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Fate of the Gods, Page 2

Matthew J. Kirby

  “Victoria has already betrayed the Order once before,” Griffin said. “They forgave her then. I don’t think they’d forgive her a second time. Of course, if we don’t stop Isaiah, none of that will matter.”

  “What about after we stop Isaiah?”

  “I hope for her sake the Templars recognize that all of this was necessary.”

  “What about you?” Owen asked. “What will the Brotherhood do to you?”

  “Me?” Griffin looked up at the ceiling of the atrium, a glass dome filled with blue sky and two crisscrossing contrails. “There’s no going back for me.”

  Owen balked. “Never?”

  Griffin shook his head.


  Griffin said nothing and Owen frowned. This was his first moment alone with the Assassin since they’d left Mongolia, and he still had serious questions about the Brotherhood.

  “The last time I was in the Animus,” Owen said, “my ancestor killed Möngke Khan. After that, the Mongol army retreated and never recovered. My ancestor literally changed the history of the world, all on her own, but because of an injury to her knee, the Brotherhood just abandoned her. They even took away her father’s hidden blade.” Owen still shook a little with the pain and confusion of that memory. He raged against the cold and ruthless calculation to leave someone behind. “Her mentor said she wasn’t ‘useful’ anymore.”

  “She wasn’t useful anymore. Her knee would never be the same. She couldn’t—”

  “So? It isn’t fair. She was a hero.”

  “No one said she wasn’t.”

  “But you’re saying the Brotherhood would do the same thing to you just for working with Victoria?”

  “The last time a Templar spy infiltrated the Brotherhood, we were almost wiped out. So, yes, I’m saying that working with a Templar means that my life as an Assassin is over. I don’t regret my choice, and I don’t blame anyone else for it.”

  Owen found that difficult to believe. “You’re telling me that you’re really okay with them kicking you out?”

  Griffin’s posture softened. His shoulders relaxed. “Yes,” he said.

  “But that’s not right. It’s not fair—”

  “Or maybe you’re just a kid and you don’t get it,” Griffin said, his voice harsh. “To serve humanity and the Creed, you have to let go of what you think is true. You have to let go of your ideas of fairness. Even your ideas of right and wrong. One day, you may have to do things that you can’t imagine yourself doing right now. You have to realize that in any given moment, what is best for the world may not fit neatly inside your comfortable box.”

  Owen looked away from him, back toward the floor of the atrium. “I don’t know if I want to be a part of something like that.”

  “No one is forcing you.”

  Owen turned his back to the open atrium and leaned against the railing. No matter what Griffin said, right and wrong were important. Fairness was important. They had to be, or else it didn’t matter whether Owen’s father was guilty of robbing a bank and shooting a security guard or not. It didn’t matter that he had died in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Owen couldn’t accept that, because those things mattered to him more than anything else.

  “Isaiah showed me a memory in the Animus,” Owen said. “My dad’s memory.”

  Griffin nodded. “Monroe mentioned that.”

  “Did he tell you about the Assassin? The Brotherhood forced my dad to rob that bank, and then they framed him for that murder.”

  “He told me that’s what Isaiah showed you.”

  “Are you going to deny it?”

  Griffin gestured his arm in a wide circle. “Look where you are. Look what Isaiah has done. And you need me to deny that?”

  “Yes,” Owen said. “If it’s not true, deny it.”

  “What if I don’t?” Griffin said. “What if I refuse to, because it offends me that you would even think about taking Isaiah’s word for anything. What would you do then?”

  Owen looked away, scowling, and the two of them stood there until the three Templar suits came back down the elevator, crossed the atrium floor, and left the Aerie.

  “When we first met,” Owen said, “you told me that my dad wasn’t an Assassin. But you said he might be involved somehow. You have never explained that. So, no. I’m not taking Isaiah’s word for anything, but I’m also not taking yours.”

