a/n: And now we are all caught up to what I have already written. I try to update this story at least once a week, sometimes twice. Let me know what you think! :)
"Come, Enoch. I wish to show you something."
She whispers in his ear as if telling him a great secret, before she pulls him out of her dormitory room and into the hallway. It is late, and there are not many others awake at this time, making it fairly easy for them to avoid detection as they sneak through the hallways of the building. When they reach the center of the building, Menrva uses her sphere to unlock a door. Behind the door is a small, round room in the center of which sits a pedestal. On the pedestal there is a sphere many times the size of the one Menrva keeps on her person. It is illuminated with a subtle white glow. Enoch finds himself drawn to it.
"This is the Tree," Menrva tells him, motioning towards the sphere. "My thesis and grand project."
"What does it do?"
"Many things, and when it is complete, it will do many more. For now, it shows what has been and what is yet to be," Menrva answers him.
Enoch looks askance at her, and she smiles.
"Does it work?"
"Partially. Touch the Tree, Enoch, and tell me what you see."
He brushes his hand against the sphere –
– Enoch is surrounded by nothing but white as far as he can see. There are no shadows or sound, no ground to hold him, and no air to breath. And then the space around him breaks apart, pieces of nothing falling away –
It is dark. He hears a hissing sound as something is lifted away from him. Bright light assails his eyes, causing him to blink. When his sight clears, he sees a woman dressed entirely in white standing over him, pulling something out of his throat. He sucks in a deep and hollow breath and coughs, his throat dry and sore. With great effort, he forces himself to sit up, and take notice of his surroundings. He is partially naked and sitting in a pod, his entire body covered with a sticky film, which he wipes out of his eyes and spits out of his mouth. When he speaks, his voice is hoarse from disuse.
"Status report," Enoch orders, although the voice that comes from his mouth is not his own.
"Over half of the pods have failed, we no longer have the resources to sustain them. I had no other choice than to wake you. The situation is critical. If we don't make landfall soon, we are all dead."
The woman grabs his hand, helps him out of the pod, and pulls him to his feet. He stumbles forward at first, as if his legs don't have quite the strength to support his body. The woman catches him, helps put him right. She hands him a cloth, and he proceeds to wipe the remaining film off of his body with it.
"So, this is it, then. We, who have survived the war and the exodus, just to die in the black of space."
"All is not yet lost. The Atlas has found a location in a nearby system that is almost ideal, Commander - temperate with the right atmosphere and teeming with primitive life."
The woman touches a device in her hand, and then there is a great blue ball of white, green and blue hanging in the air in front of them.
"There are some concerns about the stability of the planet's sun."
"We have been running for far too long. This will have to be home now. If we die here, at least we will die free."
– The space around Enoch lurches and folds. The white nothingness returns and then –
He is in the middle of a city that rivals Eden in its splendor. The grand buildings reach the sky, and Enoch is surrounded by lights and color and sound. There are people around him; so many that he can't count, all of them different. The people are as colorful as the city, some of them dark skinned, some pale, some with blonde hair, some with brown, others with hair of impossible colors. There are men, women, and even children, all of them moving in every direction with purpose as they go about their lives. Noisy machines of all different colors carry people on the street. Moving pictures made of light cover the sides of all the buildings around him. When Enoch looks up, he cannot see the stars.
Enoch turns and looks at his reflection in the smooth, glassy side of a building. The man that stares back at him shares his face and his scar, but is older than Enoch and wears clothes the likes of which Enoch has never seen before. He reaches out a hand to touch his reflection, feels the cold surface of the building against the tips of his fingers.
"You okay, mate?"
A hand clasps his shoulder and Enoch turns. There is a man with light hair and jewelery made of metal and glass on his face looking at him with some concern.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Shaun. Just... sometimes I feel like I'm not alone in my own head, you know?"
Enoch feels himself answer, the words foreign and not his, and yet he understands them completely.
"Do try and hold onto your sanity, I don't wish to pull you off of the pavement, considering," Shaun replies snidely, tilting his head back to look up.
Eyes that do not belong to Enoch follow the direction of the other mans gaze to the top of the tallest building he's ever seen,
"You are joking, right? You guys want me to climb that?!"
