The whistling of a shell rushed through the smoke filled sky, the pitch falling rapidly as it dropped towards the cratered earth. A yelled order to run rang out through the screams and carnage of the battlefield, but it was too late. An explosion ripped through the ground, clods of mud and clay thrown into the air, the shockwave picking Callum up and sending him tumbling through the air. The world spun around him, dizzying, disorientating, until he slammed hard into the rain-soaked mud. Darkness began to close around his eye, unconsciousness trying to take his mind, but the adrenalin holding it back. His heart hammered in his chest like a steam train, slamming against the inside of his ribs.
Looking up through blurred eyes, he saw a figure rushing towards him, the smoke opening as they ran full-tilt, a rifle gripped tightly in their hand, their eyes wide with fear. Callum scrambled backwards, his hands and ankles splashing through the puddles. The figure continued to rush towards them, unstopping, crazed. Callum slammed his back against a mound of mud, stopping him, making it unable for him to move backwards. The seconds slowed in his mind, his hand dropping instinctively to the holster on his thigh. His hand closed around the grip of his pistol, and in a fluid motion, he drew it, holding it out at arm’s length, his finger clamping down on the trigger.
A flash of blinding light erupted from the barrel of the gun, and the head of the charging figure snapped backwards. They fell forwards, the momentum keeping them going, and Callum felt a sharp pain slicing through his side. He screamed in pain as the bayonet cut into him, the weight of the now lifeless soldier pushing it deeper as they came to rest on top of him. He tried to struggle free, but every movement sent fresh waves of pain through him. He grabbed hold of the German’s rifle, gripping it tight to stop it from moving, and mustering his strength, he pushed against the dead soldier, rolling him off, letting him fall into the puddle face-first. Taking two deep breaths, he steadied his mind and then looked down at where he felt the pain. His eyes widened.
“Oh, fuck,” he hissed, looking away again.
The very end of the barrel of the rifle was pressed hard against his stomach, the entire length of the bayonet blade buried in his side. He could feel the cold metal inside his body, the warm trickle of blood running down the inside of his uniform. He had to get the blade out, but he also knew he had to stop the bleeding. Opening one of the pouches on his harness, he pulled out a small field bandage, unravelling it awkwardly while trying to stop the rifle from moving. Looking down again, he placed the bandage right up against the bayonet, and took two panicky breaths. Gritting his teeth, he yanked at the rifle, pulling it out, screaming, before pressing down hard on the wound with the bandage.
“Shit, shit, shit,” he cried, both hand now wrapped tight across his stomach.
Pain still coursed through his body, his heart racing as his lungs screamed for air. The pain was becoming unbearable, and darkness began to blur the edges of his eyes once more.
“No, come on,” he whispered to himself, trying hard to stay awake. “Not now!”
Thunderous explosions faded away into white noise.
“Man down.” Distant voices cried out around him.
The light began to fade, more figures rushing towards him. His grip began to fail on the bandages.
“Down here.” One of the figures knelt beside him, crouching over him and lifting his head, his mouth moving slowly, words floating across frozen time, whispering silently in his mind.
Alistair Hawke’s eyes shot open, the images flashing across his mind not his own. Panic flooded his veins, and his heart was thundering against his ribs, his chest feeling tight. He tried to sit up suddenly, but found himself tied down to the table, his wrists held tight by his side. A band was strapped across his head, preventing him from looking anywhere but straight up at the vaulted stone ceiling that was barely visible beyond the blinding white light above him. His eyes darted from side to side as he struggled against the restraints, flashes of explosions and the feeling of unbearable pain tearing through his abdomen.
“Son of a bitch,” he yelled, thrashing around on the table. “Get me out of this thing!”
Footsteps rushed across the empty warehouse, and a woman appeared leaning over him, her hands darting for the straps, grabbing at the catches to open them.
