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

By Derek Smith All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Adventure

Chapter 7

If he hadn’t known otherwise, Vincent would have believed he was asleep as he waited in the pitch dark nothingness. There wasn’t even an echo when he shouted out an inquisitive hello. His overwhelming sense of nervousness in that dark room lifted once light filled the space. Vincent looked around and realized that he was no longer inside the cocoon shaped pod but standing freely amongst the bright white room.

Several lines of code began to digitize in front of him and took the shape of Bob.

“Where is this place?” asked Vincent.

“This is the loading area for our little training seminar. As explained earlier, the wires that were hooked into you are feeding your body continuous information at a fast rate. Think of what you are experiencing right now as sort of a dreamscape where we are going to test your skills and finely tune your body to use your Blue Eco to its full potential.”

Bob raised his hand and a virtual menu appeared in front of him, allowing him to issue a few quick commands before disappearing. “Training sequence initiated,” announced a loud female voice, and the space surrounding Vincent and Bob morphed into a large warehouse. A steel briefcase formed at Vincent’s feet.

“This will be the first part of learning to use your synthesuit properly,” Bob explained as he motioned for Vincent open the case.

Vincent placed his hands on the two thumb switches on the case and opened the lid, revealing a plethora of documents. He shuffled through the papers to see passports to several countries around the world, as well as credit cards and a bank book to a Swiss bank account.

Vincent stood up, confused. “I don’t understand how any of this is going to benefit me using my suit.”

Bob picked the case up and held it up to him. “Your synthesuit has the ability to demolecularise anything you touch into almost nothing and store it within yourself for safe keeping. Think of it like having a pair of jeans with bottomless pockets. The synthesuit has a direct link to your cerebral cortex, so just as you do with your clothes, all you have to do is tell your mind what to do and the suit makes it happen.”

Vincent picked up one of the passports and focused his mind as Bob had taught him. Suddenly, the passport began to break itself down until it virtually vanished into nothing in his hand. Vincent systematically broke down the rest of the documents until he came to the bank account information he had passed by earlier. Taped to the front of the book was a note from his grandfather. “Vincent, inside this book is the sum of your father’s career as well as money we have generated for you. I’m sure you will spend it wisely. –Curt”

After removing the note, he opened the first page and Vincent’s eyes opened wider than he thought possible. The numbers inside indicated millions of dollars in an account under his name were secure in the Swiss account.

“You’ve suffered a great deal for our cause, so we wanted to make sure that you would be well looked after. As you can see, you should never have a problem with money.”

Vincent took one more glance at the total before breaking it down into his suit.

“Now that all of the paperwork is out of the way,” Bob chuckled at his own joke, “we can get onto the fun stuff.” He placed his hand in the air again to bring up the menu for the training room.

The next portion of the training simulation required a car similar to the one his grandfather had escorted him to the TRACE facility in. Both doors to the sleek black car opened upward, and Bob urged Vincent into the driver seat before joining him on the passenger side.

As Vincent adjusted himself in the seat, the familiar female voice of Bob’s computer spoke. “Welcome, Vincent Macleod. Adjusting seat and driving specifications.”

Excitement coursed through his body as the gull wing doors of the car closed themselves. Surrounded by instrument panels similar to the ones in the vehicle Curt drove earlier, Vincent’s eyes were drawn to the illuminated ignition button and he placed his finger on it. A light bar scrolled up and down Vincent’s finger analyzing every millimetre of his finger, and a moment later the engine roared to life. The top of the hood began to make noise as it opened to reveal a turbine engine that glowed bright blue as the car remained stationary, just begging to be driven.

Trouble Bob lowered his glasses as he pointed toward the hood of the car. “This version is similar to our other cars but it’s the first of its kind to operate in this manner. As you can see by the glow, it uses your Blue Eco to power its turbine engine. This baby boasts four hundred and fifty horsepower and can reach speeds of up to one hundred and eighty miles per hour. The body and windshield is similar to your armor in the sense that it is made of the same nanomachines that reside in your body. Not only can it withstand most forms of ammunition, but it can also repair itself from any damage it may sustain. Now that the training program has the necessary calibrations for you, we can send the actual working model over to your home for X so that it’s at your disposal whenever you may need it.”

