced one so intense that it blocked out everything else out. It's the first one where he lost control.
Callum is crouching in the corner, breathing heavily and trembling uncontrollably.
The nurse has crept forward with a cloth and liquid in one hand. Movements firm, yet there is hesitance in her eyes.
The connection between Callum and Aguilar is still open, and Aguilar feels a dull pulse of pain on his own arm where Callum’s is bleeding. The antiseptic hurts, the pressure of the nurse’s hand on the gauze hurts, his head and heart and lungs are pounding from the stress, he’s in intense pain and he is nauseous. Confused. Lost. Anxious.
Aguilar shakes his head sharply. Lingering on the connection for too long, focusing too deeply on Callum’s thoughts will initiate another bleeding, and even though he’s been dead for quite a long time and shouldn’t be living again through another.
Their connection though simply continued to grow after escaping from Abstergo; surpassing memories, their neurological connection, spreading into emotions and then mental thought, only now its physical pain too. Because of that in the short time that Aguilar has known his descendent he’s become impressed with Cal’s his cleverness, his adaptability, and his loyalty. Compared to his sharp attitude, his temper, and his unwillingness to trust others that has been turned into a valuable asset. It all comes down to Aguilar creating a barrier between them.
These are the things that have seperated Callum Lynch from his ancestor.
To see him reduced to a state of terror, curled in a ball in a corner, is baffling: Even when he’d been dragged to the Animus Callum had put up a fight, refused to go quietly. He hadn’t cowered. But now, now he cowers, and the sheer force of what he feels is enough to seep across their bond, enough so that Aguilar knows Callum is trying with everything he has to calm down, but he can’t.
"Cal, calm down. Breath with me. Focus on me." It's all Aguilar can say as he sees the pupils in his eyes dilate until the iris's became barely noticeable. Then he feels it: the concern brought on by the other ancestors being dragged out from the back recesses of Callum's mind. There are only a few prominent ones that have lingered forward into the front of his mind where Aguilar resides.
Mary Lynch had been the first to do so back in that facility; then there was James dée Mckye, Thomas dée Mckye, Laura Clemens, Arno Dorian, and Nicolàs de Nerha. His grandson and his descendants. And a few times, during the darker periods of night, Aguilar senses Victor Lynch stretch himself out before curling back in. A Templar; more prosperous, more diligent, an elegant prowl to his steps that Aguilar sees wisp of in Cal.
They manifest around the room--some are more whole than others--thin hazy clouds of black fog moving through the room like snakes. A few figures taking form before dissipating.
Callum finally stops shaking once they return, everything calming down as his eyes drop down into tiny pin-points, an unnatural golden glow filling his eyes, before they return to normal. Aguilar identifies it as a defensive mechanism although he is unsure if it is natural for descendants to react like that. Luckily though, the nurse does not seem to notice as she cleans and bandages his arm.
"Aguilar." Cal's voice cracks, breaks, falters beneath his own tongue before his gaze adjust back onto the nurse. "No needles. Please no needles."
Sophia Rikkin had a plan, a mad one some may say. But a plan, nonetheless. It was simplistic in nature and yet held the key to hunting down what she had set lose onto the world.
Berg and Sigma Team had already tracked down the remaining descendants in Madrid. It made things much simpler for her plan to be carried out if it was tailored to a specific group of descendants. The rest of the active test subjects, excluding Lynch's group, were scattered throughout Europe. Some were reported in their home countries such as Russia and France. They must have gone there to check on their families only to realize what happened to them. Perhaps, that was what explained the almost beserker-like state displayed when units were sent to eliminate them. After all, they had the will to fight, but not to live apparently.
As her arms rested on the pristine glass of the desk, Sophia rang a finger along the paper she held. The thin sheet showed the promising results of the experimentation on the Shroud. The stinging sensation that suddenly pricked her finger was soon followed by a wet sensation. Curious, Sophia brought her finger closer. The thin cut was an angry red and crimson liquid bubbled out of the cut.
Blood, it was.
"It runs in your blood." The words echoed in her head. Something about the voice was familiar and yet not. But Sophia did know one thing about the statement. It reminded her of one person: Callum Lynch. And the one person she tasked to find the man went rogue.
McGowen. The man, of all people she had thought to go betray her, went rogue. Sophia had her suspicions after his conversation with Callum Lynch about Assassins and how he admired them. Not only that, but, his ancestor, Ojeda, had a history with Aguilar.
She should have known.
It wasn't too late, though. Sophia could fix her mistake. All of her mistakes. Father's death would not have been in vain, their life's work could finally be fulfilled, and the pieces of Eden would give them all of the knowledge left unknown to man.
Her fingers tapped the numbers in the correct sequence on the touchscreen.
"Álvaro Gramática, I noticed something interesting in your report on the Shroud. Care to explain?"
They had never counted on the more serious aspects of their condition upon their escape from the Abstergo Foundation. The mental aspects were something that they could lean upon each other from; paranoia, anxiety, schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. The mental illness brought by the Regressions and the Bleeding Effect was one thing, the more physical attributes were another.
Why they were all abnormally, if not unnaturally, stronger, faster, and certainly more agile and flexible than the natural human there was a step back. Why they could perform more extensive Leaps of Faith than their ancestors, why their eagle vision seemed more prominent, their simple ability to shift their illusions onto others, their bodies had taken that toll.
The Animus may have made them better physically, inhumanly so, the Bleeding Effect had taken their minds and their bodies. Bleeding from the eyes and nose, coughing and puking blood, jittering, seizing.
Jason knew the risk just as much as the others, yet they had not prepared themselves for a seizure outside of Abstergo. They had not even expected for Callum to seize. Their hold out wasn't even idle let alone close enough to a hospital that wouldn't suspect something from an obviously stolen car and seizing man.
But perhaps what had happened on the perimeter check had triggered it.
There was no blame that could be placed on Callum or Aguilar. Jacob had even agreed to him on that much despite the underlining knowledge that they would have to move again. The hospital would keep an eye on him, Abstergo had a better chance at tracking them now, and the police would surely be notified if something was off. Luckily enough, Jason hadn't been old enough when he died, nor had he been as important as his father in any way, giving him some leverage in the public eye.
The nurse up front had wanted him to fill out a clip-board of information on the man who he had deemed his cousin, out-of-country, with a history of health issues. The more formal dirty work always held influence from his Templar ancestors more: signatures, documents, legal information, it all came more quickly if he allowed them to enter the front of his mind despite the annoyed waves of emotion that would come from the Fryes. With the final signature forged he handed back the clipboard to the front desk and crossed his fingers that Emir could follow up with the fake records before he found himself being dragged away.
"I'm afraid that he will not be able for discharge until tomorrow; early noon at most if he checks off okay." The nurse explained as she lead him through the halls. The very setting itself reminded him far too much of Abstergo: the sterilized surfaces, the cold air stretching of chemicals, all uniform, all conformed, backdropped upon a white aesthetic. "Thank you." Was all he could say before he stepped foot into the hospital room.
