Chapter Twenty

Desmond shut his eyelids as the Animus slid back and the glaring overhead fluorescents came knifing into his pupils.

He sat up and rubbed his face with his hands, trying to remove the white circles from his vision he had become so accustomed to. His legs dangled over the backside of the Animus.

"I need a fucking drink," he muttered.

"Seriously?" Lucy asked, looking over her clipboard.

"Yeah, seriously." He rested his hands on his knees as he leaned back and let out a yawn. "Why, you have something?"

"Not me. Vidic. He keeps tequila in his office drawer for when he's nervous." Her heels filled the vacant, warehouse-like space with tiny, sure clicking sounds as she walked over to her boss' desk. From a bottom drawer she pulled two shot glasses and a telltale, squat bottle filled with amber liquid. It was over half empty.

Lucy walked back to Desmond and offered him a glass.

"Won't he notice?" Desmond asked, accepting it.

"I fill it with water, to keep the level the same."

Desmond's eyes widened. She pretended not to see his shock as she poured. "So, what happened."

As he had so many nights before, Desmond relayed to her what he had been reading inside the Animus. But this time, it was different. The document had ended, and the Animus slid back on its own. Show's over, it seemed to say.

When he finished the retelling, he wiggled the shot glass at her again, and she filled it.

"My family is fucked up, huh," he said before downing it with a swallow.

Lucy took a few dainty sips from hers. "I would say that's a fair assessment, yes."

"So, what was the point of all that?"

Lucy sat on a backless stool, rolled in closer to the Animus and glanced over her notes. "Nothing."

"Nothing? What do you mean, nothing?"

"We learned nothing on how the Piece of Eden can be used to see the future. It was a preposterous claim anyway, and your descendant's writing told us nothing on how it might even be remotely possible."

Desmond groaned. "All that. All that time, a waste." He looked at his empty shot glass. "I need another one."

She pursed her lips. "If we take any more, he'll definitely notice."

"Just tell him I took it. What's he gonna do, imprison me?"

"Good point," she said, handing him the bottle.

Desmond took a chug. "But I don't get it. Why not just send me into Altaïr again? You know, after all that shit with Al Mualim, while he was a Wielder."

"Too dangerous," Lucy said dismissively, taking another sip.

"Why?"

"We think the Piece of Eden has something to do with the bleeding. After Altaïr's final battle with Al Mualim, you and your ancestor both were present, in a way, when it activated. Only after that did you gain his uncanny intuitive abilities."

"What, you think the reverse happened to Altaïr?"

"Yes, I do," she said. "I think he bled into you, and you bled into him. And Omran, by proxy. Ahraib said Altaïr spoke of a world of constant light and sound. Think about it. Lawn mowers, dusk to dawn lights, refrigerators, traffic, even the fan on your computer … None of this was around back then. It probably just registered as chaos to his primary senses."

"What? And it made Altaïr crazy?"

"Maybe. Ahraib thought so, if Kaim's writings are correct. A photographic memory is one genetic trait we've been able to trace through your bloodline, so it is fair to assume that most of Kaim's dialogue recountings are close, if not perfect, to what actually transpired."

Desmond wiped his mouth with his sleeve after taking another drink. The tequila burned warm in his stomach. "So what? Just put me in him. Come on. We have to figure out how they made the Piece of Eden give them those visions before Abstergo does."

"No," she said firmly. "I won't allow it. The bleeding has already occurred. We've already seen how psychological episodes can be witnessed by the Animus user. Every time Altaïr killed someone, you saw that yourself. How he believed he was speaking to the deceased's spirit. And if he truly did develop some psychological disorder, there is no reason to believe that you won't continue witnessing his episodes. And they, in turn, could affect you."

"You think it could drive me crazy? Please, Lucy. After everything that's happened, don't you think I would have already cracked?" he said, pointing to his temple with his index finger and making looping motions.

"I won't risk it, and I won't allow it," she affirmed, snatching the bottle from his hand. She refilled her shot and slurped at its rim.

"Well, put me in Aless. Or Haytham. Or Kaim, even."

"Aless is impossible. In males, the Animus traces DNA on the Y chromosome, which is only present in men. Kaim is not your direct ancestor, so that is also impossible. And even if Haytham survived that attack, I wouldn't allow it, for the same reason I won't allow you to go further into Altaïr's timeline."

"You think he lost it, too?"

She finished her glass, much more quickly than last time. "It's highly possible."

"Now you're just guessing, Lucy."

"Maybe," she said as she refilled. "But I also have no credible evidence that we would even discover anything of use. We have no starting point. And you know our time is limited."

It was true. He and Lucy had been meeting from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. for many nights now, hoping to form a plan. To do what, Desmond didn't know.

I'm too fucking buzzed to know much of anything right now, he thought.

But Lucy, it turned out, was also a master hacker, and had programmed the computers to loop the security camera footage. This allowed them to move about freely and to use the Animus.

It allowed them to do other things, too. Things that let Desmond know that Lucy hid one hell of a body under that lab coat. But when she was thinking, Desmond knew he didn't have a chance with her.

"So how does the Animus even store writings like this one, anyway? Or the one from Altaïr?" he asked her as she reached for the bottle back. Lucy shot him a glare, and Desmond obediently retracted his hand like she had whacked him with a newspaper.

"The document must be read by at least two of your ancestors," she said, finishing the shot with a quick gulp and refilling. "It has something to do with short-term and long-term memories, how they are stored in the brain."

