Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Sinister Soldiers

Recruiting Mayhem

by slickboy444 0 Reviews

The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-fi - Characters: Avalanche, Berzerker, Blob, Boom Boom, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman, Jean, Magma, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Multiple, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Professor Xavier, Quicksilver, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Storm, Sunspot, Toad - Warnings: [?] [V] [X] - Published: 2005/12/04 - Updated: 2005/12/04 - 12322 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 7: Recruiting Mayhem


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His name was Vincent Freeman...At least legally it was. On the surface, he didn't look like much more than another nameless face in an endless crowd. However, if anybody took the time to look closer...They would see a very complicated, complex young man. He had short black hair and a fairly attractive face. He was eleven years old and an orphan from Toronto, Canada.

He looked somewhat different from most children. For one, he bore a slightly more fit body for a young kid his age, but this was thanks to some of the exercise he had been getting since age seven thanks to an elderly Japanese man named Mr. Kansuke. Another thing that was different, although most people couldn't see it on the surface, were his scars. He had quite a few...The worst of which could not be seen, for they were far deeper than anything physical and many times more severe. But if the physical was any indication, it reflected on great struggle in pain. While he had his share of small little scars throughout his body, the one that was most noticeable was a long, diagonal gash along his back that he always tried to hide...Mainly because the story of how he got it was one for which he'd rather forget. However, the most dominating feature that stood out for this young boy were his eyes...His eerie, yet pristine light-blue eyes that offered a window into a world of pain and sorrow for which few could ever fully grasp.

As a young child, he had few memories of his mother and absolutely none of his father. And like so many other untold tragedies out there, he had lost his mother at a very young age...And he had seen her die right before his eyes. What made things worse was the fact that he had a photographic memory...So each memory he had was as clear and concise as if it had just happened. And one of those images that had always hung the strongest in his mind was that of his dead mother...Killed by a mysterious band of troops who stormed his home and took him prisoner in what would become years of the most awful and heinous kind of torture.

While the details were never clear...The memories were. As a child, he had been a lab animal for a truly heinous experiment known as the Prodigy Project. It was there he found out he was a mutant...A being born with special abilities written into their genetic makeup. And because of this one aspect about himself that he could not control...He was a test subject along with many other unfortunate children for experiments that could only be described as pure, unabated torture.

While he was a part of that project, he was treated like an animal. He was fed only a disgusting liquid gruel, he was kept in a small prison cell no bigger than a small closet, and was subjected to many painful experiments. While no one was sure just what his mutant abilities were, he later found out from such heinous treatment that he truly had some amazing gifts...Some of which manifested purely as a result of the experiments he underwent. And while these trying, painful experiments caused him to feel numerous ailments of intense sickness, he managed to pull through. He was one of the lucky ones...For many of the other children unfortunate enough to undergo this treatment didn't survive and he had to watch them die slowly and painfully as their own bodies did them in.

Under that horrific project, he was controlled, beaten, and tortured as the animal he was seen to be by all those involved. He was a number...Not a person. He was not Vincent...He was simply Prodigy Seven. Each day had to be taken moment by moment, for each one could have very well been his last. His body and DNA modified and manipulated with primitive genetic procedures and to this day were a little hard to maintain at times and difficult to control...Which didn't help matters in the least for him. And in the end every other child who had been a part of that program died rather harsh deaths...While he was both lucky and unlucky enough to survive all the beatings and experiments that left him so deeply scared both mentally and physically.

Eventually, he managed to make a miraculous escape from that awful project on a stormy night wrought with pure desperation on his part. After three torturous years...He had made a break for it and ran off into the cold Canadian night being chased by a platoon of heavily armed guards with bloodhounds to track him. It had been an agonizing struggle for him...And in the end when he found himself at a dead end with nothing but a huge cliff and a fleet of ruthless guards gaining on him, he simply let himself fall, plumiting into the dark river below with the full intention of dying rather than going back to that hell. However, because of the dormant mutant powers written in his blood that manifested on that one fateful moment...He had survived.

While it took him years to get a grasp of what he was becoming, in the end he ended up with powers that included invulnerability, super strength, super speed, flight, and a form of energy manipulation. Such powers were a curse and a blessing at times...For it was because of him he continued to live and suffer. He could have died that night...But he didn't...Because of his powers, he was forced to live on in this world as a freak and an outcast. At times, these powers were difficult to control and he had a hard time ascertaining them...But he learned to manage them for the most part...Just not completely.

With no family, no money, and no name...He wandered the streets. His deeply scared body and mind made him sad, damaged, and deeply reserved. His powers helped him survive, yet they still caused him pain because the experiments that were done to him warped them to the point where they manifested so early that his young mind and body could not adapt fully. It did get a little better as he got older, but it was still very hard for him. Living on the streets was a painful existence and not a lot of people looked too highly upon dirty, scared boys so he had to endure more rough treatment. He had everything taken away from him...His childhood, his family, his innocence, his humanity...Pretty much everything that made someone who they were. However, eventually, his luck finally changed for the better when he was taken into St. Peter's Orphanage.

Although it wasn't a home in the traditional sense, it was definitely a big step up for young Vincent. The facility was run by a kind priest named Father Michaels, who had been looking after disadvantaged children for over twenty years. He quickly became a father figure to Vincent for his uncanny kindness and humility and even helped him determine a name for himself. It was because of him, young Vincent had learned not to let his painful past taint his views of right and wrong. Mr. Kansuke, who was a regular at the orphanage, had also become somewhat of a parental figure for him. Even though he was still very young, he excelled a lot more at the basic fighting techniques he taught him and took to heart some of his views on honor and virtue. While he kept aspiring to do better beyond the basics, for now he was still very young.

The orphanage had also given him quite a few close friends as he lived and grew into the young boy he was now. Some were like siblings to him, such as Mary and Benny. Even though his reserved nature made him somewhat of an outcast to most of the others, he still had those select friends that understood his qualities...Although they never dared to ask him the grizzly details.

Being that he was very reserved and somewhat distraught at times emotionally, it did not give him very good chances at adoption from prospective parents. He had trouble sleeping, he cried at times, and had a tendency to be a little untrusting thanks to his experiences on the street. It didn't set the odds of finding a family in his favor...But the orphanage was his home now. As a resident there, he was no longer a number. He was Vincent Freeman, a name that reflected how hard he had fought and how far he had come...But he was still so young and the future was just so unclear, for he truly had no idea where his life would take him next.

