Son of None.
Based on the best idea I have ever seen on the Teen Titans TVTropes Wild Mass Guess page.
Inspired by the absolute greatest Teen Titans Wild Mass Guess I have ever seen.
It's a TVTropes thing, in case you're unfamiliar with the terminology. Anyway, crazy-ass fusion, taken seriously. Here goes nothing.
'This the kid?"
"Yes. This is him."
"Huh. Scrawny little fucker, isn't he? You'd never think it to look at him, would you?"
"Say, doc, you are sure, right? I mean, this isn't just some-"
"Trust me. We spent almost a year tracking this one down. He's a direct, no doubt about it."
"Huh. Well, he's more than a little diluted, if you ask me, but I guess it's not really him we're interested in, is it?"
"No. Well, no sense wasting time. Strap him in."
White mist glows, neon bars arc through the air. Data synthesises flesh, electric impulses transmuting into the chill of falling snow on bare hands, the sound of birds in the air, the sudden shock of a hand clapping onto the shoulder-
And so it begins.
"Yes. Evidence has come to light that the Apple found itself in the country, some time following the Patriotic War of 1812."
"'In the country'? In Russia? That doesn't fucking narrow it down, doc."
"Well, that's where the boy comes in. Or rather, that's where Ruslan Bulatovich Orlov comes in. No relation to the great family, of course. His role in events was minor, but possibly enlightening."
"Possibly? Seems a whole lot of fucking work getting this little shit in for a possibly, doesn't it?"
"Well, yes. But Russia is just a prelude, if you like, to the main event. If our information is accurate, we should get a lot of mileage out of this one."
"We talking months, or-?"
"Or. Most definitely or."
"Well, hooray for me. I guess I'm stuck playing nursemaid for the next however many years, then. Little bastard got a name?"
"It doesn't matter. He'll be kept under for as long as we need him- I've already ordered an IV feeding apparatus to be delivered this afternoon. You are to feed him objectives as necessary, but do try to be discreet. With any luck, he should forget anything outside the Animus within a few months; of course, the regimen of drugs should certainly help here. Outside of a few peculiar dreams, the Animus will become his reality, and then we shall perhaps find some real use for him."
"Huh. You know, I don't know how you do it, doc, but every few weeks I find myself forgetting just how cold a fucker you are."
"Only because of the stakes, my friend, only because of the stakes."
Ruslan was not entirely professional about his habits.
Certainly, he had absorbed the lessons he had been given. Certainly, he was adept beyond expectations in the arts of moving swiftly and silently, but...
"Hey. Nata. I'll bet you five roubles I can climb that tower faster than you."
"Of course, if you don't want to put money on the line, I'm sure I could think of some other appropriate wager."
"A kiss, perhaps, from the pretty girl?"
Ruslan, what exactly is it about a stakeout that you fail to understand?"
…He was, perhaps, not the best judge of when a situation required his full attention.
It wasn't just that, either. He was worryingly prone to...
"Damnit, where's Ruslan? He was supposed to be covering the roof!"
Wandering off. He would sometimes- at the worst times- be found staring out of a window with disconcerting intensity, or tearing through a stack of letters in the house of a target like his very soul depended on it. And he could never provide a satisfactory explanation for his behaviour.
Truth be told, he had no idea himself. The best he could explain it would be that he sometimes had... compulsions.
Not like that. Those, he could understand. It was just that sometimes, he'd...
He couldn't think of the right word, so forget would have to do. He'd forget everything. Until he'd waited in the shadows long enough to catch a glimpse of a face, or he'd read a line- and it could be anything that triggered it, it seemed- in the diary he'd pilfered from someone's room, it was the line "met with Vladimir yesterday. He seemed agitated", which meant precisely nothing to Ruslan- and then he'd abruptly remember what exactly he was supposed to be doing.
And that was it. No rhyme, no reason.
He couldn't tell anyone this, of course. They'd think he was mad, and send him away. Even Nataliya didn't know anything about it. They knew he had peculiar habits, yes, but they didn't know why.