  Griffin sighed. “Look, the bank your dad robbed—sorry, was accused of robbing—was a Malta bank. They’re a financial arm of Abstergo. That’s all I meant.” He went quiet. “We’d better go check in with Victoria.”

  So they walked to the elevator and rode it the rest of the way to the top floor, to the office that had belonged to Isaiah before his defection. The setup reminded Owen of a chapel, with rows of benches, and a large desk-like altar at the front. The others had come, too, and Owen took a seat next to his best friend, Javier. Nearby, Natalya looked exhausted, with dark circles under her eyes, and a somewhat vacant stare. She still blamed herself for the death of the Assassin Yanmei even though everyone else knew it wasn’t her fault. The last simulation had been rough on her, too. Her ancestor had shot the arrow that had ruined Owen’s knee. Or his ancestor’s knee. Sometimes it was hard to keep that straight.

  Grace and David sat across from them, next to Monroe, and Victoria stood at the front of the room before the desk, clutching her tablet to her chest.

  “I doubt we’ll receive another visit like that for at least a week,” she said. “Perhaps two. I think it’s safe to resume our work in earnest.”

  “What’d they say?” Monroe asked, leaning forward, his hands joined by interlocking fingers.

  “They are focusing the majority of their tactical efforts on finding Isaiah, and they have a few leads. In the meantime, they want me to continue searching for the third prong of the Trident in the Animus. With all of you.”

  “Will they be sending more agents here?” Griffin asked.

  “They’re trying to keep this situation contained,” she said. “The fewer Templars who know that one of our own has turned, the better. For the time being, the Aerie is ours.”

  “What about our parents?” Grace asked.

  “They remain unaware of what has happened. If they want to visit you as they usually do, they are welcome.” Victoria closed her eyes and rubbed her temples with her fingertips. “Which brings me to something I feel I must say.”

  “What’s that?” David asked.

  “I will not force you to remain here. After what has happened, here and in Mongolia, I cannot in good conscience keep you against your will. If you wish to leave, I will call your parents to come get you, and you have my word that Abstergo and the Templars will leave you alone.”

  The silence that followed led Owen to think that some of them might actually be considering her offer. And why wouldn’t they? Their lives were in danger if they stayed. But so was the rest of the world, now that Isaiah had two-thirds of a weapon of mass destruction. Owen could leave the Aerie, and he might even be safe from the Templars, but that didn’t mean he was safe. It didn’t mean his mom and his grandparents were safe. The only way to protect them would be to stop Isaiah, and to do that, Owen had to work with Victoria.

  “I’m still in,” he said.

  “Me too,” Javier said.

  Grace and David looked at each other, communicating in that wordless brother-sister way. Ever since Mongolia, something had changed in their sibling rivalry, and Owen had noticed that they seemed to be more in tune with each other.

  “We’re in,” Grace said.

  Victoria nodded. “That leaves you, Natalya.”

  Natalya stared at the floor a moment longer, and then looked up. “Where is Sean?”

  “Security footage shows that he left with Isaiah,” Victoria said. “I assume he is working with Isaiah to locate the third Piece of Eden.”

  “Willingly?” Javier asked.

  “I’m not sure that word applies anymore,” Monroe sai
d. “Not when Isaiah has two prongs of the Trident.”

  “I’m staying,” Natalya said, and everyone turned to look at her. “I’m staying for Sean. We have to save him from Isaiah.”

  “I understand,” Victoria said.

  “What if he doesn’t want to be saved?” David asked. “He already chose to stay behind once before.”

  “We have to give him the chance,” Natalya said.

  “I agree.” Victoria stepped away from the desk toward them. “And if we’re going to help Sean and stop Isaiah, we don’t have any time to lose.”

  “What’s the plan?” Griffin asked.

