Speculative Assassin’s Creed Short Story, part 2

pirate woman on ship looks to the skies
Art commission by AyshaArt ig @k.ayshaart

 

This is an untitled speculative short fiction set in the world of Assassin’s Creed.

Read part 1 here

 

Part 2 – Capture the Flag

 

“How did you find me?” Farah gasped, color returning to her face as she tried to catch her breath, “I still can’t believe the utility lift did not crush us? How did the break fail at that moment?” Her voice was nearly shaking.

The young man from the subway cracked a wry smile unbefitting the circumstances. “Those things are so unreliable, all outdated embedded hardware. Hard hat definitely required if you know what I mean”

It had nearly struck the van pursuing her seconds after she caught sight of him, rendering the narrow alleyway exchange impassable. The timing was impossible to be coincidence.

They had arrived near the address, behind a boarded single level business. There was no one else in sight, and nearly all sound was drown out by a freeway overhead.

“Reddit,” he answered her first question to a raised eyebrow. “But let’s get you something to drink and a place to sit down first” They disappeared into an unremarkable door to the boarded-up building.

Barren at first, as her eyes adjusted to just narrow beams of light coming between gaps in the plywood over the windows. Trash, broken wooden pallets, a primitive steel drum fire pit abandoned for years. Deeper into the building he led Farah down a set of stairs into darkness where lights flickered to light as they approached. A small cluster of old telecommunications equipment hummed as they passed, moving down another flight of stairs and into a maintenance access corridor. Decades of redundant pipes and layers of cable rotted in masses along the walls and ceiling. Somewhere far above she could hear they had passed under a large street. A subway car shook the metal catwalk as they navigated.

“The name is Nadji by the way,” he broke the silence as he unlocked a mid-passage steel door. They passed through a narrow electrical closet and through into a dimly lit room that buzzed with the noise of high flow ventilation. Tall rows of computer equipment filled the middle of the spotless, dust free room. Soft clicks of storage devices sang a quiet song beneath the roar of fans. Opposite them and up two steps a woman and another man waited. The man was older, shorts and island tourist shirt as out of place as his greying last century roadie goatee. The dark-haired woman was in an expensive business skirt and blazer that suggested professional hostile acquisitions, but with a boldly shaved undercut and numerous piercings. A neck tattoo peaked out of her tight collar. They were waiting near monitors that appeared to show street camera footage.

Nadji opened a small fridge and began running off names of various energy drinks, sodas and beer. Farah hesitated; skies how good a cold soda would taste. She spotted bottled water and nodded as he retrieved it for her. She collapsed into a rolling chair, suddenly aware of how disheveled she must appear as she unstuck her scarf from her neck. Finishing a long quaff of her water, her idle gaze came to rest on a long cloth-shrouded piece of equipment nearby about the size of a table, a faint glow emitting from under. There was a new spark of recognition. She knew what this was.

Following her gaze to the shrouded device, the older man spoke. His rich American accent filled the space between them like the strike of a piano chord. “You made it, kid” he began. He introduced himself as Ray and appeared to have been busy at several of the systems as they arrived. Many of the active terminals ran programs Farah was familiar with from tech coursework, including one security research tool she had seen demonstrated at a webinar on reverse engineering. Hackers.

The woman was Naomi. She had the confidence and tact of someone who was probably in charge, and a demeanor that was sharp in contrast to “weird white uncle” Ray and warm expression Nadji.

Naomi shifted as she began explaining. “I am old friends with your CS advisor,” she said. “He told me you were doing very well in your classwork and were interested in a career in Infosec.

“You are familiar with bug bounties corporations occasionally pay out?” Naomi continued. “We spotted an unusual one for an older piece of Abstergo equipment that was not commonplace, and as far as we could tell not in use anywhere as they were replaced by newer, safer models. Even possessing one was to risk unwanted attention, you’d have better luck buying an American voting machine.

“The defect was linked to at least one lawsuit, and presumably the quick release of the next revision. Why the bug bounty now, by an account we think is a throw-away used by an Abstergo insider?”

Ray cleared his throat. “Because they were hacked, that’s why. Someone got their hands on this model and managed to break into their network”

“We don’t have proof they have been hacked,” Nadji reigned Ray back a bit. “It’s speculation but it would make sense”

Farah stood up. “You’re talking about the animus?” she concluded in a whisper, walking to the shrouded equipment. Her mother’s obsession. She didn’t think it existed. Stories about DNA memories and unusual patents for advanced medical technology. The room grew closer around her as she turned back to face the others. The question sat on her lip longer than she wanted, until she swallowed as she spoke.

“Why me?”

(continued in pt 3)

Speculative Assassin’s Creed Short Story, part 1

pirate woman on ship looks to the skies
Art commission by AyshaArt ig @k.ayshaart

This is an untitled speculative short fiction set in the world of Assassin’s Creed

Part 1 – The Warning

“Have you finished packing?”

The loud chop of a cleaver on cutting table snapped her out of a daydream. Nana was preparing the morning catch for market. Content to live as her family had a century before, Farah’s grandmother had never wished for more than their modest brick and stone home hewn into the rugged hills near the coast. The cobblestone paths and numerous uneven stairs were too small for most modern cars; those who lived here still got to town by bicycle or with handcart in tow. When Farah had first moved here, she was amazed at how different living was compared to just kilometers in any direction. Nana still woke well before dawn to take the boat out, returning around the time Farah should be leaving for Uni. Every morning she rode her bicycle to the ferry to cross the channel and catch a bus to the city, standing out in her modern clothes like a glowing sign amid the fishermen. It had been home when she needed one, but she could not remain.

