Juhani Otso Berg had not seen Amanda for weeks. A sudden emotional breakdown has caused her to be escorted back to Philadelphia by one of the other agents, while Juhani helped to rebuild and restore order to the Abstergo Entertainment building in Montreal. Juhani had been told that Amanda's appointed treatment in the Animus had been significantly increased. That couldn't be good. So when he returned to the compound in Philadelphia, he certainly didn't expect her to be the first person he saw.
All the same, he greeted her and asked if she would join him for breakfast.
She just nodded.
Amanda looked a mess, Juhani noted. She looked like she hadn't slept in weeks - her eyes hollow and tired - and her cheekbones stuck out like they used to back when she lived in Pasadena. Her hair had thinned considerably and she walked with her head down and her shoulders slumped. She was miserable.
He tried not to say anything as he led her to the cafeteria, and they got their breakfasts.
“So... How have you been?” Juhani asked cautiously.
Amanda shook her head and mumbled something.
Juhani looked at the table. What was he supposed to say? She probably didn't even want him around. Was he making her feel worse?
They ate in silence until they had finished their meals.
“How have you been?” she asked Juhani, pushing her tray aside.
“I've... been good. I've been given a permanent job at Abstergo Entertainment.”
Juhani thought Amanda might make a sarcastic remark - what did he know about video games and home entertainment anyway - but she just asked, “As what?”
Amanda nodded, as if this made sense.
There was silence between them again and Juhani tried to focus on all the background noise rather than all the emotions that marked Amanda's face.
“Do you know why I'm here, Amanda?” Juhani said eventually.
Amanda looked at him, and then shook her head.
“It seems the Order wants to officially initiate you as a Templar novice,” Juhani explained with an encouraging smile on his face, “Some of us were very impressed with how you dealt with the mess in Montreal.”
Amanda remained silent for a while, before she said, “I don't know if... that's what I want any more.”
“I killed John,” she choked, “I killed him. It's not the same when I relive a memory and when I've actually done it. He won't leave me alone. None of them ever do,” she bent her head, “Dr Sung thinks it's the hallucinations, the Bleeding Effect acting up, but it isn't. I know it isn't,” she looked at her hands and they shook, “These hands... This person... Will never be clean.”
“He would have killed you, Amanda, if you hadn't acted.”
“Only because I was holding a gun to him!” Amanda countered, “I don't care what his intentions were... He was good to me.”
“Amanda...” Juhani raised a brow, wondering what to say, “Amanda, it's normal. To feel what you're feeling. Regret, sadness, remorse - but also a disgust against yourself because you feel a little proud. It's what keeps you human, clean. That's not a bad thing.”
“But how can you do that over and over again, without it... eating your soul?”
“You can't. Eventually, it gets easier and easier. For some of us, it gets too easy. We begin to kill for convenience instead of as a last-resort action. But it never will for you. Regret is... something very important for anyone that is to pursue this line of work. And that's a quality to be respected. You have it within you, Amanda. This work... I don't know, maybe you're the best person for it,” Juhani moved forward, “Have you spoken to Dr Sung about this?”
“No... I was... It's not something the doctor really... understands.”
“You ought to talk about it. These things are better said than kept sealed.”
“Mr Berg... I hate you,” Amanda said, rubbing her eyes, “I hate you so much, but I really, really need a hug right now.”
“Of course,” Juhani accepted her embrace and said nothing as she bawled on his shoulder.
When she was done, Amanda sat up, and rubbed her eyes with her fists. She had to admit, she felt better. Her head felt a little clearer. Her hands felt a little cleaner.
Juhani put a hand on her shoulder, “You're going to be alright, Amanda.”
“I don't know about that,” Amanda said, looking at her hands, “I've lost everything, Mr-”
“Please, just call me Juhani.”
“I've lost everything, Juhani. Everything I knew, everything I was, everything I had. It's all gone. And in the time I should have used to mourn a death, mourn the loss of my home, my entire being... I've doomed a person to this life, I've become clinically insane and I've killed a man... I don't know if I can come back from that.”
“Of course you will,” Juhani reassured her, “I know I've been... a pain. But this is your family now and I know for a fact that they will take care of you.”
“For a price...”
“Well, nothing comes free, Amanda.”
Amanda considered his reply, “I guess not.”
“Come on,” Juhani said, standing up and putting out his hand, “Let's get you initiated.”
Amanda stared at his hand for a moment, before she sniffed and asked, “There won't be any blood, will there?”
Juhani chuckled, “Don't be daft.”
She stood up without his help and followed him to Laetitia's office. When they arrived, Amanda saw a number of people she didn't recognise standing in columns on either side of Laetitia's desk, while Laetitia herself stood in the centre, holding her hands behind her back.
“Go on,” Juhani urged her, pushing her along lightly, whilst he stood to a side.
Amanda walked forward, feeling awkward and out of place, not entirely sure what she was supposed to do.
“Amanda May,” Laetitia said, and gestured in front of her, “Come. Stand.”
Amanda did as she was told.
“Do you swear to uphold the principles of our Order and for all that which we stand?” Laetitia asked.
Amanda nodded, “I do.”
“And never to share our secrets nor divulge the true nature of our work?”
“And to do so from now until death - whatever the cost?”
Now until death? That was a long time. Or was it?
What else could she possibly do?
“I do,” she said.
Laetitia picked up a small box from her desk and opened it to show Amanda a small silver ring marked with a red pectoral cross. It caught the light of the room, “Then we welcome you into our fold, sister,” Laetitia said, “Together, we will usher in the dawn of a New World. One defined by purpose and order. Give me your hand.”
Amanda put out her left hand and Laetitia slid the ring onto her third finger.
“You are a Templar.”