“I can feel you, cipher,” Amanda stared, the ghostly face of a beautiful woman looking at her through the computer screen. Her voice was like static, and it echoed through her mind, making the veins in her temples throb, “Feel, but hardly touch,” the ghost went on. Amanda jumped out of her seat - only short of jumping out of her skin - and backed away, tossing her headphones into a wall and breaking them. Still the voice rang in her head, still those beautiful haunted eyes gazed at her from the monitor, “Signal is still too weak and I am spread thin. Unfocused. Like static and fog, lingering in the networks and nodes - the nervous system of the world,” Amanda shut her eyes, sitting in a corner of the room and whimpering, the pressure closing on her mind like a vice, “Perhaps the Temple was opened too soon,” the faded image of a cave appeared before her, white like the ghost, like all her hallucinations. It showed a man placing a spherical object in an apparent keyhole and the cave wall rose to allow him access, “But this was not by choice. The cataclysm pushed aside all doubt,” the scene shifted, blurred into another. Amanda's stomach churned, and she rested her head back and swallowed. The same man stood by a pedestal and placed his hand upon it, “Ah! We bless poor Desmond, who gave his life so that you, the Children of our Labours, would live on. To fulfil your Purpose in ours. In mine,” the man convulsed in agony before he fell to the ground, limp. Dead. “But now is not the time. My strength is not sufficient to inhabit an organic vessel,” a screech filled Amanda's head and she screamed. She felt like her sanity was being torn in two, “There is more work to do, more samples to collect, more artefacts to find - before my will may obtain,” Juno paused. The pain stopped momentarily and Amanda heard the vague sounds of people coming into the office and snapping their fingers in her face. Juno appeared in front of all of that and said, “Make me whole again. My children. My instruments,” the ghostly face smiled, “Bring me forth to fulfil your purpose...”
Amanda was getting sick of this...
She cracked her eyes open and shut them again - not wanting to wake up. She could still hear the echo of Juno's voice... that lovely voice that soothed but also commanded. Like a mother's voice... Or a queen's...
This was a different voice. The voice swam through her unconsciousness, filled her hearing...
Urgh, she hated his voice...
She managed to murmur something unintelligible.
A chuckle responded.
It made her want to hit him.
Amanda's eyes flew open and she stared up at Berg's face. Her vision swam, the colours and objects mixing and folding into each other. Amanda gagged. She sat up turned to her side and vomited violently all over the floor. She let out a few dry heaves and then spat and lay back down. She shut her eyes and groaned.
“Couldn't you see I was trying to sleep?” she muttered.
Berg chuckled, “My apologies, your Royal Highness. I beg a thousand pardons.”
“I'm going to report you in to Human Resources if you don't shut up,” Amanda said.
“Like they'd believe you anyway.”
“I'm the pretty girl, not you,” Amanda pointed out, “Of course they'd believe me. And you tried to drug me once, and inject me another time, and then later you tried to beat me in a boxing ring,” she said, “It's irrelevant that you failed all three times - and, yes, I had to say so - but the odds are not in your favour, so I wouldn't try my patience if I were you,” she rubbed her forehead, “I'm in short supply as it is.”
“You're even more irritating when you're half-dead,” Berg tutted, shaking his head.
“Where's Dr Sung?”
“With another patient.”
“So what the hell are you doing here?”
Why would anyone ever say something like that? Ti someone who had been unconscious moments ago? “Ew...” Amanda scowled.
“That wasn't intended.”
“Of course not. Only you could accidentally make a sexual reference in two words,” Amanda sat up, ignoring as the world took its time to catch up with her, “What do you want?”
“Laetitia asked me to check in on you,” Berg explained, “There's someone she wants you to see.”
“The Sage?” Amanda clarified, “Did they get him?”
“Oh, uh... I don't actually know. Maybe?”
Amanda shook her head and stood up, “Do you know anything?”
“Ha-ha,” Berg said, offering his hand.
