The rise and fall of the surrogate initiative - Part 2
Markuz, October 16, 2014
Translated by: Stefania

Here we are again with another article on Access The Animus! As promised, this is the second part of the analysis of the Subject Zero files. As you may remember, we left Aileen between October and November 1980, frustrated because her Surrogate Initiative is not making any progress in terms of sessions and results due to technical, financial and physical limitations. As we said though, things are about to change, so without further ado, let's carry on with our analysis with the last three files!

"Subject Zero" — audio file 3

Unknown Abstergo Employee: Surrogate Initiative, Test Session 32. January 11th, 1981. Host, Aileen Bock. -DNA Sample, SB1970.

Barthel Schink: Miriam... Miriam, is that you? Are you in here?

Miriam Kurtz: (whispers in surprise) Barthel?

Barthel Schink: Ah, thank God you're safe! We've been worried sick!

Miriam Kurtz: Barthel, how did they find you? Oh Jesus, what will they do to you?

Barthel Schink: Have they hurt you at all?

Miriam Kurtz: I told them nothing. All they do - every day - is ask about you and that artifact. But I didn't tell them anything. Nothing!

Barthel Schink: I know you didn't, Miriam. But how are YOU? You aren't hurt?

Miriam Kurtz: Not badly, no. I'm fine.

Barthel Schink: Good. We need to get a message out to Oskar. Somehow.

(light static noise)

Barthel Schink: We need to tell him where...

(heavy static noise)

It's January now, approximately two month and a half have passed since October 21st, when session 27 took place. Again, more than two months for five sessions do not look good for Aileen's project.

Anyway, the session starts in an unexpected way, with Barthel Schink, Miriam's "boss" in the Edelweiss Pirates talking to her while she is still in prison. This, of course, means that he was captured too, which helps us dating this memory in the fall of 1944, when he was historically captured with other members of the Ehrenfelder Navajo Group. Considering that Schink was publicly hanged on 10 November 1944, these are probably his last days or weeks. Barthel isn't worried about his fate though, he's more worried about Miriam. After realizing she's fine and that she didn't say anything about the artifact, he says they need to get a message out to Oskar (who appears to be one of their allies / associates), to tell him "where...".

(laboratory background noises)

Lillian: Very interesting footage, Aileen. This is Germany, you said? World War Two?

Aileen Bock: Most of the memories I've been able to access come from a period where Miriam was imprisoned by the Nazi's in Cologne.

Lillian: Miriam... is she still alive?

Aileen Bock: No, she was my husband's mo- my ex-husband's mother. She passed away about ?ve years ago.

Lillian: Well, she was spirited. An impressive lady.

Aileen Bock: Definitely.

Lillian: And the man, Barthel. He made reference to an artifact. Any idea what that is?

Aileen Bock: My team is looking into that. But it's not our first priority. We still need...

Lillian: lt is now.

Aileen Bock: Really?

Lillian: You must have other recordings of this woman. Are there any other mentions of this artifact I should know about?

Aileen Bock: Half a dozen or so, yes. What's this about?

Lillian: You have questions, I understand that. I don't have answers for you. Not right now. But I do have money. And if you get me those recordings - and bring me any other artifact references you find - then I will triple your operating budget for as long as I can.

Aileen Bock: Triple my budget? My God, what is this?

Lillian: 9 a.m. Monday morning. My office. We have a lot to discuss.

Aileen Bock: But Lillian, I don't-

Lillian: Have a good weekend, Mrs. Bock! Fantastic work!

(door opens and closes)

Public execution of a group of
Edelweiss Pirates in Cologne, 1944
As always, the session lasts not more than some seconds / minutes and we get back to the present day. What we saw was a recording of the latest session shown by Aileen to Lillian (who we’ll later find out was advised to go and see her by Vidic, as anticipated in the last segment of file 2). Aileen explains that most of the memories she experienced showed Miriam imprisoned by the Nazis in Cologne. This is very important because it gives us a location for the memories, while it was easy to hypothesize that Miriam had been captured by the Nazis, considering the reference to Goebbels in the first part of this article.

While "casually" speaking about Miriam, Lillian asks Aileen about the artifact and immediately later orders her that it will be her priority from that moment onwards. This confirms the idea of Lillian being an Abstergo executive and also a part of the Templars while Aileen is not, especially because Lillian asks her all the artifact references that she finds in exchange for tripling her budget. Aileen is shocked because she does not understand and Lillian, in turn, does not want to explain why the artifact is that important.

(phone call noise)

Karl: Hello. This is Karl.

Aileen Bock: Hi. It's Aileen.

Karl: Hey! How are you?

Aileen Bock: Good. Busy. Cold. The winter's been terrible.