Chapter 8: Midnight Dove
"Any signs of them?"
"Negative. I'm afraid that it is hard to narrow down our search when they all dress the same and Layla Hassan has disappeared somewhere amongst it all."
Shaun had been looking at the computer screens for days: street surveillance, public terminal surveillance, registered information for rentals and transportation tickets all ranging from Cairo to Paris to London. Mapping out a direct route was practically impossible and when someone did come up getting a positive I.D was invigorating. The file data that Rebecca had been able to retrieve from Madrid gave long list of names and medical data, and even longer detailed information on their ancestors. There had been interesting bloodlines, Assassins and Templars both, an almost stark contrast to anything that he had ever seen. Then there was the neurological and physical changes brought upon by this Animus; a Bleeding Effect that went beyond severe.
Just another reason why we shouldn't be doing this, Shaun thought, wrinkling his nose as he adjusted his glasses. Did he think that Layla Hassan was worth it? Most definitely not. Despite whatever connection she may have had to Sophia Rikkin, Shaun did not think it to be worth it, although any protest seemed useless at this point.
William frowned at the physical changes, the bloodlines, the bleeding effect, and the countless security footage that depicted the test subjects lashing out. Yet it didn't budge the mans opinion on taking them on to get to the Abstergo technician.
Of course Shaun couldn't lie, the information was viable, however, the test subjects proved how violent they could be towards the employees who carried their information. And he didn't doubt that if he was caught with it that all he would receive would be a nice little punch. "Have I mentioned that I do not like this?" Sarcastically, Shaun began to replace hard-drives before rerouting the information that Rebecca had given to him; he missed working with her in the field, but she had resided herself into safehouses ever since the accident.
"Many times." William remarked before focusing onto the information that had been taken from the only remaining Foundation.
The Abstergo Foundation in Paris was not as large as the one in Madrid: understaffed, with less funding, hardly any gathered artifacts, and certainly no test subjects, although things were not always as they appear. Sophia Rikkin had been becoming far too active there and the facility was now housing the Animus that had been in Madrid. There was a new Arm, a new Archive, but it was still the same Animus and he wouldn't put it past her if she attempted to gather new test subjects.
"I want you to keep an eye on Miss Rikkin and the Paris facility. I'm going to head to London and track down these descendants."
William left little room for an argument with his order before turning on his heel to leave. The issue with Sophia Rikkin would have to be dealt with after the descendants; somewhere out there, Layla was possibly dead for her dealings with Abstergo. Negatives upon negatives, a ripple of complete chaos, and it all leads straight to London's underground.
McGowen unlocked the door without lingering in the hallway, body still tense, finger itching towards the gun tucked beneath the left pocket of his coat. Unlike the French rooms with warm and soft light provided by glowing oil lamps the penthouse that he had rented in London was filled with harsh neon lights; still reverent to the decade of the 1980's which he was sure was the last time this place had been renovated. Although considering its location above the neon and concrete walls of the Cortex, a tattoo parlor that had been abandoned during the Cold War.
He supposed though that it was better. Impractical, but with Sophia searching for any sign of him it was by any means useful. Unfortunately, it was too dangerous to stay. Whether it be the descendants, Otso Berg, or Sophia Rikkin herself, McGowen wouldn't be safe here for long. It had been his choice after all to cut off all communications from Abstergo and it had also been his choice not to kill Callum Lynch when he had the chance. It was his final choice--as inadvertently as it had been--to give the information he had secured for Alan Rikkin to Callum. Securing a future meeting with the man if either of them survived the coming weeks.
He threw his coat onto the ground, placing his gun into the back band of his belt in case there was a threat. Years of military training and residing in the compound in Madrid had made him cautious to threats. Never letting his guard down. Never resting. Never giving in to the voice of his ancestor that lingered in the back of his mind nor to the constant reminders of a past not his.
It was that very training and more-not his- that made him feel an all too familiar, creeping sensation in the back of his mind.
“You're leaving without celebrating?”
McGowen whirled around and instinctively pointed his gun at the source of the voice. It was one that he knew, that he had memorized, adjusted to a different language, yet it was all the same in sound and tone. She still seemed to sound the same despite the underlining difference and she still looked the same as she had all those months ago in Abstergo.
She was still a reminder of a past not his, and yet a threat to the future that was his.
The dulated grey uniform that the test subjects worn had been replaced by a modern rendition of robes: black trench coat, the peek of a black sweater at her neckline, black loose pants tucked into leather boots, with the same crimson and black waistband that had belonged to her ancestor wrapping around her. A copy. One he had seen with the others in the Grand Hall. One he had suspected of Sophia having made and stored aside for future purposes of her test subjects. Her dark hair had been cut, curls brushing against her shoulders in sharp contrast to the long hair that she had kept in fashion to her ancestor.
A bristling sensation almost akin to that of a presence unfurling itself after a long, deep slumber was brought to life in McGowen's head. It brought no surprise to him considering who she was.
“Stoli on the rocks,” She said knowingly, passing off one of the glasses that was in her hand towards the end of the bed.
"You changed your hair." It felt foreign to McGowen and him. He had always known that the ancestor and descendant were different in one sense yet same in another. Perhaps, he had only taken notice of the former more so than the later.
She arched a brow, a familiar crooked smile forming on her face, "That is the first thing you say. Interesting to see you not as on point as the last time."
McGowen scoffed, furrowing his brows as a scowl began to form. "You shot at me the last time we met." In Madrid, he had ended up with a throwing knife in his thigh on his way out of the facility by her hands. She had seemed so angry at him then, but when she left him he had suspected that she would have tracked down Lynch and her daughter. If it hadn't been from the orders he perhaps would have gone with her, his ancestor scolding him for reliving past mistakes, but that could have left with her ending up dead. Something that he didn't want to happen.
Not again, he murmured.
In the same way that he didn't want to kill Callum Lynch either.
His presence reacted to the very thought. McGowen could understand what his ancestor was trying to convey.
History was repeating itself.
And he couldn't bring himself to stop it.
"Lara informed me that he is in the hospital. That Jason would deal with him before Abstergo could. Should I be worried for any involvement on your part?" She questioned before remarking more sharply. "He isn't even ours again."
The remark had almost ended as a faint whisper, but it burned him nonetheless. "No. Not yet."
Those three words brought back memories of a lifetime, and the very manifestation of those memories stirred and finally awakened. McGowen could almost picture his robes swaying lightly against his armor as he stalked forward in his mind's eye.
Yes, McGowen thought.
The man laying on the hospital bed somehow seemed in a far off state that was worse than the condition that they had brought him with. They should have prepared better for this. Found a way to mimic a sensory deprivation chamber as best as they could, but it would be a long time before such profits can be bought. Passing through the door, he was almost reminded of the day that he had first met Callum Lynch. Pale. Unconscious. Hooked up to machines with an unsettling appearance of being dead coming from him. Only this time there was no Sophia to order him out of the room and Callum seemed more stable as his eyes landed upon him.
