"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."

-Albert Einstein

Chapter 1

It was raining. No, pouring. The night air was already frigid, winter no more than a week or two away. This unfortunate fact had the downpour feeling much more like thousands of tiny razors cutting into my skin rather than simply water. The icy water cascaded down my face, soaking through the fabric of my torn dirty shirt and into my already frigid skin beneath.

But I can't stop to ponder how cold I am. How tired my muscles are and how desperately sleep has been calling to me. My breath is coming in fast intervals as I run, my leather contained feet racing across the forest floor. Occasionally my feet slide in the mud and leaves beneath them, almost sending me down into the dirty waterlogged swamp that only the day before had been a forest. Gritting my teeth, I catch myself against a nearby trunk; vertigo suddenly overwhelming me. I press my eyes shut tightly, shaking my head in the hopes of clearing my vision.

It helps, but the trees still sway around me as I push away from the tree. Gotta keep moving... Can't stop..

If at all possible the rain is falling harder now, burning wherever the drops hit my skin. I can't ignore the pain now, the searing ache in my shoulder. I raise my hand to it, pressing down on the bleeding wound that lie there- hidden under burned cotton.

I'd been shot. What I could only assume had been no more than ten minutes ago a bullet made of the finest silver had burrowed its way deep into my body. Just one bullet, but enough pain to drop much bigger people than me. At the moment it had brought my well developed pain tolerance to his knees. I was amazing myself by the force of my will. My resolve was all that was solely responsible for getting me this far in spite of the amount of blood I was losing.

Another wave of dizziness overwhelmed me then, forcing me to the ground. As much as I'd like to keep moving, my body desired rest. Scooting myself up against the base of a tree, my head falls back against the bark.

I let loose a chuckle, though admittedly it was more of a scoff, as I lift my hand from the bullet wound. My fingers glisten scarlet even in the darkness, making my stomach turn. It was kind of funny, sitting here. Bleeding and alone, hunted like some animal. Thirteen years I had been fighting, struggling to survive by the blade of my knife. And yet, for the first time in over thirteen years... I was afraid.

I push my long brown hair out of my face, wiping the water from my eyes and nose. In my current state, shot and bleeding rather rapidly- caught out alone in the middle of a rainstorm with what I could only assume was the finest soldiers that asshole psychopath could spare hunting me- I could only ponder how funny it all was. To think.. All of this- this whole ordeal and all the pain and manipulation and killing that came along with it... All over something so simple as blood.

Well, I suppose... Wars have started for far less, haven't they?

It was hard to believe that my life could change so much in the course of two months. Before then everything had been simple- or at least as simple as the my life could get. Such a short period of time, and yet it had only taken that long for the whole world to go to shit.

October 6th, 2017- 11:46 p.m.; Two Months Earlier

What is it that makes physical violence so appealing to people? Was it the power that came with beating someone or did some people really just get off causing others pain?

Hell if I know. I'm not much for violence myself. Well, now, that was just a complete lie, wasn't it? I'm a soldier for god's sake- I kill for a living. Violence, blood, and pain at anothers expense was kind of a fact of life for me.

A harsh smack to my cheek brought me out of my thoughts, reminding me just where I was. Right... torture chamber... how could I forget...

Another slap was delivered to the other side of my face, surely leaving behind an imprint of my abusers hand in its place. I couldn't really bring myself to care though. My face was already scarred, so... what did it matter? At this point my chin was grabbed roughly, forcing my green-eyed gaze upwards to meet the brilliant blue eyes of my master.

Madam Maria Hassard; quite possibly the most beautiful and graceful woman I'd ever met. Quite possibly the most powerful, despised and violent woman I'd ever had the pleasure of knowing as well. I say she's graceful simply because she has... a fetish, of sorts for victorian gowns and high heels. It was odd, given her profession. After all, the last time I checked, when you were in control of an army (especially one as deadly and ruthless as hers), it wasn't exactly normal to dress like you were about to go to a ball or a masquerade. And yet, every night, as the sun set below the trees, our dear Madam would descend from her office; dressed extravagantly in one of her many brightly colored gowns, platinum blonde hair piled high on her head and stiletto boots tied to her tiny feet. Standing at nearly six feet, long blonde hair falling almost to her thighs and pale flawless skin, Maria was the epitome of all things desirable to the men she surrounded herself with.

All and all, she didn't look too threatening. But give her a whip and a disobedient soldier... and she could almost be classified as terrifying. Now, with her hair half fallen from its bun, her canary yellow skirt dirty with dust and small droplets of my blood, she was a sight to be seen. With one hand she shoved the hair out of her face, smearing a small amount of blood on her cheek as she did so. Just seeing her so unstable, and knowing full well I was responsible had me smirking.

"What the hell are you smirking at?" she screeched, bringing her whip down on my naked arm. Biting back a hiss, I met her gaze full on.

"Nothing, my lady..." I murmur, suddenly becoming aware of just how badly she'd struck my rips earlier. Just breathing was causing me pain. But a broken rib or two would be the least of my worries if she kept me tied up for much longer. In the dark cavern that was the 'dungeon' beneath our compound, time was lost to me. Though if I was counting the days since my punishment began based on my beatings I could only assume it had been six days.

Six long days in the dark with my hands bound together with thick rope. An awfully long time to be suspended from the ceiling, if I do say so myself. Though it wouldn't have been the first time.

