Present Day Chronicles: The Abstergo Employee Handbook - Part 1
Markuz, April 30, 2015
Translated by: Stefania

The present day of Assassin’s Creed is a subject that always attracted the hardcore fans of the franchise, with its conspiracy aspects, its setting – contemporaneous to the real world - and, especially, with its overall view and narrative that hold and justify all the dives into the past of the franchise that we grew fond of.

This year, in particular, the part dedicated to the present day has been “distributed” among the various releases of the saga, from the excellent “Abstergo Employee Handbook” to the worthy “Assassin’s Creed Rogue” and to the much-discussed Unity which disappointed many fans (you can read our opinions at the following link). This distribution scattered and spread the details of the present day among the various releases and probably was created with the intention, a successful one most of the time, of guaranteeing the AC “feeling” and experience (part in the past and part in the present day) for each of the releases of this year. This distribution made it hard for the fans to follow the events occurred during the modern era: however, one of the aspects that mainly characterizes the present day of the AC franchise is that all its specific details (in every release) must be as much as possible consistent and part of the same timeline. The objective of this article and of the pieces that will follow it is to give an explanation of the forces and the characters at stake in the releases of 2014 and the events in which they have been involved.

Robert Fraser and the Agent: The Abstergo Employee Handbook

Let's start the series of events in an atypical way, in other words not starting from the information found in the games but from the famous Employee Handbook. Indeed the Handbook, in terms of timelime, is a sort of “prequel” of Unity, although it’s necessary to read it after completing the game, because it describes and at the same time takes for granted the majority of the events of the game itself.
The Handbook tells a two-level story: the one of research analyst at Abstergo Entertainment Robert Fraser, which takes place between the middle of June and the beginning of August in 2014, and the one of the “Agent” (namely the reader, who is the protagonist like in Unity and Rogue), which occurs during an unspecified period of time, but probably in October / November 2014.

The first part of the story, dedicated to Fraser, begins with him being hired at Abstergo Entertainment on June 18th, 2014 as a Research Analyst (the same role of the AC4 modern day protagonist) to work on “the Arno Dorian case”. He immediately gets a letter welcoming him in the Abstergo family, in which he finds the essential information about Abstergo’s “official” objectives and the description of the “welcome package” he received together with the letter (with additional information such as entry codes, parking instructions, etc…). The document is signed by Aidan St. Claire, the new Project Coordinator (and Fraser’s supervisor) who obtained this position after Melanie Lemay became Chief Creative Officer following the disappearance of Olivier Garneau.

In particular, the welcome package for Fraser isn’t simply described but also directly shown in the Handbook, and it’s split into the following contents:

  • Intro dedicated to the history of Abstergo
    "Abstergo At A Glance"- This section fills various pages and starts from a brief description of the company’s history, from its establishment in 1937 by industry visionaries and pioneers like Henry Ford and Ransom "Ranny" E. Olds (obviously everything is displayed in a “clean” way, without mentioning the true intents of the company and the secret information about the founders that can be found in the clusters from Assassin's Creed Brotherhood). In this brief opening it’s interesting to notice how it is mentioned that Abstergo has offices and laboratories in every major city in the world (so we can suppose they’re present in all the capital cities) and that their activities range from the pharmaceutical sector to the “exploration of the mysteries of outer space".
    This part of the Handbook ends with a description of the various sectors in which Abstergo operates, mentioning its past, present, and future products and projects:

    • Medical science. The Handbook shows how Abstergo is strongly involved in the pharmaceutical field, taking care of patients undergoing chemotherapy, struggling to stabilize their blood sugar but also dealing with less important matters like the reduction of the “love handles ". As shown in Revelations, it’s confirmed that there are three dozen Abstergo products in the average household at any point in time.
      Connected with the medical science is also the Sophia Project, already mentioned in Revelations, thanks to which the Abstergo scientists analyse information imprinted on living cells, which are passed on biologically from a vessel to another, in order to better comprehend human physiology and so to prevent, in the future, even deadly diseases. The Handbook mentions also the Angelus, the genetic implant to be applied on babies shown in the AC3 multiplayer videos that allows mothers, thanks to a wrist brand, to monitor the health status of their children (and, according to Erudito, it allows Abstergo to regulate their hormone levels and brain functions). Lastly, something that often returns, the Handbook also mentions the New Fluoride, the synthetic drug already mentioned in the first Assassin's Creed, that contaminated the water supplies of various settlements and cities both in China and in the USA (making an appearance also on ACInitiates). It was because of it that the company was placed under investigation in 2012 by the U.S. government, due to some documents that were leaked probably by the activist, and then Assassin, Susan Drake. According to the Handbook, Abstergo in 2014 is still working on the New Fluoride (presumably the charges have been withdrawn) hand-in-hand with the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration, a federal agency of the United States responsible for the regulation of foodstuffs and pharmaceutical drugs) to release this drug, which will be useful in “improving the quality of drinking water".

    • New logo for Herne+
      Fitness. Obviously Abstergo couldn’t help but include in its Handbook Herne +, the food supplement appeared in the AC3 multiplayer, and on ACInitiates, and that, according to Erudito, consists of "mind-dulling chemicals". As shown in the Handbook, in 2014 Abstergo’s efforts are even more focused on Herne: the product branched out into a “meal replacement”, containing 27 “superfoods” in either a easy-to-mix shake (chocolate, vanilla, or citrus, or the limited edition flavours “PeachPower” and “French Vanilla Revolution”) or a pill form. In line with the diversification of the product, Abstergo also created a new logo, using the ancient Celtic god of the “wild hunt”, from whom Herne+ takes its name, and a new catchphrase: “Are you ready for the hunt?”
      The other product dedicated to fitness, which appeared in AC3 too (watch the videos here and here) is the Bodyband, another wrist band – which provided the base for the Angelus – that monitors energy expenditure, heart rate, brainwaves, and many other parameters (which probably are, then, sent to Abstergo). It’s not a surprise that Abstergo recommends to combine the Bodyband with products from the Herne+ line.

