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Buried In Code

Chapter Text

It started with Edward Kenway. Months after the coronal ejection that almost ended the world, Abstergo Entertainment made an excited announcement to their staff about the start of a new studio and the excellent project they had lined up for those lucky individuals specially chosen for this assignment. Studio 17 would be exploring the lineage of a wonderful donor who had recently passed; he had wished his identity remain private and so would be referred to only as Sample 17.

When Shaun Hastings had read the email – pilfered off of a legit Abstergo employee who had been a part of Sample 1 project Liberation – he had choked on his tea. For the past 6 months, he and Rebecca had been trying to figure out the fate of the body of Desmond Miles; they had returned to the temple in New York, only to find it sealed and crumbling, they had searched every Abstergo server they could get their hands on. No matter where they dug or for what, it was as if their friend’s body had disintegrated. There had actually been hope at one point that whatever Desmond had triggered in the temple had destroyed his body; turned him to ash and blown that to the wind.

Now, there was their worst fear come to life sitting on Shaun’s computer screen at two-in-the-morning as he sat in a dingy safehouse outside of Beijing. Abstergo had gotten to Desmond’s body and worse, their animus program had advanced enough that they had the ability to access his genetic memories without Desmond being alive to comb through everything. The Templars were using their friend’s corpse to profit from entertainment consumption. If that wasn’t corporate America, Shaun didn’t know what was.

Further digging provided that Studio 17 would be located in the same facility as Studio 1 – the newest location of Abstergo in Montreal. It had held its grand opening at the beginning of the year and had released their first work – Liberation – shortly after, but the hacking of the program by Erudito had delayed any other releases up to this point.

Now, the industry had their hands on one of the greatest wealths of historic data possible, dozens of Assassin lineages all packed into a single person. And he wasn’t even able to put up a fight anymore.

If Vidic had still been alive, he’d have jizzed himself, Shaun growled as he continued to search for an in to the building.

For being so new, the company was horrifically lacking in job opportunities. They had your basics – janitorial, door greeting, two lower tier customer support positions, but nothing that allowed for surveillance or information gathering, so Shaun started expanding the search to out-businesses. Abstergo utilized the abilities of a small, non-descript, local chain of cafes to provide their workers with a caffeine fix. They also out-sourced to a local courier team for mail, packages, and data transfers.

The café wasn’t ideal, but it would put him in a position to listen to people’s gossip. God knew he wouldn’t be the one to take on being a courier. That had Bec’s name written all over it. All they had to do was to somehow manage getting enough security clearance to get access to the building’s servers, hack the system, and figure out what exactly those Templar bastards had done with Desmond’s body and where they’d put it on ice.

Easy, right?


 

Integrating with staff was simple enough. Rebecca had always been easy to get along with and the extreme sports aspect of her life made her quickly popular among her fellow couriers. Despite his complete inability to make coffee – that may or may not have been completely intentional and part of a petty plot for vengeance – Shaun’s café kiosk seemed to receive decent, if not above average, attention.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before something went weird. It had only been a week into working their new covers before Shaun was approached by a man with the absolute worst facial hair to ever grace the face of the planet. Sadly, Mr. Creeper-Stache was exactly the in they were looking for.

John Standish was head of the IT department and had the ability to get into just about any system they needed. Clearances levels were easily changed, accesses granted, but it wasn’t enough. With John, Becca was able to access the Abstergo server network, but not actually view any of the files without setting off a series of alarms that would definitely lead back to them. It was like being able to view the menu options of a video but not actually watch it – absolutely frustrating. Thankfully for everyone involved, John apparently had no moral compass and recruited the newest employee of the Sample 17 Project to do all their dirty work; Becca just needed to give John directions to what they needed and then he could relay said directions to the poor semi-enslaved scapegoat.

It was one late night while Rebecca was up searching her way through the massive amount of ‘menu options’ that they first encountered it.

She had been backing her way out of a dead-end search through a folder containing random extras about features on the Sample 17 floor – a few documents about the collectable figurines and correlating pictures – when suddenly a file appeared; it was unnamed, unmarked, and seemed to have only just been added. Safe to say, Becca’s interest had been piqued. While she couldn’t access the thing, she could get the most basic of details – file size, creation date, how many sub-files were in it – but right after she clicked on it, the folder disappeared.

Aft first, Rebecca thought someone must have realized that she was poking around on the servers and responded to her perusal. She naturally responded by throwing up all the code she could to cover whatever digital trail might have been left but after a few minutes of alarm bells not going off, she figured it might simply have been a glitch or someone dropped a folder in the wrong place. Going back in her code, she pulled up the information she’d been able to glean off the file.

It wasn’t anything shockingly amazing but it did make her tilt her head in slight intrigue.  Nested in the unnamed file were dozens of sub-folders with a possibly startling amount of data – storage was ranging into the terabytes.

But while the file provided a brief distraction, it didn’t have to do with the current mission.

It was probably just a back storage of security footage anyway.

So Becs continued to back her way out to a broader area of the menu web and continue to search for what Abstergo had done with Desmond, putting the file out of her mind.

Years later, she’d wish that she had let that brief bout of curiosity roam a bit more. She’d wish that she had said ‘fuck it’ and broken her way through every security measure surrounding the servers, their data, and that file, detection be damned.

But she hadn’t. And for that, she might never forgive herself.

Chapter Text

Shaun was on an op with Bishop the next time the mystery file decided to pop up. They were set up in what once was the office area of an old warehouse. The power to the building wasn’t the best so Shaun got to sit in the dark, the only light coming from the multiple screens and machines that seemed to hog so much energy that they couldn’t afford to spare any extra for a single lightbulb.

It had been a bit more than a year since his and Becs adventure in Abstergo Entertainment and their findings hadn’t been pretty. On some level, Shaun felt they had both known when they started their self-made mission that it wouldn’t have a happy ending, but no forewarning could have prepared them for that. It was one thing to know that their enemies were using their best friend to gain access to the past, it was an entirely different thing for said enemy to have taking their friend’s corpse - not 2 hours dead - cut into it and rooted around with little more care than someone picking through garbage, only to toss it into a body bag and drag it away to some unknown location. Worse, they had videoed the whole ordeal! And to put the icing on the cake, they’d placed the video in the most obvious of places in their servers.

Rebecca had almost missed the file initially. Protected by minimal security, she’d found it as a ghost folder in a file holding information about the origins of the Sample 17 Project. It was so easy to find it was as if some Templar knowing that Assassins would come looking and wanted to mock them.

See? This is respect your dead deserve, they whispered to every Assassin who was privy to the feed.

Shaun gave an angry huff from his station as the memories of the event resurfaced. If the Templars had thought to cow the Brotherhood by allowing them to see the video – there was no allusion, they had wanted it found - they had been wrong. Only Shaun, Rebecca, William, and the crew of the Altaïr II knew what Desmond had done for the World but it was enough to start a brief yet effective fire. Teams didn’t know why restrictions were removed, but they took to their new freedom with glee. Strikes on Abstergo took on a far more violent edge than previous; where they had once simply stolen or deleted data from servers, entire farms and labs were going up in flames.

Only a few months ago, Shaun had helped with destroying the entire ground work for the newly announced Project Phoenix. He was rather proud of the damage.

In a move no one had seen coming, the entire Templar presence in Egypt had been wiped out in the most brutal of fashions. Shaun had no idea what portion of information William had decided to impart to the leader of the Cairo Order but whatever it had been, they had taken it very, very personally.  

But then Abstergo had upped security, tightened down on who got access to what, and it was now making Shaun’s life difficult.

After Paris, he had been grounded until Abstergo quit trying so hard to find him. Hence his current predicament, sitting in a dark warehouse, staring at a computer screen, watching one of the Initiates navigate the French Revolution, and having to listen to Bishop mutter under her breath.

There were certainly worse missions to be on at the moment – Becca was stuck at Bill’s safehouse trying to figure out what was causing lights to flicker in the kitchen area. Shaun was pretty sure it was going to lead to Becca coming nose-to-nose with a rat nest and frayed wires. If anything, he was sad that he’d miss the sound she’d emit when such an event did occur.

On screen, the Initiate was picking through Arno’s battle against his mentor, Bellec. The fight had finally ended after an extensive chase all over the Sainte-Chapelle, inside the cathedral with Elise on the other side of a locked gate. The amount of detail the memories Arno relived as Bellec died was astounding. There were theories that different concentrations of Precursor DNA in a bloodline would cause different forms of Eagle Vision. Arno’s line seemed to only see memories belonging to people they killed, where both Ezio and Altaïr’s lines could hold full conversations with the soon-to-be deceased in their last moments.

As Arno turned from his mentor’s body and returned to his love, alarms began to go off on the machinery in their makeshift camp.

“Shaun -” Bishop started to warn while moving back to her station.

“Already on it,” he replied, beginning to open a new bridge all while also bringing the Initiate out of the memory.

The Initiate did well enough, jumping through the bridge and ending up in an occupied Paris during the second World War. During the rapid battle of coding Shaun was taking part in, he still managed to wonder how Abstergo had so many random memory sets. The best guess would be that these more modern memories were from the data dump of Project Legacy; things not so interesting that they’d get their own Helix game, but important enough to keep track of.

Shaun was just pulling up the necessary Helix entries for the Initiate when an unmarked file appeared under his cursor where he’d been about to click on information about the aircrafts used in strikes against French troops. He knew that he shouldn’t pay it any mind and just keep to his job. He knew that time was of the utmost importance right now, but he also knew what Rebecca had told him about the random file that had appeared to her when searching Abstergo’s servers last year, and mysterious, unmarked files were just dripping with conspiracies, and conspiracies were Shaun’s thing.

So Shaun might just have clicked the file that he should have ignored in favor of his job.

Rebecca had said that the file had contained a few terabytes of information. If this was the same file, it had grown exponentially in the past year. The number of files may have only doubled but the content of those files pushed the size of the primary file into the hundreds of terabytes. The idea that a single file could contain so much was mind boggling to Shaun. That Abstergo would keep so much information – whatever it was – in one place was even more confusing. The Helix was broken down into so many different servers it was hard to keep track of it all some days.

Of course, the obvious next step for Shaun was to try to access the folder and promptly almost fallen out of his chair.

If there had been any chance that Shaun was going to leave this file alone, it flew out the window as the code for the firewall came up on the screen. Simply, it was expansive. On nights where sleep wasn’t coming to either of them, Shaun and Becca would toss random topics back and forth. After finding the folder the first time, they’d spend an entire night into the small hours of the morning throwing ideas around of what it could be. Because she had only been doing quick looks at things without going into detail, they’d only known its size and how many sub-folders it had. The ideas had ranged from tame ideas of basic security footage to the wild that someone had made a folder of sex videos for blackmail.

Now, seeing the amount of security surrounding the file, Shaun knew that it had to be even bigger. No one dedicated that thick a wall to film back-up or evidence of unsanctioned office relationships, no matter how scandalous.  This was Master-Templar-secrets level of security.

But the Initiate was climbing the Eiffel Tower and being shot at by fighter planes during the French Occupation in World War II and that tended to be a bit distracting. Not to mention the server sweep Abstergo was doing trying to find the little spy.

Turning back to the problem at hand, Shaun quickly and easily set up the next portal.

“Think they can make it to the top before we have to reset it?” he asked lightly. Bishop didn’t seem to think too highly of the simple joke and just glared over her shoulder before returning her full attention to her own screens.

It was a close call, and the initiate missed the first portal, but they did make a spectacular leap of faith into the second and with it, landed back in their proper place in the timeline. Now all they had to do was find the sage, learn when he died, where he was buried, and if Arno Dorian ever stopped being a lovesick fool. After that, Shaun could be left in peace with his new found bit of code and bragging rights the next time he and Rebecca were teamed together.

Chapter Text

The initiate’s mission was completed without further incident. Afterward, Shaun happily wished Bishop and her dark warehouses farewell and was permitted to return to a safehouse Rebecca had set up in New York.

After the security increase caused by their… activities began to die down, things within Abstergo grew quiet. Strangely quiet. The beta version of Arno’s story was finalized, history was rewritten and made family friendly, and The Massacre of France was published to the Helix. There were some murmurs of activity of Otso Berg and Sigma Team but nothing substantial and nothing worth sending a team to investigate.

While the relative peace was nice, it annoyed Shaun. Yes, there were no casualties for over an entire year. Yes, they were able to do some critically needed research and information gathering during that time. Yes, he got to stop by his parents’ flat outside London and see his mum for the first time in several years (incidentally, his mum absolutely adored Becca and forgave him for ‘running off with an American.’ Her words, not his). But this silence wasn’t a good silence. It was the eerie stillness that occurred before a massive storm hit. And the longer the calm, the worse the storm.

When that storm finally made land, no one knew whether to be relieved or worried. In quick succession, three events presented themselves in 2016. First, Abstergo Entertainment announced the upcoming release of London Adventures – the story of twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye, and their rise to power and fall to the Templars. Second was the discovery of one Layla Hassan, a disillusioned Abstergo employee who had on multiple times attempted to apply for the Animus Project and been turned away each time despite her glowing credentials and ideas. Finally, was the arrival of Callum Lynch, the man responsible for the assassination – unassigned and ill advised by the Council – of Abstergo’s CEO, Alan Rikkin.

The last of these events was leading to great confusion among the Brotherhood. While they always welcomed the prospectus of new recruits, Callum and his entourage had a story that didn’t make sense.

“Why keep them alive?” Was the question everyone was now asking, including Becca as she passed the length of their current posting. “The Surrogate Initiative’s been in place since Vidic died. They didn’t need to keep all these people alive to get at their history.”

And wasn’t that just the bitch of it all? After killing Rikkin, a team had been dispatched to track Lynch down and bring him in. They were unknowns to the Brotherhood but were working under their name and creed and no one liked a sudden loose cannon. Galina had been the one to find them and they thankfully agreed to come quietly. The new team had been brought to William aboard the Altaïr II where each was sat down and interrogated.

All the stories matched. Abstergo had either plucked them off the streets or out of jail and brought them to the Madrid facility. There, they had been placed into a new version of the Animus – the reason they had learned about Layla - and been forced to relive the lives of their ancestors. Aside from Lynch, both had been regular civilians when they were taken but all had descended from Assassins.

Lin, previously a pre-school teacher, was a find and a half. It had been believed that after her life as a concubine, Shao Jun never married or had children, but Lin was living proof of the opposite. Her devotion to the Creed was just as strong as her ancestor’s.

Moussa was considered a wild card. A pickpocket when Abstergo found him, Moussa wasn’t exactly what the Brotherhood looked for in their recruits, but the man seemed to hold loyalty similar to Lin’s. The problem lay with his ancestor, Baptiste who had turned on his brother and the Creed to join with the Templars for power. There was no saying that Moussa wouldn’t also eventually turn as he had already displayed a strong case of Bleed Effect. However, when Moussa had learned of Baptiste’s betrayal, he had seemed distressed that his ancestor had done such a thing which suggested that either he hadn’t gotten that far in the memories, or the next generation had been conceived before the betrayal occurred. Either way, everyone tread a bit more carefully around him.

Last of this new ragtag team was Callum – the ultimate conundrum. While Callum had been born to and Assassin family on the Baja California Peninsula, he had been lost to the Order after his parents’ supposed deaths. A delinquent childhood lead to a criminal adulthood which eventually landed him on death row. All Abstergo had to do was wait for the doctors to finish a lethal injection and then collect the body. No one would know, no one would care.

But instead, Sofia Rikkin herself had ordered the injection be swapped for a strong sedative and had paid everyone a hefty sum to keep their silence. For some reason, Abstergo had agreed to the risk of bringing a half-trained, estranged Assassin into one of their facilities, putting him into an Animus, and the chance of him contracting a Bleed. They had agreed to all this and still expected that, somehow, it would not to be the catastrophe of Desmond Miles all over again. Now, they were down a member of the Inner Sanctum and short one CEO and an Apple of Eden.

It made a bit of sense sparing Lin and maybe even Moussa. Both were civilians, both had lives and people who knew of them and cared for them. Killing either may have exposed a side of Abstergo that they didn’t want shown. But there was no risk in letting Callum die. If you thought about it, there was actually only gain to be had from his death. So why was he alive?

So here Shaun was, sitting watching Rebecca pace, debating the pros and cons of a man being alive.

“It makes no sense!” She proclaimed for probably the millionth time. She had been going on about the logic of it all for now near an hour and Shaun was running out of snacks to eat while entertaining her tangent.

Leaning back in his chair and reaching for the last crisp, he sighed in exasperation. “Well then make it make sense.”

Becca whirled on him and Shaun wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing as her expression was one he was accustomed to being joined by the words ‘challenge accepted’. She moved over to her own chair, plopped down, and grabbed her laptop. When it had booted up, she opened the Helix and started scrolling through the program options.

“What do we know about the descendants?” She asked.

“The what now?” Shaun had no idea what she was after but Becca seemed dedicated to her line of thought.

“The descendants,” she repeated as though it should all be obvious, “The people Abstergo got these memories from. I want to see if any other memories came from living descendants experiencing them first hand.”

Okay, that made a bit of sense, and Shaun had information to help.

“Well, Liberation came from Subject 1 who experienced Aveline’s life before Abstergo Entertainment was even founded.” Shaun pulled up his own data. With each new Helix entry, he had compiled information on the genetic donor. “Everything from Ezio was passed on to Vidic by Lucy. They already had everything from Altaïr. Edward, Haytham, and Connor all are coming from the Sample 17 Studio.”

“Don’t forget Evie,” she added. And that was right. Rebecca and Shaun had been present at the bunker when the announcement of London Adventure had been made and had had the express delight of witnessing Bill choke on a mouthful of coffee and spill the remaining cup on himself. After Bill had excused himself to go get a clean shirt, Gavin had explained that Evie Frye was the great-grandmother of Bill’s wife, Akilah.

Shaun hadn’t yet entered the information about Evie’s descendants for that particular reason. He was shamed to say it, but it hurt admitting that Abstergo was still profiting off Desmond. “Ah, yes. Can’t forget Dame Frye,” he sighed, finally typing in the memory’s origins simply as Sample 17. Next to Evie’s entry, was her brother’s, still blank. “We don’t know about Jacob yet, but it’ll pop up as they keep working on the footage.”

Rebecca nodded in acceptance of the fact, moving further down the menu options. “What about The Bladed Cross?”

“Randomly enough, an Abstergo employee for one of their pharmacies. Hasn’t been an Assassin in the family for centuries.”

Jazz Age Junkies?”

“Subject 3.”

Showdown in Shanghai?” Rebecca’s voice was getting quieter with each module and Shaun was beginning to see why.

“Abstergo janitor.” Another living decedent working for Abstergo – easily within their grasp to put in an Animus.

Becca paused a long moment before saying “Hell in Hebernia.” It was no longer a question. She knew where the Irish history had come from.

“Robert Lynch.”

Massacre of France.” She was trembling slightly now. Shaun could see the numbers running through her mind as she stared into the open space, seeing calculations and the web of information forming.

“Becs,” he said softly, standing and reaching for her.

She came back to herself and focused on him, becoming extraordinarily still. The last time Shaun had seen this level of desperation in Rebecca had been when they had decided to search for Desmond’s body.

