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Vincent Macleod: Agent of T.R.A.C.E.

By Derek Smith All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Adventure

Chapter 13

Vincent found himself covered head to toe in his synthesuit with much of his strength returned. Standing in that silent black void he searched the darkness and found nothing. “Am I dead?” he asked aloud.

From within that darkness came the calm and soothing sound of Trish’s voice. “No, Vincent, you’re far from dead.”

Light embraced the void, melting away the darkness and leaving behind a typical suburban neighborhood. Vincent found himself standing on a sidewalk next to a large oak tree in front of a large two story house. The front door opened and Trish came walking out onto the porch. As Vincent walked towards his mother, his synthesuit was replaced by a t-shirt and shorts. Trish stepped forward and embraced him with an overpowering hug.

Vincent pulled himself back and saw tears running down Trish’s face. “Am I dreaming?”

When Trish replied with a sorrowful nod of her head, Vincent’s heart sunk. “And Morticide? Giest? Adam? Please tell me that was a dream.”

Trish shook her head at Vincent. “No, Vincent, I’m afraid all of that was real. I am so sorry about Adam.”

Vincent saw past the tears filling his mother’s eyes and witnessed her fear. Realizing this, he found himself weaping over his deceased friend. “It’s my fault he’s dead. I should have listened to Curt. I was scared. If I wasn’t so careless, Adam would still be alive!”

Trish walked her son over to the swinging bench on the porch and sat him down as she tried to calm her emotions. “Adam made one of the toughest decisions anyone can make. He sacrificed himself because he believed in you and you didn’t let him down.”

Vincent couldn’t look at his mother, so he stared toward the street, tears flowing down his face. “What happened to Morticide? Is he still alive?”

Trish brushed her son’s hair with her fingers. “He’s alive, being held in a shielded detention cell at TRACE. Your grandfather is on his way to question him. Your vital signs peaked on your way back to TRACE so you were placed in your bed on Level Five. X is watching over you, waiting for you to wake up.”

“I don’t want to wake up,” he admitted. “Since I’ve been with TRACE it’s been one lie or surprise after another. I don’t care what anyone says about sacrifice - my actions got one of my best friends killed. The enemy I’ve been fighting since day one turns out to be someone else all together.”

Trish sighed. “You have to wake up, Vincent. Take it from me, living in this world doesn’t make the pain go away. If anything, it makes it worse. We have no idea how Eric obtained your father’s abilities, but we are going to do everything in our power to locate Giest and find the whereabouts of Jack.”

Vincent looked over at his mother. “How do we even know that Jack is still alive? And if he is, how do we know that he is not still working with Morticide?”

Trish rested a hand on his shoulder. “From the moment I met your father I knew there wasn’t a drop of evil within him. Jack had his flaws like anyone does, but I knew that he never had it in him to put me in this state or attempt to harm his only son. Jack was thrilled the day I told him I was pregnant with you. The expression on his face told me he would always stand at our side.” She smiled at the happier memories, then paused as she received new intel. “Some other information has come to light as to Jack and his whereabouts.”

Vincent stood up from the bench and looked down at his mother with anticipation. “He’s alive? Where is he?”

The world around them began to deteriorate as Trish found more of her resources were needed elsewhere. “I guess you’re going to have to wake up after all and find out for yourself.”

In an instant, Vincent opened his eyes and found himself lying on his bed at TRACE. X quietly sat near the bed staring at Vincent with disappointment.

“You should have told me about Alexis,” X quietly muttered as Vincent lifted himself to a seated position on the bed.

Vincent got out of his bed and began to move towards the doorway. “I don’t owe you anything, X. This is my problem, not yours. You won’t have to worry about it much longer anyways. With Morticide in captivity, I’m going to leave TRACE and you won’t be needed to live my life for me anymore.”

X blocked the doorway, keeping Vincent from leaving the room. “What do you mean you’re leaving? What am I supposed to do? What about my life? Did you even stop for a single moment to think about that?”

Vincent’s face tightened with anger. “Your life? Your life IS my life! What did you think was going happen? You were going to go on living my life and spend time with Alexis and raise my child?”

X felt his face burn with hatred for the boy. “You don’t deserve her! She should be with someone who will take care of her and be able to be there for her!”

Vincent was thrown aback by X’s statement. “I see what’s happened here. You have feelings for her. So what you’re saying is that Alexis deserves you?”