"I'm sorry Cal." Jason means it, feeling anxious and worried more than he normally was for his fellow descendants. Blame it on his ancestors. Blame it on him for showing more humanity than he had been raised to show in comparison to his sister.
Callum stirred, tried to sit up from the position that the nurses had placed him in, and Jason lunged to meet him and stop his efforts. His hand wrapped around the older mans wrist, giving a soft squeeze, before being released.
"Will we have to move again? I think I'm getting tired of it." Callum huffed with a small smile. "They are preparing a transfer in case Abstergo traces our location through street cameras. Lara is taking care of your things, moving them to where my Rooks are, they will make sure nothing is taken."
"Rooks?" Callum rasped, something in his eyes curious, though Jason still wasn't sure if it was any medication causing it.
"My ancestor's idea," Jason said simply before further explaining, "They are my syndicate. Oddly enough I expected for it to take me longer to rally people behind me. Especially in this modern era." Most had previous experience with gang life, contacts that Nathan still remembered and had been kind enough to provide information for. Others came across as being activist against Abstergo, mostly for their environmental dealings or their more questionable accounts. Although he doubted Callum would enjoy hearing about such things when he probably had more pressing matters going about in his head. He was placed in the hospital from the Bleeding Effect after all and ancestors tended to creep out when dealing with new environments.
Jason waited, lingering on the clipboard attached to the end of the bed before gazing towards a blood stained bandage on his arm. "None of them blame you if it helps. Even Nathan offered sympathy for you while you rest in your current predicament. However, we must get you out of here before Abstergo discovers you, and while I would suggest you being moved to another hospital many here in London have some form of Abstergo manufacturing in them somewhere. Even this one here is a ticking bomb." Removing him would be difficult if the hospital staff wouldn't allow it with any behaviors or abrasions that he had received.
Callum listened to his words, his reactions steadily speeding back to a normal pace, before he finally lifted up from the bed. "How...I don't see how we can do this without being caught. I still don't feel -- together." His voice broke as he spoke, brows furrowing as he tried forming a frown. It had been hours since the nurse had left him patched up again and he had slept for most of the time in between then and Jason's arrival. The issue was that he didn't know what was making him feel restless and queasy. It could only be either the blood loss or the bleeding effect and with his inexperience on the latter he didn't know if he could make it out of the room let alone to wherever their group was having to be moved to.
"If they do not release me then I will follow whatever plan you have. Just know, that when this is over with for me, that I need answers."
People were often expendable in their lives no matter what role they played. It wasn’t intentional aggression or a pretentious mindset; there had been no malicious intent, at least that was the lie that she told herself every morning and night. It was an excuse--muttered as a Creed-with the driving intent pushing behind it that it would all fall into place. Just a driving need to understand the human condition -- a driving need to tame it. Father had imbued that within his children from an early age, training them like dogs, and she had been naive enough to think that it had fallen to only her mongrel half-brother. Only now the skill sets and manipulation was clear to have been made in her too. It was something that she had used to progress her life's work.
She had sent a child into the Animus after all in the name of science: children, women, men, all with different roles in society and different nationalities. All with one thing in common, their primogenitors. The Templar Order and Assassin Brotherhood had always tried to appear black and white when the lines between them blurred throughout their known existence. Children born to both sides, traitors and turncoats, generations flexing between orders as centuries went by. And while her data showed the Brotherhoods sharp decline at the end of the nineteenth century and the Templars steady decline at the beginning of the twentieth century just by evidence alone it was evident that bloodlines still existed. Their Orders may have died off, whittled away into history in the eyes of the public, their creeds and tenets nothing more than whispers written on molding paper, they had left behind lineages.
It had been easy in the beginning. She had played her role, witnessed her life's work blooming from the remains of Dr. Vidic's program and Abstergo's funding. Abductions were common. Innocent lives taken were common. The only resolve was that it wouldn't have been in vain -- that the world would be cleansed of the violence brought upon by humanity even if measures had to be taken.
One subject had turned into two, two into forty, forty into one hundred. A few died in the Animus, a few over the after-effects that were brought upon the body during the first regressions, more than twice a dozen had lost their sight and functioning abilities until they became inactive completely. Most of them made it though, and that made the few setbacks worth it as the years went by.
She gave them promises. And with those sweet words, they were given a training arena, gardening areas, relative room to roam around; enrichment in its entirety. She had promised them a new life when it was all over. New roles in society as embodiments of the cure against violence. These Subjects, her life's work, a new world built and retained with peace.
Sophia had never factored in what could happen if there was a mutiny. She had tasted her new world upon her tongue-so close-once she matched Callum Lynch's blood to Aguilar's in the database. She had seen it in herself as a figure with a face far too similar to her own had raised her hood to meet her eyes. Then it had all come crashing down in a grand symphony: Father choking on his own blood -- a ripe Apple in hand, her brother succumbing to the flaw -- MAOA gene as problematic justification, Callum Lynch betraying her -- the key to it all sealing her fate as he walked past her. The very word family had become an absinthal meaning. Her blood felt degenerate in her veins now, and while Sophia had never been a religious follower, there was a desperate need to cleanse herself by fixing what she had done.
And with the cleansing of the impure-to purge them-death would follow.
This was how Sophia came to conclude that death was the only logical answer, a means to an end, a ratification to ending a form of violence, so that once it was said and done the attention could be shifted back to the human race as a whole.
Violence was a plague, just like the one that haunted Europe all those centuries ago. And to eliminate a scourge, you needed to purge.
Abstergo would begin to fund her again and with the Apple of Eden in the hands of the Elders then they could end things as they should have ended. Even if she had to place a blade into Callum Lynch with her own hands.
Chapter 9: I Am Become
The past days--weeks--ever since her captors had moved to a different location had spiraled into a whirlwind of chaotic adjustments for Layla.
At first, she had plotted a possible escape if she could merely pinpoint where her captors had planned on going. It was a moment of weakness if she could have exploited it properly. Unfortunately the more they continued and pressed on the more it seemed that there was a destination at the end of every terminus.
The subjects remained on a steady path following the edges of the more secluded parts of the Aldwych area by using the abandoned underground stations there. Then they had broke course, following the edges of the Thames more, before Layla found herself being pushed and pulled into the desolate areas of Richmond. The female companion to the one that had captured her had whispered locations. One standing out more than the rest: Crawley, but the direction that they seemed to be going towards was not the West Sussex of England.
Layla had eventually concluded that perhaps they were doing this on purpose to make sure that she couldn't form a decent sense of direction when she caught a glimpse of a sign saying Southwark. The southern regions towards the River Thames offered abandoned factories for them to remain in until they found a source of income and she had been right.