“Where did the genetic memories come from Shaun?” Her voice was firm and even, but Shaun knew that she was falling apart a bit more with each answer. But they were on to something here. Something that could be huge.

“Robert Fraser – Abstergo Entertainment employee, brought in during the founding of the new branch because of ‘promising attributes’. He was the lead on the Dorian project and the source of all it’s material. They cut the project short when Fraser had a mental break caused by the bleeding effect. He sabotaged the entire floor, destroyed a server, and got in contact with an Assassin recruiter and gave her everything he had on Arno before taking his own life.”

And that was everyone; every interactive historic experience that Abstergo had released to the public.

“We don’t know that they actually were put in an Animus,” Shaun said. He crossed his arms and turned slightly away from Becca. What she was trying to get him to admit wasn’t possible and Shaun wasn’t going to entertain fantasies. “Every employee has to go through the Legacy donation – even you and I had to, and we were separate businesses working in partnership with Abstergo. It’s likely that they just got a hold of all the memories that are out there now because they were the first ones to be analyzed. In a year or so, we’ll probably start seeing memories from Legacy.”

Pushing herself up so hard that her chair rolled back and banged into the desk, Rebecca stood, marched over to Shaun, and forced him to turn and face her. Her eyes were alight with fury and she seemed all of a few sparse seconds away from slapping him.

“Are you kidding me?” she growled. “It’s just coincidence? There isn’t a conspiracy inside Abstergo? You’re the conspiracy theorist Shaun! I dragged you out of that New Fluoride mess that you got yourself in because you can’t leave things alone! Now we find out that every memory outside of the Sample 17 Studio has been from either a captive assassin forced into an Animus, or an Abstergo employee, and you are saying it’s just a coincidence?”

It absolutely was a coincidence. Shaun would stand by that until Rebecca could provide evidence that it wasn’t because the alternative was not an option. If Abstergo hadn’t used the Surrogate Initiative then that would mean… No. Shaun wasn’t going there. It was a coincidence.

“I’m going out,” he stated and started to walk away from what would turn into a spectacular yelling match otherwise.

Becca stared after him incredulously. As he opened the door and started to head out, she opened her mouth to counter him but Shaun cut her off.

“Rebecca Crane,” his tone was stiff and every muscle in his body felt wound tight just looking for something to take out his frustration on. It was his pure belief that if they didn’t make some space between them fast, they’d both do something they’d greatly regret. “We can’t keep hanging on to this. He’s gone, and he’s staying gone. So unless you find some miracle proof that the Surrogate Initiative – a highly publicized and researched project – is actually a hoax, I don’t want to hear it.”

They glared at one another for a while before Shaun pulled his gaze away and left the building.

For a while, he just wandered around the town. They were in a small city somewhere in India and the people always seemed happy to see Shaun and Rebecca whenever one of them would make a food run.

As the sun started to set, Shaun finally to pick his way through the streets and make his way back to the safehouse. He grabbed some food from the restaurant down the block from their hideout that Becca loved – a bit of an olive branch for the earlier spat. It was while he was waiting for the food to be prepared that his phone buzzed with an incoming email.

Shaun barely suppressed the groan when he checked who the sender was. Erudito had a way of being so perfectly timed that Shaun was certain that they were either psychic or he was just constantly bugged.

The email was short and sweet:

           Thought your group might be interested in this. – Erudito

Attached were three files; one was the paperwork associated with applying to the Legacy Project - filled out for a Johnathan Paulson – next was a documented email steam of offers to Mr. Paulson for work, vacations, research collaborations, all expenses covered by Abstergo Industries, and the responding declines; and lastly, a video.

Shaun looked around the restaurant to see if he’d have any nosey onlookers before hitting the play button. The video was jumpy, probably from a phone, and in a parking lot of what looked to be a school.

A middle-aged man was walking across the lot towards his car when a van screeched up behind him. People jumped out of the van and grabbed the man who seemed to know what this was about. He was yelling at them and not everything made it through thanks to the distance between the event and the spectator, but what did chilled Shaun to the bone.

“Leave me alone – you’ve got the tech – don’t need me to learn about Frye –“

The video ended quickly as the van doors closed and the vehicle tore out of the lot.

Shaun went back to the document of emails and began re-reading, very carefully this time.

And there it was.

He’d missed it the first time as he had just been scanning the document for basic information, but in the second correspondence to Mr. Paulson was the line ‘very interested in the life of your ancestor Jacob Frye’.

They’d made Johnathan a million different offers to get him to come into an Abstergo facility or resort, but each offer was met with resistance. It seemed that Mr. Paulson was a middle school history teacher and was very dedicated to making sure that the next generation knew about their past. Nothing could pull him away from his classroom.

Except a mob of men in black dragging him into an unmarked van.

So that was the last one of them. The last unknown. Every memory was now accounted for. And Abstergo had gone and kidnapped a man despite already having his donation.

The food was done and brought out to Shaun by the friendly grandmother who owned the restaurant. She always though he and Becs looked to thin and tired, so she gave them extra large servings much to the chagrin of her sons and daughter. Shaun took the food gratefully and made his way back to the safehouse with new weight on his shoulders.

When he entered the main room, Becca was on the phone. She looked up from her desk and held up a hand, asking him to wait a moment.

“Yeah? – Well glad I could help you out in return. – You too. – Thanks, Emmett. – Yeah, bye.”

Shaun set up the paper plates and distributed food while Becca finished the call.

“So what did Emmett need?” Shaun tried to ask conversationally but he felt that his walk had done little to ease the tension. He wasn’t sure when he should tell her about Erudito’s message.

Coming over to the table, Becca shrugged. “I called him. Since he worked on the Surrogate Initiative, I figured he might have some insight to our current issue.” She took a large bite of her food. “Know what he told me?”

He could guess.

Without prompting, she continued. “He thought it was strange that anyone would want to know about the legitimacy of the Initiative since its been so widely accepted but he told me something really interesting about his time on the research team.” She took another bite and stared right into Shaun’s eyes.

“What did he tell you?” Shaun asked oh so quietly. He felt like someone was trying to drown him in ice. That thing that he refused to accept was becoming clearer and clearer with each word Becca spoke. And Becca could see every ounce of dread and fear growing in Shaun.

“He told me that during the entire time he was a part of the project, all the way up to it being shut down, they never succeeded in accessing genetic memories that were not their own. Not from living samples, not from dead. If you weren’t breathing and directly related, you didn’t get a hold of it.”

And there it was – the proof Shaun had asked for, all neatly packaged and tied with a bow and a letter attached that read ‘Fuck you’.

Slowly, Shaun nodded, breaking eye contact with Becca and instead staring intently at the rice on his plate.

“Jacob’s descendant’s name is Johnathan Paulson,” he said, not looking up from his food but he could feel Rebecca freeze. “He’s a middle school history teacher. Donated to the Legacy Project to help the world better understand the past. Abstergo tried to get him to them by legal means but he’s a dedicated teacher.” Shaun sighed in defeat. “They nabbed him out of his school’s parking lot last week. He’s probably in a medical coma right now laid out in an Animus.”

When he looked up at Rebecca, she was nodding along to the information, looking resigned.

“So that’s all of them,” she said calmly.

“That’s all of them,” he agreed.

The silence stretched out between them like a void, absorbing all action and thought in the room. Neither of them seemed quite ready for what came next. They had both thought it, Rebecca had been about to punch Shaun over it only hours ago, but neither could put it to words now.

Rebecca was the one to break the vigil.

“I was thinking about all this,” she waved a hand above her head as if to address ‘this’ as a flock of thoughts buzzing around her, “and it’s like coding – and not computer coding, like, statistics coding. Before you start, you make a hypothesis and a null hypothesis.” She paused and looked at Shaun to make sure he was following. He nodded, they’d both been through college and had both suffered mandatory stats classes. “Initially, our hypothesis was that Abstergo could access genetic memories without a living descendant present, but none of the data supports that.” She stopped. Her breath was becoming shaky and Shaun could see the tears beginning to brim in her eyes.

If he tried to speak now, he knew he’d be in just as bad a state as her. They were so close to putting it out in the open. One of them just needed to say it.

“And,” she took a deep breath and continued. “And if the data doesn’t support the hypothesis, then we accept the null.” Her voice cracked at the end and she leaned her elbow on the table and covered her mouth, trying to gain the composure she’d had before. “That means the null is… the null…” but she couldn’t do it.

Becca looked at Shaun desperately trying to convey what they both were trying to say. All that came out of her though, was a soft whimper. “It’s been four years.”

Shaun stood and moved around the table, reaching out and dragging Becca into his chest, just holding her as the total weight of what they had just discovered fell over them.

The great thing about statistical hypotheses was how simple they were. You made an educated guess and prediction of an outcome and if that didn’t turn out, you defaulted to a null. Nulls were much easier than alternative hypotheses. Writing an alternative hypothesis meant thinking of an entirely new explanation you could test for if your first explanation failed. Nulls just had you say that your explanation was wrong.  

In their specific case, they’d hypothesized that Abstergo could access genetic memories via the Surrogate Initiative. This meant that their null was that Abstergo couldn’t access genetic memories via the Surrogate Initiative.

The thought gave Shaun just enough strength to murmur into Rebecca’s hair as she broke down, “The null is that Desmond’s alive,” and joined her in her tears.

Chapter Text

Dying was fucking awesome.

After you got past the gut-melting, every-nerve-ending-on-fire, body-freezing pain, dying was the best thing Desmond had ever done. 10/10 would recommend.

For once, Juno hadn’t been lying or evading the full truth; the steps towards dying had hurt, but they had been quick. Only a few seconds and it was over. The pain faded into nothing and Desmond slipped into darkness.

But the darkness wasn’t the end of it. Desmond didn’t know how long he just floated in… unaware awareness, in something but nothing. It could have been days, even years, or it could have been only seconds, but after some amount of undefinable time had passed, he realized that the dark-but-not-dark was becoming something else.

The more he tried to concentrate on where he was, the more the world around him shifted and seemed to work to meet his wish.   

Finally, Desmond was standing-floating-something-existing in a simple plain of white-maybe-grey. In a way, the area around him reminded Desmond of the practice modules in the Animus, but without the random floating symbols and lines, the digitized blocks popping out of nowhere, or Warren Vidic’s grating voice yelling at him in the background. This place – wherever this was – was calmer, maybe even peaceful.

With nothing better to do in the surrounding landscape of nothing-but-something, Desmond began to walk. He had no particular direction to go as there were no particular landmarks to attract him. Walking felt like walking in the sense that Desmond felt like he was advancing from one point to another, but at the same time, each footfall felt like it made contact with nothing. Some part of Desmond’s mind told him that this should be worrying. Desmond told that part of his mind to shut up and let him enjoy the peace and quiet.

As he walked, he thought of what he had left behind.                                                               

Freeing Juno bothered him – he would be a fool if it didn’t. The fact that there was now the digital copy of a Precursor’s soul living in a modern world that lived off of technology could be devastating for the human race. So long as there were minds susceptible to the Apples, Juno had her in to re-enslaving humanity. If she stooped to aligning with the Templars – humans in every right and therefore, far beneath her – it could be downright catastrophic.

But at the same time, it wasn’t his problem anymore. Desmond had given humanity the ability to survive and overcome. The ball was in their court now.

At least, if they royally fucked everything up, their end would be peaceful.

In the distance, something began to distinguish itself from the surrounding monotone off-white. Desmond squinted at the horizon – how he could tell it was the horizon, he didn’t know but it was – trying to distinguish what was ahead, but it was too far. The closer he got, the more he could discern about the foreign shape.

Firstly, it wasn’t a single thing but a conglomeration of similar things. From there, it didn’t take long to realize that it was other people. After making this recognition, Desmond paused and surveyed the group – it would do him no good if there were enemies in this afterlife. He was still too far away to make note of any fine details about the people, but the colors they wore were familiar to him. Very familiar.

Many were in mixes of white and grey. Dashes of red and blue where mixed in in the form of sashes and coats, hats and scarves. There were a few in far more colorful garb - most likely common in their homelands, meaning they would be just as invisible there as they weren’t here.

Knowing what he was walking towards now, Desmond continued, pace quickening with the excitement of meeting these people.

These were Assassins; from all over the world, from all across time. Assassins who, like him, had died in the battle for freedom and now were here to rest.

As Desmond finally got close enough to start discerning faces in the mass – and the closer he got, the more he realized that it was a mass of people, hundreds if not thousands – he had to pause again when familiar faces jumped out at him.

Connor was the first he noticed, standing next to a man with scruffy blond hair, wearing robes fairly similar to the ones Connor had received from Achilles. The blond man was talking animatedly to a tiny red-headed woman who stood next to an absolute goliath Native man; he was tall enough that he made even Conner look at least of average height. They all seemed enraptured by the story being told – even Connor smiling fondly as he listened and worked to avoid being hit by the excited arm waving.

They all had something familiar about them – something in their jawlines, maybe the shape of their eyes, but something that slightly reminded Desmond of his dad. A vague thought started to form, and Desmond continued to survey the group.

A brunette woman with a teardrop face, hair pinned up and out of the way with a crown of braids, was discussing something with two men – one with dark, sun-kissed skin and white and gold robes, the other with a thick, well cared for beard dressed in green. The woman held herself in a way similar to his mother. The man in green had the same dimples as her when he smiled. The Indian man – Desmond was guessing but he’d seen plenty of Middle Eastern people through Altaïr to say this new guy wasn’t – was watching the other two talking with a calm fondness that Desmond knew but had rarely seen.

The harder he looked, the more similarities he was able to pick out.

These weren’t just Assassins. These were his ancestors.

Desmond had known from endless lectures by his dad that their family came from a long line of Assassins (and a few Templars) but he had never thought that it could be this extensive. This was hundreds of generations from all over the globe. All of them gathered here to…

To what?

What were they all here for?

Desmond looked around. There didn’t seem to be anything special about this particular patch of off-white space. No markers, nothing significant, just a bunch of Assassins standing around waiting and –

Oh.

And him.

Just every single one of his ancestors dating back to who-knows-when and him. They were waiting for him to join them.

As if the revelation had triggered it, the group seemed to notice him as a collective conscience. A murmur went up through the group of “He’s here,” and “Desmond’s arrived,” and more strangely, “Tell them he’s here.” No one approached but they all were now looking at him and smiling, some waving, others beckoning him to come closer, but no one took a step forward. In the distance of the massive collection of people, the group began to part for something.

When the parting of the people was close enough, Desmond realized that they were all getting out of the way of two people who were moving quickly towards him. At first, he didn’t recognize either of them for the simple reason that their hoods where down. Through months of experiencing years, Desmond had grown so accustomed to only a small part of their faces being exposed that seeing them with hoods down was practically unnerving.

But they were here.

They both shoved their way to the front of the group, giving no mercy to those too slow to move. And then they were there, standing and waiting for him to make the last steps forward.

Ezio and Altaïr had come to great him.

Seeing the two Masters and Mentors – really seeing them, not just the projections of memories through the Animus – was much more of an emotional experience than Desmond had expected. On some level, he realized that these men hadn’t actually been there training him to be an Assassin. They hadn’t shared their life stories with him willingly. The only thing these men had consciously done for Desmond had created their own children, and even that wasn’t directly for him. They did not know him.

But it felt like they did.

They way they were both looking at Desmond gave him the distinct feeling that they both knew. Somehow, they knew what Desmond had done – that he had lived their lives, shared in their downfalls, and rejoiced at their triumphs. And now they were here to finally great him in person; they were here to lead him into this new life and introduce the family he hadn’t realized he had.

But Desmond’s life could never be that easy.

One step towards his ancestors and mentors, and pain was reintroduced to Desmond; it wasn’t a full-blown pain as it started, just a slow throb centered on his right forearm. The further he walked, the more pronounced the pain became, until it felt like someone was trying to set his arm on fire.

Ahead of him, only a few meters away now, Altaïr and Ezio were staring at his arm with unease; the entire group within eyeshot were shifting nervously. Some hoods were being pulled up. Hands were being flexed. All signs of Assassins preparing for a fight.

But Desmond refused to look down to see the cause of the disturbance. He’d rather cut off his own arm than look at it right now. He was dead. He was supposed to be getting an eternal break right now! Not the sunburn of the century and a thousand assassins getting ready to kill him.

The pain continued to escalate until Desmond had no alternative than to look down and see what was going on.

Staring at his arm, Desmond didn’t know if he should be surprised or not. At the moment, he’d settle on pissed off because there was no good reason for his entire lower arm to be glowing with Precursor markings. The marks seemed to be slowly trying to carve their way further up his arm, a mix of gold and blue light shining through the blood and burning skin as the lines advanced.

Perfect.

Just fucking perfect.

All I wanted was to be a bartender. I was a fucking good bartender, he grumbled at himself. You just had to go and buy a bike. Couldn’t just walk to work anymore or use the bus. Had to get kidnapped by Templar pharmacists and dragged into some tech-lady’s ghost’s plans to destroy the planet. Now you’re dead and can’t even do that right.

Of course, in the middle of his inner monologue of annoyance, a familiar voice had to start speaking behind him.

“Yea, sorry ‘bout that.”

Desmond spun around only to come face to face with none other than Clay Kazamerick. A small part of his mind told him that it made a bit of sense that Clay was here – they were distantly related through Ezio after all – but the rest of him was quickly realizing exactly how Clay was here.

“You bastard!” he yelled at the other man, who wasn’t a digital mess in this new plain. “You downloaded yourself from the Animus! You’ve been using me as your human USB drive!

The marks that were still burning their way up Desmond’s arm - the same arm that had glowed with similar marks after his coma in the Animus – were somehow caused by Clay. At the very least, Clay had the sense enough to look slightly admonished.

“I’d tell you about the crazy plan going on right now,” Clay smiled a bit, putting his hands in the pockets of his jeans, “but I already know you’ll hate it, so I’ll spare you. Long story short, you gotta come with me.”

Before Desmond could respond with the most colorfully phrased version of ‘no’ possible, Ezio spoke up.

“Clay,” and man was his voice different in person than it was in the Animus, “Iascialo.”

For all the marvelous things that had bled from Ezio’s memories and into Desmond’s mind, language had never been one of them. Desmond could stand and listen to Italian or Arabic for hours and not understand a word of either – a fact that would probably make his mother weep with frustration. Yet still, there was something about this place that, like the Animus’s translation programming, helped Desmond know exactly what Ezio had commanded of Clay.

Leave him.  

Clay was here to collect him for something and looking at his ancestors, Desmond could see that he was going to have quite the fight to survive if he wanted to succeed in his mission. Behind Desmond, every one of his ancestors had weapons drawn. If it wasn’t for the gut wrenching pain in his arm, he might have had enough brain cells to feel touched. Everyone present was ready to fight off Clay and whatever power had sent him just to protect Desmond.

At the same moment, both Altaïr and Clay lunged for Desmond; sadly, Clay was closer. As Clay’s arms wrapped around him, Altaïr’s hand missed by a hair’s breadth.

The light from Desmond’s arm intensified along with the pain until all he could feel was the burning. The light burned away the image of his family, everyone disappearing as the hazy white-grey bled back in; all that was left was the feel of Clay’s arms keeping him from struggling and the nothingness returning.