    • Telecommunications. For this part the Handbook starts mentioning the Animus OS Glasses, another technology shown in the AC3 multiplayer in the form of glasses that allow the user to see in real time objects and past events that occurred in that place, and to scan and identify people, in a similar way to the profiler in Watch Dogs, (and to upload the data to the Abstergo servers, according to Erudito). After all, as the Handbook says, although the technology has been created by others (probably a reference to the Google Glasses), "four eyes are twice as good as two".
      The other element being mentioned is, inevitably, the Akashic Satellite Plexus (ASP), the satellite plexus that officially had to be a network of communications, weather, and observation satellites. The real objective of the Templars in 2012 was to send the Eye Abstergo Satellite, equipped with an Apple of Eden, into the ASP, to locate “individuals with potential” (exactly like Desmond Miles, who, according to the first versions of Initiates, had been located by the ASP). The Handbook doesn’t add much, confirming that the ASP was still active in 2014 (and that it was made in 2008).

    • Technology. The first project of this area is the dead and much-loved Project Legacy, the first real project in which the users were able to explore memories that didn’t belong to their own ancestors. The Handbook states once and for all (in terms of plot) that the project has been closed and now Abstergo is turning its attention to the Helix Project.
      Like in the other cases, the technology branch in the Handbook shows one of Abstergo’s most illustrious and successful projects, namely the Animus Project that we all know. In particular the Handbook emphasizes that whoever holds the position of Research Analyst, like our Fraser, has a privileged role that allows him or her to study the history of humanity with a 100% accuracy, giving Abstergo Entertainment the possibility to create the virtual experiences for its own audience.
      The Technology part and the "Abstergo At A Glance" section end with a brief description of Helix, very useful to understand the big picture involving both Unity and Rogue. According to the Handbook, that Fraser, as we previously mentioned, is reading in June 2014, Helix hasn’t been released yet to the market but it aims to combine the historical scientific research derived from the Animus with educational entertainment. The system doesn’t require a console or a CD anymore (as we saw in the past games of the saga), because it’s entirely cloud-based (in a similar way to the Brahman VR) and instantly accessible.

  • Abstergo Industries Mission Statement - it’s a written declaration of an organization's core purpose and focus, in order to inform and involve its own employees. In the case of Abstergo, the statement reads:

    "We are committed to researching, developing and providing high-quality products that enrich, entertain, and shape the lives of our customers.

    We build programs that reexamine the past, improved the present, and define the future."

    ... After all those are not all lies, they are more like very hidden truths.

  • E-mails about confidential information and Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
    The Abstergo NDA, in all its splendor
    In a very interesting and nostalgic way, inside the welcome package for Fraser (and in general for all the Abstergo employees) there’s a letter identical to one of the emails of Warren Vidic in AC1. The subject of this letter is "Classified Information" and warns the employees against discussing corporate policy, proceedings, and projects. Otherwise "Abstergo shall be entitled to injunctive, or other equitable relief as the court deems appropriate, in addition to any other remedies which it may be available."

    Following this letter the Handbook also shows the real NDA that the Abstergo employees (in this case Fraser) must sign to be hired by the company. It’s a formal and standard document in which there are some curious clauses. In fact it appears that the employees are forbidden to disclose or divulge, not even sub- or unconsciously, any confidential information and, upon termination of the contract, Abstergo may remove from the employee’s memories any sensitive information.

    Looking at the final part of this NDA, it can be noticed that Fraser signed the document on June 18th, 2014 and this has been approved by Robin Smalridge of the HR department the day after.

  • About the Animus FAQ - The welcome package also includes an Animus FAQ (how the genetic memories work, who designed the Animus, etc…) with some general answers.

    Also, the document has some interesting information, for example the explanation of the Memory Corridor (the empty and infinite space that functions like a loading screen) and the White Room effect (which is shown during the last moments of life of a target): these are effects intentionally created by the Animus, in the first case to ensure a safe transition from one set of memories to another, and in the second case to enable the user to focus on information that will be conveyed.

    The document discusses also synchronization and explains how Abstergo monitors and controls the user experiences in order to reduce potential distress. For this reason the Animus Omega, according to the Handbook, can reconstruct memories based on the user and his or her characteristics, "growing" and adapting with him / her depending upon the experience and the time spent in the machine, in order to further reduce the risks.

    In the end the document explains what Abstergo expects from the Research Analyst (and so from Fraser in our case). Indeed he/she isn’t supposed to just relive the memories in the Animus – which will be constantly monitored and recorded – but also to use the White Room to hone his/her skills in order to progress with the simulation (like in Brotherhood). Also, once outside the Animus, he/she will have to write down thoughts on what he/she just saw, and, with these, regularly deliver reports to the supervisor, who will critique them and maybe ask some follow-up questions. Keep this in mind, because it will be very important for the development of Fraser’s story.

  • List of coming attractions for the Helix program – The last part of the welcome package for Fraser contains a long list of the various characters about whom Abstergo is basing its virtual experiences on, in preparation for the Helix launch. They are divided in three series: "Fallen Heroes",
    Provisional poster for the 'Fallen Heroes' series
    "History’s Hit Men" and "From Abstergo Entertainment". Everything here is described in a “propagandistic” way but, nonetheless, makes Abstergo’s intents – and also other interesting information – clear. As for “Fallen Heroes”, these are Templar characters shown in a positive way, mainly with the descriptions found in the tablets that can be collected in Assassin's Creed Rogue, with some additions to Ahmet, Laureano Torres, Robert de Sable and Cesare Borgia. Here for the first time, Fraser writes a comment/note next to the descriptions of Cesare and Rodrigo Borgia: it’s a joke, in which he says that the Borgias “put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’”. Just below this comment his supervisor Aidan St. Claire annotates that according to “them” the Borgia family has been vilified by history.

    The "History’s Hit Men" series is obviously dedicated to the Assassins who, on the other hand, are cast in a bad light. Altaïr is cold, ruthless, and extremely arrogant, Ezio is a man who spiraled into a maelstrom of revenge, perversion, and violence, Connor is calm and stoic from the outside, but has a murdering beast within, Aveline was seduced by a death-worshipping cult and Edward Kenway left his true love behind in England and rampaged through the West Indies in a selfish quest for riches and glory.

    In this case too, Fraser says he disagrees and that Kenway’s sole motivation was to be worthy of his wife, but St. Claire answers that they didn’t think viewers would have wanted a lovelorn pirate.

