The Academy stole everything from Hades, their perfect assassin. Angry and leaving bodies in his wake, he finds two other ex-assassins doing the exact same thing.
Tyler and Shannon once killed for The Academy. Now they’re tracking and hunting down its scientists. So why is The Academy only after Hades?
Shannon will do whatever it takes to protect Tyler, even if it means teaming up with a former rival. While she seeks answers to her past, Tyler wants to learn the truth about the mysterious white room, which no one has ever seen except him.
As for Hades? He simply wants revenge.
They all need answers, even if it means returning to the organization where it all started.
The Assassin Fall series is best enjoyed in order.
Hades Rising (prequel novella)
Book #1 Project Pandora
Book #2 Project Prometheus
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CASE NOTES 1: HADES
Hades awoke inside the sensory deprivation tank, in full dark.
As he struggled to cast off the drugged weakness that enveloped him, he could almost feel the darkness wrapping around him, heavy as wool, smothering. Needles bit into his arms, and the walls collapsed in, closer, closer. Soon they would crush him.
Gasping in terror, he extended his arms to touch the steel walls of his prison, only to discover that his hands were immobilized above his head.
Chains rattled with his panicked movements. Chains. Slim metal bands around his wrists. Handcuffs. Fear mellowed into powerful disorientation. Why was he wearing handcuffs? Was this another one of Dimitri's experiments?
He suddenly became aware that the surface beneath him was not buoyant water, but instead a mattress of some sort. Soft, lumpy cushioning, damp with sweat or blood.
He wasn't in the sensory deprivation tank at the Georgetown safe house, so where was he?
Not a hospital, that's for sure. Hospitals were bright, noisy places, filled with the cacophony of monitor alarms and intercom chatter. Here, there were no safety lights, and the only sound he could distinguish was his own heavy breathing.
As he pulled at the cuffs, pinpricks raced down his arms. Not needles, just muscle soreness and poor circulation. There might have been an IV tube in the crook of his elbow. It was too dark to tell, but that was what it felt like. With his hands chained to what he assumed was the headboard of a bed and his ankles similarly fettered, his movements were restricted to the minimum.
This was wrong. During those times when his rage became uncontrollable and he lashed out at everything around him, Dimitri had always used soft restraints and sedatives on him. Never handcuffs. Torqued the wrong way, handcuffs could cut off the circulation in his wrists.
His hands were the most valuable part of him.
As Hades shifted on the mattress, his stomach throbbed with a soft, bruised ache. Whatever drug muddled his mind also took the edge off his pain. He had difficulty associating the feeling with himself.
That's right, I was shot, he thought. So what am I doing here? Where am I?
As he yanked at the chains, he was distracted by a creaking overhead. Footsteps crossed the ceiling, and from deeper into the room above, hinges squeaked as a door was opened.
Light flooded the room. Concrete floor and brick walls. Boxes along one wall, workout machines along the other. No windows. The far wall opened into an alcove that he assumed led to a stairwell, and he watched a brown-haired man step out from it.
"Oh, you're finally awake," the man said, walking up to his bed. "I was getting a little worried, kiddo. The doctors really doped you up. I heard you tried to bite them. Like a wild animal."
Though the man's expression was bland, his flushed complexion and narrowed eyes suggested internal turmoil. Caged rage. His voice only confirmed as much.
With a jolt, Hades recognized the man's lean, patrician face. Lawrence Hawthorne, the state senator of Virginia. He had given one twin daughter to Project Pandora and kept the other, only to take the first away again when the latter twin died two years ago.
A low growl escaped Hades's throat. This was the man responsible for the death of the only girl that he had ever loved.
"I know you're a child of Pandora," Hawthorne said, resting his hands on the bed's cast-iron footboard.
He saw no point in responding.
"Tell me your name."
"I don't have one," Hades said.
"Subject Two of Subset A." A-02. Two. They all meant the same thing — a weapon, not a human.
A vein throbbed in Hawthorne's temple. "That's not a name."
"Hades? What's that supposed to mean?"
"It's Hell, and it's the god of Hell."
Hawthorne scoffed. "You're not a god. You're just a sick kid."
"It's the codename Dimitri gave me," he said, allowing his head to fall back against the pillow. "He asked me, isn't it interesting that Hell is both a person and a place? I didn't understand what he meant at first. Then I did."
It surprised him how effortless it was to grasp at that memory. Usually, his memories were scattered and disjointed, like bits of shattered bone that he had to sift through and reorganize. But everything had drifted back into place while he slept, leaving only the smallest gaps. Soon, he sensed, even those empty spaces would mend.
"We're not here to talk about Dr. Kosta," Hawthorne said. "We're here to talk about what you did, and don't try to deny it. I know you were acquainted with Dr. Kosta, but you work for someone higher up in the organization, don't you? Who do you take your orders from? Who in Project Pandora told you to shoot Elizabeth and the others?"
"Subject Nine of Subset A."
Hawthorne wrinkled his brow. "What?"