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It was a cold rainy night in Toronto...One for which most people chose to avoid. The streets were quite calm and empty because of this, especially in certain parts of the downtown area where St. Peter's Orphanage stood. It was getting pretty late and there wasn't much activity going on in it or the surrounding buildings. But like most other cities, parts of Toronto never slept...However, in this maze of steel and concrete, there was far more going on than anyone could have suspected.

In a dark ally across the street from the orphanage, an ominous man stood concealed in the shadows wearing a dark brown trench coat and a hat that covered his face. In his hand he had newspaper that was getting increasingly soaked by the rain...However, this did not matter, for he was not even reading it...He was simply staring at it. His attention was focused away from the orphanage as he tossed the paper in a nearby trash can and adjusted his coat as he looked around. Then...Out of the shadows, Magnum appeared behind him.

"Is it done?" he said in an ominous tone.

"Yes Dr. Essex...I saw the boy leave alone on his usual walk," answered the Russian born mercenary, "He should be out for about an hour...Which leaves plenty of time for my little 'surprise' to furnace to go into effect. Everything is going according to plan."

Dr. Essex merely grinned, for everything was going exactly as planned. Since arriving in Toronto and looking into the event which a single tabloid article reported upon, he had confirmed that which he has suspected...Prodigy Seven...Or Vincent Freeman as he was now called according to the records he uncovered...Was alive. And since then they had done extensive observations of his actions over the course of the past several days...Waiting for their chance to make their move.

"And that's just the way I like it," said Dr. Essex as he took a quick look around him for any signs of unwanted listeners, which was always a possibility in their line of work, "Now remember...We'll have to monitor him for a little while longer, but we must keep our distance. He must not suspect that we were involved with this."

"Understood...We already have everything in place," replied Magnum as she adjusted her black trench coat and turned in the other direction, "Now all we can do for now is watch. I just hope that this new recruit of yours is every bit the able bodied fighter you said he was."

"Trust me Magnum..." said Dr. Essex with a sinister grin that was hidden by his trench coat and hat, "This child is the lone survivor of Prodigy. He was the most tenacious of fighters...And if anybody can muster the qualities needed in a Shadow Cell soldier...Young Mr. Freeman can."

And with that, both dark figures went their separate ways into the night, leaving their many agents, mostly from the GURSO unit, to watch over the events that were about to take hold.

For young Vincent, it was past the hour when everybody at the orphanage usually started getting ready for bed. For him, however, sleep was not his favorite activity to say the least. He was a very light sleeper by nature and was almost constantly plagued by nightmares from the memories of Prodigy, the streets, and his dead mother. Few people truly understood this, but he never expected them to. And since he had learned to adjust at the orphanage, he found himself taking frequent walks along the nearby streets just to be alone with his thoughts and to deal with everything somebody with a tortured past had to deal with.

His life was a great blend of pain and loss, yet as he walked along the darkened streets, it helped him ease the constant tensions he struggled with every day of his unfortunate life. Father Michaels had always taught him to have faith that things would get better and that everything would work out as long as he believed. However, that was much easier said than done for the young boy. Lately, his mutant powers had gotten him into a little trouble with a failed convenience store robbery that just happened to be robbed when he was in there with Mary and Benny. And thanks to the sense of honor that he had been taught by Mr. Kansuke and Father Michaels, he was there to stop them.

It had nearly revealed him as a mutant to everybody...But thankfully, nobody really believed the two criminals and the only ones that really reported it was a tabloid newspaper whose credibility was sketchy at best. Never the less, it had been way too close a call for young Vincent. He had to deal with people thinking of him as an orphan and a deeply disturbed young boy...He didn't want to have to deal with being a freak too.

Such consequences were not lost upon Father Michaels, who was deeply worried about Vincent's choice of actions. And while Vincent fervently justified what he did...Father Michaels was always very serious when it came to him showing his unusual 'gifts' as he called them. While his sense of honor told him he did the right thing, that didn't stop Father Michaels from reminding him just how close he had come to blowing his cover. And of course...That led to an argument from which he stormed out from in a fit of frustration, leaving him in the stupor he found himself in at the moment.

Even in the cold Canadian rain, it was somewhat comforting to him as he walked along the thinly crowded streets. Being the longer he was, he enjoyed his solitude. Sometimes, Mary or Benny would tag along, but most of the time, he simply used these regular late night walks to both have some quality alone time for reflection and delay the unpleasant inevitability of having to go to sleep again and be plagued with more nightmares. Add to that, the lingering frustration with the argument he had with Father Michaels wasn't helping his situation.

While Vincent Freeman continued to walk and reflect, back at the orphanage most everybody was starting to turn in. Mr. Kansuke had chosen to stay late, helping out with a few of the kids as he so frequently did. It was almost curfew for Vincent, but both men had come to know that the young boy often needed some time to himself, so they allowed him that in order to help the distraught young man with his many problems.

As everybody, including Father Michaels, retired to bed for the night...Little did they know, there was a ticking time bomb lurking in the basement below upon the old, poorly maintained gas heating unit typical of under funded places like this one. Magnum, being the internationally renowned mercenary she was, had rigged a high tech surprise for them down there...Courtesy of some of the advanced arson technology granted by Dr. Essex's resources. Nobody knew it was down there...Nobody knew just what they were lying upon. The device had a specific timer, set to go off at a precisely calibrated moment. It was strategically to the rusted and volatile gas powered heating system. And as Vincent remained outside, still walking the streets like he always did...The final, carefully conceived moment came.

While many of the children along with Father Michaels were settling comfortably in their beds...The whole facility was suddenly rocked with the deafening sound of exploding gas that erupted from the volatile gas lines and was easily fueled by the old, worn structure of the orphanage. It gave some of the kids like Mary and Benny as well as the adults a few seconds to react as they shot up from their beds...But they didn't have a chance to do anything as the flames and collapsing structure from the force of the ignited gas quickly consumed them...Taking their lives before they could do anything to stop it and decimating the only place so many children, Vincent included, had ever called home in the span of a few fateful deafening seconds as the explosion and flames sent the structure crumbling to the ground.

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A half hour later, Vincent was heading down the street back to the orphanage. His nightly walks were always somewhat therapeutic for him because they gave him time to reflect and be alone with his thoughts. Living in an orphanage didn't usually offer a great deal of privacy, so in many instances, he learned to improvise with activities like this that gave him a sense of peace and solitude.

All was going pretty much as it always went for young Vincent as he got closer and closer to the orphanage...When suddenly, he began hearing sirens in the distance and saw people rushing along the street down towards the orphanage. At first he didn't think too much of it, for such sounds and sights were common in any city...But as he got closer, he began to feel a horrible sense of foreboding as he saw more people rushing down the street with a sense of ominous urgency on their faces.

