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The Cosmos Cares Nothing For Us

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The thing was, everyone told Lucy it wouldn’t be easy. No one ever told her it would be so hard.

She’d been seventeen when the Assassins send her off to her undercover assignment with the Templars. That’s what they called it: an assignment. Like it was a test in school, or a brief challenge she had to master. And while she knew, intellectually, that it would take a long time – years, even – she never really acknowledged, even after having gotten in, that it would take the best (final) part of her life.

She’d gone voluntarily, of course. The Assassins weren’t about force, about taking control over another’s life and making them do things against their will. Looking back years later, Lucy wanted to laugh about her own naivety. Yes, she’d volunteered. She’d volunteered after years of encouragement and praise and people telling her how important this mission was. “You’re the best for this,” they said, and “We trust you”, and “Only you can do it, Lucy. You were trained for this, no one else can do it like you can.” She was seventeen, a stupid kid so eager for acknowledgement and validation, and they pushed her into it with praise and encouragement and talk about the importance of the mission, and then they left her alone.

 

-

 

The thing was, Lucy went into it expecting it to be hard in all the wrong ways. She was constantly aware of the danger. She was always tense. In the beginning, she kept thinking about what they would do to her if they found out.

She sat in her bed at night, staring at the screen of her computer, and thought, Get me out, get me out, get me out.

Please, save me.

But she wanted to be brave. So she wrote an e-mail about what she had learned that day, encrypted it and send it off, to a man or a woman who would reply in the form of junk mail about penis enlargement.

 

-

 

The thing was, Lucy went into Abstergo believe everyone there to be the monsters the Assassin teachings promised them to be. They weren’t. Half the people she met there, she found, knew nothing about Templars or Assassins and found pieces of Eden only in their partners or children or their favourite tv show. It took her a while to sort out who was of the Order and who was only working there. When she did, she wrote an e-mail. One day, when she was eighteen and thinking about running, William Miles replied in person and told her he was proud. One week later she met Warren Vidic.

Vidic was bash, arrogant, and ruthless. He was everything an evil Templar was supposed to be and in a way that was a relief.

Too many of his co-workers were not like that. They were just people. Then Lucy found out that they were Templars, too, and still they were just people. They had families and favourite tv shows like other people, and they invited her to their birthday parties and visited her in the hospital after she broke her leg in three places.

They had goals that were not unlike those of the Assassins, those Lucy had been raised to pursue herself. They had conviction. One day (her friend) Nancy got a little drunk and talked about all these things she wanted to achieve once they had the means. How she would make the world a better place. And her eyes were gleaming while she spoke, her gesturing hands like blades cutting the air, and she spoke of goodness and justice and she believed. It was all the lectures from the classroom as portrayed be a real living being.

That night Lucy returned to her empty apartment and her silent laptop. She composed a message and deleted it. Then she went to sleep.

 

-

 

“Just another day in paradise,” Desmond replies to her question. He stretches out his legs, and Lucy can hear his joints crack. “My head is full of dead people and Shaun keeps insulting my intelligence. How was your day?” He sends her a grin like a teenager and she thinks about smacking him but sits down beside him instead, all serious.

“Shaun is like that with everyone,” she tells him. It’s not true – he’s not really like that with her, maybe because she was gone for so long, and only a little with Rebecca, because Rebecca scares him, probably. “You shouldn’t let him get to you.”

“I’m not. Actually, I find it kind of hilarious.”

Lucy raises an eyebrow to that. “Really? Why?”

“Because he keeps pointing at me as an example why the American educational system sucks, like me lacking in general knowledge is the one argument he’s always needed.”

“I… see.” Lucy doesn’t see anything. It obviously shows on her face because Desmond rolls his eyes.

“The thing is, he’s right, my general knowledge is kind of lacking. And I’m sure there are a lot of things wrong with the stuff kids get taught in school in the States, but I never went to one. I grew up on a Farm, and the things we learned there were mostly algebra, grammar, and ten thousand reasons why Abstergo is evil. You see how, since the two elements of Shaun’s brilliant argument have nothing to do with each other, it’s actually pretty stupid.”