He lunged at X, slamming his back into the wall and gripped him by the neck of his shirt. “She could never have a life with you, X. You’re just a clone! There’s nothing special about you. I am leaving TRACE and that is the end of it. You’re just going to have to get your own life and stop pretending that the one you were filling in for ever belonged to you in the first place!” Vincent let X go and continued past him out of the room.

“At least if she were with me she wouldn’t be in harm’s way or killed because of my stupidity!” X shouted after him.

X had pushed all the right buttons. Vincent gave into his rage and stormed back the few steps he had taken. He stomped up to X, balled up his fist and punched his clone in the jaw, sending him to the floor. Vincent breathed heavily through his nose as he glared down at X. He said nothing, instead turning on his heel and leaving the other teen on the floor nursing his injury.

#

Curt Marshall approached the holding cell where Eric Bishop sat on a steel bed that had been welded to the wall. A force shield barrier had been generated to prevent any prisoners from escaping but allowed authorized personnel such as Curt access to their felonious visitors. He looked at his former partner in disgust. “You’re supposed to be dead, Eric.”

Still battered and bruised from his encounter with Vincent, Eric somehow managed a vile grin as he stepped toward Curt. “I suppose you’ve come looking for an explanation as to how I acquired my abilities?”

Curt kept his poker face. “That would be a good start, Eric.”

“Well, old friend, some secrets are better left for me alone to enjoy.”

“We know about Giest and his experiments. And after analyzing the blood that was found on the Pandora Generator, we know it belongs to Jack, which means he is alive. You would be doing yourself a favor to tell us where he is.”

Morticide snickered. “You know that Jack is alive? Well, I suppose that is one way of putting it.”

The day had been exhausting enough. Curt was too tired to put up with Eric’s antics and avoiding the questions. He leaned in towards the force shield. “He is your son, damn it, and Vincent is your grandson. Why on earth are you doing this to them?”

Morticide began to pace around his cell. “I was just a boy when you found me. A boy poked and prodded, abused and treated like an experiment by men who didn’t understand us. That night at the bar, when the gas line exploded, I lost my daughter. If I only had another second I could have saved her. Instead, she died at the hands of men, men who treated us like some sort of disease! We are the dominant species of this planet. They should bow to us like gods! But you decide to have morals and help those pitiful men.

“For too long we have been nothing to the government but puppets on call for them whenever they wish to pull our strings. We are superior to them, Curtis, and the time will come when humans will bow before us in submission and we’ll be the one pulling their strings.”

Curt could not believe the words coming from his former partner’s lips. “Losing Luna was devastating but it does not give you the right to start your own personal war against the humans! As long as I’m still breathing, you won’t have to worry about anyone pulling your strings because I now have them and I’m not letting go. You will stand trial for the crimes you have committed against humanity and for the lives you have taken in the process, especially Adam.”

“Adam? You mean that foolish boy who sacrificed himself for Vincent?” Morticide’s eyes narrowed as he stared back at his captor. “Do you really believe that his sacrifice was worth anything, or that Vincent is going to fulfill some outlandish prophecy? That power is mine and it belongs to me! I still have a fraction of it flowing through me and I can tell you that it is remarkable.”

Curt turned to walk away and stopped for a moment. “Vincent is the one that is remarkable. With his help we will find Jack and bring your little cult to its knees. Benjamin Ross has recently given us a fair bit of information on the situation. He explained everything from becoming a double agent to where he believes that Jack is being held. We will find him.”

Morticide held his hands behind his back and walked back to the bunk. “I always knew that Ross was one of yours and would never stray. It’s why I never allowed him to see the true location of where I was keeping Jack. I kept him around because, as you know by the warnings of the Six, everything happens for a reason. This is far from over. The boy will die, I will make sure of that and you will all die fools for following him.”

“You will get that boy’s powers when hell freezes over, Eric,” he said softly to himself as he left the cell block. “And I will follow you there if I have to make sure that you do not.”

#

Vincent made his way to the war room where he knew he would find his friends waiting. He stood outside of the doorway for a minute to prepare himself for everything that was going to happen once he stepped inside. It took a few attempts before he finally placed his hand on the access pad and walked inside. All conversation ceased as Vincent walked in. While extremely happy about Vincent’s safety, it could not mask their overshadowing sorrow.