    The "From Abstergo Entertainment" series deserves to be analysed in detail because it contains some interesting information, which are meant to arouse the fans’ curiosity rather than show some revelations:

    • Devils of the Caribbean: "Plunder all the West Indies booty ye can lay yer hooks on in this rollicking high seas adventures!". This is none other than a reference
      Original illustration
      dedicated to 'Jazz Age Junkies'
      to the Abstergo Entertainment movie based on the adventures of Edward Kenway already revealed in AC4. As shown in Unity, the movie was not a huge success due to the presence of stereotypes and clichés.

    • Jazz Age Junkies: "The lives and failures of the most degenerate Americans to ever grace the world’s stage - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein." These two lines are very important to understand something more about one of the game experiences shown in the introduction of Unity. So this virtual experience seems not only to be dedicated to the Twenties, but it also fully or partially concerns the lives of Ernest Hemingway, Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, famous American writers of that era, whom Abstergo Entertainment describes as “the most degenerate Americans” and so probably were Assassins or anyway allies of the Brotherhood.

    • They walk among us: “A little girl knows something sinister lurks inside her home. Nothing can prepare you for what she finds.” In this case too there’s a reference to a file of the AC3 multiplayer concerning a movie produced by Abstergo, in which there was a trailer showing exactly what you can read in the above description.

    • Hell in Hibernia:Was the Irish war for independence a noble cause instigated by men and women of courage and vision, or of cowardice and cunning? Find out in this breathtaking virtual experience.” In this case too, like in “Jazz Age junkies”, we’re seeing a promo for one of the products shown at the beginning of Unity. As pointed out in the description, Hibernia is the Latin name of Ireland and the product concerns the war for independence (1919 – 1921) that, according to the Abstergo “propaganda”, was supported by the Assassins. No wonder the writer of the present day part, Darby McDevitt, expressed more than once a desire to see an AC game set during the Irish war of independence (some examples here, here and here).

    • Animus: History’s Battleground: "Experience playable recollections distilled from actual genetic memories of the American Revolution. Grab your saber, get a group of friends together, and stab them in the face!" Of course there’s the combat simulation. And we also have…

    • Animus: History’s Battleground 2: "The smash hit returns with another set of playable recollections extracted from the Golden Age of Piracy!"

    • Dvija A.I.: "Abstergo Entertainment and MysoreTech are honoured to bring you the final feature of beloved Bollywood star Monima Das. Although Monima died during production, Animus technology allowed the film to be completed, and to keep Monima alive in our hearts forever." The Handbook is making a reference to the comics book AC: Brahman, mentioning Monima Das, the Bollywood star and girlfriend of the protagonist Jot Soora, who lost her life during the clash between Templars and the assassin Jasdip Dhami. Dvija, as well as being the name of one of the three Varnas in the Hindu Society, is also the nickname given to Monima by Jot.

    • White Death: "Nikolai Orelov brought his family to America to escape the clutches of the secret society he used to belong to. Now they’ve found him, and Nikolai will be pushed over the edge..." Another reference to the transmedia part of the franchise,
      Illustration dedicated to Shao Jun
      in this case to the second comic book dedicated to Orelov, AC: The Chain.

    • Wounded Dragon, Rising Phoenix:"Experience the next generation of martial arts masterpieces! The soldiers of the proud Ming Dynasty must fight against a shadowy criminal organization led by one of the Emperor’s former concubines!" This virtual experience is very interesting. Not only because it contains the name "Rising Phoenix", which, when talking about AC, is never fortuitous, but because the Handbook shows this picture too. It’s, obviously, a reference to Shao Jun (former concubine of the Emperor Zhengde) and, probably, to Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China. However, this is not the most important virtual experience among the ones showed here. In fact that achievement goes to...

    • The sad lonely death of Ratonhnhaké:ton: "After his wife takes his children and leaves
      The illustration about Connor
      him forever, an aging murderer meditates over a lock of her blond hair and wonders where his life went so tragically wrong."

      BOOM! It’s a description containing propaganda like the others (also considering that the picture shows the Tiranny of King Washington version of Ratonhnhaké:ton), but it’s possible that part of this information about Connor is true. It seems that Connor had more than one child and his wife, a blond-haired woman, left him in his later years, taking away his children for an unknown reason, leaving him to die alone. These few lines also are connected with the words of Melanie Lemay in the tablets of Rogue: "I don’t know that we’d get more than one feature out Connor. Plus, don’t even get me started on his wife or the way he died. What a mess..."

      So the second part of Connor’s life is shrouded in mystery, and it seems to be studded with negative events, so much so that even Fraser, although he’s opposed to the title of the virtual experience, says that this Assassin (Connor) "deserved it". ".

The last part of the welcome package for Fraser coincides with the continuation of his story. Before being informed about his very first project, he gets a welcome document from his supervisor, Aidan St. Claire, who confirms that at the end of each session in the Animus he’ll have to write up a report, based on which they’ll ask him some questions. In this document we can also see that Fraser seems to be very devoted to his job because he asked if it was possible to research the era concerning his project before “entering” it. Fraser also asks if it’s possible to create these, as he calls them, “Historic Personage Sheets", namely some character sheets with notes, comments and also portraits he drew. In both cases St. Claire’s answer is positive, provided that the time he’ll be devoting to these activities won’t detract from his job responsibilities. The last advice of St. Claire is that Fraser can get to know his fellow analysts, but he shouldn’t discuss his project and his test subject with anyone.

Later Fraser receives a very short introduction to his test subject. "His name is Arno Dorian and he’s an Assassin". As the title of the Handbook or its introduction suggested, the genetic memories that are being analysed belong to Arno, the protagonist of the much-discussed Unity.This mainly means two things: first, the Handbook MUST be read after completing Unity (we hope this can be a useful advice for the few fans who haven’t played the last major title of the AC franchise yet), second, in mid-July, 2014 Abstergo already had the memories of Arno Dorian. So why do the Assassins think they have an advantage over Templars as for Arno’s memories in the present day of Unity set between October and November? The answer can be found at the end of the Handbook...

So Fraser finally begins his research inside Arno Dorian’s memories, immediately drawing a portrait of the Assassin as an adult, describing Revolutionary France in general, and mentioning the condition of poverty of the people.

Later Fraser focuses on the memories of Arno’s childhood, adding to his own file three images: a picture of François de la Serre, a picture of his mansion in Versailles and a drawing of the pocket watch that Arno received from his father. In particular this drawing of the watch is a sketch that Fraser got from Abstergo Entertainment for the purposes of “researching” also outside the Animus.

