They told me that this job would be hard -probably the hardest thing I've ever done. I wasn't expecting easy. I was in the army for crying out loud! Of course I knew that this secret program for only the more advanced soldiers wasn't going to be easy. Although, if you would have asked me then, I would have told you I was ready for anything. I know now that I was lying to myself. I didn't understand exactly what I had gotten myself into, but I told myself I'd be fine as long as I worked hard. I was putting myself on the path of destruction willingly. The map toward it was in the disguise of direct orders. I followed blindly.

They congradulated me as I passed land marks, commended me when I spotted new paths, and promoted me when I showed promise. I guess that was the benefit of being property of a private military and scientific operation. I actually rose to within the top six of the division. That meant a pay increase as well as a higher spot in line for the newest armour and top of the line gadgets they produced. Looking at it now, I was just the first rat they would put through the maze, and one of the most obedient rats they had.

I should have stopped that first day when they first told me that no one except the big cheeses at the top would know anything about me -even my real name. We were all give codenames. I claimed that I trusted these other agents with my life, but I didn't even know what alias their parents used to summon them to dinner or scream condescendingly when they misbehaved. It wasn't just a codename, I found. It came at a price. I would have to forsake my real name to do this. I wouldn't have another name any more.

That should have been a red flag, but the kid inside of me was envisioning this as a sort of James Bond or Jason Bourne thing all super, secret agents had to do. My family, hey, they would learn to live without me, right? My friends back home, they had there own lives to worry about. Why worry if one of them ships off to the military and disappears...and never comes back again. That was the reality I would face once the road got narrower, and the cliffs got steeper. I was too busy working on my aim to realize they were really aiming at me -at all the agents. We were their biggest experiment. The whole reason we were recruited. They built up the trust, set up the maze, and, compliantly, the little rats were injected...and died.

"Experimental."

But I heard that word alot. That was the genus of every sort of gizmo they handed me. They almost never failed though. If they did, it wasn't like they tried to hurt us, right? Hey, casualties happen.

Some agents regarded them as cheat sheets, some regarded them as their buddies, and some prefered to have nothing to do with them (but those that thought the latter weren't that high up in ranking so they never got one anyway). They all glowed different colors, and they all "spoke" and "thought" differently. Pick your poison.

A combination of military and scientific fetishes.

They were so much like us, but I just didn't put the pieces together fast enough.

They were our allies.

They were our secret weapons.

They were our sleight of hand.

They destroyed us.

We were all waiting in line for them like good little rats, but some never recieved a poison. They weren't always the lucky ones though.

The twins. I remember them. Not necessarily with fondness, but with the scars on my back. The male twin was a nice guy. He even defended his arrogant sister. How he tollerated her for so many years was beyond any of us. They both were trained to use guns -and were good at it. It was a wonder he never turned the gun on her -or himself. Of course they chose to poison him. It wasn't actually poison to his system. His was stable which was about all you could ask for in one of them. His sister, recieved none. She was too unstable which ended up making her more deadly than any poison ever could. Within months of him receiving it -he ended up dying. It just so happened that his sister got out alive. The poison ran its course through her veins. The years of pent-up jealousy. She wanted to be the better twin, but she was never privleged to a poison. She would have to wait until I got there. Then she would make her move. However awful it was, the first twin's death wasn't that tragic. It was almostunfair.

It was the quick way out of the maze.

He died a hero.

He died himself.

He died...sane.

The ones that lived -their lives were much worse.

She was the best there was. She was number one -top of the board. The position revered and coveted by all. The horror that was the poison they gave her, I never really understood. She was invincible. Unbreakable. Maybe they gave her that poison because they knew the rest of us wouldn't hold up to it. Maybe they didn't, honestly, know what it did. But, what I'm starting to think, is that they wanted to say they could break the unbreakable. Defeat the invincible. That they, with their power-crazed and sickened minds, could control anything. They brought her up to where she was, just so they could see if they could shoot her down. She was just another part of the experiment. I don't even want to think of how her mind must have been decaying, unraveling as the poison took effect. I had a sort of similar experience, but, then again, I some-what recovered. She...I don't think she ever will.

She appeared recently. I don't know how or why. Everyone assumed she was dead -even wished she was dead because of what a state she was in. I don't dare ask her anything for I know that the others will ask anyway. And I'm also fighting back the evils inside myself that have surfaced in light of her return. I don't know if I could handle even hearing what horror she must have gone through. All she told me was that she intended to kill anyone who was associated with the poison that ruined her life -the experiment that she was manipulated in for so long. She felt the justice system didn't do enough -probably never could do enough. He was already in prison. Even if he recieved the death penalty, she would still feel no closure. She would want to do it herself. He did recieve a rather lengthy sentence, but it was only after that happened that she showed herself after all these years.

She was no longer the strong leader I looked up to -who I used to call "boss."

