Amanda sighed, putting down her pen and reading over everything she had written. All the things she had seen, everything she had experienced in the Animus - all that she had learned about the Templars.
She felt the need to document it.
Shaun and Rebecca were out looking for someone and had left Amanda alone to her thoughts and ponderings. Rebecca had told her that she had begun muttering in her sleep and that this was normal for an Animus Subject. Amanda vaguely remembered the sheet that Daniel had showed her.
Dizziness, loss of consciousness, frequent and severe headaches, psychiatric/neurological problems, nausea, memory loss, visual and auditory hallucinations, nightmares...
The man had suffered. Would Amanda suffer the same? Amanda pushed aside her work and rested her head against a shelf. This was all so much to take in, and it made her head hurt. When she closed her eyes, she could see the plains of Scotland. It was so vivid she felt she could reach out and touch it. It was disturbing, unnerving and Amanda wondered how Daniel had put up with it his entire life. By drowning in drink and choking on drugs, most likely, as he had once told her.
She still couldn't believe he was gone.
His words were still so fresh in her memory, his touch still tangible, she remembered the feel of his lips against hers, how his body fit hers like two pieces of a puzzle... Amanda shook her head, trying to dispel the thought of him, and touched the silver ring Daniel had given her. She slipped it off her thumb and looked at the little red cross that marked it.
“You would side with the people who would destroy the device and allow the world to purify itself through the fire of its own chaos?” Daniel had said.
Would she? Was she siding with them now? Was that what this was?
Amanda had learned so much about the Templars through Jack Molay, the way he rebuilt his life and the Order that his people believed in, made friendships with the Scottish people, even a certain Robert the Bruce. She had yet to experience the memory, but it was clear that Jack Molay had a hand in the Scottish Independence - which was quite the feat, considering the fact that Jack himself was not a Scotsman.
Amanda hadn't come across any Assassins in Jack's memories.
She didn't know what to think.
The Templars fought to guide humanity, to instil order, purpose and direction; but the Assassins... the Assassins were against all of that. What was the Creed that Rebecca had mentioned to her?
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted” - that social mores never stay the same, but fluctuate continuously with time and people, and we must each be the architects of our own actions.
We must be free to choose, but wise in our decision.
But the question remained - Was humanity wise enough to be given that freedom?
And if not, was it wise to stand back and watch them blunder in their folly, with grievous consequences?
“I miss you, Daniel,” Amanda said aloud, “You'd have something to say about all of this - without being as dismissive as Shaun or as... under-informed as Rebecca. I mean, she's nice and all, and she shows me some sympathy but... she's not you...” Amanda paused, sniffing, “Will anyone ever be like you?” she wiped her eyes, “That day, when you asked me - Templar or Assassin? ... You seemed happy with my answer, that humanity needed a measure of control... Why did you leave me with Assassins, then?”
She waited, as if Daniel would answer from his grave, but sighed into the inevitable silence.
“I miss you so much, you bastard! Answer me!” she said bitterly, blinking tears, “So much... so much shit is going down, I hardly get a moment to think about you - about how much I hate that I love you, how much I hate that I miss you. Arsehole, as always - I told you, I told you not to leave me!” her voice turned to a whisper, “Why? Why do I know you're gone, but I can still feel you? Your everything haunts me, do you know that? Do you hear me, even now?” Amanda cried for a while. She got up, curled into a ball and just cried - talking all her woes to no-one, because all the people she knew now couldn't care less about Daniel and how she loved him.
He was their enemy, he deserved to die. Full stop.
“I hate you!” Amanda snapped, her voice hoarse and mottled by her bunged-up nose, “God, I hate you! Why did they have to find me? Why did you tell them to?”
Just then the caravan door swung open and Amanda wiped her face quickly with her sleeve and blew her nose in a tissue as surreptitiously as she could.
“Amanda!” Rebecca called, “We're back,” she climbed in and looked around, “we've brought someone- Hey... Are you okay?”
Amanda pulled up her hood and hid her face, “I'm fine,” she said quietly, breathing through her mouth so that she wouldn't sniff.
Rebecca paused, but just put out her hand without saying anything. She put an arm around Amanda's shoulders and led her out of the caravan.
“So, you found your man, have you?” Amanda asked.
“Yeah, he's, uh... um...”
Rebecca stopped and looked at Amanda, “Are you sure you're okay?”
Amanda couldn't meet her gaze and mumbled, “I'm... I'm not, but I don't want to talk about it.”
Rebecca chewed the inside of her cheek and said, “We haven't been very sensitive about this, have we?”
Amanda didn't comment.
“Amanda, it's alright to feel sad,” Rebecca said, “I mean... I know this is probably really weird for you and we can't really relate to your relationship, to Daniel, but... we care. Really. Even Shaun.”
Amanda pulled her sleeves over her hands, feeling awkward, like a girl being questioned by her mother, but whispered, “It's... It's just so much to take in,” she looked at Rebecca, “All of it. And... I miss him so much, but I feel like I can't or I shouldn't. I don't know...” tears leaked from Amanda's eyes and she tried to suck them back in, in vain, “This is stupid. I don't want to talk about this.”
“Wow...” Rebecca raised her brows, “We really make you feel that way?”
Amanda shook her head, dismissing the question, “Just... Just show me what you wanted to show me.”
Rebecca let Amanda clean up, before she said, “Okay, well, we found our guy. Thought you'd want to meet him.”
She led Amanda across the busy street to a small off-road eatery. The bell rang as they both stepped in. Shaun waved at them from a booth and they joined him.
“You took your time,” he said, smiling at them both. He gestured to the man sitting next to him, “Amanda this is-”
“John,” the man said, standing and putting out his hand for Amanda, “John Standish.”
Amanda looked at him for a moment. He was very normal-looking - unexceptional in almost every way (except, perhaps, for his out-dated Elvis-themed haircut) - but Amanda felt like she knew him from somewhere. He was heterochromia - his eyes two different colours, one a dark blue and the other a light-dark brown.
“Amanda May,” she said, after a while, “A pleasure,” she shook his hand and the world shifted.
Images began to blur around the edges and her head felt light. Amanda noticed her breath become heavy. John began to change, his plain blue jacket turned into a tunic of white, marked with a cross, chain-mail sticking out from under, and he wore breeches and leather boots, a sword hanging at his side and a shield in his hands. But his face... His face remained the same. Same Elvis haircut, same eyes, same long bad-guy moustache-goatee combo.
Amanda pulled away and blinked.
The world went back to normal.
“Are you alright, Amanda?” Shaun asked.
Amanda panted and took a seat.
She held her head, “Must be the sun getting to me,” she said, not wanting to tell them about it.
Clearly, the after-effects of the Animus were catching up.
She took a deep breath and put a smile on her face, “So, John. Why do you want to join Shaun Hastings and his Band of Merry-Men?” she asked.