The Asian descendant who had kept a sharp eye on Layla for the entire journey, had been none too gentle when they arrived towards what appeared to be an Industrial Steel Mill. The lesser remains of what was probably once a Textile factory appeared on the outskirts. Although the place wasn't wholly uninhabited judging by the array of transportation that lurked around the site.
Layla had accepted the possibility of murderous descendants lurking on the other side of the door, waiting to send bitter remarks and glares her way for being an employee of Abstergo Industries. Only when the doors were pulled open from the other side, it was not a descendant clad in black clothing. It was a young man, black grease smudged across his cheek, dressed in clothing of green and yellow, a pistol weighing against his belt, a metal baseball bat in hand.
The colors of clothing, the very image, was something that she had seen once before. An image that she had only seen once in a file when Sophia had wanted her to transfer data from a previous Animus into the new Archive. Only this man--the groups of people behind him--couldn't all be descendants. Assassins and Templars were one thing, but neither of the Rikkins had ever held an interest in gang members as far as Layla knew.
But Layla hadn't known many things in the past. Abstergo and its policies, as well as herself, being a target of the escaped descendants.
She wouldn't make the same mistake again.
'Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.', Layla thought grimly.
The Asian descendant, Lin, from what she had picked up, nudged her forwards more until she stepped out of the little light that the setting sun provided. The inside of the Steel Mill was cold, the very air smelled old, with hinted remains of steel and oil that must have survived since the place was shut down long ago. The stranger who had opened the door lingered close to the group before pressing his fingers against his lips. Emitting a loud whistle that caused the shadows, that she had only glimpsed of, to move; the groups of people that she had known were behind him.
"Boss says that you all are to stay with us while he takes care of your friend. Luckily for you, that Blighters don't exist anymore. Otherwise, we might have had to give your little hostage here a weapon. But Abstergo is no better I suppose."
It was only then that it all clicked. The memory of a few years back when Layla had been pulled away to Madrid to transfer data into the archive. It still made no sense, even now, the possibility of them being descendants was exceptionally low. Besides the chance of anyone even remembering any family members that might have been apart of the Syndicate during the, what was it, early twentieth century, seemed even less likely.
Though as George Shaw once said, 'The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.'
"Either way, watch yourself around here, and if you need something don't be afraid to ask." The Rook finished before the group of people spread away back into whatever shadow they crawled from.
The situation had been no better considering that she now couldn't deter an escape through them moving locations and the unexpected group of acolytes made the situation no better. The Brits who had captured her, to begin with, kept getting more impressive, and not in a way that Layla would like.
The danger was increasing, and Layla knew that she was living on borrowed time.
The only question was just how much time she had left.
Layla was in a den of hidden and ancient ones, surrounded by the remains of their order, and unlike them Layla doubted that she had a drop of blood in her that could match up to theirs.
Hunting those two hundred and one descendants running amok was like pulling teeth.
Extremely hard to do so and painful in its process.
Of course, these particular "teeth" were an infection, and like all plagues, they had to be purged of.
After all, Berg had a job to do so, and he would complete it.
"I can take this one," Violet offered as Sigma Team got in position at the door of the abandoned building. Although, the lilt to her voice told otherwise. A challenge, it was. Berg sighed at his subordinate's behavior and shook his head.
"Just seventy to go," 50 descendants had been captured and terminated as ordered. But in the process, Berg had lost a somewhat disheartening portion of his men. These men and women he was hunting had nothing to lose and that made them all the more dangerous.
No matter, he thought.
This was the beginning of the end for the descendants.
“Perimeter secured, sir.” The analyst’s voice came over the comms. Berg nodded to Violet da Costa as they pressed themselves against the walls, ready to breach the room.
Berg pointed a gloved finger at the door as his men readied themselves and got into position. Violet smirked as she cocked the hammer of her gun, “Let’s do this.”
He then laid his gloved hand at his side.
Boots approached the door carefully, and the wooden door creaked open, almost painfully so, as it revealed the interior of the room.
“This doesn’t make sense,” the analyst said with confusion in her voice, “The heat signatures were located in the room and hadn’t changed recently.”
“Faulty equipment, numbskull,” Violet remarked irritably as she holstered her weapon. Berg’s vision flickered as his surroundings melted into deep blue with glowing figures of cyan.
There was not a single crimson figure in the room.
“Our intel on the targets is still correct unless proven otherwise,” Berg stated firmly, “We will do a sweep of the facility.”
It wouldn’t hurt to do so. After all, they had no other leads except for one that led to this rundown, abandoned building.
“Something smells fishy,” the analyst commented nervously. Berg picked up on her tone as he too agreed with the analyst.
He had the prickling sensation at the back of his bind. Instinct, perhaps. However, he hadn’t felt this way since Venice.
Berg ran through the potential weaknesses in the building’s perimeter. He had used his men in strategic locations, especially around the back of the building leading to the open field.
The same applied to the front and side of the building as well.
“-Numbskull?” Violet asked irritably, her eyes narrowing annoyance, “Typical,” she said to herself in exasperation.
“Analyst?” Berg had a sinking feeling as his subordinate didn’t respond, “I’ll check on her. Continue with the sweep.” he ordered, nodding to VIolet.
“You got it, boss.”
Berg could only hope that his immediate suspicions regarding the analyst’s silence were to be proven incorrect.
Hostage situations were always a tricky little thing, after all.
If there was one thing that was constant in his life, it was that Berg was rarely, if ever, wrong.
The sight of blood trickling down the minuscule, shallow cut on the analyst’s throat proved this consistent fact of lie.
“This is fruitless, Assassin. Maybe, you can get past us. But then there are the road checkpoints. One analyst as a hostage won’t stop them from taking the shot.” Berg explained calmly with his eyes trained on the Assassin. The descendant’s eyes were flighty and nervous.
Fight or flight, Berg thought. A basic fact in human nature that determined the actions of every human being. To be able to predict who would choose the former or later is a key to manipulation.
And hostage situations apparently, he added.
“Not an Assassin,” The descendant murmured, almost trying to convince himself it seemed.
“Then, we’re not your enemy.”
“Enemy? The enemy is everyone but them.” He pressed the blade firmly against the soft skin of the analyst’s neck, making new rivets of crimson liquid come trickling down. Her eyes were wide and terrified. Berg remained calm despite the increasing tone of the descendant. There was one problem in this particular hostage situation:
It was difficult to negotiate, much less talk down, a deranged person.
“Do you trust me?” Berg asked suddenly. The descendant’s eyes became perplexed before narrowing in suspicion as they darted to the analyst.
The female blinked once before her eyes became steady. A simple understanding passed between the two. It then did Berg finally take note of the almost sluggish movements and stance of the descendant.
Drugged, he noted with no small amount of satisfaction. This would make this whole ordeal more manageable.
It was almost too easy to quickly aim his gun and pull the trigger. The target’s head snapped back from the force of the bullet and the analyst promptly followed, moving out of the way from the falling blade.
