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

By Derek Smith All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Adventure

Chapter 3

The hum of tires on the dry roadway was an automotive lullaby. The last thing he could remember was the old man standing in front of him and distributing some kind of gas in his face. Whatever Mr. Schwartz used on him made his head heavy and the rest of his body weak. Vincent tried to open his eyes but all he could see was a blur. It reminded him of coming down from sedation and nitrous during his wisdom teeth extraction. Vincent attempted to convince himself it was all a dream as fog cleared.

He pulled himself up from the fully reclined passenger seat using the door handle since he was still a bit weak. Once upright, the motor of the seat kicked in and Vincent felt the softened leather against his back.

One glance out the window of the car shattered any illusion this was a dream as it confirmed he was far away from his home in Southdale.

“Sorry I had to knock you out like that, kid, but it was the only way you’d come quietly.” Colonel Marshall’s voice made Vincent slightly jump with fear. The boy frantically grasped for a door handle, hoping to jump out of the car, but there was no handle to be found. In place of the usual dashboard was a massively lit panel with of all types of colorful flashing buttons and dials. And instead of a windshield was a screen running all sorts of diagnostics for the car took the place.

The vehicle traveled at high speeds as it flew down the highway. Vincent knew there must be some sort of way to open the vehicle, so he reached forward and pushed every button, hoping one would work. The colonel laughed aloud.

“There’s no point in trying to push any of those. Your fingerprints aren’t registered with the car so it won’t respond to you. This is a good thing, seeing as your button mashing would have killed us about five times over. You might as well sit there and enjoy the ride.”

Reluctantly, he let out a huge sigh. “You said you were my grandfather. Aren’t you a little a young to be a grandpa?”

“I am flattered that you think so. I fear if I told you how old I actually was, you wouldn’t believe me. Our powers sometimes have a catch to them. Aging happens to be a side effect of mine.”

“What exactly do you mean when you say powers?”

The man sat silent for a second, then turned to Vincent, removing his hands from the steering wheel. Vincent lunged forward, gripping the wheel to take control of the vehicle. “Are you out of your mind?” yelled Vincent. To his surprise, moving the wheel did nothing. The vehicle was in fact driving itself to its destination.

“Holding the wheel was just for show, to make you feel safe about being in the car,” replied Colonel Marshall, laughing at the boy’s panic.

“You’re part of a much larger picture than you could have ever imagined, Vincent. I am taking you to the headquarters for Tactical Recon and Covert Espionage, TRACE for short. We are a secret government agency, so secret in fact that even the F.B.I. and C.I.A. are kept in the dark about us. Our job is to keep the world in one piece, no matter what it takes.”

Everything was happening way too fast for Vincent’s liking. Although sceptical of the man claiming to be his grandfather, he decided to push for answers. “So can TRACE explain what is happening to me, and why?”

“There’s a microscopic bacteria produced in your bloodstream known to us as an Evolved Cell Organism, or Eco. Although not common knowledge, there have been cases throughout time where people with powers have been recorded doing everything from walking on water to parting the Red Sea. Different types of Eco define the user’s abilities. Before you were born only two types of Eco had been recorded: Green and Red. Eco does have drawbacks; it is only found within males, and in some people can produce rather daunting side effects for reasons unknown.”

Vincent picked nervously at his shirt. “Before I was born… So, that means I have some sort of freaky genetic Eco mutation or something?”

“Not a mutation, per se, but a prophesied variant known as Blue Eco.” The colonel looked away for a moment, pushing some buttons on the panel before continuing. “It was said that the boy born with the power of Blue Eco would have nearly limitless power, one day leading to the discovery of the even more powerful and purest form of Eco, White Eco.

“To keep Blue Eco from falling into the wrong hands has been our primary mission at TRACE. And that, grandson, is why we are going to bring you in.” He clasped Vincent’s shoulder. a stern but caring smile upon his lips.

Vincent brushed the gesture aside. “Okay, so you claim that there are microscopic life forms living in my body? And that I have some super rare form of this disease, power, whatever you want to call it?”

The colonel scratched his head. Teenagers. The boy clearly didn’t believe this story, but he wanted to give him some details before they entered headquarters. “Your Blue Eco grants you the ability to take and use anyone else’s power. We call it Empathic Power Mimicry. This means that when another person with Eco is in contact with you, your body absorbs their ability, permanently making it your own. Now, most men don’t show signs of being an Eco user until they hit puberty, but you… I’ve witnessed you absorb some of the strongest powers ever as a baby.”