He knew he needed something that could pass for an explanation, or they would think he was crazy. So he started to steal. Nothing major, no banks broken into, no art galleries emptied. Just trinkets, picked up while on the job. Odds and ends. He called them trophies, and laughed it off when people called him eccentric.
It was a petty, vicious little thrill he got, from slipping something simple- a pen, or a bag of marbles, or anything he could get his hands on- into his pocket. Standing in someone's bedroom with jewels lining his coat. The real work- the bloody business of fighting a secret war- was too... heavy. Too serious for him to enjoy. But theft scratched an itch, and besides, who was going to notice something as innocuous as a pair of dice, or a playing card?
Added up, he didn't make an exemplary assassin, and it took a long time before he was trusted with a hidden blade.
Somehow, though, he didn't really mind. Like he knew, at the back of his brain, that climbing the ranks wasn't what he was there for.
He was twenty-three when it happened.
Ruslan had awoken that morning with an inescapable feeling of foreboding. Like something vital was about to happen, something he had been preparing all his life for, and if he failed... he tried to shake off the feeling as he prepared for the mission, and when he failed to do that he resolved to simply ignore it.
It was the biggest mission he had participated in to date- he and Nataliya were tasked to sweep the southern rooftops within firing distance of a particularly grand house in the south-west of the city. The building was a front- it was a Templar stronghold, and they were finally prepared to strike at it.
The morning was clear, but bitterly cold, up on the roof. Ruslan, once the two of them had made their initial search, and determined that the area was clear, made only cursory attempts at keeping watch, more concerned with finding some corner among the forest of chimney-stacks, and keeping out of the cold.
"Nat, come on. Sit down. You're making me tired just watching you."
She gave him a long glance.
"Oh? I tire you, do I?"
Ruslan sighed theatrically, his breath crystallising in the chill air.
"Nat, my darling. Light of my life. Flower in the tundra. My little arctic puffin. I cannot very well appreciate you from all the way over there. At least not in these unflattering clothes."
"Firstly, don't you think you're laying it on a little thick? Secondly, I have never heard you complain about the uniform before, I think."
Ruslan shrugged. "Ah, it is good enough, I suppose, but there are too many frills. And it simply drives me mad to be around you all day, knowing that these robes are hiding your beautiful figure."
"I only speak the truth, Nata, and well you know it."
She smirked. "Oh, I know what you think of my figure, certainly. You never fail to comment on it."
Ruslan's grin widened in reply. "I only mean to show my appreciation, my darling."
"Well, you certainly do that, too." Her eyes widen as she peers out onto the skyline. Her mouth opens, slightly.
There is no need for words. He has seen it too.
A solitary plume of red smoke rises from a nearby rooftop. It's a signal. All operatives attack the stronghold.
Something has gone terribly wrong.
He's on his feet in less than a second. Taking a moment to be sure of his equipment- pistols still at his belt, sabre still secure at his side, knife on his back- he readies himself, before accelerating and hurling himself over the edge of the building.
He clears the road easily, and a gloved hand snaps out and snags the lip of a windowsill with immaculate timing. Below him, Nataliya lands, slightly more heavily than him, and for a moment he feels a strong grip take his ankle as she steadies herself.
He reaches up, pulling himself onto the ledge. Once he's certain of his footing, he opens the window, and the two slip inside.
They arrive in the foyer, in time to witness anarchy.
The strike team- six high-ranking assassins- were holding the centre of the room, with the junior assassins, like himself and Nataliya, pouring in from doors and hallways to assist them.
The problem was, Ruslan had no idea who the enemy was. Oh, he could see soldiers, all around, but... they were wrong. They were... too good. Avoiding every sword-strike, smoothly slipping around every thrown knife...
Ruslan stood, hidden in the shadow of an ornamental pillar, and watched.