Vincent bit his lip and removed his hands from the wheel. “I get all the secret government agency stuff, but how exactly do you expect me to keep this car in the driveway without my parents getting suspicious?”

Bob sat back in the passenger seat and pushed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. “Time passes more slowly here in the simulator than it does in the real world. From inside this training program I can observe everything that is going on inside and outside of it. For instance, enough time has passed in Southdale that X has taken up an after school job of sorts and is about to apply for his driver’s license. As for the appearance of the car, there is little to worry about. Since it works much like your suit, you can shift its appearance in order to allow you full access to its benefits. Thus, we have rightfully named this car the Chameleon.”

Vincent gazed at the steering wheel as though the car was in some way calling out to him. He placed his hands back onto the steering wheel and focused his mind for the car to shift. The Chameleon began to pulse and shift as small fragments of the original body began to scale like collapsing dominos from its black shiny exterior into a hot metallic red. After a few short moments, Vincent had transformed the high tech Chameleon into a brand new Chevrolet Corvette convertible. A juvenile smile crossed Vincent’s face as he looked over at Bob who was giving a disapproving look.

“I think it would be more appropriate and less conspicuous if we changed this to a more appropriate vehicle for someone your age.” Bob grinned as he brought up his invisible menu and began to press the command buttons on its keyboard.

Vincent felt a small sharp pain on the back of his right thigh as the car began to shape to Bob’s new specifications. He investigated his seat to find the source was a piece of spring popping out of a tear in the fabric. Annoyed, he turned back to the dashboard only to be disappointed; his hot red Corvette had been reduced to a rusted out K car.

“It’s always best to keep to the shadows than stick out like a sore thumb,” chuckled Bob when Vincent walked around the vehicle in dismay over the monstrosity that sat before him. The blue car was covered in rust, its exhaust pipe laying half way to the ground, and one of the tail lights was broken. Inside, a plethora of wires stuck out from the middle console where a radio should have been installed.

Vincent wondered if this was Bob playing a practical joke on him and began to laugh. “Okay, the joke is over. You don’t honestly expect me to drive this motorized death trap do you?”

“Oh excuse me, mister fancy pants,” Bob retorted. “Please, by all means, feel free to take the car in its original state to your house and explain to your parents that you are now employed by a top secret government agency and need to save the world from total annihilation. I’m more than sure your parents would say ‘go right ahead son, and while you’re out saving the world could you remember to pick up some milk for us because the other carton goes bad tomorrow!’”

With a second look at the rusted out calamity sitting before him, Vincent apologized, let out a deep sigh, and got inside the car. With both men back in the car, the room shifted to a large outdoor racetrack on a bright summer day. If Vincent hadn’t known any better, he would have believed they were really under the open sky as birds flew overhead.

“Right, lad, time for a test drive.”

Vincent nervously pushed his index finger down on the ignition. As the engine started, it let out a thunderous roar informing the track that it was its master. Its owner changed the car back into the magnificent work of automotive art he preferred, blue fumes of Vincent’s Eco escaping from the engine like water hitting molten rock. The uncomfortable prodding in Vincent’s seat ceased once the car finished its shifting.

As excited as he was to push this car to its limits, it also intimidated him. Vincent panicked ever so slightly when he put his hands back on the wheel. It didn’t help that something he couldn’t place was nagging at him in the back of his brain.

The seatbelts crisscrossed in front of its passengers, and Bob smiled at Vincent. “I can assure you we are more than safe, lad. Confidence is key. Whenever you are ready just give the word and we are off.”

Vincent’s Adam’s apple swelled up in this throat, causing him to gasp for air. The anticipation was clearly getting to him. “I can’t do this! I wouldn’t know the first thing to do. I don’t even know how to drive!”

Just as the last words escaped his lips, the car took off with a mighty push, sending Vincent and Bob straight back in their chairs. The car lunged forward on the track toward the first turn. It appeared as though the car was on a deliberate crash course with the large wall at the end of the straight away. Bob lifted his hands to his ears as Vincent let out an earth shattering scream.