While he explores Arno’s childhood memories, Fraser bumps into one of the elements that was missed the most in Unity, in other words the relationship between Arno and his father and the importance it had for the young Assassin. Fraser, indeed, reports in his notes the letters Arno, following de la Serre’s advice, wrote to his deceased father. The idea is that Arno, through these letters, can deal with the loss of his father, telling him all the events of the various stages of his life. Plus, it’s also a great tool thanks with which both Fraser and the readers can feel the pain Arno had to go through since he was young and the memory of his father, which, unlike what Unity showed us, seems to be a constant throughout Arno’s life.

Arno's first letter to his father
The first letter, for instance, dates back to when Arno is still a kid and in it, while still unable to write properly, he tells he was just adopted by de la Serre and that he’s very sorry he “ran away” and was late, although his father had told him to wait (at the palace of Versailles). He also writes that he broke the pocket watch, but he keeps it with him all the time because it makes him think of his father. Since he’s just a kid, Arno says he want to find who killed Charles and "hit him really hard". He also says he’s getting along well with Élise, although she gets him into trouble a lot. At the end of this letter, here’s something interesting, Arno hopes the Heaven is nice for Charles and that he’s with his (of Arno) mama: this means that Arno’s mother, Marie Dorian, was already dead in 1776 (or shortly after, since he wrote this letter after de la Serre adopted him).

After analysing Arno, Fraser creates the profile of Élise, drawing her portrait and adding other images of the girl, one of her readings (Memoires de Mr. D'Artagnan) and the letter written by Lafrenière to her father
Lafrenière's letter recreated
on the Handbook
to warn him against the conspiracy. Also, Fraser adds that he can’t really blame Arno for being unable to resist to her smile – the first sign of what will happen to Fraser, as we’ll see later.

Speaking of which, while Fraser keeps on adding drawings, artwork and generic images picturing the sumptuous interiors of that era and once again the moments after the assassination of Charles Dorian, St. Claire writes another memo for our analyst. The Project Coordinator says that, although Fraser is very good at drawing, he shouldn’t get too immersed in what he is analysing and suggests him to draw something different. Even this is a warning of what is progressively happening to our analyst...
Fraser’s work continues, as it appears from the new profiles of the historical figures of that era. In particular, Fraser also adds a description for each one of them taken from the Abstergo database.
The first one of these characters is, surprisingly, Benjamin Franklin. In addition to a historical description, the database states that Arno met Franklin on a single, but memorable, occasion (some information about the assassination of Charles Dorian was already in the hands of Templars... maybe something about Shay too?) and that the latter was associated with Mirabeau, indicated as Mentor of the Assassins, concluding with a reference to the dialogue in AC3 with Haytham Kenway about the benefits of having a woman older than him as a partner.
The second profile is dedicated to King Louis XVI. The information coming from the database and Fraser’s notes are mostly historical facts and built around the king’s shyness and ineptitude in taking action with determination and around the events he took part in during the French Revolution until he was guillotined on January 21st, 1793. In particular, in his memos, our protagonist writes down his opinion on the king, stating that he was very mild-mannered ("boring"), to the point that the king’s speech to the Estates General almost put him to sleep.

After the king’s profile Fraser adds the description of his smart but "rather lazy and extremely frivolous" wife, Marie Antoinette. In this case too her profile includes mostly historical information and curiosities about the queen, like the Diamond Necklace Affair.

... something we call "The Bleeding Effect"
After these three profiles and the various explorations inside Arno’s memories, Fraser gets another post-it from his supervisor. It seems that during his first days at Abstergo Entertainment Fraser started getting to know his co-workers and taught them about Faro, or “Pharaoh” as written in the Handbook, a late 17th-century gambling card game born in France. St. Claire points out that the fact that Fraser learned to play this game so quickly is a sign of what Abstergo calls – plot twist – “Bleeding Effect”. At this point St. Claire has no doubt, he doesn’t see only risks or signs anymore but explicitly says what he thinks he sees in Fraser, so much so that he attaches an Abstergo document dedicated to the Bleeding Effect and how to deal with it. He also points out how the Bleeding Effect would give him an unfair advantage in playing - and gambling - with his colleagues a game connected with his project (and he threatens him to invoke the NDA if he doesn’t quit as soon as possible). Eventually, a very important fact, St.Claire stresses he’s happy he finally met “Anna” at the company party the night before and adds Fraser is a lucky man. So Fraser has a partner and it seems that, according to St. Claire, she’s also a nice or beautiful girl. Keep this detail in mind, because later it will be very important. Alas.

Getting back to the document dedicated to the Bleeding Effect, it’s explained that this side effect is caused by inadvertent overexposure and it also depends on the unique characteristics of a user, although Abstergo takes every precaution to monitor and balance the Research Analyst’s ability to absorb information from the machine. The symptoms – which at this point Robert Fraser should have recognised in those first signs we mentioned in this article – are the ones that the old fans know very well: confusion about memories (being unable to distinguish between the subject's memories and those belonging to his/her ancestor), hallucinations, continued retention of abilities outside the Animus, panic attacks, "physical sensations (often uncomfortable and occasionally painful)", acquisition of certain skillsets that weren't possese prior to the time in the Animus.
In this document Abstergo encourages the analysts to report any of these symptoms at once, to immediately treat them but Fraser...

Doesn’t give a darn.

Evan Dean's post-it
To the point that he get a post-it from Evan Dean (one of Abstergo Entertainment’s employees appeared in the e-mails in AC4)(IMMAGINE) who writes to him, clearly angry, saying that he knows that he is using “company info” to screw his colleagues over and he threatens him to report his "sorry ass” to the management. It seems Fraser didn’t stop because in the Handbook it's possible to find a notice from the Management (represented by Melanie Lemay) dated June 25th, 2014 (only a week passed since Fraser started his job) in which they point out that gambling activities are forbidden on site and each manager will be given authorization to invoke the terms of the NDA to apply to such activities off site if necessary.