He pulled up a chair and sat with Justin and Matt. Hank Thompson and Doug Mackenzie had joined their sons as Adam’s loss affected not only their sons but the parents as well.

Justin broke the silence. “Vince, I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am for what happened on the island. Matt and I were caught off guard by Jynx. We tried our best, but in the end I suppose it just wasn’t enough.”

Vincent looked up at the table of colleagues as he quietly replied. “It wasn’t your fault, Justin. I was the one that pushed us to go. I accept full responsibility for what happened that day.”

Hank cleared his throat as he cut into the conversation. “Neither of you boys are at fault. Adam made his own decisions and chose to protect his friend. Unfortunately, no victory is achieved without sacrifice. To sit here and blame ourselves would be to dishonor those who gave their lives for your success. What about Alexis? And have you discussed any of this with your parents yet, Vincent?”

Vincent shook his head. “I had to keep everything quiet. No one knew until I was aboard the Icarus to take down Morticide. I was worried that if word got out, TRACE would have interest in my child. If it turns out to be a boy, then the prophecy of the one that bares White Eco could be my son and not myself. I couldn’t put Alexis or our child at risk over this so I took matters into my own hands. But now we have Morticide. Trish mentioned there was some sort of evidence of my father’s whereabouts.”

Just then the door to the war room slid open. Curt entered the room and took his place at the head of the table. “As long as we are going to discuss Jack’s future, I may as well be a part of the conversation.”

Vincent felt the guilt creep across his face as he watched his grandfather address the room, and wondered if the old man had forgiven him for locking him in his office that fateful day. He’d have to wait and see.

“We’ve been taking our time at Giest Industries to evaluate the research and developments that came out of Project Pandora. The on site assembly plant was a testing facility. Wherever Giest is now, he is assembling a much larger army with more than just Spartans to serve as weapons for the Elites. It turns out that the blood we found at the generator is Jack’s blood. According to Ross, the Elites are using Jack to unwillingly power the machines because of his superior abilities. Ross believes that there may be a way to locate where the Elites are hiding out by tracking down the Spartans that are still roaming New York City and using their guidance coordinates to trace back to where Jack is being held. Bob’s been hard at work developing a method for us to track down any Spartans which have morphed into human form.”

How could his grandfather take the word of the man who kept them from acquiring Giest in the first place? Vincent leapt from his chair, shouting with frustration, “You are going to take the word of an Elite? Does anybody remember that he tried to kill us in New York!”

Justin carefully grabbed Vincent’s arm. “Vince, I tried to tell you when I looked into Barricade’s subconscious that it looked like there was more to the situation than we knew. You refused to listen.”

Vincent turned to face his friend, his anger continuing to build. “You knew before we even got to Morticide that he was my grandfather, didn’t you? You let us all march in there guns blazing, knowing that somewhere in that facility my father was laying dormant?”

Justin hesitated for a second before he replied. “It’s more complicated than that. Yes, I knew about Morticide, but I also had no way of telling if the information I pulled was true or not. I wanted to wait for Ross to recover from his coma. There is more to Ross than you know.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Vincent said shortly, cutting Justin off. “I am so sick of all the secrets and lies. I joined TRACE because I was told that I was the only one who could stop Morticide. Since I have been here everyone has been walking on eggshells around me, only giving me a sliver of the information I need because you all believe that I can’t handle the truth. I’ve completed my task and captured Morticide. As of now, I am leaving TRACE. I alone will find my father while I take down Giest and the rest of the Elites.”

#

X rubbed at his tender jaw as he approached the holding cells. Vincent’s denouncement frustrated him and left him to ponder what sort of future he could have as an unwanted clone. It seemed the boy was not in the holding block, but instead of turning around to leave, X found himself standing in front of the cell where they were holding Morticide.

He cautiously stepped closer to the force shield, and on the verge of tears, he muttered words of hatred at the prisoner. “This is all your fault. You are the reason that I no longer serve a purpose to Vincent. You are the reason that I will never see Alexis again.”

The man looked up at X with a sinister grin. “I assume that you are referring to a girl, young man. I would imagine that the life of a clone is a shallow one. Always living for someone else and never for yourself. I am assuming that my grandson is the one that bruised your face.”

His contempt for Vincent resurfaced and X shouted, “What would you know about the life of a clone? You can’t begin to understand what it’s like to see something you want more than anything but have the world tell you that it doesn’t belong to you!”

