“Any idea why they've called us here?” John asked, shaking his head. Shaun and Rebecca were preparing a few things, as if for a presentation, and had asked both Amanda and John to be present for it.
“No,” Amanda said, a vein throbbing in her temple, “Though it's probably something to do with the episodes I've been having.”
“I doubt it,” John said, regarding her, “You okay?”
Amanda looked at him, her eyes bloodshot and her eyelids drooping, “Why do you care? All we seem to do is irritate you.”
John chuckled, “You let me be the jackass, sweetheart,” he suggested, “I'm just asking.”
Amanda blinked, “I can't sleep, I feel like throwing up everywhere, there are little slips of white ghosts folding in and out of the corners of my vision, and the voices in my head have never been so pronounced...” Amanda coughed, her throat sore and her voice hoarse from shouting and screaming at so many ghosts, “You tell me.”
John stuck his tongue in his cheek. In the last few days, Amanda had aged to a considerable degree - she looked sickly and weak, the lines in her forehead and mouth more prominent. He wondered, for a moment, how long it would take for her mind to snap under the pressure.
“You're in, neck-deep,” he commented.
“Yeah. No shit,” Amanda replied and then sighed. She held her head and growled as another headache began to form.
“You never heard of painkillers?”
“John,” Amanda said, “just, please, for the love of whatever god or saint or spirit or spaghetti-monster you worship - shut up.”
John stared at her, amazed that the lovely little British woman could be so obnoxious, and lighted a cigarette and then passed it to her, “It'll help a little,” he said.
She took it and smoked. It didn't help with the aching - at least not immediately - but it gave her something else to focus on, “Thanks,” she muttered.
“Don't mention it. You were beginning to freak me out.”
Shaun and Rebecca, when they were ready, set up the computer and a video streamed. The light hurt Amanda's eyes, but she narrowed them and tried to pay attention. It was about Abstergo. They had opened an entertainment branch in Montreal, Canada. When the video stopped playing, Shaun waved a hand in front of his face.
“Amanda,” he said, “Good grief, put that poison-stick out.”
“This stick of poison,” Amanda said, holding the cigarette upright, “is the only thing - the only thing - at the current stopping me from tearing your face off with my fingernails.”
Shaun rolled his eyes, “Anyway.”
Rebecca opened a window and said, “The video. Thoughts?”
“I thought Abstergo was a pharmaceutical company,” Amanda said.
“It is,” Shaun replied, “They opened their entertainment branch last year and released a game titled 'Liberation' - ironic name for Templars, but you know - but they used Animus technology to release the game and are planning to release a new one this year. Thing is, we're almost certain they're going to use Desmond's DNA to release it.”
“But I thought Desmond was dead? Died to save the world and all that?”
“Yeah,” Rebecca sat down and explained, “But we had to get out of the Vault in time for him to do that. When we got back, his body and personal effects were gone.”
“And you think the Templars swooped in, just to take his body?”
“His DNA,” Shaun stressed, “they still have a lot of research to do and Desmond's ancestors hold many of the answers.”
Amanda squeezed her eyes shut, “And so...?” she said, beckoning him to make his point.
“We're going to go to Montreal, see what Abstergo's planning by poking around their cloud server, and we'll pave our way from there to find a way to stop them,” Shaun said.
Amanda could have sat there and burst into tears, “You still haven't got to your point.”
“But that was the point.”
John put a hand on her back, as if understanding her pain, “This is great and all, but why are we being told this?” he asked.
“Because we assumed you'd want to help us. You know: you and Amanda,” Shaun replied.
“If I agree, can I leave the caravan immediately?” Amanda whined.
“I don't think you're taking this seriously.”
“Think?” Amanda made a face as a screeching sound tore through her ears. She gulped, “I can tell you with absolute certainty, I'm not taking anything seriously,” she leaned back, digging her fingernails into her scalp, “Argh, bloody fuck!”
“Get out!” said the voices, “Leave now!”
“Leave me alone,” Amanda whispered, “Leave me...”
The headache dissipated to nothing and Amanda looked up. Her vision was tinted red, and she looked at her hands. They glowed a bright blue.
“Choose,” said the voices, “Choose.”
“I can't...” Amanda said, “It's too soon. I can't.”
“Excuses!” the voices howled, “Choose!”
Amanda screamed, covering her ears with both hands and dropping to her knees.
“Shut up!” she cried, “Leave me be!”
“Decide,” the voices said, “To follow the eagle or the cross.”
“I don't know!” Amanda could feel blood leaking from her ears and her nose, her hands twitching and contorting into irregular positions, “Give me time!”
Light flooded her vision when Amanda cracked her eyes open. Everything was blurry, but the image sharpened the more she blinked. The sound of her breath filled her hearing. Shaun was looking down at her.
“Don't move,” he said, “there's a chance you might feel sick.”
Amanda touched her head anyway, finding her forehead and hair damp with sweat, “God forbid that I should vomit on Shaun Hastings,” she breathed.
“I was telling you for-”
“Oh, God, Shaun just shut up!” she said weakly, “You know, most people would have laughed it off.”
“I told you, Amanda,” Rebecca chuckled, “Shaun isn't most people,” she put a wet cloth on Amanda's forehead.
Amanda sighed, the cold comforting her, and she sat up slowly holding the cloth to her head, “Why won't they leave me alone?” she muttered to herself.
“My guess is, your ancestors are real dickheads,” Shaun commented.
“Thank you for that. It means a lot, coming from you,” Amanda said, “It was a rhetorical question.”
“Rebecca's going to go out to square away our means of getting into Canada,” Shaun said.
She threw the wet cloth at him, “Being sympathetic is just outside of what Sky-Net programmed you for, isn't it?” she yelled.
Shaun took the cloth off his face, pinching it between forefinger and thumb, and said, “I'm sorry, Amanda, but this is important and it can't be delayed.”
“What do you want from me?”
“We're going to have to make false passports, so we were hoping you'd have some form of ID on you?”
“I have my passport in my purse,” Amanda said, standing up lethargically and wobbling towards the desk, holding anything she could for support.
“Excellent,” Shaun said, “Would you like to change your name?”
“Well, you can't go in with your current one. That would be far too bold and you're no Braveheart, as-”
“Just let me think? Please?”
Shaun backed off and Amanda took out her purse from under the desk and dug out her passport. She handed it to Rebecca.
“Anna Bruce,” Amanda said, “That's the name I want.”
“For a second, I thought you might go with Amanda Cross,” Shaun quipped.
“And I suppose you were prepared to reprimand me about that?”
“Well, sorry to disappoint,” Amanda said, hobbling to the exit, “Where's John?”
“He went out,” Rebecca said, “Didn't say where. Why?”
“I was hoping I could spend time with a,” she looked at Shaun, “a different megalomaniac, while you were gone.”
Rebecca laughed, “I promise I won't take long.”