Watched how the enemy figures moved, subtly directing the assassins until they were drawn into their own crossfire. Watched as the Templar soldiers suddenly proved to be incorporeal, just in time for the chapter master to catch a friendly knife to the throat. Watched as the assassins were drawn into slaughtering each other in a matter of seconds. Watched as one white-clad figure still stood, pistol in one hand, sabre in the other, as the ethereal Templars vanished like morning dew.
Watched as the man walked out from the shadows. Studied every line on his face, every greying hair in his beard. He stared at the man's walk, his fine robes hanging loosely from an emaciated frame, and most of all he stared at the golden orb in his hand.
The man walks over to the final assassin, who screams a name Ruslan isn't listening to, but stands their ground before the enemy. The golden orb is as transfixing to the assassin as it is to Ruslan, and the man plucks the sabre from unresisting fingers, before running the white-clad figure through.
It is not until the man leaves that Ruslan comprehends what has happened. What he has done.
"Don't celebrate now, but I think we've got him."
A second sabre is in his hand. Hers. Covered in her blood.
He stalks through the townhouse. Any he sees, die.
He doesn't know what he's doing. He doesn't have the energy to care. He's feeling drained, spent. Used.
Eventually, he comes to the front door. If he's thinking, he knows there are soldiers waiting, muskets trained on the door. If he knows, he doesn't care.
He barges through the door, and the cacophony of musket balls tearing him apart is almost a kindness.
"Oh, you little fucker. You weren't supposed to die, not yet. Well, that's just brilliant."
Ruslan looks up. Looks down. White. Nothing but white, everywhere. White fog circled around a white-glass floor, up in the air bars of white light rained down. White light threw white shadows into the air, tracing the edge of an outline of nothing.
Heaven? Was this his eternal reward?
He took an experimental step forward.
He was surprised to find himself much more slight in build than he had been prior to...
Oh yes. He'd died. No question about it. He'd felt the musket-balls ripping into his flesh, seen his own blood fill the gutter, keeled over as it all went dark. Dead. Hard to be deader.
And then he'd woken up in an ethereal plane, in the body of a child.
Strange. Very, very strange.
Suddenly, he broke into a run, as fast as his legs could carry him, streaking through the blinding light, not knowing where he was going or what he was doing, screaming at the top of his lungs, hoping with all his might to see just a glimpse of someone, anyone-
"I got your report."
That voice! Where had that voice come from?
"Yeah. So, what do we do? Little bastard just de-synched."
"When was this?"
Last night? De-synched? What- what was going on? Was he dead or wasn't he?
"Hmm. But you say he saw the target? You have confirmation?"
"Of course I do. Had him make doubly sure we got a good look. And not a moment too soon- you realise I was in here, a cubicle so fucking tiny I could stand with my back to one wall and touch the opposite one with my dick, eight hours a day for six goddamn months? Just waiting for this little fucker to see some bearded old wanker?"
"Trust me, it was much longer than six months for him. You should feel fortunate."
What. Was. Happening.
"Hnf. So, do we send him back? See if he can't avoid committing suicide by Templar this time?"
Send him back? Yes! Send him back, let him try again! Perhaps this time he could-
"...No. No, Ruslan no longer has anything important to give us. A few incedents that might have been enlightening, but he descends into alcoholism fairly quickly, and dies less than a year later."
"Descends into alcoholism? The guy was Russian. How could you tell?"
"Most amusing. Still. Set up the next scenario."
"Got it. Should be ready in the morning. You want me to keep him in limbo until then?"
"I think that seems best. …Oh, and he can't hear us, can he? You did remember to turn your microphone off?"
"Of course I did. What do you take me for, some kind of idiot?"
The voices ceased, and the boy that had until recently thought of himself as Ruslan sat in the featureless white and thought.
When his eyes opened to a bright Spring morning, thousands of miles and a hundred years away from when they'd closed, bleeding on a Moscow street, he remembered.
He remembered Ruslan. And he remembered the voices.
And although he had more questions than he could think of, one thing was certain.
This world was not as he had assumed.
Alfonso Pena Castillo. That was the name they gave him this time.
