New York City, New York, USA
Ezio absently rocked the almost year-old Kyle as he stood watch. The Assassins had all spent the previous week working on the Altair II and stockpiling supplies, sleeping in shifts. The Rebeccas had spent time tuning the syncmasters, extending their range. Ezio had offered to take the morning watch while Desmond and his alternates made breakfast. It smelled delicious, and though Ezio was unable to fully taste anything he ate, he knew from firsthand experience that his descendant was a good cook.
"Never in all the time I played as you would I think you'd make a good babysitter, Ezio."
Ezio turned slightly, eyeing Desmond's older alternate. Mentor Desmond's dark hair was touched at the edges with grey, and he greatly resembled William. Ezio's voice was quiet as he replied, "No matter the century, children are timeless in their innocence." He smiled down at the drowsing toddler in his arms. "Young Kyle is every bit as headstrong as my own children were. I suppose it runs in the family."
Mentor Desmond's gaze went to his own son, the older version of the toddler in the ancient Assassin's arms. He lay curled up in a sleeping bag, still fast asleep. "I missed so many years…" His gaze settled once again on the sleeping toddler. "When Rikkin trapped me in the Apple, my Kyle was only a few years older than the one you're holding." Ezio nodded. "I know what it is to miss time with the ones you love." His dark gaze became a little sad then. "I was not fortunate enough to be reunited with my family…or perhaps I was. I do not remember my death. Desmond tells me it was peaceful, and that I died when I was a very old man."
Mentor Desmond nodded. "You did in our timeline as well." He grinned suddenly. "But before you did, you fought off no less than six attackers in your villa with a fire poker. It was pretty epic." Ezio's gaze brightened a little. "Oh? There is time yet before breakfast…perhaps you could tell me more." Mentor Desmond laughed. "Well, it all started when a Chinese Assassin named Shao Jun showed up at your villa…"
Desmond pulled the pan of eggs from the fire, deftly scooping up the last of it and handing the camp plate to Michael. They'd raided a sporting goods store, and it had contained a wide array of camping equipment and non-perishable food. The other Assassins and alternates in their party had all been too exhausted the night before to worry about food, and so Desmond had made the decision to make a hot breakfast for them, even if it cost them time. The others were all grateful for the hot meal. Rebecca had actually kissed him when he'd brewed a pot of coffee.
Lucy's arms wrapped around his waist, and her voice spoke into his back. "Why do you always volunteer to cook?" Desmond chuckled. "Well, neither of my counterparts worked at Bad Weather, so they didn't get any experience in being a short-order cook." He handed off another plate to Shaun. "And I figured everyone deserved a hot meal after so many days of cold canned food."
Lucy was quiet a minute, and then she said quietly, "Des…I don't agree with having Rikkin here. I know you and the others agreed to it, but…" She felt Desmond tense, and his voice was low as he set the hot pan aside. "I know. I don't like it either." He turned, wrapping Lucy in a hug, and his voice whispered in her ear. "I considered killing him the first night we were here, but I didn't have any inconspicuous way to get rid of the body." Lucy sighed, but before she could say anything, Rebecca's voice spoke. "Uh…I hate to break up your tender moment, but Shaun's wondering if you have any food left. I guess he's still hungry."
Desmond's brow rose as he looked at the dark-haired technician. "Shaun is still hungry? He hardly ate anything on the ship." Rebecca turned a little pink, then leaned in close and said, "Shaun didn't eat on board because he gets seasick Des. He didn't want you to know." Desmond shook his head, even as he handed over another plate. "Here." Rebecca eyed the plate in her hands. "Isn't this yours?" Desmond shook his head. "Nope. I ate something earlier. Go on, we're going to discuss how to retrieve the Apple soon."
Lucy's voice was soft as she said, "You lied to her about that plate of food, didn't you?" Desmond shrugged. "Missing one meal won't kill me, and Shaun needs it more if he hasn't been able to keep anything down for a week." Lucy eyed him. "Shaun doesn't irritate you as much as he thinks he does, does he?"
Desmond shrugged. "We should get everyone up. We need to figure out a way to retrieve the Apple."
Desmond looked at the massed Assassins and alternates. "I know everyone has been on edge lately, and I know a lot of it was my fault. I'm sorry. We still have a mission to complete so everyone can go home."
Templar Desmond crossed his arms. "I know approximately where the Apple is, but there's no way of knowing how far down it is. Connor had an arm on him, and it might have moved since he threw it off the ship. We could spend years looking for it without some way to track it."
Desmond looked thoughtful, then turned to Minerva. "Altair told me once the Apples are communication devices. Is it possible I could use my power to track it?" Minerva frowned. "It may be so, cipher. You are out of tune with this reality, and ordinarily tuning with an Apple from a different timeline would be impossible, but…" She shook her head. "I do not know."
"There's still the issue how to get to the damn thing when we find it. I for one would feel better about hearing a plan." Shaun spoke from beside Rebecca, and Desmond nodded. "We find some diving gear and go down after it. As my Templar alternate said…it's not like any of us could breathe underwater."
"What if you could?"
Rikkin frowned as the entire camp turned to stare at him. "Juno told me those lizard things are proto-humans. If the Apple works on humans, maybe you could use it to control one of them and send it down after the Apple." Desmond stared at his enemy for a full minute, then demanded, "Let me get this straight...you want me to control one of those cannibal lizard things?"
Rikkin shrugged. "If they're able to follow orders that implies a level of higher thought. They have some sort of language. I heard them speak it to each other and Juno. You've seen yourselves they can spend a longer amount of time in the water than you can, and Juno told me they're what happened in a reality where evolution went the way of the dinosaurs, as it were."
