My body felt broken, more than that, it had been VIOLATED. I felt like something out of a horror movie. A bloodied ball gown, a blackened eye and a bum leg running through the woods at night, but I had no choice. If I didn't move now and fast, I would be another victim of the night. The biggest mistake my husband Alex had ever made was not making sure I was dead before leaving my body in The Arklay Forest. So I ran, with the only strength that I could muster, tears streaming down my face, every branch scraping my body sending me back to the moment where my husband's once kind hands became weapons. "My husband raped me. Alex raped me." Even thinking the words in my head caused me to seize up in pain as I made my way through the deep woods and thick brush of the forest. The deeper I went into the woods, the more I could feel the old Kristen slowly being left behind in the trees and the brush. How could I ever go back to my life after what I had just seen? Robert Kelly had been killed after attending a party that SHE herself put together. Not only that, his son had been taken by people I thought I could trust, and his wife Sharon had been brutally beaten. I may not have been directly responsible for these events, she may not have known what was being planned, but I felt just as guilty. How many hours had I spent campaigning for MysTech and it's possibilities? How many contracts and powerful business connections had I brought their way, believing my husband Alex was doing god's work, that he was making the world a better and safer place for us all? "Lies..all of it lies..." Time had no meaning, the only purpose I had was to run. To survive. To get out of this before they found me, before they knew I hadn't been murdered in the woods by my husband. It could have been twenty minutes, it could have been three hours, all I know is that eventually I found a road, something that signified human life, and as luck would have it, an attractive, bloodied woman in a ball gown managed to grab the attention of a truck driver barrelling down the road. He stopped dead in his tracks missing me by a few inches as I clammered into his truck without even asking him. This was the first friendly face I had seen in what felt like forever. I had survived being brutalized, I would survive the possibility of a pervert truck driver. "Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you...please just drive!" Truck Diver: "Miss are you okay? Where do you need me to take you?" I thought to myself for a second. Right now there was no safe place. I couldn't go home, I couldn't go to one of my families many properties and I couldn't be seen in public, so a hospital was out of the question. I looked back at the driver with all the sincerity that I could muster. "Just keep driving, and don't stop. For anything. I mean it. Road blocks, police stops, nothing." The truck driver nodded and began to take off down the winding forest road. I would never see him again, but that man had saved my life, and I would be forever grateful. My mind began the dreadful dance of replaying the night's events over and over again in my head. She had planned the perfect evening, organizing everything from the color of the china to the type of music being played. MysTech had given her the guest list and she had planned the seating arrangements meticulously, making sure to partner those who were masters in the art of social lubrication with those who needed to loosen their purse strings and invest. This was her wheelhouse, and everybody remembered attending an event coordinated by Kristen Ashcroft. Tonight, however, there were no survivors, nobody left alive to tell of the tale of what had transpired here, except for me. I knew that once I had been discovered as missing, I would be a prime target, and after seeing what my husband Alex, and the woman in white, Diana were capable of, I knew I would do everything in my power to SURVIVE. I stared at the CB radio in front of me, and immediately my heart knew who I was going to have to reach out to. He was a man that been on the perimeter of my life, my first kiss, my first heartbreak, the one that got away. I knew he would be able to find me. "This thing work?" I asked the truck driver frantically. Truck Driver: "I never pick anybody up on it...but you're welcome to try." Grabbing the microphone, I began swirling the dial to the right frequency. "Mountaineer to Boy Scout...Mountaineer to Boy Scout...this is an SOS." ============================================================================= I drove for quite awhile with this stranger and new found best friend, a man named Dave who was saving money to buy a ring and propose to his wife. For the life of me I would never understand why he didn't press me any further as to what I had gone through, but I was grateful that he didn't. He even went so far as to acquire me a change of clothes and pay for a hotel room for me miles outside the city, in the opposite direction of Arklay Mansion, a place I had asked him to go. As I stood in the dilapidated hotel room, holding a grocery bag full of discount clothing, part of me felt an overwhelming sadness, but a greater part of me was happy to be alive. Surviving would come to be a trait that would define my life, for better or worse. I made my way to the bathroom and took off my dress, leaving another part of my old self behind, as I stepped under the warm water of the shower, baptizing myself in silence and serenity. The water felt life changing, and as the dirt, and blood and evidence of my assault washed down the dirty tub drain, I knew there was no going back. Nobody would believe what I had seen, and I wouldn't live long enough to try and prove what had happened to me. Even though my body had now been meticulously scrubbed of evidence, I would make sure that my husband would pay for his crimes. Dressing in a pair of ill fitted jeans, workmen's boots and a long white creme colored knit turtleneck sweater, I dried my hair with a towel and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was still bruised, my eye still bloodshot from the blunt force trauma, my mind still haunted with images of the carnage I endured. I didn't know this person looking back at me, but I was going to have to learn to live with her, as her. I took leave from my hotel room, walked downstairs and across the parking lot to the diner. My face definitely had an effect on the staff and patrons of the place, but I was grateful to live in a time where people still took care of each other. A nervous waitress sat me down in