Just as the car neared the wall, Vincent’s right hand reached down to the emergency brake as though he instinctively knew what to do. With a mighty pull, Vincent applied the brake and with full control of the car proceeded to drift around the corner. “I know how to drive!” yelled the sweat drenched boy, grateful to still be alive.

Bob lowered his hands. “As I said, you have been learning many skills subliminally while we are inside this training session. I should also apologize as I should have told you that when in its original state, the car is completely voice activated. All you had to do was say drive and away she goes.”

The car continued its journey around the track as Vincent felt more at ease with his newly acquired skill. “So what else can I do that I am unaware of?”

A devilish smile filled Bob’s face from ear to ear as he replied, “Oh, we haven’t even got to the good stuff yet, my boy. This is where the fun really begins.”

After a short lap around the track Bob signalled for Vincent to pull his car into the crew pit. As the car came to a stop, Vincent opened the large gull wing door and stepped outside. His body was still pumping out massive doses of adrenaline and excitement as he admired his new found love.

In an instant the car digitally dismantled itself until all that remained was the shell of a futuristic motorcycle. The silver shell covered the inner workings of the bike, polished handlebars wedged into the centre, and sleek tires glistening with the flashy finish of brand new rubber, all propped up by a large square below the engine.

Vincent ran over to the bike, his eyes large with anticipation. He sat down and grasped the handlebars just itching to pull back on the choke with his right hand. Just like the Chameleon, the bike did not require a key to start its engine. Vincent lifted his feet onto the footrests of the bike and hastily yelled for it to drive. Much to his dismay, nothing happened aside from Bob approaching the bike laughing at him with great relish.

Embarrassed, Vincent attempted talking to Bob on his level. “So I take it the bike works differently. What does it do? Fly? Shoot missiles? What kind of secret technology is sitting inside of the bike?”

Bob placed his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “I’m sorry to say that this is nothing more than your everyday, run of the mill motorcycle. We’ve taken the time and effort to make it look a little more presentable for you, but it does nothing more than get you from point A to point B, I’m afraid.”

Vincent looked at Bob, dumbfounded. “Now I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, but why go from such an amazing piece of machinery with the Chameleon to an everyday motorbike?”

“Although your Chameleon is technologically advanced, not all situations make it the right choice. We call the bike here the Razorback. It allows you more agility and is easier to manoeuvre in areas where your Chameleon would pose an issue. Again, we’ve used the same nanomachines, providing the Razorback with excellent storage capabilities.”

Bob approached the bike and motioned Vincent to dismount. As Vincent watched Bob press on a side button above the bike’s front tire, his eyes widened as he saw the Razorback shrink down until a single small compact silver ball bearing remained. Bob picked it up and placed it in Vincent’s hand. Vincent turned it over in his hand before watching it seep into his suit.

It was one surprise after another. Every day at TRACE presented wonders beyond any Vincent could have imagined. Bob loved seeing the boy’s various reactions to the technology he laboured over. “Right then, lad,” exclaimed Bob. “It’s been a real slice, but the time has come to test your abilities and for you to learn to control and hone your Eco to its full potential.”

There was yet another change of scenery as the room became a black void. Bob’s voice softened as he explained the next exercise. “From what I understand, you seem to have a fear of facing things hidden by darkness, and I believe this can help you face those fears. One thing you need to keep in mind is that outside of this facility, our organization is not acknowledged by the government, so anonymity is very crucial. Your suit has the ability to create cranial protection as well, providing you with a heads up display linked directly to Trish so you can access information as you need it. Think about the HUD’s you may be accustomed to with your video games. If you create a helmet, sunglasses, or visor through your suit, you’ll be able to view the display instantly.”

Vincent nodded and practiced creating an invisible mask. The synthesuit moved its way up his neck, covering his entire head. The plain white lenses on the exterior of the HUD shot out a luminous blue glow to Vincent’s Eco as it powered up and his field of vision suddenly changed as he looked over at Bob. A tracking icon highlighted Bob’s face, providing Vincent a full dossier on Bob’s life as well as monitored heart rate. Vincent’s inner ear tingled as Trish’s voice came streaming through his HUD to inform him that he was fully online with the TRACE computer system.