Then...As the sirens got louder and as Vincent got closer...He saw it...The smoke rising from the area where the orphanage was. His eerie light blue eyes suddenly tensed as a horrible feeling came over his fragile mind. Then, as he found himself moving at a quickening pace...Following the people who were running past him with a million thoughts streaming through his mind.

'Please God...' he thought to himself, 'Please God no...Don't let it be what I think it is...Don't let be...'

Then finally, he froze at a sight that was so horrifying...It almost ranked right up with the sight of watching his mother die right before his eyes. The orphanage...His home...Was in ruin. There were still many flames in the blackened debris, much of which was charred from some sort of explosion fueled by flammable gas. Vincent's heart leaped up into his throat as he began running in an all out sprint towards the area where police, fire, and ambulance personnel had already cordoned off the area. The sheer horror of what he was seeing was already filling his young eyes with tears and sorrow, for he didn't want to believe it...But it was happening right here before him.

"No...NO!!!" he yelled as he darted past the crowed, leaped the police barrier, and ran past the officers and emergency personnel present.

"Hey kid! You can't come in here!" yelled one of the police officers.

But Vincent hadn't heard a single word of that as he suddenly froze as he stood before what was left of St. Peter's orphanage. There were still rescue workers sifting through the debris, taking out body after body of little orphaned children who didn't stand a chance in the intense blast. It was a sight almost too hard for Vincent to watch, but he was unable to tear his gaze away from it as his legs froze and his mind was sent into a state of immense shock and devastation. All the air in his lungs had been forced out and he found it difficult to breathe, for he just couldn't process what had just happened.

Tears were streaming down his eyes as he fell to his knees and clutched his stomach, feeling sicker than he had ever felt before in his life. It was as if his already broken soul had been shattered even more and what was left of his heart now lay in pieces as a part of him truly died along with this place he once called home.

"Kid...Hey kid..." said one of the police officers as he approached the distraught boy.

Vincent didn't even look up at the man, for his mind just couldn't process anything other than the horror of what he was seeing right now. But the officer persisted as he knelt before the deeply distraught boy before him as the sight and memory of what he was witnessing right here and now was forever burned into his mind.

"Kid..." said the officer, trying to get his attention, but Vincent didn't look at him...He remained stuck in his paralyzed daze.

"My home..." said the young boy in a weak voice, choked with sorrow.

"Yeah..." said the officer, knowing he wasn't too good at situations like this, "One of the...One of the rusted gas lines ignited in the old furnace. It's an old, worn structure...And it was a freak accident that caused the whole thing to blow...There wasn't much anyone could have done about it. I'm really, truly sorry kid..."

His words offered no comfort as young Vincent finally broke down and began crying uncontrollably. He wanted this to be just a dream...Just another horrible dream that he would wake up from at any moment. But he knew it was real...No matter how much he wanted to think otherwise...This was real...This had really happened. His home had been destroyed by a cruel act of fate. It felt as though every force out there was completely hell bent on making him suffer. First his mother, then the Prodigy Project, and now this...How much more could he take? How much more could his pain could he deal with?

Then, as his tears mixed with the cold, Canadian rain, he saw something out of the corner of his eye...Something he wished he hadn't. There was a rather large medical gurney with what looked like an exposed body sticking out of an opened body bag. It was much bigger than the many other little bodies that the rescue workers were pulling out of the rubble...Hinting that it was no child.

"Oh God..." he choked as he managed to rise again to his feet and slowly approach the gurney with the weary officer following close behind.

Then, as the sight before him finally became clear...He identified the burned body as that of the man who had raised him...Father Michaels.

"No...Please no..." he cried softly as he looked at the burnt flesh of the unmoving body.

It was truly a ghastly sight the likes of which he had never observed before. Here was the man who had taken him in when he was just a scared, disturbed little boy from the streets lying dead before his very eyes. The smell of burnt flesh seared its way into Vincent's mind and memory...Bringing forth a wave of tears as the body was rolled.

They were all dead...All gone...And he hadn't been there. He could have used his powers to save them if he had been there...He could have done something to stop this. But he hadn't...He had been the only one gone when it happened. Like a cruel twist of fate, he wasn't there when he should have been there most. The powers that he had long struggled with and considered a curse at times...Could have stopped this or at least saved lives.

But that wasn't the worst part...That wasn't what was hurting him the most. What truly tore at his soul...What truly made this hang so heavily upon him...Was that the last conversation between him and Father Michaels had been an argument...A stupid, petty argument. He had stormed out on him...Not even taking into account the words he had said. He was just concerned for him...He had just been worried about him. Yet he just walked out on him...And now he was dead. And no matter what he did, he could never change those final moments.

Vincent didn't know how long he had been crying. The rescue workers, the police officers, and the onlookers all seemed to look past the young man as if he was a ghost as they focused more on the tragedy instead of the people. Few people had the heart to approach the emotionally traumatized young boy, but it didn't matter to young Vincent. It was all over for him...The life he had built at the orphanage was now gone forever...And he was all alone in the world once again.

Then, he felt a hand on his shoulder as he was still crying from one of the officers. There was sympathy in his eyes and in all those who saw him...But they could never truly understand how painful such a feeling was...Losing everything that meant something to him.

"It's gonna be okay kid," said the officer, "Just come with us and we'll take you to social services and..."

"NO! LEAVE ME ALONE!" yelled Vincent, bursting into a fit of rage and sorrow as he shoved the officer away with surprising strength that almost knocked him off his feet.

"Hey! Wait! Stop that kid!" yelled the officer.

But his words fell upon deaf ears as Vincent simply ran off into the night to the only person he had left to turn to...Mr. Kansuke.

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With the great tragedy going on just a few blocks down, Mr. Kansuke, the elderly Japanese man that often helped out at the orphanage and even trained some of the children there in the martial arts to teach them honor and discipline, had settled in for the night with warm cup of tea and a nice quiet round of meditation. In his small dojo, there were many Japanese and assorted Asian relics littered throughout the area. Many of them helped add to a sense of peace and serenity to those who followed the ways of the fighting spirit...Offering peace and solstice in a world so consumed with darkness.

Yet as Mr. Kansuke sat in silent meditation, his serenity was not complete...For there was someone else lurking in the shadows...Someone who carried a dark, ominous aura. This ominous being moved with a sense of stealth and silence not unlike the skills which Mr. Kansuke taught...Only on a level far beyond that which any of his students could muster. This force...This unstoppable force that carried a sense of pure maliciousness...Was none other than the stoic, Russian assassin known as Magnum. And as she had done with the orphanage...She had a job to do with this.