Everyone knew I was a bit of a trouble maker. Six days of beatings, some minor bruises and a broken rib were nothing to me now. That did not, however, detract from the sharp pounding pain all over my body. Letting my head fall forward on my shoulders I gasp as the whip collides against the already ragged flesh of my lower back. If I was capable of crying, I would have. Sadly though, I was not so I took the pain with as much of a straight face as I could manage. The occasional flinch or the biting of my lip when she struck me particularly hard was all I could muster as far as emotion these days. Though a smirk wasn't too far beyond me either.

Her hand was suddenly in my hair, her rings catching in the heavily tangled strands and making her tight grasp only that much more painful. Hoisting my head up by my hair, Madam forced me to look upon her once more.

"Have you had enough? Are you ready to admit defeat?" she hissed, her face only a few inches from mine. Her breath was warm compared to the chilled air around me, and I almost wanted to close my eyes and savor it- I was so cold and any heat was welcomed. But I knew better. I kept my gaze on hers, my expression neutral even as pain throbbed through my back and chest. I nod my head as much as her hand will allow.

"Yes, my lady... I am deeply sorry for my disrespectful behavior on your behalf and swear on my blood and my body it will not happen again." I recite the declaration without thinking. Can I sound any more like a fucking wimp? I think even as she loosens her hold on my hair before freeing it entirely. She steps back, hands coming to rest on her hips.

"It had better not, Agent... I will not be so forgiving if it does." she warns in that posh tone of hers as she crosses to the door. It opens to reveal two burly men and a slightly shorter worried looking boy. Madam Hassard motions to me with one hand without sparing me another glance. "Jensen, sweetheart, please get her out of my sight." she sighs, sounding entirely bored with the whole ordeal before walking away, followed closely by the two larger men. That left me and the boy, Jensen, alone.

Wiggling my hands as much as I was able, I give him a tired look. "Mind getting me out of here?"

This seems to snap him out of his frozen position outside the room and he quickly leaps inside. Pulling a small knife from his belt he cut the rope, allowing my arms to fall to my side. Unable to control myself, I groan in pain as my muscles object to being free from their stress locked positions. I close my eyes against the sudden dizziness that swirls around in my head. A few moments of deep breathing and my vision steadied itself.

Sliding my wrists free from the rope I rub the raw skin it left behind, not bothering to look at Jensen. We'd been through this many times in the eight years we'd known each other. I sensed his presence behind me and knew well enough to stick out my arms for the jacket he'd surely slip over my shoulders. Welcoming the warm leather like an old friend, I turn to him- hand outstretched to accept the return of my weapons. When they were not immediately placed in my palm I meet his dark blue eyes with my green, arching an eyebrow. I had to look up at him due to the foot and a half height distance between us.

Jensen was the Madam's nephew, and as such he was less muscular than the others due to the fact he was rarely allowed to train, let alone sent out on missions. He was too precious to risk getting hurt out in the field. So he'd been placed in my care. Or rather, the care of my unit. As an Agent, one of the more elite soldiers under the Madam's command, I and the others were more qualified to make sure he stayed out of trouble.

With his short black hair and tanned skin he was a rather good looking kid. Or I guess he would be if he wasn't so goddamn shy with everyone but me. But even I had a hard time getting him to talk sometimes. I sigh- after six days without sleep and without blood I was a bit impatient. Understandably so, I'd think.

"What is it Jensen? Speak up or hand over my knives. I'm tired and I need to pay Dalton an urgent visit, so please don't make me wait." I say exasperatedly, crossing my arms over my chest- ignoring of course the deep ache in my side as I do.

Jensen shifts uneasily from foot to foot, avoiding my gaze. "It's nothing... I just...Why do you feel the need to anger Maria so much?" As he speaks, he pulls a thin belt attached to a leather pouch from the bag he carried before handing it to me. Taking it from him, I unbuttoned the clasp on the pouch and glanced inside, nodding in satisfaction when I found my throwing knives where I'd left them. Closing it again I look at Jensen once more as I fasten the belt around my hips. I'd strapped on these knives so many times I didn't need to look to ensure I'd done it right.

Almost immediately I feel a sense of comfort wash over me. Not having my knives always felt like I'd lost a friend. Realizing I still hadn't answered him, I shrug, making my way to the door and out into the hall. "Because its fun to see the old bat lose her control." I answer as I walk.

"But she beats you..."

"It's only a few bruises, Jensen... stop worrying so much." A few bruises and a broken rib, you mean. I keep this thought to myself though. We'd had this conversation many times over the years. Jensen Hassard was the only person who worried about me, as sad as it was. And if I had to be honest, this quiet boy was probably the closest thing I had to a friend. On the rare occasion I found this fact of my life interesting, I always attributed it to the sense of familiarity I got from him. But that could be due to the fact that since we'd met he'd taken to following me practically everywhere within the compound whenever I was not either training or out on a mission.

"But did you have to refer to her as 'her royal bitchiness'?"

I couldn't help it, I laughed. Covering my mouth with one hand I shake my head as we continue out of the hall and up a flight of stairs. I know where I'm going. I've been there a thousand times. "Yes, well... when you've lived as long as she claims to have and still manage to act like such a child I'd say its fitting." Coming to the top of the staircase and now on the main floor of the compound I turn left down another long windowless hallway. It was amazing how few windows there really were in the old prison. But then again, we were creatures of darkness so in a way it made sense. Oh, and there was that, y'know, 'sun allergy' thing we had to deal with. Well, most of us did.


Edit- Reworking some of the chapters. Not much changed but it needed to be done.

This Chapter was quite long when I was done with it so I decided to split in in half. Part two tomorrow!