Morticide shook his head and advanced toward the boy. “I understand what it is like to have someone with power abuse his rights because they feel as though they are better than another. I know what it’s like to dream of enjoying the freedom to live your life only to be told that you must serve someone else instead. I am sure that things would be different for you if you possessed the same power as Vincent.”

“It’s not fair!” he exclaimed, now visibly shaking with anger. “Everything has always been about Vincent! But without me, Vincent’s cover would have been blown and TRACE would have had all sorts of problems. Everyone believes that Vincent holds this ultimate power, but he isn’t as strong as they think. He is nothing but a second rate hack who dodges his responsibilities to do whatever pleases him!”

The left corner of Morticide’s mouth turned upwards and he took another step closer to X. “You could have his power. You could be just as powerful, if not more. I can give you what you seek.”

X took a single step back. As much as he wanted to show everyone he was more than just a clone there was no way he could do so. There was no way this villain could grant him power Bob and Curt swore would never be his. “The cloning process only allowed for a genetic copy. I can’t possess the ability to generate Eco like he does.”

Morticide lifted his hand as he generated the small portion of the Blue Eco that he still had remaining in his body. His hand was mildly engulfed in the blue flame-like burst of eco before it fizzled out into nothing. “If you know anything about me, you’d know I only ever possessed Green Eco while I was a part of TRACE. How do you suppose I now have Red Eco coursing through my veins? There is a way we can grant you the ability to use Vincent’s power as your own. I cannot sustain the Blue Eco but I can transfer it to you, as you share the same genetics as Vincent. Help me escape from this prison and we will provide you with the technology needed to make it possible. The Blue Eco, the girl - they will be yours for the taking!”

X knew deep down that accepting Morticide’s offer would mean that he would become an enemy of TRACE, but he felt as though his options were limited after the fight he’d had with Vincent. Barely a moment of hesitation passed before he looked his new master in the eye and replied, “I want the power. I want it for myself. If I were to kill Vincent, then I would be able to live his life forever!”

“You have made a wise decision, my boy. Now we must act quickly and escape.”

X’s eyes darted around the room. “Any ideas of how to get you out of here?”

Morticide pressed a small button hidden inside his gauntlets. “Thomas is on the surface waiting for my signal. He and a squad of Elites will ensure that we are extracted from here without harm. I need you to take out the TRACE mainframe so that all security is disabled, allowing them the opportunity to locate us.”

The clone nodded once. “I can put the mainframe offline permanently. Before I do this, can you give me your word that Vincent’s power will be mine?”

“I can promise you that Vincent’s powers will look miniscule compared to the power that you will weild,” answered the older man.

X left the cells and took the elevator to the control room on Level Two. He nonchalantly walked into the control room with an acknowledgement from all of the agents that were at work inside.

One of the agents approached him. “What brings you to master control today, X?”

“I just came to talk to Trish about Vincent. I’m worried about him after all that’s happened, especially with Adam.”

The agent removed himself from X’s path, allowing the boy to move down the security hallway where he cleared the retinal scanner. The only noise in the room was the electrical hum of the machinery and occasional bubbling of Trish’s stabilization tank. Malevolence wafted off his skin as he gazed upon her comatose body floating inside when an internal speaker pierced the silence.

“I saw the discussion that you had with Vincent. You have to understand that he didn’t mean what he said, he just lost somebody very important to him,” Trish said sympathetically. “I know why you’re here, and I know that you’re in a different state of mind after what happened today. We both know that Vincent’s going through a difficult time and he’d never do anything to harm you. He’ll come around, he just needs time.”

X did not want to listen to Trish’s claim and he shot back angrily. “It’s always about what Vincent is going through, it’s never about me. What about my life? What about what I want? Doesn’t that matter to anyone? ”

Trish could sense the boy’s distress and that getting through to him was beyond her reach. “I don’t have all of the answers, X. You have to remember that at the end of the day, you were just living Vincent’s life. I am sure that if anything changes, you can still have a normal life outside of TRACE.”

X had heard enough. He moved for the processing shelf nearest her tank and tilted it towards the glass with all of his strength. “It should be my life now, and I’m taking it back. I’m not just a clone, I am better than all of you, and no one, not even Vincent, is going to stand in my way!”

A resounding crash echoed throughout the room as the shelf smashed into the tank, Trish’s body spilling out onto the floor where X left her helpless and on the verge of death.