The process of traveling back to where he’d come from was exactly like his journey to the grey realm but in reverse. If possible, the pain became worse, the white darkened to grey to black, time slowed and sped up at the same time. All the while, Desmond fought against Clay’s hold, who was trying to make excuses.

“She has a plan. You have to go back for this to work. You’re the best chance we’ve got.” – all things Desmond could care less about. He’d died – his story was over! This wasn’t an episode of some over dramatized TV series where the protagonists keep getting resurrected because the world ‘needs them’! You die, you stay dead – those were the common rules of life.

Desmond was about to yell at Clay to tell him exactly where he could stick it when everything went quiet. It took a moment for him to realize that Clay had disappeared, but he still couldn’t move. The pain that Desmond had felt when he’d died was back full force and possibly even worse. It was like someone had let a kindergartener do a dissection of his entire gut, poked around with a blending stick, then accidentally allowed a herd of horses to stampede over him before sewing him back up.

His right arm wasn’t doing much better. If anyone ever wanted to know what it felt like to dip your arm in jet fuel and set in on fire, Desmond thought this might be pretty much on par.

Plainly, everything hurt, and nothing was good.

In the background, other sensations were coming back online as well. For one, Desmond could tell that he wasn’t lying on a cave floor, which was nice and probably meant that his dad and the crew and come back for him – give a point and a gold star to Assassins for their loyalty!

Sound began to return next – mechanical noises of beeping and whirring slowly bled through the haze. Why Rebecca would have needed to bring along equipment was beyond Desmond, but he figured they might have already moved his body and were in a different location – hopefully far, far away from the temple. Someone was walking around, muttering notes about conditions and things to themselves.

The last function Desmond finally felt return was his ability to move. It was slow going, but he was pretty sure he was moving at least his fingers. Breathing was not involuntary – each breath he took was small, short, and not enough.

Around him, the muttering stopped.

“What’s the hold up?” And that was bad. Desmond didn’t recognize the voice. It was American – New Yorker –  male, and definitely not his dad or Becca.

“It just moved.” Second voice was no more familiar than the first.

“What the hell do you mean ‘It just moved’?”

“It just twitched – I swear.” A pause. “Does it look more tense to you?”

“It’s a corpse, Jameson. It’s supposed to be tense – it’s called rigor mortis.”

“No, I swear it was different. Like it was actually… Wait! Did you see that?”

All Desmond had done was inhale slightly more than he’d been previously able, and it had obviously been noticed.

The unnamed voice scoffed at Jameson’s paranoia. “You’re just on edge because the boss was so serious about thi – holy fuck!”

Desmond hadn’t meant to, but as muscles and tendons came annoyingly back online, his entire left arm twitched violently. Whatever had been going on around him before abruptly ended as whoever these people were realized that Desmond was, in fact, becoming not-a-corpse.

“You see?!”

“Why aren’t we reading a pulse?”

“It was dead! You don’t keep check on a pulse if they’re dead!”

“Well maybe we should!”

“Well, too late for that now! What’s the protocol?”

They both sounded like they were becoming hysterical. If he wasn’t a bit busy figuring how to be alive again, Desmond would have probably found this all to be a different form of hysterical.

“You think there’s a protocol for the dead coming back to life?”

With a few more muscles finally within his range of control, Desmond attempted to open his eyes a bit, just to see what kind of trouble he could be in.

At first, he thought that something must be wrong with his eyes; maybe whatever force had made Clay haul him back to life had done something incorrectly. He tried again, closing and reopening his eyes, but the result was the same.

The bickering panic from the two voices cut off just as Desmond turned his head slightly to the side – the effort taking more out of him than he expected – trying to see the faces belonging to the voices.

He made it just far enough to see the medical tray moving at a high rate of velocity towards his face. Right before it made impact, he realized why his vision seemed weird.

He was using the eagle vision.

So the fact that everything around him was glaringly red meant…

Well fuck.

As Desmond fell quickly back into an unconscious state thanks to a metal tray to the head, the Templars around him started yelling again.

Yeah, Desmond was positive – dying was awesome, it was living that sucked.

Chapter Text

The problem with conspiracy theories was that, sometimes, you didn’t actually want to know the truth. But when you did learn it, it was life changing – something that you could never unlearn or ignore again. You could never return to that land of ignorance you had been residing in before ever again.

That was the problem Shaun and Rebecca had been facing for over a week.

The theories all lined up, the evidence supported them, but there was still that small part that simply prayed that they were wrong.

“I mean,” Becca was pacing around the small room they were occupying in Bill’s bunker as they prepared for a mission in England, “where would you even keep him? We made sure he was trained by the best two assassins in history, and then he also has all of Conner’s training backing him – how would they contain that?”

It was a fair point – Desmond, if captive, would be extraordinarily difficult to keep confined. There had been moments of downtime where they’d tried testing just how many small things Des had picked up from his ancestors. Of all of them, Haytham had surprisingly been the one to pass down how to get out of ropes and cuffs. Somehow, Desmond had taken the bled lessons further and they couldn’t find a pair of handcuffs that he couldn’t get out of within three minutes. Bec had been downright giddy over the revelation.

Any building they would use as Desmond’s cell would have to be state of the art – Ezio was just too good at getting in and out of jails and mazes. The security they would have to keep on him would be mind boggling. Work forces would need to be 24/7 with overlapping shifts as to avoid any break in the watch. Every member of the team would probably have gone through extensive background checking to make sure there was no doubt in their loyalties – most likely they would all be at least lower level members of the Templar Order. If they did have Desmond, it would be in the most air-tight facility they had. Unless…

“What if he’s not awake?” It was a random thought that really didn’t have much ground to stand on, pulled from a passing comment Desmond had made about Vidic’s extensive list of threats, but it might work. “How long could Abstergo sustain a person in a medical coma without causing permanent brain damage?”

 Becca halted mid-stride and rocked back on her heels to come to a complete stand still. For a moment, she just stood there, frozen, staring at the wall – Shaun wasn’t sure if she was processing the idea or if the idea had short circuited her brain. She opened her mouth as though about to start answering but closed it so fast Shaun could hear her teeth click from across the room.

After another moment of contemplation – “That’s not a terrible idea.”

“Oh, well thank you,” Shaun glowered, leaning back in his chair, and crossing his arms.

Rebecca rolled her eyes and turned towards him. “No, really – it’s a good idea.” She walked over to the desk along the far wall and opened up her laptop, pulling up some of the pharmacy files. “If they kept him in a coma, they wouldn’t need to worry about guards and internal security as much. A sleeping body tied into an Animus can’t exactly walk out the front door. They’d just have to keep people from coming in. But…” she was looking at a drug fact sheet, brow furrowing.

Shaun crept up behind her to look over her shoulder at the screen. The drug she was reviewing was a common anesthetic hospitals used for inducing medical comas in patients suffering more traumatic injuries.

“They wouldn’t be able to keep him on that for this long,” he observed. “He’d be a drooling vegetable by now - they seem to be doing a good job of retrieving history from his skull, not blurred mush.”

“Yeah, but what if they aren’t keeping him under the whole time?”

And that… that could work.

“They’d only need heightened security during the time they kept him awake before putting him back under.” It would be an excellently crafted plan. If they made it cyclic, Abstergo could match another event to the moments Desmond would be awake to make a security increase seem associated with something else. “So, what? Let him be up every… month? Two months?”

Becca continued to stare at the drug facts and shook her head, scrolling down a bit.

“With this stuff, I was thinking more like every week – every other if they’re really pushing it. They’d have to allow him to get up, move around, talk to him to monitor Bleeds, do something to keep him active so he doesn’t lose his mind…” she started trailing off with her list.

It wasn’t the nicest thing to think about, but neither was this entire situation. If the Templars had been keeping Desmond in the Animus for the past four years, he’d most likely lived the lives of many different Assassins. While the Bleed Affect hadn’t bothered him after the coma he’d fallen into after the events in Rome, there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t have come back over time.

To keep him in the present, constant monitoring of those wakeful moments would be necessary. Security footage would be extensive at the least – much like when Abstergo had first nabbed him in 2012.

Shaun groaned thinking of the massive amount of backed up feeds the company had dedicated to Desmond’s room alone – it had taken hours to comb through near a tera of useless video, and they’d only had him a few days back then! Now there would be years’ worth of data! The security files would be a nightmare, not to mention where they would have to store it. Keeping something this top-secret on the servers was practically out of the question – too much risk of someone stumbling over it on accident. In fact, it would be best if the files weren’t in a single location but…

“Mother of God!” Shaun suddenly yelled, causing Becca to jump and almost hit him in the face as she snapped upright. “We’re idiots!”

Before she could ask what had just happened, Shaun had already raced across the room to his own computer and was furiously going through old folders of random junk he kept for moments like this – it wasn’t really junk if it eventually became useful.

“We’ve had the answer all along,” he explained, pulling up a file of code he’d saved.

“What are you going on about?” Becca asked, joining him – her turn to look over his shoulder now.

“This,” he said, scrolling to the top of the file to where he had saved a screenshot from all those months ago, “is the basic information of the ghost file when I encountered it while working with Bishop.”

He didn’t see it, but he could feel Bec freeze.

“If you look at the number of folders and think about when I saw it…” Shaun started to scribble down numbers on a notepad, “and use Desmond’s death as a starting point…” more numbers were added and Shaun pulled out a calculator. The silence was filled only with the sound of furious noise of calculator buttons being hit slightly too hard and pencil against paper. Finally –

“It matches.”

Shaun kept looking from the paper to his screen and back down again, completely ignoring the fact that – despite what many other Assassins would say – Rebecca couldn’t actually read his mind.

“Care to share with the class, Shaun?” She prompted, about out of patience.

Shaun flailed for a moment, seeming to have forgotten that he wasn’t the only one in the room. He quickly composed himself and held up the paper he’d been writing on. The numbers didn’t make much sense – the math wasn’t even right.

“You’re right,” he said by way of actual explanation. “They’re keeping him on a week cycle – I’m not sure how many days awake and under, but they’ve recorded everything and divided it into weeks.” He pointed to some numbers that he’d scratched out. “The math doesn’t make sense when looking at months but it matches for weeks.”

And now the strange math was clearer – Shaun hadn’t been working with common base-10 mathematics, he’d been calculating difference in length of time which – now that Becca thought if it – annoyingly didn’t have a proper base to work with.

“See, from when Desmond supposedly died to when I was working with Bishop, 101 weeks had passed and” – he pointed to the screen at a small line of the summary – “there were 101 subfolders at the time I saw the ghost file.” He sat back in his chair with a triumphant grin.

“This explains so much! Why the file was so large, why Abstergo would keep it bouncing around – it’s free floating to avoid detection! And the firewall! No wonder it’s so complex!” He was slightly giddy with the revelation as he began to scroll through the copy of the code, showcasing the intricate system some genius had created to assure trespassers were deterred.

In his excitement, he failed to notice how the color was draining from Rebecca’s face. Scrolling through the code, he highlighted a section.

“See here? This says that there are only eight people with access to the file currently. Within the Templar ranks, they right now have…” Shaun took a moment to think, “After the attack on Rikkin, that would leave the Inner Sanctum with only six, but if they’ve inducted his daughter then –” his victorious tangent caught short as he swiveled his chair around.

Rebecca didn’t seem to be hearing any of what was being said. Her eyes were unfocused, darting back and forth as though she were scanning her computer screen for the source of an error reading. Carefully, Shaun stood and approached her. Giving the rest of her a quick look over, Shaun noticed the minute shake in her hands.

“Becs?” He asked softly. Gently, he placed a hesitant hand on her shoulder.

Becca jumped at the contact, eyes darting up to meet his, focusing a bit more on where she was.

Hesitantly, he continued. “You alright?”

The silence span between them like a giant cavern forming in the room. Conflict seemed to take over Becca as she now looked around, avoiding any attempt Shaun made at eye contact. She pulled away from his hand and wrapped her arms around herself. Shaun’s hand hovered in the now empty air for a moment before he pulled it back.

Despite the years of being teamed together, Shaun – contrary to what people said – was not actually a master at reading Rebecca’s every action and word, or lack there of in this case. What he did know, was that in situations like this, you didn’t push Becca into talking. It was better to simply wait and let her work through whatever her head was concocting and let her speak when she was ready.

While Shaun hated waiting during times like this, where so much was happening and being realized so fast, he could wait for Rebecca.

It took a few minutes of awkwardly standing there at a silent and half-unknown impasse until Rebecca organized her thoughts enough to speak.

“I could have stopped this,” she said firmly, meeting his look of confusion head-on, all uncertainty gone.

For Shaun, it didn’t make sense.

“Becca, he told us to leave,” he started, hating to bring up that part of their past. “Des told us to get out – the cave was collapsing… We could have been killed if we’d stayed there. And we went back as soon as we thought it was safe. We had no idea that the Templars would be – “

No, Shaun.” She held up a hand to stop his sympathetic words. “I could have stopped this. I’m not blaming us for listening to Desmond – he understood what was happening a lot better than we did. He said we had to leave to be safe, so we left. I don’t blame us for leaving. Hell,” she gave an abrupt, harsh laugh, “I don’t blame the Templars for being there before us afterward!”

She paused, taking a shaky breath. “But afterward… we went right into Abstergo to find what they’d done with him, where he was, and you sent me to scope out potential files to steal. I was supposed to look for anything strange, anything out of place, and there was that ghost folder.”

Realization dawned on Shaun as he was pinned under Rebecca’s intense stare. He could see the anger and frustration beginning to pool in those brown depths. He and Becca had been the tech wizzes of their team; both highly skilled coders, excellent hackers, and both – Shaun credited himself with the trait appearing in Becca – highly critical of anything that wasn’t where it belonged. For Rebecca to have let such an important file slip through her fingers when she was already looking for mysterious files…

“If I had just paid a bit more attention to it, if I hadn’t been so damn hesitant because of the security system,” she spat the words, and despite the fact that Shaun knew that the anger wasn’t aimed at him, he couldn’t help the half-step back he started to take, “we might have figured all this out a lot sooner. We would have gotten Desmond out of whatever hellhole they’ve got him locked up in years sooner!”

And it could possibly be the truth, Shaun agreed with that. But that truth was hurting his closest friend and there were things she was missing in her own self-deprecation.

“You’re right,” he said calmly.

Rebecca stopped for a moment, looking at him confused. Shaun almost had to stop himself from smiling. It was nice knowing he could still take Becs off guard even after all this time.

He continued, “We might have gotten the file, found proof of Desmond being alive, and then what? Let’s say you actually succeeded and gained access past the firewall and saw proof that Abstergo had Desmond alive,” he held up a hand to stop her rebuttal at his comment towards her hacking skills, “I’ve spent hours staring at the security code. There is no physical way you would have gotten past it without triggering an alarm. The Templars would know that we know, and they would have either moved Desmond to a new location or just killed him then and there to avoid a security risk.”

“I could have gotten the code!” She desperately shouted at him.

“And then we’d have a code!” Shaun sarcastically threw back. “We wouldn’t know to what, but at least we’d have a code.”

Tapping at the mouse pad of his laptop, the screen pulled up the list of computer commands that, when listed all together, created a firewall of insurmountable proportion.

“All this tells me is that Abstergo has created an algorithm that keeps the file it’s assigned bouncing around any and all of its servers and can temporarily dock at one of eight potential stations, with a limit of nine, so long as the user provides a fingerprint, retinal scan, and a spoken password. We wouldn’t know that Abstergo was lying about the Surrogate Project, we would only know that they had a highly secure file, and nothing else.”

Becca seemed to hesitate in making a refute, now not so certain of her failure to their friend.

“We wouldn’t be any further ahead than we are now,” Shaun continued. “It took Lynch showing up for us to realize what was going on. It would still have taken him even if you had done something back then.” He placed his hands on her shoulders again; this time she didn’t pull away. “At least this way we still have the element of surprise.”

While not meeting his eyes again, Becca nodded slowly, and Shaun knew she still wasn’t completely sold on his reasoning, but at least wasn’t as certain in her own now.

“So,” she carefully drawled, “the Inner Sanctum took the whole ‘Edna Mode’ security route?”

Shaun froze.

“Oh, god - they did.” He wanted to bang his head against something highly sturdy and potentially hollow and metal. The reverberating sound would be rather satisfying.

What were the Templars thinking? Did they know what they’d done or had some poor intern just made a sarcastic comment during a diabolical meeting and been taken seriously? Or – and this was the truly terrifying idea – had one of the Inner Sanctum watched a Disney film?

Shaun couldn’t think of any of the Sanctum that had children except for Rikkin but Alan never seemed to be the type to sit down and watch family movies. Especially with his 24-year old daughter. The mental image was just so downright disturbing that it was hysterical.

After a small giggle escaped Rebecca, they both quickly dissolved into laughter. When they both regained control of themselves, Shaun had tears in his eyes and a stitch in his side.

Taking a deep breath to re-center herself, Becca looked to be a bit more hopeful.

“So, the Inner Sanctum knows where Desmond is.” It wasn’t a question. If any Templar would be left with the information of where the best trained Assassin in history was being stored, it would be the Cross’s leaders.

Before Shaun could respond, the buzzing of both their phones sounded from the desk where they’d thrown them earlier in the day. Becca reached for hers, swiping the screen and quickly scanning the message.

“Looks like Fate is fond of us,” she said without taking her eyes from the phone.

Curious as to what she meant, Shaun grabbed his own phone and pulled up the newly delivered email.

It was mission orders. It would seem that a review of some Helix memories before their upload had potentially turned up a Shroud of Eden. Abstergo Entertainment employees were scrambling to get through the timeline as fast as possible before the deadline while Templar agents followed the leads in the present.

Shaun and Rebecca were to go and confirm the possibility of an Artifact by infiltrating the office of one Izabelle Ardant and, if they found that the Templars were pursuing the Shroud, to get to it first.

“You said the file could dock at nine different station but only eight were currently in use right now, right?” Becca asked, and Shaun could already see a plan formulating.

Before he could answer her, Rebecca continued, “Do you think we could copy Ardant’s clearance and fill the ninth dock with her information but have it attached to a separate computer?”

“Are you suggesting we turn one of your burner computers into the ninth dock, steal the materials we need for clearance, and get into that folder?” Shaun asked lightly. “All while going against the orders of…” He scrolled to the bottom of the mission statement and, oh, just kill him now, “Bishop. We’d be going against Bishop’s orders to only gather intel and then wait for backup. Is that what you’re suggesting?”

Becs smiled. “For Desmond? You know it.”

“We’re going to get into so much trouble for this,” Shaun sighed, but smiled back. They both knew there was little care for whatever Bishop could say or do to them. The moment they were in the field, anything said in their briefing would become a suggestion – orders were only orders if you chose to follow them.

“I think Bill will be too grateful that we’re saving his son to notice if Bishop gets angry at us.”

Shaun certainly hoped she was right about that. If their ghost file turned out to be a fraud, no power on Heaven or Earth could save them from the combined wrath of a disobeyed Bishop and an outraged William Miles. Everything they had was being put on the line here. If they couldn’t prove that Desmond was alive by the time they returned from London, they’d be better off dead themselves.