"So somebody got their hands on Kaim's little diatribe and then passed it down. Or showed it to their kid, at least. You don't know who?"

"No idea," Lucy said, pouring him a cup again before setting the bottle on the floor. "And diatribes are typically spoken, not written."

"Congratulations, English minor," he grumbled. By now, the alcohol was thrumming in his head. Every time he blinked, lines formed before his vision and then dissipated. His alcohol tolerance had all but disappeared, after being locked up in the labs for so long. "Kaim, you know, he didn't get his big, final battle, like Altaïr did. He just killed a lot of people. Not innocent people, by any means, but not guys out for world domination like Al Mualim was, either."

"What, you wanted him to kill his mortal enemy and then ride off into the sunset, riding double with Aless? Real life doesn't work like that." To accent the point, she leaned forward, scrunched her face and downed the shot with a quick toss of her head. She gave a victorious smirk and restraightened her frame.

"Bitter?" he asked her.

"Me, or the tequila?"

Desmond grinned. "Both."

"Yes, to both."

"Well, fine, be bitter. But I'm not. You don't even care, do you? I mean, shit, Kaim was like, my what? Great, great, great, so on, uncle. And Haytham, my grandfather, you know? I want to know what happened to them. Put me in."

Lucy would never admit it to him, but she was feeling the alcohol, too. She couldn't keep still in her prim posture. "Reckless," she muttered. "And pointless. I won't allow it."

"What if I told you I had learned how to use the Animus, huh? Then what?"

She just shook her head. "I'd tell you that someone with the proper, extensive scientific background has to locate and decode the DNA and program it into the Animus before you 'use the Animus' by yourself. Vidic can be kept ignorant about your late-night field trips with Altaïr, but not me. You're welcome, by the way. I've been clearing the history to keep it a secret."

Desmond held his filled shot glass in both hands and looked down at the floor. "Some nights, I feel more like myself when I'm in his skin. Like, some day soon, I'm going to lose myself entirely to him."

"Don't talk like that."

"I mean it," he said, sliding more tequila down the back of his throat. "I really do. And on really long nights, I don't even know if it would be a bad thing."

"Desmond, stop it. You know I'm the one responsible for monitoring your mental health. And if you start developing any signs of a disorder, they'll do to you what they did to the others."

"OK, well, what about you? You're from Malik's blood, right? Aren't you curious? Don't you want to know what happened? What they went through? What they …"

"No," she interrupted. "No, I don't. I don't because I know the risks. And you do, too."

"I don't give a shit about the risks anymore. Why should I? I'm going to die here, anyway."

"No you won't," she said with finality, holding the empty glass in her cupped palm. She was slumped slightly now, and a strand of hair had fallen loose from her short ponytail.

"Oh yeah? What are you gonna do? Kill everybody, like Kaim did?"

"No," she said, setting the glass next to the bottle.

"Then what, huh? What can you do? Nothing."

"Well, I can do this," she said, standing up and unbuttoning her shirt. She threw it to the side and kicked off her stockings.

Desmond shook his head. "You're too drunk."

"So are you," she said, seating herself in his lap, her skirt pulled up to her waist and one bare leg hanging over each side of the Animus.

Desmond decided not to fight it. If only Vidic knew she wore those little, lacy thongs until those pencil skirts, he thought as he licked his teeth and crawled his hand up her side. "Where's your condom. Go get it in your purse."

"Don't have one." Desmond opened his mouth to protest, but she shook her head, silencing him. "Like I said, if nothing else, I can do this."

His belt buckle clinked as it hit the floor.

What was it Kaim said, about a second of self indulgence? Desmond thought, through the heat of the tequila and the woman preparing to ride him.

Oh well.

Haytham read the last page and then passed it to his right, letting each of the masters pore over it.

"So it is decided then," the last at the table said, putting it in the pile. "The Piece of Eden shall never be touched again. Not by any who swears himself an Assassin."

"I am pleased to hear you speak this way, brother," Haytham said, scratching at his black beard. "Shall we formally let our opinions be known, then?"

Murmurs of acquiescence rose up from the other seven masters, who had been selected only a few weeks prior.

Haytham cleared his throat and glanced over each of their faces with his green eyes. "If you are in favor of forever sealing away the Piece of Eden for the good of the Assassins and for the good of all humanity, and if you are in favor of, instead, pledging that the eight masters of the Assassins rededicate themselves to keeping said power sealed, raise your right hand."

All did.

"I am dually pleased," Haytham said. "My uncle can now, at last, rest in peace. For his writings have brought attention to and, at last, ended the corruption that resulted in the death of so many he, and I, held dear."

He glanced at his son, who had been given permission to sit on the ground at the end of the table. As the last master in the line set a page on the stack, the youth reached up, took the page, read it and then put it back in its place.

The boy looked at him and nodded. Haytham nodded back.

He couldn't deny the pride swelling in his chest. After all, he wore the black robes of a master, and his son wore the white robes of a brother. Both of them could wear the garments with pride, at last.

In the candlelight, he could see Aless' gold choker resting on his son's neck.

END


Author's Note:

I do not own "A.C." If I did, I would have made it more like Metal Gear with the stealth stuff. And the A.I. would have been way better. And oh yeah, the fact that Al can't swim? Stupid.

To everybody who made it this far, you rock. Please give me one more comment and let me know what you thought of the end. I would appreciate it lots and lots! XD

I'm going to call this "complete" for now. At some point, I'll probably go back and clean this whole thing up. Maybe not.