Karl: Ah. Seamus won't like that. The weather's been mild out here.

Aileen Bock: Well, he's only coming for a month. He'll live. And I'll be so busy, he won't have to worry about his mother bothering him.

Karl: Ah. Still working 12 hour days?

Aileen Bock: l should move a bed into my lab.

Karl: Look if you're too busy, Seamus can stay with me...

Aileen Bock: No, no. l want to see him. We'll have fun.

Karl: You're not too busy to be a mom and a genius?

Aileen Bock: Of course not.

Karl: His flight lands at... at 8:15pm, tomorrow night. You'll be there?

Aileen Bock: Of course. 8:15.

Karl: PM. I'll let him know you'll be there.

Aileen Bock: Thanks, Karl. I need to run, I'm sorry. Take care.

Karl: You too.

(sound of ended phone call)

In this segment we see another slice of Aileen's personal life with her second phone call to her ex-husband Karl (remember, even this was recorded by Vidic without Aileen's consent, being it part of the files).

From the conversation it's possible to understand that Aileen and Karl now are living far away from each other, considering that winter is cold where Aileen works while it's mild where Karl lives, and also that their son Seamus needs to take a plane to reach her and stay with her for a month.

Sadly, even if she is going to see her son after what seems to be a lot of time, she already tells Karl that she'll be working a lot in that period, which is probably not going to be good for their relation.

In the last part of the phone call we can see again some consequences of Aileen and Karl's divorce, as the latter is not so persuaded that she will have time for their son and that she'll really make it in time when Seamus arrives because of her dedication to work (which probably is what caused the divorce).

(laboratory background noises)

Warren Vidic: Ah, Aileen. Didn't see you come in.

Aileen Bock: I'm not interrupting?

Warren Vidic: No, its fine. The Subject is unconscious. He's traipsing around 18th century New Orleans right now. In the memories of a woman.

Aileen Bock: That must feel odd. How long has he been under?

Warren Vidic: Eighty-three minutes.

Aileen Bock: Wow.

Warren Vidic: It's average. What can I do for you?

Aileen Bock: l just wanted to... to thank you for sending Lillian see me. She came away very impressed.

Warren Vidic: There, you see? All these bureaucrats need is a little glimpse of our secrets every so often. They like to feel like they're still in charge.

Aileen Bock: Lillian is most definitely in charge. She just tripled my budget.

Warren Vidic: Tripled? Christ, Aileen. You must have discovered who killed Kennedy.

Aileen Bock: (laughs) Well, she heard something on one of my tapes that interested her. Something about an artifact. Very vague. But it was enough.

Warren Vidic: An artifact. What sort of artifact-

(machine sounds)

Warren Vidic: Jesus! Get him out of there! Get him out!

Male voice: Oh my God...

Male voice: It'll kill him. He is not decoupled.

Warren Vidic: He’s having a fucking seizure! Power down! Now!

Male voice: Heart rate 170.

Warren Vidic: POWER DOWN NOW!

(sound of telephone buttons)

Illustration of Aveline
de Grandpré, by Fabien Troncal
This segment is a direct consequence of the previous one and probably takes place few hours or maybe days after it. Aileen goes to Vidic’s laboratory during one of Subject One’s test sessions. Vidic “shows off” some general data about the session: it takes place in 18th century New Orleans, the ancestor is a woman – Aveline – and the session itself has been going on for 83 minutes. This last bit shocks Aileen because she compares it to the few minutes she can experience, but Vidic adds “insult to injury” by saying that it’s just an average session in the Animus.

Aileen tells Vidic she is there to thank him for sending Lillian to see her because she tripled her budget and that’s where Vidic makes an interesting joke. He references the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (which in 1981 was still fresh in the mind of the American people), a fact that ironically he would have come to know through his Templar connections (it’s not clear if he is already affiliated or not in 1981, though in 1985 his experiments on Subject 4 – Daniel Cross – were already oriented towards the Assassin-Templar war) and which he potentially saw through the memory of Subject 16, as seen in glyphs 9 and 10 in AC2).

Anyway, Aileen tells Vidic the reason why Lillian tripled her budget, that is, the artifact. Vidic seems to be interested and asks her about it. Again, it's not clear if Vidic is honest or if he already joined the Templar ranks and is faking not knowing what the Pieces of Eden are.

What we do know, though, is that in this moment he probably already saw one. As a matter of fact,
Aveline holding a half of the Prophecy Disk
immediately after that Subject One is hit by a seizure but can't be taken out of the Animus because he is not "decoupled" (probably from his ancestor Aveline). Vidic sees that the only way to try and save him is to immediately turn the power down the machine but, as he will mention in the next segment, it's too late. If these are really the last moments of Subject One, then this means that Vidic already recorded all of Aveline's memories. If that happened, then Vidic had already seen a Piece of Eden, namely the Prophecy Disk, and in that case, as indicated by our Hephaestus, Vidic had asked Aileen about "the artifact" to check if it was similar to what he had seen or not.