#

The shouting match in the war room was teetering on the boiling point when the room suddenly plunged into darkness. Emergency lights brightened the seams along the ceilings allowing minimal illumination and was accompanied by a warning alarm.

Everyone was on their feet now, shouting and trying to push out of the conference room. “What’s going on?” Vincent shouted.

Slightly panicked, Curt reached for his communicator. “Trish, what’s going on? I need a situation report. Can you hear me? Trish? Trish?”

No reply came. Instead, emergency protocols made every door within the complex open to allow for evacuation. Curt’s pace quickened as he headed for the hallway. “Something is wrong.”

Everyone followed the colonel into the corridor. He was only a few steps from the elevator when his cell phone rang and anxious voice of a strike team leader blasted through the speaker. “Sir, it appears as though Trish has been compromised! There are countless Spartans entering the facility from various access points. We need to evacuate, sir.”

“You listen to me, soldier,” Curt began, “commence evacuation of all personnel from this facility as fast as you can. Inform everyone that they are to rendezvous with us at Giest Industries.”

Vincent moved forward and grabbed his grandfather by the shoulder. “We’re evacuating? What about Trish? What about TRACE?”

Curt turned to answer his grandson’s desperate tone. “We must evacuate. We have been compromised. With Trish incapacitated, all of our systems are down and there is no way for us to defend ourselves. Thankfully, the hover rail runs on an independent power supply. You boys need to get home immediately and blow the tracks so we can keep your location hidden.”

“I’m not leaving here without my mother! We can fight them off. I need to know that she is safe.”

“I will get Trish and meet you at the hover rail. Keep your phones on until we get the communicators back up and running. Hank, Doug, I trust you to take care of the tracks and keep a low profile.” Curt turned to Vincent and squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “I will take good care of her, Vincent. This isn’t my first rodeo.”

As Curt ran down the dimly lit corridor for his daughter, Hank spoke up to the boys. “It’s time to go. We need to prep the hover rail as soon as we can so we can make it home.”

There was little time for Vincent to consider what had happened to Trish. Just another problem he would have to deal with later once things calmed down. Shaking off these thoughts, Vincent ran alongside his friends as the adults led them down an emergency corridor that would connect them to a service ladder accessing the hover rail bay.

Curt rapidly jabbed at the elevator call button before he remembered that Trish wasn’t in control anymore. He pulled out his phone and tried contacting her control room. When he got no answer, he tried calling Trouble Bob to no avail. Just as he started to turn for one of the emergency routes, a faint scream echoed up through the shaft. Curt stopped and cautiously bent his ear toward the elevator door.

The screams louder, Benjamin Ross burst through the door with Trish draped over one shoulder and Bob kicking and screaming over the other, knocking Curt back into the wall. Curt swatted the dust away from his eyes, and rushed to help Ross with his daughter. Bob’s hollering ended as soon as his feet were back on solid ground and he caught sight of the colonel.

“Ben and I found Trish in the control room. Her tank was completely destroyed and there was no sign of anyone else there,” Bob told him, leaning over to check Trish’s vitals.

“She is stable, for now. We need to get moving to the hover rail for evac. Vincent and the others should have a pod prepped for us. Ben, can you carry Trish?”

Barricade stuck his head inside the blown open shaft and turned it upwards. Waves of Spartans had infiltrated the shaft and neared their location. “We’re about to have company! Start moving for the emergency hatch while I slow these bastards down.”

Slipping a hand into his bomber jacket, Curt pulled out a sleek black hand grenade and tossed it to Ben before helping Trouble Bob scoop Trish up between them and run down the corridor. After socking one of the red eyed monstrosities in its metallic face, Ben ran his thumb over the sphere until he located the trigger and activated the explosive. The red glow encompassing the grenade matched that of the Spartans. Ben threw it upwards into the shaft and ran to catch up with the others. Just as he picked Trish up to allow the older men freedom of movement, a blinding red flash erupted from behind them, sending bits of Spartan rubble in all directions.

Barricade stood squarely in the middle of the hallway while Curt and Bob opened the hatch. “That’s not going to stop them all Curt but it’s a good start. Let’s just hope the way is clear to the hover rail.” Ben hunched down to follow Bob down the ladder while Curt brought up the rear, locking the door behind them. The hatch door closed just in time as more Spartan units spilled out of the elevator in pursuit.