“Good work, analyst,” Berg commented as he holstered his weapon. His vision flickered and his surroundings once again melted into a deep blue with a glowing blue figure in front of him.
“For what? Not getting myself killed.” She snapped while resting a hand on her bleeding neck.
“For drugging the target. It made the situation easier to handle.”, he paused, “And for trusting me.”
The female did deserve some credit for her trust in him. He did hold her at gunpoint in Montreal, after all.
She smiled, almost a smirk reminiscent of Violet’s, “Anytime, sir.”
The clock sitting on her desk clicked by minute after minute; a reverberation that broke the silence that seemed to fill the room when she wasn't typing. It almost made her made her reel over having to throw away her broken headphones after what happened in London.
Rebecca shivered at the thought of what had happened. At what should have been a simple mission at the end of the day. They had gotten the memories from Abstergo after all and the Fryes had led them right to the Shroud of Eden just as they had done Abstergo, but something about it still seemed off to her. She couldn't put her finger around it other than the details that didn't make any sense anymore. The fact of the matter was that Abstergo had the memories to the Fryes long before they had even received a whisper of evidence about the Shroud's existence. The memories of their descendants must have been viewed hundreds, if not thousands, of times by now, yet Abstergo didn't even try to retrieve it until they had gone hunting for it.
The situation seemed off after Rebecca had time to think about it without cringing or feeling chronic pain from the injury that she had endured that day. Though Shaun simply countered her belief with the question of 'why would Abstergo wait?' every time she brought it up and she didn't have the answer for it.
Reviewing the files from the archive that she had been able to upload showed her massive timelines of ancestories that took up page after page. Most of it was patient files that must have been uploaded into the Animus Archive to ensure it's preservation, but a few documents from Sophia herself had come up. Each one depicting a report over how the changes in the bloodlines beliefs were unique yet followed a pattern almost as they shifted from Assassins to Templars with every descendant despite time period or nationality; information that would not make William happy in the slightest despite his own ancestory with Haytham Kenway.
Rebecca frowned, her brows furrowing at the thought of how William had approached the situation involving Desmond's bloodline. They had never thought about it before, never had they even considered that Altair had not been Ezio's ancestor, or that the Assassin had a different bloodline altogether from what had previously been thought. After Desmond's death, they had tried to go back through the memories using William only to hit a roadblock at Ezio, and what had first been thought of has being a glitch had surfaced with Sophia Rikkin as being much more than that. While the woman never placed Desmond into the Animus herself she had studied his DNA in a far more detailed fashion that Vidic had. The information had revealed that Altair's bloodline was separate from Ezio's, yet the two had been joined upon Desmond's birth. It made things change, more so for William, than for anything that could have said to Desmond if he had not done what he did.
Desmond, she wished he was still here.
That she could go back to the days when they had been running from Abstergo and going through the memories of his ancestors in baby. Now they were all separated, William dragging along Shaun in some desperate attempt at vengeance, and she was holed away inside a home typing away at her software. Trying to seek and go through any information that she could. It wasn't anything as if had been and now they were chasing test subjects instead of going straight for the woman behind it all.
Callum didn't know how they were supposed to get out of here. He wasn't even sure if he was physically-or better yet psychologically-stable enough if they had to escape from the hospital. The Bleeding Effect had incapacitated him and when he had first woken up he had injured himself. Jason seemed to know what he was doing though. If he had come alone than surely he had thought of a plan if the hospital wouldn't let them just walk out.
"Put these on." Jason said upon opening the small compartment in the corner of the room. "We had to redress you into civilian clothing before bringing you here. Not that you could exactly protest to it."
The younger descendant moved to the doorway, one hand on the knob, listening closely to what was on the other side. It took Callum a moment before he realised that he was giving him a small amount of privacy to change before they had to make a break for it. Slashing the hospital gown up he picked up the clothing that they had placed him on when they brought him in: a trench coat, polo neck sweater, dress pants and shoes. Clothing in better condition than he had ever worn. Not that he was going to be one to complain. "I'm good. We're good."
Jason turned to look at him, "Here." His tone sounded irritated as he grabbed the neck of the sweater pulling it up to rest on Callum's nose. "We're gonna have to break out of here and I can't let the hospital cameras in the stairwell see your face fully." Callum was almost going to comment on Jason's lack of hiding when he picked up a hat and sunglasses from the chair next to the door.
Pushing open the door, Jason rushed into the hallway, dragging Callum behind with him, before stopping abruptly. Callum hit Jason's back just in time to see what had made him stop. Standing at the end of the hallway-flanked by two large men-was Sophia Rikkin. She looked the same as she had on the day of his execution. Looking at him with a pitiful expression; or was it directed towards Jason?
"Callum I want you to run. Go! Now!" His voice changed, becoming more sharper, more serious, before Callum saw him flex his fingers around a pair of bronze knuckles.
His body moved before his brain could fully process what Jason had said. All of his regressions with Aguilar pulled him into a sort of muscle memory as he raced down the hallways. Taking turns and pushing nurses who tried to stop him out of the way before he found a door that read emergency exit. The doorway lead out into the side of the hospital, giving him no room to go up, but it did lead him out into the streets of London.
He couldn't think about if Jason would make it out or not, if he could escape Abstergo or the police that would surely be called if a fight broke out. He couldn't even try to focus on calling out to Aguilar wherever his ancestor had decided to hunker down at in his mind. All he could do was run and hope that he stumbled across the others or found a way to contact them. Jason had said that they had moved after the incident to draw attention away from themselves, but he hadn't told Cal where that location was. The only sure location he knew of was not one that he wanted to go to anyhow if it lead him right back into the arms of Abstergo, but he didn't seem to have a much better choice in the matter.
He would have to find the Hakkasan Mayfair.
Awakening in an all white room seemed like the worst case of déjà vu that could have ever have possibly happened to him.
Back at the hospital, there had been a part of him that knew what was going to happen from the moment he saw her, and instead of listening to his ancestors' pleas on self-preservation he had placed on his brass knuckles. The metal was useless against the drugs that they had filled him with, despite the broken nose that had fallen upon the guard after injecting that needle into his neck, and by the end of it all, he was beginning to regret listening to himself.
There was an IV pinned to his arm, the regulated grey tunic that all test subjects wore was gracing him again, and just as last time Sophia sat next to him. There was sadness in her eyes; though it lacked any depth into actual empathy. There was even a certain coldness about her that she hadn't had before. Perhaps from grieving or perhaps it was for what she was doing to him--going to do to him--deep down that twisted her. It's the repentance that is the slow knife, taking time before one begins to see it, to feel it cutting deeper and deeper. The only shame was that it had taken so long for her to finally feel that knife.
"Should I be expecting another Animus session?"
Sarcasm wasn't the best way to handle the situation; a flaw that he obtained from Jacob. Although, he was sure that without it he might lose whatever stoic mask he was attempting to build up.