"Well, not completely. Rebecca is able to circumvent the security on the first sixty four floors, so you can take the lift that far at least."
"Yeah, tell her thanks for the consideration."
"We do our best."
He snorts, and turns towards his companion, facing him fully.
"Hey Shaun? Before I go, I wanna ask you something."
"Yes, because we have all the time in the world. No wait, actually, we don't -"
"Shut up, you ass. I'm serious."
The man named Shaun sighs deeply, and adjusts the metal jewelry on his face – glasses, a voice in Enoch's mind supplies. It occurs to Enoch that the man who is not him might be aware of his presence in some way. It is a strange feeling.
"Why now, Shaun? What makes this solar flare so bad? I mean, I've been googling and shit, and apparently there was a really bad solar flare in 1859, yet we are all still here."
"Are you seriously asking me that question, Desmond? Now?!"
"Well, yeah. I mean, I'm risking my life here... and my sanity with the animus. How do we know that we aren't being taken for a ride by Minerva and Juno? I mean, I'd kinda like to know before I throw myself off the tallest building in New York for a stupid battery."
Shaun shakes his head.
"Just look around you, Desmond. Look at the cars on the street, look at the buildings, look at the busy city lights. Look at the smog in the air, at the casual display of excess shown by everyone on the street. Look at all the people on their cell phones, going about their day, consuming, taking, using without any care at all for the environment. Consider all the radio towers, all the satellites, all the factories, all the planes in the sky, and consider everything we have done to this planet in the name of progress since the industrial revolution. We have repeated the same mistakes as those who came before, reaching for the power of the gods without any regards to what it might cost. It took nearly 75,000 years for the ozone to repair itself from the damage done by those who came before, and we have undone that in less than two hundred years. You want to know why we aren't being taken for a ride, Desmond? Because humanity has learned nothing and we have destroyed our only natural defense against coronal mass ejections. That's why."
'Hey, whoever's hitching a ride, I know you're there.'
The voice that is not his speaks in his head, addressing him. Enoch feels the city starting to fade away, as a sense of wrongness fills him. This, this is not allowed somehow, the other should not be aware –
'Please remember this, take all this shit to heart. If I fuck up the world, I had no choice.'
– There is a lurch, a splash of white, and then Enoch is in Eden and Eden is burning. He is being held in someone's arms, being loaded onto a transport, a child –
– Another flash of white, and Enoch is looking through his father's eyes –
There is a man with golden hair and golden eyes handing him a staff. The man looks like a citizen of Eden, but wears the clothes of a villager. Enoch is immediately wary of him.
His father reaches and takes the staff from the golden haired man. Enoch feels the power of the staff as soon as it touches his father's hand.
"Combine this weapon with an apple, and you will have them at your feet," the blonde man says, his eyes proud and fierce.
"They will beg for mercy when we are done, son of Adam."
"Thank you, Heylel. You are truly the bringer of light to my people. And we will ensure your vengeance against your own. Now, we must retrieve the apple from my brother -"
Enoch rips himself out of the vision, pulling his hand back from the Tree as if it has been burned. He is breathing hard when Menrva reaches for him, and he automatically pulls away from her.
"I must go."
"Wait, Enoch. What did you see?"
"I must go, Menrva. I have no time -"
"Enoch please, whatever you may have seen of the future is only a possibility, nothing is certain -"
He leans in, stops her words with the pressure of his lips against hers. She leans against him, eyelashes fluttering closed as he wraps his hands around the back of her neck. Her mouth opens to his, and he takes just a moment to breath in the scent of her.
"I'm sorry. I love you," he whispers against her lips as he chokes her into unconsciousness. When she falls onto the floor, he takes her sphere from her and runs as fast as he can, out of the room, out of the building, and out of the city, cutting down the few guards who dare stand in his way with the sharp edge of his blade.
He doesn't notice how the men and women enslaved to the citizens of Eden stop to watch him.
They reach New York before the first light of dawn.
Desmond is practically hanging out the side of the carriage, taking in the sights and smells of the city he knows and loves. No place has ever felt more like home to him than New York, and even though this version of New York is not the city he knows, it is still his city. He takes in the sights of the brownstones, four stories tall at the most and smiles.
