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

Growing Ranks

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: 2006/01/14 - Updated: 2006/01/14 - 7157 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 8: Growing Ranks


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After Vincent Freeman's willing acceptance into the ranks of Shadow Cell, Dr. Essex took the poor, traumatized boy to the super secret Shadow Cell base. As it was with Scott and Jean, this trip was kept under careful scrutiny by the GURSO unit. Being surrounded by so many stoic, heavily armed guards did prove to be a bit stressful for Vincent given his harsh history with Project Prodigy, which nearly sent him into several panic attacks as they entered the facility, but Dr. Essex was there to repeatedly reassure him that it was just a formality and that he would not be hurt. Scott and Jean also lent their support, explaining to Vincent the nature of GURSO and how they pretty much always had their eye on them. They had grown more or less indifferent to their presence over the past two years and assured their newest recruit that he would get used to it, and after a while, it's something they grow accustom to.
Upon arriving back at Shadow Cell, Vincent was shown through the necessary parts of the facility. The young boy looked with unfretted awe at the sheer advancement of such a place, not knowing that technology like this even existed. He was shown his new room, which may not have exactly been overly luxurious, but it was clean, modern, comfortable, and well-organized...Definitely a step up from many of the other rooms he had stayed in throughout his life.

However, everywhere he looked, he saw more GURSO soldiers keeping a close eye on them and handling the necessary security of such a secretive organization. They were all heavily armed and seemed ready to blow anybody away at a moments notice, but Dr. Essex and his new friends continually pressed onward, encouraging him to look past the GURSO unit's ominous presence and simply focus on more pressing issues.

Eventually, young Vincent met his new teacher and mentor, Magnum...Who seemed as intimidating as hell, yet also quite skilled and determined to pick up where Mr. Kansuke had left off in teaching him the arts of hand to hand combat with CQC. He also met the Colonel, who given his inherent distaste of mutants, didn't seem too friendly. However, the General seemed much nicer to him as they let him in on what he was going to be learning and just what Shadow Cell's goals were. Overall, it sounded like quite a challenge to the young boy who had just lost so much in his life, but the promise of becoming strong, robust, and proud while fighting for justice, valor, and honor was something that resonated deeply within the young man and he seemed determined to make those that died back at the orphanage proud by truly using his superhuman abilities to make a difference.

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After the head officials had met and processed Vincent's admission into the unit, effectively erasing his existence outside of the facility by altering a report stating that he died in the fire of the orphanage so that he was more or less a ghost just like Scott and Jean, Vincent underwent the bio-mutagenic accelerator process in order for him to gain firm control over his powers. However, this did not go as smoothly as they had hoped...For Vincent was very anxious and almost hysterical at times since going through experiments like this brought back too many painful memories of the Prodigy Project. It took nearly an hour of coaxing on Scott, Jean, and Dr. Essex's part, but he eventually went through with it...But not without some complications. At times, Jean had to use her telepathy to send him soothing thoughts to keep him from getting overwhelmed, but it still didn't stave off the horrors of his memories completely. He nearly had a panic attack when during the middle of the procedure and nearly went into cardiac arrest. However, he managed to pull through and once it was over...He finally managed to calm down.
Given his young age and the affects of the experiments done to him when he was a specimen of the Prodigy Project, his control over his abilities was sluggish at best. However, as it had with Scott and Jean, the bio-mutagenic accelerator would change that by speeding up the process of full fledged advancement, effectively allowing him to bypass the incessant need to allow the body to grow into it's powers while optimizing them in the best possible way in terms of intensity and control.
Once young Vincent had gone through the machine, he was taken to the infirmary where his recovery would be closely monitored by Dr. Essex and numerous other officials. Thanks to the process, Vincent now had even greater strength and more active control over his flight capabilities. His invulnerability, agility, and energy powers were also enhanced, giving him strong potential as the powerhouse of Shadow Cell. However, he would still need serious training before he could get to that point, but if he could handle the pain and loss that he had endured all his life...Then he could certainly handle being driven to move beyond it with extensive training at this facility.

