TWO: Coming to Terms
Alex had been awake all night. It was the constant screams and chattering voices that filled his head with every consumed individual, military and civilian alike. But it seemed that now that the virus inhabited his body, it was like he didn't need sleep. Not since he'd woken up in the morgue.
He wondered about what he heard from the military guards. Unexplained electrical currents had knocked out their virus detection equipment, and he was able to sneak right into a base and get some higher knowledge of weapons and plans for retaliation.
After that he decided to return to the safe house to make sure the stranger hadn't gotten violent with Dana or ran off.
When he began to see sunlight peek into the window shades he decide to get up and check on the man who had called himself Altair the night before. He opened his door as quietly as he could, and tip toed into the living room. As he stepped over the man's clothing and weapons, he saw that Altair was still sleeping on the couch, head buried in his arms and back to Alex.
Even asleep the man looked ready to jump up and kill with little effort. Seeing him kill the hunter yesterday had really, dare he say, impressed Alex. Soldiers armed with fully automatic guns and years of tactical training couldn't kill one. Altair killed the hunter with no more than well crated steel and skills beyond any solider in the modern military.
Alex eyed Altair, then his pile of weapons. He didn't lash out at Dana for any reason, because she had been kind to him. Well 'kind' or any other form of the word didn't fall into Alex's definition of his own personality. Still, if he was going to trust Altair, he had to make sure he was really completely trust worthy.
He quietly gathered the man's arsenal and took them into his room. There was a chest at the foot of his bed, and he decided it was a pretty decent hiding spot for the moment. He set the weapons on his bed and popped the latches on the chest before opening it. Pushing some of the clothes that it contained to the side, his grabbed the heavy metal weapons and silently arranged them to fit in the chest.
Alex piled the clothes back on top of them and closed the chest, locking it up. Altair was still sleeping when he returned to the living room. But Alex thought that now would be a good time to wake the man so they could continue there discussion from last night.
Mercer put a hand on Altair's shoulder and instantly the man's eyes sprang open and golden orbs were looking up into pale blue. "Wake up," Alex growled.
Altair sat up, rubbing his head and eyes to rid them of the lingering sleepiness. After his mind was clear, he said through a yawn, "You hid my weapons." Alex was stunned, but why didn't Altair do anything? "You don't trust me. But that's ok…if I were in your position…I wouldn't trust me either."
"You're sharp," Alex replied, "but until you can prove to me otherwise, your only weapons are you bare hands." Altair only smirked in agreement. What more did they have in common, Alex asked himself.
"What year is it where you're from?" Alex asked suddenly
"What? Your way off man, it's the new millennium for Christ sake," Alex allowed his mind to drift to the impossible. It couldn't be… could it?
"I'm not in Damascus, but New…York? Is that what you called it?" Altair asked cocking a brow. Alex nodded his head.
"It's quite a shit hole nowadays," he grumbled scratching his head.
"Alex?" came a sleepy voice from the hallway. It was Dana, bed-head in full swing. She shook her head a little before going to her computer and starting it up.
"Dana, look up the year 1191," Alex said gesturing for Altair to stand and join him as he walked up behind his sister. The man stood but didn't approach them right away that is, until Alex looked over his shoulder, "it's ok, it's just a computer."
"What's a computer?" Altair asked finally walking over to the siblings and looking at the screen. Dana typed the year into the web searching engine and clicked on the first link that popped up.
"You mean you've never seen a computer before?" Dana asked, sleep still haunted her tone and she yawned. "Ah here we go," she said and began to read.
'1191 was one of the bloodiest years during the 3rd crusade. After the failure of the Second Crusade, the Zengid dynasty controlled a unified Syria and engaged in a conflict with the Fatimid rulers of Egypt, which ultimately resulted in the unification of Egyptian and Syrian forces under the command of Saladin, who employed them to reduce the Christian states and to recapture Jerusalem in 1187. Spurred by religious zeal, Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their conflict with each other to lead a new crusade. The elderly Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa responded to the call to arms, and led a massive army across Anatolia, but drowned before reaching the Holy Land. Many of his discouraged troops left to go home.'
"That's what happened!" Altair said suddenly, "After they drove us from Acre, the Christians argued over the spoils of war! After becoming frustrated with Lionheart, Leopold V of Austria and Philip fled the Holy Land." Alex could tell that the wheels were beginning to really turn in the man's head.
"According to this site," Dana said, "he's right. But there was no clear winner of the crusade. It was just lot of bloodshed for nothing."
This seemed to impact Altair quite deeply. "So if I'm here…in 2008. Then I'm…I'm…" his voice chocked as if he didn't want to say it.
"You're 800 years out of your time," Alex finished for him.
"That means they're all dead. Master…" Altair covered his face with his hands. Alex could tell that he was strong minded, but at the same time understood what grief his situation might cause. Faced with the fact that every one he knew in 1191 was long gone. "Mal-Malik…" the man backed up, clutching his short hair in his fists, and slowly sitting down. His muscles were completely tense and veins bulged under tight skin on his neck and arms. "No…Malik" the name was fallowed by a string of Arab words that neither Mercer could understand.