In any case, this is a serious blow against the Animus Project. As mentioned in the beginning, the situation is getting better and better for Aileen and her project, while Vidic is "falling". Things are about to change once again, though, as we'll see.

(sound of phone call)

(classical music in the background)

Warren Vidic: Aileen, Warren here. I was all ready to apologize for the late call but you seem to be away. Maybe with your son. Ah... Listen, since the... unfortunate incident with Subject 1... there’s been a lot of dire talk around the office about my Animus Project... about shutting it down... about it being unsafe... typical top-brass bull-shit! And if they shut me down, then your Surrogate Initiative goes away too. l’m sure you’re already... well aware of that.
Well, let me be the first to reassure you: this will not happen. I will NOT let them take this from me. From us. I will not let one death... of an undiagnosed epileptic, I should add... I will not let this destroy the decades of incredible research done by our predecessors, and the five years I have spent perfecting the Animus. There is still more work to be done. And countless rewards to be reaped. So... I wanted you to be the first to know... I have decided to volunteer myself as my second subject. I am convinced that the Animus is perfectly safe, provided I stay within the boundaries of my own ancestral bloodline. Next week I plan to prove this by staying a full FOUR hours in the Animus.
I would be grateful to you if you and your team would monitor my progress. And after this necessary but... ridiculous proof of concept, I give you my word that I will work closely with you to solve your outstanding problems. Your Surrogate Initiative is a bold idea, and I do believe it is the future of the Animus Project. But while we have the Animus itself, I do not want to waste precious opportunities to prove its safety. I’ll see you in the office on Monday. Goodbye.

(sound of ended phone call)

The last segment of file 3 is completely made up of a phone call from Vidic to Aileen (probably through the answering service).

As mentioned in one of the previous segment Seamus reached her mother (and that's why she is not answering), but this does not stop Vidic from talking about the "unfortunate incident with Subject One". After that event both the scientists in Vidic's lab and the Abstergo executives started considering the Animus Project unsafe and liable to be shut down.

William Miles stealing the Animus
blueprints in 1977
Vidic is not just complaining about the reaction of his co-workers, but he is also making very clear that the Surrogate Initiative is indirectly involved as well and is risking the same fate of the Animus Project. Because of this, Vidic tries to create a sort of "community of interests" between him and Aileen, to push her to help him. He also mentions the research done by their predecessors and his five years spent working on the Animus (which means Vidic has started working on the Animus Project in the beginning of 1976), to push her even more towards his side.

To prove that to everyone, Vidic decides to volunteer himself for a four hours session in the Animus (doing exactly what Aileen does for her project) and that is where Vidic asks for Aileen's help. And if that were not enough, he also promises her that after the session proves to be successful, he is going to help her with her problems and he goes to such an extent that he also compliments her on the Surrogate Initiative... Knowing Vidic, how much of this is honest and how much is part of a plan?

"Subject Zero" — audio file 4

(Church music / chants in the background)

Joan of Arc: I have now resumed the practice of dressing as a man, and have put off my woman's dress.

Vidic's ancestor: Why did you take it? Who made you take it?

Joan of Arc: I took it of my own free will. With no constraint: I prefer a man's dress to a woman's.

Vidic's ancestor: You made an oath, Jeanne! You swore to never again dress as a man!

Joan of Arc: I never meant to swear that I would not RESUME the practice.

Vidic's ancestor: Why have you done so?

Joan of Arc: Because it is more lawful and suitable for me to return to the practice of wearing a man's dress - being always among men - than to have a woman's dress. I have resumed it because a promise made to me has not been kept...

Aileen Bock: How is he?

Satish: Hour three. Doing well.

Aileen Bock: Are we still in Eighteenth century Hungary?

Satish: No, his connection is so stable, he's jumped between a few ancestors today. We're in fifteenth-century France now. Turns out he's related to one of Joan of Arc's executioners.

Aileen Bock: (laughs) Surprise.

Satish: Aileen... Yesterday, Vidic asked me to help him work out some of the bugs in his Audio-Visual renderer, and I told him-

Aileen Bock: No no no... come on, Satish. Not you.

Satish: It wouldn't be permanent. A few months at most.

Aileen Bock: Months! That will kill every ounce of momentum we have!

Satish: It won't, I promise. Honestly, I think this could help us. If I can get a look at what his people are doing, we could-

Aileen Bock: Come on. He's trying to pull you over to his side. You don't see that? He's luring you with quick victory and prestige.