Short of breath from scampering down the ladder, the men reached the hover rail bay and ran toward the car waiting for them on the tracks. Vincent peered anxiously through one of the windows and waved when he saw his grandfather appear.

“We have no time to waist,” exclaimed Curt as he turned to check on Trish.

Unfortunately, the spartans had breached the majority of Level Five elevator doors and Curt tried to keep them at bay by blasting Eco at them. When it was apparent his Eco was not effective, Barricade handed Trish back to Bob and Curt.

“Get to safety, Curt,” Ben urged his old friend. “Someone has to stay behind and make sure you get away. It may as well be me. Do me a favor? Make sure the boy finds Jack. And when you do, tell Jack I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see him.”

Curt nodded. “Thank you, Ben.”

Barricade turned around and charged the large army of Spartans. As he plowed into the group, he sent several of the robot army flying into the air and lobbed blast after blast of Red Eco at his enemies until the group decided he was a better target than the fleeing TRACE agents.

Vincent opened the door to their escape pod and helped bring his mother safely inside. As he helped Bob strap her into one of the seats, Curt sat in the piloting chair and punched commands into the console.

He had barely buckled himself in when he felt the need to question his grandfather. “What the hell was that with Barricade? Are you guys best friends now or something?”

Curt was so fed up with Vincent’s poor attitude he didn’t even turn around to look the boy in the face. “Justin was trying to tell you that Ross was never the enemy! He only joined the Elites to find your father and bring him back to us. Until he came out of his coma we couldn’t verify what Justin had seen the day you forced him in there. He fought you in New York because he wanted you to defeat him so that he could help you find Jack. Ben is the only reason that your mother made it out alive, and he just now sacrificed himself so that we can get to safety. I’m not about to lose this opportunity because I am arguing with you!”

Vincent unbuckled himself and jumped for the side door, overriding the panel and exiting the car. Curt was beyond frustrated as he attempted to unlock the door and call after Vincent but discovered the boy locked it with his technopath ability. “Vincent Macleod, you open this door immediately and get back inside. I may lose my daughter in this ordeal but I am definitely not going to lose you!” he shouted over the local intercom system.

“I’ve already had someone sacrifice themselves for me. I will not let another person die because of me. I’m going back for Ross and I am going to get us both out of here,” he shouted in response.

Curt tried to plead with his grandson. “Vincent, I have to get back to the nest and blow the track or else the Spartans could make their way to Southdale. You need to come with us.”

Vincent stopped and looked back at the hover rail car. “If I’m not there ten minutes after you, blow the track. I will be right behind you, Grandpa, I promise. I watched as my friend was killed in front of me and was helpless to stop it from happening.” Vincent looked directly into his grandfather’s eyes with determination. “I can’t leave someone else behind. I have to do this.”

Curt saluted his grandson through the glass as he replied. “Comms should be back up soon. Stay in contact and we’ll see you and Ross back at the nest.”

Now that he no longer had to worry about his mother, Vincent took off to find Barricade. If it wasn’t for the alarm still buzzing throughout the facility, it would have been much easier to locate the powerhouse. Vincent darted down hallways looking for signs of active battle, following the long pile of destructed Spartans. As Vincent came closer to the end of the corridor he heard the clangs and thuds of Barricade fighting what was left of the Spartans and spotted balls of Red Eco brightening the space. Vincent peered around the corner of the wall and readied a Blue Eco blast, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Barricade’s face betrayed the fact he was completely drained and he attempted to use the last of his Eco to blast a group of Spartans that had encircled him. The blast failed, allowing a cyborg to approach and punch Ross in the jaw, knocking the giant to the ground. Sprawled on the floor, Ben shouted at his attackers, “All right you tin pieces of garbage, you got me. Just finish me and let’s be done with it.”

One Spartan raised an arm in the air, preparing to bring it down on top of Barricade, when suddenly the arm was no longer there. Ross watched the Spartan struggle to comprehend what had happened when a blue blast shot into the room and knocked the Spartan to the ground. Barricade sat up against a wall as Vincent entered the room, taking out as many cyborgs as he could.

“You shouldn’t have come for me! Now I have to stay alive to make sure you actually leave this time!”

Vincent smiled as he reached his hand out to help Barricade to his feet. “No agent of TRACE gets left behind. Besides, I’m going to need your help to find my father.”