Vincent opened his mouth to push for more about his parents but noticed the car had turned into a pier, coming to a stop. A lone security guard at the gate watched over dozens of empty boats bobbing in the water, not another body in sight. The guard leaned forward toward the colonel’s open window and welcomed them both. That’s when Vincent realized the guard had revealed cyborg-like features, and it’s red laser eye was giving Colonel Marshall a retinal scan. After confirming his identity, the front gate opened, and the cyborg, once more a common security guard, called for them to have a nice day.

The car passed through the gate and Vincent surveyed the area. He was not impressed. “So your secret headquarters is in a storage shed at a marina?”

“You haven’t seen anything yet. Make sure you’re buckled in.” With a warning rev of the engine, he slammed on the gas pedal, driving the car down the dock.

“Wait, what are you doing? This isn’t funny anymore; you’re going to get us killed!” Vincent’s body pressed hard against the seat from the force, and he clutched for anything he could use to brace himself as he saw the dock disappearing below them. The car lunged forward into the crisp blue water. Vincent’s eyes closed as tightly as possible as he let loose a string of obscenities his mother would have grounded him for.

Once the vehicle was completely submerged, Colonel Marshall leaned forward and pressed a series of buttons and the car’s internal computer announced it had engaged the submerged transport sequence. While the interior stayed in place, the exterior shifted much like something out of a spy movie. The tires moved out to the sides and underneath the car to act as a rudder, while the tail lights on the back lowered to reveal four powerful jets which propelled the car safely through the water.

Through window, a school of fish swam alongside them in the murky water as the vehicle continued to move out to sea. With everything he thought he knew thrown completely out the proverbial window, Vincent’s thoughts jumbled about, his brain trying to reorganize how it saw the world. It gave him a bit of a headache.

He then realized he had not yet asked the most important question of his entire life. “You said you knew my parents. Where are they? Who are they? And if I was such an important part of TRACE, why was I given up for adoption?”

Guilt and sorrow consumed the man’s face. Whatever Colonel Marshall was about to reveal he was clearly saddened by. “Your mother’s name is Trish Marshall, and she is my daughter, and your father was Jack Bishop. I worked with your father within TRACE for quite some time, and he was one of the most powerful people we had ever come across to date. Unlike most of our agents, he had more than one power. He had the ability to drain another’s abilities if they were a threat, as well as superhuman strength. Jack was born with Red Eco which has been known to give its bearer stronger, more dominant powers. We call them Elites.

“Jack had always struggled to accept our purpose and believed our powers should have been kept to ourselves, hidden from the world rather than used to help those that did not understand. Although his thinking was unorthodox, TRACE’s leadership requested our continued work with him, due to the fact he was the strongest agent we had found to date.”

“So how did my parents meet? A TRACE company picnic?” He immediately regretted the picnic remark.

“Jack’s father, Eric, had been my partner for several years. When I met him, years before TRACE, Eric was a broken man. He had been abused and experimented on by another branch of the government that did not yet understand people with Eco. I took him with me when TRACE was established, showing him the government could be trusted. It took many years, but Eric finally began to see the benefits of assisting man.

“And since you and Eric were partners, my parents kind of grew up together and fell in love,” Vincent said softly. Finally, after all these years! Just knowing their names filled a hole in his heart. “So when can I meet them?”

Colonel Marshall turned his gaze away. “I think that’s enough of a history lesson for now. We’ll be arriving any moment now and some things might be better explained if I show you.”

Disappointed, Vincent looked out the front window as they rounded the shoreline and toward a large circular sewer grating. The steel cover of the pipe moved downward providing an entrance for the vehicle into the tunnel. The car pushed forward into an air locked entrance, blocked by a large solid steel door. Once the water drained from out of the tunnel, the submerged vehicle to shifted back into a four wheeled vehicle and entered the underwater lair.

The large steel door behind them closed and overhead lighting flickered on, revealing a large tunnel. The large bright lit green turbine of the engine beginning to rotate at a fast pace through an exposed hood piece, charging the vehicle engine. The car jolted forward, blasting down the corridor, the flashing lights and speed bringing on sudden nausea for Vincent. His face had gone completely green by the time they reached a large titanium barricaded door.

Emblazoned across the massive door was the circular emblem of the secret organization: a white eagle with TRACE stamped through the middle. A handful of armed guards manned the entrance. They were very curious to get a look at their newest visitor; word obviously traveled fast here.