She was broken and destroyed.

She was just like me.

He was her right hand man. Her confidant. He had a voice that was meant for "smooth jazz" in another life and walked with a swag that betrayed none of his actual talent he had for killing. He was given a poison, but, may I remind you, they were experimental. They never were intended to be poisons, and the one he received along with the male twin's were two of the few that actually were a success. In the end, he was killed trying to set things right. A favor for an old friend. I heard he lived on his own; got out of the rat cage when things started to go down hill. Surely there must have been some sort of altercation, but there was no place he couldn't get in or out of. They trained him too well. I knew they must not have let him go willingly because he still held onto his gadgets and upgrades as well as his non-volitile poison, clutched tight in his cold dead fingers. Millions and billions of dollars was what they were worth. Evidence against the experiment's cruelty to boot, but he somehow got away with them. I never got to see him in the darkest days of his life. I was already "unfit for duty" at that point, and, when I was declared fit again, I was just on their payroll to pick up his corpse -and the others that ended up just like him. Although, if it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't be alive right now. His gadgets I salvaged off him saved my life, but his poison proved volitile to everyone else it came into contact with. Thank goodness I refused to take it, but, unfortunately, the second twin did.

We both paid for that mistake. I made sure it was both.

I personally signed both our tickets into the deepest circle of hell,

but I made sure it was both.

She was a paranoid pessimist. Not only was the glass half-empty, but it was actually a toxic mixture of chemicals. She claimed that the whole Project was a catch-22. That this was an experiment. We waved her off. She was was crazy. She was jealous. She was a sore loser. She. Was. Right. She was another of the lucky, or not-so-lucky, few that never recieved one. Although, I'm not sure she would have taken it anyway. At the beginning, she would have been first in line. She would have done anything for the cause just like the rest of us, but, after she could foresee that it was destined to destroy us, she resented it. She would have never taken the poison then. Or, at least, she would have had strong suspicions. I'm not sure what really happened in those last days with her. Everything was kinda fuzzy. I knew a little of what she was doing. I chose to overlook what I did know. I didn't want to believe it. I caught her in the act once. I thought that maybe if she knew I was on to her that she would stop on her own, but she only escalated her work. She decided that if she couldn't move up in rank, if this was just an experiment that would eventually get us all killed, if she couldn't achieve -she would destroy. She would dismantle the experiment from the inside out, and, so what if a few of us got in the way? She was stuborn and firey. I don't think she would have stopped even if I told her directly. She was selling secrets -espionage. She was acting as a double agent. She was helping the enemies we were built to fight to destroy us quicker. She knew that this Project was gonna to go too far if no one intervened, but she didn't see any way to do it other than bringing it to a crashing halt. I could only think of her when I later tried to finish what she started all those years later. Her snide laughter echoing inside my scarred mind. The snickering prophetess of our doom. I later found her just as I had many of the others. I was a little outside my moral compass then, and I had little sympathy for her as we found her buried to the head in the sands. I didn't have any interest in what happened to her after the experiment officially ended. I wanted to make up my own happy ending for her just as I did everyone else whom I fought with in those years. Her betrayal was just confusion. That she would turn back to the good side in the end. I hear their conversations though. They bring her name up sometimes. They didn't really know her. Only the desperate and vengeful side of her. It was ironic how my personal poison was the one that finally struck her down. A dark side of me admits that it seemed right that she would have ended something like that. I never pressed for any more details.

He was the one that people hated. A tank disguised as a person. He would be the typical dumb jock if it weren't for his ability to punch you into a solid wall or take multiple bullet wounds in the chest and neck and still get up fighting. He was easily the tallest. A head taller than even the other guys. The kind of person that looked like he was going to eat you rather than shoot you. I don't know why, but he never seemed to talk that often. He just kinda grunted and bore holes through you until you knew what he was thinking. He only seemed to talk to the number one. Maybe out of respect for her superiority, maybe because he liked her. I wouldn't know. No one knew exactly what was going on inside his head. It was probably pretty scary in there, honestly. Maybe he didn't know how to convey his thoughts correctly? I know I'm gonna start sounding like a psychologist, but I've spent pleanty of time around psychologists.