  Victoria swiped and tapped her tablet, and a holographic display appeared over her desk. It showed the double helix sequences of all their DNA, with sections of concordance marked, the places where their genetic memories intersected and overlapped. In the beginning of all of this, it had seemed an almost impossible coincidence that Owen and the others had ancestors present at so many of the same historical events, but Monroe’s research had revealed there wasn’t anything coincidental or accidental about it.

  Something had bound their ancestors to the history of the Trident. That same influence, or force, had brought the six of them together at this moment in time. Monroe had learned that each of them carried in their DNA a piece of the collective unconscious, mankind’s deepest and oldest memories and myths. Monroe had called that phenomenon an Ascendance Event, but he still didn’t understand what caused it, or what it meant.

  “We believe Sean and Isaiah have a lead on the third prong of the Trident,” Victoria said. She tapped the screen of her tablet, and the display switched to an image of the earth, with an area circled that included Sweden. “Sean’s last simulation took place in the memories of Styrbjörn the Strong, a Viking warrior who fought his uncle for control of the Swedish throne in the late tenth century. Based on my analysis, some of you had ancestors present at their final battle in the year 985.”

  “Some of us?” Owen said.

  “Yes,” Victoria said. “Javier, Grace, and David.”

  “What?” Grace said. “Vikings? Really?”

  “That’s unexpected,” Javier said, his tone dry.

  “Perhaps.” Victoria switched the image back to their DNA. “But it shouldn’t be surprising, really. The Vikings were some of the most widely traveled people in the world during the Middle Ages. They left their mark, from the Middle East to Canada.”

  “What about us?” Owen nodded toward Natalya. “We don’t have ancestors there?”

  “No,” Victoria said.

  Natalya sighed, and Owen realized she was probably grateful for the break. But he wasn’t. He didn’t like the idea of waiting around outside the Animus. He wanted to go back in with the others.

  “You two can always help me,” Monroe said. “I’ve got a lot more work to do.”

  “Okay,” Natalya said.

  Owen nodded. At least that was something. And if he couldn’t be in the Animus trying to stop Isaiah, maybe he could at least use the time to find out the truth about his father.

  “The Viking simulation is almost ready,” Victoria said. “David and Grace, you’ll be in your usual Animus rooms. Javier can use one of the spares. Why don’t you all go downstairs and find something to eat before we begin.”

  “I’m not really hungry,” Javier said.

  “Then go downstairs to rest,” she said. “The simulation will be taxing.”

  Her directive had a clear purpose. Victoria had things she wanted to discuss with Monroe and Griffin alone, and Owen didn’t like that. It meant they were still keeping secrets, and he was tired of secrets. But it didn’t seem like the right time to push it, so he left the office with the others, and they made their way toward the elevator.

  “It’s strange to see this place so empty,” Grace said.

  “I don’t know what we’ll find to eat,” David said. “There’s no one left to cook the food.”

  “There are always snacks down there,” Grace said.

  Owen pushed the button to call the elevator, and a moment later the doors opened. He watched Natalya as they got inside, wishing he could do something to make her feel better. She kept her head down during the elevator ride, and then lagged behind Grace and David as they led Javier toward the Animus wing of the Aerie facility.

  Owen decided to stop and wait for her. “You okay?”

  “I’m fine,” she said.

  “Really? Doesn’t seem like you’re—”

  She stopped and turned to face him. “Are you okay?” she asked, and he felt a spark of anger in her voice. “Are you? With everything that’s happening, tell me how you would answer a question like that.”

  “I—I guess … I don’t know.”

  “I’m not okay, Owen. But if I say I’m not okay, you’re going to want to talk about it, and I don’t want to talk about it.”

  “We don’t have to talk about it.”


  “I guess I just want you to know I’m worried about you.”

  “Then just say that.”

  “Okay. I’m worried about you.”

  “I appreciate that,” Natalya said. “I’m worried about you, too. I’m worried about Sean. I’m worried about all of us.”

  “You don’t have to worry about me.”

  “No? I shot you in the knee with an arrow.”