"That was her name. Not Elizabeth. Nine."
"Don't call her that," Hawthorne growled.
Hades lifted his head. "You're just her cell donor, so why do you care? You sold her before she was even born."
Hawthorne took two small bottles from the counter and carried them over. They were apothecary bottles, darkly tinted. They couldn't hold more than ten milliliters each, but even a fraction of that amount could be lethal, depending on the type of chemical.
"Listen, kid, we can do this the hard way or the easy way," Hawthorne said, then held up one of the bottles. "If you cooperate, I'll give you morphine once we're done talking."
He didn't want morphine. Pain was familiar, easy to work around. Morphine would only dull his senses. But he had a feeling the other chemical would do far worse than that.
"This is sodium thiopental," Hawthorne said, raising the second bottle. "I've heard that it can make subjects quite talkative, that they'll say things they'd never say otherwise. However, at a high enough dose, it can be fatal. And I'm willing to take that risk."
"Oh, I'm perfectly fine with telling you the truth. I don't need drugs for that." Hades lifted his head to look the man in the eye. "But first, just tell me ... Does it give you satisfaction to kill your children?"
Hawthorne reeled back like he had been slapped. Huffing, his face red, he rushed to the counter and scrambled among its contents. Plastic crinkled under his searching fingers, and when he found what he was looking for, he turned back to the bed.
"You'll regret that." With a bottle in one hand and a plastic-wrapped syringe in the other, Hawthorne returned to his bedside. "If I can't get the truth out of you, this will."
"Did you know, your daughter and I were part of the same subset? We lived in the same barrack at the Academy, and we were in many of the same classes."
A muscle ticked in the corner of Hawthorne's mouth, and he looked away. In his poor eye contact and bodily tension, Hades saw unease beneath anger. Doubt. He held the syringe without trying to open it.
"Over the years, we came to be very close friends. Well, more than that, actually."
"Shut up," Hawthorne whispered.
"Nine wanted a real life so badly, did you know that?"
"Don't call her that."
"I forgot about it for so long, but I remember it now," he said. "It's all coming back to me. I remember how she talked about it. How you were going to give her a real name and a room of her own. How she was going to convince you and your wife to take me in as well, and I would be like a bodyguard to her."
Hawthorne sputtered for a response. He didn't even try to open the syringe now, just dropped what he held and strode around to the other side of the bed.
"Having a name, having a family, those things meant so much to her. But you just used her as a replacement. You used her like trash."
As the man glared down at him, Hades tensed, pulling at the handcuffs. His helplessness frustrated him to no end. There was nothing he could do but yank at the chains, rattling them.
What was Hawthorne going to do?
"You know it's true," he said, hiding his unease behind a mocking smile. It was easy to put on a mask.
"You bastard," Hawthorne growled.
"You know that, and you think you have the right to act resentful? You think you deserve sadness? You think I should feel guilty, when I was the only one who ever truly loved her?"
"You little —"
"I wasn't the one who killed her." His muscles flexed in expectation of a punch. "It was you. If not for you, she would never have died. You sacrificed your daughter for your own political gain, you —"
Hades never had a chance to finish, because then Hawthorne reached down and began choking him.
Gasping for breath, he writhed against his restraints. The handcuffs dug into his wrists while Hawthorne's fingers dug into his throat, cutting off all airflow. His shackled feet kicked against the bedframe, rattling it, to no effect.
Dark spots swarmed his vision. The burning in his throat became unbearable. In the distance, he heard hoarse gagging sounds. By the time he realized that the noises were coming from his own mouth, the darkness had already drawn close, closer, waves of lapping ink. His limbs weighed a hundred tons each, and his struggles stilled into the frail twitches of a baby bird fallen from its nest.
Just as he began to black out, the hands released from around his throat. Air rushed into his punished lungs, and the dark spots dissipated.
"N-no," Hawthorne whimpered, backing away. "Can't do it. Not like this."
Then the man made a low, anguished groan, and fled up the stairs without saying another word. The door slammed shut behind him.
Sinking into the mattress, Hades waited for his heartbeat to return to a normal rate. This wasn't his first near-death experience, and the symptoms were expected. Adrenaline left him shaking, consumed with the uncontrollable impulse to break free of his restraints and go in for the kill. His throat felt flayed, and each time he drew in a deep breath, his chest ached. The fact that his movements were limited to the two inches of chain that the handcuffs provided was an aggravation that made him want to howl in rage.
He listened until he couldn't hear the man's footsteps anymore, then stretched his hands out along the metal bars of the bedframe. He felt for any exposed screws or fastenings, and when he had reached as far as he could go on either side, he shifted his attention to the mattress itself. Because his hands were held too high to reach the cushion, he turned his head to the side and pulled back the sheet using his teeth. All it would take to fashion a lock pick was a stiff piece of metal, even something as simple as an upholstery pin.
Nothing. Just a protective rubber cover beneath the linen, too thick to bite through. Useless.
As he continued his search along the pole, the paint flaked off under his nails. He craned his head back and stared up at the speckles of rust he had exposed.