“Alright,” Shaun sighed, “get your pack and gear ready, they want us at the docks in 5 hours.” He started in on his pile of tech, packing away the drones in their case, sweeping a pile of papers into a folder, started thinking of which books they might need from his personal collection for reference material.

Even after going through an emotional existential crisis, Rebecca was already back to her chipper self, practically vibrating with the pre-mission energy.

“Shaun, do you know what we’re about to do?” She asked, grinning like an absolute loon Shaun had to admit. “What Fate has practically lined up for us?”

He decided on several decently sized tomes about key figures in England during the reign of Queen Victoria as well as a thrilling dissertation by one of his old professors that detailed the events that lead to the rise of London’s slums and their influences on gang activity. Picking the volumes and folders off his shelf, Shaun considered all the lovely ways Bishop might gut them and hang them from a public venue just to show the world what happened to those who pissed her off.

“Are we about to sign our own death warrants for the slight chance of hacking the world’s most secure file ever created?” he quipped in return.

He didn’t look up from the bag he’d just grabbed but Shaun could feel Bec’s put upon glare burning through his sweater. The grin she couldn’t see on his face was equally cheeky.

“Nice. Way to try bringing me down from a high,” she said, sounding about as upset as a cat with fresh catnip. “You and your grey cloud attitude are not ruining this for me. As I was saying,” the cheer came back possibly with more zeal than before, “everything is falling right into place for us.”

And despite the looming dread of what would possibly be done to them should they fail, the probability of being caught in the act, and the sheer magnitude of the unlikelihood that they actually succeed with the wanted outcomes, Shaun found that Rebecca’s grin and chipper attitude was infectious.

So he found himself nodding along when she practically crowed, “We’re going to get our boy back!”

Chapter Text

Know that saying? The one about jinxing yourself by getting ahead of your own luck? Well, Shaun had knocked on wood, metal, some sheetrock, and even the ground with his entire body, yet it had done nothing for them. One Ms. Rebecca Crane had truly jinxed them something stupendous when she had enthusiastically proclaimed their soon-to-be triumph.

So, here they were, stuck in an underground cavern beneath bloody Buckingham Palace – and what was with those fucking Precursors putting temples underground, really? Galina had taken a knife through her hand, Becca was bleeding out in his arms, and the corpse of one of the Inner Sanctum lay not five feet away from Shaun’s loafers and there was nothing he could do about anything.

In the distance, Shaun could hear one of Sigma team shouting about reinforcements in-bound, and wasn’t that just great. More people to ruin his already bad day.

There was only one known safe entrance to the chamber - it was supposed to also be their exit, but it was now clogged with more Templar goons than Shaun felt like thinking about. The room had plenty of tunnels leading off of it, but they had no idea where – or if – those let out somewhere. He was contemplating the possibility of being cornered and killed if they chose one at random, when Galina made the decision for him.

Throwing several smoke bombs at the incoming forces, she grabbed Shaun’s shoulder and started to pull him in the direction of the back wall.

“We have to go.” Behind them, one of the soldiers started firing at random. “Now.”

With gunfire behind them and no decent argument against the Russian’s reasoning, Shaun hoisted Rebecca into his arms and started to follow but then stopped, remembering the whole point of their gutsy, highly life-endangering side-quest.

“Wait!” he hissed at Galina’s retreating form. The blonde didn’t stop moving forward to their potential escape route, but did slow and look over her shoulder.

“We don’t have time for talk!” she replied urgently, glancing to Becca, who was still putting as much pressure as she could on her abdomen. And Shaun understood, he really did. Rebecca’s breath was coming quick through clenched teeth and it could be any moment now that she went into shock.

She needed medical attention immediately, but there was something equally important that they were walking away from.

“Get Ardant,” he ordered, trying to keep up with Galina’s quick pace.

His sudden order did get the Assassin to give pause though. She watched him pass her and continue towards the tunnel she had been aiming them towards.

“What?” She asked, clearly confused, and looked at where the corpse was still masked by smoke. “No. She is dead weight - literally.”

The days of this mission had been long and taxing, with many emotional rollercoasters that Shaun had thought he’d gotten past, and that wasn’t included being blindsided by a dog, so it was reasonable that Galina’s insubordination cause and anger to well up inside Shaun a match being put to dry brush.

They’d screwed themselves. He could admit that. This mission had gone sideways from the beginning when they’d decided to confront Ardant right from the start. They’d gotten cocky in their certainty of what they were after and what they were doing, and it had left them with nothing. Or it had the potential of leaving them with nothing if Galina couldn’t get over an order coming from a tech.

The slight sneer Galina threw in the general direction of Ardant’s body while replying was simply one thing too much. As much as Shaun would love nothing more than to snap at her mutiny – as Galina had just so perfectly put it – they didn’t have time.

“Galina, get Ardant.” If the stress hadn’t already put him so on edge and the situation had been any different, Shaun would have probably spooked himself with the sound of his own voice. Working as mission control, Shaun had heard the voice of team leaders barking orders many times. There was always a tone to commands that brokered no argument no matter the demand. Never had Shaun managed to imitate that tone, nor had he ever expected to. From the pure shock on Galina’s face, she hadn’t expected it either.

Still though, it happened, and as with all other field agents who heard orders in that specific manner, Galina snapped to attention and obeyed. Tossing an extra smoke bomb in the direction of another tunnel to act as decoy, the Assassin hefted Ardant’s body onto her shoulders and started a swift jog towards their own tunnel.

They didn’t speak as they moved – wasted air, Shaun had heard Rebecca call it. No one should be talking when you’re trying to escape. After the megger amount of light from the vault had faded, leaving them in pitch black, they slowed just enough that Galina could use the sound of their footsteps to guide them further into the dark. Finally, after far too long of walking blind, Galina snapped a small glow stick for them and kept moving. The light didn’t do much, but they could at least see a few feet ahead of themselves without relying on reverberating soundwaves.

“Do we know if this leads out?” he whispered after another hundred meters of labyrinth had passed by.

They came to a split in their path and the Russian confidently turned to the right.

“The air feels fresher this way,” was her only explanation.

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was better than trying to turn around and go out the way they’d come in. It was amazing that so much tunnel was hidden under London and no one had ever discovered it.

They probably have, Shaun thought as they continued winding their way along. Something like a network of secret tunnels under the palace was probably hidden knowledge utilized by the royal family. What better escape route in times of emergency than miles of underground tunnels? He just hoped they didn’t accidentally run into any royal guards. Explaining their current state to Her Majesty’s Finest would most likely end with them dead or in jail.

“Here,” Galina stopped at a dead-end and dropped Ardant like a sack of potatoes. Any other day or time, Shaun might have found it funny, in some perverse, demented way. Now with hands free, Galina started prodding at the wall. “The fresh air is coming from here.”

Shaun was about to ask if she was sure when the wall suddenly gave way. Like something out of Ezio’s memories of Assassin tombs, a section of bricks turned on an axis, providing them just enough room to squeeze out into what seemed to be a cellar. There was a light with a pull chain, but they didn’t dare turn it on.

Leaving Shaun with the corpse and injured comrade, Galina bound up the stairs to check where they’d come out.

When she came back down and collected Ardant she said, “We’re in an alley behind some businesses, I think.”

The coast must have been clear because she quickly headed back up the stairs, clearly expecting Shaun to immediately follow. Heading up behind her, Shaun looked down to Becca, finally able to see her properly in the lights scattered down the alleyway. What he saw wasn’t good.

The stomach of her overalls was coated in blood. She was barely conscious and losing color fast, but she was still putting pressure on her abdomen which was something. Still… they needed a hospital. Fast. Normally, they’d try to fix things themselves. All Assassin safehouses were equipped with first aid kits that were more EMT response bags than kits, but bullet removal required more than they were able to handle. If London still had bureaus, they might be able to address their situation there, but the Templars had been very efficient at flushing all Assassin influence from the city since the fall of the Frye’s reign.

Their closest contact was Eric, but he was circling the city waiting to extract them to the Altaïr II which was ported somewhere off the coast of Essex. It would be hours before they reached the ship and Chu with it. Becca needed professional medical attention now.

“Galina?” Shaun looked around for the Russian Assassin, who had already disappeared into some shadow.

“Already on it.” The sound of glass breaking accompanied her response. Shaun moved forward a bit to see around a rubbish bin and had the pleasure of witnessing the blonde opening the driver’s door to the car she had just broken into.

“You have the best knowledge of the city,” she said while digging in the footwell of the car. “Where is the closest hospital?”

Glancing at his watch, Shaun realized they’d only been walking around in the tunnels for about 15 minutes. With all the back and forth they’d been doing on the winding paths, they probably weren’t too far from Buckingham, so that would mean –

“Cleveland Clinic. So long as we’ve been heading north or west.”

Galina didn’t respond, just kept fiddling with wires until the motor of the car gave a sudden sputter and came to life. Standing, the Assassin had a pleased little smile on her face. She looked around at the controls of the car before pulling a lever near the peddles. With a pop, the boot opened. While Galina loaded Ardant into the space, Shaun carefully maneuvered himself and Rebecca into the backseat. Finally sitting and in some form of safety, the adrenaline began to fade, but his heart picked up pace for a different reason.

Becca had been shot. Checking her hand placement, low enough that it had missed her lungs, and to the left, so that spared the liver, but left the stomach and a kidney wide open for injury. A kidney, Becs could do without. But if her stomach or any part of the large intestine had been perforated…

The driver’s door slammed as Galina slid into the seat and started down the alley. Whoever owned the car would find themselves in a bit a pinch at the end of their shift, but Shaun couldn’t find the will to care in the moment.

As they reached the main road, Shaun looked around for a street sign, a landmark, anything that would point them in the right direction. For once in his life, he was grateful for the directional signs for tourists.

“Head south. Turn right when you get to Piccadilly then left onto Governors. Hospital is on the right – hard to miss.”

Thanks to the late – or early, depending on your point of view - hour, the streets in this area of London were dead. If Shaun believed in any higher power that wasn’t a power-hungry, human-enslaving bitch living in the internet, he would have thanked them for this fact because he’d ridden with Galina once before; there hadn’t been any emergency or need to rush and it had been a nightmare. He was pretty certain that the car they were in wasn’t meant to go over 80 km. She was pushing 100 and they were in the central city. No doubt every intersection they blasted through was accompanied by a camera going off and police being dispatched.

They had just made their turn onto Piccadilly, paralleling the Palace green, and were approaching a toll booth when Galina piped up again.

“What do I do with the body?”

And that was a problem, wasn’t it? Shaun hadn’t thought about Ardant, stuffed in the boot as she was. This part of their little side mission had been Becca’s forte. If things had gone as planned, they would have gotten what they needed off of the body there in the vault.

But they hadn’t, so here they were with a corpse in the trunk, an injured Becca, Galina as their only hope, and maybe 60 seconds before they arrived at the hospital.

“Is the safehouse still unknown?” Shaun asked quickly.

“As best I know.” Galina blew through the emergency lane of the toll booths, no doubt getting another picture taken. The poor vehicle’s owner would have quite a bit of explaining to do later.

“Find a place to do a check for bugs, then take it there. Get fingerprints and ocular scans. If her keycard is on her, make a copy if you can. If not, just take it and we’ll worry about it later. Clean her of prints and dump her somewhere.” The hospital entrance was in sight and the car was slowing.

“You have a plan to explain this?” She asked, stopping just far enough out of sight of the entrance that it would look like Shaun had walked with Rebecca in arm. 

Shaun opened the door and slid out, pulling Becca along with him before lifting her again.

“I’ll think of something,” he answered, already mentally reviewing which passports they had. That they were at Cleveland… well, that might help.  

“And Shaun,” Galina called after him as he started to move towards the door. He didn’t stop but looked over his shoulder slightly, enough to acknowledge hearing her. “I expect an explanation later.”

He nodded and kept moving. Just before getting to the door, a moment of brilliance struck him.

“Galina,” he called as she was rolling up the window. She paused. “Ditch the car, too. I’m throwing you under the bus for this.”

He could hear her cursing in her native tongue as the automatic doors opened and he swept into the lobby of the clinic, already in a perfect panic.

“I need help!” He cried out, gaining the attention of every person present. “My wife’s been shot!” 

Chapter Text

What had probably been a delightfully quiet night shift for the hospital staff suddenly spun into a flurry of action. Everything had gone from a perfect standstill after Shaun’s exclamation to an outbreak of motion in seconds. A gurney was brought out and Becca was taken from him. Shaun walked with the nurses as they moved towards a surgical suite, listing off the easy facts.

They were Elizabeth and Daniel Bennett.  Yes, he had their passports. They’d been walking back to their friend’s car with them after a late night out on the town when a car had gone by and shot at them. No, his friends weren’t hurt. No-one’s phone was working so they’d driven here to drop off Elizabeth and Daniel – Becky, she likes to be called Becky (oh, she was going to kill him for that one) – and then headed for the nearest station to report the crime and give their statements. No, she didn’t have any known allergies but she didn’t react well with general anesthesia. It had been about 15 minutes since the incident.

After what felt like much too long, they came to a doorway that a nurse prevented him from going through.

“We’ll have to take her into surgery. Family aren’t allowed in there, but you can wait in the seating area. I’ll bring you updates as we get a better idea of her condition.” Up until the new nurse’s voice interrupted his line of thought, Shaun had begun to tunnel vision, but that voice snapped him out of it. He finally focused on his surroundings and the person in front of him and felt a part of him sigh in relief; the nurse was a kindly looking woman, in her mid-60s, once-red hair now faded and shot through with grey, the perfect person to handle a distraught husband.

She showed him to a more private waiting area than the one in the front office. Shaun gratefully sank into one of the chairs and scrubbed at his eyes under his glasses; if he could get all the calls he needed to make finished before Becca was out, he might just take a nap here, that was, if his nerves let him sleep.

“Can I get you anything, dear?” the nurse asked, looking concerned for him. “Tea or coffee? I can probably snag you an extra shirt, but it’ll be hospital issue.”

At the additional comment, Shaun looked down at himself and immediately understood her concern. The entire front of his jumper was soaked in blood, his hands too. The sight of the blood suddenly brought home just how bad of a situation they’d gotten themselves into. If they hadn’t been so lucky, if the bullet had been slightly any more in any direction, Becca could have died. God, she still might.

Shaun jumped as a hand gently landed on his shoulder. The nurse was still standing there with a calm, patient smiles. Shaun started to stutter an apology; he was never this jumpy normally, and he really shouldn’t be. This was a safe location for the time being, and he’d seen injured Assassins before – hell, he’d patched Rebecca back together multiple times. But none of them had been like this.

The nurse just waved him off. “It’s normal to be shaken up after something like this. I’d be more worried if you weren’t, if I’m being honest. Now, I’ll go get you that shirt and then you can get cleaned up, how ‘bout. We’ll see about getting you that drink afterwards. Something hot will do you good.”

Despite how he was supposed to be and stay in character around everyone at the moment, Shaun couldn’t help the small sigh of relief that escaped him when the nurse gave him that gentle smile. He let her guide him to a bathroom. The nurse left him to strip off the ruined jumper and also his shirt, which he found also stained by blood that had seeped through the wool. In the back of his mind, Shaun was grateful that he had already made the trip to see his parents. His mother would kill him if she saw the mess he’d made of the poor jumper. It had been his father’s before being handed down to Shaun when he left for university. He couldn’t help the twinge of guilt as he stuffed the clothes into a bag. They’d burn them later.

The scrub shirt the nurse had given him wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it did the job. Horrible teal blue and smelling of whatever antiseptic wash they used in the hospital, it was exactly what Shaun had been expecting – a standard, factory-made surgical scrub. While he felt ridiculous in it, he also knew that it could come in handy later. The moment Rebecca was in the green, and Eric was ready to make a quick departure – who he still needed to contact to organize said departure – they would be checking out, most likely far ahead of the doctors’ recommended schedule. Being at least partially dressed like the staff may just afford him a few extra seconds while escaping with Becs.

The night nurse – “call me Janine, darling.” – was waiting for him outside the bathroom with a paper cup of coffee, the absolute saint.

“You looked like you needed something a bit stronger.” She smiled as she relinquished the proffered cup.

Shaun took a long drag of the hospital-grade caffeine. It must have been from the nurses’ lounge because it was slightly higher quality and strength than your average machine-dispensed brew. At the moment, he could care less that the coffee was a bit too hot, it was doctored just like he liked it and was something to help jumpstart his system again, hopefully getting him through the hours of hell to come.

Janine kindly lead him back to the waiting room and told him the password for the staff wifi. Shaun could have hacked into their system in his sleep, but the sweet little gesture was appreciated and saved him a few minutes of time. Now, he could dedicate those minutes to being yelled at by Gavin.

And yell he did.

“What the hell this Galina’s telling me?” he roared on the other end of the phone. Shaun really hoped that he was on-board the Altaïr II and not in some late-night pub in whatever port town he’d docked  his crew at for the time. They didn’t need to cause another scene.

Shaun sighed as another wave of exhaustion hit, but, like magic, Janine reappeared with another cup of perfect coffee. He gave her a tired smile and she simply patted his shoulder before returning to her other duties.

“Gavin, if you give me a moment, I can ex-“

“Explain?! You can explain why Eric is clearing out a safehouse we’ve kept under the radar for years, and disposing of a member of the Inner Sanctum’s body?” He did have a good point with the last accusing question. No one other than himself and Becca knew about their little side mission. Dragging Ardant’s body miles away from the site of her murder was a bit out of the norm for their team. “Oh! And not to mention,” Shaun braced as Gavin’s voice turned sickly sweet, “you’re in a public hospital! With Rebecca! Who is in surgery! I would love an explanation for this shitshow you’re putting on right now, Hastings, because no one else can seem to make heads or tails of it.”

And, oh, where to begin? They discovered a ghost file in the Abstergo systems? The Surrogate experiments were fabricated lies to justify the Helix program? They now firmly believed that Desmond Miles was alive?

Every single place Shaun could start to explain would lead to far too many questions than he could handle at the moment. He was already stretched thin enough as it was. He needed more coffee, an update about Bec’s condition, confirmation that Eric was on his way, and a small coma’s worth of sleep. Possibly not in that order. Explaining the insane conditions and events that had led him to this hospital with a corpse in the safehouse and his best friend in surgery would be one straw to many on the camel named Shaun, so Gavin was going to have to live with not getting what he wanted out of life for a moment.

“I can explain later,” Shaun amended his previous statement to the Brotherhood’s second-in-command. Some small part of his brain was screaming at him for the disrespect he was showing a superior, but the rest of Shaun was too tired to care.

Over the sputtering Gavin was emitting, Shaun added, “When he’s done at the house, have Eric circling. I’ll message him directly when we’re ready to go.” And just because he was already neck deep in trouble, Shaun didn’t feel too bad about ending his call with a sarcastic, “Thanks for being a dear. Hugs and kisses! Ciao!” and hung up.

Oh, he was going to be crucified on the beam of the Altaïr II’s main tower.

--------------

Shaun was checking his messages for the fifth time when Janine showed up again, but this time with a doctor. It had been 5 hours since Becca had gone into surgery, and the only update he’d heard on that front was actually a request for her blood type.