They'd taken him in, as they had taken in other orphans, trained him after he'd proved there was no way he was going to stop going after that man until he was dead. They'd taught him how to use a gun, and how to fight without one.
He'd finally learned enough to satisfy the assassins, and they had let him roam the rooftops at night, alone.
He sat on the rooftop, feet dangling over the edge, swinging idly as he watched the moon reflected in the river.
Two years of playing along. Two years of reading the script. And now, he had his moment.
Yet, despite himself, he was less than sure.
What if. What if.
He could be wrong. Somehow, despite everything. He could be wrong.
Ah, fuck it. He'd already lived once. At least.
He stood, and without any traces of hesitation, dove gracefully from the tower, smashing into the ground below.
"Oh what the fuck."
When he opened his eyes, unharmed, on the roof of the tower, the spell was broken.
His world was not real.
He didn't have to care about the Spanish Civil War, or Radio Seville, or General Quiepo de Llano, or anything, because it wasn't happening.
The revelation was quite liberating.
He was caged. All that had changed was now he could see the bars.
He heard the voices, sometimes. Things like wait here or listen to that radio broadcast or wait, look at him again. He did. He didn't know why they wanted him to do these things, and he didn't much care, but he went along with it, because otherwise they'd know he was on to them.
He told himself that he was just waiting for an opening, waiting for them to slip up. The idea calmed him down a little. He didn't like being imprisoned.
He could see the strings, now. But all he could do was wait for a chance.
It took years. Alfonso grew older, faster, more skilled than ever. The fight against the Templars progressed. A cavalcade of faces passed before his eyes. The boy behind them didn't care. Alfonso kept to himself as much as possible. He showed no concern for anyone, and barely tolerated conversation. The boy didn't care.
There had never been a torture quite like this, he decided.
But one day, one day his chance came.
"Alright. Hold still, and take a good look at the guy with the moustache."
The boy sighed, but did as instructed, moving the sight of the rifle over slightly.
The world flickers, a momentary blinding ripple in this fabricated landscape, and the boy is suddenly bathed in light.
He is lying on his back, staring upwards into nothing. He feels... weak. Weaker than he ever has before.
His heart leaps into his chest.
To his right, there's an abrupt curse, and sounds of a figure standing- chair scraping back, boots hit the ground- and running away, around a corner.
It's only when the boy tries to breathe that he realises there's a tube stuck down his throat.
Pulling it out is the single most unpleasant experience of his life. It is also utterly, amazingly liberating, when he is finally rid of it, and he coughs wetly, spitting up some grey flavourless paste, sitting on the edge of whatever it was he had been lying on, trying not to throw up.
Triumphantly, he lowers himself to the floor, and stands tall on stick-thin legs.
A voice raises.
"No, I'm telling you, there's no power. They must have come for subject seventeen. Look, doc, I can't get the backup generators working. Why? Because they've blown the fucking things up, that's why."
He knows that voice.
The figure swings into view, about to re-enter the cubicle, and the boy has just enough time to register a face like the man had been chewing on landmines before the cheap aluminium chair was in his hands.
The boy was weak, but he had two lifetimes of training and a burning, desperate hate driving him on.
The first blow sends the man staggering backwards. The second drops him to the ground.
The third draws blood. The killing blow is maybe the twelfth. Eventually, the boy stops swinging the remains of the chair.
Even in the dim light, he sees the remains of the man's head, smashed like an over-ripe apple.
This time, the boy does throw up.
He runs. He doesn't know where he's going, he doesn't know how to get there, and he's provident beyond reason that he reaches a side exit without meeting security (although if he had stopped to listen, he might have heard sounds of a fight coming from the basement level).
There are fences, of course, and locked doors. They don't bother him too much.
He's had practice, after all, even if it was all in his head.
He had so many problems, they were starting to cancel each other out.