Satish: That's not what this is about, honestly.

Aileen Bock: I need to get back to work...

Satish: Aileen, l'm sorry.

Aileen Bock: Do what you must. I'll survive.

Joan of Arc, painting, c. 1485
File 4 starts off with a bang. In fact we are directly listening to the four hour long Animus session promised by Vidic (who officially became Subject Two) and we are in fifteenth century France. As Satish puts it, Vidic's ancestor is one of Joan of Arc's executioners. This is very important as it is completely new information about Vidic which was not mentioned in past games. Also, after the mention of Kennedy's assassination, this is another indirect reference to the glyphs (this time in glyph 5 and 8) and is another fact that probably Vidic had already known while Subject 16 was under his "care".

For those of you who may not remember, through Clay Kaczmarek's files in AC2 we were able to see that Joan of Arc at some point during her life came in possession of the Sword of Eden through which she led the French Army to many victories in the Hundred Years' war, as confirmed in the AC Encyclopedia. Her growing popularity is probably what (in the AC plot) attracted the attention of the Templars who organized a plan to recover the POE - the Sword - that could be useful within their New World Order plans with the purpose of crushing any uprising. This led to Joan's execution, which was perpetrated by the English, who burned her at the stake on May 30th, 1431, when she was only 19 years old (or as Clay put it in glyph 8, "They burned Joan alive. They took it."). Joan's story should be analyzed in a separated article for the many legends that surround it and for the ties that it holds to the AC Universe (for example Joan heard voices that she interpreted as "voices from God" and saw visions of saints, facts which could both be interpreted in the AC plot as interactions with Those Who Came Before).

Joan burned at the stake (glyph #8)
In this case, though, we are going to focus on Vidic's ancestor, one of Joan's executioners. Or the executioner, we should say (unless "executioners" is considered in its loose meaning, which may be a reference to the instigators of Joan's trial or its judges). His name was Geoffrey Thérage (or Thirage, or Thierage), and he should be almost certainly Vidic's ancestor. Little is known historically about him, though more than one source reports that after Joan died, he cried and told everybody he would be damned for burning "a saint". Thérage was also responsible for casting her ashes into the Seine.

What we see in File 4, though, takes place before Joan's execution and depicts the specific motivation behind her conviction and her burning at the stake but to understand it, this needs a bit of a background. Originally Joan was accused of heresy, but it actually was politically motivated, considering that the tribunal was composed entirely of pro-English and Burgundian (allies of the English) clerics, and overseen by English commanders. The procedure was illegal in many ways (among which the low quality of the collected evidence and the absence of testimonies against Joan) and the sources confirm that the tribunal even set up some "theological pitfalls" to entrap her.

Joan interrogated in her
prison cell, Delaroche, 1824
An example of this (from Wikipedia) is the most famous exchange between Joan and the Tribunal that was accounted in the trial transcript: "Asked if she knew she was in God's grace, she answered: 'If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.'" The question was actually a trap because at that time the Church doctrine held that no one could be certain of being in God's grace. If she had answered positively, then she would have been charged with heresy. If she had answered negatively, then she would have confessed her own guilt. This is how "biased" was the trial. In the end Joan was forced - under threat of being immediately executed - to sign an abjuration document in which she acknowledged that she lied about the voices and she submitted to the authority of the Church.

What lead to Joan's execution after this was the so-called "Cross-dressing charge", and this is where we get to the brief moment featured in File 4. Many sources mention that Joan wore men's clothes almost continually in the last two years and a half before her execution because that was "the commandment of God and his angels.". Cross-dressing, however, was not allowed by the tenets of 15th century theology and that was one of the reasons behind the accusations of heresy. Also, before her abjuration, while Joan was held captive, she resorted to wear male clothing in prison because (quoting Wikipedia) it gave her the ability to fasten her hosen, boots and tunic together into one piece, which deterred rape by making it difficult to pull her hosen off. After the abjuration, though, as she was forced to admit her mistakes, Joan agreed to wear feminine clothing. A few days after adopting a dress, though, she told a tribunal member that "a great English lord had entered her prison and tried to 'take her by force' " For that reason Joan started again wearing male attire as a defense against molestation or, in other testimonies, because her dress had been taken by the guards and she was left with nothing else to wear. This gave the court an opportunity against her, who was charged for relapse into heresy for cross-dressing and this was why she was sentenced to death.

