They brought Snake Eyes back to the compound in a restriction harness, sedated and collared like an animal, armed guards at the ready. His blindfold allowed him no view of the concrete walls, yet even in his semiconscious state he memorized every footstep and false turn, every circuitous route designed to throw him off. In his time with the Arashikage, he been sealed in labyrinthine caves with nothing more than the clothes on his back, allowed only the water he could lap from the walls, and forced to find his way out without so much as a match. Remembering the way out of this facility would be easy. Actually making an escape would be less so, now that they knew the extent of his skill with a blade. Still, they underestimated him. A true ninja was more than a sword.

One of his captors tapped a code into a keypad (it sounded like actual buttons, not a touchpad like he expected), and the cell door opened with a buzz. An attending medic checked his vitals as a guard unlocked the harness with jangling keys. The blindfold came off last.

At first, he only pretended to doze, aware of the cameras watching him, making his chest mimic the patterns of sleep's breathing, before the cell finally faded away. He traveled back to his childhood home in the Midwest, catching katydids and fireflies with his twin sister, before fast-forwarding to deserts and jungles and other deployments that would show up in no public records. He saw again his sister's picture with the bullet hole in the upper right corner. He learned again that she and their parents were killed on their way to meet him. He felt again the grief wash over him, the unbridled anger, a dozen mistakes he almost made. Again, he made peace in a dojo outside the world's tenuous boundaries, found focus in the routines of ancient training, and overcame every challenge thrown his way. He heard the roars and howls of innumerable beasts in the fog-veiled forest, beings he once believed only lived in fairy tales. He knew what it was to be free.

When morning came, he found the note he knew would be tucked under his pillow, placed by no one yet always containing the same message, first in Japanese and then in English.

I will make your life a living hell.

There was no concealing the notes from his captors this time. Previously, he had eaten them, ingesting the malice which guided the writer's hand. The paper had a flavor he could only describe as ancient, the ink tasting vaguely of smoke, the words themselves like bile. They burned in his core and spread like acid through his veins, briefly connecting him to the mind which wished him suffering. He knew there was a chance the words would warp and perhaps even kill him, but he took it; they gave him a glimpse through his enemy's eyes. But now he did not need the notes. He came to know his enemy more than he ever had. His time outside had given him clarity, and his time inside would be a short while.

He heard his captor's footsteps in the hall as soon as he read the note and pretended to startle when they came in. The doctor assigned to him, an arrogant little man with more ego than hairline, snatched it unceremoniously from his hand.

"Did you write this?" he asked.

As if the indignity of the previous day's strip search and full body scan hadn't answered that question. They had not given him paper or pen. It astounded him how unintelligent so-called intellectuals could be.

He shook his head.

"Then where did it come from?"

Snake Eyes noted the slight darkening of the man's capillaries, the constricting of his pupils, signs the poisoned words were taking effect. He only needed a push to trigger the necessary reaction.

He shrugged and signed, I thought you'd tell me.

A wild hatred filled the doctor's eyes. He moved with uncharacteristic swiftness, hands clamping around Snake Eyes' throat like a vice, slamming his head against the wall over and over again, voice reaching a shrill pitch as he screamed threats not his own.

Snake Eyes made ineffectual jabs, resisting the urge to exact his own revenge on the despicable little man, to strike points that would ensure he wouldn't talk or so much as walk again. He allowed himself only the pleasure of imagining what this would do to the doctor's career. It occurred to him how much hatred had tarnished his own soul as his consciousness began to fade.

He came to with a rush of air, tainted by the smell of ozone. The sound of the doctor's continued attempts to break free and of Tasers firing to little avail greeted his ears. Snake Eyes rubbed his bruised throat as he watched the guards drag the doctor out the cell door, calling for medics and backup on their walkie talkies.

Snake Eyes held back a smile. The doctor's experiments would trouble him no more.