He had nothing. Problem. He had no identification at all- would normally have been a problem (he remembers some things, like cameras and telephones, like images form some half-remembered dream. Passports, though, had featured heavily in the life of Alfonso Pena Castillo). Except he had nothing, not even real clothes. He was dressed in some kind of grey pyjama suit that did little to shelter him from the bitter night winds. So really, the last thing anyone he met would do would be ask for ID. He was on the run from a lunatic secret society- problem. Except odds were good he'd just die in the street within a week. Problem solved.
He needed clothes. He needed food. He needed a place to stay.
He needed- okay, he didn't technically need money, but it was always a good thing to have.
So, first things first. Clothes.
He... remembered shopping for clothes. At least, images presented themselves. Vague ones.
He remembers trying things on, and grabs items at near-random. Denim trousers, a pair of shoes, a belt, a soft cotton shirt, and...
He hesitates at the hooded jumper. Certainly, it's a logical choice- judging by how many are on display, it seems fashionable, and the hood provides cover for a good portion of his face. But still...
After a while, with bad grace, he takes one. Black, though. He's sick to death of white hoods.
Clothes and food acquired- that wasn't too hard, especially since he'd never gotten into the habit of paying- he needs a place to stay.
A building, festooned with coloured flags of every nation, caught his eye. A hostel, it said.
He walks in, and a rush of warm air hits him. Murmur of conversation from the next room, short snatches of music.
He's got a little money (donations, from charitable citizens, if anyone was asking). But he hasn't got a clue how expensive this is going to be. Still, he walks up to the desk, anyway.
"Hey," the man behind the counter greets him, in a soft accent that he recognises as Irish. "What can I do you for?"
"I'd like a bed," he says.
It's the first sentence he can remember saying.
Frankly, it should have been something catchier.
"Sure, well, we've got a bed spare just for tonight, in an eight-person dorm, that okay?"
"Sure." He could sleep in the toilets for all he cared.
"Right, that'll be thirty dollars, and I'll have to see some ID. A passport, or something?"
He turns and leaves the building without another word.
What a waste of time.
He eventually breaks into an empty house. The owners were on holiday or something, and it was simple to pick the lock.
There, problem solved. He wondered why he didn't think of that in the first place.
The next morning, he ate everything his stomach could manage. He felt the burning need to gorge, but his stomach wouldn't have been able to take it, so he had grudgingly pecked at some cold chicken, plundered from the fridge.
He had to take stock. Had to know what to do.
Okay. He could remember... general things. What buses were. The name of the country he was in. What a computer was for. But anything specific... no. No parents names, no siblings, no friends... if they existed, they were lost to him forever.
As far as anything else went... he probably no longer existed. The Templars wouldn't have been sloppy- he probably wouldn't even have died. Just simply ceased to be. He had no citizenship, no name, no address, no next of kin, no friends, no acquaintances, nothing. He didn't even know how old he was. They'd taken it all, and left him nothing but nightmares.
He was utterly alone.
And who was he? Ruslan had been naïve, childlike, a clown. Alfonso had been nothing but a wound-up ball of frustration and anger. But they'd just been masks, roles for him to play. Him? He was nothing, nobody.
He choked back a rising tide of fear at the thought, and looked for something to distract him.
Television. That sounded right.
It took him ten minutes to work out how to use the remote control. Eventually, he managed to make the television play the news, and set the remote down in case it brought up some strange menus again.
He wasn't in any real state to pay attention to the program- it was too loud, too colourful, too hectic for him to easily decipher, especially in his state of mind. Still, it occupied his attention.
Suddenly, the picture flicked, too grainy footage showing an empty underground train station. Shot from a high angle, somewhere in the corner of the ceiling- a security camera, he realised, abruptly.
Then, like a bomb going off, the screen was filled with movement. Rippling cloaks and flashes of light and a lumbering mass of green, it took a moment just to discern what exactly the image was supposed to be.
A fight, of a sort. The colourful- purple, blue, and green, for the most part- ones against-
A black figure in a cape. A stylised skull mask. One figure against the team, ducking and weaving and avoiding everything they could throw at him.
He didn't realise it, but he began to sit forward in his seat.