Desmond frowned, his jaw set. He glanced at Mentor Desmond. "Is what he says true?" Mentor Desmond glanced at Rikkin once before saying, "They are smarter than animals. Not so good at locking doors, though." Rikkin flushed angrily, and Desmond's alternate chuckled. "Seriously though, if they were…or are…primitive humans, Rikkin might be right about it. We'd have to test out his theory though."
Desmond chewed on the inside of his lip, his golden eyes fierce in the gloom of the unceasing gray cover that blanketed the sky in this timeline. "I don't like it. But unless anyone can come up with an alternative, it's worth a shot. Where are we going to find those things, and how are we going to get one alone?"
Rikkin and Mentor Desmond looked at one another, and then Mentor Desmond sighed. "I know where there's one that tends to wander off by itself. It's been a few days so it might have moved on, but we'll have to head that direction anyway."
Desmond frowned. "What direction, and what are you talking about?" Mentor Desmond began to pack up weapons. "Back towards the Abstergo building. We escaped through the sewers, and one of the smaller ones was in our way. I knocked it out so we could get past. It was scrounging for food in the sewers. My guess is the bigger guys had chased it down there."
Desmond took a breath. "Let's go hunting then."
A few hours later, Desmond crouched beside Juhani behind a piece of debris. "I still think it was a bad idea to send them off by themselves like that," he muttered, and Juhani grunted acknowledgement. "On the other hand, if you don't trust your own alternate, well…" The blond Assassin shrugged. "I did find it amusing he made Rikkin the bait."
"My alternate's not me, and he's been living in Rikkin's head a long time."
Mentor Desmond's voice hissed from behind them both, and Desmond started. He hadn't even heard the older Assassin come up behind them and cursed himself. "My loyalty is to my family and the Brotherhood, in that order. I have more reason than anyone else to hate him, no matter what he's done to your reality, he took me away from my family first. Now stop chattering like a pair of schoolgirls, I could hear you at the sewer entrance. Rikkin's almost here with our test subject."
Desmond's attention was drawn away as the sound of running footsteps was heard. Rikkin was breathing hard, and behind him Desmond heard the crunch of much heavier footsteps. As the Templar Grandmaster ran towards them, Desmond stood up. The beast hesitated as Desmond began to glow, white geometric patterns lighting beneath his tanned skin. His eyes flared bright gold, and a similar halo of light wreathed the head of the monster chasing Rikkin.
The beast slowed and eventually stopped. The glow grew brighter, and the beast sat on its haunches, its gaze locked to Desmond's. Sweat beaded on Desmond's forehead, dripping down into his eyes, but he did not move. For a long moment, the Assassin and the beast were as statues, and then the beast curled up on the ground, closing its eyes. The glow faded, and Desmond shuddered. "God," he swore softly. "That was intense."
Juhani eyed the beast warily. "What'd you do to it?" Desmond shook himself. "I suggested it was tired from chasing Rikkin and for it to take a nap. We'll have to figure out some way to contain it. Maintaining control over it is difficult. It doesn't have much in the way of understanding things beyond eating, sleeping and…" He blushed suddenly. "Uh…that doesn't matter."
Rikkin panted from where he stood. "So my theory proves correct. You can control it." Desmond nodded. "I can. It's difficult, but I can. The next thing we need to figure out is if I can communicate with the other Apple or not. Minerva didn't seem sure of it. Let's get the others here and figure out a way to contain our scaly guest."
As it turned out, the lizard-beast was quite content to be left in a locked storage room with an ample supply of Spam. Desmond hadn't even had to force it to enter the area when it had smelled the meat. Rebecca had prudently setup a camera in the ceiling, and they all watched it sleep on the monitor. "I feel almost sorry for it, y'know? It probably got bullied by the other lizard guys for being small or something." Mentor Desmond snorted. "It probably won't help your image to know we first ran across it eating a corpse, Becca."
Rebecca frowned, and Shaun wrapped an arm around her, glaring at Desmond's alternate. Before the argument could start, Desmond cleared his throat. "I'm going to try and contact Connor's Apple. I'm not sure what'll happen, but I need quiet to concentrate."
The room was silent as Desmond closed his eyes. The geometric patterns began to draw themselves across his skin slowly. Sweat beaded on his face, dripping down onto his T-shirt.
Desmond's vision spiraled out above the Altair II, and he cast about, not sure what he was seeking. As he turned, he felt the slightest tug. He followed it, and as the sensation became stronger, a golden thread of light spun out of the nothingness, beckoning him forward.
He followed the thread for a seeming eternity, and eventually it stopped. Looking down, Desmond could see the dark waters of the Atlantic. Connor's Apple glowed golden in his vision. He tried to call out to it, but unlike Altair's Apple, he felt nothing from it. He followed the golden thread back to the waiting ship.
Desmond sat up straight with a gasp, the light abruptly fading as his eyes snapped open. "I found it." Lucy's hand took his. "Are you alright?" Desmond nodded.
"Yeah. It's there. I tried to call to Connor, but it didn't respond at all. I could track it, but I couldn't activate it."
Minerva spoke from one side of the room. "Remember that each set of Pieces was tuned to the reality it came from. You cannot use Connor's Apple, cipher. It is of this reality, and you are not." Templar Desmond smirked at him. "I guess you weren't kidding about needing me here to use it."
Desmond sighed. "It's further out than we thought. Let's get underway." Templar Desmond mockingly saluted. "Aye-aye, Captain!"
Desmond put his head into his hands, then muttered, "Minerva, are you absolutely sure we have to have him along?" Minerva nodded. "I am afraid so, cipher." Desmond groaned softly. "Let's get going."
A/N: Alright, this chapter took a while to get finished. I know it's been almost a month. It's a little longer than the others since I had more time to write, so here's hoping you enjoy it.