On the other fronts, Galina had sent him a brusque email detailing that she had gotten his requested data off of Ardant and dumped her body in the closest river. Eric had texted him to tell him that they had the van ready and were making random, wide circles around Buckingham and its surrounding residential areas. They would be ready the moment Shaun gave the signal. He’d done himself the favor of already drafting a text for Eric; all he needed to do was hit the send button when the doctors gave Rebecca the all-clear.

Which might be coming soon.

“Mr. Bennett?” The doctor asked, taking a seat across from Shaun.

Shaun really didn’t feel the need to reply, given that he was the only one in the room that wasn’t a part of the staff. The doctor took this as his confirmation and began.

“The good news is, your wife is alive.”

And suddenly, Shaun could breath again.

“The bullet did perforate her stomach, but the leakage was minimal. She’s avoided going septic so far, and will most likely make a full recovery so long as she follows our instructions and takes the medications we’re going to prescribe her.” She gave Shaun a stern look but received no resistance from him. They were Assassins. Yes, they hated Abstergo, but they also liked living healthy, undiseased lives and would take whatever pills helped keep them that way - Templar manufacturing be damned.

“We’ve given her a liquid antibiotic along with several blood transfusions. We’ll continue with an oral antibiotic when you leave. She should stay on bedrest for at least a week-” that would never happen with Becca, but the advice was noted, “- and only get up for absolutely necessary things. The last thing she needs now is activities that may risk opening the stitches.” Another stern look.

If Shaun was one more hour sleep deprived, he may have not been able to hold back the laugh that almost escaped him. Despite what everyone thought, the one thing he and the notorious Rebecca Crane weren’t doing was sleeping together. Once, they’d almost considered it but… well, events arose, losses occurred, and they decided to stick to what they had going.

Through the sudden mix of humor and twist of pain in his gut, he remained composed and hopefully appeared sincere and considerate when he nodded along with the instructions and implications.

The doctor kept going on and on about what they had done, and how Shaun should help his ‘wife’ during her recovery, but they kept passing by the important things.

“Can I see her?” he finally interrupted the doctor’s ramblings.

The doctor – young, probably not that much older than Shaun – stopped reading off her list of notes tacked to her clipboard and looked at Shaun like she had no idea what he was talking about.

“May I see her now?” he asked again, slower this time, careful to enunciate each word correctly, but the doctor continued to give him a blank look.

Was he speaking English? He was almost certain he was speaking English, but he felt so fuzzy from strange combination of caffeine and sleep deprivation battling it out in his skull that he might have been talking in something else. That had happened once before when they were living in the sanctuary under the Auditore villa. He had been up for the second night in a row coordinating with teams around the globe. Becca had tried to ask him about something, and he had responded in Italian. That had then triggered a bleed in Desmond which lead to a grumpy, tired Brit, and an annoying American-thinking-he-was-an-Italian arguing about god-knows-what.

Lucy had filmed the whole thing on her phone. Shaun hadn’t believed that he had carried on a conversation in a language he barely understood until he’s watched the evidence.

He really hoped he wasn’t that tired again.

The doctor seemed to have frozen up, unsure how to answer Shaun, which did nothing to comfort him about Rebecca’s current condition. Thankfully, the holy saint that she was, Janine stepped forward.

“She’s been moved to a private suite and is currently still asleep, but I’m sure the doctor will allow you to go sit with her for a bit.” If she thought the nudge she gave the younger woman was subtle, Shaun would be aggrieved to inform her otherwise.

But it got the doctor’s brain back on track from wherever it had suddenly derailed to. She shuffled through the papers on her clipboard and started to hand over a folder. “Of course, I’ll just need you to sign some-“

“How about,” Janine cut in, eyeing the stack of papers like they had personally offended her, her family, and their cat, “I take Mr. Bennett to his wife’s room, and you make sure all the paperwork is in order. I’m sure he’ll be more than will to review things with you after he’s seen with his own eyes that everything is fine.”

Shaun needed to remember to start sending her bouquets and fruit baskets. Annually.

The doctor stuttered an unintelligible answer that could have been an indignant denial of the nurse’s request, or a grateful acceptance. Janine seemed to interpret it as the later. She nodded in her sweet little way and stood, gesturing for Shaun to follow.

Once they were in the hall and a few paces away from the room and the doctor still in it, she gave Shaun a sympathetic smile.

“You must forgive her. Carol is our new medical intern. She’s just about done with her doctoral program and is brilliant at her job, but she’s still learning how to work with people when they’re awake,” she tutted in a way that may have been condescending if it were coming from anyone else. “She’s only been with us a week and this is the first real excitement we’ve had, if you’ll believe it. Ah, here we are!”

They stopped at a closed door. Shaun didn’t bother to check the room number, but he did note that they were at the end of the hallway before it split – the nearest exit was to the right, indicated by the glowing sign hanging from the ceiling. The nurses’ station was within eyeshot, but not at a great vantage point; you’d have to be looking practically right at the room to notice anyone going in or out. It was perfectly situated for a quick escape. If only they weren’t on the second floor and the lift behind him, right in front of the nurses’ station.

Quietly opening the door, Janine peaked in first before opening the door wider for Shaun to follow her in.

Rebecca was laid out on the hospital bed, as promised, sleeping. The lighting was dim, but Shaun could see that her color was much improved – still a bit pale, but not near as waxy as she had been. An IV ran to her hand, steadily dripping a mix of saline and drugs into her body. Next to the bed was a wheelchair; a plastic bag sat on top of it containing what looked to be Becca’s tech and ruined clothes.

Everything was positioned so damned perfectly except-

“There’s a staff lift right by the stairs when you head towards the exit,” Janine said, holding something out for Shaun. “I nicked this off Shannon when I was in the lounge. She wrote her code on the back, the cotton-headed fool.”

Shaun took the ID card and clipped it to the breast pocket on his scrubs.

“I’ll give you 5 minutes to get your girl detached and settled, then I’ll distract whoever is at the station, but I can’t guarantee the halls will be clear. You can handle the rest?” She hurried around the room, shutting the blinds, and doing a quick check of all the monitors.

Shaun muttered a quick, “Of course,” and went about shoving his own clothes in with Becca’s and moving the bag.

Janine recorded a few things on the clipboard attached to the bed. “You can disconnect these without tripping something?” She waved a hand to the monitors.

Shaun just gave her a look in response and received that infuriatingly eternal patient smile in turn, along with a gentle pat to his cheek.

“You know, Danny,” and oh, he could practically taste the sickeningly sweet sarcasm dripping off the name, “when I tried to teach you to pick your battles, I didn’t think you’d walk away and pick them all.”

Shaun gave an indignant huff. “It’s not my fault they were all connected.”

“You were a teenager who tried to take on a global industry and wound up willingly kidnapped by an American.” Janine rolled her eyes and shook her head ever so slightly.  “You and my Kelly, always sticking your noses where they don’t belong. At least she keeps her snooping to her paper, and you,” she poked him in the chest, “have your father’s luck that I was on shift tonight to clean up all of this.”

There was no comment Shaun could make that would worm himself out of his situation. One did not lock themselves in a room with Janine Hastings and expect to win any verbal sparring match. She watched critically as Shaun began the process of unhooking Becca’s IV.

“You have the prescriptions needed on-hand?” she asked.

He only replied, “We’re well stocked.” Which could mean anything from ‘of course we have the proper prescriptions’ to ‘we’ll raid a pharmacy on the way’ but he wouldn’t tell her the specifics. That was their deal. So long as Shaun didn’t get her or her family into an incriminating situation and occasionally helped with a little bit of hacking, she would provide whatever assistance she could. This was the first time he’d cashed in on his side of the bargain.

Janine didn’t press for any details and started to move towards the door when Shaun stopped his work.

“Aunt Janine?” It went against so many protocols and so much training to break the character of Daniel Bennett, but just for a moment, he wanted to talk to this part of his family as himself. Janine stopped with her hand on the doorknob. “Could you not tell Mum about the jumper? I’m already hunted enough as it is; I really don’t need her added up on top of all the-” he caught himself before saying ‘Templars’, “All the other people.”

His aunt – his favorite person in his whole family, and don’t get him wrong, he loved his parents, but Janine had a drive and a sense of justice they simply couldn’t understand – turned with a huge grin splitting her face and a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

Leaning in, she whispered, “I won’t tell so long as you promise to send pictures of that horrid thing burning.”

Shaun leaned back, a bit in shock. Janine guffawed at his expense.

“I can’t prove it, but I just know that your grandmother made that thing as hideous as possible to show her contempt of your dad when he married your mum. I swear he wore it just to spite her.”

There were no words Shaun could use in his current situation. Especially since he had actually liked the jumper. So what if the collar was a bit askew, and the particular shade of heather never really matched anything he had? And that particularly strange pattern around the wrists that lead to Shaun always wearing it with the sleeved pushed back… It had character dammit. He had worn that jumper when he had his start in the world of government conspiracy, all through his time at university, and into the long nights of uncovering the New Flouride plot. That had been the jumper he’d been wearing when Rebecca had saved his life and dragged him off to become an Assassin. If he dared say so, he loved that jumper. And his aunt was celebrating its death.

The gall of his family.

He frowned at the gleeful light dancing in Janine’s eyes. What made the whole situation all the worse was how he couldn’t stay mad in her presence. She was like an overflowing pot of charisma that infected everything around her; it made her job as a nurse all the easier and family gatherings slightly more tolerable.

With the last dredges of his annoyance, Shaun muttered, “Say hello to Kelly for me, and give my love to the cats,” and tried to push her out of the room. It didn’t work.

His aunt gave him a playful pout and pulled him in for a hug instead. He hugged her back; as he said, you couldn’t stay mad at Janine Hastings for anything.

When they pulled apart, she patted his cheek again.

“You finish up in here and I’ll go distract the desk.” Her smile grew wider, “You should stop by old London more often, Shaun. I haven’t had this much fun since Kelly was still in the field digging up the dirt on crooked politicians.”

Just as she was about to open the door and depart, she paused and pulled a pager from her pocket. As she read the message, her brow furrowed, and Shaun’s pulse picked up.

“Shaun, I thought your story about the police was a trick, one that I’ve already covered for.”

Suddenly, the multiple cups of caffeine were no longer necessary to keep Shaun on his feet. Just from the way the blood suddenly drained from his face, Janine knew that the police should not be there. Without words, the moved in unison to Rebecca’s bed and worked to move her with as much care as possible to the wheelchair. Janine wrapped a blanket around her legs, using the extra fabric to help prop her more upright. Lastly, she pulled a small piece of fabric and a surgical mask from her multitude of pockets. The surgical mask was slipped over Shaun’s head and hung loosely around his neck and the fabric – which turned out to be a surgical cap – was quickly tied over his hair.

“There,” Janine said, tucking a few stay hairs up under the cap, “You look enough like us. I’ll go out and you follow in 10 seconds. Just keep moving and act like you know where you’re going, and no one should look twice. Out the door to the left, down the hall on the right, the lift is on the left at the end of the hall, got it?”

Shaun nodded and took up his place behind the wheel chair. He’d have to move quick and quiet and pray that Janine could hold off whoever Abstergo had sent long enough for him to get out.

The moment the intern doctor had started talking, Shaun had inconspicuously hit the send button on his text to Eric. His phone had buzzed only minutes ago with what Shaun hoped was a message of confirmation of their arrival. God, he hoped Eric knew which exit he had pointed him towards.

The click of the door shook Shaun from his thoughts. Without realizing it, Janine had already slipped out of the room and into the hallway, initiating their operation. Taking a shaky breath and exhaling slowly, Shaun counted. When he reached 10, he opened the door and backed himself into the hallway, pulling Becca and the wheelchair with him.

Despite the temptation, he didn’t look towards the nurses’ station. He could hear the sound of Janine’s voice, with quick additions made by another woman – probably whoever was manning the desk. There was also a man’s voice asking questions.

Shaun pushed the wheelchair the distance to the split in the hall and turned right. In his peripheral, he could see that Janine had positioned the questioning man so that his back was to the escape route. But just because he hadn’t been seen didn’t mean they were safe yet.

Keeping a reasonable but swift pace, Shaun marched down the hall. He kept his eyes forward and didn’t faulter when he passed a doctor exiting another room. The doctor didn’t so much as glance up from his clipboard of charts.

A part of Shaun was already starting to celebrate their success when they arrived at the lift doors and the call button lit up after he swiped the stolen key card passed the reader. And although he had already been taught the danger of counting your chickens before they hatched once that night, the lesson had apparently not stuck.

The lift was two floors away when he heard the door slam and the yelling start. One floor away, and someone had looked down the hallway and spotted Shaun and the still-unconscious Rebecca. The person didn’t seem to know if the two were actually the targets of his mission and moved towards them at a causal pace, calling for Shaun to hold a moment.

This left Shaun three options. He could wait and try to bluff his way out, which would spectacularly blow up when he was asked for his credentials. He also could wait for the lift and use it to go anywhere else in the building, but there was also a good chance that the man would reach them before he could get the lift’s doors closed and the code entered.

So Shaun acted on the third, most dangerous, and immediately damning option – he grabbed Becca and hoisted her limp body into a fireman’s carry, and ran for the stairs. He didn’t see the man’s reaction, but he heard the yelling behind him as the door to the stairwell closed behind him.

If it were any other situation, Shaun would have tried to be as gentle as possible with carrying an injured person who had very delicate stitches in very important places, but there was a good chance that they would die if he didn’t get them out of the building as quickly as possible, so he’d apologize profusely to Chewy later when he had to explain the pulled stitches.

While he was for the most part a desk jockey of the Brotherhood, let it be known that Shaun Hastings could move with all the speed of a born Assassin when given the right motivation. Within seconds, he was bursting through the door from the stairs and onto the first floor, following the signs for the exit. Sadly, Abstergo’s agents were just as quick, and were soon following him out the door and down the halls.

Normally, Shaun could at least try to outrun anyone on his tail, but he was weighed down by Becca draped over his shoulders. He was also unarmed other than a small knife hidden in his pants pocket. It had been decided that it was best to leave the electro-blade with Galina. But it didn’t matter. He couldn’t fight and carry Bec at the same time. The best he could do was stay ahead of the Templar goons and get to the back-up waiting outside, but to do that, he was going to need some help.

With a quick prayer that Janine didn’t kill him on sight the next time he saw her, Shaun pulled a fire alarm as he ran past. The mayhem was slightly delayed in the confusion at the suddenly blaring alarms, but quickly yielded the intended results. People spilled out from rooms, staff tried to direct the flow of panicking people, and the agent behind Shaun suddenly had to contend with miffed staff and terrified patients cluttering his route towards his targets.

Shaun didn’t stop running towards his exit to witness the pandemonium; the door was now in sight. People were pushing to get through, but Shaun managed to squeeze through the crowd and out into the cool, early morning air. The exit he’d directed Eric to was part of the entrance for emergency vehicles and from looking around, he knew he was in the right place, but where was the van?

A feeling of nausea began to climb up Shaun’s throat as he did another sweep of the nearby vehicles, but he finally spotted it. Hiding between a retaining wall and an ambulance was black business van. The lights were all off, but the engine was running. Without thinking twice, Shaun ran towards the vehicle. As he got close, the side door of the back slid open to reveal a perturbed Galina. In any other moment, Shaun would have frozen up then turned tail and run, but right now, he couldn’t be happier to see the angry Russian.

Galina hopped out of the van and was cursing in her mother tongue while she took the bag from Shaun’s tightly clenched hand wrapped around Becca’s thigh. She spotted Bec’s head as Shaun climbed in to the back of the van.

Any other time, this type of van would be very generous in free space, but with the evacuation of the safehouse, the quarters were just large enough to afford room to lay Rebecca out on the floor and keep one person with her, in crapped seating.

“You sit in front,” Galina ordered the moment Shaun had laid Rebecca down. Shaun wanted to argue the arrangement, but between the two of them, Galina had more experience in field triage, and Shaun knew the roadways of London better.

With as much reluctance as the situation could afford him, Shaun went around the van and climbed into the passenger’s seat. It spoke a great deal of his life nowadays that he almost moved to get in on the right side of the van before remembering where they were.

Eric didn’t even wait to hear the side-door close or let Shaun get situated in his seat before he was putting the van into drive and starting to pull out. Shaun was fidgeting with the seatbelt when he heard Eric curse. Looking up, he saw the source of the other man’s distress.

Standing in the way of the road was the agent that had been chasing after Shaun. The man was just getting a gun out of its holster when Eric slammed on the exhilarator. The van lurched forward.

Later, Shaun would look back fondly on the memory of how the agent’s eyes had widened as he realized that the vehicle he was blocking wasn’t going to stop, and that he wouldn’t be able to draw his weapon in time. He had dived out of the way just as the van sped by and turned onto the main road. As they started their drive away from the hospital, firetrucks and police cars sped by, heading in the opposite direction.

“Well,” Eric said from behind the wheel, he was smiling like a sugar-high child, “you really know how to throw a homecoming.”

Shaun leaned back in his seat, shut his eyes and took a large breath, and threw up his middle finger at the other Assassin.

Chapter Text

Dawn was just beginning to break by the time they made it onto the motorway. Of all the places Gavin and Susan could find to dock, he’d chosen Southend-on-Sea, which Shaun wasn’t even certain had any marinas large enough to accommodate the Altaïr II; not without raising some questions at least. But that was where Eric was taking them, with the expectation that he’d be able to unload the van-full of gear directly onto the ship, so their captain must have figured something out.

Thanks to the early hour of their departure, the traffic outbound of London’s center was extraordinarily light. Whatever influence Abstergo had over the city, it didn’t appear they had found a way to blockade the roads, leaving the team with a clean, quick exit from the city.

The one stop they had was a toll booth blocking their way out of the city. Unlike Galina, Eric didn’t seem to be as keen on having their picture taken and slowed to a stop at the gate.

“You have any coins?” he sheepishly asked. “I don’t have any local currency.”

With a sigh, Shaun started digging in his pockets. “It the bloody euro,” he grumbled, “You live in Norway, and you don’t have any spare euros.”

Finally, he fishing out a few spare coins he had from the food run he’d made… God, was it honestly less than a day ago? It felt like a year had passed between the time they’d geared up for their interception mission and now.

“Norway’s not part of the EU,” Eric shrugged, taking Shaun’s money and tossing it into the collection bin, then waited for the gate to rise before continuing down the near-deserted road. “We use the krone.”

Which made no sense. Sweden stretched the entire length of Norway’s land-boarder, and it was part of the Union. The more independent countries, the more currencies Shaun had to keep track of, and the more time he had to spend at trade stations. He hated trade station. Call it un-assassin of him – going against the whole free-will-thing – but he’d prefer the countries he spent the most time in on certain continents to have the same monetary system.

A slight cough from Eric broke Shaun out of his thoughts.

“Thanks for getting us out of that mess.” ‘That mess’ being London’s roadways, which, honestly, weren’t all the difficult. “But I think I can take it from here if you want some sleep. The marina Susan found is only about an hour away, but you look like you could use all the sleep you can get.”

Only an hour, Shaun thought, and it spoke of just how colonized he’d become that an hour seemed to be a short drive to him. But Eric was right; he felt like a train wreck followed by being run over. At this stage, he couldn’t give any help that Eric couldn’t get from a road sign, and there was absolutely nothing he could do for Becca, so sleep seemed like a good option.

