An explanation for where this came from felt right. And it just so happens that it works to make it a part of the story.
'Was there something I said to make you doubt
I could get back up?
Cause I can get back up.'
-You, Me and Everyone We Know
He blinked and Desmond felt the discord of desynchronization lurch in his stomach. Pain shot through his mind, blinding and overwhelming. Halfway through a leap and he was suddenly banging his head on the eye piece of the Animus 2.0.
"What the hell was that for?" He growled in annoyance, turning his eyes to Rebecca accusingly.
"You're alright!" the woman crowed in relief.
Lucy was clutching his shoulder painfully tight and the almost tears he saw must have been a trick of the harsh fluorescent.
"Desmond, can you hear me?" she asked low and concerned. He ignored her and went to sit up, abruptly aware of how stiff he was. Sessions had never left him feeling like this; drained like he hadn't moved in days.
"Of course I can hear you," he bit off in annoyance. God he felt terrible, and couldn't decide whether sitting up or just asking to get sent back to Florence would be a better option.
"Well that's good because for the last seventeen hours you've been completely unresponsive Desmond."
That piece of information came from Shaun, and if he didn't know better there might have been a tinge of almost concern in the tone.
A distinctive fear swept him unbidden, the one that asked what exactly they had done to safeguard the bleeding effect from affecting him as it had sixteen. He'd been in the Animus for hours without being able to respond? Or even know that anything was wrong? Was this one of the side effects they didn't even know about?
"What?" Desmond managed to get out in an almost growl.
"You went into a church and the data stream corrupted for lack of a better explanation. We couldn't communicate with you, couldn't desynch you, couldn't record or see anything. It must have been pure luck you found your way out again."
His confused grimace didn't hide much from their stares. He'd remembered choosing to enter and to leave. The room hadn't been blank and featureless like other times he'd been stuck in "Animus Limbo" as Desmond thought of it.
'But the church, that chorus, the song...I knew them!' Desmond almost shouted it.
That song. He HAD heard it somewhere. That song was from the present era. No more than a few years old, Desmond was sure of it. He'd heard it on the radio. And those kids. He'd seen their faces before. Not that choir dressed in shabby but true to the time Florentine dress but in a video. On youtube at the library.
How had it ended up in Ezio's memories?
Hours later, after they'd tested and retested every single Animus subroutine he was still asking himself that. Rebecca could see no reason for the glitch, and Desmond was scheduled to dive back in at first light.
The closest he could guess was that what had happened was like those glyphs he'd been finding left by the previous Animus user. Out of place in the world of fifteenth century Italy.
And that data corruption. Desmond would bet his motorcycle that had been intentional.
The desperation he heard-felt-with each of those found glyphs was growing exponentially. It was clear that whatever they had been doing to the man had been driving him insane. Unsettling how everyone else seemed so unconcerned when it was all he could focus on at times.
Subject sixteen had found a way to integrate and hide that video in the memories. Hidden it so well and so deeply that it felt like a portion of Florence. Desmond was sure that if Shaun ever let him look at one of his coveted maps from the time period, the church just plain out didn't exist.
As it was, his "borrowing" of Rebecca's laptops to search youtube of all places was dangerous enough.
A search for fuzzy remembered lyrics got him close, to the original song written in 2009. But it didn't feature a chorus of children. Clicking guiltily through links, knowing open broadcast of his IP address was just asking for the Templars to be tracking it, he was starting to lose the certainty he'd felt earlier. It was probably gone or he'd confused it for something else. He'd only ever watched it once, over two years ago when he'd been using the computer to figure out how to apply for a motorcycle license.
And then he found it.
'I was right,' he almost laughed.
"PS22 Chorus -"Liztomania" Phoenix" A click later and he was rewarded for his certainty.
The video was shaky and ameteur, shot in a classroom that must double as an auditorium. The kids in the video were diverse but not dressed shabbily at all. At the first lyric from the group it was like falling back into that church; felt effortlessly similar to when Desmond couldn't tell the difference between his actions and Ezio's. When he couldn't care about that difference either.
A part of him itched to know how subject sixteen had done it. He'd never been trained formally in computer science but like so many of his generation had picked it up almost naturally. This was something far more complex. More than an incongruous symbol, it was fully realized people, a place, words and music hidden in the Animus. Almost hidden in the past.
Why put all that effort into a video of a kid's chorus singing?
Was it the meaningless action of someone losing their mind? Had he done it to subterfuge the other information, those weird clips and fantastic stories about Tesla and Tunguska? Why hide it so that no one except the person in the Animus could see it?
Instinct told him it was no fluke or mistake. It overrode the more rational answer he knew he should be considering.
Lucy, Shaun and Rebecca would scoff at him.
But Desmond knew what it was like in the Animus, felt the despair that Ezio must have experienced in his life. Knew the same feeling was slowly encroaching on him as it became clear that while he might have escaped for a time, the life of an assassin had been his since birth.
Everyone needed something to keep them going. Sixteen hadn't been an exception. Neither had Ezio.
Closing the laptop after wiping every cookie and trace he knew of Desmond settled back to rest. Good things still existed out there and they were worth what he was giving up. Shaun might debate the worth of a rock song covered by fifth graders but Desmond decided that was the other man's problem. A brief thanks passed through his thoughts, directed at the sixteenth Animus user.
When Desmond finally slept, for the first time in what felt like months he dreamt of his own past. Remembered the stray kitten he'd named Masyaf (ironically without knowing there was anything to the name) and the uncomplicated joy he'd felt at knowing the cat was alive and thriving because of him.
You can google the video I inserted into the Animus using the title Desmond searched for. Or you can insert any song you find inspiration from. I wanted something a little off the beaten path and not straight out recognizable as "modern".
I tried very hard not to descend into melodrama, because these characters certainly don't spend time endlessly angsting about their situations. Still there are always moments of doubt followed by a little reaffirmation of humanity in every person's life.
So...comments, criticisms, flames, praise...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.
Thanks for reading.