“Just pick one!” Shaun insisted.
Amanda furrowed her brows, looking at Shaun like he was a madman.
“For the last time, the plain bandage will do,” Amanda said.
“You are no fun, Amanda,” Shaun tutted, peeling off the soaked bandage on Amanda's arm and covering it with a fresh one, “I rather think you don't appreciate my light-hearted, colourful dinosaur bandages.”
For his sake, Amanda forced a smile, “On a different occasion, I might have. But... I'm not in much of a light-hearted, colourful mood, Shaun. I'm sorry. You can keep your bandages for yourself,” Amanda looked around the caravan.
She had arrived here not too long ago, with a single duffel bag of everything she regarded as a necessity. The rest she'd left at her flat - running from the place in the hope that Berg's friends didn't show up early.
“Where's Rebecca?” Amanda asked.
“Oh, just out to gather some supplies and blow off some steam,” Shaun said, securing the bandage, “Don't worry though - I've texted her that you've come. You won't have to deal with me longer than you have to, though I must say that is a pity. Do you want to tell me what changed your mind on this? Finally realised the error of your unfortunate lover's ways?”
Amanda glared at Shaun. She pulled her large, shapeless, dark hoodie closer around her frame.
It didn't smell like him anymore...
It smelt sweet and slightly musty. Not at all like him.
“I'm here because I don't seem to have a choice,” Amanda explained, still a little flustered by the events of that night, “My neighbour almost drugged me and he'd called on a 'pizza line' to call in a 'Code 04' before he even asked me what kind of pizza I wanted. I think that... whatever this is might just be a huge overreaction.”
Shaun laughed, “Oh, you think that, do you?”
“I don't know! I'm so confused,” Amanda admitted, “I don't even trust you people. I don't know why I'm here except that something weird happened with Mr Berg (who I'd always taken to be this nice, gentleman-type guy) and I panicked.”
Shaun's entire frame jolted up, “Berg? As in Juhani Otso Berg?” he asked.
Amanda nodded, “That's him, I think.”
“Wow...” Shaun murmured, getting up from his stool and putting away the first-aid kit, “Wow, indeed...”
“What?” Amanda queried.
Shaun turned and leaned against the counter, “Well, according to our sources, Berg is Abstergo's top operative, currently. He was second only to your boyfriend, Cross, when he was alive. If they sent him to get you...” Shaun paused, “You ought to be both flattered and proud of yourself. You smashed a vase into the head of your boyfriend's biggest rival, Amanda! Abstergo doesn't seem to be taking any chances with you... though... I wonder why they'd want you so badly.”
“Maybe they've run out of things to do?”
“Possible, possible...” Shaun said, scoffing but becoming serious, “Either way, I do believe you're stuck with us. So make yourself at home,” he turned back to the counter and put the kettle on, “How many sugars do you take in your tea?”
“I'm fine, thanks, Shaun,” Amanda said, sitting on a seat beside the cabinets.
“I insist. You've had quite an adventure since we last met. A hot English beverage might do you some good.”
“Firstly, tea is originally Indian, the British just nicked it,” Amanda said, “And secondly, the very last thing I want is a drink.”
“Oh? Why's that?”
“Do you want to get smashed in the side of the head with a very expensive vase?”
“Your question is irrelevant. We don't have a very expensive vase.”
Amanda sighed, “I don't want tea, Shaun.”
Shaun laughed, “Will you eat anything then?”
“I... I had some light dinner at home. Before the incident with Berg.”
Shaun shook his head, but said nothing as he made his tea and then sat opposite to Amanda.
“I thought you'd have more questions,” Shaun said, sipping his tea from a mug that showed the colours of the Union Jack, “About us... and them.”
“I did have questions,” Amanda said, “but the brief things you've already said about the Templars and Abstergo... It makes sense.”
“What makes sense?”
Amanda put her hands in the pockets of her hoodie and took out a folded piece of paper. She passed it to Shaun, “All this time, I thought he told me nothing... When I was holding everything on a piece of paper.”
Shaun skimmed through Daniel's account, his narration of the Assassin-Templar story, before he said, “Well, that's a slight exaggeration. This isn't everything.”
Amanda ignored him and said, “So, if he was a Templar, you guys are... Assassins?”
“That's right. And, don't worry - it's really not as aggressive as it sounds...” Shaun paused, “Well... not always.”
