“Dancing bears, painted wings:
Things I almost remember;
And a song someone sings -
Once upon a December.
Someone holds me, safe and warm;
Horses prance through a silver storm;
Figures dancing gracefully -
Across my memory!
Far away, long ago:
Growing dim as an ember.
Things my heart used to know;
Things it yearns to remember.
And a song someone sings -
Once upon a December.”
“Is there a reason for all of your intermittent caterwauling?” Shaun asked Amanda as he drove the caravan up a busy lane.
By now, Amanda had grown used to Shaun's sarcasm. She reckoned it was his way of being nice. That or he just didn't know how.
“Disney's Anastasia,” Amanda explained.
“Are you quite sure? I thought that was a Dreamworks production.”
“Whatever. It's not important. I loved that animation though... Anastasia, the last of the Romanovs,” she paused a moment, “It reminds me of what Daniel must have felt like, never knowing where he was from.”
“Not important giving credit where it's due?” Shaun said, completely ignoring the second part of Amanda's statement, “Your moral code appears to differ from mine.”
Amanda made a face, “This coming from the Assassin in the sweater, who never seems to shut up? Is that your signature killing method, by the way?”
“That makes absolutely no sense.”
“Really?” Amanda said, pretending to be delirious, “Because I think I can see the light.”
“Now we're joking about dying?”
“No. We're joking about how you don't know when to shut up.”
“Well, I wouldn't exactly call you the expert in that field.”
“But we aren't talking about me.”
“I think it's better if we avoid the subject of Shaun Hastings, Amanda,” Rebecca cut in, looking back at her from the shotgun seat, “His ego's a real sensitive thing. If it snaps, it could end the world.”
“And,” said Shaun, taking no offence at all, “you should kindly note that Assassin's aren't all about the killing. Sure, some of it has to do with killing. Most of it even. But not all of it.”
“Said the medieval politician to the executioner,” Amanda muttered.
“Your sarcasm is beginning to irritate me.”
“Well. How the mighty fall.”
“Oh, look,” Rebecca laughed, “we found the anti-Shaun!”
“Where are we going?” Amanda asked.
“Nowhere,” Shaun said, “We were asked to keep our eyes on the States, report back anything strange.”
“So we're just going to circle around America in the hope of finding something out of the ordinary?”
“Pretty much,” Rebecca admitted, “But it would probably be a good idea to get you used to a couple of things. I think you're pretty well-informed, so far, about Assassins and Templars, but training you would be a bonus.”
“Training me?” Amanda asked, incredulously, “In what?”
“In being an Assassin,” said Shaun.
Amanda paused. She didn't know if she wanted to be an Assassin. But she didn't say as much, “But... like... You'd teach me to - what, exactly? To fight? To kill?”
“You sound disapproving of the idea, Amanda,” Shaun scoffed.
“Figures,” Rebecca said, “but it's necessary. Anyway, we wouldn't train you. The Animus would.”
“The machine?” Amanda asked, “But how?”
“Through something referred to as the Bleeding Effect,” Shaun parked the caravan and unbuckled his seatbelt. He walked over to Amanda. The way he stood, the way he spoke to her, Amanda found extremely patronising.
“Now, you've probably experienced this already, albeit unknowingly and second-hand. Daniel Cross had what I'd say was the second-worst case of the Bleeding Effect - after Clay, who went all-out insane and died of a tragic suicide.”
“I am so convinced,” Amanda said in mock-enthusiasm, furrowing her brows, “When do I start? Where do I sign up?”
Shaun rolled his eyes, “Let me finish: The Bleeding Effect occurs after an prolonged exposure to the Animus - it basically jumbles up personal memories with ancestral recollections. Unravels the genes into reality. In short, you would eventually stop needing the Animus to visit your ancestors, which would be a good thing - if anyone could control it.”
“Oh, I'm really excited now.”
“But,” Rebecca said impatiently, “despite the drawbacks, there is a bonus to it. The Bleeding Effect, sort of, allows you to absorb all your ancestors' abilities. It worked with Desmond - he learnt all of the skills of one of his ancestors in a few days. Years of training summed up in a few virtual-genetic experiences.”
“And that's what you want me to do?”
Rebecca and Shaun looked at each other, “It would be the quickest way,” Shaun said.
“I don't know...” Amanda said uncertainly.
“All we'd have to do it trace your lineage back to a skilled fighter or something,” said Rebecca, “You'd have to experience the training he went through and-”
“I'd learn everything instantly?”
“Pretty much,” Rebecca said, “We can start when you're ready. Everything we need is in the back of the van.”
“I don't know... I've already got my fair share of problems. I don't think I need any more,” Amanda said.
“What do you mean?” Shaun asked.
“Well, there's depression. And... I'm...” Amanda scratched her head, looking for the rights words, “I'm not schizophrenic, but I show some schizoid behaviour.”
“Didn't Lucy say something...?” Rebecca said, snapping her fingers, trying to remember, “About something naturally-occurring... something...”
“Good show, genius,” Shaun said, “I'll take it from here. One of our former associates, Lucy Stillman (who we later found out was a mole for Abstergo, unfortunately) told us that there are some forms of a naturally-occurring Bleeding Effect - like multiple personality disorder or, like you said, schizophrenia. This might actually work in your favour, Amanda. You've already experienced the trauma.”
“You're saying that like it's a good thing...”
“It is! Well... it's not, generally - but it is for this circumstance. You won't be as unhinged as Desmond or, if I dare say, Cross.”
“Daniel was ruined from an early age,” Amanda said, “he told me that. He never got used to it. It never got better.”
“I'm sure Cross was a special case,” Shaun said, waiving away the remark with a flick of his hand, “We'll take it slow, Amanda. Show you the ropes, get you used to how it all works. Then we could plug you in and get you all Assassin'd-up.”
“Never say that again,” Rebecca commented.
Amanda looked from Shaun to Rebecca and back. She didn't know what to say. As their impatience grew, she averted her gaze and looked at her hands, to the Hidden Blade strapped to her arm.
When Daniel had discussed Assassin and Templar doctrine - without actually naming them - Amanda had said she would rather be a Templar. But now... Now, to be perfectly candid, she didn't know. She was so confused and everything she already knew seemed to be of no relevance to Shaun or Rebecca or surely anyone else she would meet.
How much of what Daniel had said was true?
How much of what the Assassins were saying was true?
Amanda touched Daniel's blade, furrowed her brows and said, “Okay, I'll do it.”
Rebecca raised her brows, “Awesome,” she said.
“About bloody time,” Shaun commented.
“What made up your mind?” Rebecca asked.
“Daniel asked you guys to protect me,” Amanda said, “I don't know why, but he trusted you. And if you were good enough for him, you're good enough for me.”