The room was only lit by candles and incense and Mr. Kansuke was as still as a statue as he sat in mediation, working to attain a harmonious balance between his mind and spirit. He seemed unaware of the skilled killer's presence, but that made no difference...For now that he was in the sights of the determined Russian assassin, his knowledge of her presence would make no difference in the outcome.

Finally, after sneaking skillfully through the shadows, Magnum emerged in the dim light...Her shining, 44 caliber magnum that she so affectionately wielded armed and ready as she slowly and silently approached the old man. She was careful, calculating, and precise...Even if this was just an old man. This had to be done...Young Vincent's future depended on it. And as the skilled warrior she was...She had every intention of carrying out her duties.

Then, as she new stood a mere ten feet from the mediating old man...She rose her gun and aimed it directly at his chest. She remained cautious, for she didn't want to arouse the old man for a millisecond. Yet whether or not he knew of her presence was trivial...And for all she knew, he could be allowing this to happen...Simply because he knew it was his time. But knowledge or not...It had to be done. And Magnum didn't waste a second more.

'So long old man...Your student shall be in good hands,' she thought to herself, as if to send an unconscious message to the old man before she pulled the trigger to end his life right then and there.

Suddenly, before Magnum could finish the job, Mr. Kansuke's eyes shot open and in a lightning fast maneuver, he knocked the gun out of the Russian mercenaries hand and sprang into action. It was a move that shocked the usually stoic gun slinger, for despite all her stealthy maneuvering...She couldn't avoid the keen eye of the old man. It was as if he knew she was there...And it was just a matter of waiting for her to get close in order to make his move.

"You're making a mistake..." said Mr. Kansuke in a heavily accented tone, "Leave here at once if you wish to avoid further violence..."

"Old man...You have no idea who your dealing with," said Magnum in a dark tone as she took her CQC stance and prepared to face off against the old man.

Mr. Kansuke didn't seem daunted by the taller, stronger, more intimidating presence of the Russian woman...For he followed the code of the warrior and would not back down from any fight. It was clear that this woman sought violence...And as much as he deplored spreading such atrocity, he was willing to fight and defend his dojo and his honor.

"Very well..." he said in a deceptively calm tone, "But I must warn you...The path you are about to go down has no escape."

"Does it look like I care?"

And with that, Magnum lunged forth and attacked, but to her surprise, Mr. Kansuke was quite nimble for a man of his age. He seemed to sense the powerful woman's inherent strength and skill and was even able to land a few strong blows in retaliation, but that didn't slow Magnum in the slightest as she stepped up the intensity of her attacks.

"Erah...Not bad for an old man," grunted Magnum as she was hit with a strong counter from another ill fated take down maneuver.

"Age is but a number to a warrior...A fact which I have a feeling you already know," said Mr. Kansuke as he studied the Russian blonde for a moment, "Something tells me you are no stranger to the ways of the warrior. Yet your spirit is wrought with blood and rage..."

"Perceptive..." she commented as she attempted another two punch combo only to be countered by a quick spin move from the old man, "But that won't help you..."

"You're after something..." he continued as he launched an attack of his own, only to have it countered every step of the way by the powerful mercenary, "Something more than just a battle...Something more than just a task..."

If she had the capacity...Magnum would have grinned at that, for the old man knew how to read people. As a woman who had studied every form of fighting known to man, she could tell that this old man was very well adept in the art of combat...More so than some of the masters she had studied under in her youth. But skill or not...She refused to be stopped by an old man. She still had a job to do and she wasn't going to let anything stand in her way.

The two powerful fighters continued to duke it out, breaking a bit of furniture and shattering a few old fragile objects in the process. However...Magnum slowly began to gain the upper hand as her youth, strength, and power began to steadily wear down the old man. Mr. Kansuke seemed to know he was being overpowered...Yet he still fought with every fiber of his being against this most tenacious foe. For as a samurai...He would either succeed or die trying.

"You're too weak old man..." grunted Magnum as she landed a couple of major blows, which Kansuke tried to counter, but was unable to due to the sheer muscle power the Russian woman wielded, "You have no chance of beating me."

"Maybe..." he said as he felt his old body start to give out under the strain, "But I will not stop...My spirit and my honor shall guide me either to victory...Or to my death."

It was a notion Magnum both respected and scoffed, for this old man actually proved to be a decent fight compared to the other weaklings she had encountered over the years. It was pathetic in a ways since a mere old man could make for a fight that an army of brainless goons couldn't even hope to muster. Yet fight or not...Magnum knew this had to end before young Vincent showed up.

Then suddenly, out of the corner of her eye...She saw an opportunity to end it all...And she wasted no time in doing so as she prepared one final attack.

"Time to end this..." she said as she lunged forth at the old man, prepared to make her move.

As she expected, the old man countered very skillfully...Yet that was not what her plan...Instead, she used his momentum against him as she made a quick duck and roll under one of his counter attacks, sliding over towards another end of the large room where the gun that had been knocked out of her hand earlier had fallen. And in one swift, fluid motion, Magnum grabbed the gun and fired off one single shot that passed straight through the old man's heart...Sending him falling to the floor.

He had no chance of avoiding it...No chance of countering it. It had been karma in his eyes...This was how the fight was meant to end. The young combatant had outwitted the old combatant and triumphed in the end...Yet it had been an honorable end and Magnum seemed to realize that.

"You wanted your honor old man..." she said as she stood over the old man's body as he exhaled his final breath, "Enjoy your peace...For at least one of us can rest easy now. But there still a few things I must do in this world before I join you..."

Then, with a few quick gun slinging tricks, she put her prized weapon back in her holster as she stood in triumph over yet another fight.

"Now to make this look like a robbery..." she said as she began using her fists to break some more of the fragile attire and swipe some of the valuable antiquities, which she just planned to throw away later.

However, as she pocketed a few relics...Her eyes then descended upon a rather decorated sword placed upon an altar right above where the old man's body was now laying in a pool of blood. It was in a glass case, hinting that it had some kind of spiritual value. And since Magnum considered herself a soldier of great spirit...She decided that perhaps this was a keeper and skillfully swiped it from it's case and concealed it in her long, black trench coat.

Then, as she checked her watch, she realized she was fast approaching her deadline. Chances were that Vincent would come her first after he found out about the orphanage, so she had to make sure she was far away when he got there. And after making one final check, Magnum made her leave.

As soon as she was outside, she reached into her pocket and grabbed her cell phone and quickly dialed a special number. It only took one ring for her to get an answer, but she knew who was on the other line, so she didn't bother with any greetings.

"Nathanial...It's done," she said in her deep, accented tone.