Without even thinking about it, Shaun found that he’d already relaxed into his seat and his eyes were closed.

It seemed like he’d only shut his eyes when Eric was nudging him.

“We’re here,” he said, getting out of the van.

Shaun blearily blinked, trying to focus on his surroundings. They certainly weren’t on the motorway anymore, but that didn’t make the scene in front of him make any more sense.

The van was parked at the start of a cement dock – nothing out of the ordinary there. Halfway down the dock, Gavin was firmly planted in front of what Shaun could only guess was the harbormaster, deep in a yelling match; again, not that astonishing. What simply would not stick in Shaun’s mind - despite being right in front of him - was the Altaïr II, in all its specially modified, 300-foot, Assassin research vessel glory, surrounded by tiny fishing boats. It was like seeing a skyscraper in the middle of a corn field.

That they even had ramp space was a miracle. The crew had lowered their own, custom ramp down to the dock and it was a blessing that it was so early because the ramp was blocking the way to multiple other ships.

Coming down the dock now were Emmanuel and Nodar; they were carrying a stretcher between them. Not far behind was Stephanie with her travel kit.

Even though his legs felt like jelly, Shaun managed to get out of the van and make his way around to the side-door. Eric already had the back open and was wheeling out server towers from the hideout. Galina was inside, hovering over a still-asleep Rebecca. At a glance, Shaun would say that she was doing alright; her cheeks had color, her eyes were even moving behind the lids which could mean she was close to waking up. The only concerning thing was the sheen of sweat matting her hair down, but Shaun was dearly hoping that had more to do with the temperature in their cramped travel quarters and not the beginnings of an infection.

“Hi there, Shaun,” Emmanuel greeted as he moved around him. No communication was needed as they lay the stretcher down.

Galina hopped out of the van to make way for Stephanie, who quickly pulled up Becca’s hospital shirt to examine the damage. From the way the doctor scrunched up her nose and brows, Shaun knew he was in for it.

“Did these get torn?” her voice a mix of confused and critical.

Whatever work Galina had done during their journey, she had apparently had to remove the bandages from Bec’s wound and hadn’t been able to replace them other than a pad and tape – easy to remove for inspection.

The Assassin stepped forward. “The damage was sustained during Shaun’s… escape from the hospital. I believe it was all external.” Her final assessment was accompanied by a glare summoned from the depth of the worst of the Russian winters.

After everything, Shaun was far beyond caring about outside opinions on his actions, and simply stared back. If they had been in a similar situation, he was certain that they would have made the same calls.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Stephanie said. Quickly, she did some assessments before determining that if there was anything wrong, it could wait until they were onboard, and stepped aside to make room for her teammates. With the utmost gentleness possible, the two men moved Becca from the van and onto the stretcher. Down the dock, the argument that had to this point been at relatively reasonable volume, turned to screaming.

Through the cacophony of noise escaping the harbormaster, overlaid with Gavin’s shouts trying to get the situation under control, Shaun could decipher a few things. Firstly, the crew was far overdue on their promised departure time. Secondly, there had been nothing about the ‘large boat’ actually being a corvette-class behemoth. Lastly, potentially injured or dead people were not part of their agreement and it didn’t matter how much money was being offered, they were calling the police.

Susan chose that moment to show up.

“Alright!” her voice boomed over any and all others. Both the harbormaster and Gavin fell silent. “You,” she pointed to Gavin, “get to work loading the gear. Nodar, help him. Galina, you and Manny get that girl onboard so Chewy can do her job, and you,” she turned to Shaun. Unlike with Galina, Shaun could muster up fear under Susan’s gaze, “get something for the seasickness from the doc, then get some sleep. You look like death warmed over.”

Never in his life had he heard such a wonderful order. Obediently, he trudged along behind the small parade surrounding Becca and onto the ship. As they passed Susan and the harbormaster, Shaun caught a glimpse of a bundle of bills being exchanged.

The ramp wasn’t so bad but the moment his feet hit the deck, Shaun could feel the change from land to sea. Not 5 seconds off of solid ground, he his stomach was already churning.

Steph’s ward was located on the main lower level of the ship, along with the social quarters and kitchen. The procession moved with purpose but remained careful of their cargo on the way down the steep staircase, calling out every doorway and tripping hazard, despite how everyone on the team probably could navigate the ship’s halls in their sleep. Shaun apricated the warnings, though. He would have face-planted over the first doorway if they hadn’t mentioned the lip.

If Shaun had the power, he would order Dr. Chiu to have her practice on the mainland and then solely be treated by her. Not because she was superior to all other doctors – not that she wasn’t – or that she had the best bed-side manner – she… didn’t, she really didn’t – but because, somehow, she managed to make the most comfortable nests out of the beds she was provided for injured Assassins. Through the donations of many Assassins, bored between missions and a need to keep their hands busy, Chewy had amassed a large collection of homemade quilts, blankets, and pillows, all of which she used on the three infirmary cots set up in her makeshift, traveling hospital.

Rebecca was being transferred onto one of these beds when the doctor grabbed something off a counter and turned to Shaun with a quick, “Catch!”

The pill bottle sailed right passed him and clattered to the ground, rolling and hitting his foot, before Shaun even had time to process what her word had meant.

“Right,” she said while Shaun reached down and picked up the orange bottle. “Probably shouldn’t have tossed that with you being… well.” She waved a hand up and down at him and Shaun could only assume that she was talking about his current state of delirium.

“You good with dosing yourself?” she asked, slightly hesitant.

Shaun managed a rough smile. “I think I can manage counting out 3 pills.”

“Good,” Stephanie nodded, turning back to Becca. “Manny, make sure he actually takes the pills before he crashes.” She gave a quick glance over her shoulder. “And actually reaches his room.”

As the taller man escorted Shaun out of the room, he couldn’t help but feel a bit confused. Why couldn’t he just curl up on one of the extra cots? But he was too tired to argue. Any bed was a good one at this point.

Emmanuel led him to one of the few extra rooms they had on the ship. This was probably better than the hospital ward anyway. The rooms had their own showers and toilets, and if this trip was anything like the others onboard the ship, he and that toilet were going to become fast friends. He’d just have preferred not having to descend down another set of ladder-like stairs to get there.

“Here you go,” Emmanuel said as they entered the room, handing over a cup of water he’d fetched from the sink. “And here.” He pushed a small capsule into Shaun’s hand, adding to the collection of pills he was about to take.

Even though Manny was a loyal Assassin and friend, Shaun couldn’t help scrutinizing the pill.

“It’s just melatonin,” the other man reassured. “To help you sleep.”

Shaun didn’t think he was going to need any help with sleep, but he took it anyway. The longer and deeper he slept, the less time he would be worshiping the porcelain god in the corner. In just the time it took to take off his shoes – which he’d been wearing for over 24 hours – he could already feel the drug taking effect, or perhaps he was just that tired.

As he lay down though, Shaun couldn’t help but feel like he was forgetting something – something very important. He was just about asleep when it suddenly hit him.

The file.

Ardant and all the data Galina had pulled off her body.

Desmond.

They had only so much time to get to that file and get it transferred before the Templars removed Ardant from the system, and that window was mostly likely rapidly closing.

The thought was accompanied by the sound of the room’s door closing and the outside lock being engaged.

Shaun tried to get up, but his limbs wouldn’t respond. No matter how hard he struggled against the siren’s song of sleep, he couldn’t resist.

Melatonin his ass. They’d drugged him. Gavin had probably gotten orders to put Shaun and Rebecca on lockdown for undermining her royal highness, Bishop’s orders.

He’d been labelled a potential threat for trying to save the Mentor’s son. God, if that wasn’t a cruel case of misplaced blame. And now, there was a good chance they’d miss their opportunity and whatever hints there were on Desmond’s location would be lost. Abstergo would most likely move him and make sure that whatever accidental leak they’d had before was stopped.

They’d never get this lucky again.

Sleep claimed Shaun as he screamed what curses he could at the world and fate.

On the other side of the door, Emmanuel stood and listened to the soft cries Shaun gave and wondered what could have been so important that he would betray the Brotherhood.

Chapter Text

Everything felt fuzzy, yet still somehow managed to ache. This wasn’t the first time Rebecca had woken up to such a sensation and she doubted it would be the last, but it didn’t make her like it any more. This was what waking up after snowboarding solo down an uncombed mountain side in the Rockies on a broken leg felt like. Why did she feel like she’d just snowboarded on a broken leg?

Looking around, she recognized Chewy’s domain on the Altaïr II easily enough, but she couldn’t remember getting here. Last she could recall, Galina had showed up at the hideout, then their little team had headed off to Buckingham Palace after their recruit found the location of the Shroud then... success? No, there was no way things had gone well if she was occupying space in the infirmary.

She kept pushing the memories; they’d arrived but… Ardant had already been there. She had had the Shroud. Shaun had made a stupid suggestion and oh god, Rebecca wanted to bang her head on a wall they’d listened – gone in guns blazing…

Guns.

Shaun had almost been shot but… she’d intercepted. Right? She had to have intercepted. Shaun wasn’t in the infirmary with her, so he was fine. But he also wasn’t in the infirmary. Panic began to crawl its way up her throat. What if she hadn’t made it? What if her injuries were from their escape, not from protecting her partner?

Shifting to sit up, Becca found all the proof she needed of obtaining a bullet wound. The slight movement didn’t cause her pain, per se – whatever Chewy had added to her IV drip was doing wonders on that front – but there was a pull and ache radiating from her torso. So, she had been shot – taken the bullet meant for Shaun. Taking a deep breath, Rebecca had to fight to let it out in an even, smooth release and not a hysteric giggle. She’d been shot and was relieved about it. God, her life was a mess.

And being shot – that was a new one for her, but it still didn’t explain the bigger mystery. How did she get onboard the Altaïr? The plan had been for Gavin to park his team along the eastern coast. Unless he’d managed to get last minute clearance to make port in London – which she doubted – there’d have to have been a drive from the city to wherever the ship was, and she was certain that she probably wouldn’t have made that drive.

But the memories got blurrier after the fight. They’d escaped, obviously. Galina had led them… through another tunnel? Yeah, she was pretty certain they’d used another tunnel off of the main sanctuary. But Shaun had done something before that, and it had been important. Like, super important. Important to their little side-mission, important.

Then it hit her.

Holy Christ on a cracker. Shaun had killed Isabelle Ardant. That brilliant, wonderful, red-headed nerd had killed a member of the Inner Sanctum. And he’d gotten Galina to take her and pull the info they needed while he got medical help for Becca.

That must be where he was at; they had their golden ticket and were now onboard a ship with some of the fastest download speeds Becca had ever encountered outside her own little corner in Bill’s bunker. Shaun was probably working tirelessly on starting the transfer or maybe even already monitoring it.

Scooting back down in her nest of blankets, Becca sighed, content to stay put and let the world sort itself while she didn’t move for a bit. Sadly, her bubble of calm only lasted a few minutes. Sitting still just wasn’t in her rapport so if she was going to be stuck in this bed, she needed something to do.

Looking around the room, she didn’t immediately see her tech bag, but that was to be expected if Shaun was transferring their miracle ghost file. Then that thought hit her again – Shaun wasn’t here. If he was going to set up something that would take time, he’d probably do it wherever she was bound to while she recovered. And Becca knew he knew that she would want to monitor the transfer’s progress just as much as he did.

A feeling Rebecca couldn’t quite identify started to creep up her spine.

Nothing in the room seemed to be out of place on her first sweep. One of Chewy’s magazines by her computer, some medicine bottles on the counter, an unfinished cup of coffee. Really nothing to bother over, and if the coffee indicated anything, it was that Chewy would be back soon and Becs could question her about things then.

She could wait. The drugs were making her paranoid. Everything was fine, she were safe, Shaun was safe, and she could wait.

She could wait all of 3 minutes before – against all logical sense – she tried to swing her legs over the side of the cot and stand. From experience, Bec knew that while the doctors wanted you to take it slow after coming out of anesthesia, you just sometimes had to get up and go. She should not have gotten up quite that quick, though.

The room spun and Bec only caught herself on IV stand just in time before her legs tried to give out. Her stomach was starting to hurt now, but she pushed that aside while she got her balance back. With tiny steps, and pulling the IV stand along for support, she scooted over to the counter. The mix of tech, coffee, and news weren’t anything out of the ordinary – Chewy liked to keep up with the medical journals and whatever Abstergo was releasing to the public – but the drug bottles were rather odd. Normally, Chewy kept a meticulously organized space. Even if she was administering drugs every hour, she’d put the bottles back in their designated drawers. Her logic was that if they ever hit a storm or a rough patch of water, she didn’t want everything to fly all over the room. That there were multiple bottles out could be seen as concerning.

Becca picked up one.

The bottle was full of pills for motion sickness – no shock was to be had there. She knew very well how wonderfully one Shaun Hastings and sea travel mixed. But the other was a bottle of diazepan which was rather strange. What was Chewy doing with an oral sedative? Last was a bottle of liquid with a syringe already prepped to dose. Careful to note the direction and placement of the bottle, she picked it up and turned it around to read the label.

Ketamine. She could feel her stomach churn just reading the name. General anesthetics had never agreed with her, that’s why she always used twilight drugs if the option was given. If she didn’t have the ability to voice this issue, Shaun was usually there to do so for her. From how she’d woken up and not immediately started dry heaving, she could assume that the Brit had done his job.

But here was a bottle and syringe ready to go. Unless Chewy was planning to administer that to someone directly, it made the most sense that it was meant for her – the only person (that she knew of) on the ship with an IV.

That unidentified feeling was getting stronger.

Shaking her head a bit, Rebecca tried to reason with herself. She was being paranoid. Chewy would show up any second and tell her that they had a prisoner onboard that they needed to keep sedated. Shaun’s new bright idea for not dissolving into a pile of misery and puke in front of a toilet was to just sleep the entire trip...

But something didn’t feel right. The last time she’d felt anything like she did now was when she’d discovered that the Altaïr had been sending and receiving messages below their radar. Suddenly, a place where Assassins could kick back and relax had been on high alert. Anyone could be the spy. Everyone was a suspect and nothing was safe.

That was what the feeling was.

She didn’t feel safe. Right here in the heart of one of the most secure Assassin strongholds of the modern day, and she felt like she was being watched. Normally, she’d go back to reasoning with herself. But normal flew out the window the moment Shaun had killed Ardant. There hadn’t been a normal since they’d found the true nature of the ghost file. So Bec grabbed a wad of cotton pads and some medical tape from a drawer. Before proceeding with her half-baked plan, she turned off the heart monitor Chewy had her hooked up to. After double checking that nothing was going to lose its mind if she took the monitors off, she disconnected herself and quickly pulled out the IV.

Whatever painkillers she was on did very little for the sting of the tube in her hand being removed. Trying not to dwell on it, she applied the pads and taped them down. She was still a little shaky on her feet, but she was now free of any medical tethers.

In the periphery of her mind, Rebecca noted how strange it was, feeling the need to creep through the Altaïr II like a stowaway. Then again, she really shouldn’t be doing any creeping at the moment, and yet.

The medical wing was at the very end of the hallway on the first level down from the main deck. The crew spent a lot of time on this level, either in the lounge or mess hall. Another level down were everyone’s personal quarters, except for Susan and Gavin, who’s rooms were off of the bridge. Above her would be the mission headquarters and Emmett’s hub of surveillance monitors – that might be a problem. Even if the hall in front of her appeared vacant of all crew members, Emmett was probably sitting in his old chair, staring at his screens, the all-seeing techy god of this ship.

Here was hoping he had a game on and the going-ons of the ship weren’t important.

Stealth really wasn’t an option at the moment. Even with the painkillers dulling most of her torso, the pull and tug of the stitches were not going to allow Bec to do any crouching or sneaking. All she would be accomplishing today was the world’s quietest old-lady shuffle.

The door to the kitchen was closed, which made her life a bit easier, not having to rush past it, but the door into the common room was. Carefully, she moved across the hall and pressing herself to the wall. With the wall taking some of her weight, Rebecca could relax ever so slightly and focus more on her surroundings. As she got closer to the next door, she couldn’t hear anything coming from inside, but noise was coming from up ahead, in the mess hall.

Again, Rebecca carefully moved across the hallway and leaned against the wall. The metal was cool and sent a shiver through her. Every small scuff of fabric sliding made her twitch as she approached the door.

“But why?” she heard. If she had to guess, the deep baritone was probably one of the Ninidze brothers. “Both Shaun and Rebecca have been loyal Assassins for years – why should we start doubting that now?”

“Lucy was a loyal Assassin, too. And born to the Brotherhood. Didn’t seem to stop her from turning.” That was Gavin and damn if his words didn’t sting.

And shit. If she wasn’t focusing hard on controlling her breath, Becca would most likely be descending into a full blown panic attack. Somewhere along the way, they’d screwed up. With their goal so close, they’d thrown caution to the wind and tripped someone’s trigger by doing so. Now they were being branded as traitors. The crew had probably drugged Shaun and stored him somewhere secure and were planning on doing the same to her. They’d be stuck until the crew came to a consensus on what to do or they arrived at the ship’s destination. With how close William and his bunker were, and how close the two of them were to operations, Rebecca wouldn’t be surprised if their trial was carried out by the Mentor himself.

And in the meantime, their window to retrieve Desmond’s file would more than likely close. Wouldn’t that be a kicker? Sorry Bill. We broke protocol so we could prove that your son is alive and a Templar captive. Oh, you want proof? Sorry, we were able to get to it but were drugged on your orders and it’s disappeared by now. Better luck next time – right? Becca held back the snort she so badly wanted to give.

“How are they doing?” Eric asked, bringing Rebecca back to the moment. Out of all of them, he at least sounded a bit conflicted by the current events.

“Shaun is out cold,” Emmett answered – and there was a blessing. If Emmett was down here, no one was watching the computers which meant the halls were completely clear to her.

“The hours he’s been keeping combined with the dose he took should keep him out for a while,” Chewy added. “I haven’t dosed Bec yet. I don’t want to combined drugs in her system and have her react, but she was still asleep when I left and she won’t be very mobile when she does wake up.”

Ha. Jokes on her. Becca was the height of mobility (just to protest her thoughts, her gut gave a twinge of pain).

“And their… I don’t know,” Gavin grumbled. “Their data? The stuff you got Galina – where is that?”

“I have stored all their things in my bunk – the information Shaun wanted off of Ardant, their bags, cell phones, computers, it is all secure.”

Immediately, Becca was plotting out her course. Galina’s room was situated rather interestingly with the door right behind the ladder-stairs. Said ladder was only 30 feet away from Becca’s current position. If she wasn’t injured and still a bit hazy from the drugs, she could easily be down the hallway, sliding down the handrails and swinging around and through Galina’s door in less than 10 seconds. But she was injured. And it wouldn’t be just an easy run; passing by the door, no matter how careful she was, would most likely draw attention, and then she’d have very fit, combat-ready, suspicious Assassins on her tail.

With who-knows how much time before someone got up to check on her, Becca tried to think up a plan. If she could get into the kitchen, she could use one of the food timers to make a distraction. But the door was closed. Opening it would cause more distraction than anything timer could, and she wouldn’t be able to delay it.

