Chapter 01: Dark Advent

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He'd been exiled and cast into a universe that was constructed entirely of agony. Murdered, and his soul had gone to hell. It was the first thought that entered his mind. The pain was without end. It consumed his entire being. Every nerve ending hooked up to its own personal shock therapy unit, or perhaps he'd been given a hardline of misery. A pure, uncut shot of torment directly into his carotid artery.

The pain enveloped him. He bathed in it.

Time passed, what might have been seconds or eons. The suffering began to dissipate and withdraw, moving with the agonizing lethargy of fossilization. He began to recover information, like bits of debris from a particularly brutal wreck floating among the ocean's surface. His name: Enzo Rains. His occupation: mercenary. His exact height: six foot one and a quarter inch. Enzo pieced together a personal history, slowly gathering up everything that made a life. Memories, emotions, the center of it all...

The pain.

As time pressed relentlessly forward, Enzo was awarded more, this time not from within, but from beyond his body. His senses reasserted themselves. His nose told him that something nearby reeked, but it was a familiar foul odor. Death. His ears reported nothing but an irregular hum of power, the omnipresent whisper of oxygen circulation. His mouth signaled dryness and the kind of awful taste you only got after a day of binge drinking followed by another day of unconsciousness. Had he been drinking recently?

He couldn't remember.

His flesh, however, was nearly numb, and telegraphed hints of chill and suffering. He became aware of the fact that he was lying on his back on an uneven surface. But blanketing all of that, spearing straight through it like a crimson thread, was the pain. It had abated, retreating from his senses until it fell back to its intimately familiar core: his right shoulder. The first truly conscious and fully formed thought that entered Enzo's mind then was a bitter one. People always said that if something went on long enough or occurred regularly enough, you could build up a tolerance to it. In his case, that was utterly, totally false.

Enzo opened his eyes, using the raw, burning throb of agony that was supposed to be his shoulder as a source of motivation.

He no longer cared where he was or what the situation was, he wanted morphine. He wanted a shot of morphine directly into his fucking shoulder. The need was all-consuming, pushing out any other thoughts. Enzo studied what he was seeing, focusing through a thick lens of unfiltered anguish. He was in some kind of chamber, not a very big one. Walls of metal, brushed stainless steel showing through in some places, but for the most part everything seemed to be covered in some black substance. A new smell came to him then.

Burned meat.

It took a second, but finally the two thoughts connected: the stuff on the wall was ashes. He blinked, groaned sickly as the pain in his shoulder continued unabated, throbbing with hot agony, like someone was jabbing a fiery poker into his tissue. Enzo fought hard to focus, ashes...container...burned meat...

"Oh, fuck me," he groaned.

Had they thrown him in the fucking incineration unit? He sat up abruptly as the fear shot through him. That old chemical reaction that was very much machine-like at this point in his life. The fear of dying. The terror.

"Gonna kill those bastards," he growled, moving and then letting out a startled noise as the floor shifted beneath him. Enzo looked down. No, not floor, corpses. At least a dozen of them, a pile. What the hell had happened? He glanced up, saw a trio of openings that were sealed off. Chutes. He groaned, crawled, tumbled off the pile. Rolled down and screamed outright as he landed on his right shoulder. It took a moment, but the pain returned to its barely tolerable level, and he pushed himself up. He was lucky enough to wake up before they torched him, so maybe he'd be lucky enough to find some way out of this place.

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