“And that stuff about the Pieces of Eden and the Precursor Race? Is that all... true?”
“Indeed it is, Amanda. I was cynical about it all myself, but I've seen it. I've seen what the Apple of Eden can do. I've never heard of this Observatory, though...” Shaun passed Amanda's page back, “that must be Abstergo's new project... Interesting.”
“And Desmond Miles? Who is he?”
“Oh, Desmond? Well, he was what Abstergo and the Assassins were chasing around for a while. Been quite the roller-coaster, let me tell you. You could say he was Cross's equal - Desmond was THE Assassin, and Cross was THE Templar. Although, truth be told, Desmond was on the dopey-annoying side. I'm assuming Cross wasn't that way?”
Amanda tried to ignore Shaun's obsession with side-tracking (indeed, she was more than used to that as a teacher) and instead pointed out, “You keep referring to him in the past-tense...”
“Ah, yes. Desmond is dead. He died not too long after Cross, actually - 21st December, last year. The day that should have been the end of the world.”
“I'm sorry for your loss... Though you didn't believe that apocalyptic malarkey, did you?”
Shaun's face became slightly more set, “It used to be when people talked about the end of the world, they'd lock them up or laugh them off. Sometimes both. But what happened last year... That was no laugh-off. Desmond died to save the world. You can deny it or scoff at it all you like, but that's the truth of it.”
Amanda paused. It was a little much to take in. Desmond Miles being the man trying to stop the end of the world and Daniel Cross being the man trying to stop him.
Had she fallen in love with a villain...?
The evidence suggested as much.
“I know I've been largely unsympathetic to your circumstance, Amanda, but...” Shaun said, “I'm sorry for all this bloody business. Honestly, I am. It's just difficult to feel bad for Cross. He used to be an Assassin, believe it or not. The Assassin, before Desmond, from the way I've heard it told. But it turned out that he was a sleeper-agent for Abstergo, sent in to infiltrate and destroy the organisation. He almost succeeded.”
Amanda looked up at Shaun. She knew this story, Daniel had written about it in his letter - but he hadn't written that sleeper-agent as himself. As if he was ashamed that he had done such a thing. Amanda always had a way of making him feel self-conscious. Her eyes became sad as she thought about all of this. How much Amanda had meant to him, she knew. She felt a sudden urge to make an excuse for Daniel, but didn't know what would excuse him from this. She just said, “The Daniel I knew wasn't Templar-Hero Daniel or Assassin-Villain Daniel...” she leaned back and sighed, “He was just a sad, sad man looking for an out.”
“Is that the sort of thing you find appealing in a man?”
Rage stabbed at her, “Really, Shaun?”
“I'm sorry, Amanda. It's very hard to take you seriously. You fell in love with the world's biggest loser.”
Amanda's face darkened. She stood up and turned on her heel.
“Amanda, come on, don't be-”
As Amanda went to tear open the door, Rebecca stepped in with a cardboard box full of supplies.
She looked from Shaun to Amanda and narrowed her eyes, asking, “What did Shaun do?”
Amanda regarded Rebecca for a second, before she shook her head and stepped out of the caravan anyway.
Rebecca turned to Shaun, “When did she get here?”
“Midnight,” Shaun replied.
“What did you say?”
Shaun smiled sheepishly, “I said a lot of things.”
“You're taking shots at the wrong person. You know that.”
“Come on, Bex. It's Daniel Cross! You remeber Cross, right? Psychotic maniac who nearly destroyed everything?”
“Yeah, well, he was no worse than Lucy. She's been dead for how long now, and you've still got a soft spot for her.”
“Lucy was different.”
“Shaun, Lucy was one of my best friends. But she wasn't different from Cross or any of the other power-heads at Abstergo. Every death is a loss to someone, somewhere,” she stepped back outside, muttering, “Trust you to be unhomely when I'm away.”
“I was being homely! I offered her tea and food! Is it my fault she shunned my graces?” Shaun called after her.
Rebecca found Amanda sitting by a tree not too far away, her knees pulled up and her face buried in them. She was crying miserably, her shoulders shaking as she breathed in a jerking fashion with each sob. Rebecca sighed, feeling sympathetic towards the woman but also sharing Shaun's opinion on Daniel.