The two ran back for the hover rail bay, Vincent lobbing Eco blasts to keep the Spartans back while Benjamin conserved his energy; it was a struggle for him to run with his Eco depleted, not to mention the bruises from the beating he’d taken. Vincent sealed the door to the hangar by breaking the valve wheel off of the door, all together stopping anyone from opening the door again. Vincent and Ross boarded the last remaining car as the army of Spartans blew the steel door wide open and began to rush into the room.

Barricade looked over at Vincent. “If you thought that tearing the wheel off of the door would stop them, then you have a lot to learn, kid.”

The glass top to the hover rail car pulled close while Vincent and Ben continued to fire Eco blasts at the Spartans. Once they were fully enclosed, several Spartans jumped on top of the glass and smashed holes open, shoving their arms inside to grab at Vincent. Barricade reached up and ripped the door right off of the car, throwing it and the attached Spartans against a wall as Vincent fired up the engines.

“Doors are overrated anyways!”

The car shot forward along the tracks, making their way toward Vincent’s Nest. Vincent tapped his right ear and prayed the communicator had come back online. “Grandpa, it’s Vincent. We’re on our way to my Nest. Do not blow the track system until we get there.”

There was a crackle, followed by the familiar gruff tone of Curt’s voice. “Vincent, I’m glad you’re okay. Doug is just finishing a new containment vessel for Trish and she should pull through. I’m accessing the hover rail system but it is showing us that there are other objects headed towards you on the alternate tracks.”

Vincent looked behind the car to see Spartans skating along the tracks determined to catch their prey. Ross scanned the control panel and asked his co-pilot, “Aren’t there any weapons on this tub?”

“The only weapons we’ve got are ourselves. You keep the car on course and I’ll take out the Spartans!”

With limited space in the tunnel, it was easy pickings for Vincent. The machines were forced to stick to the tracks, keeping them lined up and easy targets. Bits and pieces of scrap flew everywhere, occasionally taking out one of their own and saving him the Eco.

“I think our situation just got worse, kid! Somehow we are losing power. The engines are down to eighty eight percent!” Benjamin hollered over his shoulder.

Curt’s voice came on over the communicator on the hover rail car. “The system is showing me that the detonation sequence for the track has begun from the TRACE end of the track. It’s going to be tight, but, by my calculations, you should be able to just make it if you can hang on!”

Vincent shook his head as he yelled out. “This day just seems to be getting better by the minute!”

Two Spartans closed in on both sides of the hover rail car and Vincent found himself suddenly overwhelmed. He threw both arms out to his side as he blast both of the cars off of their rails into the stalagmites on the surrounding walls of the cave. His eyes widened as he witnessed a fireball roaring toward them from the bottom of the track. The blast launched some of the cyborgs in front of the hover rail car which Ross struggled to deal with.

“Up front, kid!” he shouted. After a weak strike to an encroaching Spartan, Ben checked the gauges. “Damn, we’ve only got forty five percent left!”

Vincent looked down to see the energy field around the track begin to flicker as it lost power. “Just keep going. We’re going to make it!”

They took out a few more Spartans and the tracks grew dimmer. “Twenty five percent, Vincent!”

Vincent blinked and felt his arms getting heavy. This fight had gone on too long and his Eco was running out. Out of options, he placed a hand on Ross’ back. “I need to take some of your energy or else we are done for!” He could feel Ross’ pain as he stole the man’s energy and made sure to let go before completely draining him.

Recharged, Vincent climbed onto one of the benches in the car and he focused all of his strength into an Eco charge. The car started to shake as Eco shot out of him shaped like lightning bolts, striking the remaining Spartans and frying their internal systems.

“Fifteen percent.”

The chain of explosions that hit each checkpoint along the track strengthened the one before and threatened to engulf their mangled car. Vincent unleashed his energy with a violent scream, his large blast of Eco pushing the fireball back and obliterating and remaining Spartans in the tunnel. The force pushed the car the last few yards to the door of Vincent’s Nest.

The car came to a grinding halt as it collided with the one in front that everyone else had taken. Vincent and Barricade pulled themselves from the car. The tunnel had completely collapsed, keeping the route to Southdale safe for now. Justin shouted out to them, waving them over to the Thompson family Nest where Doug and Bob carefully placed Trish into a new stasis cylinder.