Everything about the figure was enthralling. The suit- what was that? Some kind of weapon?- the style, the pure theatricality of it... it was fascinating.
After a second, the clip ended. The boy wasn't watching any more, because he'd suddenly had an idea. A mad, mad, completely unworkable idea.
So they'd taken his identity.
Didn't matter. He'd just steal a new one.
It was close to a year before he was ready. A year of sleeping in and out of other people's houses, a year of painstaking training, a year of familiarising himself with modern security techniques. A year of planning, and a year of petty theft to keep him alive.
It was about to pay off.
He couldn't believe what he was seeing.
He'd broken into the tower, hoping for some kind of lead on the masked figure. Something that he could use to hunt the criminal down. He'd thought the mysterious man might have gone into retirement, allowing him to steal the suit off him.
He hadn't been entirely wrong, it looked like.
He really, really felt like laughing about this.
Shaking his head, he stretched out his hand to take the suit from its place in the vault.
It wasn't easy. For a year now, the promise of the costume had been a driving force for him, a pounding mantra in the back of his head. It was almost totemic in his imagination. Now, here it was, and he was preparing to be sorely disappointed.
Right, time allotted for personal crisis had passed. Time to get the threads in the bag and get the hell out.
Although it could have done with an instruction manual. It had taken him twenty minutes to figure out how to control the localised teleporter, and he'd barely even begun to look at all the gadgets on the belt.
He'd set up in an old warehouse on the waterfront while he figured out his new toy. So far, he'd found throwing stars (well, not quite stars), a collapsible bo staff (and it had taken him forever to get over the fact that that worked), and the unfolding sword. Seriously, whoever designed this must have had way too much time on their hands. When was he ever going to need even half this stuff?
He turned his attention to the gloves. There was something about the raised pattern on the back-
He shrugged his shoulders in a disconcertingly familiar way, and was a little disappointed to see the cross-pattern enlarge, becoming blades that descended past his knuckles.
Huh. It looked different, but really, it was functionally the same thing as-
The cross-pattern blades started to rotate, accelerating at a terrifying speed. Within two seconds, he was staring at two miniature buzz-saws attached to the backs of his hands.
"Oh hell yes.
"Oh hell yes."
Seriously. This suit. Either the richest six-year-old-boy in the world had commissioned it, or it was designed and built by someone neurotic enough to prepare for the day that he needed to wear tiny little buzz-saws on the backs of his hands.
Not that he was complaining.
He did some calculating in his head. If he stuck to banks and art exhibits for... three, maybe four years, and assuming he didn't get caught, then perhaps he'd amass almost as much money as this suit must have cost to make in the first place.
Fun time was over. He was sitting on the floor, skull-faced helmet resting on the ground beside him.
So, now what? He had the suit, so now what?
Hit the Templars, and hit them hard.
No. Not a chance. He was not getting drawn back into the fight. No secret cabal of hunters had rescued him from Abstergo- as far as he was concerned, he didn't owe the assassins a god-damn thing.
As for the Templars? Even if he did dedicate his life to nicking everything they hadn't nailed down, what good would it do? There was only so much damage he could do, and it sure wouldn't be good for him.
He was starting to forget his time as Ruslan and Alfonso. He'd never really forget it, but it... no longer seemed real. It was more a dream than anything else. He was pretty sure it was better that way.
So no. As far as he was concerned, the Templars weren't worth the effort. He wasn't going to stick his neck out just to get back at them. As far as he was concerned, they'd tried to break him, and they'd failed. End of story. Any future neck-sticking would be strictly for his own benefit.
So. He'd need contacts. Someone to set up a proper bank account for him. Some way to actually buy somewhere to live. Stuff like that. Maybe he'd introduce himself to the... what were they called. H.I.V.E. 5. That was it, wasn't it?
Absently, he picked up the mask again, and traced a finger across the stylised scar. Examining the identity he'd appropriated for himself.
Red X. He had to admit, it was a hell of a better name than John Doe.