A Precursor box, also known as an Isu Data Cache, is a type of device created by the Isu capable of interacting with other Pieces of Eden to accomplish a variety of functions, principally, to store vast contents of knowledge on any single given subject.
Normally powered by the Piece of Eden it is paired with, in the absence of such a device, electricity can be used in its place. However, the amount of electricity required is on the magnitude of a lightning strike and can damage the box. One such box was indeed powered in this way, and when activated, it was able to decipher the Isu language written in the Voynich manuscript, giving the location of the Seismic Temples. Using the Koh-i-Noor to power another box, the Templars used the artifact to translate the writings in the Tosha Khana Temple beneath Amritsar to locate the emplacement of other Temples.
Combined with Staves of Eden, the boxes also demonstrated to have the ability to imprint the memories of someone into another individual, like in 1918 when Anastasia Nikolaevna ended up with the memories of Shao Jun.
Move to China
By November 1524, one Precursor box was in the possession of the retired Italian Assassin Ezio Auditore, in his villa in Tuscany. The Chinese Assassin, Shao Jun, who had traveled there seeking Ezio's advice on resolving the problems in her homeland, was given the box and told that it would aid her. Ezio stated that she should only open it if she were to lose her way.
Upon returning to China, Shao Jun used the box as bait to get closer to Gao Feng, a Chinese Templar who was part of the group known as the Eight Tigers that was responsible for conducting a near-complete purge of the Chinese Assassins. She assassinated him, but the box itself was taken by Yu Dayong. Eventually, Shao assassinated Yu and reclaimed the box. Shao Jun entrusted the box to her Mentor, Wang Yangming who took it to have someone help them study the box. However, before he could do that, Zhang Yong murdered him and took the box for the Templars, which he later sent out of China to other Templars.
By 1735, the Precursor box had wound up in the possession of the French Templars, who were transporting it on aboard a galleon to Port-au-Prince, to be given to Bastienne Josèphe. However, the fleet transporting the artifact was attacked by the Assassin Adéwalé, who retrieved the parcel that contained the box from the Templar admiral. In July 1737, after two years of working alongside her, Adéwalé eventually handed the artifact to Bastienne.
By November 1751, both the Precursor box and the Voynich manuscript were in the possession of François Mackandal, Mentor of the Saint-Domingue Assassins. Using the artifacts, Mackandal discovered the existence of an Isu Temple near Port-au-Prince and sent his subordinate, Vendredi, to investigate it. Unbeknownst to Mackandal, the Temple was part of a system that held the Earth together.
Vendredi activated the Temple's machinery, causing a massive earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region. After the disaster, Master Templar Lawrence Washington stole the Precursor box and manuscript from Mackandal's camp and took the artifacts with him to Virginia, where the Templars studied the artifacts in an attempt to learn how to use them.
Struggle in the colonies
Shay Cormac, a member of the Colonial Assassins, assassinated Washington in search of the box in 1752. However, the box was already in possession of the Colonial Templar Samuel Smith, while the manuscript had been entrusted to James Wardrop, another noted Templar. In 1754, Shay had managed to track Smith down and assassinate him, with the help of a fellow Assassin, Chevalier de la Vérendrye. Shay recovered the Precursor box from Smith and delivered it to Benjamin Franklin, who was confident conducting electricity through the box would activate it.
With Shay and Hope Jensen's assistance, Franklin succeeded in powering the box, which projected a map of the Earth and displayed locations of several Isu sites, one of them in Lisbon, Portugal. The box was subsequently given to Achilles Davenport, Mentor of the Colonial Assassins, who kept it secure at the Davenport Homestead, the Assassins' primary base of operations in the British colonies.
In 1759, Hope managed to replicate Franklin's experiment and discovered another Isu Temple hidden in the Arctic. After the ordeal, Chevalier de la Vérendrye was tasked with hiding the box, and decided to ship it away from the colonies.
By December 1776, the box was in the possession of the French Assassins. Having switched sides to the Templars twenty years before, Shay learned of this and traveled to Paris. Rescuing Franklin from a group of criminals, Shay enlisted his aid in entering the Palace of Versailles, claiming to have a business meeting there. After a meeting in the palace, the Assassins entrusted the box to Charles Dorian. Having made his way inside, Shay assassinated Charles and took the box from him, reclaiming it for the Templars.