Manuscript portrait of Pierre Cauchon
After all this explanation, then, we have our background to the memories that Vidic is exploring in the beginning of File 4. It takes place after Joan resumes the practice of cross-dressing. Vidic's ancestor, the person in charge of interrogating her in this segment (who may also be bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais, the man who originally put her on trial and who later declared her guilty), asks her who made her resume the practice of dressing as a men. I believe the idea here is to represent the court trying to make her fall in another trap, expecting her to say that God and his angels did. Joan is represented very well, being able to avoid the verbal traps and to justify her resuming the cross-dressing practice. The last sentence pronounced by her is very interesting: she says that the reason behind her actions is a promise made to her which has not been kept. This is a reference to another historical episode that happened both before and after Joan's abjuration. According to the sources, Joan signed the abjuration documents with the oral promise by the court to be imprisoned in an ecclesiastical prison (which meant that she would have been under the supervision of female guards (nuns).What actually happened is that the English put her in a secular prison guarded by their own soldiers, who, as mentioned before, became the reason why she resumed her cross-dressing practice. This is the promise that is probably mentioned in the file, which also helps us dating the memory right after the abjuration, which took place on May 24th, 1431.

Going back to the file (at last!), we get to know that right now Vidic is at his third hour in the Animus in his "demonstration" and that he has been so stable that he jumped between "a few ancestors". The interesting thing is that Satish clarifies that if the subject's connection is stable, he/she can jump between his ancestors in the same Animus session. Speaking of which, Aileen mentions that one of Vidic's ancestors lived in Eighteenth century Hungary (there's no other more specific information about him / her though).

The last part of the segment is dedicated to what Aileen perceives as a sort of betrayal by Satish. The day before Vidic's session, in fact, he talked with Satish to make him join the Animus project to fix some bugs. As Aileen suspects, this is probably just an attempt to take one of the most important "resources" behind the Surrogate Initiative, thus "killing the momentum that it has now" (namely its tripled budget whereas the Animus Project was falling because of the Subject One incident). As we'll see, this is the beginning of the fall of the Surrogate Initiative, by means of the manipulating mind of Warren Vidic.

(laboratory background noises)

Abstergo unknown employee: Surrogate Initiative, Test Session 32. April 2nd, 1981. Host, Aileen Bock. DNA Sample, SB1970.

Barthel Schink: Miriam? Miriam, are you awake?

Miriam Kurtz: Barthel?

Barthel Schink: Miriam, they are coming for me.

Miriam Kurtz: Who is? The guards?

Barthel Schink: I see them from my window, amassing in the courtyard. My time is up.

Miriam Kurtz: Barthel, don’t say this! You don't know that.

Barthel Schink: Forgive me for this, Miriam, but I must tell you something. The Artifact. We have it, but only Oskar and I know its location.

Miriam Kurtz: Don’t tell me.

Barthel Schink: They will release you. Your family has connections. You must take the Artifact and bring it to the Assassins. In Paris.

Miriam Kurtz: Please don’t! I don't want to know. lt’s safer if I don’t.

Barthel Schink: Hush, now. If I die, knowledge of its location dies with me. You must bring it to the Assassins.

Miriam Kurtz: Assassins? I don't understand!

Barthel Schink: The spire of St. Petrus-

Miriam Kurtz: No, I don't want to hear!

Male voice: Cell seven! Stand!

Barthel Schink: (screams) Navajos lay siege! Navajos lay siege!

Miriam Kurtz: (screams) Barthel! You mustn't-

The next segment takes place in April 2nd, 1981. No other sessions have been carried out by Aileen since January.

Miriam's memory starts with Barthel calling her again (this may mean their cells are very close), and he is in a hurry because "they" (the Nazis, the guards, the Templars?) are coming for him. Miriam tries to cheer him up, but it's like he is not listening because he is convinced that his time is running out. Because of this, he decides he has to tell Miriam more information about the Artifact. He says that "we have the artifact", which means that it is in the hands of the Edelweiss Pirates, but only he and his aforementioned associate Oskar know its location.

The Cologne Cathedral
Schink also adds that he expects Miriam to be released because her family has connections. After that, he tells she will have to get the artifact and take it to the Assassins in Paris. It is interesting to note that while the events take place in Cologne, Barthel tells Miriam to go all the way to Paris and not to reach an Assassins cell in Germany. Also, it's almost necessary to make a reference to the Assassins Council that will be shown in Assassin's Creed Unity. Is it possible, then, that the Assassins kept their presence in Paris from the French Revolution to the first half of the twentieth century?

Another interesting thing is that Miriam does not know what Schink is talking about when he mentions the Assassins. This is consistent with her just knowing about the existence of the artifact and not its abilities: she never was part of the Assassin-Templar war, at least up until now.