The ground below rumbled as the titanium door separated from itself. As it split, it revealed a large docking bay with various vehicles similar to the one Vincent arrived in.

Once parked and back on their feet, Colonel Marshall wrapped an arm around his grandson. “Vincent Macleod, welcome to Tactical Recon and Covert Espionage HQ.”

A short, frantic man in a white lab coat came running over to the vehicle in an uproar. “I understand the importance of being in a hurry, sir, but you can’t run these vehicles too hard. The Eco turbine can’t handle it. It’s going to take me forever to fix it!” he exclaimed in a thick Scottish accent.

Colonel Marshall let out a hearty chuckle. “Well then, Bob, I guess you have your work cut out for you. I would like to formally introduce you to Vincent Macleod. Vincent, this is Robert Creed. He is our head mechanic, weapons, and gadget expert. Everyone here just calls him Trouble Bob.”

Vincent smiled and waved as the man came over and very excitedly shook Vincent’s hand. “Vincent Macleod! Oh, I’ve been waiting for the day I get to shake your hand and here it is. What an honor it is to meet you, lad.”

The colonel noticed Vincent seemed overwhelmed. “You’re a bit of a celebrity around here. Don’t worry, it will all make sense once we debrief you.”

Vincent waved goodbye to Bob and followed his grandfather through the large bay area. He noticed everyone walking past them stopped dead in their tracks, wide eyed as they pointed and whispered to one another.

When the two reached the end of the bay, two doors swung open to reveal a large clear glass elevator. Inside, Vincent saw a floor directory but no buttons to tell the elevator where they wanted to go. A voice prompt asked for the desired destination to which the colonel replied, “Level Five.”

Upon reaching Level Five, the elevator stopped momentarily before proceeding sideways. Peering through the glass wall, Vincent held his breath as he was overcome amazement. His face was only millimeters from the glass when they passed a room where various weapons were being manufactured and tested by other agents.

“This is amazing,” he said to himself. “So it looks like you weren’t pulling my leg after all, Colonel.”

“Please,” his grandfather said, “call me grandpa or Curt if you’re more comfortable. This is our stop.” He gestured for Vincent to exit the elevator, allowing the boy to go first.

Centred in the main rotunda of Level Five stood a large bronze statue of six men in a circle all in robes with their arms folded. “This is a memorial and resting place for the founders of TRACE, the Six.”

“This makes me think of the wise old sages and wizards in my video games. Did they also have Eco? Is that why they founded TRACE?”

Sitting down on one of the plush benches, Vincent felt a history lesson coming on. Unlike the boring lectures in school about civil wars and fighting over oil, this one was about his past. No nodding off this time.

“The Six were extremely powerful psychic beings employed by the government,” Curt began. “When the Six were together, their abilities amplified and allowed them to see into the future, including technology that was far beyond our reach. The government eventually came to the realization that if monitored properly, this power would benefit mankind, so they used the Six to unlock the secrets of future technology and seek out others like them. And thus they established TRACE as to would use their powers and abilities for the benefit and protection of all mankind.

“When an Eco user was discovered, they would approach the Six and to have their minds read and determine their fate within the agency. The first time I had the pleasure of meeting The Six, they placed their hands on my head and analyzed me. When they were finished, they asked that the room be cleared aside from me and the highest level government officials in charge of the program. It was then they explained that I would become the head of the TRACE program and foresaw the coming of a boy who would possess a legendary power.”

“And that would be me. The boy with Blue Eco.” Vincent softly kicked the toe of his sneakers against the floor.

Curt nodded. “They saw your coming and the eventual discovery of White Eco because of you. They referred to you as a hero who would fight for the greater good and keep the White Eco safe from those who’d seek to use it for their own purposes.”

No one spoke for the next few minutes. The colonel didn’t want to overload Vincent anymore than necessary but there was still more to share with the boy. This next part was going to be rough.

“One night, we suffered a great tragedy. Your father and grandfather were involved in an altercation at a bar between some drunken individuals and a few agents who were trying to have a good time. One of the agents accidently revealed his abilities and the men inside panicked. A fire broke out, ignited an exposed gas line and the bar was destroyed. Despite all our efforts, we were unable to recover the bodies of the agents inside - including your father.

“Trish was devastated, and came to me revealing she was carrying Jack`s child. As time went on she focused all of her efforts on you. When she went into labor, we rushed her to the infirmary, excited for your arrival. But our happiness was short lived. The Six came into the infirmary with a great look of confidence and serenity. As you entered this world, I suddenly realized why the Six were present at your birth.”