If this was Ezio’s time, she’d just chuck a smoke bomb in the room and move on past. But Galina had the Sight and could see through a smoke shroud.

And sadly, the common room only had one door, otherwise she would have followed the example Desmond had set in Brazil and just walked around the potential threat with the protective screen of a wall between them.

In the mess, a chair scraped across the floor and before Becca could process what she was doing, she was running down the hall. Behind her, voices suddenly started shouting but she couldn’t pay attention to that. She was at the stairs. Grabbing the handrails, Becca lifted her feet up and slid down to the deck below. Her landing could have been better – as it was, she wound up stumbling a bit, her stomach squeezing and protesting in the worst ways, and didn’t manage to swing around the whole 270 degrees to face Galina’s door, but she did well enough. She had a head start on them but footsteps were quickly following her.

She almost tripped over the threshold of Galina’s room, but caught herself. Just as she was pulling the heavy steel door away from the wall, Gavin appeared in the doorway. Without thinking, Becca pulled her knee up into Gavin’s groin then followed through by kicking him backwards with a foot to the sternum of his already hunched over form. Galina obviously hadn’t been expecting their leader to suddenly be falling over in the small space of the hallway and tripped over him, affording Becca just enough to time to push the door closed and engage the lock on her side.

Almost immediately after, someone started banging furiously on the door. Multiple someones were yelling at her to open the door or at least unlock it. Now Becca did scoff but it turned into a grimace. Looking down at herself, she could see just the small ghost of blood starting to leak through her bandages.

Great. It seemed she couldn’t go 5 minutes without having some kind of timer hanging over her head. No wonder Desmond nearly lost his mind on those racecourses in the early days. This was aggravatingly stressful.

Well, she was going to ignore her timer for as long as possible and see where that got her.

The tech bag and data were easy to find. Galina hadn’t put much care into hiding them, just leaving them right by her bunk. The prints stripped off of Ardant were stuffed into a manila folder which was then stuffed inside Shaun’s backpack. Very creative caching techniques. She would have to make note of it if she ever needed to squirrel things away where no one would find them.

Opening her own bag, Rebecca found everything she needed, just as she’d left it. Continuing to ignore the pain that was becoming more noticeable by the minute, she pulled out her gear and started to set up.

The first thing she needed to do was a hostile takeover.

Emmett was probably already back in his seat, watching her. They didn’t normally keep cameras inside crew members’ bunks, but Galina still suffered Bleed episodes sometimes and it was best to be able to monitor her from a distance in those moments. If Emmett saw what Becca was doing, either through a camera or by monitoring the network activity, he could shut things down and keep her far from the web she so desperately needed.

Now, Emmett was a great tech-geek. Rebecca was proud to say that he could probably out-hack just about anyone and his network firewall was so state-of-the-art that the state was jealous. But there was just one problem with it.

When the Initiates and their dark-web had popped up, Becca had dedicated days and nights to reworking their firewall to defend on both networks. As far as she knew, Emmett had done little to nothing to it once she had installed it on the Altaïr II. So while he could try to push her out of his own system, Becca was the things mother, and you didn’t tell mamma to go away.

With all but no resistance, Rebecca typed her way into Emmett’s computers and seized full control. The cameras, she could do little about. They were attached to a different system and out of her reach, but that didn’t matter much. They could watch for all she cared, just so long as they stayed out of her way. The rest of the system – the wireless networks, the emergency relay, the phones – it all belonged to her now, and she was keeping it wide open.

Now that she didn’t have to worry about someone cutting her download short, Becca went about hooking up the necessary scanners and backup hard-drives. If the file had grown at the rate she and Shaun had calculated, she’d need more than a few teras to get it all downloaded. Thank god for Best Buy, shoplifting, and her engineering magic because Rebecca Crane had gone and invented the petabyte hard-drive

With everything set up in its proper place and all the things lifted from Ardant laid out, Rebecca opened her link to the Abstergo network. The login page immediately opened and Becca entered the username and password she’d gotten from Ardant’s office computer. To keep the login from timing out, she also inserted Ardant’s keycard. A creative loading symbol of Abstergo’s logo flashing different parts of the triskelion cycled on the screen before finally showing as Ardant’s homepage.

Rebecca navigated to the file folders and scrolled along. There were so many projects that she could access with no risk right now. She could see the new human testing zones for pharmaceuticals, she could search for the Templars’ progress with Project Phoenix, she could probably find Sophia Rikken’s calendar if she tried hard enough.

But that would be getting off topic. She could do all those things, so long as she had the entirety of the file first.

And there it was. Or at least, it had to be.

When she’d seen it in the system the first time, the file had had a nondescript name, most likely shifting names as well as locations depending on where it docked for the moment.

But here on one of its permanent docks, it had a name. A very descriptive name.

Right before her eyes, Rebecca could read, ‘Subject 17 – Project Cipher’.

Above and below where other files titled with Subject numbers, but none of them had an entire project dedicated to them. And that name. Project Cipher. That’s what the Precursors had called Desmond in their messages to him through Ezio. A fitting title, as far as Abstergo projects go.

Becca clicked to open the file.

Immediately, a screen appeared asking for prints. Carefully, Becca pressed the sheet with Ardant’s handprint onto her scanner, holding it down with her own hand – gloved to prevent her own prints from being picked up – to give the scanner heat and a pulse to read along with the print. For several, terribly long seconds, nothing happened. When the system pinged its approval, Rebecca realized she hadn’t been breathing.

Next, it asked for the eye scan. This was tricky in that she didn’t have Ardant’s eyeballs (which would be super gross, and she would never forgive Desmond for making her go through something like that). What she did have was a scan of the eyes as a three-dimensional image. She and Shaun had created a program that would trick the system into thinking it was reading the actual object but was really uploading the image. It was an ingenious little program that they were both rather proud of.

After a few more anxious seconds, the computer dinged again. Only one more hurdle to jump.

The final step was a voice recognition combined with a specific phrase. This had been a gamble on their part, because neither Shaun or Rebecca could verify what the phrase was, but they had decided to go with a safe bet, and Ardant had been kind enough to comply.

Uploading the audio file to the reader, Becca listened to the file drone out, “May the Father of Understanding guide us,” and watched giddily as the file was accepted.

Templars were just too predictable. Despite not really knowing what it even meant (honestly, the Assassins didn’t know what it meant either), Templars loved their little catch phrase. And the security protocol was more for the voice recognition, not so much the phrase, so why bother with trying to remember something more unique?

The last thing to appear was another request for the username and password, but they were a ruse. If you entered the information, the system would immediately lock and shut down, sending an emergency signal across the Abstergo security system along with the computer’s last known location. Instead, Rebecca just tapped her enter-key and watched the file unfold before her.

Now inside the ghost, it was rather comical how simple it had been. So simple, Becca couldn’t hold back the little laugh that escaped her mouth.

Staring at the screen, it was insane to think that the six folders before her – named only with the years starting with 2012 – had taken them so long to find.

Pushing the mix of wonder, irritation, and self-loathing aside, Becca went about investigating the size of each folder. Altogether, the load was large, but she had enough space for it. The download time though… that would be at least a day so long as she could maintain good download speed. To do that, she’d need to make some adjustments.

Cycling through her computer, Rebecca pulled up a screen of all the things connected to the Altaïr’s network and went through the motions of kicking each device off, including the systems navigation and communications. If it took them a day longer to reach the Bunker, so be it. If the only source of communication with the outside world became the old ham radio in Gavin’s cabin, so be it. Emmett would lose his wireless cameras. Chewy would lose her radio. Galina had lost her entire room. The others would lose their little pleasures until this was over, but they could deal with it. Because by the time William Miles was banging on the door himself, she’d have all the evidence they needed to show that Desmond was alive.

With a simple click and drag, a new window appeared on Rebecca’s screen, showing the progress of the download. The speed was as good as she could make it. Now all that was left was the wait.

Chapter Text

Waiting was about as exciting as watching paint dry. In fact, paint would probably dry faster than the file downloads. Whatever was in the folders – and Rebecca didn’t dare touch anything for fear of disrupting something – was either extraordinarily detail-heavy data, or the folders were simply stuffed full of a massive quantity of files. Based on how the files – titled with random numbers and letters – passed by in a mix of inordinately-slow to hundreds-done-in-seconds, it was a combination of both.

Only 30 minutes had passed and the system was only looking at 2% completion. If things held steady at their current speeds, Bec was looking at a very long, very boring day.

At the very least, she wasn’t the only one upset about the situation. On the other side of Galina’s door, Gavin’s crew had taken up a rotating schedule of banging and yelling. So far, they had cycled through screaming their demands, threatening her – which was funny seeing as there was a thick door made of solid steel between her and them, and Susan would keelhaul anyone who actually hurt her ship – begging, and had now, after only 40 some minutes, devolved to appeasement. At the 1-hour mark, Becca now had been promised a full pardon (until they arrived at land), a spread of her favorite foods for the remainder of their voyage (she had some gummy bears and energy bars in her backpack), Shaun (tempting), and a whopping 6 ounces of Emmett’s finest weed (extremely tempting).

But it all hinged on her opening the door, and Becca had received the same training as everyone on the other side of it. She knew they were all empty promises. They knew she knew. It was a valiant effort to make them feel like they were doing something useful.

If they wanted to make a good offer, they should really offer up Chewy’s painkillers because, damn, was she feeling her injuries now.

As soon as the download had begun, Becca had moved to Galina’s bunk and checked the damage she’d inflicted upon herself. Despite the blood seeping through the bandages, it hadn’t been as bad as it could have been. The stitches were all intact, but the skin around them had been pulled enough to start bleeding again.

Using the first aid kit Shaun had stored in his bag, Rebecca had patched herself up and rebandaged things and taken some ibuprofen. Not long after she had leaned back to try to get some rest despite the noise, someone had marched down the stairs loudly enough to be heard over the din of fists on metal. Chewy had proceeded to scream nonstop for a solid 4 minutes, demanding Becca open the door, let them in, yada yada, same old thing, but then had gone on to lecture her about all the damage she’d sustained and how there might be internal bleeding and ‘please open the door, you could die.’

Out of all of them, Chewy’s had made the best argument. But it had been over an hour now, the bleeding had stopped, and aside from the constant ache that the ibuprofen was not graded to handle, Becca was feeling fine.

So… that would be a solid ‘no’ on opening the door for medical reasons. Now there was just – she glanced at the computer screen and did some math – about 24 hours of waiting in a tiny room where all the books were in Cyrillic. Joy.

The wait wasn’t without its moments of excitement. She’d gone through Shaun’s bag and found some books in English that she’d tried to read but through a combination of horribly dry writing and the never-ending background noise, Rebecca had quickly abandoned her attempt to distract herself. Shaun’s computer was equally boring without an internet connection. All the movies and fun things were stored on her own hard-drive, Shaun just had historical documentaries and conspiracy theories on subjects she’d already heard him correct or debunk.

At 4 hours of Rebecca’s one-man hostage situation, Gavin must have reached a new level of desperate because he turned on the ship’s emergency siren. The incessant sound of the alarm screaming in the room logically should have been enough to break anyone’s resolve, but Bec was not about to give in because of more noise.

Digging through Shaun’s bag, she found exactly what she needed. In one of the outer pockets were a pair of hunting-grade earplugs. They didn’t completely block out the blaring alarm, but they did dampen it. Those combined with Galina’s pillow over her head were enough to make things bearable.

The proud graduate of a not-to-notable college, Rebecca Crane had lived all her semesters in the dorms and survived each bi-annual fire drill without leaving her room. Gavin Banks and his emergency alarm had nothing on Craige Hall’s old fashion alarm bells right by the bunk beds.

The crew lasted only 3 minutes before someone demanded the noise be stopped, the utter weaklings.

After that and some more mediocre painkillers, Becca finally settled enough that she managed to slip into a light doze. Incase something important happened, Rebecca took out one of the earplugs but left in the one in her ear that was facing the door - Galina was still adamantly keeping the knocking schedule going.

Rebecca didn’t know how long had passed when she came back around, but she immediately knew why she was awake.

Above her, at the air vent, Chewy was cursing up a storm.

“Of course! Of fucking course it’s tiny! Everyone else has a giant grate going into their room, but what about Galina? Does the Russian get a giant-ass grate? No! Her’s had to be tiny as hell!”

If the situation hadn’t been so comical, Becca might have found it concerning that the crew had become so desperate to get her out of Galina’s room that they’d sent Chewy into the air vents like some Bond movie. And she couldn’t even properly get into the room. As far as stealth invasions went, this was an utter fail; Becca couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.

In the ceiling, like some demented gremlin, Chewy hissed, “Oh, yeah, laugh it up, Crane. Not like this has anything to do with you or is anyway your fault.”

“I’m not the one who made you go into an air vent to get stuck,” she pointed out between giggles. “You should have checked the ship’s blueprints.”

“We did,” Chewy groaned. Becca could hear a thunk from the ceiling which probably meant Chewy had banged her head on the floor of the vent. “There was nothing about this room having a smaller grate.”

Becca hummed thoughtfully, nodding along despite Chewy probably being unable to see it.

“It’s Galina’s room. She wouldn’t choose a room that had an unsecure point of entry if she had an alternative.” This was certainly proving to be a bonus for Becca; she hadn’t even thought of Galina’s room possibly having alternate entrances.

“We’ll sorry we don’t all think like a Russian Master Assassin,” Chewy snapped.

“You could have asked her.” Galina was literally on the other side of the door and probably knew this room like the mechanisms of her hidden blade.

“You could have let us in!”

The words hung in the air between them, undisturbed and unacknowledged for a good while. In the end, it was Chewy who broke the silence.

“Why won’t you open the door?” It was quiet and sounded a bit hurt, which made no sense to Rebecca whatsoever.

Their feelings were hurt because she wouldn’t open the door? They thought she was a traitor! They had been trying siege tactics for hours trying to force her into complying. Never once had they made any effort to compromise or listen to her side of things. And now Chewy was upset that she wasn’t playing nice.

Well tough shit.

“You drugged Shaun.” The perfect blend of accusation and fact. Was it the only reason? No. Was she disclosing that unless given a damn good reason to do so. Also no.

“He’s fine, you know; out like a light before the drugs could even really kick in. Only woke up a little bit ago.” Up in the vent, Chewy shifted around, probably getting into a more comfortable position. The movement cause a questionable rattling to emit from the vents as the metal settled, but thankfully, a ball of Japanese physician-turned-Assassin didn’t fall through the ceiling. “I think he would be yelling at us through the door, but he’s been too busy – well, you know.”

Rebecca could imagine. The sea and Shaun did not mix well, which was almost funny for how much time they spent traveling via ship.

“So, how are you doing?” It sounded so innocent coming from Chewy – almost like she hadn’t been accusing Becca of being a turncoat only seconds ago. She sounded conversational. Two friends talking, nothing more.

It made Rebecca’s blood boil. It circled right back around to how they could paint her as a traitor with little to no proof, make attempts to drug her, drug her partner, put her through hours of what could be considered psychological torture, and then act like everything was fine and they were all chummy the moment it became convenient. Just because Chewy thought they could be friendly all of the sudden did not mean Becca was going to reflect the same courtesy. She’d been pissed from the beginning and was still pissed now. Her emotional state was constant all the way through this situation and she was not backing down because the opposing side was trying new angles.

“I feel like I got shot, chased down a hallway, then had to lock myself in a room with only some weak ibuprofen to help with pain management,” she growled, all the while glaring up at the vent. “So overall? Shitty, Chewy. I feel like shit. But I’m not opening that door for another,” – she glanced at the download – “18 hours, so if you’re gonna try to convince me to do it for medical reasons, you can crawl out of here and go cry to Gavin.”

Silence stretched out between them long enough that Becca almost thought Chewy had taken her advice, but there hadn’t been any sound of thin metal flexing to accommodate weight, so she knew the other girl was still up there.

Then the screws started dropping from the grate’s edges.

Immediately, Rebecca got up off the bunk and moved herself and the laptop out of the line of sight of the grate. There was no way Chewy could get down through the grate, but she could throw or shoot things, and Becca was rather done with being shot at for at least a year.

When the last screw fell to the floor, it was accompanied by the metal grate. The new opening it left was about the size of a business envelope, which was just big enough to get a Chewy-sized arm through. The medic chucked something in Becca’s general direction. Despite the lack of visual, the object came pretty close to the mark, landing only a few feet from her and rolled the rest of the way, coming to a stop when it hit Becca’s foot.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Becca picked up the orange bottle. “You think I’m actually going to take these? I think I just mentioned that you drugged Shaun.

The response was muffled by Chewy’s arm, still hanging from the vent opening. “It’s what it says on the label – oral painkiller, strong ones too.”

“You must think I’m the most gullible person on the planet.”

“No,” Chewy sighed, retracting her arm, “I think you’re the second most stubborn person on the planet who lives with Shaun 95% of the time – who is the most stubborn person of all time, meaning you learned from the best.”

Rebecca could afford to give Chewy a small acknowledgement for stating the truth.

“So, if you don’t want to open the door, you’re not going to open the door, all of us be damned.”

Becca rolled the pill bottle in her hand, critically analyzing the label. “What do you want for these?”

If the pills were legit, they’d be enough to tide her over in relative comfort for the remainder of the download. Of course, Chewy had already given her the pills. But a good faith gesture might make her occupation of Galina’s room a bit easier.

From the vent, “Just give me something to tell Gavin why I’m coming back empty handed.”

“You couldn’t fit through the opening,” Becca answered, just a bit cheeky.

“Anything but that.”

Rebecca laughed a little but then grew quiet. It would be a big gamble, telling Gavin just about anything about what she and Shaun had been doing – what she was doing right now. Everything she could say would only lead to more questions and probably more doubts unless they had the proof. But whatever she did say needed to be enough that Gavin would call off the Banging Brigade (they were really beginning to get annoying).

 “Tell Gavin,” she started but hesitated. If this file didn’t pan out, if they’d been wrong, and they’d involved an outside party, there’d be no hiding it. But, as she’d always said – go big or go home. “Tell Gavin, ‘Desmond is alive.’”

“Who?”

Becca knew Chewy didn’t mean it to be cruel, but every time a person – especially an Assassin – didn’t know who Desmond was, she had to stamp down on the need to slap them. He’s only the guy who saved your and the entire world’s lives! she wanted to scream. But it didn’t matter right now.

She took a deep breath and pushed back the irritation.

“Just tell him. He’ll know what I mean.”

Chewy hummed but didn’t complain and began her shuffle out of the vents, metal creaking the whole way.

Returning to the bunk, Becca again looked at the bottle of pills. She could probably continue to go without, but that was really only if she absolutely had to – and from the look of things, she didn’t have to anymore.

And anyway, if they did turn out to be an anesthetic like they’d given Shaun, it wasn’t like they could get into the room with anything less than a welding torch.

Grabbing a granola bar and bottle of water out of Shaun’s bag, Rebecca twisted off the cap and took a swig before popping one of the pills into her mouth and swallowing. She lay back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, nibbling on the granola, waiting to find out what she’d just taken. After only a few minutes, the pain in her stomach began to subside. A sense of tiredness came with the diminishing pain, but not in a way that suggested she was being drugged into sleep; if she wanted, Becca was pretty sure she could stay awake, but the pain had been keeping her from proper sleep and she suddenly realized she was exhausted.