Without warning, a silver bodied man formed in the darkness, its shape similar to that of the shadows that haunted Vincent’s nightmares. The body stood motionless waiting for orders when Bob extended an open palm towards the stationary man. “This is a training bot, merely a humanesque punching bag for TRACE agents. He will not attack you or harm you in any way. I will now show you how to control and project your Eco as an Eco blast.”

Vincent recalled the dream where he had lost control of his power and fired a blast of Eco at the menacing shadow. He focused all his strength into his left hand as he raised his palm toward the training bot. Before Bob could finish with his instructions, Vincent’s hand was engulfed in the blue flame-like residue of his Eco. He thought of his father for a split second before projecting a piercing stream of energy into the abdomen of the training bot, blasting a hole straight through it. As the metallic shrapnel slid across the ground, a satisfying grin crossed Vincent’s face. Trouble Bob stood nodded vigorously, impressed by the power he’d witnessed, as the training bot repaired its wound as though made of liquid metal.

Hatred boiled up inside Vincent when thinking about all the reasons he had to be angry with his father. He exploded, crying out in anguish as he fired multiple blasts at the training bot, each one more powerful than the last. Trouble Bob backed up as he watched the boy turn into a berserker.

Somewhere in the middle of his outburst, Vincent began to feel weak. He felt as though he was slowly shutting down. The blasts became weaker and weaker until finally the boy fell to his knees and the blasts ceased. The tiny shards of the training bot pooled together and reformed.

Vincent felt like a mule had kicked him in his stomach as he fell forward onto his hands. He tried to swallow but his throat felt as though it had swelled shut. This exercise had clearly taken its toll on him as the HUD slowly disassembled revealing a worn and wrinkled face.

Vincent rubbed his face. His emotions were getting the better of him and the panting boy was almost in tears. “What’s happening to me? I feel so weak and tired.”

Bob bent down and wrapped a comforting arm around Vincent’s shoulders. “You’re out of Eco, lad. Think of it like adrenaline. The body can only produce so much at a time, therefore the more you use, the faster you run out. Once you exasperate your Eco, you’re vulnerable for the short time it takes before your body can produce more. Large Eco blasts and using your Eco to heal another are some of the things that will consume your power more quickly than others.”

Vincent struggled to catch his breath as he looked up at Bob. “You mean I can use my power to heal another person?”

“According to my studies and calculations into your Blue Eco, I believe you can, yes. It seems your power mimicry gave itself a little bonus when you took some of your father’s power to drain other people’s energy. I can’t quite figure out why, but with your Blue Eco has given you cannot only take life away but give it back as well.” Bob’s tone became heavy with concern as he continued. “I have to warn you though, taking energy away from someone will heighten your Eco supply, but giving it back to someone will rapidly and completely drain you of your Eco for a longer period of time. Such a thing should only be done in an absolute emergency and only when completely necessary.”

The overwhelming panting began to cease as Vincent slowly came back to his feet. His face and body returned to its normal state and he felt his energy replenishing. Although he was looking better, Bob was still very worried.

“Are you alright, lad? My bot can take the abuse you were giving it, I can assure you, but such rage is never a good thing. The tasks you’ve been burdened with are not easy, but the anger I had just witnessed is deeply troubling.”

Vincent took a moment before he responding. “I hate him. I hate him for everything he has done. I hate him for having me live a phony life. I hate him for what he’s done to my mother. The hate is growing inside me more and more. When I was blasting the training bot, all I could think about was him standing in front of me. I wanted to kill him. It was all I could think about. I’m sorry.”

Bob placed both of his hands on Vincent’s shoulders as he turned the boy towards him and gazed into his eyes. “You have nothing to apologize for, Vincent. You have every right to feel the way that you do. Anyone can be a coward and kill someone, but it takes a man to properly assess that situation and find a solution. Honor over anger. Always remember that, lad.”

Vincent gave him a weak smile as he thought about the words that were just spoken to him. An instant later, the synthesuit reconstructed Vincent’s HUD until. “So what’s next on the list, boss?”

Bob gave the boy’s shoulders a hearty shake before bringing up his command menu. “Well now, I think it’s about time I showed you how to properly use that fancy pants suit of yours,” he said while punching in the various codes for the training system.