Hannah Mueller was dead because of him. Paul Bellamy was an Abstergo test subject because of him. Desmond Miles almost got captured three times because of Daniel Cross. If Daniel hadn't been stopped, the sun would have had its way and the world would have been destroyed. And, not forgetting, he was the man responsible for the death of the previous Assassin Mentor and the Great Purge.
The man had caused them no end of trouble. He had deserved the end he had received.
But how could you possibly tell that to someone who genuinely loved him?
“Can I sit here?” Rebecca asked.
Amanda looked up, her mascara a running mess on her face. She sniffed and looked away. It was so dark outside, but she wished it was darker. She wished all the streetlights would go out so nobody could see her. Nobody had the right to. But her face crumpled and she nodded slightly.
Rebecca sat, and looked up at the black sky. They sat in an awkward silence for a while. Amanda wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve. She was still wearing Daniel's brace and she looked at it now. Amanda held it close to her chest and leaned back against the tree.
“This was his...” she mumbled. Rebecca turned to look at Amanda as she spoke, “This belonged to him. And he never took it off. Except when... when he was in my home. I never knew why. I never asked. I wonder... Would he have told me that it was a weapon? Would he have told me that he spent his life ruining other peoples'? Killing them?” tears dripped out of her eyes, “I can't believe... I refuse to believe...” she unbuckled the brace and threw it away - staring at it fearfully as it rolled around on the ground, as if it was a feral animal. She shook her head and whined, “How...!”
“I didn't know him,” Rebecca said. For Amanda's sake, she decided to give the woman some excuses, “But... From what I've heard...”
Amanda looked at Rebecca, waiting for her to continue.
Rebecca took a deep breath, “Amanda, Daniel was one of the first test subjects for Abstergo's Animus Project.”
“The Animus Project. The Animus is a machine that allows the user to relive the memories of his ancestors.”
That sounded familiar. Daniel had mentioned something similar before. Amanda just nodded.
“Daniel was known as Subject 4. He was also part of a project undertaken by the Department of Lineage Research and Acquisition,” Rebecca hesitated, “They thought he was 'special' and I don't know how they got him, but once they had him... They did some pretty bad things to him. Experiments and stuff.”
“Rebecca...” Amanda said, putting a hand up, “Do you have any idea...?” she let out a sob, “Any idea at all, as to how I feel about loving a man who could have been responsible for killing all of us?”
Rebecca said nothing.
Amanda panted slightly, “Then please don't make excuses for him. He was evil, just like he always said. And I never believed him. I could never believe him. Because I loved him and he loved me,” she closed her eyes, “That's all. Nothing else.”
“But there is!” Rebecca insisted.
“Why are you trying to alter this?”
“Because... Maybe there were more than a few reasons why he did everything he did!”
“What are you talking about?” Amanda said, in a frustrated way.
“There's evidence and I'll find it for you. I'm not gonna sit here and say that Daniel was innocent, but not everything was entirely his fault.”
“I don't want to see it.”
“Because it's a waste of your time. You have bigger things to do. To shape the course of the world without openly boasting about it. Daniel's gone and - whether he was partially evil or completely evil - it can't be changed. I just... I wish... None of this had happened. I wish I'd never met you, never met him, but most of all... I wish I'd broken off with him when he'd asked me to.”
Rebecca paused, “He did that...?”
Amanda nodded, “He came one time, all moody, and told me that he had a few mental conditions that could never be reversed or healed. He told me that our relationship was a mistake, that he'd end up hurting me. 'A big fuck-up' - that's what he said this would be. I told him I wouldn't regret it...” she sniffed loudly, “I lied...”
“Wow...” Rebecca said, putting a hand to Amanda's shoulder, “I'm... I'm sorry, Amanda.”
“For what? For ridding the world of a dangerous psychopath?”
“No. For ridding the world of a guy who really did like you,” Rebecca said, “Don't listen to Shaun, Amanda. He can be mean without knowing it. Maybe Daniel wasn't ideal in... our world, but he was clearly something else in yours. Maybe he was trying to pull away from ours, through you.”
“And now, here I am - sucked into your world with a dead boyfriend to show for it!” Amanda croaked.
“Which reminds me, we should get moving,” Rebecca got up and picked Daniel's Hidden Blade off the floor. She passed it back to Amanda, “He wanted you to have it.”
“He wanted you to die.”
“That's my problem, not yours,” Rebecca pressed it into Amanda's hands, “Keep it. Maybe it'll come in handy. Later.”