Finishing off the granola, Becca checked the computer one more time before wiggling into a more comfortable position.

On the other side of the door, the banging stopped.

Chapter Text

Gavin Banks needed a drink. Actually, he needed an entire bottle and the ability to lock his cabin door without someone knocking on it within 5 minutes.

How had things gone to hell this badly?

Within the last 24 hours, he’d heard accounts from just about everyone about  how Shaun and Rebecca were off their rockers, perfectly sane and model Assassins, traitors, Templar double agents, Templar killers, and in one rather obscure account by an agent Gavin wasn’t even sure belonged to them, the ‘best thing since sliced bread.’ He wasn’t even sure what they were referencing, why, or how they’d known the duo were in trouble – all he had learned from that conversation was that Assassins were, apparently, horrible gossips.  

Two things were for certain. First, if Bishop called the emergency satellite phone one more time for an update, he was going to throw himself overboard. Second, while he’d heard the accounts of the events taking place within the last 24 hours by just about everyone and their dog, he hadn’t heard it from the actual supposed-criminals.

The one thing he’d gotten so far was a relayed message from Rebecca through Chewy. The message was simple enough – three words only. And yet, those three words would be enough to throw the entire Brotherhood into chaos if they could back them up.

Desmond is alive.

God, just hearing the name was enough to make him want to reach for the whiskey in his drawer. Forget about the rest of the statement, anything having to do with Bill’s boy was a quick way to induce a headache.

Gavin knew that Bill seemed like a very calm, collected, level-headed person – it was how he became Mentor after the Purge. They needed someone who would be cool under pressure, who could make the hard calls for the betterment of the Brotherhood, and Bill had… well, fit the bill. And despite everything the world threw at him, from a completely broken and demoralized organization to rebellious teenage runaways, Bill had kept his head and lead them through it.

But behind that perfect, soulless façade, Gavin knew better.

Bill was a cold bastard but he was still human, and as the cold bastard’s best friend, Gavin got to see the human side from time to time.

He’d been the one to introduce Bill to the woman that would later become his wife, Akilah. He’d listened to the endless rants about how Akilah’s father was too much of a traditionalist, a lineage purist even, to let his daughter marry an American mutt like him. He’d stood as Bill’s best man in their little private ceremony when Akilah chose him over all of her family. He’d sat on the phone for hours listening to Bill’s excited chatter when they’d announced their first baby. He’d sat and held vigil with Bill when they’d lost that baby. And the next. And the one after that.

And then there came Desmond. Bill had been a complete wreck the entire pregnancy. There had come a point that even Akilah had demanded Gavin take his friend on a mission before she killed him for his hovering. Instead, Gavin nearly got them both killed breaking into an Abstergo records department. They’d lost contact with the rest of their team and wound up missing their evac and had to find their way back to their current base on their own. By the time they returned, three weeks late, Akilah was in labor and ready to castrate them both.

But there was Desmond, alive, and pink, and squalling, and alive.

Gavin had watched as Bill held his son for the first time and fallen in love in a second. But… Assassins didn’t – well, Gavin would love to say that the Brotherhood was made up of wonderful, sane, completely normal people that just brutally slaughtered people occasionally, and that any of them would make wonderful parents; however, generation after generation of loss, paranoia, killing (and in some extreme cases, outright selective breeding to make better killers) was bound to leave its mark. As only a second generation in the Brotherhood, Gavin liked to think that he had escaped most of the… quirks many Assassins from older families had.

From what little Gavin heard over the years after Desmond’s birth, Bill and Akilah were tough but loving parents and instructors. The Farm continued to flourish under Bill’s watch, as it had under his parents, theirs, and so on. He’d heard about how well Desmond was doing in his training, and how great everything was.

When the Purge happened, Gavin had just set out to go to a base in South Africa. When the channels went dead, he went to ground as he had been trained to do; it took a month before anyone finally responded to his calls. The person to contact him had been Bill, but he’d changed. When they’d been growing up, shuffled from bunker to bunker, Bill had always liked the idea of being a leader. Now he was in charge of the entire Brotherhood, and already Gavin could hear the burden that weight was having on him.

But Bill bore it well; he was the exact kind of focus they needed, and Gavin was glad to follow his friend in the reform he was conducting.

Two years into the new Mentorship, Gavin got to sit through Akilah railing on about how it was that same kind of focus that had driven their son away. If this was true, Gavin couldn’t say; he’d been far removed from Desmond’s upbringing, too involved in his own work to make his way to the Hills for a visit (he felt guilty about this occasionally, being the boy’s godfather and all).

But the pair kept moving and Gavin kept watching. Gavin stole his ship and got a captain in the same breath, Akilah stopped her region-wide search for Desmond and returned to Bill’s side as his tactician, and Bill kept leading them from one small victory to the next, recruiting new blood, and slowly pulling the Brotherhood’s broken pieces back together.

And then Desmond had died.

Gavin didn’t know much about the time between Bill’s little dream team locating his estranged son and the events leading to his sudden death. One moment, Gavin was floating around the coast of Egypt, the next, Bill was hailing him to come to Italy for a pick-up. There had been a sense of urgency about the orders, which Gavin had followed with due haste, but there was nothing he could do to contain his pure shock when Shaun and Rebecca had loaded a comatose Desmond Miles onto his ship.

The last time Gavin had seen the boy in person was when he had been a happy, toddling 2-year-old, but Bill had occasionally sent pictures over the years. The last one he’d received was of a sullen teenager with his hair a cloud of dark curls around his head and lip freshly sewn back together. The same picture had gone out to every Assassin cell in the region when Desmond had disappeared from the Farm. When he hadn’t been found, they widened the range to the country, then continent, and eventually every Assassin across the entire world received the photograph and orders that if they found the boy, to apprehend him alive and deliver him to the Mentor. Mention of Desmond being Bill’s son had not been made.

But it had only been 10 years after his disappearance that Gavin saw proof of Bill finding his son, and with the chaos caused by Desmond’s coma, he never really did get the whole story of what had happened out of his friend. Gavin simply dropped them where they requested and waited to hear news.

The next news he received was that Desmond was dead and Bill had disappeared.

To this day, Gavin still didn’t know how it had all gone down. Shaun and Rebecca had told him in the vaguest way possible that Desmond had sacrificed himself or something and would go completely mum when things like Lucy or Clay were brought up. They’d leave the room if you mentioned the Precursors. From the muttering Shaun would do at his computer some days, Gavin had picked up that Juno was probably involved, but then again, that digital pain in everyone’s ass seemed to be involved with everything these days.

And now the two had completely lost it and were claiming that the boy was alive.

He might just take that drink on principle.

The part of his mind not occupied by the lovely little mess Rebecca had made, and his deep want for something to burn that mess away, was glancing at the clock, which was moving far too slow in his opinion. According to the clock, only 20 minutes had passed over the course of what felt more like an hour. The closer they got to Becca’s deadline, the longer time seemed to stretch.

They were now closing in on the last hour before the 18 hour long wait hopefully finally ended, and if Galina came in to complain one more time about still being locked out of her room, Gavin was either going to throw her or himself overboard. He really didn’t see why it mattered – none of them had gotten any sleep anyway, everyone too busy with helping Susan and Eric navigate the North Sea manually, pestering Gavin for updates, or staring at Rebecca – the brat was sleeping peacefully and pain free on Galina’s bunk most of the time – on the one functioning screen in Emmett’s hold. At this point, if he bothered to do so, Gavin would have a detailed log of every time Becca medicated, sneezed, itched, and a million other little mundane actions thanks to the near constant reports from his team. The only interesting thing that had happened so far was when Becca had gotten up, rummaged through Shaun’s pack, and glared at what was believed to be a stick of jerky for a solid 5 minutes. It seemed she was finally out of vegetarian-friendly snacks.

And speaking of food, had anyone checked in on Shaun?

They’d locked him in one of the spare rooms on the main deck after putting him under but Gavin couldn’t remember anyone giving any reports other than the one after Shaun had woken up. To be honest, he’d kind of forgotten that they had more than Rebecca to worry about.

With nothing better to do, and not wanting to hear one more report of Rebecca cooing at her laptop screen, Gavin got up and headed out of his office.

The halls of the Altaïr II were surprisingly empty for the mid-morning hour. With the networks still under the hostage control of her supreme highness and technological goddess Rebecca Crane, over half the crew couldn’t really function. The only ones with really anything to do would be Eric, Susan, and Nodar. And even those people weren’t where they belonged, which Gavin learned when Susan came out of Shaun’s room just as he arrived.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” she warned. Out of all the crew, this situation was wearing on Susan the most. Gavin could admit that the complaints were annoying, but Sue had to get this giant piece of floating metal to its destination without and navigational systems or ability to contact the Bunker (how Rebecca had hijacked the HAM system and was using it was too far beyond anything Gavin wanted to think about right now).

Her haggard appearance could be from either her exhaustion, or from the experience that was Shaun Hastings.

“Is he still puking?” If he was, Gavin was going to go try to sleep away the remainder of the countdown against Galina’s door.

“Oh no. It’s way worse in there,” Susan grumbled, which could only mean one thing. “He took the nausea pills and is fully coherent.”

And no doubt pissed as a cat dipped in bacon fat then thrown to the hounds.

Well, as leader of this little floating cell, it was technically his job to take all complaints, even if the person with a complaint was from a Brit in an American cell based in Norway.

Looking from Sue to the door, they held eye contact for a decent amount of time while Gavin internally debated whether it was worth it to go in. What finally made the decision was Sue saying, “I left him some coffee and saltines.”

A fed and caffeinated Shaun was far more easily dealt with than a tired one with an empty stomach.

With a nod, Gavin moved passed Sue and unlocked the door and cautiously moved into the room. Thankfully, the only thing thrown at him was one of Shaun’s loafers – large enough that he could quickly see it coming and not very aerodynamic, so it was easy to dodge.

“If you aren’t here with Bec, you can rightly fuck off.” Shaun was sitting on the bed in the corner, hunched protectively over the thermos of coffee and package of crackers, glaring.

Moving further into the room, Gavin looked around for any other items that could be used as weapons. Other than the second loafer, he didn’t immediately see anything.

“Rebecca is… using her own form of protest at the moment.”

Shaun leaned back a bit, seemingly curious. “Oh? And what kind of protest would that be? Nothing too severe, I hope. It would be terrible if she inconvenienced your lives for some flighty reason like holding us hostage.”

Honestly, they should stop arming the man and just send him into the field with his mouth as a weapon. It was highly possible that Shaun would inflict more damage to the Templar forces with words than they ever could with knives and guns.

“There might have been a misunderstanding,” Gavin began. “I want to sort things out but can’t because I don’t have all the information yet.”

“And just whose fault is that?” Shaun muttered while pouring anther cup of coffee from the thermos.

“Rebecca is locked in Galina’s room.”

Shaun’s head jolted up, shock joining his anger.

“You locked Rebecca –”

“She locked herself in.” Gavin had to hurry to cut off what was no doubt a magnificent tangent of outrage from Shaun. “All your bags were being kept in Galina’s room. Rebecca snuck past us and locked herself in. We haven’t gotten in despite some rather… interesting attempts.”

He’d been against sending Chewie into the vents – it was just too James Bond. She’d still done it though and come back with the worst/best message anyone could deliver.

The quick rage Shaun had summoned melted away with equal speed.

“She has her computer? Does she have a network connection? You didn’t lock her out, did you?” The ramble of questions came so fast that Gavin had to work hard to understand them around his sleep deprivation and the accent. Shaun continued muttering about the likelihood of someone being able to lock Rebecca out of a network when Gavin decided to just interrupt.

“She locked us out, actually,” he admitted. “Rather spectacularly. She’s currently in control of every network save the satellite phone. We’re floating blind right now. The entire ship is her hostage.”

The cup of coffee that had been making its way towards Shaun’s mouth halted, then slowly was put to the side. Shaun stared at him in what translated to utter bafflement.

“Well,” Shaun said, breaking the silence, “atta girl, I guess.”

If it wasn’t inhibiting his mission, Gavin would admit that it was a rather impressive feat – single handedly taking over a ship of their size all while half drugged and with a bullet wound.

“We made contact with her,” Gavin added. Shaun didn’t respond so much as raised a curious eyebrow while taking a long drag off the mug. “Chewie was the one who talked to her. Made a deal – information for painkillers.”

Shaun’s demeanor quickly turned hostile at the mention of Rebecca needing to bargain for the drugs, but Gavin pushed on before the Brit could start talking.

“We knew she had to be downloading something big – Chewie said she had some kind of external hard-drive hooked up to her usual rig. Rebecca didn’t say what she was getting, but she did give us a timetable and a message. I wanted to talk to you about the message.”

Shaun continued to be silent so Gavin continued.

“She didn’t say much, but she told Chewie to tell me ‘Desmond is alive.’” Gavin watched intently for any reaction from the historian. While all the evidence so far pointed to both of them being responsible for the events taking place, Gavin didn’t want to point fingers at innocent parties. Shaun remained impassive but after a moment did raise his other brow in a ‘and your point is’ manor.

It had been Gavin’s hope that he wouldn’t need to say anything after that, that Shaun would just let the floodgates open and tell him everything he needed to know without any prodding necessary. He really should have known better, expecting Shaun Hastings to talk when you actually wanted him to talk was like expecting your dog to start laying eggs because your chicken died. With a tired sigh, Gavin leaned on the doorframe.

“So, is he?” Like that would actually get him anywhere. “You know, I actually have no idea how all that went down – you two, Lucy, Desmond. That whole mission is a bunch of redactions and need-to-know-only, which is sort of funny when you think about it – Assassins guarding free will and keeping information from their own people.” He knew he was rambling, but if he could ramble in the right direction, maybe he could find a tender enough nerve that Shaun would finally break. So far, based on Shaun’s glare, Gavin was dancing on a ton of nerves, but none of them were strong enough triggers.

“I’ll admit, I haven’t put much effort into learning about it. I probably should have, but it’s just one of those things you don’t really bring up. If you do, Bill shuts down or goes on the defensive, and his wife – don’t get me started on her. She deals with things… let’s just say people avoid the sparring ring if word gets out that she’s upset. If it gets reported you’re claiming their son isn’t dead after they’ve mourned for almost 5 year –”

“You think we didn’t think of that?” Shaun snapped. “You think we didn’t sit down and think about the consequences of making a claim that Desmond Miles didn’t die and then not have proof?

In a quick motion, Shaun was on his feet. Whether he meant to or not, Gavin moved to block the doorway, which received an eyeroll from the historian.

“I think we’ve made it perfectly clear that I’m not supposed to go anywhere, Banks.”

“Yesterday morning, I watched your partner sprint down a hallway, slide a staircase, and then out-hack my hacker, all while high as a kite and with a bullet wound in her gut. I’m not taking any chances that you won’t just duck out of here and swim to shore to spite me.” With the day he’s had, it probably wouldn’t be the strangest thing he’d had to deal with. “You were saying that you wouldn’t make claims without proof,” he said, getting things back on track. “Rebecca’s made a pretty big claim – where’s the proof?”

Shaun scoffed, moving around the room in what he would continuously deny was a pace.

“She’s getting ahead of herself, naturally. We didn’t plan on saying anything until we knew for sure, but I’m guessing she was under a bit of pressure and weighed her options. We’ll have it in a bit anyway; no real harm done by jumping the gun a bit, just so long as no one has reported this to Bill yet.” Shaun gave Gavin a pointed stare, but he wasn’t following, and Shaun could see it. With a sigh and another roll of his eyes behind his glasses, he clarified, “The file she’s downloading is our proof. We’ve been working for a good part of this year to get our hands on it, but only the Inner Sanctum has access. After I killed Ardant, things became a bit time sensitive, what with having to gain access to her files before her passwords and prints were removed from the system.”

Gavin was about to ask another question, but Shaun suddenly focused on something over his shoulder and said, “Either I have another visitor, or you have something to deal with.”

Turning around, Gavin found Galina standing on the other side of the doorway; her approach had been absolutely silent. Before she could say anything, Gavin already knew why she was here.

“She’s opened the door, hasn’t she.” He didn’t even make it a question, because it shouldn’t be one. The hour was up, and the timer had ended. True to form, Rebecca had been precise to the second on when her computer would finish its job.

“She is still in my room,” Galina opened with, and that itch to jump overboard returned to Gavin. “And she is crying.”

So much more important to know than your need to have your room back, Gavin couldn’t help thinking.

He was about to start the quick walk down to Galina’s bunk when Shaun roughly pushed him aside and sped down the hall, and for the second time, Gavin watched as whoever of his team was available sprinted after an Assassin on the loose as they slid down the stairs and disappeared onto the lower deck.

With a sigh, Gavin followed the group, who seemed to have just suddenly appeared from every nook and cranny aboard. He was the last to reach to room, which had everyone packed into it, much to Galina’s continued annoyance.

Shoving through the group, Gavin found Rebecca exactly where she had been for most of their situation – sitting on the floor with her legs crossed under her, staring at her laptop. The difference now was just as Galina had said, tears streamed down her face from wide eyes, but she wasn’t making any sound. It seemed all her focus was set on whatever was happening on the screen. Beside her, Shaun was staring with equal intent.

Carefully, Gavin picked his way through the cables and people so that he could see the screen himself. The audio had sounded like someone making a vocal record of a report, and the screen confirmed this, but it wasn’t just any record, it was the unabridged documentation of Desmond’s autopsy.

No wonder Rebecca was a mess.

On the screen, Desmond was laid out on a table, perfectly still. The video must still be in the early stages since no cuts had been made yet. The doctors were going over the external wounds and theorizing the causes.

Gavin was just thinking about what a shame it was that the pair had been wrong and was about to close the lid of the laptop and save them all the pain of watching the autopsy continue any further when something changed. Everyone watching took a collective breath and held it just as the doctor noticed what they had. Bickering ensued between the doctors but ended quickly when one shrieked, grabbed the nearest object – which happened to be a medical tray, the action sending the tools set out for the autopsy scattering across the ground – and slammed it into Desmond’s head, just after his eyes had fluttered open and blinked a few times.

If there was anything else on the video file, they didn’t get the chance to watch it as Rebecca quickly closed out of it and opened the next one.

The video loaded multiple camera angles of Desmond walking around an empty room at what could be called a casual pace. If you ignored how his right arm was completely wrapped to the shoulder and in a sling, he looked to be in decent condition. Before anything could start happening, Shaun reached out and shut the laptop.

For a moment, they sat there in silence, the crew looking at the three in confusion as they worked to find words for their current situation.

“I…” Gavin really didn’t know what he should do. He’d watched from a distance as Bill fell apart after the death of his son. He’d read the reports when Akilah had allegedly wretched command of the Egyptian branch from her cousin’s control and lead them into a full-on war against Abstergo’s center in Cairo.

The Miles did not do well with loss. And now here was the proof that it was… not entirely unfounded, but definitely misplaced. And now they had to find a way to tell that to the two.

“I think I need a drink,” he said, standing and leaving the room and his confused crew behind him. They’d need the entire bottle he had plus some if they were going to unpack what had just happened. Thankfully, there was a second bottle stashed under his bed.