“The rest of the training is going to have to wait. We are out of time, Bob,” boomed a familiar voice, causing Bob and Vincent turned around. The dark room filled with light as Curt walked towards the two.

“What do you mean? He’s not ready yet, Curt. I need more time.”

The colonel shook his head as he hastily replied, “There is no more time. I have to take Vincent to meet with Giest.” Curt handed a dossier over to Bob.

Vincent tilted his head when he noticed the tab on the folder labeled “Project Pandora”.

Bob closed the folder in anger. “I can understand the importance of needing to speak with Giest, sir, but why are you taking the boy with you? Have we really kept him hidden all this time to throw him into this head first? We’ve spent years watching Giest and I still don’t know if I can trust the bugger!”

“You saw what the folder said, Bob, and I don’t like the idea of taking Vincent out of training before he is ready anymore than you do, but desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Trish’s voice came through to Vincent through his earpiece. “We are shutting down the training program, Vincent. Please stand by.”

The people standing in front of him became nothing more than blurry outlines and then vanished from sight as he raised his digital arm to shield his eyes from the light. Once the light dissipated, Vincent opened his eyes to see he was back inside the cocoon shaped training vessel. He heard Trish’s voice through the pod’s speakers informing him she was shutting down support systems and hibernation status as the chamber door began to decompress. The lid slowly opened, and Vincent placed his hands down on the bed to lift himself up. His body felt stiff and sluggish, his joints and muscles aching.

Bob came running over to Vincent and disconnected the various wire leads from Vincent’s suit. Each hole tingled as the synthesuit sealed them up. Bob placed his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “Take it easy there, lad. You’ve been inside the pod for quite some time, so it may take you a few minutes to work out the kinks and cramps.”

Curt joined them, mouth tense and arms crossed. “Time is a luxury I am afraid we cannot afford. Although your training is not yet complete, I am afraid that bigger issues have arisen and they may play a vital role in finding the Elites.”

Vincent cracked his stiff neck and hopped down from the stasis pod. He wobbled momentarily, his legs like gelatine. Just how long had he been inside the pod?

“I strongly advise against Vincent leaving his training, Curt. We have barely scratched the surface on his Eco distribution to his body. He is still very unstable,” Bob protested, concern flooding his voice.

The confident grandfather placed his hands on his grandson’s shoulders with pride. “Vincent is as ready as he is going to be, Bob. We can’t expect the enemy to just stand by and wait for him to complete his training. We are simply going to have to train him as we go. There is a reason we shut Project Pandora down, and if the information on Giest is accurate, I fear that we wouldn’t have had the time to complete his training at all.”

Bob sighed, threw his clipboard onto the large table next to him and placed his hands on the hips of his lab coat. “You may be right, but that doesn’t mean I agree with this. You’re putting that lad in harm’s way out of desperation.”

When Curt failed to say any more, Bob turned to the boy. He wasn’t going to let him leave the training room without some words of advice. “You’re going to see a lot of questionable things, Vincent, and you’re going to run into some people that you probably aren’t going to want to deal with in the nicest of ways. Just remember what I told you earlier, honor before anger. Keep your chin up, and if you need anything I will always be here for you. Colonel, I am afraid I need a word with you before you go.”

Vincent felt comfort in Bob’s words as he thankfully smiled at the brash scientist.

“Wait out in the hallway for a second, Vincent. I will be right with you,” Curt said as he walked back into the room with the door locking behind him.

As the door decompressed and opened, Vincent looked back at Bob and nodded his head with gratitude for the training he had given him. He watched Bob return the nod as the doors slide shut.

Vincent stood in the hallway, looking through windows into neighbouring rooms. In one of those rooms, two individuals wearing silver combat armor and full helmets sparred with one another. Vincent curiously ran over to the window and placed his face onto the glass to observe while he waited.

One would strike as the other defended, both sides alternating, much like fencing. But instead of rapiers, the combatants exchanged blasts of Green Eco. Blast after blast shot past the two individuals, exploding pieces out of the walls in its wake. Finally, a large series of pulse blaster rifles emerged from several bays above on the ceiling. The two mystery fighters were now hurling blasts at each other while attempting to take out the mounted rifles. With the battle heating up, the fighter in the back dropped his guard to deal with the last of the rifles. The other soldier saw an opportunity and fired a larger blast into the back of the defenseless soldier.