Eventually, the box ended up into the hands of British Templar Francis Cotton. After Cotton's death, his appointed successor, William Sleeman, took possession of the box and in 1841 launched a campaign to find Isu Temples in India by using the box. In order to power it, he stole the Koh-i-Noor from the Assassins. However, his efforts were countered by Assassin Arbaaz Mir who recovered the stolen artifact. Despite discovering a new Temple in Herat, Arbaaz could not prevent William from fleeing with the box.
After Ulysses S. Grant's election as President of the United States in 1868, Grant's inner circle was infiltrated by members of the American Templars, who subsequently corrupted his administration. During the American Civil War, the Assassins gave Grant the Faith Prong from the Trident of Eden and helped him master its powers, which gave him access to the Precursor box and pages of the Voynich manuscript. The former presidential candidate Horace Greeley discovered this and tasked one of his associates in Grant's office to steal the box from the Templars. His associate managed to bring the box to him and inform him of several pages of the manuscript which had been housed at the British Museum before being murdered. In 1872, the Templars discovered the location of the Precursor box which had been housed in Horace Greeley's house and sent one of their agents named Alice to recover it. Alice attempted to assassinate the near-death Horace, but was stopped by the Pinkerton agent Tommy Greyling. However, she succeeded in recovering the box and brought it back to her superiors.
Decades later the box had come into the possession of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, who in 1918 and along with his family was prisoner of the Bolcheviks in Yekaterinburg. Sent by the Brotherhood to recover the artifact, Nikolai Orelov was confronted by the Templars who had infiltrated the ranks of the Red Army and also coveted the box. Infiltrating Ipatiev House where the Romanovs were kept, Nikolai witnessed their murder but reached Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was holding the box, in time to secure the artifact.
However, as Nikolai was taking the Precursor box from Anastasia's hands, the shard of the Staff around his neck and the box interacted, and the girl was imprinted with the genetic memories of the Chinese Assassin Shao Jun. Suffering from a kind of Bleeding Effect, Anastasia became overwhelmed by Jun's skills and memories and the older man decided to take both her and the box to the Brotherhood in Moscow.
Once in Moscow, the pair reached to the Assassin Sergei, who took the box and promised Nikolai that they would keep her safe while discovering what the box had done to her. Nikolai then found out by eavesdropping on some Assassins' conversation that they did not care about Anastasia's safety, that Sergei only wanted to uncover the box's secrets, and that the procedure they planned to use on Anastasia was most likely going to kill her. Nikolai ultimately managed to rescue Anastasia, but left the box behind.
In February 2014, the Assassins Harlan Cunningham and Arend Schut stole this box from an Abstergo Industries facility in Rotterdam. Abstergo's Sigma Team led by Juhani Otso Berg engaged the Assassins in combat, forcing them to leave the artifact behind.
The Assassins' studies
In 2020, the Assassin Antony Henry mentioned in his notes to Layla Hassan detailing his efforts translating Isu script that he had tried to translate some of the Voynich manuscript's pages. His attempt was unsuccessful, but he theorized that the text may have required a Precursor box to decode.
Despite the city of Atlantis in the Assassin's Creed: Odyssey DLC The Fate of Atlantis: Judgment of Atlantis being one of Aletheia's simulations, it is possible there were multiple Precursor boxes in the real city.
Behind the scenes
There is inconsistency over the identity of the Precursor boxes across the Assassin's Creed series. In Assassin's Creed: Rogue, the Templar John Harrison wrote to Grand Master Reginald Birch that the Chinese Assassins had sent Shao Jun's box to Acapulco, and from there, to the West Indies, about a century after Jun's death. Since the box in Rogue seems to be identical to the one held by the Haitian Assassin Adéwalé, this heavily suggests a clear continuity from Jun's box in Assassin's Creed: Embers to Adéwalé's box in Freedom Cry and to Shay Cormac's box in Rogue, that they are all the same box.