Come to think of it, it is. Lucy didn’t grow up on a Farm herself. She went to a normal high school but she can imagine that the Assassins going out of their way to raise their kids in such an isolated environment probably place different priorities on their education. And here, in front of her, is the proof of just how well that system works out in the long run. “So you decided to let him rant until someone points it out to him?”

“Oh, I’m going to point it out myself. Just waiting for the right moment. In the meantime, I’m making a list of all the times when he was just making an ass of himself.”

“You’re five,” Lucy tells him. Desmond just shrugs and grins. Sometimes it hurts how normal he is. They, the Templars and the Assassins both claim to act in the best interest of the normal people, and Desmond could be just that, if only they let him.

He didn’t want to be an Assassin so he just walked away and did something else. Lucy hates thinking about that because it makes her feel something ugly and unnamed that she doesn’t want to identify. She changes the topic just to say something and get her mind occupied with something else. What she says is, “You should get back into the Animus. We don’t have much time left”, because that’s what she always says and it’s safe and easy.

Desmond doesn’t answer. After a long moment of silence he gets up and walks back inside, though – his steps quick and surprisingly angry and not like him at all. He doesn’t wait for her, but the comment he mutters when he opens the door sounds Arabic to her. It’s another thing she doesn’t want to think about, so she doesn’t.

Her head is full of thoughts she doesn’t want to have. One day she is going to drown in them.

 

-

 

The thing was, when Lucy was trained to infiltrate Abstergo, she was warned not to act. Acts could be seen through. She shouldn’t fake liking someone, she was to really like them. It had to be real. The important thing was keeping a distance none the less. Never forget why you are here.

It was the one lesson the Templars taught her as well, when they send her back to the Assassins. The difference was that this time she was lying to people who already trusted her. In a strictly practical sense, that made things easy.

 

-

 

By the time Lucy messed up and gave her identity away, she had been with the Templars for so long that the Assassins had become distant figures on the other side of a computer screen, barely even real. Abstergo was full of people she liked. People she could relate to, even. They wanted to save the world like she did, were willing to sacrifice for it, were dedicated. They trusted her by then and Lucy hated lying to them. She didn’t want to do that anymore. Looking in the mirror had become hard. Fortunately, her persona was not such that people expected her to smile a lot. Unfortunately, they expected her to keep her hair neat.

The thing was, she’d seen both sides of the conflict, the Templars and the Assassins, and knew now that the Assassins couldn’t win. They didn’t have the means and the structure. The conviction of centuries past was gone. These days, she realised, their fight wasn’t about the freedom of strangers anymore. It was about stopping the Templars, to the point where Lucy had been so indoctrinated from the start that she even never questioned the need to throw her life away in the name of harming Abstergo. Now she could not miss the irony that together the two factions could have done so much good. And the Templars were all about that, about unity. It was the Assassins who would never allow that, too suck up in their ways and their hatred. (Like Ezio, she thought; the Assassin mentor she saw in the Animus, through the eyes of Clay – another mole, another of the young people William Miles surrounded himself with to replace the one that got away, and just as alone as her.) They were not the solution, they were part of the problem.

By the time she messed up, Lucy had accepted that she didn’t believe in the Brotherhood anymore. The only reason why she didn’t betray her mission and turn to the Templars was that she didn’t want to be that person.

Then she sealed her fate with a careless word and once she realised it, she felt something like relief. At least it was over. At least she didn’t have to lie anymore. She went home and waited for them to kill her, and if there was any kindness in the world, though she did not deserve it, they wouldn’t send any of her friends.

Perhaps, she thought, she had messed up a little bit on purpose.

They came to her that night. It was Nancy who showed up in Lucy’s apartment. She rang the doorbell, and when Lucy opened the door she smiled and said, “Let’s talk.”

 

-

 

She has this whole speech prepared in her head when she tries to talk Desmond into working with the Assassins even though that’s the very thing he’s spend nine years living in hiding to avoid. Her speech contains encouragement, urgency, consequences. “Only you can do this” and “I trust you.” Things that worked on her. She works in some other things, things she would have liked to hear from Bill and the others at some point during the years before she gave up. What happens is that she asks once and he says, “Okay.”