After the rather painful process, Vincent had passed out just as Scott and Jean had when they went though it. And since he was their new team member and friend, the two young recruits chose to stay with him while he slowly came out of his unconscious state, much to Dr. Essex's hidden delight. When all seemed well with Vincent's vitals, many of the doctors and officials left, leaving the young boy with only the two other kids who knew all too well what he had just gone through, and it wasn't just the machine.

"Ugh..." groaned Vincent as he began to work his way back into the world of consciousness after having gone through such an intense process...Which he was almost sorry to say wasn't exactly the most painful procedure like that he had been through.

"Welcome back Vincent..." said Scott as he and Jean sat near Vincent's bedside, hoping to get to know their new friend and teammate.

Upon hearing Scott's familiar voice, Vincent turned to face the slightly younger boy as his blurred vision began to clarify.

"Is it over?" said Vincent as he tried to sit up, but found that much of his body was still recovering from the extensive restructuring each cell and strand of DNA had undergone.

"Yeah...It's over now," assured Jean with a rare smile, "Just don't try to get back up too quickly. Besides...It shouldn't take too long to recover from."

"And I'd like to say that the hard part's over now..." added Scott as Vincent slowly became more aware, "But unfortunately...It's just the beginning. Wait till you feel the pain of daily boot camp and Magnum's training sessions."

"Don't worry..." said Vincent, not sounding too concerned at all about such things as he slowly managed to work his body up into an upright position, "You'll find that I have a very high tolerance for pain."

Scott and Jean didn't doubt that for a minute, given where he had come from and what little they knew about him. After having seen the strife and struggle he had been going through when they found him, it was clear that Vincent had been down some pretty nasty roads in life. They could both relate, but that only made this young man even more intriguing to the both of them.

"After what we saw you going through when we found you...I wouldn't doubt that," commented Scott.

"Believe me...That was nothing," groaned Vincent, still feeling some of the affects of the procedure, but finding that his mind and body was quickly beginning to recover, "I've been in way worse situations than that."

"Worse?" said Jean curiously, "What do you mean?"

"Well..." began Vincent as he let out a deep sigh and began to tell them where he had come from and how he ended up in that dark alley where they found him.

It was a long, hard story for Vincent Freeman to tell...But in many ways, it was something he needed to get off his chest. Feeling so alone and isolated had caused him to bottle up so much of his memories and emotions into a pent up rage of pain that tore at his psyche. While there were many details that he was unwilling to tell Scott and Jean, he managed to give them the basic info for the most part, which was still intense enough to leave the two younger kids utterly shocked and bewildered that anybody had survived something like that...Even though they both knew they could relate.

"Oh my God..." said Jean as she heard Vincent's story.

"Yeah...I know," said Vincent, sounding rather dark and swallowing many of his pent up emotions, not wanting to feel overwhelmed by such sorrow anymore now that he was a part of this new life.

"That's definitely sounds rough," said Scott with an empathetic look, "But at least you don't have to be alone in dealing with it anymore. Believe me...Jean and I can really relate in some ways...More so than you think."

"I find that hard to believe..." said Vincent as he looked away briefly as a dark expression fell upon his face.

"It's true..." said Jean, showing genuine compassion in her tone, "I lost my parents as well. But it was worse for me because I didn't just see them die...I'm a telepath, I actually felt them die...All within my head."

This revelation caused Vincent to shift his gaze back towards that of the two younger mutant kids who had helped him back in that alley. He could clearly see looks of sorrow, loss, and pain in their weary eyes. He also noticed that they were holding hands now, hinting that there was something more between them, but Vincent didn't really dwell on that as he became fixated with what they were saying now.

"And I watched my parents die too..." said Scott with an empathetic look, "My mom, my dad, and my little brother...Engulfed in flame right before my eyes. And what's worse is that they gave their lives to save me. We were in my father's plane...And it caught fire in mid flight and both he and my mom gave us the only two parachutes that were undamaged. My little brother and I had to jump....But only I survived. I could have saved my little brother...I could have actually done something...But I didn't. And he died because of it."

