A/N: Written in a spur of a moment because I'd been playing too much AC and had too much spare time. I don't know yet if I'll continue it – I have an idea, but I don't know.
"A penny for your thoughts", I said conversationally, my voice slightly echoing in the sterile white chamber, breaking the constant tapping sound of her keyboard.
Appearing visibly surprised the young blonde woman blinked and looked up from her work. "Excuse me?" she asked. Her long-nailed fingers still hovered above the keys.
Trying to appear casual I leaned against the even whiter and more sterile Hell's Machine, as I called it. Doc referred to it as the Animus, but then again, he wasn't the one who had to sit down on it every single day for hours on end. I crossed my arms. "Come one, Lucy", I said with a tone I intended to be nice. "You know I hate it when you don't tell me anything. I'm starting to think something's wrong when you go all quiet."
However inappropriate my sudden question might have been, by the ghost of a smile that grazed the corner of her mouth I could tell she wasn't angered by it. "I'm sorry, Desmond, if I seem distant. I'm just trying to figure this out." She raised a hand to rub her eyes tiredly. "The glitches were too numerous during your last session. If it was up to me, I wouldn't let you into the Animus again just yet."
"But it isn't up to you."
Lucy sighed. When she looked up at me again I noticed the bags under her slightly bloodshot eyes. She looked like she hadn't had a minute of sleep the whole night. "Desmond, you do realize that we're very close now, right?" she asked seriously, lowering her voice and shooting a glance at the little blinking red light that gave away a security camera's position just above the chamber's door.
Now I was frowning in confusion, but nodded anyway, acknowledging that I knew what she meant. "I'll be alright, I guess", I said almost automatically. It wasn't like Lucy to be like this. Hell, she was the closest thing to a friend I had in this prison, and I wanted to keep her that way.
Had she been fighting with Doc again?
My eyes as well wandered to the red light. It blinked every time either of us moved. Almost as if taunting me. You're never going to get out of here.
"Where is he?" I asked Lucy, wanting to keep her talking for the sake of talking. I didn't have many chances to do that these days. Some days I was so tired that afterwards I couldn't recall where and when reality had begun and my murderous ancestor's memories had ended. Time was different inside the Animus. Maybe time didn't even exist there, I couldn't tell.
Even one friendly voice would help me to stay sane.
"Where's who?" Lucy asked, sounding absent. She'd gone back to programming the Animus again, her fingers dancing expertly on the keys.
For a while the woman remained silent. Then, without raising her eyes from her monitor, she said: "He wants to lengthen your sessions in the Animus."
Longer sessions. I immediately felt exhausted just thinking about it. I drew a deep breath through my nose and stared at my sneaker-clad toes.
"But I don't agree with him", Lucy hurried to continue. "It won't happen. I don't want you to worry about it, Desmond. It'll all be over soon if everything goes as planned, and yesterday went very well. What was the name if your – his – latest..."
"William de Montferrat. Fifth on the list", I replied blankly, predicting her question and not bothering to wait for her to finish the sentence. The memory was still crystal clear in my mind, as if it really had happened yesterday and not almost one thousand years ago. I still couldn't quite grasp the knowledge that everything I saw inside the Animus belonged to someone else. This... Altaïr did not exist anymore. The world had changed, what had happened couldn't be undone and all that. Those were the thoughts that I used to console myself after each session, after each murder that I was forced to experience.
While logic was on my side, it didn't do much to suppress the nausea that washed over me every time I came to after another act of homicide had played inside my brain. I could feel every murder, every life he took. It only became worse the longer the sessions grew. At times I wondered if Doctor Vidic knew.
If he even cared.
Lucy had said something that I'd completely missed. I looked up and shook my head to dismiss her expression colored with worry. "Sorry, Lucy", I apologized. "I spaced out. I was just thinking about... you know." I shrugged, wanting to give a nonchalant impression. To clear the air of the lingering tension I even flashed her a small lopsided smile. "So, isn't Doc going to join the party today?"
Lucy looked like she was going to answer, but never got the chance. Her eyes turned to look behind my back at the same time as I heard the familiar beep and hiss of the chamber door opening. "Glad to see you're already up, Mr. Miles. And judging by your humor, well rested as well."
I didn't know if Lucy saw me rolling my eyes as I hoisted myself up to sit on the metal slab that was the Animus and called over my shoulder: "Good morning to you too, Doc." I didn't bother to disguise the sarcasm in my voice.
"Let's not waste any more time. We're already behind on our schedule." I only managed to catch a glimpse of the hem of his white lab coat as Doctor Vidic circled around the machine and went for his desk near the large windows. I let my feet dangle over the edge of the table, my eyes following as he set his morning coffee down on his desk.
I stole a glance at Lucy. She had her head bowed towards her computer and her back turned to Doctor Vidic. She appeared to pay no attention to me at all.