Vincent ran up and placed his hands on the glass while Ross shook Colonel Marshall’s hand. “Is she going to be alright?” he asked the scientists.

Doug nodded. “She was placed in here right in the knick of time. Any longer and she may not have made it at all.”

Relieved to see that his mother was going to be alright, Vincent allowed himself a moment to sit beside her tank and recuperate. She looked peaceful, as if oblivious to everything that had happened. He would have to wait until she was somewhere secure and connected to a new mainframe before he could ask Trish what had happened to her.

It was Matt who broke the silence. “So I guess Morticide got away from us again. What’s our plan of action for getting him back?”

“There is no plan,” Vincent exclaimed. “No one is doing anything. This is my mess and I intend on cleaning it up myself.”

Matt crossed his arms and got a very serious look on his face. “Look, I’m just as upset as you are about Adam, but this is war now. We can’t stop until he’s ours!”

Vincent stood up, locked eyes with Matt and angrily replied, “This isn’t your war, not anymore. It’s mine. Morticide is after me, so it’s up to me to bring this to an end.”

Curt took a step toward his grandson and reached out to him, only to drop his hand when he realized Vincent wasn’t in a state of mind to accept such a gesture. “Vincent, we’re family. You can’t just walk away from family. Leaving isn’t the answer. Sometimes you just have to accept you can’t win every battle, no matter how hard you try. But just because you lost a battle doesn’t mean you can’t win the war. Besides, you have other things to consider now. What about Alexis, what about the baby?”

Vincent lowered his head and took a deep breath. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him when he finally replied. “I’m going to tell her everything. I’ve had time to think about things over the last few months. I purchased some land just outside of Southdale and began the construction of a nest out there. I plan on taking my mother so that I can find a cure for her. I am completely done with TRACE from this moment on.”

“He isn’t being bitter,” Justin explained. “He’s afraid that other people are doing to die because of him.”

Vincent lunged for Justin and slammed him into a nearby computer desk. “You were poking around in my mind! You have a lot of nerve, Justin. You’ve got no problem getting mixed up with my problems but can’t even handle petty problems in your own life! What about Carrie?Pathetic!” He let his friend go and walked out of the room toward his own Nest.

Barricade nodded to the room before following Vincent. “Well, I’m going with you, kid. You saved my life and I promised your father that I would take care of you. We can find him together.”

Vincent nodded and they stepped inside the room as his grandfather called after him. “Hiding from the world isn’t going to solve your problems, Vincent. You can’t just walk away from this.”

Trouble Bob walked over to Curt and placed his hand on his shoulder. “I’ll go with the lad, too. He’s going to need help if he is planning to take on Morticide on his own. Let him lick his wounds. I’m sure he will come around eventually, in some time.”

Curt hated to let his grandson go, and Matt was simply disgusted by his friend’s behaviour. Justin didn’t have to read their minds to see that. “I don’t need to be a psychic to see that he is scared, but that doesn’t mean that he has to do this alone,” he said.

“Alright,” Curt addressed what was left of his team, “let Vincent go for now. I am going to head back to New York to meet up with any survivors from the purge. Bob, I trust you to keep an eye on Vincent and update me on Trish’s condition. Everything will be business as usual until I say otherwise.”

#

Vincent arrived in his bedroom alone and sat on a corner of his bed where he shifted his synthesuit into his regular clothes. His thoughts turned to Adam and began to weep quietly into his pillow when a knock came from outside his door. Catherine and William slowly poked their heads in, and he noticed his mother’s face was all puffy as though she had been crying as well as they entered his bedroom.

Catherine’s eyes were brimming with tears and compassion as she sat down beside her son and spoke to him gently. “Honey, we didn’t even hear you come in. I just spoke to Darren and Diane and they told me about Adam. I’m so, so sorry.”

Vincent looked up at his parents. “They told you about Adam?”

Catherine embraced her son and tears began to flow down her face. William tried to contain his sorrow as he placed his hand on his wife’s back. “They did. Things like this unfortunately happen without any warning sometimes. People get sick, and sometimes an illness can take hold of someone and get the better of them. Adam was a great friend, and I am so sorry that you have to go through this.”

Vincent realized that the Moores had already covered up Adam’s death. He had had enough of the lies that circulated amongst the people at TRACE but was alright with it this time. For the first time that day, Vincent felt as though he could finally just be himself, so he buried his head into his mother’s shoulder and began to cry.

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