However, Richard Farrese, the lead writer to Assassin's Creed: Rogue, discounted in a podcast with the YouTuber Loomer that Jun's box is identical to that of Shay. With the release of Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India and Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia, Jun's box is implied to have passed from the Chinese Templars to the British Templar William Sleeman operating in India and thence to the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. If this were true, it would be peculiar that Harrison reports that the Chinese Assassins retained Jun's box for a hundred years and more given that the box would be assumed to have remained in Templar hands from the end of Chronicles: China though it is not impossible that Jun had recaptured the box before it eventually fell into the hands of Sleeman.
At the same time, the box's presence in Chronicles: India and Chronicles: Russia does not necessarily contradict the war letter in Rogue, as the events of Freedom Cry and Rogue are set in between those of Chronicles: China and Chronicles: India. This allows for the possibility that the Chinese Brotherhood really did send the box to the West Indies, and after Shay took it back from Charles Dorian, it eventually fell into the hands of William Sleeman. Indeed, the fact that the box handed to Álvaro Gramática at the end of Chronicles: Russia is labeled "SHAY'S PRECURSOR BOX" heavily suggests that Ezio's box seen throughout the spin-off series is Shay's box. This is because it would be a peculiar narrative choice for the game to end with Gramática receiving a different item of no relevance to the game's story, i.e. Shay's box if it is distinct, rather than Ezio's box.
On 21 March 2017, Aymar Azaïzia, the Head of Content for Assassin's Creed, answered in an AMA on Reddit that Ezio's box and Shay's box are the same in response to a question concerning this matter, thereby clearly contradicting not only Richard Farrese, but seemingly the reference book Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide as well. Aside from consistently describing Precursor boxes in the plural, The Essential Guide states that "Two confirmed Precursor Boxes exist; one is currently in possession of Álvaro Gramática, while the location of the other is unknown". The reference to two Precursor boxes rather than one highly suggests that Shay's box, the one given to Gramática, and Ezio's box are distinct. However, it stops short of explicitly describing the second box, meaning that it technically does not contradict Aymar's claim because it could be that Ezio's box and Shay's box should still be taken as an identical box in Gramática's hands while the second box is merely one that has never appeared in the series. It would be odd, however, for the book to mention two boxes while intending one to be one that has been absent from the entire series.
Adding to the confusion, while Farrese also clarified that Adéwalé's box in Freedom Cry is the one that ends up in Shay's hands in Rogue, they are distinct in design. While the latter bears a rectangular lid which splits in half and slides open, with even the sides of the box unraveling to expose the mechanisms within, the former has a round lid that seems to open on hinges like a typical box. Ironically, this means that the box in Freedom Cry is actually more similar in design and appearance to the one in Embers.
- Assassin's Creed: Embers (first appearance)
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia
- Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants – Locus
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey – The Fate of Atlantis: Judgment of Atlantis (simulation only, first identified as "Isu Data Cache")
- Assassin's Creed: Valhalla (mentioned only)
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey – The Fate of Atlantis: Judgment of Atlantis
- Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – Fiat Lux
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India – The Enemy Revealed
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia – Red Fury
- Assassin's Creed: Embers
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – The Escape
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – The Port
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – The Slaver
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – The Search
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – Hunted
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – Vengeance
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry – The Calm Before the Storm
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry – De Fayet's Last Stand
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – Lessons and Revelations
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – War Letters: "Family Vacation"
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – By Invitation Only
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – One Little Victory
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – Kyrie Eleison
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – Caress of Steel
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – Non Nobis Domine
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – QXNzYXNzaW5hdGlvbg0K
- Assassin's Creed: Brahman
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India – The Quest Begins
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India – The Thief Within
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India – The Rescue
- Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants – Locus
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia – Dawn of the Tsars
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia – Power from the Past
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia – The Train of Revolution
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – In Safe Hands
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia – Dark Secrets
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – Numbskull's personal files: "Sigma Team's Most Wanted: The Soldiers"
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia – Modern day
- Assassin's Creed: Valhalla – Layla Hassan's personal files – SecureShare: "PRE_trslt_Canterbury.odt <v. 1 by ahenry>"
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue – War Letter: "The Manila Galleons"
- "AymarMtl" (21 March, 2017). I am Aymar Azaizia, Head of Content for Assassin's Creed, Ask Me Anything!. Reddit. Retrieved on August 2, 2017.