“Steady, Al,” she said, her voice trying to sound calming. “Your vitals are spiking. I need you to calm down.” Alistair didn’t listen. She opened the catch and his arm flew free, almost hitting the girl as it darted for his head. She stumbled backwards, vanishing from the circle of light that surrounded him into the darkness beyond. He reached up for the strap across his head and ripped it off, letting himself sit up. He frantically released his other hand, pulling the sensor pads from his neck and chest, and rolled off the table, backing away from it in shock, gripping his head in his hands.
Sitting in the centre of a pool of light, the table loomed in the darkness that surrounded it. Angled slightly, cables reached down each of the legs and snaked away across the floor towards a bank of computers in another pool of light a few meters away. The band that had been strapped to his head lay on the floor behind the device, and as he looked at it, he noticed a thick cluster of wires connected to it. Images of explosions flashed across his mind again, the thundering roar of battle filling his ears, the screams of war shattering the darkness.
He staggered back further, clamping his eyes shut and covering them with his hands.
“What the fuck was that?” he yelled, staring back at the table.
“You experienced a spike in the memory file while we were trying to access the right thread caused by a massive feedback code,” a voice called out from the darkness. Alistair recognised it as belonging to the woman who had appeared over him moments before, and turned frantically to try and find her. “I had to sever the connection before they found our hack,” she continued, Alistair following her voice towards the bank of computers off to the right of the table, never once taking his eyes off the device. “The splice was causing a build-up in the main data capacitors, meaning I couldn’t maintain the connection without leaving a major footprint in their server buffers.”
Rounding the side of a bank of monitors, Alistair glared down at the desk in the centre of the mess of wires and computers, and at the woman sitting in the middle of it all, her hands tapping furiously across two separate keyboards.
“What the hell are you talking about, Jess?” he yelled. She barely registered his presence beside her.
“Something happened while I was trying to hide the hack,” she hissed through gritted teeth, a pencil held tight in her mouth. A messy bob of orange hair hung loosely across her thin face, the glow of the multiple screens flickering across her pale skin and reflected in her glasses, hiding her eyes. “The back door we used into the system was a new one that opened up a few hours ago, and I thought it would take a bit longer for them to detect it. Seems their safety systems have been amped up since I left. I’m working on covering our tracks before they can pinpoint our…”
“That’s not what I mean,” Alistair barked. “You told me I would be playing as a pirate, not a soldier.” Jess stopped suddenly, her eyes snapping up to stare up at his, turning her chair to face him.
“What?” she whispered.
“You dropped me into a battlefield,” he said, leaning forwards, resting his hands on the arms of her chair, his face barely inches from hers. Her eyes darted from side to side, looking back into his own with confusion.
“That… that can’t be right,” she stammered. “I’ve done this hack a thousand times. I played through Altair’s missions while they were still in Alpha testing, and Haytham and Connor.”
“I just got bayonetted in the side, Jess,” he yelled. “I think I know what I saw.”
“But… I was so careful with the hack,” she said, turning back quickly to the monitors, her hands floating over the keys in a blur. Window after window popped up on the screens, files flashing into life as she created her electronic wizardry. “I found the DNA strands and the genetic memory files. You should have been seeing Edward…”
“Couldn’t you see what I was seeing?” he asked, leaning over the back of the chair and staring at the monitors.
“Usually, it shows up on the screen there. But for some reason there was too much data coming through the system,” Jess said, distractedly. “The converter wasn’t able to keep up with the amount of images being processed. I thought it was because we were hacking into a live folder, but maybe it’s… No, way… It’s impossible.”
“What is it?” Alistair said, glaring at the screens and seeing nothing but code scrolling past his eyes. Jess pushed away from the computer, her chair rolling quickly to the bank of computers behind her. She messed with cables, ripping some out and plugging them into other ports before pushing the chair back and gliding across to the desk. She tapped again at the controls and her eyes lit up behind the glowing lenses of her glasses.
“No way!” her face broke into a wide smile.
“Jess, what have you done?” Alistair demanded.
“I think I have accessed a new file,” she said, her mouth almost salivating with excitement. “One that even Abstergo has yet to open and process. It’s from the same DNA cluster as the Haytham, Connor and Edward memory files, but there is no time stamp on it.”
“What does that even mean?” Alistair said, finally losing his patience with her babbling.