Vincent looked back at his new friends with his pained, light blue eyes...Seeing in each of them the true sorrow that they had endured. It was a hard thing to hear...But at the same time, it helped young Vincent feel less isolated, knowing that he wasn't alone in the kind of suffering he had endured all his life. He wasn't the only one who had watched his family die...He wasn't the only one to be left to deal with such trauma. Scott and Jean may not have known the young man very well...But they knew him well enough to know that he understood the world they had come from...And they truly understood where he had come from as well.

"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have..." began Vincent, but he was quickly cut off.

"Don't apologize Vincent," said Jean in a warm, understanding tone, "We both know you didn't mean it. Learning to live again after you've lost so much...It really has an impact on you. It affects how you think...How you feel...How you make it from day to day. And that's what we learn here at Shadow Cell...We learn how to rise above things like that...We learn to move beyond the things that hinder us and make a true difference in the world."

Both Scott and Jean had been in that bed before and they knew full well the kind of thoughts that were going through Vincent's head. The look of turmoil on his face told a great deal of the sad story that was his life...But at the same time, there was a great deal of strength in those eyes of his. He had risen above his sorrow before and survived past such great pain. He already had a sense of honor and compassion that truly made him worthy of the ranks of Shadow Cell. And as the young boy struggled to take in the new life he was now going to be such a strong part of, both Scott and Jean placed a hand over his...Showing him that he wasn't alone anymore.

"It's a hard, complicated life..." said Scott as both he and Jean looked down at their new friend and teammate, "But that's why people like us have to stick together. You're a part of Shadow Cell now Vincent...You're part of the unit. It may take a while to truly take in this new world...But now that you're one of us, don't ever think that you're alone again."

Although he was still weak, Vincent actually managed a weak smile as he heard their words of comfort. He had been so alone in dealing with his pain for so long that he almost didn't know how to respond to something so new to him. The knowledge that he wasn't alone...That other people knew and understood his pain...It actually helped to fill part of that gaping hole that had always been in his soul. He had friends in the past...But none of them could ever truly understand the life he had lived or the pain he had suffered. However, things were different with Scott and Jean...For they knew...They understood...And such a feeling was something that Vincent never thought he would ever feel.

"I...I don't know what to say," said Vincent, at a loss for words, "But...I guess after helping me so much...I suppose I should say...Thank you."

Scott and Jean simply smiled back, glad that they now had a new friend to add to their ranks here at Shadow Cell. Vincent had shown that he was a strong, compassionate person...One who had been through plenty of adversity in his brief life. But here...His life would take a dramatic turn and hopefully...That turn would lead him to a multitude of new possibilities.

While young Vincent was getting to know his new friends, unknown to either of them...Dr. Essex had been watching the whole thing on the security monitors from outside the room. Magnum was by his side, also observing the strong interaction between Vincent and their first two specimens. It was all going better than Dr. Nathanial Essex ever could have hoped. Originally, he had not planned to involve any more mutants other than Scott and Jean for his later plans...But after learning that Prodigy Seven, or Vincent Freeman as he was now called, was still alive after being listed as dead from the Prodigy Project...It opened many new opportunities for him and for his ultimate goals.

Vincent had already showed that he had what it took to be a member of Shadow Cell...Dr. Essex knew that better than probably anybody else at the facility. There was so much for him to learn now and in the long run, he would definitely prove to be a vital tool for the key aspects of his elaborate plans. It was as if everything was falling into his lap out of pure luck...For everything was going so well for him...Better than he ever could have planned it. He could tell that Vincent was going to get along quite well with Scott and Jean if their current interaction was any indication. But such success only made Dr. Essex think more about the current course of this project...And considered just how ambitious the possibilities for such a project could be.

"It seems young Vincent will make a fine addition to our team," said Magnum in her stoic, Russian tone.

"Indeed he will Magnum," grinned Dr. Essex in approval as he watched the young man continue to talk with Scott and Jean, "I know it wasn't in the original plan I told you, but do you think you'll be able to effectively train him?"

"Don't worry about that Nathanial...You know how adaptive I am," said Magnum with confidence.