Seeing the tears in the corners of his grandfather’s eyes pulled at Vincent. Hesitantly, he laid a hand on the man’s knee. When he felt the man squeeze back, Vincent felt that hole inside himself shrink even more.

“A large blast from outside shook the room as we were infiltrated. Even with our defenses online and evacuations, we suffered major casualties. We were betrayed by our own men. Nearly every Red Eco agent abandoned us. Their massacre was lead by one who called himself Morticide, who destroyed the Six in an attempt to get to you. The disgraced agents continued their insurrection, destroying the facility in a desperate attempt to please their master.

“Your grandmother and I knew we had to do whatever it took to get you somewhere safe so Morticide could never find you. I called in a favor from an old friend named Harry Buckman, and had him find a loving family to care for you. For your own safety, we had to give him as little information about your lineage as possible.”

The weight of Curt’s words caused the boy’s shoulders to sag. So much was riding on him, the boy with Blue Eco. All those people died to protect him. People he never knew, his parents...

”And what if I fail? What if all those people and the Six gave their lives for nothing?”

Curt placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder as he looked him in the eyes. “Things happen for a reason, Vincent. The Six saw your fate long before you were even born. What lies ahead will happen because it was meant to happen. Before we move on I want you to be aware that there are going to be some things here that may seem awkward to you and even questionable. You must realize that everything that we have done was for your own safety and to protect you.”

They walked toward the double doors opposite the elevator and Curt pulled open one side for Vincent. To his great surprise, Vincent saw Justin, Matt, and Adam standing in the room with their parents.

“What the hell is this?” yelled Vincent.

Justin stepped forward and gently touched his arm. “Everything is going to be okay, Vince. Please, just sit down and allow us to explain.”

Vincent felt a calming sense wash over him as Justin spoke to him, and agreed to sit down in one of the many chairs surrounding a conference sized table. As everyone else took their seats, Vincent recalled something Curt had said earlier. He looked at his friends and their fathers. ”You all have green eyes. I’ve never noticed until now.”

Curt leaned forward in his chair. “To ensure your safety, we’ve surrounded you with TRACE agents. Adam, Justin, and Matt were assigned to stay close to you at all times so we could have eyes on you outside your home. Darren and Diane sold your parents a home in a safe neighbourhood and helped provide them with the things necessary to make sure this day came.”

Vincent slowly stood up and gripped the back of the chair he was sitting in with both hands so tight his fingers turned white. In a blinding instant, he twisted his body and threw the chair with incredible speed into the wall behind him. It remained in the wall, wheels spinning.

“So this is it? My whole life I’ve been a subject in some sort of experiment!” yelled Vincent as he looked over at his friends. “Every one of you knows that I’ve felt incomplete because of my adoption. Any one of you could have given me answers, yet none of you did.”

“We are truly sorry, Vincent. We never intended to hurt you. We were just doing our jobs,” mumbled Adam.

“Was your job to pretend to be my friend? Is our whole friendship a lie? Was the time we spent together nothing more than orders from some agency?”

Matt stood up, shouting back at Vincent. “We were never ordered to befriend you. We could have just kept our eye on you. We are, and have been, your friends the whole time. We couldn’t tell you anything for your own protection. We just want to help you.”

Angela Thompson watched Vincent as he struggled to calm himself. “We knew this would be difficult news for you. You must understand that we all care about you, and none of us took any pleasure in lying to you. We couldn’t tell you anything until you began to develop your abilities. We knew that given the right situation you’d be able to take care of yourself.”

“And what if I decide I don’t want anything to do with TRACE?”

“Morticide will eventually find you,” Curt put bluntly. “When he does, without the proper training, he will destroy you, then the world. Everything you care about would be gone. Regular people like your mother and father would be enslaved or killed for amusement. Society would fall, and the world would crumble. A war is coming, and we need you to lead us to victory.”

Silence filled the room while Vincent rocked back and forth in his seat. There were far too many surprises today, and way too much information. How was anyone expected to deal with the news that everyone around them was lying to him, even if it was to protect him? He supposed he should have been happy, and he was, in a way. These people cared about him and deep down he knew that. Now here they were, asking him to help them save the world.

Vincent fiddled with his hands. “You said earlier that I can mimic other Eco users’ powers. How do I know when I am even absorbing another’s abilities? And how do I use them?”