"Home sweet home," Desmond says, and Ezio cocks an eyebrow at him.
"You lived here?"
"Yeah, for a while. I tended bar at Bad Weather, just off of 48th. Course, I'm sure that nothing is there right now but a townhouse... still, this is my city. Just an early version of it. In my time, it is known as the Big Apple."
Ezio gives him a strange look.
"Because of an artifact?"
"Actually, in a round about way, I think so. New York was – er, will be – famous for horse races at about the turn of the 20th century. The templars kinda ran the whole gambit, and the prize for a winning horse was a golden apple. Not a real Apple of Eden, of course, but the symbolism was definitely there."
"Well, it is a beautiful city, my friend. Despite the unfortunate nick name," Ezio responds.
Desmond offers him a half smile.
They ride in silence for a short while, watching as street vendors set up stalls along the side of the streets and shop owners sweep off their front steps. The print shops are amongst the first to open, and newspaper sellers start to line the streets. The sun is just starting to break the horizon when they arrive in the center of town, where a gallows is already set up and people are starting to gather. Achilles orders the coachman to pull the carriage to the side of the street, and motions to the two of them as they exit.
"Gonna be a lot of people here," the old man says, indicating the ever-growing crowd. "I never understood why people want to watch this kind of thing. You'd think they'd have better things to do."
Ezio frowns, folding his arms defensively in front of himself.
"I am in agreement, signore," Ezio says, his voice tight. "The times may change, but people do not. It is as barbaric now as it was in my time."
Desmond turns, catches Ezio's eye, and puts a hand on his shoulder.
"You gonna be okay, buddy? I mean, you're a better shot with a bow than I am, but if this is going to be hard, I can -"
"I will be fine, Desmond," Ezio cuts him off abruptly in a tone that leaves no room for argument. Desmond gives the Italian a wary look. He knows how this has got to be affecting the other man, he has lived his life through the animus after all. But he recognizes the stubborn tilt to the Italian's chin, as well as the silent plea in the man's eyes.
'Don't speak of it, mio caro. I will do what I must.'
"Is there a problem, men?" Achilles asks, his eyes focusing on each of them in turn.
Ezio huffs and adjusts his bow and quiver so that they are laying flat against his back.
"None, signore. I will find a window, yes?"
And without waiting for an answer, Ezio turns and melts into the crowd. Before long, he is gone from sight, and Desmond feels his heart beat a little faster with anxiety and concern for the man.
"His family, you know... his brothers and his father... he watched them all hang," Desmond tells Achilles, running his hand through his hair.
"He is a master assassin," Achilles responds after a quiet moment. "One does not get that title without learning how to separate his heart from his head. Still... I will keep an eye on him, if I can. You need to get in position. If all goes well, I will see you both back on the homestead in a few days. If it doesn't... "
Achilles trails off with a shrug.
Desmond nods grimly, acknowledging what Achilles says as well as what he doesn't.
'If it doesn't, I will kill you both.'
Haytham feels naked without his hat and his cloak, but it is best that he is not recognized in this crowd by either friend or foe. His heart races as he waits for them to arrive with the assassin – his son, he has a son – and he wonders what kind of man sends his own child to his death. He finds himself scanning the crowd, looking for Connor's recruits, hoping to find them. Surely, they won't let the boy die here today. Haytham expects to at least see the bald frenchman, but he is not to be found. In fact, the only one of Connor's ally's that he can see is Davenport, and he doubts that the old man is going to be much assistance to his son on his own.
There – a flash of white in a window – an archer. Not one of his, either. Good. Still...
Haytham wonders on the efficacy of an arrow against the tough rope of a noose, and his hand unconsciously tightens around the hilt of the dagger belted to his side.
It isn't long before the carriage containing his son appears, and Haytham watches as two red coats roughly pull Connor out of the back of it. Connor is filthy, barefoot and covered with bruises. Something in his chest tightens at the sight.
He blends in with the crowd, close enough to overhear, yet positioned carefully out of sight of his son and of his fellow templars.