The blast sent the body flying into a wall as the other soldier walked over to claim his victory. As he stood over top of his fallen enemy, Vincent panicked as he witnessed two large blades forming outward from his elbows, reaching just above the fighter’s head.

Vincent hurried toward the door, getting his eye scan so he could enter the room. Once the door slid open, he ran inside as the victorious soldier spoke.

“Maybe next time you’ll actually make me break a sweat. This game is OVER!”

“Leave him alone!” yelled Vincent. He launched an Eco blast towards the victor but just missed his target.

As the blast made contact with the wall, the winner turned around. Two handles formed from the wrists of his armor, and Vincent realized the large blades were actually two katana swords forming from within the soldier’s armor which he detached as he took a battle stance. “Well, look who finally decided to join the party! Let’s see if that training really paid off!” sneered the soldier as he lunged for Vincent.

The fallen soldier hastily picked himself up from the floor and ran out of the room, sealing the large steel doors as Vincent flashed back to his encounter with Cyrus Drake. Why on Earth couldn’t he learn when to just keep his mouth shut.

Safely removed from this new battle, Justin removed his helmet and brushed his hair back. Using what little energy he had left, Justin ran toward the limit chamber lab where Curt was still conversing with Bob. Gasping, Justin burst into the room and ran up to the adults, who turned to face him looking extremely annoyed.

“We are in the middle of a private conversation here, Justin, and I would encourage you to knock before taking it upon yourself to interrupt,” the colonel reprimanded.

“Matt and I were in a training session in the training simulator when Vincent suddenly burst in,” Justin replied between breaths. “He’s fighting Matt right now, and I don’t think he even knows it’s him!”

“This is exactly what I was warning you about, Curt,” muttered Bob as the three ran across the hallway into the upper control room of the training simulator.

Watching through the control room window, Curt saw his grandson on his back struggling to gain any sort of high ground while pushing against Matt’s wrists. Curt quickly pressed the intercom button to instruct his grandson. “Vincent, utilize your suit and powers to their full advantage. Focus your mind and use your power.”

With his grandfather’s encouragement, Vincent shifted his fear to confidence and focused his power into his suit. Remembering that it could duplicate any item he had touched, he removed a hand from one of the soldier’s wrists and placed in on the handle of one of the swords. With a confident smirk, Vincent kicked his opponent away and jumped to his feet. His opponent seemed baffled as Vincent’s suit suddenly generated two long black jagged blades of its own.

“Why don’t we see how you fight when the odds are even?” Vincent taunted.

Both fighters stood ready for battle when Vincent moved first in an attacking barrage. The metallic clang of blade on blade filled the room as they and for several minutes the two boys seemed evenly matched. Every move that Matt made was easily countered by Vincent.

Justin watched in amazement as he looked towards Bob. “Where did Vincent learn how to fight like that?”

Bob smiled back over at Justin. “The limit chamber subliminally taught Vincent many different fighting styles and skills throughout our short training session. His body was being tuned to skills that would normally take a person several lifetimes to achieve. The nanomachines in his body now act on impulse and do what it is necessary to survive.”

Justin looked puzzled. “So Vincent is basically a puppet?”

Bob laughed. “Hardly, my boy. Think of it like a car in cruise control. Vincent is fully aware of what he is doing but it’s second nature now because his body is automatically telling him what he needs to do.”

As the battle ensued, Vincent became more confident and stronger with his blows. When the blades of the two boys swords met again, Vincent used his brute force to push Matt backward knocking him to the ground. With his rage increasing, Matt lifted himself to his feet as a bold Vincent shouted, “It’s over. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Matt smiled beneath his face mask. “What’s the matter? Does the teacher’s pet have cold feet?”

Vincent yielded as he stood staring at his opponent. The synthesuit broke down Vincent’s weapons until he stood unarmed. Matt looked above Vincent and noticed one of the large steel doors which housed a series of pulse rifles still open from earlier.

The tension was slowly starting to dissipate as Vincent believed the battle was over. Without warning, Matt’s arms were engulfed with a charge of his Green Eco. “I guess there are some things that silly machine you were hooked into can’t teach you.”