“Once we have you properly attired, you will be able to sense and decide whose abilities you wish to absorb. Currently, your body is acting like a sponge, and soaking up anything it can get a hold of. Your abilities have lain dormant because your body never needed to use them, and this has put your Eco in a fragile state. Your body was under so much stress yesterday with your headaches that you acquired the ability to heal from Matt. It stayed with you, allowing for the rapid healing you witnessed after your altercation with Cyrus.”

“You’re welcome,” Matt said sarcastically with a smile.

“Your strength has been in your DNA since you were born, as well as your ability to drain another’s life force like your father. Once we conduct further tests, we will be able to determine just what other abilities lay dormant within you.”

The sharp stinging in Vincent’s brain came back. He gripped his skull and squeezed his eyes shut only for a second as the pain stopped as suddenly as it began.

“The pains and headaches were my fault, Vince,” came Justin’s voice. Vincent’s eyes widened when he realized what was happening. “I am communicating with you telepathically. I couldn’t do anything to help you earlier and I’m sorry about that. I promise to help you learn how to use my power so the headaches stop.”

“Justin is a psychic with some minor telekinetic abilities, as is his father,” explained the colonel. “Luckily you haven’t experienced Adam’s ability yet, or we may have had a problem. Adam can vanish from sight and make himself disappear. He can also use that power to generate force fields, as can his father. Doug here is a technopath, which grants him the ability to shape technology to his mind’s will, and explains his business as an electrician.”

More information to process nearly pushed the last important question out of Vincent’s mind, but he was still missing the most important piece of the puzzle. “You never told me anything more about my mother. How come she isn’t here? Before I do anything else, I need to see her.”

An uncomfortable look circled the table. Cur’s head hung low just as it had on their drive to TRACE. There was something that they weren’t telling him, and whatever it was wasn’t going to be good.

Doug quietly said, “You have to realize that before we tell you anything, no one is at fault for what happened. This is a very delicate situation for everyone.”

Vincent tensed himself. “Where is she? What’s wrong with her?”

Curt leaned back in his chair, defeated and remorseful. The look of despair flooded him, as he provided Vincent with the information he always felt he deserved. “The day you were born, Morticide began his onslaught against TRACE and all of its agents. As the facility was being over run, he burst into the infirmary where your mother and I were with you. He had been draining the life from every agent he came into contact with torturing and killing them along the way. With every agent he drained, the more powerful he became. He had turned into an unstoppable juggernaut of power, but it was not enough. I still remember the look on his face as he burst into the room. His eyes were redder than the deepest fires of hell, a look of pure insanity all over him. He came to drain you, to unlock the prophecy of discovering White Eco for himself so he would never have to rely on the powers of others again. As he entered the room, the Six stood in his path assuring him that his actions would only lead to his demise. In an instant he dispensed of each member of the Six, until their bodies were lying on the ground lifeless. As Morticide approached you, determined to end your life I stood in front of you ready to give mine.

“He drained me just enough so he could toss me aside and let me watch him take your life. Your mother lay in her bed screaming for him to leave you alone. He lifted you into the air claiming the Blue Eco to be rightfully his. All hope at that point seemed lost. But as he started to drain your life force, your body began to react with its own ability and began to absorb his energy while he was attempting to take yours. As Morticide pushed harder to fight your body from stealing his energy, it caused a rift between the two of you, sending out a massive blast knocking both of you to the floor.

“When I regained consciousness from the blast, your grandmother had you in one arm and was helping me to my feet with the other. Morticide was gone. Your grandmother told me they saw some of the rogue agents carrying him away in a stasis tank. As I looked over to the corner of the room, I saw what I thought was your mother’s lifeless body. I told Mary to take you and meet me in the launching bay. After she left, I had Trouble Bob come in and we moved your mother to another area of the infirmary. It was at that time I called Harry Buckman and had him make the arrangements to have you placed with a proper family. We’d need to move our headquarters from Roswell, New Mexico, to a new facility. Without the power of the Six we were lost.

“Trish was alive, but barely. Trouble Bob and Doug tried everything in their power to save her, however the result of the blast put her into some sort of deep coma. Doug assembled a chamber that would keep her alive until we found a way to revive her. The chamber allows us to communicate with her subconscious. Trish now runs everything you see in this building through her mind. She is the internal computer system for TRACE.”

