Born on a small sheep and cattle ranch in Montana in 1889, Benjamin Charles Cole longed to be like his uncle, who had fought in the Civil War, and lived to tell the tale. His father had been injured while horse-riding years earlier and had been unable to join, and with the interests of his family and ranch at stake, he struggled instead to make ends meet, never quite earning the sort of admiration that his brother Pete got from young Ben.

Ben's sisters, Maude and Eliza, both married young to local farmers, but Ben had always harkened to the stories Uncle Pete told him about the big cities, and the fortune that could be made there...if one knew how to find it. Never a strong student, while his brother Jordan excelled, Ben felt it was pointless to stay. Every weekend, his wandering brought new troubles - usually involving the local saloon and the half-Indian girl who worked there. And every weekend, he woke up on the front porch, locked out once again and not entirely certain how he'd gotten home.

So when he reached 17, Ben began a long journey, first with Uncle Pete and with his parents' blessing. They figured he would see what a windbag Pete was within a year, and ask to come home, and they were half-right. He did tire of Pete by the time he was 18, but by then, he was in New York, and there was no way Ben would leave city life to go back to the ranch. He had a taste now for living on his own, and on his own terms - something that would never go away.

By the time he was 22, he was earning a decent little living working for a private investigator's office. He mostly did surveillance, with some muscle work on the side when necessary. He enjoyed the intrigue, and stuck with it for six more years, during which time he learned basic handgun skills and how to defend himself in a fist-fight, although given his past, fighting was nothing new. He'd write to his mother at Christmas and tell her to wish everyone the best, but felt no compunctions to return home. There was something inside that told him they'd all just look at him like he was wrong inside, anyhow.

In April 1917, the U.S. joined in the Great War - the War to End All Wars, it was called, and he would later remember this with a sarcastic smile. His boss was leaving to join up, and on the man's last night, they went out and got blind drunk. When Ben woke up, he found himself enlisted too, and on a bus to Boot Camp in New Jersey.

Surprisingly, Ben made it through some of the toughest battles, including the Battle of the Matz in the French Sector and the second push on the banks of the Marne. But even after the Great Wara had officially ended, it seemed to some of the soldiers, Ben included, that they would never be let off the hook. In September of 1918, the U.S. sent in so-called 'volunteer' forces into Russia to try and help Britain and France stop the Bolsheviks while they were gaining a strong foothold, and more importantly, from getting supplies at Archangel (Arkhangelsk), near Dvina Bay in the White Sea, which they were too late to do. The mission to send troops to Russia was called, amusingly, the Polar Bear Expedition (it's also known as the Northern Russian Expedition). It was a brief 'occupation' lasting only a year, but costing lives to the Spanish Flu, harsh weather, and Bolshevik attacks. Some men even mutinied. Ben had considered joining the mutinous crew, but rejected the idea out of hand, knowing the cost of mutiny was a court martial, and not worth it.

After surviving one of the harshest winters against snipers who were well-used to the winters and swampy, muggy summer, Ben's Company of 'Polar Bears' pulled out in September of 1919. Recognized for his willingness to do well with unpleasant tasks, Ben worked as a rear Thompson gunner aboard the mining transport ship Fandango ("I told them it was a stupid name for a ship," he later grumbled). The job of the mine handlers was to carefully dump the mines behind them to prevent Bolshevik gunboats from harassing the other evacuating ships. Unfortunately, one of the handlers let go of the hoist too soon, and the magnetic mine detonated onboard the Fandango, sinking the ship in the North Dvina River off Troitsa, and killing all but a few.

Ben did not know how long he lay upon the floor of the river, or how long it took him to regain his senses. He woke up near the river's edge, and immediately swam to the surface, gasping for air before he could drown or die...again. Looking around, he saw only that all his Company's ships were long gone, as were the Bolsheviks, so it must have been a day, anyway. Or a few hours - they couldn't linger. But why the hell wasn't he dead? Or even scratched up? Freezing cold, he was surprised to find he had no frostbite, and that he had been in the water for well over 5 hours. Stunned, he found his way back to the Allied-friendly village nearby and, being a big man who could pass for Russian, he sought protection there, paying them until he could figure out what to do.

Finally making it back to Europe, Ben found himself listed as Killed In Action. It took a few more years for him to piece together the fact of his immortality, and that he had really died that day. When another immortal finally attacked him, instinctively, he knew what he must do: kill this man at all costs. When he saw the sword the man wielded, he understood, taking the man's sword. Again following instincts, Ben took the man's head, and his first quickening.

In Holland, as he was trying to put a life together, Ben met Pandora, an immortal struggling to keep a small business afloat in the post-war mortal world. He offered her assistance in cash and some protection from local criminals in exchange for a basic understanding of the Game, and of the life he now had to face. She taught him it was more than that - there was swordplay, which she taught him, though he was reluctant to learn it from a woman. Unlike many teacher-student relationships, Pandora avoided becoming too close to Ben. This was not too difficult, though, considering he kept people at a distance anyway. Still, he was secretly disappointed that she didn't wish to become involved with him, not realizing that it was only because she sensed his life was far too different from hers, and now that she had taught him all he needed to know, she felt she should send him on his way.

With this new knowledge under his cap, Ben Cole joined the ranks of mercenary-for-hire. More hardened, perhaps, than before (and with a renewed distaste for boats and letting other people handle the important aspects of a job), Ben let the knowledge of his immortality guide his new career choice - if he couldn't rejoin the military because he was officially dead, then he'd hire out under the table. And hire out he did. From the 1920's to the present, he worked for nearly almost every government, guerilla army, and privateer. If someone needed a gun for hire, Ben Cole was there, only using the name Charlie Cole, or often Charlie Sparrow, which was his mother's maiden name and harder to trace. After a while, some of his employers referred to him only as "The Sparrow" - when you need a quick sniping job done right, whistle for the Sparrow.

All that ended with the Superflu. Ben was in Lake Tahoe near Reno on a fishing trip, after a long South American stint, when Captain Tripps broke. And so did the nightmares come. He dreamt repeatedly of a Dark Man, beckoning him to Vegas for one last big job. **Isn't that always the way,** thought Ben. **I finally take a vacation, and I get a damn call for a job.**