A/N: This strange little one-shot is the result of reading 1984 in the middle of writing a multi-chaptered Assassin's Creed story. If you have been following my stories for some time (though I really doubt anyone would venture into this particular crossover section), you might also know that I have a habit of publishing grim one-shots on the fourth of June. Because no matter how many people say it, or how powerful those people are, two plus two always make four, never five.
Disclaimer: Assassin's Creed belongs to Ubisoft and 1984 belongs to George Orwell.
"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
- Winston Smith, 1984
Those Who Linger
Lance walked along the cobbled streets with his head bent low. His long, dirty hair half-concealed his face. His crumpled grey shirt blended well with the grim surroundings of the slum and the loose sleeves were just long enough to cover the leather bracers strapped to his forearms, along with the sharp blades hidden within. He weaved through the people on the streets with ease, his eyes taking in everything.
There were enemies all around him, glowing in crimson red among the black and grey. The old man sitting on a bench. The two women chatting in front of a shop. The teenager in tattered clothes. They looked nothing out of ordinary, but Lance knew they were all with the Thought Police, sent to make sure the 'proles' remain preoccupied with petty quarrels and apathetic to anything outside their own little worlds. Even though it was true that ordinary people were not monitored as closely by the Party, it was foolish to assume, as many Party members did, that they were free from scrutiny. Big Brother had eyes and ears everywhere.
Lance could see them all with his Sight. It was a precious gift, to be able to tell when he was being watched and when he could talk freely. And most importantly, it helped him identify those he could trust and those he should avoid. Without it, he had a feeling he would have been driven insane by paranoia long ago. He could only imagine how Pierce managed to -
He stopped in his track when a loud crash rang through the street, followed by screaming and a swarm of people rushing towards him from the other end of the alley, clearly fleeing from whatever had just occurred. Instead of following them, Lance pushed his way forward. A foolish move, but he was certain he had caught sight of a flash of blue in the distance and he was never one to turn his back on an ally.
When he arrived at the scene, he found Pierce - speaking of the devil - covered in dirt and being clung to by a crying little girl. There were stones and debris all over the ground, and more were sliding down from what used to be the second and third floors of a house. There was, sadly, nothing unusual about houses collapsing on their own. With all the money and resources being wasted on warfare, the people were forced to build their homes with cheap substitute materials. Lance remembered a time when he would have been angered by this kind of preventable incidents, but now he only felt relieved that there was at least one survivor this time.
He watched as the little girl rushed over to her parents and started babbling about how 'the strange man' had lunged at her and pushed her to safety just as the house collapsed. Her rescuer, free of the clinging child at last, took the chance to flee, slipping into a side-alley and avoiding the gazes of the baffled onlookers. Lance followed from a distance and was not surprised when Pierce, after taking a complicated roundabout route, went into a dingy pub - one of the few in the area they had deemed safe to meet in. The pub was a crowded one, but not overly so. Lance bought a pitcher of beer, scanned the area to make sure no one was watching, then moved over to join Pierce, who was leaning against the wall by the corner.
"Are we safe?" Pierce asked before Lance could say anything.
"I wouldn't have approached to you otherwise, would I?" said Lance. "But really, an act of kindness from you? What happened to not attracting unwanted attention?"
Pierce rolled his eyes. "Despite what you seem to believe, I do have a heart. I was not about to let the child be crushed to death when she was right in front of me." He took a sip of his drink. "That said, yes, it was dangerous to attract this kind of attention, but at least I am not the one who insists on helping every single being he comes across. If the Thought Police suspects you are more than who you appear to be -"
"There is a reason I always carry a vial of fast-acting poison with me," said Lance.
While he was confident in his ability to withstand torture, he knew too much to risk being interrogated. The Party must not find out about them and the locations of the Sanctuaries, or all would be lost.
Pierce glanced sideway at him. "We still need your special eyes, so don't go about committing suicide just yet," he said. "Besides, from what I've seen, the Assassins in Britain still very much need their Mentor."
Britain, never 'Airstrip One'. Pierce always made it a point not to use what he called 'the language of the enemy'.
"They are ready," said Lance. "Should anything happen to me, someone else will take my place and continue our work." He paused, then smirked. "After all, the Templars are expanding very quickly these days. We can't afford to stay idle and give them the upper hand."
"Oh, we already have the upper hand, Lance. We always do," said Pierce without missing a beat.
Lance scoffed but said nothing, the smirk never leaving his face.
This alliance between them was a strange one. It was unimaginable before the Revolution, but nothing unites like a common enemy. The Assassins always fought to protect freedom, believing it was the only way for new ideas to be created and for individuals to grow, and this time it was no different. The Templars sought to create a perfect world by imposing their version of right and wrong on everyone, claiming there would never be peace if the people were left alone. Naturally, they were enraged when the world was plunged into one meaningless war after another and horrified when the Party managed to replace the very notion of morality with the so-called 'doublethink'.
In the end, the two orders were forced to acknowledge that, yes, ultimately, their goals were not so different. Either it was by securing free will or by enforcing order, they both wanted the world to change for the better, not for the worse. They both wanted to overthrow the Party. And just as importantly - perhaps even more so - they both wanted to protect and restore the building blocks that made up human history and civilisation.
One of the first actions the Assassin Brotherhood had taken after the Revolution was to collect as many records and documents as they could and safeguard them from alternations. The books were stored in various Sanctuaries and young recruits were taught from them. It was only later that they realised the Templars had been doing exactly the same. Still, even with their combined efforts, more knowledge was lost every day.
Lance shook his head and leaned back against the wall, watching the patrons in the pub. The sound of laughter echoed off the battered walls. The people appeared drunk and content. Beside him, Pierce grunted in disgust.
"What I did just now, Lance, was as much an act of kindness, as you put it, as it was a mean of preservation," he said. "We can only live in apathy for so long before it becomes the normal way of life. Did you see those people on the streets? My action confused them. They truly had no idea why I would want to save an innocent child."
"Can you blame them?" said Lance. "They are struggling to even stay alive."
"Staying alive isn't enough," said Pierce, annoyance slipping into his voice. "The Party is systematically destroying everything, and as usual, the people remain blind and ignorant."
Lance let the remark slide. Now was not the time for yet another argument about their beliefs. "We can stop this," he said. "Together, we can find a way to end this madness."
"How?" said Pierce. "The Party as it is now is invincible. They have no leader and no weakness. We cannot assassinate a collective whole, Lance. Or are you still hoping for the people to rise?"
"Even you have to admit that if there is hope, it lies in the people. We need an uprising."
"It will not happen."
"Not yet, perhaps," said Lance. "But if we keep spreading the word and planting seeds, one day the people will do what is right."
Pierce shook his head. "Assassins. Optimistic to a fault as always."
"Unless you have a better plan?" challenged Lance. "Or are the Templars already giving up?"
Pierce shot him a glare. "Don't speak nonsense," he muttered. He finished his drink and pushed himself off the wall. "I am making plans to take in another group of orphans and teach them our ways. So unless you wish to give us even more of an upper hand, I suggest you do the same."
With that, he walked briskly out of the pub. Lance watched him go with an amused smile. Arguing with Pierce never failed to restore his faith in humanity and his belief that one day, they could end the Party's rule. And if he somehow stepped on the Templars' ego and reminded them that they were the ones who so arrogantly proclaimed that they alone could save the world, all the better.
After all, this was a long battle and they needed all the motivations they could get. Neither of them were strong enough to fight back yet, so for now they would endure. They would strengthen themselves. And one day, they would strike.