Fraser now has to present to St. Claire his first report on Arno’s memories, called “Childhood through Imprisonment”, discussing the first stages of Arno’s life till the imprisonment in the Bastille. Initially the report in the Handbook shows us, for some reasons that we’ll see later, simply some parts of phrases like “The death of his father was a traumatic event, matched only by perhaps the murder of de la Serre. The impact of these deaths left a mark...” or "in the home of the rich, which were marked by their opulence and excess." or, and this will be important for St. Claire, "He chased the carriage, but in my opinion, Arno didn’t try hard enough to deliver the letter. He seems..." This last phrase, a reference to Arno’s attempt to deliver Lafrenière’s letter to de la Serre, shows that Fraser is beginning to give his personal opinions about the events he relived. An activity requested by Abstergo Entertainment but that stimulates his involvement in the story and in the lives of the characters he meets, with the already mentioned risk of the Bleeding Effect.

In addition to these fragments, the Handbook shows a whole page of Fraser’s report, in which he describes Arno as a "survivor" with a good sense of humour and a kind heart and narrates the events that led to the murder of Charles Dorian. In regard to this, Fraser states that the breaking of the pocket watch, which happened when Arno found his father dead, symbolizes the break from his innocent past at too young an age and that no child should ever have to discover a murdered parent (even in this case Fraser proves himself to be very involved in Arno’s story). Plus, Fraser points out that while he was experiencing Arno’s memories, time seemed to slow down, especially during extremely negative events, and he could hear the ticking of a watch, as if the time was running out – an important piece f information that we’ll analyse soon. Lastly, Fraser adds a comment about the long term relationship between Arno and Élise: judging by what he saw, Fraser thinks the girl is going to figure prominently in Arno’s life, perhaps as more than a friend, considering Arno’s reaction to her and the fact that, although she seems to enjoy getting him into trouble a bit too much, Fraser gets the impression Arno doesn’t mind terribly. Fraser hopes that in the end Arno and Élise manage to snatch a sort of happily-ever- after relationship in a world that is falling apart around them – a hope that Fraser shouldn’t express and that once again hints at a further involvement in Arno’s story due to the Bleeding Effect.
As predicted, after the report, St. Claire writes an e-mail with his comments, dated July 3rd (another week has passed). Aidan congratulates Fraser on his celerity, his efficiency, and his dedication to the work and also agrees that Arno’s letter to his deceased father was a gut-punch (probably this is an expression taken from Fraser’s report, another sign of his “involvement").
Then St. Claire talks about an interesting and almost new element of the Assassin's Creed saga: "Because these are memories, they are of course filtered through Arno’s own perception (and your own, which will be much more detached, as you are observing rather than experiencing events). The correlation between the ticking of the watch echoing a heartbeat and the idea of “time running out” is extremely poignant. It does seem to keep going missing. You might be right in thinking some of Arno’s “memories” are more about how things felt to him than how they happened in reality".
In this part we can notice an aspect that hasn’t always been touched upon: here it’s hypothesized that not all the memories showed by the Animus are necessarily a perfect reproduction of what happened: in fact some of them might be (or contain) the representation of what the protagonist felt (in our case the ticking of the watch – as you can see in this video, at 15:15). This motivation opens up the possibility of creating “cinematographic” moments in the memories in-game (slow motion, offstage sounds, etc.), even though I hope they will not create confusion about what really happened.
Victor and Hugo, the two blacksmiths who were chasing Arno at the beginning of Unity, are a perfect example of this situation. Indeed, according to Fraser, Victor and Hugo actually are amalgams of various people, rather than two distinct individuals and the proof lies in the fact that Arno keeps casually stumbling into them too often (in this case, what should we think? Are they two real individuals like in the game or a representation of what Arno feels, as hypothesized in the Handbook?).

That said, at the end of his comment St. Claire once again seems concerned about some notes in the report. Aidan notices that Fraser sounded as annoyed as Arno himself while writing about Victor and Hugo and, especially, is struck by the fact that, according to Fraser, Arno didn’t try hard enough to deliver the letter, because the data he had didn’t indicated that. So St. Claire is sure that in this case Fraser suffered the Bleeding Effect and he is
Arno's letter dedicated to his
imprisonment in the Bastille
so involved in what he experienced to get to the point of expressing such an opinion. Due to that, for the first time, Aidan tells him to keep in mind that he’s Bob (Robert) Fraser, and Arno is Arno Dorian and not to confuse the two.

After the first report, Fraser continues his analysis of Arno’s memories restarting from the time of the imprisonment in the Bastille and finds a new letter for his father. In this one Arno "informs" him he’s been wrongly imprisoned and has been forced to relive the horror of stumbling upon the death of a father due to the murder of de la Serre, wondering why God decided to inflict such a painful faith upon him, robbing him of the guidance of both of them.
So Arno is a believer, but his faith is fading away, while he’s spending his days in the Bastille, in injustice and grief. On the other hand, the memory of his father didn’t die away and Arno still has his pocket watch. "Like me, it is broken, but stubborn and still keeps going."

After reporting Arno’s second, heart breaking letter, Fraser keeps creating his profiles, even if this time he doesn’t write about a historical figure but a building, the Bastille. As for the other profiles, the part dedicated to the Abstergo database mainly mentions the historical events (the original purpose of the fortress, the conditions of its prisoners, the presence of Marquis de Sade). But this time this part includes also a very interesting list of the prisoners being held inside at the time of the “storming”: according to the Abstergo database there were nine prisoners and not seven as history reports:

  • Arno Dorian, held for charges of the murder of François de la Serre.
  • Hubert de Solages, Comte de Solages, imprisoned at the request of his own family for alleged incest with his sister. It is possible that this was simply a false charged levied against him as a way for other family members to wrest money and property from him.
  • Auguste Tavernier, arrested in 1757 for a plot against Louis XV and inarguably insane.
  • Jacques-Francois-Xavier de Whyte, who, reports state, believed that he was Julius Caesar.
  • Bernard Laroche, forger (who was held inside Arno’s cell).
  • Assassin Pierre Bellec.
  • Jean Antoine Pujade, forger.
  • Jean Bechade, forger.
  • Jean La Corrège, forger.

During the analysis of the memories, Fraser receives another document from Abstergo, something useful to comprehend one of Arno’s abilities: a document about the Eagle Vision. Oddly, internally Abstergo freely describes the Eagle Vision to its analysts, stating that this ability manifests in particular bloodlines and that, for simplicity’s sake, they can think of it as a “second sight” as well as a sharpening of mere physical abilities. The document also mentions that, although everyone has the potential to unlock this ability, they have only been able to document the manifestation of the Eagle Vision in Desmond Miles and Clay Kaczmarek (it’s not completely true, as we’ll see in the second part of this article). In addition to that, Abstergo encourages its analysts to practice using Eagle Vision, should their subject manifest it, because this ability has a tendency to “bleed” into the mind (as part of the Bleeding Effect). Should this happen, the analysts must notify their supervisors immediately.