Sophia didn't move at first, a small purse of her lips, before she took a stand from her seat.
"I don't expect you to tell me where they are," she started, her tone rapidly shifting back into a calm, passive sound, "However, with a new development I do need something from you. Regressions and then an experiment."
She stepped forward, her hand reaching out to him, before curling back. Hesitant in showing him any form of what might be considered affection. Not that they had ever been close back when things had been normal between them.
"In time, I might be able to fix you. You are the only one that I will try to fix afterall." It came out as a whisper, but it was one that he could hear easily in the silent room.
There was only one flaw though that he could pinpoint. If she planned a regression for him then the results from that would not fix the issues that it had originally caused.
He also had no ancestors that he hadn't gone through a regression with. The Fryes, the de la Serres, the de Al'Andalsuians, the Al-Sayfs. Every ancestor that had been an assassin or a templar he had gone through and the little that were civilians had been ignored. Sophia had used himself and the two others to catalog their entire ancestry, and before Cal had come, they had spent a whole year without being placed into the Animus. There was nothing left to see. Nothing left that wasn't already filed into the Animus Archive.
Not unless she had found something before the Crusades, but the whispers of the ancestor that he had in Egypt was an unknown. He hadn't even known of her until Layla Hassan had dug up the tomb; historically there hadn't been Assassins or Templars before the Crusades.
That was why they had resealed the tomb and had dragged off the Abstergo employee. It had come down to nothing more than a personal quarrel brought upon by an Abstergo employee seeing memories that belonged to them more than it did her.
The ancestor would have been a civilian anyways, with possible traces to the pharaoh, which was why they tried to hide it from Sophia. The woman had disturbed the rest of his ancestors' graves, even the ones who hadn't known of the Brotherhood, and considering who Aya might have been according to Miss Hassan’s files, the three descendants had agreed on keeping whoever she had been hidden.
"There is no one left to see. Not Tazim, not Naima, not Agostín . There isn’t even a memory left from Marion that you haven’t seen.”
Sophia smiled, hands clasped together behind her back. He really needed to learn when to close his mouth.
"I know of the abduction; I sent Layla Hassan out there personally. It was foolish for you to have assumed that I wouldn't have looked into your ancestor that she found. I should have known that you would have gone through my emails as well. Unfortunately, from neither situation, you never found out who that ancestor truly was, but I did. I had the tomb excavated, the objects and all of those buried inside brought here, but the tomb turned out to be larger than expected."
His brows furrowed, "If you know then why place me in another regression? Why make me live out what you have already acquired?"
He doubted that she merely wanted to watch. There was a risk of him dying or becoming brain dead that was undoubtedly higher if she simply wanted to watch.
"I have already seen what Layla Hassan went through and now I am curious as to what came after. Your ancestors were the start of it all, the Creed, the Father of Understanding, and perhaps somewhere deep in their memories I can find the source of all of your violence. Even if I have to make you insane to see it."
He was going to be sick. That was the only thing he could process as the place of torture had faded away into the Animus Chamber. Something wasn't right though, something felt wrong, and if he could describe dying from the Animus than this would be it.
There was a steady numb feeling in his mind-painful-bleeding through his vision and hearing. There were clear moments that he could take in: the mosaic floor, Sophia's concern, the sharp flinch of an Abstergo Orderly, a bright light dimming above him. Then there was everything else: numbness and pain, no complete vision, with muffled sounds all around him and in his mind there was nothing. No ancestor. No presence. Nothing.
There was pain that wasn't his, weakness and fatigue that had come from being left to rot when Jack was away, but his body was in perfect health.
Only a hunger that wasn't his own that dug hold into his stomach overpowered that pain; causing his mouth to become painful in it's drive.
The guards were dragging him into an observation room. They couldn't place him in the commons or in the lab; not after what happened last time. The Orderlies came out first, moving from the orange hues and the shades of the trees before trying to hold him down against the floor.
He couldn't control it though. After the last bad bleed that he had there had been a steady watch on him and he knew that there was no controlling it.
There was nothing he could do against his mind spasming out against the failed synchronization in the Animus. Not when his mind simply wasn't made to withstand the memories of Maria in comparison to the others.
Flinching back, he felt himself scream before he noticed the pain lingering behind his eyes. The sound of the birds--the rooks, his rooks--screeching from the trees grew louder and when he opened his eyes he saw everything. Everything and from multiple points that he couldn't filter through.
Then there was nothing, he couldn't open his eyes no matter how hard he tried, but he could hear the ones that had been left in the room with him. The Orderlies and the guards, he could hear their screams, feel a warm liquid sink into him.
"I believe that I am going to lose whatever sanity I have left if this continues.”
Two days is what it takes for him to finally speak up against Sophia. Two days of being placed into the Animus and remembering all of the bad bleeds that had left him blind or paralyzed. Neither of which had happened, luckily, but by the second day when she had stripped him of his grey tunic and had dressed him up he couldn't stand to say nothing. Do nothing. That was what he had done for years before Lynch had been brought in and he wasn’t about to do that same thing again. Wondering, being used, all the while attempting to create some plan to bypass security.
Even then it wasn’t like before. Nothing that she had begun doing to him was the same as it had been in Madrid. The crisp suit that she had placed him in was tailored, fitting his style, but he couldn't help the anxiety that crept into his throat. Something about it all seemed wrong: the sudden changes, the way everything was being moved around in Abstergo, the way she had him dressed up as a de la Serre would have been in the twenty first century. It smelled fishy and as the days ticked by there was a sudden realization that he couldn't hear Jacob anymore.
He couldn't see him, he hadn't heard a word spoken in his head, and no matter how many times he cried out for his ancestor or broke down he was only greeted with silence.
"Of course not. Do you think I stopped your regressions for the sake of my own conscious?" Sophia questioned, a smile making its way onto her face. "You are going to serve a different purpose. A better one."
Layla had always known that she would have to prove herself time and time again. Despite doing so countless of times, she needed to do it again under much different circumstances and a rather severe penalty.
The two Rooks on each side of her smiled darkly with a condescending look directed at her. They must have found humor in the irony of it all. The all too familiar chair in the center of the room had made its presence known in its familiarity as did the IV stand.
You have to do this, Layla reminded herself. Still, she found herself faltering in her steps only to be immediately jostled by her two ‘escorts.’ She didn’t want to become one of the freaks that went nuts from the machine. Yes, Layla had gone through Bayek’s memories. But that was different. She could back out anytime, and especially when she began to toe the line.
This time? Layla would just be shoved over that thin line.
Layla went through all the listed symptoms that had been mind-numbingly repeated to her in her head. All those things were what could happen to her.
The only consolation Layla could offer herself was that the memories and recollection of it all would hopefully-maybe-be vague. On the other hand, there was the timed drip release system that would monitor and regulate the amount of Midazolam going through the IV.