“Ali, I think we just saw a preview of Abstergo’s latest game release,” she said with a grin.
A blinking light began to flash on one of a thousand server cores deep in the bowels of the massive office block, and a signal rushed along the wires to the monitoring station at the far end of the environmentally controlled room. Sitting behind the desk, his eyes locked on one of the three monitors in front of him, Javier Santiago glared at the warning message that had appeared above the icon for one of the main memory cores.
’Kenway bloodline, active connection.’
The more he looked at it, the deeper his frown became. His hands floated above the keys of the type pad in front of him, following set patters that his mind was creating as he imagined himself hacking the data core and severing the link to whoever it was that was outside the system, outside his system. With each passing second, his hands moved closer, and they were almost touching the glass surface when a door opened behind him, his hands snatching themselves away as the gloom of the server room was shattered by a blinding rectangle of light. He turned and looked back towards the door.
A silhouetted figure stood in the doorway, feminine, yet imposing. He felt his blood run cold as she spoke, her voice slow and soft, calculating each word carefully. He knew exactly who she was.
“What’s happening?” she asked. Javier swallowed hard, forcing himself to remain calm.
“Someone had hacked into the Animus files,” he said, cautiously, knowing that one wrong word could be his last.
“So shut them down,” the figure responded, clearly annoyed by the interruption for such a trivial thing. “You have done that before, I take it?” she added, her tone inferring his stupidity.
“I’ve tried,” Javier said, turning back to face the screens once more. “It’s not me that’s letting them in. It’s the computer.”
“Every time I try to block them out of the system, the computer shuts me down instead,” he tried to explain, running his fingers over the keys once more.
He programmed the shutdown sequence and hit the enter key. The program began, but as it reached the critical moment that would normally send a kill code to the invading system, a red box appeared on the screen and the program deleted itself. He moved aside and turned the screen towards the figure in the doorway, showing her the problem, and hoping that she would not be angered by it.
The figure moved forwards out of the doorway, the door finally able to close behind her, plunging the room back into the twilight gloom that Javier was used to. She all but vanished for a moment as she walked through the darkness, only appearing again as she stepped into the pool of light emitted by the three monitors. She leaned down and looked at the screen, her short blonde hair hanging down around her face. All he could see was the bottom of her chin, and the scar that sliced through her bottom lip, stretching down her neck.
“It’s as though the computer wants them in the system, and I can’t figure out why,” he stammered, panic starting to build up inside him.
“Which memory is it that is active?” she asked.
Javier brought up the affected folder, the name ’Kenway’ flashing into life on the central monitor. He then backed away once more. She looked at the screen in silence for a moment, and then methodically pressed a few keys on the touch pad. She frowned, the corner of her mouth turning down angrily.
Reaching up under her hair, she tapped the side of a Bluetooth device that was placed in her ear.
“Isolate the Kenway server and prepare for a code three incursion. I want two surveillance teams geared up and ready to leave within the hour. Inform the Grand Master that a new playing piece has entered the board.” She tapped the device again, ending the call. Javier shifted nervously in his seat. This was all way beyond his pay grade. He was just there to stop hacks.
“Who is the Grand Master?” he asked. She turned to look at him, seeming to have forgotten he was there. She pursed her lips, almost irritated by his presence. “If, ah… If you allow me access to the main core, I think I can stop them before they get too far into the…”
“Leave them,” the figure said sternly. “This isn’t a download, it’s an upload.”
“But, I… I don’t understand.”
“Look at the folder, and tell me what you see,” she said, grabbing his chair and moving it to the centre of the desk. She stood behind him, looming down at him, her face still hidden behind the curtain of golden hair. He looked at the screen and could not see what she meant.
“Umm… the memory engrams for the Kenway bloodline?”
“There should only be three memory engrams in this folder,” she said. “But now, there are four.”A metallic shing sound broke the silence, and Javier felt a sudden stab of pain slice through his spine. His chest erupted in burning agony, his eyes widened. He tasted blood for a moment, and then everything went dark, his eyes staring unblinkingly as his dead body slumped back into his chair.