Fraser continues analysing Arno’s memories and eventually reaches his initiation into the Assassin Order. This time, to help him with his analysis, Abstergo gives him various “pieces of art” that Arno came across in this period of time, among which the marble Assassin Council’s crest in the initiation room. Although this information is actually of help to Fraser (but it also increases his involvement in Arno’s story), it’s way more useful for us: indeed, in order to be in possession of these “pieces of art”, it’s very likely that Abstergo raided the Brotherhood’s hideout in Paris (or the Templars managed to raid it during the 200 years after Arno’s story) as they did with the other ones during the Great Purge. Actually it’s also possible that this was one of the hideouts still used by the Assassins in 2000 and visited by Daniel Cross, exactly during the Great Purge.

Beside this, since Fraser, through Arno, is heading into the Brotherhood’s “world”, Abstergo gives our analyst an 11-page dossier about the Assassins, to inform him in depth about what he’ll have to deal with (he already got, maybe “directly”, some information, since he commented, for instance, on the lives of Edward Kenway and Connor).

Cover page of the Assassin's Dossier

The dossier is obviously written in a "propagandistic" way and it analyses the Creed, its three tenets and three ironies, and also describes the most iconic Assassin weapon, the Hidden Blade.
As for the actual Creed, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”, the dossier says how this alone is impossibly “broad” and liberal, even for an organization that claims to prize free will and extols the importance of the individual. The dossier then analyses the three tenets:

  • Stay your blade from the flesh of the innocent”– this tenet is described as a way for Assassins to justify their murderous acts: judging who’s innocent and who’s guilty, the Assassins can feel better about what they do, especially if their targets are Templars.

  • “Hide in plain sight” – in this case the tenet is “celebrated”, saying that if it can be managed, it provides an important alibi for the Assassins and increases paranoia on the part of the Templars, as well as it further cements the relationship between Assassins and common people.

  • Never compromise the Brotherhood”- the dossier describes it as the most important of the three tenets. It imposes secrecy, loyalty to the Brotherhood and obedience to the orders, an obligation that contradicts the Brotherhood’s ideals of free will. Plus, the dossier explains that putting the Brotherhood above everything else (country, law, family) creates a sort of sense of community, also for people like the Assassins who must operate in the shadows.

As for the three ironies, the dossier remarks the fact that the Assassins put themselves in such a position from which they can judge and make a clear demarcation between what constitutes innocent and guilty (albeit they are promoting peace). Plus, the Creed states that “everything is permitted”, but also that the Assassins themselves mustn’t compromise the Brotherhood (and must obey to its orders). Finally the Brotherhood doesn’t want the Assassins to blindly obey to dogmas imposed from above, yet practices them itself (as the Handbook puts it, the average Assassin often relies on the wisdom of the Mentor without questioning).
Finally the dossier describes the Hidden Blade and its use through centuries, from the weapon that takes on ritualistic aspects (the amputation of the ring finger) in the 12th century to the Hidden Pistol, the Hook Blade, Connor's and Edward's versions of the Blade, and the handier Phantom Blade at the end of the 18th century.

Getting back to Fraser, he’s ready to take a break and produce resent his second report, but he finds the time to create another profile dedicated to a very important historical figure, both publicly and for Arno, Mirabeau. This is mainly a historical profile describing his life from his early years until his death from “decidedly unnatural causes”, in which Fraser says he’s not surprised that de la Serre and Charles Dorian both trusted Mirabeau, considering him, despite his human weaknesses, a man able to “grasp the potential of human greatness”.
After this profile, seeing first-hand some of the “relics” and reading the dossier on the Assassins, Fraser is ready to write his second report on Arno, “Imprisonment through Apprenticeship”. According to a comment by St. Claire (for Melanie Lemay), this is a situation in which, according to him, Fraser showed for the first time that he lost “his grip” on the Arno Dorian case, so much so that he suggested him to see doctor Victoria Bibeau, in order to have his mental state evaluated. But let’s continue in an orderly fashion.

“It seems as though if Arno didn’t have bad luck, he would have no luck at all. It’s not fair, and I really feel for this fellow.” This is the beginning of the only page of the report we have and it seems St. Claire was right after all... Fraser describes again the Bastille using the adjective “dreadful”, also considering that it was very different from what the popular fancy thinks of it as. He also adds – another consequence of the Bleeding Effect – he’s been having dreams about the fortress (or better, about what Arno felt during his imprisonment).

However, what struck Fraser the most is Arno's initiation. The analyst says the initiation was surprisingly intense because, although Arno witnessed the deaths of two father figures, in this case he witnessed his own death, or better the death of his old self, to be reborn as a real Assassin. Also, Fraser is struck by the gravity of this “rite of passage” that, compared with the major part of the rites of our era, seems more profound and powerful, maybe also due to the mind-altering drugs that drive Arno to fight and deal with his own choices and his own grief.
St. Claire’s comment to this analysis is very reassuring, although full of the typical enthusiasm made in Abstergo Entertainment. St. Claire compliments Fraser for his attention to details but he’s concerned about some phrases such as “It isn’t fair”, and “Bellec is verbally abusing Arno and taking out his own feelings on him”. St. Claire even directly tells Fraser that he’s not experiencing Bellec’s memories and he might be experiencing the Bleeding Effect. Because of this he suggests him to go see doctor Victoria Bibeau (it’s a suggestion, but he says he already scheduled an appointment and he’ll personally walk him down), a session to make sure Arno’s memories stay his, without influencing Fraser’s. That said, despite his concern, St. Claire captured some pictures of Arno’s initiation (among which the ones dedicated to the paintings that can be seen his “mind trip”) and would like Fraser to examine them out of the Animus, using his “21st-century mind”.