Vincent’s body visibly shook and all colour drained from his face. He had always wondered what it would be like when he discovered the truth about his biological parents, but this was nothing he could have anticipated. “So it’s my fault. I did this to her. I will do whatever it takes to make sure Morticide pays for what he has done!” Vincent said, as he clenched his open hand into a fist of rage.

“I commend your enthusiasm, however, we are not in the business of revenge and we do not kill. We are here to protect regular human beings from a greater threat. We cannot succeed without you, Vincent. You are the only one with the ability to put a stop to the Imperial Brotherhood once and for all. I must warn you, although your ability grants you access to make most obstacles easily passable, this road will be a very difficult one to travel.” Curt took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “There is no easy way to tell you this, and I take no pleasure in telling you. Your father, Jack Bishop, is Morticide.”

Vincent’s mind screamed for him. “How is that possible? You said that everyone died in the bar explosion!”

“We assumed that everyone had. Until the day that Morticide attacked we knew no differently. It seems that Jack’s hatred for mankind spiked with the death of his father. As far as we know, part of him did die that day. Jack vowed justice against man and devoted his efforts to forming a society that would bring man to its feet. He became Morticide.”

Less than forty eight hours ago he was an average fifteen year old boy with regular problems. Now Vincent was part of a world he never thought could exist and humanity’s only hope of survival. Vincent surveyed the room and the damage he had caused earlier when he threw his chair. He then looked at his friends and their families all sitting in front of him.

He tried to understand why his own father would try to kill him, why the people sitting in front of him had spent their whole lives lying to him only to ask for his help. As angry as he was at them, he knew that his friends were only trying to help. It was then that Vincent realized that this was much greater than himself. They did not do this to make him miserable or to lie to him. This was about good versus evil, right versus wrong.

Vincent knew deep inside that if there was anything his parents had taught him growing up it was that there were going to be situations in life he did not want to face. There would come a time when he would have to ask himself what would be the right thing to do.

He looked up at everyone. “Before I agree to anything, I want to see her. I want you to take me to Trish.”

Curt nodded and motioned the group back toward the elevator. Spacious enough for the entire party, he waited until everyone was inside before requesting, “Level Two, Master Control and Reconnaissance.”

The elevator made its way back to the main vertical shaft. Vincent was trying to keep himself calm as he stood waiting for the elevator to arrive at its destination.

Adam leaned over to Matt and whispered, “I’ve never been to Level Two before, have you? I wonder what Trish looks like.”

Justin closed his eyes as he entered Matt and Adam’s mind. “This is going to be hard for Vince, so could the two of you shut up and show some respect?”

They looked at the floor in shame.

When the elevator came to a stop, the doors opened to reveal a brightly lit room full of people moving around frantically. Within its steel walls was a large computer with several screens showing various places on the globe and feeding information to the people operating it.

Work stopped for a moment when Vincent entered the busy hub. Now he understood why TRACE employees felt the need to stare but it was still awkward standing in front of such a large crowd of people while being looked at like a science experiment. His grandfather gave them a look and ordered everyone back to work.

The group moved through the room and down a large hallway to a set of two heavy metallic doors and a camera. Another retinal scan unlocked the door and Vincent followed immediately behind the older man. This room was different from the others that Vincent had seen so far; it was darker and with walls of various computer equipment and wires. In the centre of the room were a set of stairs leading up to a platform, attached to which was the large cylinder full of water housing the lifeless body of his mother.

Vincent approached the stasis pod and gingerly placed his hand on the glass. Floating peacefully inside the pod he saw a youthful brunette. She was wearing a silver bodysuit bound to a rainbow of wires that ran into the top of the tank and into the various equipment that was scattered throughout the room. On her face was a breathing apparatus supplying her the necessary oxygen to keep her alive. Vincent’s lips let sorrowful sigh slip at the sight of her dangling from the various wires like a marionette.

Curt put a reassuring arm around his grandson. “What happened to her was not your fault, Vincent. There is still hope that one day she will come out of this.”

Tears threatened to stream down his face as he spoke to his mother’s comatose body. ”I swear I will not rest until I can find a way to cure you. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this right.”

As he lowered his hand and turned around, Vincent turned from a remorseful boy into a determined man. He looked straight into his grandfather’s eyes and asked, “So, what do you need me to do?”

Curt was proud to see that his grandson was able to put his personal differences aside and make the chivalrous decision that he knew he would make. “There is a lot we must do to prepare you for what is about to come. We’ll get you registered and begin your training first thing in the morning. Vincent Macleod, welcome to TRACE.”

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