Altair's voice seemed to dwindle to nothing but growled gibberish, filled with sorrow, anger, and most of all grief. Dana moved to go to his side, but Alex halted her. She glared at her once brother, pushing his arm to the side before padding to the man who now sat , legs pulled into his chest and hands tearing at his own hair.
She settled her hand on his shoulder, and when he didn't protest, she slipped her arm over his shoulders. "It's ok Altair," she soothed.
More strings of Arab curses fell from the man's mouth before he suddenly pushed Dana away from him, sending her to the floor with a squeal of surprise. Alex was at his fallen sister's side in a flash, but thanks to the distraction, Altair was able to bolt out the door. "I'm ok!" Dana said, "He got out!"
"Fuck!" Alex cursed grapping his black leather coat, putting it on, and running outside. His head swiveled from side to side, and caught a glimpse of Altair leaping onto the next building out of the corner of his eye. Man this guy could really move when he was pissed.
Alex ran to the edge of the building and leaped to the next, landing just before Altair made his next jump, crabbing hold of a fire escape and shimming down the metal pipe and dropping into the ally.
Considering the guy was bare footed, Alex assumed it would make his movement harder. But as he slid down into the ally, Altair had already run into the street. Cursing under his breath, Alex walked into the street, and looked about for him, but for the life of him, he just couldn't spot him out of the crowd. He looked for a black tank top and jeans. Oh gee how many people in New York wear that? Too many for Alex's taste, especially right now!
It was like he just blended in. Alex was nothing short of dumbfounded. How could he? Altair wasn't even from the era and he could disappear in plan sight better then Alex could, even with a disguise!
He cursed again, going back into the ally to re-scale the wall and get to the roof. Maybe he could spot the guy form higher up. But the effort was fruitless.
Altair watched from the other side of the street. Upon leaving the ally he mimicked how a man was walking: hands in the pockets of his jeans, head slightly down. It was easy to say the least, and with so many people, blending was almost too easy.
He saw Alex retreat back into the crevasse and he quickly re-scaled the structure.
Pushing his shoulder off the metal pole he had been leaning against, Altair continued to walk down the street as if he was just an everyday guy.
Even if he was dressed like some one of the day, he was still getting stares from the finely dressed and average dressed alike. Was it because of the scar? Or his amputated ring finger? Maybe it was the fact he wasn't wearing any shoes.
Altair didn't know. 'Well' he thought 'if they must stare, might as well give them something to stare at.'
Bowing his body forward, the assassin broke into a sudden sprint, shoving anyone in his way to the side. He cocked his legs and jumped onto an extinction of one of the buildings, pulled his weight up and jumped again. This time he changed direction and leapt onto another fire escape bolted down to the adjacent structure. There he hung like a monkey, letting the people below see him and begin to gather.
Altair smirked at hearing a few shouted encouragements, jumping to the opposite wall and using nothing but a thin window sill and a large crack in the bricks to cling to. What for once, no one stared just because he was acting odd. In fact, the people looked like they were enjoying it.
This was weird, but also delightful. Even if Altair was used to people thinking he was nuts by jumping over walls and claiming window bars, it was different to actually be encouraged to do something he was taught to do. He only got that the other assassins and Al Mualim.
Suddenly everyone on the crowd below gasped and before Altair could look up, a familiar black and red tendril was coiling around his body, tightening swiftly, and tugged him from the wall.
A few of the women screamed at seeing Alex atop the building pull Altair up and disappear, but once the two were out of sight the screaming died away and the crowd dispersed rather quickly. Altair struggled hard, trying with all his might to free himself from the virus tentacle, but when he wasn't making any progress, he stopped and went limp in Alex's grasp.
"Are you insane!?" Mercer growled harshly, baring his teeth in a snarl.
"…" Altair was silent, feeling somewhat guilty. For what exactly, he didn't know, but the feeling was still there for one reason or another. Alex sighed and put the assassin down keeping a single thread of the virus around his ankle, just to be sure.
"I-I am an assassin," the Arab finally confessed.
"An assassin!" Altair said more forcefully, "Back in my day," lord it felt strange saying that, "I was an assassin. I was under the command of my master, Al Mualim."
"Wait, if you're an assassin, wouldn't there be some kind of history about you?" Alex countered.
"It was a secret brotherhood," Altair said holding up his left hand and showing how he had been forced to mutilate himself. "This was the rite of passage into the brotherhood. Showing loyalty to your blade."
"Ok, ok," the other man said, "just calm down, and explain it to me as best you can."
"I can't," the assassin said turning away from Alex.
"Look here Assassin," the virus said going up to Altair, roughly grapping his shoulder and forcing him around, "If you want, I can leave you alone and let get yourself killed by either the military or the infected fuckers that are slowly taking over!" Altair gulped and Alex could see and even smell the fear radiating from his eyes. "Or," Alex's tone had grown softer "you can spill your guts to me, and Dana and I will do what we can for you ok?"