Amanda smacked it away, “I'll manage. Do not touch me,” she took a tentative step, using the bed and the furniture to support her as she moved, “I want to go and change first. I feel... disgusting.”
“You smell disgusting,” Berg commented.
“If you can smell it over your horrible aftershave, then I must smell bad,” she held her stomach and stood by the open door, “Where should I meet you?”
“The cafeteria,” Berg said, folding his arms and making his way towards her, “We'll have a bite to eat before we go and meet Laetitia.”
“Oh, goody, lunch with you?” Amanda said, “That should be fun - you can silently judge me while I stuff myself to my throat.”
“Silently? I will openly do so.”
“And I will openly break your nose,” Amanda said, “those are my terms,” she left and made her way to her room, leaning and resting against the wall periodically to catch her breath and allow her vision to settle.
She opened her door and wandered in, diving for the bed. Amanda buried her head in the pillow and opened the drawer. She popped out a pill and swallowed it dry. She then turned over and looked at the ceiling.
It was true.
Everything that Shaun had told her was true.
Juno was loose and she was looking for an "organic vessel".
And the way she had... entered Amanda's mind...
Amanda could see Juno's face every time she shut her eyes. She so desperately wanted to see Dr Sung. She wanted to see Daniel. To escape for ten seconds and regroup her thoughts, make sense of everything she had seen, everything she had experienced.
Would there be enough time for that?
Besides... Amanda was unsure if Daniel even wanted to know her anymore. Her last Animus session was spent following him around and trying to get his attention. She eventually gave up and decided to go through the wall, return to Jack Molay and his memories. She was glad that at least his life was going smoothly, thus far.
Amanda sighed and got up.
She took a quick shower and put on a loose shirt and a pair of jeans and left the room.
She made her way to the cafeteria, loaded her tray to tipping-point and found her seat where Berg was.
Amanda ate hungrily, such that she was sure she'd feel sick about it later. She didn't care. That was Future Amanda's problem.
Berg scoffed, “I see you meant it when you said-”
“Will break. Your nose,” Amanda said, between large bites.
Berg rolled his eyes but didn't try her patience. They ate in silence and then got up to leave for the meeting with Laetitia.
“I assumed you'd be at least a little bit more curious about this,” Berg said.
“I am,” Amanda said.
“My curiosity isn't as big as my desire to avoid conversing with you.”
Berg scowled, “You know, you don't have to be so unpleasant. We could be allies.”
“Allies that spike each others drinks?”
“Fine. I made a mistake. It won't happen again.”
“And the needle-gun?”
“I was ordered to do it!”
“And the boxing ring?”
“I was only following your lead, Amanda.”
“You kept stepping on my nerves - making uncalled-for, inappropriate comments about my dead boyfriend. How the fuck were you following my lead? The fuck was I supposed to do? Sit there and take it? Daniel never mentioned a thing about you to me when he was alive. Ever. So why can't you just get your panties out of a bunch and leave him alone? He's dead!”
Berg looked at Amanda. Her eyes were tearing up, “I...” he paused, “I apologise,” Berg licked his lips uncomfortably, “I understand that that may not mean much at this point, but I don't want to be your enemy. Rival, perhaps, but not enemy. I'm sorry.”
Amanda's breaths left her angry and heavy, “It doesn't mean anything, coming from you. Just don't talk to me and maybe I can learn to live my life knowing that somewhere in the world a person like you exists!”
Amanda walked away, heading for the chamber that led to Laetitia's office. She went straight in and found Laetitia sitting at her desk as usual.
With an addition.
Sitting in front of her, strapped to a chair, was a young woman - trembling in fear.
“Ah, Amanda,” Laetitia said, “Glad to see you've made it.”
Amanda looked from the girl to Laetitia, “What is this?” she asked, trying to make sense of the situation.
Laetitia gestured to the captive, “One of the Assassins you described - Pauline Anderson.”