"Excellent. Now for the next three days...We wait," he told her in response, grinning to himself at how smoothly everything was going, "And once he's had time to take in this 'tragedy.' He'll be all too eager to join the ranks of Shadow Cell..."

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"Mr. Kansuke? Mr. Kansuke!" said young Vincent as he pounded upon the door to the darkened dojo with the cold rain still falling and tears still running down his face.

He knew his sensei had to be there...He was always at his dojo at this time of night. He kept pounding on the door, hoping for any signs of activity...Yet the more silence he heard, the more concerned he became.

"Come on...Come on," he said to himself, just wanting to see the face of the man who was now the only real family he had left in the world.

Yet despite all his rampant pounding...There was no answer. And then...he noticed something off to the side that sent shivers of horror up and down his spine.

"No...No it can't...Please no..." he said as he looked over at a shattered window off to the side of the door...A shatter that was all too typical of a break in.

Not wanting to linger, Vincent used his mutant strength to kick down the door as if it were made of flimsy cardboard and quickly made his way inside in search of his sensei.

"Mr. Kansuke! Sensei! Where are you?" he asked, his voice growing desperate at this point.

Quickly, he made his way over to the main room where he and other students sat and practiced their martial arts...But when he entered, he suddenly froze at the sight of yet another grizzly scene. And immediately...He fell to his knees in a fit of overwhelming horror.

"No...Please...Not this too! Not this!" he said, feeling as though he was truly in the worst nightmare imaginable, "Sensei!"

He scrambled over to the unmoving body of the old man that had taught him the power of honor and virtue. Once again, he found himself overcome with tears of sorrow as he looked at the blood that had accumulated around his body. In his chest, there was a gaping hole caused by a gunshot, which hit him directly in the heart...Causing almost instant death. Around him, there was broken furniture and numerous missing relics, hinting that there had been a break in...Something not at all untypical of this part of Toronto. But to kill a kind old man who helped children just for the meaningless valuables he collected...It was just beyond horrific to young Vincent as he collapsed in a wave of unabated sorrow.

"No...Oh God...This isn't happening!" he cried as he clenched the sides of his head and tried to wake himself up from this nightmare, "THIS ISN'T HAPPENING! THIS IS ALL A BAD DREAM! A NIGHTMARE!"

Yet no amount of pain or suffering could wake him up...For this was no dream...This was real. And in a wave of unabated pain and sorrow, Vincent ran back into the cold Canadian night...Disappearing into the shadows as his world came crashing down all around him...Leaving him all alone once more.

************************************************

Tears were streaming down his face as he felt nothing more than pure, unabated pain...The likes of which he had felt too much of all his life. Once again...He had everything taken away from him. The only place he could call home...The only people he could call family...They were all gone.

He kept telling himself that he should have been there...For his powers could have saved lives. However, it was too late now...What was done could not be undone. Vincent wasn't sure how long he had been running or even where the hell he was going...But he didn't care. That didn't matter now...Nothing else mattered now.

Eventually, still distraught by agonizing burst of sobs, Vincent found himself collapse against a dirty brick wall in the narrow alley of a building. He was surrounded by unkempt garbage cans and dirty pavement as his legs refused to carry him any more. The rain began to fall harder as it continued to soak him from head to toe...But he didn't care about that anymore. He just wanted to wake up from this nightmare...He just wanted his whole life to be a dream. He sobbed, cried, and prayed...Feeling as though everything he had that was worth living for was now gone and he was stuck once again...Hallow and alone in this cruel world.

"Why?" he choked out in a strained voice wrought with sorrow, "Why has all this happened to me? What have I done? What did I do to deserve this? What? I've always tried to do the right thing...I've always tried to be nice to people...Why? Why, God...Why?"

It was like some cruel punishment for a previous life he had no memory of...Being tortured incessantly by silence and loneliness. No answers came to young Vincent Freeman as his body rested limply against the hard brick wall, crying his heart out and taking in the horrible loss he had just suffered. In the span of a single night...Everything that he treasured was destroyed by forces he could not control. Now...He was alone again with no hope. And as he continued crying into the cold, Canadian night...He eventually fell into a light state of sleep...Unsure of what the next day would bring, not even caring if it ever came at all.

However, unknown to young Vincent...A set of eerie red eyes had been watching him as he ran from his now shattered life and into the alley he now rested within. They belonged to Dr. Nathanial Essex...Who couldn't help but look upon the mysterious young boy with a sinister grin upon his face...For everything was going exactly as he had planned it.

************************************************

Over the next few days, young Vincent Freeman was once again out on the streets struggling to survive. He didn't know why he bothered trying to live in a world that seemed hell bent on torturing him...Yet he still found himself pushing himself forward with what little strength he could muster in his distraught state. This meant scraping through garbage cans, finding shelter in abandoned buildings, and pretty much shutting himself off from the world once again. He knew social services would probably be after him, but he didn't want them to get him again...For while he was on the streets before, he had come to see that they didn't necessarily look too highly upon distraught little boys who had abilities that labeled him a 'freak.'

During all the days that followed, Vincent had pretty much given up on sleep altogether. Every time he closed his eyes, he felt himself back at the orphanage just before it erupted into flames. He sometimes found himself as some disembodied spirit crying out desperate warnings to Father Michaels and all the children there to get out of the building...But it always ended the same with him watching flames consume the only family he had come to know.

There wasn't much in the newspapers about the orphanage other than some small little article buried deep within the latter sections where few would ever get a chance to learn about it. Few people seemed to care about the destruction of an old under funded city building and a bunch of disadvantaged young people that society could probably do without. The only one who truly seemed to know and understand was Vincent...But it didn't make things any easier as his struggles only seemed to get worse with each passing moment.

On the third night, Vincent had been forced to eat a moldy, half-eaten burger out of the trash again. It was a gross, disgusting feeling eating such food...But when hunger pains became so great, pretty much everything seemed to taste good. It often left him with a queasy stomach, but he had long grown accustomed to such feelings after having lived on the streets before. He found himself drifting from place to place throughout the day in search of his next meal, sometimes taking time to beg on the streets for loose change but never getting a whole lot. Most of the places he dwelled were shady, slum areas of Toronto that few people cared to go, but Vincent was not afraid...For after what he endured, the regular fears of most people seemed somewhat mundane to him.

As he rummaged through the large trash bin for any other scraps of food, he suddenly heard a noise echo through the alley. His street instincts quickly kicked in and he listened closer for the source. He stopped going through the garbage and looked around, having a sinking feeling in the pit of his growling stomach that he was being watched. And if experience had taught him anything...He knew he should probably expect the worst in a situation like this. Then...He heard footsteps.