The Handbook shows us how Fraser’s session with Dr. Bibeau ended up, thanks to a report she sends to St. Claire. The results of the evaluation and the tests, according to the doctor, show that Fraser isn’t experiencing the Bleeding Effect. However she recommends to keep monitoring him because she anticipates that the “patient” will have a degree of psychological difficulty maintaining an appropriate professional distance from his project. The doctor is particularly concerned about the effects that Arno’s initiation might have upon Fraser, since he appears to be behaving as if he himself has undergone the ritual and passed it.
Because of this the doctor suggests Fraser to curtail all outside activities that might pertain to his assignment (gaming activities of the era, studying the Revolution and the Reign of Terror, trying to learn French, etc…) and points out that it might have been unwise for St. Claire to have asked him to analyse the images of the initiation, but she’s available for further consultation with Fraser, should this be necessary.

At the end of this report there’s a post-it written by Melanie Lemay to Aidan St. Claire, in which the new CCO thanks him for bringing Fraser’s sensitivities to her attention and asks him to keep an eye on him both because she thinks something unusual might be going on, and because, in her opinion, it’s at times like this when they can have phenomenal breakthroughs or enormous setbacks. It seems Melanie knows very well her job because that’s exactly how things will go… However, as usual, time is the worst enemy of the protagonists of the various AC releases and so it’s time for Robert to go back into the Animus. Through a post-it St. Claire tries to warn him against the very dark and difficult, both for France and Arno, times they’re heading into, and he asks him to
Arno's last letter to his father
schedule regular breaks, completely disconnecting (as Dr. Bibeau suggested) from everything related to the era he’s analysing. Fraser goes back into the Animus and reaches the moment of the meeting with the Roi de Thunes. He immediately shows another letter from Arno to his father before creating the profiles as usual.

In this letter Arno writes to his father talking once again about the fact that his faith is fading away, especially considering the existence of a place such as the Cour des Miracles. Arno talks about the Roi des Thunes and how hard it was to stand by and watch, unable to interfere, in order to reach and assassinate him. However the assassination upset him because a new Roi has arisen, the Marquis de Sade, and – right now – keeping on investigating about the murder of de la Serre, it seems that for every answers, he finds more questions. Plus, Arno writes how much he misses his father now, saying that has never felt the weight of his death and that of de la Serre more heavily upon him than in that moment. This is something that gives depth to Arno's character, although it happens only in a transmedia release.

Illustration of the Marquis de Sade
As we said, Fraser continues his journey through revolutionary Paris, creating a new “profile”, dedicated to the Cour des Miracles, in which he says the Roi des Thunes was a "vicious, twisted son of a bitch" and “the goddamn Marquis the Sade was a positively benevolent man in comparison”: so it seems the session with Dr. Bibeau and St. Claire’s advices didn’t have the desired effect. Later Fraser also writes down the profile of the Marquis, drawing his portrait and describing his debauchery but also his political past. In this case too, the most important parts are Fraser's feelings, more and more influenced by the Bleeding Effect: indeed Fraser, in regard to the Marquis, writes: "I liked him. Sick bastard that he was, he always treated me well. At the heart of his debauchery, there was a search for something strangely pure, I think."

Fraser’s sessions continue: on July 11th, 2014 he sends a part of the report midway through a section of his new research, "Enemies and Allies", and St. Claire, as usual, offers his opinion. St. Claire thinks Fraser is being more aware of his condition, compared to what he wrote in the last two profiles, but he has arranged for Robert to talk to Dr. Bibeau at any time. Aidan has seen similar situations before: after all, this is new technology with the Helix-ready Animus and it could be that it’s having a more extreme effect on him. This is the reason why the Bleeding Effect had a different consequence from what Abstergo predicted and monitored, a very important element for the development of Fraser’s story and that might also cause the possible return of the Bleeding Effect as an important and dangerous element for the plot of the franchise.
In addition to that, St. Claire once again tries to tell Fraser that what he sees in the Animus is a simulation and that the people he meets have been dead for centuries: he also shares his reactions about the Marquis de Sade and especially the happiness for Élise’s return in the picture. In this case St.Claire seems to be too lenient (probably he doesn’t realize that most of the comments on places and characters are too heartfelt) and pays no attention, not exactly in line with what Melanie previously suggested.

The proof comes three days later, on July 14, Bastille day, an anniversary that may worsen Fraser’s Bleeding Effect. Fraser writes a letter to Bibeau (addressing her by her first name) in which he says the visions are getting worse and, albeit belonging to Arno, they feel like his, to the point that he finished an entire bottle of Bordeaux, Arno’s favourite wine, but that it tasted nothing like what he remembered. The situation is serious: he keeps thinking about Élise (as if he were Arno) and her smile, he even dreams about her at night, to the point that he broke up with Anna, his partner. The Bleeding Effect is so serious that he writes Élise is his soul mate and he can’t live without her, although he’s aware she died 200 years ago. For this reason he asks Bibeau to take him off the Dorian case, before he "becomes"
Dr. Bibeau's unsettling answer
Arno, even though, as we’ll see, he’ll get an unexpected answer. Eventually Fraser says that during their last meeting - plot twist - he talked with Bibeau about the Sages and how they reincarnate: an information strangely in the hands of the doctor and that confuses Robert even more before her answer, even more unexpected. Indeed the doctor, in contrast to what Robert requested, forces him to go on with his sessions in the Animus, at least until they’ve done all they can to help. Plus, she even affirms she can't tell him if he is or is not Arno Dorian. Her behaviour is very odd, almost opposed to the interest of the patient – but in this case too, we’ll soon get an explanation.

So Fraser, as the doctor "suggested”, goes on with his sessions and creates the profile of François-Thomas Germain. The profile describes the character, mainly with reference to the AC plot, starting from the historical origins to the several manipulations that allowed him to become Grand Master of the Templar Order. Once again Fraser’s notes are the most relevant elements: our protagonist plainly criticizes Germain and his purposes, and adds he knows he was in possession of a Sword of Eden and was killed by Arno Dorian. However this note seems pretty “cold”. Unfortunately we don’t know where Fraser got this information (through memories, “visions” of the Bleeding Effect or additional external sources).

Fraser's handwritten paper
The Bleeding Effect, then, gets worse and this time we find Fraser at home, absorbed, as suggested by Dr. Bibeau, in writing, his hand shaking, on a piece of paper (as it always happens when he feels the Bleeding Effect overwhelming him). During the day Fraser discovered that Bellec killed Mirabeau (if he reached this part of Arno’s memories only now, it means the information about Germain and the Sword of Eden came from an external source) and he still can't get over this revelation. This event is so shocking for him that he starts talking as if he were Arno: "Bellec knew I wouldn’t give up. He knew I’d figure out it was him. And I did it, and now he’s dead. What was wrong with him? What is wrong with everyone? Papa, de la Serre, Mirabeau – why the hell are we killing our own whenever they..."
From this point onward, as if it weren’t enough, Fraser lapses into madness, thinking about Élise and writing in French, dreaming of escaping with her from problems, Assassins and Templars.

