28. December 14th 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
Back to where it all began.
Daniel waited in the room that had once been the place of Desmond's captivity. The Animi Room. When Desmond had first been captured, it had been explained to him that he would help the Templars in their aims and goals, with or without his approval.
That was the beauty and the horror of the Animus - a machine that could allow one to access and experience the lives of one's ancestors through what Dr Warren Vidic called 'Genetic Memories'. He had theorised that, just like characteristics, memories were also passed down through a person's DNA. He had been correct, and all it took to find such memories was a little assistance. And using the memories of Desmond's ancestors, the Templars had become capable of locating the Pieces of Eden - powerful artefacts that had been left behind by a precursor race.
It was only too bad that Desmond had escaped. But that would be rectified soon. Desmond would be back in the Animus in no time.
That was what they called Daniel. Behind his back, of course, when they talked about his condition. The Animus was the machine that had caused his... disease: the voices in his head. He couldn't remember all too well, but he knew that prolonged exposure to the Animus caused what had been dubbed as 'The Bleeding Effect' - the effect of seeing and experiencing ancestral memories: without help.
It wasn't as good a piece of news as it seemed. Subject 16 had gone all-out insane due to prolonged exposure which caused the most serious case of the Bleeding Effect that Daniel knew of. It had inevitably led to Subject 16's suicide.
Why Abstergo seemed to think that using the Animus to treat Daniel's condition was a good idea, though, was beyond him. Maybe it was just a way of showing that they were doing something, pretending that they cared. Maybe Sung and Vidic had given up on finding a cure, and just did what they did to satisfy him or their own consciences - to focus on larger and more important work.
Daniel wouldn't be surprised either way.
“Subject 17 had it easy,” he muttered to himself, “He was the big project they were working towards - the rest of us were just guinea pigs, lab rats, to make sure they didn't screw him up.”
The jealousy, the green-eyed envy was hard to deny.
Given that he never had one, Daniel had come to think of Abstergo as family - but they'd probably given up on him and lost faith in him. He was no longer an asset, as Laetitia said, but only little more than a symbol.
Still - Vidic had promised him Desmond and everything was set for Subject 17's arrival. William Miles had been captured in Cairo and, in next to no time, he had been transported to Rome. Vidic had recorded and sent a message to Desmond and his team proposing a trade - the Apple of Eden for Desmond's father. That had been the day before.
Why had they needed Daniel that day?
His thoughts went to Amanda. He wondered what she would think of all this madness. He wondered how he would have spent the rest of the day with her, if he hadn't had to leave that morning. He sighed, half-wishing he just hadn't shown up and left the job to Agent Berg or somebody else. He sat and waited, watching a TV screen they'd set up in the Animi Room - displaying the live CCTV feed around the building.
Desmond had arrived.
Daniel watched him walk around in the jerky, dazed way that he did, his hood up, entering the building and visibly noticing that he was being expected.
He said as much on what appeared to be an ear-piece, “They know I'm here, Rebecca. There's no way they don't.”
A few Abstergo agents approached him and told him to come with them.
“I can show myself in, but thanks for the offer,” he said.
The cry of the speakers rang and then Vidic spoke, “I'd rather this not turn ugly, Mister Miles.”
Desmond looked up, “Then let me through!” he said.
“Subdue the Subject, please,” Vidic commanded.
The Abstergo agents brought out batons and circled Desmond. Daniel watched, almost bored, as Desmond took them all out.
He was wearing his Hidden Blade this time, clever boy. Daniel felt the gun sitting in his holster. Not overtly clever, then.
Desmond walked up a few more levels until he came to an elevator. He pressed a button, the doors opened and he stepped in. Daniel watched through the elevator-camera: rising, rising and then the elevator stopping abruptly, causing Desmond to pitch forward.
“Well, I see you've learned absolutely nothing since you left us,” Vidic said through the speakers, an unimpressed sigh in his voice, “Walking into an elevator in the middle of a hostile environment... Really?”
“Where's my father?” Desmond asked.
Vidic laughed, “You'll see him soon enough. Now be a good boy and wait for security to fetch you.”
He looked around for a moment and then looked up, his eyes resting on the camera for a few moments before his attention was drawn to the hatch on the elevator ceiling. Desmond was lost to Daniel when he climbed out of the elevator and into the shaft.