"'Ello Connor," Thomas Hickey says in his slow, cockney drawl. "Didn't think I'd miss your going away party, did ya? I hear Washington 'imself will be in attendance. Hope nothin' bad 'appens to him."
"You said there'd be a trial!" Connor spits.
"Ah, no trial for traitors I'm afraid. Lee and Haytham saw to that. It's straight to the gallows for you!"
Haytham quietly swears to himself. And now Connor will know that it is he that condemned him. His own father would be turning in his grave, he was sure of it.
Still, he can't help but feel a bit of pride when Connor turns and meets Hickey's eyes with no fear and great conviction.
"I will not die today," Connor promises. "The same cannot be said for you."
Desmond easily and silently dispatches the few unlucky templar guards on the rooftops overlooking the gallows. No one appears to be paying any attention to him. He is sure that Connor can see him peripherally, but as the young assassin does not turn to look at him, Desmond feels secure in his anonymity. That feeling is tempered by the knowledge that he remembers being Connor, and being far too focused on the crowd and Charles Lee to take any notice of who, exactly, his backup was. Connor might have questions for Achilles later, but it is not Desmond's problem and he's not going to worry about it.
On the other side of the street, he can see Ezio with his bow, completely focused on Connor. Good. Another quick survey of the crowd shows Achilles inching quietly behind the gallows with Connor's tomahawk. Also good.
And then he searches the crowd itself, activating his second sight.
A man in gold is on the outskirts, clutching a dagger tightly in his right hand. Desmond shifts his focus once again, and sees Haytham, in plain clothes, without his hat and cloak.
Not good. Not fucking good at all.
Ezio's hands are sweating as he holds the bow in front of him, an arrow already set and ready to fire. He watches as they march Connor through the crowd of people, listens as they jeer and make racial slurs as he walks past. He's trying not to draw parallels in his mind with every step Connor takes towards the gallows in front of him, but it is hard to watch and not see. He feels the bile collecting in his throat, yet cannot turn his head away to spit it out, not even for a second.
Someone trips Connor and he falls to his knees. Ezio can see Achilles bend to whisper in his ear and help him up. He feels the hair raise on the back of his neck, as he has the sudden sensation of being watched –
Everyone in the crowd is focused on the gallows. Everyone except one person, and Ezio meets the eyes of the man that is watching him intensely from below.
Surely, the templar knows why he is positioned where he is, knows that he is there to prevent the execution of his son. For a moment, Ezio considers turning his bow on the templar. If Haytham gives him away, than Connor will die. Connor has to live, at all costs –
But the templar merely nods his head at Ezio, acknowledging his presence before turning towards where they are fitting Connor with the noose, one hand tightly wrapped around a dagger by his side.
If his own arrow fails to cut the rope than Haytham's dagger will succeed. Perhaps their mission isn't so hopeless after all, if the man is willing to protect his son. Ezio lets go of a breath that he didn't realize he was holding. Peripherally, he can see Desmond skate across the tops of the buildings, silently taking out the templar guards positioned on rooftops.
The templar by the gallows speaks, accuses Connor of being a traitor, of planning to murder George Washington, and Ezio tightens his hold on the bow, pulling the string back taught.
His heart races in his chest, and he tries to focus only on Connor, even as the sights and sounds of New York fade away, leaving the Palazzo della Signoria in its absence. All of a sudden it is his father and brothers up on the gallows, and he is not going to be fast enough, there is nothing he can do -
Ezio blinks away the illusion as Connor whistles, and allows the arrow to fly. It hits the rope just before Haytham's dagger, and Ezio takes a deep breath of relief as Connor falls and quickly reappears from beneath the gallows, armed with his tomahawk. There is pandemonium as Connor runs towards Thomas Hickey, yelling and screaming from the crowd as people run in every direction in confusion. He takes a deep breath and searches the crowd for Haytham, for Desmond –
– and finds them both together, Desmond pulling Haytham back away from the crowd by way of the hidden blade pressed against the older man's neck.
'Cazzo,' Ezio swears to himself. Desmond must have seen Haytham's dagger and come to the wrong conclusion. He throws himself out the window and climbs onto the roof, silently trailing where Desmond is dragging Haytham into a back alley, hoping he can get there in time to do damage control.