"Well, Mr. Miles, you know what to do."
Doc was now looking at me expectantly. I responded by attempting a sarcastic grin, but which turned out a grimace. "Gee, I wonder who I get to kill today", I muttered, not particularly caring if he heard it or not. Still, obediently I swung my legs up and lowered myself into a lying position onto the cool metal surface.
The translucent HUD slid over my eyes, flashing various bits of information of my vitals and asking for confirmation to continue the session from where we last left it. "It'll be okay", I heard Lucy's quiet voice as the Animus released s small, almost unnoticeable electric current into my spinal cord, causing my peripheral vision to blur. The lights on the screen became brighter and gray mist surrounded everything.
At that moment I really wanted to believe her.
The midday sun in Jerusalem was hot.
Of course I couldn't actually feel it – I only knew it. I knew the sun was beating mercilessly down on everyone I saw in the courtyard beneath me – him. I knew of the beads of sweat that had appeared on my – his – tanned forehead beneath the hood he constantly wore. I knew of his steady heartbeat as he prowled his prey below.
I felt, or knew of the weight of a short sword strapped onto his back as he remained completely motionless, crouching on the roof of a building, his (or my) eyes trained on the figure that boastfully stalked on a platform raised above everyone else.
Any time now.
"But he's been there for hours. It won't do any harm if we let him rest now and continue tomorrow." Lucy's tone was persuasive.
"Not yet", Doctor Vidic repeated. He was sitting on his chair, twirling his brand new access pen between his fingers and staring at the computer screen that at the moment showed exactly what Desmond Miles saw in the Animus. The assassinations weren't the thing that interested him, although they were impressively executed and highly entertaining to observe.
He sat up straighter and pushed away the coffee that had a long while ago cooled down. He did value Lucy Stillman's expertise in the work concerning the project, but at times she let her sentimentality get in the way of Abstergo's goals. Weeks of research proved that Subject Seventeen could handle long periods of time inside the Animus without other consequences than exhaustion.
"Fifteen minutes, Warren", Lucy warned.
I wanted to close my eyes, but I understood I couldn't. In this body I was merely tagging along, and his actions weren't for me to decide.
His muscles tensed for impact. Not once did his determination waver.
The hidden blade that emerged from his left wrist was sharp and deadly. Soft human tissue on the man's neck did nothing to stop it. The metal disappeared from my – his – sight as it dug into flesh. I was painfully aware of the satisfaction he experienced at the sickening sound of...
"Warren, please", Lucy said, her voice betraying her nervousness as she observed the monitor that showed a breakdown of Desmond's vitals. "We have to abort. Any longer and getting him out will become difficult."
"He's a healthy young man. He can go on for another hour or two", came the strict reply. "We do not have any more time to lose. You should know it better than anyone, Lucy."
"I'm – I'm sorry, but this time it's different. Having this many glitches during one session is not normal." With a few taps on the screen she brought up a diagram that immediately flashed an ill-boding red light. Worry creased her forehead. "The Animus is overheating", she said urgently. "We shouldn't have done this at all. I'm getting him out of there now."
I knew he heard the cries of guards, the ringing of their swords as they were drawn and the horrified yelling of the crowd who were almost climbing over each other to get away from the scene.
Then the world turned into a blur around him as he took off. Up the wall, across the roof. To me every roof looked the same. To him, every roof was a chance.
The alarm bells sounded in the distance.
INVALID CODE. WAITING FOR INPUT.
The woman stared incredulously at the message that blinked at her coolly before disappearing and reverting back to the the Animus surveillance index as if nothing had happened. "You changed the abort code?" She turned on her high heels, panic forming an uncomfortable lump in her throat. "You changed the code! Why? I need to get Desmond out, this is not safe!"
"Lucy", Doctor Vidic said firmly, standing up and tucking his access pen into his pocket. "For the last time, Mr. Miles is perfectly fine. This is not the first time he-"
His sentence was cut off as a steady beeping sound from the Animus' computer caught their attention. A simple message had appeared on the upper left corner of the screen.
DNA SYNCHRONIZATION LOST. INITIATING A SYSTEM RESET.
The toll of the bells started to be almost deafening.
I knew he wasn't alarmed. But I was.
Everything he felt, heard, saw or tasted were conveyed to me, but only as copies of something that had preserved in my DNA for almost a thousand years. What I experienced was a memory, and as such, no panic, pain, sound or scent could be real.
Now I was alarmed, because the bells got louder and louder. So loud in fact that I wanted to cover my ears, if I could have.
He was still running, as if oblivious to the horrible noise that threatened to burst my eardrums. The sunlight got brighter on each passing second, until it was bright enough to burn. The bells didn't stop, and neither did him.
My eyes hurt. My ears hurt. I could feel it.
Then I saw only white.