Packing, right. A year ago, she would have been relieved to move back into the city. Her prior room in the high-rise apartments had a window that looked out over the business district. Living with her mother had been contentious at times but was mostly just lonely due to her frequent long hours. Well, up until the tech giant unexpectedly divested assets and her mother’s job moved overseas. Farah’s Visa, even expedited, was more than a year delayed. Thank skies for Nana.

Nana was strict, serious but not unkind. She was a shrewd negotiator and had known the volatile fishing markets and family business dynamics longer than most of the merchants had been alive. Her profits were slight, but with no debt to speak of she enjoyed a comfortable, simple life. She reminded Farah often how far back generations of her family had lived here.

CHOP. Farah struggled to bring her mind back to the present. The events of the previous nights at the Tech Institute were too bizarre for her to dismiss as incidental. The job faire began with about as much disappointment as she expected, required experience she didn’t have, unpaid opportunities, corporations with dubious social standing and a stack of pamphlets she would not look at a second time. But later, hot street cart kebab in hand, an unexpected exotic car pulled up and stopped directly by her on the walk. The suits inside were British and seemed to have been following her. How did they know her? Their generous offer seemed suspicious. Did her mother arrange this? There is no way every island-locked teen who entered into a web browser the words “abstergo jobs” got a visit from business guys in Italian cars.

Farah finished packing the last of her things, which amounted to two well stuffed suitcases and a backpack. She did not look forward to the stares she would get hauling all this on and off the bus. She could not say louder I’m moving if she yelled. Her grandmother was waiting at the door. She handed Farah a warm cloth wrapped scone with some preserves. This was it; it was goodbye again. The interruption in the morning routine was ceremony enough. Today Nana would ride the ferry to the bus stop with her to wish her a good trip.

Brief rain showers set the mood for the bus ride, mercifully ceasing just long enough for her to lug the suitcases into the subway. As she identified the stop she should wait at, she wondered how she would get along with her new roommates. They all were attending Uni as she was, although some had gone home for the summer. An odd tone from her phone startled her from her thoughts. It was on silent. The notice was from a random Bluetooth device that had attached to her phone with a strange name. She quickly went into settings to disable the Bluetooth and saw in the connection details the device was named “DO NOT TAKE THE CAR”.

It was mid-morning, before the lunch rush so not many people waiting or unboarding at this stop. Farah looked around fearful, no one suspicious – wait. Taller kid maybe her age, hoodie, shoulder bag, track pants and brightly colored sneakers just disappearing up a flight of stairs as he pocketed a phone. Was it her imagination or did he glance at her as he rounded the next stairs up? She looked back to the train, door open waiting for her to board. The car was almost empty. What was she doing? she scolded herself, but her feet would not move to the car. The door closed, and the train left. She looked back to her phone and the device connection was gone.

Exasperated at herself, she lugged the suitcases up both flights of stairs and looked around. There were not many more people at this level, storefront lights saturated the tile floors and low concrete ceiling. At a nearby newsstand an uninterested clerk stared at her phone. On the small sales counter a newspaper was folded in half. The clerk made eye contact with Farah briefly, popping bubblegum. Wary, she picked up the newspaper and left a few coins on the counter. Incredulous, Farah opened it to find a street address written on it.

The sound of expensive shoes tapping on tile warned Farah of a man in a suit approaching, hand descending from what she thought might be an ear-piece, looking her way. The clerk was still staring at her phone. Farah left, suitcase wheels making a chorus of noise as she moved quickly to the street level. The address was someplace she knew only in relation to other buildings it was near but she knew how to get there and that it wasn’t very far. She felt panic setting in as she made it out of the subway into the humid midday streets. What a sight she must make, she winced, the only woman hauling two large suitcases into downtown like she was late for something. She felt eyes on her even if no one was looking. Was it obvious how afraid she looked, or that she was running from a random guy? Or following the directions of a kid to a location she was unfamiliar with like a complete fool? She shook her head to focus, sweat was starting to form on her brow.

She reached a busy intersection, checking her composure as she alternated between wanting to cry and acute self-awareness. Her phone chimed again, startling her. She looked down, it was the Bluetooth again. “NOT THAT WAY”, the device read. She scanned the shoulder to shoulder crowd, cars and eyed straight in the direction she was about to cross a grey van. She worried she was imagining all of this, cracked from the stress of moving. Still, she changed course and began on the walk to her left against the flow of walking traffic. The tires on the van squealed as it turned suddenly to adjust to her new direction. That was Farah’s last straw. Tears welling as she broke into a run, she pushed through people knowing she had to get with the flow of traffic or risk them catching up. She darted into traffic to the blare of horns as she narrowly evaded the Van and cut into an alley that connected closer to where she needed to go. The honks of traffic behind her faded, but the rev of an engine sounding off the narrow brick passage told her all she needed to know; the van had followed into the alley. With a cry she abandoned her suitcases and broke into a sprint.

(continued in pt 2)

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