Before being taken by the guards (probably to be brought to the gallows, which actually historically happened on November 10, 1944 at the hands of the Gestapo) Barthel tells Miriam the location of the artifact - or to be more precise, a part of the location. He says "The spire of St. Petrus - ": considering that the memories take place in Cologne and that Schink mentions spires and "St. Petrus", this is probably a reference to the Cologne Cathedral or " Hohe Domkirche St. Petrus", the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe which has the second-tallest spires (after Ulm Minster). Sadly, this is the last moment in which we can hear of Schink, who at the end of the memory is taken by the guards while he is screaming the Navajos motto.

(writing noise)

(phone ringing noise)

Aileen Bock: Hello?

Karl: Aileen, hi. It's Karl.

Aileen Bock: Karl, I know it's you.

Karl: Sorry. You just... you sound exhausted. Did I wake you?

Aileen Bock: No... no, I'm... I've just been busy.

Karl: It sounds like it.

Aileen Bock: I'm just a little tired. That's all.

Karl: No, I mean... your project sounds fascinating. Your colleague, Doctor... Warren Vidic?... he called me recently and told me what you'd been up to.

Aileen Bock: (screaming) He what? Warren?

Karl: Yeah, he told us about your research. Memories. Ancestry. All of that. He even asked if we'd be willing to come in and-

Aileen Bock: (screaming) No! Jesus, no! What the hell is he doing?

Karl: Aileen. It's okay. We signed some papers... non-disclosure stuff.

Aileen Bock: (screaming) No! He's trying to fuck me over. Dammit!

Karl: Aileen, we just talked about my mother. Just like you and I did. World War Two. That's all.

Aileen Bock: It's the artifact.

Karl: The what?

Aileen Bock: Karl, if he calls again, you tell him you work through me, okay? That's it. Vidic has been a pain in my ass for years. And I don't need him getting all the glory for my two years of hard work.

Karl: All right. So... how should I go about this? I mean... the wheels are in motion.

Aileen Bock: I... I don't know. Just go through me if he contacts you again. Please.

Karl: All right.

Aileen Bock: You'll do that?

Karl: Of course. Yes.

Aileen Bock: Thank you Karl. I'm sorry I was short with you. I've just been... exhausted. That's all.

Karl: It's all right, hon. Just... just take care of yourself.

(sound of ended phone call)

In this segment we have the chance to hear another phone conversation between Aileen and Karl, the last one. This time it's Karl who is calling Aileen, who does not answer very politely. She justifies her answer by saying that she's been busy, as usual, but this is probably hiding her unrest about the undeclared fight between the Surrogate Initiative and the Animus Project and Vidic's manipulations (considering Satish's "desertion").

Aileen's concerns seem to be even more real than they seem, because Karl innocently tells her that Vidic called him and told him about Aileen's project and he also asked him and Seamus if they were willing to be test subjects. Of course Aileen reacts screaming, shocked because of Vidic's move, which is very likely to be based on what he listened through what he secretly recorded without Aileen's consent (especially on the references to the Artifact and on Lillian's reaction about it).

Vidic's manipulations almost
in the same period of time
Aileen at last realizes that once again it's all about the artifact, even Vidic's manipulations. By using Karl, Vidic would be able to find the artifact with his Animus Project (as Karl is a direct descendant of Miriam). This way with a single move Vidic would have been able to get back in Lillian's good books and at the same time he would have dealt a very strong blow to the Surrogate Initiative by nullifying Aileen's last years of research and work.

This is why Aileen asks Karl (who despite their divorce is more than willing to cooperate) not to trust Vidic and to tell her if he'd called him again.

(laboratory background noises)

Satish: Morning Aileen. We're almost ready. Just a few more adjustments.

Aileen Bock: Hm. Okay.

Satish: I had the team do some research on this artifact we've been chasing, and it appears the Third Reich actually found something matching it's description sometime in nineteen-forty. And... Aileen, are you all right?

Aileen Bock: Sorry, yeah. I'm ?ne... just a little, uh... scattered. Vidic called my ex-husband last night. He wants to put him in the Animus.

Satish: To find the artifact before us...?

Aileen Bock: Exactly.

Satish: Well... it would be faster using Vidic's Animus. And maybe that would let us get back to our original work.

Aileen Bock: Satish, if we let that happen, then all our money dries up. Lillian is paying us to find the artifact, not improve our methods. Do you understand?

Satish: Right... of course.

Aileen Bock: I'm sorry. Let's just... let's burn those bridges when we cross them. Are we ready?

Satish: Yeah. Just a few more adjustments and you're in. I made a small change to the Genetic input modulator. I'm hoping that buys you a few more minutes.

Aileen Bock: Even a few seconds would be nice. I'm ready...

Satish: All right. Settle in...

(Machine noises)

The "Templar puppet"
The last segment from file 4 is very brief and takes place on the day after the phone call that we just witnessed and our protagonists are Aileen and Satish.

