What had she gotten herself into?
Amanda had been blindfolded the whole way here, so she didn't know how many hours or days had passed since she had gotten captured in Montreal, but from the way she yawned and the way her stomach growled - she could tell it had been a while. She stayed quiet and still, listening to every sound, feeling the tiniest of bumps the vehicle she was in had to run over. When the engine cut, she held her breath. Amanda heard heavy footsteps of maybe two or three people, then a pair of doors swing open.
“Up!” said a gruff voice, and a hand grabbed her beneath her armpit and hauled her up.
Pins and needles shot up her legs, and the cramps in her thighs made her limp and stumble heavily - but her kidnappers weren't stopping for the world. They dragged Amanda along, ignoring her grunts of frustration and gasps of pain. They eventually reached a drop-off point - at which they unbound Amanda's hands and took off her blindfold. She blinked and squinted at the bright lighting, her eyes watering, and they pushed her into a capsule-like compartment and the door shut behind her. Amanda's eyes widened.
What the hell was this?
She waited, trying not to panic, and then the capsule began to hum with electricity and then shift - turning in a clockwise movement. It reached an opening and stopped. Amanda stared at the room in front of her - finding it bathed in red lighting. In an alcove in the wall stood the white marble statue of a Templar knight, red curtains draped to its sides.
Amanda stepped out of the capsule, grasping the frame of the doorway, and looked at the passage to her right. It was all very elegant, with burning candelabras mounted on the walls and more white marble statues standing in alcoves with their own red drapes. Spotless white couches sat at the base of each statue, for purely aesthetic purposes.
Amanda, not hearing any sounds or sensing any sudden movements, walked along the passage, looking briefly at each statue and trying to place the character they were supposed to represent. She reached a bend and stepped in. There stood a fairly modest white desk, cluttered with files, papers and a single slim laptop. The high-backed swivel chair behind the desk turned around as she watched and Amanda found that a woman was seated in it.
The woman was dressed in a dark pant-suit, a string of pearls across her neck and her hair tied up in a tight bun. Her face was very angular and pointed - and she had the look of Machiavellian cunning about her: cold and shrewd. And behind her was a giant portrait of Amanda's ancestor - Jacques de Molay.
“Very few people have seen this room,” the woman said, her voice warm and welcoming - but also sharp and precise - like headmistress's, “It was decorated in 1937, when we founded the company.”
Amanda narrowed her eyes, “Who are you?”
“Laetitia England,” the woman said, stepping forward and putting out her hand.
Amanda paused in thought for a moment, but reached for Laetitia's hand. She noticed the woman moved her head in a surreptitious nod.
On pure instinct, Amanda lashed out to her left with her elbow and caught her hidden attacker in the jaw. He went flailing back, and Amanda caught sight of him. She recognised him from somewhere, though it took her only a short moment to remember. She only knew one man of that intimidating height and breadth, with a head full of hair so blonde it was practically silver - in sharp contrast to his very dark beard - and those awful scars on his face caused by some heinous accident in his past.
“Mr Berg?” Amanda said, staring at the giant needle gun in his hands, “Wow... You really aren't the man I thought you were.”
Berg rubbed his bearded jaw, “Hello, Amanda,” his voice sheepish as he said so.
Amanda heard a sharp click and turned slowly to see Laetitia holding a gun.
“Sit down,” she said, gesturing to a chair with her gun.
“Nearly drugged, nearly needled, and now nearly shot?” Amanda said, taking her seat, “You people have never heard of good first impressions, have you?”
“It's rich coming from a woman who consorted with Daniel Cross,” Laetitia said, laying the gun down on her desk and wrinkling her nose in disgust.
“Daniel made an excellent first-impression,” Amanda retorted, “He smashed my aggressive ex's face in.”
Laetitia shook her head, “I did not have you transported here so you could-”
“I recognise your name...” Amanda said, tapping a finger to her lips, “Daniel used to mutter your name in his sleep. A lot.”
Laetitia blinked, her face becoming slack and red with embarrassment. It was interesting to see colour fill this woman's cheeks - her vampiric palour coming to life.
“And from the way he used to claw at the air in his sleep, I think he was trying to kill you,” Amanda added, “I'm assuming you two didn't get on?”
Berg made to step forward.
“Don't try me, Mr Berg,” Amanda said, turning her attention to him and then back to Laetitia, “Long story short, I got captured on purpose.”
“What?” Laetitia asked.
“I was stuck with Assassins - because clearly their diplomacy skills are much better than a certain agent of yours,” she pointed at Berg, “but I went over all of the information I could get and decided that the Assassin way wasn't for me.”
“And that's why you decided to hand them a confidential file?” Berg asked.
“How the fuck else was I going to get your attention?” Amanda retorted angrily, “And I didn't hand them anything. I hacked into the system, yes. I downloaded the file, yes. But I didn't hand anything to anyone. Shouldn't it have been your job to delete the file from the computer I was using?”
Laetitia cleared her throat, “You understand, Amanda - which I'm assuming is your real name - that we can't exactly trust that information.”
“Of course,” Amanda straightened, “So what is it going to take to make this right?”
“Information,” Laetitia said, “Tell us about these Assassins you were with and we might consider adopting you as our own.”
Amanda was prepared for this question. She wasn't about to betray Shaun and Rebecca - not after they had sheltered her - so she said, “Pauline Anderson - blonde hair, brown eyes, about as tall as you, qualified in history - and Eddie Cormack - Irish accent, black hair with red highlights and green eyes, fairly pudgy around the middle and qualified with computers. Oh, and there was another man, but I never saw him. He always left voice messages,” Amanda paused, “That about cover it?”
“Where are they now?”
“Honestly? I have no idea. The last I saw them was in Montreal, and they said they would 'keep in touch from a distance'. I'm not entirely sure what that means. Sorry.”
Laetitia observed her for a while. Amanda felt like she was eyeing-up her entire face, waiting for her to twitch or look away. But Amanda kept her gaze on Laetitia, staring intently at the gap between her precisely-made eyebrows to give the impression that she was keeping eye-contact.
Laetitia straightened, “Very well, Miss...?”
“May. Amanda May,” she raised a finger in Berg's direction, “Stop moving.”
“If you are to be initiated as a Templar, I'm afraid that the chipping is necessary,” Laetitia explained.
Amanda pointed at Berg repeatedly, “I do not want him to touch me,” she said.
“Then what do you propose?”
Amanda looked at Berg, and opened her hand, “Give me that.”
Berg raised a brow, but gave her the needle gun.
Amanda rolled up her sleeve, showing them the various scars from self-mutilation, and pushed the needle in just below the joint of her elbow. She hissed between her teeth, but pulled the trigger and gasped as the blinking microchip went through. She pulled the gun back out and tossed it to Berg.
“Where do I start?” she asked Laetitia.