It stumps her because she didn’t see it coming. There is no doubt there. He sees a path, judges it better than any other, and takes it. No struggle that she can point at. She almost asks, “Don’t you know that we’re going to ruin you?”

But of course he doesn’t. She can’t afford to tell him, and neither can the others.

She hugs him instead.

 

-

 

Clay thought she was on his side. That he wasn’t all alone. That he could rely on her if push came to shove.

She was (in the beginning).

He wasn’t (in the beginning).

Push came to shove and he couldn’t.

In a way, it was like a test, one she put on herself. That’s what she told herself, anyway. She didn’t think he would die, but she made the conscious decision not to save him. That was her assassin heritage, she thought: taking out those in the way of the greater good. Deciding who got to live and who had to die. So pretentious.

Seeing the blood on the walls, she came to understand the full consequences of her decision. She told herself she passed the test, proved her commitment. It wasn’t okay, but everything else would have been worse. Such was the life of an Assassin, and of a Templar.

That night she didn’t sleep well, nor any other night that came after for the rest of her life.

 

-

 

Seeing Shaun and Rebecca again is like torture. Lucy holds on because she made her choice. It wasn’t just selfish. She didn’t just turn her back to the Assassins because they abandoned her and she needed to not feel guilty all the time around the new friends she had found. She also did it because she still wants to save the world, and the Templars could actually do that. The Assassins couldn’t Their fight was lost, and they almost knew it. They did not have the means to save anyone. It was all there in the name: “Assassin” didn’t exactly rhyme with “rescue”.

They’d abandoned her. It was easy to hate Bill who kept pushing her buttons from the distance, but Rebecca hugged her and smiled when they reunited. More than once Lucy thought, “I hate lying to you. I would tell you the truth, but you wouldn’t understand, and then you would kill me.”

Everything would be in vain if she died. She was where she was because it was the right thing to do, after all.

 

-

 

For a while she hated the Assassins. That was the easiest time in the last several years.

Meeting Desmond left her conflicted, because for all that he grew up as Assassin, he wasn’t one. He had nothing to do with their conflict, and it felt like pulling in someone who deserved to be left alone. One of the Innocents the creed talked about. To Lucy, who felt like she only ever knew Templars and Assassins in her life, the Innocents they were supposed to protect were like a formless, anonymous mass, a motive rather than real people. (She didn’t want to be an Assassin anymore so she became a Templar. It never occurred to her that she could have been anything else.)

(Somewhere inside she was still Assassin enough to feel that she had to protect him.)

Vidic helped her get in the role she had to play. He didn’t even have to try. Him being an asshole really worked to her advantage. Her dislike wasn’t fake, and Desmond gravitated towards her because Vidic made her look saintly in comparison.

Desmond trusted her because she was nice to him. Lucy hated herself a little for that. It got worse when she found Shaun and Rebecca and they were happy to see her.

She hit rock bottom when, in their struggle to save the world, they found hope.

 

-

 

Seeing Altair through the Animus, seeing his performance at the Temple of Salomon feels good, though Lucy never shows it. It feels like validation because the man was such an asshole. All her life the Assassins have told her stories of the great Altair who shaped the brotherhood and left them so much wisdom and now she sees him in person and he’s nothing like that, he’s just a guy, and not even a good one. It tells her that the Brotherhood, like everything else, is build on lies and shadows.

Then she sees Ezio again, through Desmond this time rather than through Clay’s distorted memories, and with him she learns a bit about Altair as he was in his wiser years. Reads his codex, as it was before generations of Assassins and Templars alike changed it to meet their requirements, all that disillusioned wisdom and plain insight. It’s hard to hold on to her scorn after that, and she learns that her scorn is something she needs. Even now she still needs validation. She sends a message to Allen Rikkin that might result, eventually, in the capture and death of her friends and she needs validation.