However, things could always go south. Having experimented with making the portable Animus, Layla knew all the risks. But, she had a safety net in someone-Deanna-
Don’t think about her, Layla chided herself. Anger was good, but not at the moment. Save it for the bastard and his thugs, she thought.
Layla needed to focus.
If things didn’t go as planned, her two lovely companions would have to intervene and administer the assigned amount of Flumazenil-5 mL in most instances-in the event of an overdose.
Her thoughts kept cycling on how things could just go oh so horribly wrong until she felt herself being shoved down onto the chair.
“Sweet dreams, princess,” One Rook sardonically told her with a leer as they inserted the catheter into a vein.
“IV system running smoothly. Running Versed Protocol as of now.” Their partner piped in. More serious than the sardonic escort, she noted with a form of relief. At the very least, someone capable was in charge of the system.
As she reluctantly reclined back in the chair, Layla bit back a few choice words that were along the lines of ‘Go to hell’ as famous last words.
A few distant and vague echoes of memories of Bayek boiled beneath a thin, veiled surface. The rage and satisfaction of slamming the rock into he-no his boy’s killer was both a relief and satisfying.
She took one last breath as the drug made its way through her system.
Layla wouldn’t die.
She still had things to do and people to kill.
“Najima,” She introduced herself merely to the two cloaked figures, who stood in waiting. One male and the other female, with only her kohl-rimmed eyes peeking out beneath her hood. Najima had not wished for this moment to happen, but it was not in her power or in the power of any of the others to make the decision.
“Maria,” the female said quietly, staring at her with something inscrutable in her eyes. Najima felt a slight of curiosity slip into her. She knew very little of these assassins, even less in regards to what they truly protected, as she held doubt that their loyalty fell upon the Sultan.
Maria. Mary. The name belonged to the Catholics, it was one of their Saints, the mother to their Jesus Christ, yet this woman had it. This assassin, the same ones who the Sultan spoke of being against the likes of Castile and Aragon.
“She will be your escort.” Protector was another word for it. Still, she couldn’t help but not mind the new presence at her side. The Sultan’s court was hard to survive in if you chose to play in politics and plots. Even more so with that Queen, Isabella, breathing down all of their necks as the armies closed further in upon them.
“If we get caught Muhammad will kill you for doing such a thing.”
The Assassin had left the previous week, following another one that had come to inform the Sultan of something that Najima had been given no knowledge of. It wasn’t until later in the night when she had returned that the conjecture of it being from invasion or battle had faded away.
Maria was barefoot, dressed only in what Najima could presume to be a dress, with a headdress tied back upon her head, and jewels covering her ankles and wrist.
“You seem surprised to see me, mi amor.” Maria moved to sit next to her, the taller woman smiling at the expression that was crossing Najima.
“I never knew you were a berber.” Najima had rarely seen her protector outside of the robes she wore and even then it was ill-mannered to assume that she was anything less than a Spanish Moor from the markings on her face.
“I am told that I am a descendant of a berber from Algeria if my claims to the Brotherhoods foundation here is true. We were celebrating Taghonja, more out of custom, than to truly bring upon rain.”
Maria turned her back, hands moving to remove the wrap around her midsection, to allow the dress to loosen on her shoulders. There were markings along the back of her neck and spine, expanding across her shoulders, arms, hands, and legs. Right down to the beads and coins covering her feet. They even coiled beneath her breast, falling down towards her stomach, where Najima could see signs of having carried a child, although she never questioned of Maria not having one to be seen.
“What do they mean?” Najima asked, her question falling in tone as she was pushed down onto her back. “Muhammad will punish you if he catches us.”
Maria only seemed to find her warning to be amusing as she took Najima’s hand; placing her fingers against the mark that sits between the older womans brows.
“This one means to fly, an eagle,” trailing down to beneath her eyes she paused again, “these represent the sun and the stars.” Maria continued falling down to the one resting on her chin. “This one represents malakia.”
“Royalty?” Najima questioned, feeling the warm skin beneath her touch.
“I have been told that my bisabuela married a man from the Marinid Dynasty who held power there.”
“And the others...what do they mean?” Maria’s smile flashed down on her once more as the woman kissed the palm of her hand.
“Your curiosity for me will be your defeat concubina. Although I suppose that gives me a reason to indulge you while you have me.”
Callum knew he was out of his element from the moment he stepped into the Hakkasan Mayfair. His mismatched clothing was soaked from the downpour that he had walked through and the hospital band was still digging into his wrist. This was the only solid location that he knew though, his assumption that the place would probably need a reservation seemed to be right, and that meant that McGowen had left a number here.
The host standing behind the dark wooden pew looked up at him from behind thin spectacles. A judgemental look crossing his face.
"I am meeting someone who left a reservation here. I'm afraid I came early though with no way of contacting him. Could you notify him for me?" His chance was fifty-fifty that McGowen even left that as his name. Then there was the lesser chance that he would even appear out of notice.
"Name?" The host asked dully, tapping his finger down onto the pew. Callum tried not to stumble the name out, but he was unsure of what to say at the same time.
"McGowen. Surname, I believe." Mumbling the last part he watched as the Host scrolled down through the list.
"I can have you seated before contacting him to tell him that you arrived early." The distaste never left his tone as he motioned for what Callum could only presume to be a waitress. "Take the guest to area five."
Callum staggered after the waitress, trying to keep himself as unnoticed as possible, taking in every detail of his surroundings. The last time he had been in a restaurant of any kind had been when he was thirteen. He had been caught by a police officer the year prior after being caught for theft. When he had been taken in and had his records searched through it had been discovered that he had been a missing person. His mother's death had been reported after a co-worker came in to check on her, however neither him nor his father were anywhere to be found. Callum remembered feeling bitter as the police officer questioned what happened to him and the months that followed the investigation being reopened had been no better.
The result had come to a six month stand of between Mexico officials who wanted him in their custody and the American ones who believed they had right to him since his parents were Americans. The ordeal finally stopped two months after the new year when Callum was assigned a social worker who would put him into the Foster Care system. That first day had been his only time in a restaurant in so many years as he waited to meet his new family . It had also been the day where Callum swore to himself that he would be on his own once again no matter how long it would take.
His first home had been with two religious nutcases who were more interested in their own children and the check that would come in every month. Running from them had been easy, but he had been caught before he could make it out of Arizona. The second had been with an older lady who punished him for every little thing. That home had been the one where he first began to encounter gangs although he couldn’t blame the old lady for that. His final home had been with a much younger woman who had given him a very unvarying lifestyle. Her name had been Edith, she gave him rosary beads despite neither of them being religious in nature, and each sunday she would carry him out to the local park to feed the birds for two hours. It wasn’t exactly what a fifteen year old would consider to be fun, but it had taken that weight off of his shoulders while it lasted. Then there had been a hit-and-run on day when she had left to get groceries and Callum left before the system could pull him back in.
