Prologue: The Box

The box was small, not minuscule, but little enough that someone could carry it with them. It wasn't fancy or extravagant; it wasn't decorated with intricate designs or patterned with jewels and beads. It was merely a simple wooden box, but to Agent Washington it was special.

He had found it when he was still in training, hidden under a pile of rubble left over from a bombing in Valhalla. He didn't know who it belonged to, or how it got there, but for some reason Washington had picked it up and began to carry it with him. Over time he had collected some of his few personal possessions inside: his dog tags, a bracelet he had been given when he was younger, and two photographs.

The first one was of him, York, and Maine when they had first been selected for the Freelancer Project. In the photo, York, ever so cool, was leaning up against a wall with a contently amused expression on his face as he watched his two friends. Washington was rolling his eyes while the short boy next to him managed to give him bunny ears before the flash went off, though Wash couldn't help smiling as Maine laughed deviously at his latest prank. On the back was written, "The Three Stooges."- Maine's nickname for them.

The three of them had been together since training; Washington was awkward and shy, never good with people, while York was the "cool popular guy" that kept everyone from killing each other in times of stress. Agent Maine was always happy back then, always laughing and telling bad jokes. Though Washington had thought his antics were childish and sometimes annoying, he almost missed them now.

Maine hadn't been the same after he was shot (Heck, none of them were after joining Project Freelancer). Losing the ability to speak had scarred him much worse than any bullet ever could have. He became distant and angry, eventually running away, until he resurfaced as the Meta. Now that they were both dead, Washington wished he had valued their friendship more. Funny how death and betrayal had a way of putting things into perspective.

The second picture was also a happy memory, of Washington possessively wrapping his arms around a beautiful young woman with stunning blue eyes. She was blushing and holding back a laugh while Wash wore a rare happy-go-lucky, mischievous smile. He remembered how the picture had been taken, when York and Maine had decided to crash Washington's first date with the girl by dropping out of a nearby tree, camera in hand.

Washington missed her more than anyone. She had been the one he trusted, the one he protected, and the one he had lost in the end. Yes, He regretted it, but he knew leaving her hadn't been a mistake. If he had stayed, it would have hurt her more than leaving, and he couldn't put her through that again. Washington had done what seemed right to him, and what could have been was no longer a priority. The past was the past, the girl only a memory now.

That's all the box was: a collection of memories. Some happy, some sorrowful, but all of them just memories of another person. The memories of a shy, awkward, but promising young man called David, who had been destroyed by the Director's sick desire for power.

Washington didn't know why he kept the box. Whether it was for good luck, sentimental value, or simply as a reminder, he didn't know. But he kept it with him, the memories of the man he could vaguely see as himself, a long time ago. And as he sat in his new quarters in the blue base, holding the box in his hands, Washington realized something:

You can run from the past, but it will always find a way to haunt you.