What's really important from this dialogue is the results of the research that Satish presents to Aileen: the Third Reich appears to have found in the 1940s something that matches the description of Miriam and Barthel's artifact (which, by the way, was not provided in the files). This may mean two things: either more than one POE of the same shape was found / used by the Third Reich or, in the end, the Nazis found a way to locate Barthel's artifact among the spires of the Cologne Cathedral. As mentioned in the first part of this article, what we know for sure is that Hitler (a Templar puppet in the AC lore) had an Apple of Eden up until 1945, but after that everything is open to interpretation.

Going back to Aileen and Satish, she almost immediately tells him what she thinks Vidic is up to. Even this time, like when he told Aileen he would have helped Vidic, Satish seems more "flexible" on Warren's actions than he should. This is why Aileen gets angry again at him, making clear that now the new objective is finding the artifact, not to work on the Surrogate Initiative itself.

At the end of the fourth file Aileen is more frustrated than ever, but sadly this is still not going to be the worst moment for the Surrogate Initiative.

"Subject Zero" — audio file 5

Abstergo unknown employee: Surrogate Initiative, Test Session 37. August 9th, 1981. Host, Aileen Bock. DNA Sample, SB1970.

Interrogation host: Open.

(noise of keys and of a door opening)

Interrogation host: Good morning, Miss Kurtz. You look well, considering the circumstances. Are you rested? Hm. Have you eaten? (pause) Your friends are dead, Miriam. Barthel Schink and all his Navajos. His Edelweiss Pirates. Executed for five counts of murder.

Miriam Kurtz: Without a trial. You must be proud.

Interrogation host: THERE WAS NO NEED! They were scum! All of them. You hear me? All of you are Scum! Scum! Scum!

Miriam Kurtz: I see it so clearly now. They didn't break, did they? You have nothing!

Interrogation host: (hitting Miriam) Quiet, girl.

Miriam Kurtz: You don't have the artifact. If you did, you wouldn't be talking to me at all!

Interrogation host: (hitting Miriam) Quiet!


Interrogation host: I said Quiet, whore!


Interrogation host: Quiet!

Miriam Kurtz: (screams) Ah! NAVAJOS!

Interrogation host: Quiet!

Miriam Kurtz: NAVAJOS LAY-

Interrogation host: QUIET!

Miriam Kurtz: Ah! (screams)

(laboratory background noises)

It's time for the last file and thus for the epilogue of Aileen's story. Once again it took months (April to August, 1981) for Aileen to perform five sessions and get to Test Session 37.

The EL - DE Haus of Cologne.
Its basement was used as prison cells and
torture rooms for political enemies.
Maybe this is where Miriam's memories take place...
This is the last time we get to hear Miriam's memories and she is still in prison. The memory takes place after Bartel Schink was publicly executed.

Interestingly enough, Miriam is so strong after Barthel's loss to directly face the interrogation host, still keeping her irony. She also understands that neither Barthel nor his Edelweiss Pirates colleagues told the Templars anything, so they couldn't put their hands on the Artifact. This lights a fire in Miriam and pushes her to scream the Navajos motto exactly like Schink did before being dragged away towards his death. This of course gets the interrogation host even angrier, so much so that he hits her and probably does even worse things because she screams even louder.

This is the last we hear from Miriam but this does not mean that she was killed in this predicament, as, at the beginning of file 3, Aileen told Lillian that Miriam had passed away five years before, which means in 1976.

(intermittent noise of machine, like cardiogram, increasing its frequency)

Aileen Bock: Ah! (screams)

Satish: Get her out! Get her out!

Aileen Bock: Ah! (screams increasingly louder)

Unknown Abstergo Employee #1: We're losing her!

Aileen Bock: Ah! (screams)

Satish: Shut it down! Everything!

(noise of machine shutting down)

Aileen Bock: Ah! (voice fading away)

Satish: Aileen! Open your eyes! Can you hear me? Aileen! Aileen!

Unknown Abstergo Employee #2: Power's off!

Unknown Abstergo Employee #3: Get the Physician in here!

Unknown Abstergo Employee #4 (maybe the Physician): Step aside, son.

Satish: Aileen! Talk to me! Can you open your eyes? Oh God... Oh God...

(end of laboratory background noises)

All the suffering and pain that Miriam felt combined with the little safety provided by the Animus technology of the 1980s and all the issues of experiencing the memories of the ancestor of another person fall down on Aileen definitively.

Aileen screams increasingly louder while another Abstergo employee / scientist clearly says that they are losing her. Satish orders to shut everything down, exactly like Vidic did during the Subject One incident, but to no avail. Aileen does not seem to give any sign of response.