There's no real way to measure the danger of the individual poisons. Each one was deadly in their own way. But, if you were measuring 'dangerous' by the amount of deaths it caused, his would have been the most potent. I'm not sure what the poison did to his mind exactly, but it was something along the lines of taking total control of him. Turning him into some sort of zombie-host for its own purpose. It would just so happen that this zombie was capable of practically leveling cities. His poison was strange in the fact that it made him desire more. It had a drug-like effect on him. He got his high from the only other location of the poisons he was convinced he needed -other agents. He, whether by sheer coincidence or by his own hand, took the poisons and gadgets from our own dead comrads. Added them to his own growing collection. Lost more of himself to the drug in the process. Seeing the poisons he wore around his head like a blasphemous halo. It was like seeing ghosts of my friends I used to fight side-by-side, to the death with. I utterly feared him, but I had to ally with him. I was done with this charade. I was done being a puppet. I wanted to be free! The only way that was gonna happen was if I got my poison back from where they hid it. Who better to find it than him? I was momentarily liberated. Cut from my bonds. The chain of command. The corrupt heirarchy. I was free to do whatever the heck I wanted to do! That is, until my plan backfired pretty good. You can't just tell a druggie that he can't have his drug because you need it to free your sorry butt from prison. Something won't compute in his overcrowded head.

Now I'm in hiding.

From the government,

from him,

from my ghosts.

For how long?

He was the dunce. Much more of a bad comedian than he was a wingman. He was never really skilled in any sort of fighting. I guess his sniping was pretty decent, but that's not exactly gonna help when you're doing what we had to do. He was quickly moved off the top six list for good reason. He was injured on that mission, and, sure it was a little harsh, but he didn't deserve third place. That's my opinion at least. His poison was...interesting. He didn't exactly have a good or bad reaction as far as I could tell. It wasn't as extreme as others' if anything. After he vomited it back up, after it removed itself from his system, he was never quite the same. Sorta made him sorta loopy. He wasn't a complete nutjob, but he wasn't... all there. He became a bounty hunter, and a horrible one at that, after the experiment was scrapped. All he really managed to do was give his victims reasons to use their guns. They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn though. I was mostly leaning toward them hurting each other and innocent by-standers. Yet, somehow, they still managed to kill him. They outsmarted him was what they keep saying happened. You have to know those guys to understand what kind of world-ending statment that would be for them to outsmart anything. But it happened.

One by one, my comrads began to fall. Each struck down rather directly or indirectly by those poisons. I became the last rat living -until she showed up again like I said earlier. I guess I should tell you my story then. It's rather painful to bring up. I went to a mental hospital and prison because of this! Although, there really isn't a difference. Here it goes.

It was his darkest days ever...of all time. That's how my poison came to be. I was actually the only one who knew the origin of these little abominations. They were the products of military blindness and scientific apathy. The results of a victim's attempt to save itself from pain by destroying itself. I knew this, and, still, I kept silent. It was the worst mistake of my life. I should have headed for the hills. I should have demanded explanation. I should have martyred. But, I didn't. I kept going with the experiment. Maybe that's why my poison did what it did. It was a poison to itself. I just caught some side-effects. I was just a kid in the splash zone. I just got to watch. My poison...destroyed itself. Not out of protection of me. It was meant to. It was a time bomb waiting to happen. The reason I had to be admitted, although I hate myself for somehow making this about me, was that I was the battle ground upon which it tore itself apart. I'd rather not talk about it. They removed all the traces of the poison from war-torn me. They said the remains of it would be desposed of. It wasn't until later I found out that was just another half-truth. Surprise, surprise.

Turns out it was the key to bringing the whole expirment down. It was evidence that they needed to put them in prison forever for their crimes. Of course, I was the only one left in tact enough to do it. Although, no good deed goes unpunished. I handed off the poison to...a friend. He never ended up turning over the poison. Not because he ever used it or because he was planning malicious deeds, but because he's an idiot. Plain and simple. I was shot and severly wounded, and, after that, was sent to a speedy trial and then a speedy trip to prison. I eventually made a bargain to retrieve my poison in exchange for my freedom -by any means necessary. I was past sympathy at this point. I had been betrayed, lied to, used, and cheated too many times to risk anything. I joined up forces with a former agent -the one I mentioned earlier that killed several of our old, mutual friends for their poisons. Yeah. Him. That was oodles of fun. In the end, right when my poison was within my reach, he betrayed me, of course. I, again, almost died. I seemed to be doing that alot. I couldn't get my poison. The last thing I ever saw of the agent was his flailing limbs as he was drug of a cliff. I would just be heading back to my cell. For a freshly extended period of time. I decided I'd try my luck. I left my tell-tale armor in the snow and stole an old friend's. The idiots that I had been with and against, trailing along the same path I was, following in their own version of an adventure. Yeah, they were complete morons, but they'd never betayed me. Not once. Even after I betrayed them, they still helped me out in the end. Even though they were indeed the stupidest people I had ever met, I decided I'd hide it out with them. They, somehow, made it this far without dying. Their luck seemed better than mine.

Everything seemed to be going good. I had escaped the government's hands. No one was trying to kill me. No poison was eroding my mind. That's when she showed up. The old number one from the experiment. As I explained, everyone said she was dead. What next?

I don't think I'm ever going to be at peace.

The nightmares just won't stop.

The past keeps up pace with me.

Memories. Memories. Memories.

They were right.

Memory was the key.