  “No, you didn’t. That was my ancestor. And your ancestor.”

  “So? I experienced it. Like it happened to me. But I couldn’t change it. I didn’t have a choice, and that almost makes it worse. You and Sean and the others, you think the Animus gives you freedom, but to me it’s a prison. The past is a prison, where you have no choices, and I don’t want to live there.”

  She walked away from him, and he followed after her. They entered a warm glass corridor that stretched through the woods until it reached another building, and before Owen could think of anything to say to her, they entered the common room, where the others had already found some food, mostly bagged chips and granola bars, but the fridge still held quite a bit of yogurt, milk, and juice. After they had each found what they wanted, they sat down at the same table to eat.

  “Do you guys trust Victoria?” Javier asked.

  Grace peeled the top off her pink strawberry yogurt. “Do you trust Griffin?”

  “I don’t think we can really trust either of them.” Owen opened up a granola bar and broke off a bite. Javier had spent time with Assassins, and Grace had spent time with the Templars. Loyalties had already begun to form, but not for Owen. “They’re both hiding things from us,” he said.

  David took his glasses off and used his shirt to clean them. “Victoria could have turned us over to the Templars, but she didn’t. Griffin could have done his Assassin thing and killed us if he wanted to, but he hasn’t. Just because they have secrets doesn’t mean we can’t trust them.”

  “That’s true,” Grace said.

  “I still think we need to be careful of Victoria,” Javier said. “Try not to tell her anything—”

  “I tried that,” Natalya said. She hadn’t brought any food to the table. She just sat there, looking around at each of them. “I tried not to tell them what I knew. And Yanmei ended up dead because of it.”

  “That wasn’t your fault.” David put his glasses back on and looked directly at Natalya. “Remember what Griffin told you? This is war, and Isaiah is the enemy.”

  “It’s actually not that easy for me to just blame Isaiah for my mistakes,” Natalya said.

  Javier folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. “All I’m saying is, with Victoria, we need to be careful.”

  “And I agree with you,” Natalya said. “I’m still worried about what happens after we find the third piece. Even if we can stop Isaiah, what happens after that? The Templars and the Assassins will just go back to fighting over the Trident, and I don’t think either of them should have it.”

  “So what are you saying?” Grace asked.

/>   “I don’t know,” Natalya said. “I don’t know what to do. For now, we need to save Sean. Or at least give him the chance. After that, I just hope we can figure something out.”

  A few minutes later, Victoria entered the common room with Monroe and Griffin.

  “The simulation is complete,” she said. “It’s time to begin.”

  David wondered how this time in the Animus would work. He and Grace would have the same ancestor, but they couldn’t both be in those memories at the same time. During the Draft Riots simulation, he had only experienced an indirect memory, a reconstruction from extrapolated data, while Grace got the full dose. It was the only way they could be in the simulation together, but it also meant David could die at the hands of racist thugs, or at least his ancestor could, a frightening experience he never wanted to think about, let alone repeat.

  “Javier,” Victoria said.

  Next to David, Javier sat upright. “Yes, ma’am?”

  “We’ve prepared your Animus. Monroe will take you there and get you situated.”

  “Are we all going into the same simulation?” Javier asked.

  “No.” Victoria looked down at her tablet. “You’ll be in separate simulations, though you might interact with the other’s ancestor.”

  “Why keep us separate?” David asked.

  “To reduce the risk of desynchronization,” Victoria said. “Shared simulations are less stable, and we don’t have time to troubleshoot problems. We’ll run this operation as cleanly as we can.”

  “Okay, then.” Javier rose to his feet, and he and Monroe left the common room.

  “How will that work with us?” Grace asked, nodding toward David. She’d apparently already wondered the same thing he had. “We have the same ancestor.”

  “You will take turns,” Victoria said. “Each of you will get to experience your genetic memories. If it becomes clear that one of you is better suited to this simulation, we might stop switching you out.”