'Oh shit...' thought Vincent, having a pretty good idea what that meant as he turned and began heading down the alley...But was soon stopped cold in his tracks as his path into the street was blocked by two rather imposing looking teenagers dressed in gang outfits.

"Well, well...What do we have here?" said one of the gang members, both of whom were wearing green bandanas, "Some little kid thinks he can just waltz onto our territory, rummage through our trash, and walk around like he fucking lives here."

Vincent, hiding his fear, didn't flinch as he turned back towards the other direction...Only to see four older teenage boys with chains and brass knuckles guarding all ways out. Having been in such situations before Vincent kept the expression on his face stoic and silent...Not wanting to let on to their suspicions. He knew there were plenty of inner city gangs in Toronto just like there were in pretty much any city and he had always known to avoid them...But like so many things in his life, bad luck seemed to follow him no matter how careful he was.

"Look...I don't mean you any harm," he said, trying to hide the strain in his tone from all the trauma he had endured these past few days.

"Bullshit!" spat one of the gang members as he approached the homeless young boy with a look of malice on his face, "Did the skulls send you? Are they lookin' to start something again?!"

Vincent knew what he was talking about, for the snakes and the skulls were rival gangs that were fiercely territorial and got into frequent violent clashes. They were always suspicious of pretty much anybody who came onto their turf. For most people who got caught in Vincent's position, they would have been very scared by the presence of such imposing gang members...But after losing pretty much everything that made his life worth living, he could care less whether he lived or died right here in this alley.

"Not gonna say anything huh?" said the gang member with the brass knuckle as Vincent remained stoic and silent.

"It doesn't matter..." he muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" spat another one of the members in response.

"I said it doesn't matter..." said Vincent in deep monotone, knowing where this was probably going to lead, "Will you honestly believe anything I say? Does it even look like I care?"

The six gang members looked at the young boy with surprise, thinking he must be crazy or something. Anybody in his position, young or otherwise, would have been sweating bullets in their presence. For Vincent, he knew that with his powers, he could easily overcome them...But truth be told, he didn't want to fight...He'd rather die at this point. He lost everything...Twice. It was hard enough being robbed of his childhood and his humanity and having to rebuild before...But losing it again and being forced to endure the same rigor had sapped whatever hope had remained for him. Whether he lived or died now wasn't an issue for him...It wasn't even of the slightest concern. At least if he died here...His suffering would finally end.

"Boys...I think we got us a little smart-ass here," said one of the gang members as they all surrounded the young boy, "He thinks he can trick us and undermine our intelligence...So what are we gonna do about it?"

"A little young to be a smart-ass though...Don't you think?" said another as he walked closer, giving Vincent a clear view of the 9 millimeter gun he had.

"Age don't mean shit out here...We know that...And the skulls know that," said one of the others who was also brandishing a glock pistol.

"And judging by the look of this little piece of trash the garbage man forget to pick up, he must be one of their 'expendable' members," grinned the member bearing a metal chain.

"I wouldn't be surprised," said the member standing next to the guy with the chain who was carrying a switchblade knife, "And you know how much 'fun' we like to have with their expendable members."

"No kidding...But do you think the skulls know that?" said the man with the 9 millimeter.

"Nah...If so, they must have forgotten!" said the teenager with the glock.

"Then what do you say we remind them boys?" said the guy with the knife as he and the others closed in on young Vincent.

Vincent Freeman knew he would probably survive because of his powers...But he kept them off and suppressed them as much as possible, for he felt as though he was ready for death. He may not have had much control over them, but he had learned to suppress them and given the unusual nature of his abilities because of his young age, it was not always easy to predict what his body would do. Never the less...Vincent hoped that this would be the end of his suffering as he closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable.

The eager gang members were closing in...And hopefully, he would die like he should have back at the orphanage with his friends. Then suddenly...A voices rang out into the alley...

"Hey! Back off..." said the threatening voice of Scott Summers.

Turning to face the source of the voice, both the gang and Vincent were surprised to see that the stern warning came from that of a young boy. He had a rather stoic expression on his face that seemed rather uncharacteristic of a child and beside him stood a redheaded girl that looked to be about the same age as him. They both looked no older than Vincent, if not a little younger, but each one of them bore a hardened expression on their faces. They were also somewhat big for their ages, almost unnaturally so. Their young bodies showed the effects of going through Dr. Essex's enhancement process and the rigorous training from the drill sergeants and Magnum.

However, this didn't seem to impress the six weapon wielding gang members as they scoffed at the appearance of young Scott Summers and Jean Grey.

"Well lookie here...Ain't it past your bedtime kiddies?" said one of the members as he and two others approached the two stoic kids.

"Yeah, get the fuck out of here! This ain't no place for you!" said the teenage boy next to him.

"Not until you leave him alone..." said Jean sternly with a rather angry look on her face.

"Whoa...The little lady has flare!" commented one of the members as they all let out a humored laugh.

"You have no idea..." she muttered under her breath as she opened her mind and began picking up on some of their thoughts.

"Really now?" said one of the teenage boys as he leaned in closer to her with a malicious yet amused grin, "That's some spunk you've got little girl...Way more than a kiddie your age should have. But...Shit like that's hard to find in a chick these days. Maybe in a few years...You and I might be able to have a little...Fun together."

Upon saying those words and projecting his rather crude thoughts to the young yet powerful psychic, the teenage boy who looked no older than 16 reached out and with the intent to fondle the young redhead's short hair...But young Jean Grey, who had spent too much time living in a world where she was the victim, did not let this happen as her stoic look turned to one of great anger. And before he knew it...The swift little girl reached out and in one smooth, fluid motion...She snapped his finger like a twig using one of the many techniques she had learned from Magnum, causing him to scream out into the alley like a little girl covered in spiders. Then, with a swift burst of telekinesis, she flung the ill mannered gang member back towards the other three boys who were still near Vincent, causing him to collide with one of them and send them crashing to the cold pavement.

"What the fuck?!" exclaimed one of the two other gang members who had just seen the twelve year old girl fling their friend back into the alley with some unknown force.

However, this momentary lapse proved to be grave for them as Scott used the opportunity to take action as he took in a sizable quantity of energy and focused it into his right arm, which he in turn used to deliver a single, solid punch to the gut of one of the gang member...Sending him flying back with the force of an oncoming car. Upon seeing this, the last remaining gang member that had approached the two kids didn't have time to react as he began to stumble at the amazing show of force that both Scott and Jean had just shown them.

"Holy shit!" he exclaimed as he nearly lost his balance stumbling back.