“And what might that be?” he asked. Vincent glared at the masked fighter.

Matt unleashed two blasts of Eco directly at the hinges of the steel door above Vincent. “Always mind your surroundings!”

The large door instantly descended to the floor after being struck by Matt’s blast. Vincent looked up to find he had only a fraction of a second to dodge the steel door about to crush him and got clear just in time. The room shook with a thunderous crash as Justin and the others were completely stunned at what Matt had done.

The cocky teenager turned toward the control room, shouting angrily at its occupants. “And this is the guy who is supposed to be the savior of humanity and take out our enemy?”

Matt peered over his shoulder at the door still lying on the ground. Curt began to panic over his grandson, and as he turned around to leave the control room, Justin stopped him and pointed to the window. Down below, the steel door shook as Vincent, the glow of his Blue Eco pulsing off his body, slowly lifted the door above his head. Matt’s confidence abruptly ended as Vincent hurled the large door in his direction, just barely missing Matt and smashing into the wall.

Matt warily stared at his friend. By now Vincent’s Eco had reached its full potential and the room was dense with the energy.

Bob panicked, recalling the aftermath of his training bot. He quickly slammed his finger down on the intercom. “Vincent, that’s enough. There is no need for anyone to get hurt here.”

Vincent ignored the plea and let his anger get the best of him as he threw his arm forward unleashing a large Blue Eco blast at Matt. The sheer speed and ferocity of the blast was too much for Matt to avoid. As the bolt made contact with Matt, it sent him flying into the wall on top of the steel door that had previously missed him.

The impact of the blast was more than anything Matt had ever come in contact with. His body ached as though hit by a train, his vision blurred from his collision with the wall. Matt shook his head hoping to clear his vision. All he could see for a brief second was the blue blur of his enraged friend running towards him, showing power Matt had only ever heard of whispered in the TRACE hallways.

Matt’s throat closed up as Vincent gripped his left hand around it, lifting him up above his head while charging energy into his right hand. Fear flowed through Matt’s veins as he forced his body armor to dismantle his visor and revealed his identity. The tension in his neck subsided as Vincent suddenly realized one of his long time friends within his grasp.

His black and blue HUD deconstructed, uncovering Vincent’s shocked and remorseful face. “Matt, I am so sorry. If I’d known it was you, I...”

“Are you going to stand there and whine about things all day, or are you going to put me down?”

Vincent, still in shock over exchanging blows with one of his long time peers, lowered his friend to the ground.

The moment was interrupted as the air locked door decompressed and Bob ran into the room to examine up close the destruction caused by the scuffle. His hands flew to the top of his head. “Look at what you two have done! Everyone is always asking me ‘Why are you so stressed all the time, Bob? Why is it that you seem to be losing hair faster than anyone else at your age, Bob?’ Well, it probably has to do with the fact that I am more like a babysitter cleaning up after all of you rather than being an actual scientist!”

Vincent humbly looked over at Bob as Curt and Justin walked through the doorway. “I’m so sorry, Bob. I saw Matt jump on top of that other guy over there and thought he was going to kill him, so I just rushed in, and one thing lead to another.”

Matt retrieved his discarded katanas swords that had been lost in the fight and gripped both handles so they were in the same position as they had appeared, allowing them to be retracted back into his combat armor. “Having all that power doesn’t make him a soldier. He can’t even stop apologizing for catching me off guard and using our training room for what it was designed for - combat!”

Curt yelled at Matt. “That is enough! Vincent hasn’t even finished his training, and I can assure you that he is more powerful than you know. You should be mindful of what you say to him, Matt. The day may come for a rematch and Vincent might not be so forgiving. More important things are at hand. Now, I need you to return to Southdale to prepare X for extraction later this evening. We are taking Vincent to see Giest.”

A smug smirk was on Matt’s face as he made his way out of the room. “I can assure you that when there is a rematch I will be the one who isn’t forgiving. I’ve had to work my whole life to reach the level I’m at, and just because your little experiment can do in a few short years what I have accomplished in a lifetime doesn’t make him more powerful or better than any of us.”