It didn't matter. Daniel knew Desmond was heading his way.
Daniel straightened and turned around. Any minute now. Any minute now and it could all be over. He bowed his head and sighed, arms folded. He prayed that whatever was inside his head would cut him some slack. He couldn't afford another failure. Hopefully, if Desmond was a trigger of some sort, there wouldn't be enough time to set Daniel's Bleeding Effect off. Daniel held his gun in one hand, hearing Desmond's approach as he walked through the door.
“Give me the Apple,” Daniel said and opened fire.
Desmond ran for cover, hiding behind an Animus as silenced bullets pinged off the quality metal.
“Let's not draw this out,” Daniel said, reloading his gun, “You've got nowhere to go and I've got a gun... Speaking of which, it's the twenty-first century and you're still running around with only a tiny knife for protection? It's stupid,” he scoffed a little and walked around the Animus and pointed his gun at Desmond, “Alright, Desmond. Game's over.”
Daniel put a hand to his head, a headache pounding behind his eyes, “Not now...” he groaned, “Not... now!” he looked around, the world's colour bleaching into a torn white as he spun round to look for reality, “Tam yeshche mnogoye predstoit sdelat'!” he cried desperately, “Nyet! Get out!”
“What the hell was that?” he heard Desmond mutter.
Daniel looked around.
Where was he? Where was anything?
A blinding white path was paved for him and he ran. To where and into what, he didn't know - he just hoped to escape. He shot a few times behind him, in a bid to slow Desmond down.
“We have worked too Hard and waited too Long for you to ruin Our Plans, cipher,” said a voice.
It had that horrible echoing, almost metallic quality - but it was distinctly female. And, although it was calm, awe and fear wracked Daniel in shivers. This was no ordinary hallucination. Daniel felt blood drip from his nose and ears, his mind strain at the seams of his sanity.
He screamed and his breathing became erratic, “Get out!” he shook his head wildly, as if that would clear it, “Get out! GET OUT!” reality returned for a moment, and (finding no exit) he saw a glass screen, shot at it and jumped through - the shards embedding themselves in his neck and hands, clinking as they hit the hard surfaces. His vision blurred and he tried his best to jump from one thing to the next. Desmond was close by, Daniel could hear Vidic's voice travelling through the speakers - but he paid no heed to what the young man was doing or what the old man was saying.
“You are a nothing!” the voice in his head screamed, “A speck of Dust! You and all your Ilk! All that you have seen, all that you have done - worthless in your Struggles. Empty, purpose-less Things you have Become! Three Times We have sought to Dissuade you from your Course, cipher, your Desperation to Imprison the one who would set Us Free - but you return a fourth Time. We shall see the End of it. Now,” the voice paused.
Daniel fell to his knees, and screamed and sobbed and cried as a new pain filled his mind - as though someone was digging their nails into his brain, deeper and deeper and deeper...
A whiteness spread out before him, as he held his head and begged whatever god would listen to kill him.
The silhouette of a woman - though not quite human - stood before him. Her skin was as pale as alabaster, her eyes and hair the darkest black, her face twisted in fury.
Her beauty blinding and terrible.
“You served Us Once,” she said, “And Desmond will make it So again!”
Something nudged Daniel. Something real touched him and the vision began to fade. For once in his life, his head was silent, empty. Peaceful. He gasped and sighed in relief, blinking tears out of his eyes.
Before the pain registered.
His body collapsed and he felt a stinging in his side. He touched the wound and his hand came away bloody.
He laughed drunkenly, and then held back a sob, watching as Desmond crouched beside him.
“All the voices in my head...” he croaked, “S-s-screaming... SCREAMING... All the time... begging to be released,” he placed a hand on his chest, “This... My body...
My MIND!” he sniffed and touched his head, breathing sobs, “They lived their lives...” he said miserably, “Why... w-why don't they let me live mine?” he sighed “Amanda... Amanda... I'm sorry...” he said weakly, before grasping Desmond's arm, “You have to silence them... Pozhaluysta... Please! And... Don't hurt her, 17... She knows nothing... If you can, hide her from them... Don't let them touch her... Don't let them take her. Amanda May is her name...” he took one last, deep breath, “Now, please... please... Silence them...”