It was two days later that six armed men in black uniforms strode into the room, herding the men against one wall with rifles pointed at their heads.
"Now we can do this the easy way, or the really fun way,” the leader said without preamble, in simple, unaccented English. “The easy way is you tell me where Hannah Solomon is, and as soon as we get her, we let you go. You will be fed, watered, showered, and well cared for until then. The really fun way is we beat the information out of you and then kill you.”
“Except we don’t know where she is,” Hunter said. “She said if she was gone longer than a few weeks, she was dead. Honest truth. No clue.”
"Do I look stupid? She would tell you if she left."
“She doesn’t trust her team as well as you think she does,” Hunter retorted coolly. Aedan wondered vaguely what had happened to the terrified, mildly schizophrenic Hunter from not twenty minutes ago.
"We think she does. We've been watching you for a while, and we see what she's like with him," the man said, pointing to Aedan.
“That so?” Aedan asked, forcing out his thickest southern drawl. “Way I see it, there isn’t much to say.”
"We know she left a note. What did it say?"
“Kiss my ass.”
The man chuckled. “Funny, I don’t remember her being into that. But a lot can change in six years.”
"Go to hell," Aedan spat.
“Of course. Save me a spot, won’t you? Tell me, have you made her scream yet? She does make such lovely noises, doesn’t she?”
“Shut your mouth,” he snarled.
The man grinned. “Oh, you haven’t,” he teased. “Hmm, guess you can’t measure up.”
“Kronos, calm down, he’s just winding you up,” Wraith said, and was rewarded by a rifle butt to the stomach.
"So, I also love how she never told you that she loved you," the man said with a grin.
“She used to tell me. Didn’t mean it, I think, but neither did I. She called me Lover.”
Aedan growled and nearly smashed his fist into the man's face.
“All that blood in your face can’t be healthy,” The man said. “Let’s get some of it out, shall we?”
"Go to hell," Aedan spat again.
“You’ve used that line before,” he answered as another man entered, bearing a hammer, nails, and a board. He put them down and left without a word.
"You gonna make us build a table?" Aedan asked, forcing back the bile that rose in his throat.
“I’d hold my tongue if I were you,” he answered. “The more insolent you are, the more pain you’re in.”
"I'm sorry, was I supposed to be scared?"
The man shrugged. “The rest of you,” he said, “If you move, you die. He’s the only one I need alive. The rest of you are just entertainment. So do yourselves a favor – hold still. I don’t have any orders to harm you, but I won’t be in any trouble if I do.”
Aedan was pushed to the floor, his arms raised to the board. For such a small man, his attacker was heavy – solid muscle pinned him expertly. His arms were yanked above his head, the board leveled behind them.
“What’re you going to do?” Aedan asked, barely succeeding in keeping the trepidation from his voice.
“You’ll see soon enough,” the man answered, grabbing the hammer and a nail.
Aedan was no stranger to pain. Really, he wasn't.
But nothing, not even SERE, had prepared him for a calm and collected sadist hammering a nail into his wrist as slowly and casually as if he were building a dollhouse.
He screamed until his voice failed him, struggling to get away, but the man held him fast, humming calmly under his breath as he hammered away.
The first nail was finally driven in, pinning his wrist securely to the board.
"Now for the other wrist," the man with the hammer said causally as he began to work on Aedan's other wrist. Again his screams filled the room as the hammer hit the nail again.
“Of course,” the man said casually between strikes, “You could tell me where she is, and I’d stop.”
"I'm telling you, I have no idea where she went. If I did I would have found her already."
“And I’ve told you I don’t like liars.” Another strike.
"Put me through a polygraph, and you'll see that I'm telling the truth."
The man paused, frowned, and reached up to remove his mask.
For a moment, Aedan was taken aback by how young the man looked: He couldn’t be a day over twenty, with his pale, clean-shaven skin and pale blue eyes. “Sorry,” he said, looking completely honest. “That doesn’t sound like much fun for me.”
The man continued his nail assault on Aedan's wrist until he was fully pinned to the board.
He produced a long rope, which he strung on a metal loop in the ceiling, hauling Aedan to his feet by his wrists. He let out a roar of pain and Blade jerked forwards to help him, but his guard shot him swiftly in the leg, and Blade crumpled.
That was when the guards started falling.
"At first, Aedan didn't know what was going on, but he soon saw a slender shadow in the doorway through his fading vision, holding a pistol.
The five fell, until the leader was the only one left standing, staring at the masked shadow in the open doorway.
"Who are you?" He asked, raising a pistol.
“You don’t remember me?” Hannah’s voice asked, mock-offended. “Oh, lover, after all this time?”