Guilt had ate away at him until he fell back into that lifestyle that he had made for himself. Gangs, theft, the occasional destruction of property, and the even lesser days when he would take drugs that would leave him waking up alone.
Yet despite it all he still remembered that first day and where he was now, following the waitress, only seemed to bring all of those memories crawling back to him.
“Someone will be in shortly to get your order unless you wish to wait.” The waitress opened the sliding door into an dining room. Her tone no less unchanging than the Host had been.
“I’ll wait.” Moving to the back of the room, Callum placed himself at the end of the small table, eyes cast towards the door. He still felt as lost as he had before. Waiting for someone that was an unknown absolute, who would factor into it all, that was his best option for survival. Perhaps it was virulent and down right masochistic to do such a thing, but he had never been one to self-sustaining.
Maria and Aguilar's Codex: Sorry that this one took so long guys. It took me awhile to finish writing for my parts in this. We hope you all enjoy this chapter.
William Miles had never been tenacious when it came to his missions. There were times when he knew that he had to stop; to cease the efforts if it meant more would live to see another day. Alice had been the one to make him see things that way and after Desmond…
He would be lying if he told himself that there wasn’t an ounce of repentance to be held.
That he didn’t regret the moments in between where he wasn’t the best father that he could have been.
When he had pushed his other sons until the ties that bound them became taunt and thin. When he had pushed his wife away upon Desmond’s sacrifice.
Perhaps that was why he was here. Stalking and hunting deranged test subjects in an attempt to get the one Abstergo employee that had been close enough to Sophia Rikkin to find out what Abstergo was planning, what Sophia had done to his wife that caused her death.
Flexing his palm against the firm steering wheel, William shifted his gaze from the surrounding area, up onto the top of the Industrial Mill, where he could make out faint outlines of figures. They were cunning, he would give them that, but he had been able to follow their tracks one way or another. They had left signs of an encampment in Aldwych before disappearing from any sign only to appear once more on surveillance tape in Richmond.
It was liable evidence if he was to place the risk of Abstergo getting involved, but William needed to acquire Layla Hassan in order to find out the extent of what happened to his wife in the Madrid facility and what Sophia Rikkin was planning.
Next to him, in the passenger seat, sat his burner phone that he had purchased in London. The number that flashed upon the screen belonged to Shaun; a short list of new messages flashing quickly one after the other. William thought twice before reaching for the phone. Shaun was his prime source of information on the situation aside from Rebecca, who had been trying to locate files from any Spain server that remained under Abstergo’s name.
Outstretching his hand he took hold of the device, his finger hovering over Shaun’s number, before pressing call.
“I’ve found their current location. They have Layla Hassan with them.”
“William, we’ve hit a snag-”
“This could be our only chance. If we wait to engage then we may not get another opportunity.”
“Will you bloody listen to me! These test subjects are not as disorganized as we originally believed. They have already set up some form of communication and the numbers on contacts are staggering. Rebecca believes that they may even outnumber us and we do not know enough about them to be in conflict.”
“We need answers Shaun.”
“And we will get them just give us time. Layla Hassan can wait.”
“I need you to be presentable today.” Sophia stated straightening the lines and wrinkles that formed along the suit. Ever since the early morning, she had been acting like this. All high strung and perturbed. The tailored suit and robes that matched what his father had worn only seemed to place that same unease onto him. Jason felt--no he knew --that something was very wrong with this situation. Of course, Sophia had her mood swings ever since bringing him here. From the Animus sessions that brought back memories of downright torture to the sudden change in her grooming him back into the same state, he used to be in as a child…
At this point, Jason would take another Regression fighting Templars during cold rainy nights in London over this.
“For whom? Miss Kaye hasn’t been around and I assume you are not meeting with any other Elder.” Sophia hummed, clearly amused by the interrogation, yet she didn’t respond immediately to his scrutinizing either.
“Today I am going to show you my next step in securing our future,” The doctor stopped fidgeting, looking down to meet his gaze from where he sat, “I just need you to play the part.”
“And what part would that be Sophia?” Jason taunted, digging his nails deeper and deeper into the palm of his hand. Sophia was intentionally doing this to him. Leaving him on the edge of knowing what was happening enough so to where he would remain ignorant over what was transpiring. It left Jason becoming annoyed and restless when he was alone. A pernicious cycle that seeped from his very pores.
“It is not to ourselves, but to the future that gives glory,” Sophia spoke clearly, effortlessly, like a knife pressing down upon the glass. Then tension that was building threatened to snap and for a moment his heart jumped into his throat as the sound of doors slamming open echoed through the empty room.
Four orderlies entered the room, flanked by guards, and when they grabbed him Jason didn’t have a second to look back upon Sophia before he was dragged from the room.
The destination wasn’t an unknown. He recognized that these orderlies specialized in the operations that took place in the Animus Room. They had somehow survived the massacre that had taken place within the Madrid facility and it seemed that Sophia had no problems transferring them into Abstergo’s French division.
“Will you remember them, Jason? The boy they screamed. Por el Credo. The smell of the mentor burning. Tell me, Jason, do you think they will remember just as you do?”
Callum sensed the man's approach before the door had even been opened inside the private dining room that he had been placed in. It was a steady feeling, nostalgic in a way, that he couldn't truly describe as he felt as if he had just left the Animus.
Memories that weren't his own laying themselves over his trail of thought as his gaze fell upon the man before him.
“This was unexpected.” Was all that was said as McGowen took a seat across from him. His street clothing gone and replaced by a similar suit to the one he had on when Callum had assassinated Rikkin; a brief glimpse that Callum remembers taking as the power began to shut down.
“I needed someone.” Anyone , Callum thinks, remembering how the others were gone and how Jason was most likely dead if not worse. Then there was the sudden absence of Aguilar that was making him feel on edge. An anxiety that wouldn’t shake him no matter how many times he tapped his nails against the table.
“Do you still prefer steak? They do serve it here, although I would recommend a meal that goes good with Bordeaux.” McGowen was casual as the waiter brought a bottle of wine to them. A stygian in French that caused his brain to feel as if it was trying to translate something that he already knew before McGowen waved the waiter away.
“I hope you like it. A French red. Not hard to acquire on my pay.” Callum took the glass, hesitantly sipping at the wine as if it would melt away to burn him up.
“I always wanted to go to France, but you didn’t come here to buy me pretty drinks.” You didn’t come here for a dinner date either , Callum thought as he stared McGowen down from across the table.
“You sought me out. I could have contacted Abstergo, Sophia, or the police, yet here you are.” The statement felt out of place in the restaurant where the low and dim lighting seemed to place them elsewhere. Callum would have forgotten where they were if it was not for the soft clinks of metal echoing against plates on the other side of the shōji walls. If anything McGowen seemed practically amused by Cal.
“Why did you come alone then? What do you gain by helping a dead man?”Callum felt exasperated, contained within the walls of a place that he would have never of entered had his life been normal.
“Who said that he came alone?” The voice -her voice-