This once again gave Scott the window he needed to deliver a low powered optic blast that knocked him back into the last two guys who had been left standing near Vincent. By now, the bewildered young boy had run off to the side, not knowing who these two were or what they were doing here...But despite this, he couldn't tear his eyes away from what he was seeing. The abilities they wielded...And at such young ages...They had to be mutants. But from his many harsh experiences, Vincent Freeman knew that they were no ordinary mutants.

"Oh God! It's like fucking demon kids! Run!!!" yelled one of the gang members as they all struggled to get up.

However, none of them were able to get far as they were all suddenly lifted into the air by an unseen force. They all began screaming and yelling in fear and bewilderment, for they did not know what was going on. It was like a nightmare for them, but it wasn't over yet.

As Jean kept them all in a tight telekinetic hold, she then manifested her pyrokinetic powers and created a circle of fire around them...Causing the six gang members to cower in fear at the seemingly impossible sight before them.

"What's the matter?" said Jean as she sensed their scared thoughts, which almost seemed humorous to her if she hadn't practically had her sense of humor beaten out of her over the years, "Can't stand the heat?"

The rest of the gang members let out another round of frightened yells as they all looked as scared as a rat in a cat convention. One of them even yelled, "Mommy!" As Jean held them in a rather precarious position for a brief while, letting them sweat their fear off so that they got the message, she killed the flame and once again lowered the six bewildered boys back down to the cold pavement.

"That was a warning..." said Jean sternly, "Now none of you are going to remember anything about this...You're all going to go home and reconsider your lives...And you're going to find that you can make them better. Now leave!"

With a burst of telepathic manipulation, Jean reworked the poorly guarded minds of the six gang members as they a dazed expression suddenly fell upon their faces and they walked off as if they hadn't seen a thing, dropping their bandanas and weapons in the process as they disappeared from sight.

Vincent, amazed at what he had just seen, was still in a frozen state up against the brick wall of the alley as Scott and Jean both rushed over to him.

"Are you okay?" asked Scott as he looked at the dazed and bewildered look on the slightly older boy's face.

Vincent simply looked back at the two kids who had just sent those gang members packing in a strange display of powers and ability. He didn't know what to make of them or how he should react. It was clear they were mutants like him...But were they friend or foe?

"I...Who are you?" asked Vincent, as he stood bewildered in his current predicament, unsure if what just happened was a show of good or bad luck for him.

"I'm Scott Summers," answered the slightly younger boy with a non-threatening look on his face.

"And I'm Jean Grey," said the girl who looked to be the same age, "And don't worry...We're not here too hurt you. We're here to help you."

Vincent still showed a look of deep suspicion, for he had heard that before and he had suffered because of it. Seeing the life he once had destroyed in the span of a single night had left a mark on the young boy that was sure to permeate very deeply within his psyche. It had left him somewhat more bitter about this complicated world that seemed so bent on making him suffer. All he wanted to do was be left alone so that he wouldn't have to suffer any more...But there was still a part of him that wanted to fight this...The same part of him that had always kept him strong from the Prodigy Project to the streets. And in the end, it was hard to silence that part of himself.

"Why would you want to help me?" he said in an apprehensive tone, "And furthermore...Why should I believe you? The only thing I've ever gotten from trusting people is pain! And the last thing I want it to give anybody another chance to make my life more hell than it already is!"

"We don't want to cause you any pain," said Scott, knowing full well the kind of mindset this boy was in, "Believe me...I don't blame you for being suspicious. Both Jean and I have been there..."

"Yeah right!" he spat in response, "Have you watched your mother die right before your eyes?! Have you been treated like some lab animal?! Have you ever lived on the streets?! Have you ever had your home and everything that ever meant something to you taken away time and time again?!?!"

The tone in Vincent's voice was near hysterical...But despite his words, neither Scott nor Jean flinched in the slightest...Partially because of the affects of their military training and because they knew all too well what this young boy was feeling. And it was for this reason...Vincent got a very startling response.

"You'd be surprised..." said Jean cryptically, causing the look on Vincent's face to change drastically.

Vincent didn't know how to react...For his long standing instincts that had guided him through tragedy time and time again were being challenged by the sudden appearance of these mysterious kids who seemed to wield the same kind of power that he did...Only with more intensity and control. This left only a great deal of questions for the confused young boy as he found himself stammering in the strange situation he currently found himself in.

"But...How can you...What are you..." he began, but suddenly, he was cut off by a new presence and a new voice.

"They speak the truth Mr. Freeman," said Dr. Nathanial Essex as he stepped out of the shadows where he had been waiting for the right moment after Scott and Jean managed to calm the young boy down.

"What the?!" said Vincent as his attention was quickly drawn to the tall, dark man standing before him alongside Scott and Jean with a non-threatening look on his face.

"My pupils speak the truth..." he said as he slowly approached the young boy with an eager grin dominating his face as he looked back into the light blue eyes he knew so well, "We are not here to hurt you or cause any more pain. In fact...We are here to help ease that pain."

"Ease it..." said Vincent, the apprehension in his voice waning somewhat upon hearing that, "But how? And...Who are you?"

Dr. Essex simply smiled at the young boy as he looked down upon him with a feeling of excitement that he was standing in the presence of one of the most prized specimens of Prodigy...But he knew he would probably have to keep that little tidbit to himself if he was to get young Vincent to trust him.

"My name is Dr. Nathanial Essex..." he proclaimed in a sincere tone so Vincent wouldn't find any reason to simply brush him off as he was certain part of him wanted to do, "I am head of a government program meant to help individuals like yourself...Ones with such immense potential."

"Government program?!" said Vincent with a suspicious look in his eyes, "I've heard enough...Believe me, I've had enough government programs for one lifetime!"

"Wait!" urged Dr. Essex, stopping him cold in his tracks before he ran off, taking his hopes of using his great power alone with him, "Please...Hear me out Vincent. I do not represent Prodigy."

Upon hearing his name again and that dreaded word...Vincent froze and turned back towards the articulate doctor standing before him.

"How...How do you know my name? And how do you know about Prodigy?!" he demanded with tears once again forming in his eyes.

"We're the government Vincent...There isn't much we don't know," he assured as he placed a comforting hand on the young man's shoulder, "I've seen your records...I know your past. You've suffered a lot as a result of that heinous project...It took a lot away from you, that much I know."

Upon hearing such words, Vincent began to get choked up at the all too clear memories he had of such awful times when all he did day by day was suffer. Scott and Jean saw this look on his face and struggled to keep their own feelings about such pain locked away as well, but it helped them empathize with the young man as Dr. Essex continued talking.