"After all this time, you came back to me. Coming back to join me? We can be back together," he offered
Hannah pulled her mask off, smirking at him. “Aleski, I was thirteen. Lay the fuck off. Now, care to explain what you’ve done to my team?”
"Oh we were just having a little chat about your whereabouts. Do you mind explaining why you went off the grid?”
Hannah paused, cocking her head. “Hmm… nope. Shadow, take care of Blade’s leg. The rest of you, do something about your boss. Aleski and I have some old business to take care of, I think. And Aleski, my love – keep that gun of yours on me, won’t you? It’s just insulting to not deserve your full attention.”
"Meaning?" Aleski asked as he motioned for the men to do as they were told, pointing his pistol at Hannah.
“I’m going to give you a way out. And if you don’t take it, you’re going to die.”
“Well, how about we play a game, lovely?” Aleski answered. “Where’s the file?”
“Somewhere you and the Department will never find it.”
“That’s not an answer.”
"You'll never get it," Hannah answered.
“Did you open it?”
Aleski raised an eyebrow. “You expect me to believe that you didn’t open the log of all the memories you should have? You don’t want to know what your parents’ names were?”
“Aleski, shut your mouth. Give me something useful, or I’ll kill you right here.”
“How did you find me?”
“So what if it is?”
"You came for him, didn't you?" He asked.
“Nobody fucks with my team. Especially not you bastards.”
"Don't play dumb with me. I saw the way you looked at him when you got in here.”
“Are you insinuating that I can be compromised that easily?”
"Well I would definitely say that you are compromised."
“Well, you’re wrong. If I were compromised, I would have killed him myself. As you recall, that’s what almost happened to you.”
Aleski shrugged. “That doesn’t matter, I suppose, since you’ll both die here anyway.”
Hannah smirked. “Of course. Because that worked so well last time.”
“I don’t want to kill you, you know,” Aleski said. “Boss’ orders. But if you come quiet, I can make sure you get a good deal.”
“Sure, if I lie back and let them pump me full of drugs like a good little lab rat? When was the last time you saw the color green, Aleski?”
"Not the point. Come back to your real family. We’re the only ones who truly care about you."
“You’ll die as soon as you hit thirty, Aleski. How is that care? Being murdered once you’re past your prime?”
"He kills us after we become unable to benefit society. He's helping us once we have no purpose. People who aren’t useful to the common good should be put out of their misery, or they become a burden. Execution is a favor, not a punishment. You know that."
“So murdering innocent people is a benefit to society?”
“Name one truly innocent person you’ve ever killed on orders.”
“Arnim Stahlbaum. Marie Stahlbaum.”
“Innocent people who should be alive.”
"They got in the way. We have only one purpose, and that is to complete our mission by any means necessary."
“Then what is our fucking mission, Aleski? I’m not a pet monster!”
"Our mission is to eliminate people who need to go. That’s what we were built to do."
"That was my old mission. My new mission is to protect people like them from people like you," Hannah said as she raised her gun.
He grinned. “Go on,” he taunted. “Shoot me, Asset. Make me your mission.”
He didn’t expect her to do it – that much was obvious. But with a bang, a surprised expression was the last on the man’s face. Aleski collapsed, dead before he hit the ground. Hannah was by his side in a second, staring into his sightless eyes.
“I know you’re listening,” she said to nobody in particular. “I don’t know where his mic is, but I know he has one. You’ve made me kill a lot of people, Nine. I’ve forgiven you for that. But you just made me murder my brother, and I’m tired of this little game of yours. If you call me, I’ll come to you like a good little dog, and I’ll show you just how much you taught me.” With that, she stood and turned back to the team. “What’s their status?”
“My leg’s fine,” Blade muttered. “It’s just a bullet, didn’t hit anything major. I’ll lean on Shadow.”
“We didn’t remove the nails or the plank,” Wraith said. “It might make the bleeding worse. We wrapped it all up so that it won’t move, but we’ll have to carry him back and put as little pressure on his wrists as possible.”
Hannah nodded, moving to Aedan’s side. “Can you hear me?” she asked quietly.
Aedan managed a nod, half-lidded eyes staring at her. “I knew you’d come back,” he slurred.
She sighed. “This should never have happened,” she said. “We’ll… we’ll find a solution. Let’s get you back to base.”
“You realize that you’re AWOL?” Shadow asked.
“There’s nothing Overlord can do to me that I can’t handle,” she answered. “I knew what I was getting into, I’ll take whatever punishment he gives me.”
Shadow took a deep breath, grabbing Aedan’s ankles as Wraith took his shoulders. “We missed you, Rosie.”
“Missed you too, little brother.”