There is a sort of parallel between the Subject One incident and the Aileen (Subject Zero) incident: they both are caused by the unsafe Animus Technology of that time even though they are monitored by an equipe of scientists and sadly, as we'll see, they both are disastrous and bear nefarious consequences for the test subjects.

This is sadly the last we see of Aileen, but there is still one last segment before the end, a segment that in its simplicity is still able to deepen Warren Vidic’s character and indirectly describe the fall of the Surrogate Initiative.

(dog bark sound)

(sound of lit fireplace)

Warren Vidic: (throat-clearing sound) All right... Notes towards a speech in honor of Dr. Aileen Bock's... premature... retirement. (pause) When I first learned of Dr. Bock's unfortunate... accident, I couldn't help but feel a great sense of loss at... No... No, no. Hm...

(cat meow sound)

Warren Vidic: Ah! Doctor Aileen Bock has and always will be a friend and colleague. When I first learned of her unfortunate accident, I was shocked, of course. To see any friend injured in such a way is... deeply... upsetting. And to further learn that her injuries were severe enough to force a premature conclusion to her brilliant career... Well, I would not wish that fate on anyone. But, if there is any solace to be found in her accident, it may be this: that she was injured in service of her research... in service of work that she cherished most dearly. And it is thanks to her... it is due to her diligence, that some of the mysteries of genetic memory have been further illuminated. And while it is true that work on her project - the Surrogate Initiative, as she called it - has been temporarily halted, the copious amounts of work she has done over the past three years has been incredibly... valuable. So, while her work has been suspended for the time being, her legacy will most certainly... live on. (laughs)

(cat meowing and dog barking sounds)

Warren Vidic: (screams) Quiet, Joan! Quiet!

Concept art of Warren Vidic
The dog barks and the lit fireplace are a clear reference to the fact that the segment does not take place in an Abstergo lab but in a house. Considering that the only character speaking is Vidic, that this might also be the last recording made by him about the Surrogate Initiative and that in the beginning of the first file it’s mentioned that the files have been found in his residence, it’s safe to assume this takes place in Vidic’s house.

What we see here is Vidic recording himself trying to produce the fakest heartfelt speech about Aileen’s “premature retirement” that he can. Through his words we get to know that Aileen was “injured” by what we saw in the previous segment and these injuries were enough strong to force her to abandon the Surrogate Initiative and her career entirely at Abstergo. Interestingly enough Vidic never mentions that Aileen died in the incident. This allows us to think that Aileen suffered severe psychological injuries: maybe she suffered some direct brain damage or she experienced the Bleeding Effect, or even worse, possibly it really happened what Satish hypothesized in file 2, that is Aileen’s memories being completely overwritten by Miriam’s ones.

Vidic in his fake speech also mentions that the Surrogate Initiative project was halted and this was probably done by the Abstergo executives as a direct consequence of Aileen’s incident (very much like what happened to the Animus project after Subject One’s incident)

Vidic’s true self can be seen in the last sentences. When he says that Aileen's work over the past three years proved to be invaluable, in my opinion he probably means that it proved to be invaluable for him and his Animus Project, considering that he can reach Miriam's artifact through Karl. He even adds that even if her project has been suspended, her work (a possible indirect mention to Miriam's memories) will certainly live on (through the Animus Project). The proof for the fact that he does not believe in any word he says is the final laugh, which determines the final victory over Aileen and her project.

The file ends with a nice finishing touch. The (female) dog barks "fighting" with the cat and Vidic reveals her name, Joan, screaming and ordering her to be quiet (in a way that seems very similar to the one of Miriam's interrogation host). It's also interesting to notice that the name of the dog, "Joan", is probably a reference to Joan of Arc, the historical character that Vidic saw in his ancestor's memories.

This isn't even the first time that a dog in the franchise bears a name that is a reference to something else. In fact, as some of you may remember, Edward Kenway's dog when he got back to London was called "Thatch". In Haytham's words from the Forsaken novel, "A dog began barking. Thatch, Father's Irish bloodhound, from his kennel in the stable yard."

And that's it for the Subject Zero files. As promised they turned out to be a little AC chapter of its own, with repercussions on the present events. In fact the Animus technology used in AC4 is heavily based on the Surrogate Initiative, which means that now Abstergo has the computing power to achieve the results that Aileen was never able to reach. It's not clear, though, what happened later, both in the past and "present" sides of the story. It would be interesting to know what happened to Miriam next and who reached the artifact first and at the same time it would be nice to know what use Vidic made of the information that he recorded in the 160 hours of his reel-to-reel tapes.

If that is going to be covered in the future releases of our franchise, don't worry, we'll be there to analyze it once again, here on Access The Animus!

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So brash, so young

The rise and the fall... Part1