The Handbook doesn’t explain what happened to Fraser afterwards but it seems he recovered and continued the sessions inside the Animus because he soon creates the profile of Napoleon Bonaparte. It’s a completely historical profile in which Fraser shows he appreciates this character and writes only a single reference to the fact that Napoleon found a Piece of Eden in the study of Louis XVI, using these words: "When this hidden wall safe was discovered, it spelled the ruination of King Louis". An interesting sentence, which implies a certain degree of knowledge about the Pieces of Eden and also, hypothetically, about how the king relied on one of them (although it was just a Key) up until then.

The following profile, once again almost completely historical, is dedicated to the Montgolfier brothers. This is not a random profile but is related to the romantic moment Arno and Élise shared in the hot-air balloon, an event Fraser experienced during his analysis (the proof isÉlise’s message that Arno finds when he wakes up in the hot-air balloon, perfectly reproduced in the Handbook).
One of the best documents of the handbook
On this occasion we can read a new letter by Arno to his father, an intense letter in which he tell him how much he loves Élise, especially now that he knows she loves him as well, and how he believes they can have a future together. His feelings are so strong that he even thinks about their future children and how they will be raised – and here’s the most beautiful sentence of the Handbook - "to remember and know what both of their fathers stood for – the best of both Assassin and Templar. Unity."

The sketches of the Arno
and Elise's figurines
Four days have passed since Bastille Day, it’s July 18th. And it seems Melanie isn’t very concerned about Fraser’s conditions. Instead of trying to take his mind off his project when he is outside the Animus, as predicted, the CCO asks his opinion about the figurines of Arno and Élise that Abstergo Entertainment may create, should the Arno project be successful (this is also a very stylish way to show the fans the various sketches for what the actual figurines could look like).

Time is once again Fraser's worst enemy, though, and so he goes back in the Animus, and, following Arno’s memories, reaches the moment of the meeting with Robespierre, creating the umpteenth historical profile in which, however, he mentions the fact that Arno and Élise were involved in many of the events that led to his imprisonment and execution. As for Robespierre’s actions, Fraser says he can’t understand what led him to spill so much blood and shows his disgust for the guillotine, a machine used to appease the bloodlust of the mob (and of Robespierre).

Arno's last letter to his father
We’ve almost reached the end and so also Fraser’s last report, but first our analyst is able to recover the last letter by Arno to his father. This time Arno starts describing Robespierre and his shift of political position from opponent of the death penalty for criminals to fanatic and big user of the guillotine against his own opponents. Even now, although he’s been already expelled, Arno wonders if the purpose of the Brotherhood is to cull those who drift from a “path of light” into a path of obsession and slaughter (like Robespierre, but also Bellec and Germain), wishing once again, like in the previous letter, for peace between the Assassins and Templars.

And here’s the last part of Fraser’s work, the conclusion of his third report, "Enemies and Allies". In this case too the report is fragmented, but what surprises the most is that it includes images of the Rifts / Time Anomalies. In fact this page of Fraser’s report doesn’t describe Arno’s enemies and allies, but something strange that happened to him. He doesn’t tell how it happened but, at a certain point of his analysis, he found himself together with Arno in different eras, in front of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower and inside the environments that the Animus created, which were empty and without people – exactly the setting of the Rifts, from which he says he can’t get away (he can’t even get out of his chair).
"There were balloons, and fireworks, and
there was this woman’s voice..."
"And then - everything started to unravel". After wandering around these lonely and foreign settings, Fraser sees the simulation collapsing, with bit of pieces fading in and out. A sort of suspended simulation, set during the Belle Epoque (Fraser speaks of fireworks and balloons), in which our protagonist hears a woman’s voice. At first he thinks and hopes the voice belongs to Élise but he’s wrong (so much so that he keeps complaining about that). A whispering, distorted, and strange voice, coming from inside his head in a way that the memories never did. Although never plainly said, probably the woman is Juno. That's probably it's explained how Fraser was able to access the incomplete simulation of Paris without an external intervention (as it happens in Unity). In addition to that, Fraser adds that the voice didn’t want to let him go. If my interpretation is correct, this is the first visible attempt of Juno at making a potential follower stay in the Grey - of which we also have the very first description: "There was music, tinny and faint, as if from an old-style gramophone, full of static. I could recognize the song, but I knew I didn’t know it. How could I recognize it if I didn’t know it? It was just wrong, so wrong for this place, everything was wrong."
The last lines of this report are a new descent into madness. As previously happened, while writing the report, Fraser keeps thinking about Élise and about the fact that he’d like to stay with her, writing once again in French.

This time Fraser needs more than a week to recover, a week spent away from his office doing therapy sessions with Doctor Bibeau in a Recovery Center. That’s what can be read in a document he writes to Melanie Lemay when he comes back, on July 29th, 2014, in which he says he feels much better and understood he wasn’t going crazy but he was just having a reaction to a technology that is still part of a prototype (Helix). Fraser also states he isn’t Arno Dorian and the experience inside the Animus is nothing more than a story, although a true one. So it seems Fraser completely recovered, and he also thanks the team for the support, especially St. Claire and Bibeau.

Considering the situation St. Claire finally comments on Fraser’s third report, saying that he hopes the players will be shocked by the revelation of Germain’s true identity, as Fraser was (although he was furious back then) and by the other twists and turns and the meetings with historical figures like Napoleon. St. Claire says the balloon ride of Arno and Élise impressed him too, and he thinks this has got to be one of the great romances in history (without going into detail to avoid any risk for Fraser). The document ends with St. Claire looking forward to when the two of them will meet Germain and to Fraser’s final report.

... Something that unfortunately will never happen, because Robert Fraser’s story ends here.

It’s a sudden and unexpected conclusion, which leaves many questions open. However, the second part of this article, dedicated to the other protagonist of the Handbook – the Abstergo agent -, will answer to all these questions, so stay with us!

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The forgotten TWCB

Six we tried in succession