"You're a very strong...Very brave young man Vincent," said Dr. Essex in a calm, encouraging voice, "You survived that which killed so many others. You and the great potential of your mutant powers written in your blood helped survived even as the world itself seemed to turn on you. There's so much potential...So much strength in that body and mind of yours. And you mustn't let any amount of pain or sorrow make you forget that."

There was a great level of comfort in Dr. Essex's words as Vincent swallowed the lump in his throat and looked back up at the doctor with longing and hope in his eyes...Hinting to him that he was doing this right and kept pushing.

"What do you want from me?" Vincent finally asked, his voice still strained under the turmoil of his current state.

"I want to help you..." answered Dr. Essex simply, "I want to help you in the same way I helped Scott and Jean. I know that what was done to you caused your powers to manifest early...And because of that, you struggled to control them. Scott and Jean were the same way...But I fixed that, as you just saw. And I can do the same for you...I can help you take the great power and potential written into your blood and manifest it in it's full glory...Allowing you to control and use it for the greater good of the world."

Hope...Control...Greater good...These were all things that drew Vincent's attention, for they were things that he had always coveted, yet never felt he would get the chance to experience. And the more Dr. Essex talked, the more intrigued the young boy came.

"The program I belong to...Is one where we take mutants of great potential such as you, Scott, and Jean and train them to be soldiers in an elite unit capable of fighting against the most deadly of foes hell bent on attacking the free world," said Dr. Essex proudly, hoping to inspire a sense of duty within the young boy as he had done with Scott and Jean, "But with what we have at our disposal...You will be more than just another soldier...You will be the best of the best...Not just soldiers, but warriors for democracy and freedom. Scott and Jean have already been with our glorious program for two years...And you have just seen what they have developed in this time. And now...I'm offering the same opportunity to you...The chance to become a true defender of justice in this dark, shady world that you know all too well is full of pain and suffering."

It was an offer Vincent never thought he would get...Hell, he never though something like it even existed to begin with. Yet in remembering the earlier actions of Scott and Jean against those gang members...It gave him an insight into just what he could become. The sound of Dr. Essex's voice and the look on his face seemed sincere to him. The thought of not having to struggle with his powers anymore and actually use them in a way that didn't make his life more complicated than it already was at this point was almost too great an opportunity to pass up. But still...There were lingering feelings within the young boy who had been hurt so many times before. However, Dr. Essex seemed to know this as he pressed on.

"Vincent...I know the loss you have just suffered," said Dr. Essex, causing a pained reaction upon the face of the young boy as the clear memories once again ran through his weary young mind, "Believe me...We would have been here sooner if we had known about you. But for all the people you held dear...For all the things they gave you...Do you really want the tragedy of their deaths to be in vain? I can tell just by looking at you that you have struggled greatly through many tribulations...Yet you still retain a strong sense of right and wrong...And a strong sense of personal honor. And for those reasons...Strength, honor, and an endless potential to ease the suffering of so many innocent people...Don't you want to make those who raised you proud? Don't you want to take the gifts you have been blessed with and use them for a truly honorable purpose?"

Honor...A word that meant a lot of things to Vincent. Mr. Kansuke, through teaching him over the brief years he had known him, taught him that the most important thing to any fighter and warrior is their honor. He had managed to keep his sense of right and wrong over the years, not letting his suffering taint the way he saw the world to the extent where it made him dark and twisted. And because of that, Mr. Kansuke and Father Michaels had always said that he had a great deal of purity and honor within his soul.

Now, Dr. Essex was giving him the chance to take that honor that the people who nurtured him from a lowly street kid and use it to make a true difference in the world. Thinking back through his clear and concise photographic memory, images of Father Michaels, Mr. Kansuke, and the friends that had helped him learn to live again, he felt a sense of comfort for the first time in what seemed like forever...Almost as if their spirit was still with him, guiding him towards a new path in his life where he could truly put the knowledge and principles he had been taught to good use.

"The choice is yours Vincent..." said Dr. Essex, breaking the silence that had fallen over them, "Now I must warn you...Becoming a soldier of our program is no easy task. You will have to face intense training and rigor of both body and mind the likes of which few others have experienced. You will be trained to become more than just a soldier...And you will learn to become more than just a mutant. Your existence to the world will be officially erased...And you will become a true shadow of justice against all those who threaten freedom and peace. It will be a difficult life...But I know you're strong enough Vincent. With all that you have survived...I suppose I am only but a humble messenger...Asking you if you would give me and my organization the privilege of having you as a part of our team. So...What's it going to be Vincent? The life I'm offering...Or the life you have now?"

All the years of pain and suffering that had accumulated for the weary young mutant boy made this a very momentous decision for him very difficult, but very momentous. His mind was still dwelling on the terrible loss of the orphanage and the only home he had ever known. Father Michaels and everybody who helped him rebuild his sense of self were gone now...But being that he had survived, Vincent felt as though it was up to him to honor the spirit of the sacrifices they had made for him. He may not have been there to save them...But now he had a chance to save so many others out there who would otherwise feel the kind of pain that he had long endured. He never wanted anybody else to feel his pain...And if he could help ease suffering through what this man had to offer, then the young mutant boy felt as though it was his duty to see it through...Not just for those who he had lost, but for himself...And his honor.

"Dr. Essex..." he said, this time using what little strength he had retained these past few days to set aside the pain and sorrow in his tone so that he sounded more determined and strong, "I choose to go with you...It would be a great honor to become one of your soldiers."

Dr. Essex simply smiled back at the boy who had been the lone survivor of the Prodigy Project...Knowing he was gaining a powerful recruit. He could sense so much immense strength in him...Strength that he could most certainly use for his more 'ambitious' plans way down the line.

"Thank you Vincent...I think your choice will truly be for the greater good of us all," he said with excitement apparent in his tone as he extended his hand in a convivial gesture, "And let me just be the first to say...Welcome to Shadow Cell."

************************************************

AN: So Vincent Freeman is a part of this very different world that I have created and one can only speculate where it will go from here! Again, I do not own Vincent. He is a character created exclusively by fellow fanfic writer Agent-G and I have gotten his permission to use him in this story well before I ever started writing it, so thanks Agent-G! You rock man! Now that Vincent is a part of Shadow Cell, things are starting to come together! Stay tuned, for the rest of the Shadow Cell lineup is still to come with Wanda Maximoff and X23! Trust me, it's far from over, so don't miss the next few pivotal chapters! So what do you think so far? Do you like where this fic is heading and are you eager to read more? Please tell me! Send me your reviews via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Either way is fine as long as you REVIEW! Thanks a lot for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!

LET THE MAYHEM BEGIN! REVIEW!!!
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