Justin stood in front of Matt, blocking his path. “You owe Vincent an apology. He is a member of our team and doesn’t deserve to be talked to like an enemy.”

Matt was getting more agitated by the minute. He grabbed the top of Justin’s chest armor and pulled him towards his face. “The only people I am going to owe an apology to is your family if you don’t get out of my way!”

Curt had grown weary of Matt’s attitude and shouted at the boys. “Matt, I said that’s enough. You have your orders, now I advise that you get to them before I reassign you to help Bob clean up this mess.”

Bob’s eyes suddenly grew wide with hope. “Oh, that would be great, sir. I could definitely use the help for once.”

Curt smiled at Bob before looking back at Matt, nodding his head for him to leave. Justin moved out of Matt’s path and watched him leave the room.

Vincent walked over to his grandfather and Bob with a look of concern. “Why was Matt so mad? I told him I was sorry, and I didn’t mean to hurt him if I did.”

Curt sighed. “The only thing of Matt’s that you hurt was his pride.”

Once Matt was out of view, Vincent looked over at Justin in amazement. Justin looked more grown up than he had ever seen. His long hair had been cut into something more respectable and he now sported a five o’clock shadow. As Justin approached his friend he placed his hand over his wrist as his combat suit broke itself apart until all that remained was a common wristwatch.

“Did you think you were the only one around here with the cool toys?” Justin extended his right hand out to shake Vincent’s. As Vincent moved his hand in, Justin pulled Vincent toward him and gave him a one armed hug. “It’s been a while, Vince. I am glad to see that everything has gone as well as we’ve been told.”

“It’s only been a day at best, Justin,” he replied. “I can’t believe you cut your hair so quickly. And when did you start growing facial hair?”

Justin looked over at Bob and Curt with concern. “He doesn’t know about the limit chamber?”

“What is he talking about?” Vincent didn’t like feeling as though he was being kept in the dark.

Bob, looking a little overwhelmed, began to fidget with his fingers. “Well, I told you before that in the limit chamber time moves faster than normal. The amount of information being fed into your brain takes some time to reach your nervous system.”

“So what are we talking about, Bob? Maybe a couple of weeks? Months?”

Bob lowered his head and rolled his eyes upward in regret. “It’s been a little longer than that. You have to understand, this is why we created X. You needed a replacement while you were in the limit chamber for the necessary amount of time for your training, which is still incomplete by the way.”

Vincent was starting to get impatient with Bob’s rambling. “How long has it been, Bob?”

Without hesitation Bob reluctantly replied. “It’s been two years, Vincent.”

Vincent’s jaw nearly hit the floor as he was shocked and angry at the response he’d just been given. He moved forward and clenched Bob’s lab coat with both fists. “What do you mean two years? I’ve lost two years of my life?”

Bob looked at Curt and sarcastically replied, “Could you imagine how he would’ve reacted once his full training was finished in three more years?”

Curt gingerly placed his hand on top of his grandson’s forearm. Vincent maintained his aggression as he looked over at his grandfather. “It has been quite a long time, Vincent, and it is a bit of a shock, I know. You have learned in two short years what some people wouldn’t be able to master in several lifetimes. I can assure you that your sacrifice was not for nothing.”

Vincent released his hands from Bob’s jacket as his anger subsided. He felt betrayed in a sense as there were so many things that his grandfather left him in the dark about, and it appeared that no matter the situation there were surprises waiting around just around the next corner.

“There is going to be a time to go over this later, Vincent. Right now we are facing a new problem that will require your immediate deployment as a TRACE agent. Although your training is not yet complete, it is going to have to do. We are going into New York for an emergency meeting with Giest Industries,” the colonel informed him, “and I will brief you on the way.”

As the group headed toward the glass elevators, something suddenly hit Vincent. “When you say we’re going to Giest Industries, did you mean we’re going to meet Thomas Giest the billionaire?”

The elevator doors swung open and everyone stepped inside. Once the doors closed, Curt replied, “Indeed. They have a project that’s about to be unveiled. One that was proposed to us at one time and was shut down because of the dangers that were involved. This may not only be a threat to mankind with its power but is one that will definitely spark an interest with the Elites. We need to find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes with this project before it’s too late.”

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