Altair sighed, "So be it." The slang was strange, but he got the gist of what it meant.
"Good," Alex said letting go of the assassin's arm. Altair could feel himself tremble for a minute as he rubbed his sore bicep; it had been so long since he had felt fear like that. He was a novice, about to attempt the Leap of Faith for the first time when he felt this kind of fear.
"It's a long story," Altair said shrugging but Alex's glare made his hair stand on end, "But I suppose it wouldn't do any harm since the brothers can't kill me."
But before Altair could start, a chopper came barreling around the side of a building and spotted Alex.
"Shit!" he said as the helicopter fired white hot bullets in their direction. Alex grabbed the assassin and despite his squawk of protest, threw him over his shoulder and sprinted to the edge of the building before leaping off. Altair's vision went vertigo as he's eyes tried to fallow the chopper, its metal frame gleaming in the sun light and the guns firing like small explosions.
Alex's feet touched the glass of the next building and he ran upward, keeping a secure hold on Altair by morphing his arm to where the vines of the virus contorted to the assassin's waist.
With the next view steps, time seemed to slowdown, "Assassin!" he shouted over the rushing noise of chopper blades and wind, "I'm going to drop you!" Altair went stiff with fear.
"Trust me!" Alex said loosening up his grip. With one more step, the bands of virus around Altair's waist peeled away and Altair slipped off Alex's shoulder.
The assassin somersaulted to where he was facing skyward and closed his eyes.
"*A leap of faith*," he whispered in Arab, letting his body plummet to the earth below.
Alex used what little distance he had left on the building to charge up a jump, and he pushed away from the mass and flipped himself over the chopper.
As he flew, his left arm contorted into a blade, and he cut through the tail end, slicing the hard black steal like it was butter.
The chopper spun out and collided with the building before falling to ground.
Alex then straightened out; forming a spear with his body and shooting threw the air like a bullet. He zeroed in on Altair and whipped out his arm, the treads of virus looping around the assassin's torso. Alex pulled him in but instead of tossing him back over his shoulder, his arm wrapped around Altair's waist and he rushed through the air to use his feet and free arm to take hold of the building that lay across the street from the other.
Splinters of glass and shards of stone scattered about as the pair slid down the structure. Alex grunted and gripped harder with his indestructible limbs, stopping them only a few stories from the ground.
"Are you unharmed?" Altair asked, putting his arm around Alex for more assurance that he would fall the remaining floors to the street.
Alex turned his head to face the assassin, looking at him like he was crazy, "I'm the one who should be asking that" he said smirking. Altair looked down and could see people beginning to gather around the foot of the building.
"They are staring," he said, "And this is much…more comf- comfer… its better." He must have been referring to the fact he was more comfortable dangling in Alex's arm then being slung over the man's shoulder like a sack of oranges.
Alex chuckled, remembering that Altair didn't speak perfect - or modern for that matter - English.
"Hold on," Alex warned before he broke into a run, traveling up the skyscraper till they reached the top. The virus hoisted Altair up over the bordering of the building before climbing up himself.
Altair took a minute to look over the city. He admired how far
"It's nice," the assassin said mostly to himself. Alex cocked a brow, how could a city crawling with the infected that with one bite turn you into a slobbering numb skull with a taste for violence. But then again, 800 years is a hell of a lot of time. To Altair, it's like seeing the world like a child again.
"How did you do that Assassin?" Alex asked.
"What do you mean?" Altair questioned.
"When I just dropped you," the shape shifter said, "how did you know to trust me? Because I sure wouldn't have trusted me."
Altair looked out of the city again; as if each time he did there was something new to see. "I didn't," he replied, making Alex's face take on an expression of surprise, "I just had faith." The assassin turned to face the other and he smirked.
"Faith?" Alex said as if he didn't even know what the word meant. He just shrugged, "What ever man." then he gazed over the city and up at the sun which was already at its peak of ascension over New York. "We should go. They'll be looking for me. Here," the shape shifter said turning his back to the assassin and kneeling down a tad.
"Put your arms around my neck," Alex said, "this is what we call a piggy-back ride. People here do it all the time." Altair shrugged, deciding that if it was an everyday thing, then why not?
The assassin lifted his arms and looped them around Alex's neck from behind. The slightly shorter man took Altair's wrists, "Now put your hands like this..." he arranged the other's hands so they interlocked at the wrists. He felt Altair's body press against his leather-clad back, and to Alex's surprise, he didn't squirm at the contact like what had happened with Karen. The virus had trembled in a strange way, like a high pitch sound to a dog's ears. But then again it might have been a warning for the betrayal she later brought on by giving away his location.
"Now what?" Altair asked curiously.
Alex smirked to himself and literally bucked Altair off the roof and wrapped his arms around the assassin's legs and held them fast to his sides. "Hold on." then he dashed to the opposite side of the building and leaped into the air.