a booth, asking me if I needed to use the phone. I declined and asked for a cup of coffee. I took this small bit of time to clear my mind, to sip my coffee and try to exist as peacefully as possible. "He did this to you? He's DEAD." A deep male voice pierced my brain as I was jolted back into reality at the sight of Aaron Keller. I had known Aaron since I was fourteen years old. I met him at prep school at the US Military Academy, a place that a daughter of a retired Secretary of Defense was all but forced to go. For the most part, I hated it. I learned more than I ever expected at that place, but I also knew that my skills were not necessarily ones I could use for battle, or so I thought. Aaron, on the other hand loved it. After graduation, he continued on to West Point, where as I pursued higher education in New York, though our paths stayed intertwined. Though he was an honorable man, Aaron was not necessarily somebody I could marry. Kristen Jennings was an heiress, a decorated debutante that lived in a world of founding fathers and important people. Aaron had gotten to the academy on scholarship. He was simple, and kind, and uncomplicated, and that was what I loved about him. Though my father forbid us to date, we did...until I made the unfortunate decision to start seeing Alex, the man my parents wanted me to be with. The man that had just raped me and left me for dead in the woods. My pulse surged and my anxiety increased as the walls in the diner began to feel a lot smaller. I focused on Aaron's face as he sat down in the booth. "It's quite a bit more complicated than that. Did anybody see you leave?" Aaron: "I'm not an amateur, Kris. Besides, your father is not nearly as ambitious as he used to be. I've got a lot of downtime." Aaron was a decorated member of the military before an injury led him to an early retirement and a position on her father's security detail, though he was always managing to get himself involved in the "dark arts" of the intelligence world. He gestured the waitress over, who looked him up and down for a moment, trying to decide if he was the man who done "this" to me. Satisfied by my face that he wasn't, she soon brought him a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. I didn't really know where to start, but I only had a small sliver of time to get things moving, to put distance between MysTech and myself. "I'm in trouble..and not the normal kind. I was witness to something tonight, something my husband has been a part of for quite some time, something I've helped him promote, help him raise millions of dollars for--" Aaron: "MysTech." I nodded. Aaron rolled his eyes and leaned back in the booth. Aaron: "I knew that place was some kind of chop shop. Bio experimentation? Try to play God for too long, you end up thinking you ARE him." "I can't confirm any of that to be true, but after tonight...I don't know WHAT they are doing in the basement of Arklay...but I need to find out." Aaron looked at me with a confused look. I could tell he was wondering just exactly what I was planning on doing, but I could tell that he didn't approved. He dropped his fork and grabbed my hand. Aaron: "So you want to call in your father and storm the castle?" He wasn't getting it. "I can't do that. I was a Jennings before I was an Ashcroft. Daddy can't just make this place disappear. It's gotten too big, thanks in some small part, to me. Our family wouldn't recover from this." I watched as Aaron continued to look as if I were insane. I knew he always had the best of intentions with me, it was why I had loved him so much. But Aaron was a far better person than I was. I knew what being a Jennings meant. My family wasn't just famous for being wealthy. We were part of the history of this nation in a way that only a handful of families were. For all intents and purposes, we were American royalty. SOMEBODY wouldn't let my involvement with MysTech die, and no matter how good I was at spinning words in order to further my cause, if MysTech was doing what I was now suspected them to be doing, if I were to bust the lid open on this, The Jennings Family would go down in flames, and I was not going to be the leader of that revolution. Aaron: "Kristen...what are you trying to do?" I specifically avoided his glare as I knew it was filled with disappointment. "Aaron. I don't have a choice. The only way I can survive is if I make myself an asset. I have no other choices. I have to learn what they are doing and I have to find a way to exist in this world. I need something to make myself valuable. This isn't a hostile takeover. I need to know as much as I can about MysTech and I need to learn it as soon as possible...I have a job for you." Aaron shifted in his chair, exasparated by what I was saying. Aaron: "You would support a place like MysTech to protect your family's reputation? I don't believe it. I won't believe it...Kristen, you have to understand what you're saying. You are in a prime position to take these guys DOWN. Why wouldn't you take that opportunity?" "You're mad because you are looking at the wrong opportunity. You don't want to. I don't get out of this alive unless I prove that I'm more valuable alive than dead. I'm dealing with mutants, Aaron. I don't have superpowers, but I have to make them believe that I do. There is a research facility in New England. It's a place that Alex frequently went on business. I have it on good authority that there is a lot of information contained in that house. I need you to assemble a team. I want everything I can get from there...and then I need you to burn it down. I can't have anything traced back to me and you're the only guy I know with that special of a talent for arson. Get me that information and make it look like an accident." I almost couldn't believe the words that were coming out of my mouth, but as soon as I spoke them, I believed in them. I knew what needed to be done, and I wasn't going to let some untainted soul, one who had never been the things that I had experienced tell me what I needed to do next. This was a new world and this was a new me. As Aaron agreed, we drove to a safe house, where I was put on strict orders to stay inside. Though, I was pretty sure I would never be able to trust a man again, I gave Aaron the shadow of a doubt. I had no idea where I was to go next, for the first time in my life, and although it seemed like I had weathered the worst of the storm, something told me that I could trust Aaron. Something told me that he was the answer to all my problems. I couldn't have been more wrong.