She’s saving the world here. Except there might be a way for the Assassins to save it themselves, now, with Desmond and his ancestors and the Pieces of Eden. Save everyone without the total control the Templars seek, that Lucy is not entirely comfortable with but accepts as a necessary evil. There’s hope now, and it’ like poison. Hope means she might be wrong.

Three weeks into Ezio’s memories and Desmond is slowly slipping. The bleeding effect will get him like it got Clay, Lucy knows, but she plays it down because he just needs to hold on long enough for her to find out what the Tempars need to know. He won’t make it long enough to save the world, she reminds herself, which means she’s still doing the right thing. Someone has to. And Desmond keeps screaming in his sleep, haunted by the nightmares of someone else.

She knows he walks through Altair’s life sometimes, outside the Animus, though he never tells, because when he speaks of him it’s with a kind of wistful fondness, and he looks at something far away as if he were missing loved ones he never had while trying to shape the world into something better for those who come after.

Ezio admires Altair, that much becomes obvious even in his early years. And they are in Italy but nowhere near the Assassin’s grave and Lucy almost regrets that, because she wants to dance on it and tell him of everything he did wrong. What Altair would think of him, of Ezio Auditore da Firenze the great mentor, whose hatred turned the Assassins from people working for the greater good to people with the sole goal of being better than the Templars. Like mean children in a sandbox. “What would Altair say if he could see what you did to his brotherhood?” she would say. “He would be so disappointed.”

She can’t despise Altair anymore, but she can despise Ezio. She can despise William and the others who used her and left her to her fate. She can’t despise Desmond who ran because he wanted to leave and came back because it was the right thing to do.

She can’t despise Rebecca and Shaun who are here and real and love her.

She can despise herself, and she does. It changes nothing. She picked a side a long time ago.

 

-

 

Her lies lie heavier on her every day. The more excited the others become about the things they find, the more Lucy despairs. Perhaps she made a mistake, but she can’t turn back now. She doesn’t know how.

Almost a decade of her life wasted on this mission, she tells Desmond one night, in Monteriggioni where the ghosts of the past live not only in his mind. In truth, it’s much more than that. Lucy doesn’t expect to make it out alive anymore, not really. She can’t imagine a happy ending for herself, mostly because she can’t see how she can ever be happy with herself again. She’s probably going to get killed, by one side of the other. The thought doesn’t scare her, and that is when she accepts that everything in her life has gone horribly wrong. (She should just have walked away. Done something different. Maybe she and Desmond would have met in a bar somewhere, where she would have ordered a Martini and he would have mixed it, and everything would have been good for a little while.)

The thing is, Lucy is aware that the Templars are using her just as much as the Assassins did. There is not good or evil in that conflict. None the less, the Assassins are the side she was born into, the Templars are the side she chose. And she’s going to stick with that choice. It’s the only thing she can do.

She has friends on both sides now. There is no way out for her that doesn’t have her be the bad guy for someone.

At this point, the happy ending she wishes for is that she will die before the others find out the truth and will not have to witness the trust they have in her disappear. They are nearing the end of their search and if she dies now she will never know if her betrayal was worth it. There is a certain comfort in that thought, for she is more and more afraid that it wasn’t, and with an early exit at least she’ll never have her fears confirmed. She can die still thinking she did what she had to.

It was Altair, of all people, who came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter in the end whether a person is a tyrant or a saint. The cosmos doesn’t care. No one and nothing really matters. There is no counting. No reckoning. No final judgement. There is simply silence. And darkness. To Altair, everything must have seemed pointless and futile following that realisation. To Lucy, there is comfort in the idea that ultimately it doesn’t matter whether she was right or wrong, whether she will help save billions or doom a few. She just needs to make it through the time where it does.

 

-

 

With every day spend among her old friends the guilt weighed heavier on her shoulders. The doubt. The lies.

Clay’s blood on the walls. Rebecca’s smile. Desmond screaming in his sleep. And through everything, always, her secrets, and trust she didn’t deserve.

At some point during the last seven years Lucy had grown up. She didn’t want to be rescued anymore. She just wanted to be done.

 

 

13 June 2014