Maybe his prison wasn't as solidly built as it had first appeared to be.
He cinched his fingers around the bar and twisted it, pulling until sweat stung his eyes and his chest burned.
Hades knew pain. It was like an old friend to him, and it was something Dimitri had taught him how to distance himself from. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath that ached, held the air inside him until he counted to four, then slowly exhaled. He did that twice more before trying again.
Another violent twist of the bar, and the headboard groaned. Particles of rust fell on his hands and face, and he felt the bar move a little. It wasn't welded on after all, and if there were screws, they must have been corroded as well.
Minutes passed as he struggled to twist the bar from its threaded hole. He toiled through the blisters and raw skin, determined to free himself before the senator returned.
When he yanked at the pole, it wiggled in its frame, just barely. Something tinkled to the floor. Probably a loose screw.
Grunting in exertion, he gave one final jerk and wrenched the pipe free. Careful not to let it fall, he drew his hands back over his head and rested the pole next to him. Though hollow, it would make a useful weapon.
As he sat up, he examined his hands. Blood welled from shallow scrapes. His palms were coated with rust and white paint. The handcuffs had cut into his wrists during his breathless struggle, leaving him with rings of welts. In places, the skin was broken.
Small sacrifices. They meant nothing.
Tetanus was no concern of his. Dimitri had treated his body like an expensive weapon, keeping him updated on all his vaccines and bandaging the wounds he acquired.
His mind had not been handled with the same respect.
Hades couldn't reach the IV in his elbow with his hands cuffed, but he leaned over himself and used his teeth to peel off the tape. He bit down on the plastic plug that the tube was attached to and pulled its tip from beneath his skin. It took nearly a full minute to perform a task that would have taken mere seconds if he had the use of his hands.
He transferred the IV tip to his fingers and studied it. Saline solution dribbled from the hollow point. The tip was too short to serve as a lock pick, and if he tried to bend it even the slightest, the rigid plastic would break off in the keyhole. Yet instead of letting the tube drop, he draped it over the mattress cover. Maybe it would serve some use in the future.
His ankles were chained to the footboard by cuffs of their own. Made specifically to restrain a person's legs, the shackles featured a long chain designed for restricted mobility. Useless unless he freed his legs.
Hades scooted forward and tested the pole his feet were attached to. It refused to budge. When he kicked the bar, it shook, sending vibrations through the chain and into his legs. He tried to twist the pole free a second time. Just from the metal's resolute silence as he pulled, he knew it would take even longer to free his ankles than it had his wrists. He went right to work.
Like with the headboard, the decorative bars on the footboard were anchored in place and reinforced with screws, which, unfortunately, were in better condition than those at the headboard. When he realized that his fingernails weren't up to the task, he pulled the plastic port from the IV tube and used the slender tip as a makeshift screwdriver. That didn't work very well either, and he tried the other end with better luck.
The first screw took five minutes to remove, but he was able to extract the second in half that time. He fell into a comfortable rhythm, losing himself in the aches and pains and the monotony of turning the IV port around and around.
By the time the second screw rolled onto the floor, it was a good thing that there weren't any more. Plastic shavings clung to his skin. The port's nub was worn into nothing, absolutely useless.
He freed his feet, swung them over the side of the bed, and stood, only to have his legs collapse beneath him. He dropped to his knees and thrust his hands out in front of him, clenching his teeth as jarring pain traveled from his palms up his arms and deep into the gunshot wound in his stomach.
Hades wormed to his feet again and seized the pipe from the bed. He hobbled forward, staying close to the wall. His legs were weak and trembling, the muscles cramping with each step. There was enough chain between his ankles that he could walk.
Handcuffs. He needed to get rid of these handcuffs.
He searched the cabinets along the wall, then the cardboard boxes. Pool gear, racquetball rackets, dumbbell weights, glassware. Worthless junk. Nothing he could use to pick the locks.
Hades made his way over to the home gym. There, resting beside the treadmill, he spotted a red toolbox. The exercise machine must have been assembled recently.
He eased to his knees and rooted through the box, shoving aside wrenches and screwdrivers until he came across a rat's nest of loose wire, nails, and picture hooks. He found a thin, wire in the mess and pushed it into the keyhole of his handcuffs.
As he maneuvered the wire back and forth into the hole, he listened for footsteps. Nothing yet.
The lock disengaged, and he slipped the band off his right wrist. He didn't bother unlocking the other handcuff. That could wait until after he freed his ankles.
As he inserted the rod into the keyhole of his leg shackle, the floor overhead creaked. He glanced up, then quickly got to work.
The door opened at the top of the stairwell, and the wire kept fumbling, slick with sweat and blood.
The latch clicked open, and he ripped the cuff from his ankle. He dropped the wire and stood. As soon as he climbed to his feet, he was struck by a dizzying wave of vertigo. He kept moving regardless, the loose ankle cuff rattling across the floor.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Project Prometheus"
Copyright © 2018 Aden Polydoros.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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