"That I do...As long as he can truly become a skilled member of the team, I feel he'll make a fine addition to our ranks," said Dr. Essex as his grin only grew wider with each passing moment of the live feed from the video.

"But what about the impact on the project's 'long-term' plans?" questioned Mangum.

The look on the doctor's face only grew more eager, almost to the point where the look on his face was nothing short of sinister. He had so many ambitious plans for Scott and Jean...But now that he had Vincent, there were even more possibilities for his goals in the end. Shadow Cell was still in its infancy and it was growing fast. Soon, it would truly come into its own...But it still left many possibilities for Dr. Essex to consider.

"His presence in Shadow Cell can only help them Magnum..." answered Dr. Essex in a deep, ominous tone, "He always exhibited so much potential...And now that he's here, we can truly make the best of such attributes and down the line...He will be a fine addition to my final plans. But all we can do at this point is watch and wait...For their time will come soon enough."

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Vincent didn't stay bedridden for very long after regaining consciousness. Thanks in large part to his now fully manifested powers, he healed quickly and the officials of Shadow Cell didn't waste any time in starting his training. As was the case with Scott and Jean, Dr. Essex and a team of mind/body specialist helped him master his powers and a legion of drill sergeants put the young traumatized boy into the rigorous routine of boot camp, working hard with each day that came to harden the young boy into the mentality of a soldier.

Young Vincent may have come in a weak, traumatized boy...But he had a drive like no other to move past every one of his limits. Such rigorous training that sometimes extended over the course of several days helped him become more focused while also proving to be a good distraction from his lingering memories. His mother, Prodigy, the streets, and the destruction of the orphanage still hung strong in his mind...But the rigorous nature of his training helped strengthen his mind as it had with Scott and Jean, helping him to focus and grow, laying the foundation for becoming a true soldier.

Along with his rigorous mental and physical training, he also took nicely to Magnum and her tutelage. Since he already had some training with fighting thanks to Mr. Kansuke, he progressed a lot quicker than Scott and Jean did when they first started. However, Magnum found that much of his technique was flawed since he knew only basics and didn't seem to fully grasp the mental and spiritual aspects of combat that so many people often negated.

Vincent proved to be a fast learner when it came his first two months at Shadow Cell. His use over his powers was improving drastically with each passing day, he was becoming more and more hardened with each boot camp session, and he was effectively working with Magnum very well on honing his overall skill.

In addition, he was also growing quite close to Scott and Jean. As a member of the unit, they all had to work together and learn to trust one another with their lives. Getting past his traumatized mindset was hard enough on him, but he had found that having friends to talk to that truly understood did work wonders for him in terms of learning to cope. Sleeping wasn't any easier though. He still woke up from intense, vivid nightmares during the short periods of sleep they were allowed and frequently had to cry himself to sleep with everything that had transpired in his short life.

With each passing day, Dr. Essex and the officials of Shadow Cell were seeing their three powerful recruits grow more functional and strong in terms of their mutant abilities, mentality, and physical aptitude. They were beginning to work together as a real team and the foundations for a truly powerful unit were clearly visible among all those who watched them grow into true soldiers.

As they became more and more in control of their powers, more time was spent with Magnum in the specialized areas both inside and outside that she had organized for them. They kept things advancing at a steady pace, making sure they mastered each aspect of boot camp, power usage, and CQC in the most efficient possible way. They were still too young to fully ascertain the power and mentality of true soldiers, but at their current pace...Such a title was firmly within their grasp.

At the moment, the three mutant recruits of Shadow Cell were once again learning and training with Magnum in a specialized room with numerous padded men and women, most of them low ranking officials. Scott, Jean, and Vincent were tasked with using only CQC to bring them down...Which was definitely no easy task considering that the people they were up against were bigger, heavier, and would try to fight back with real military style tactics. However, given their increasing ability to use CQC, they managed to hold their own in a surprising fashion, especially to those in the padded suits.

"You are young...But youth does not equate to weakness!" bellowed Magnum as she saw Scott get thrown to the ground by one of the padded training officials while Jean suffered a tough blow to the stomach and Vincent was double teamed into submission, "You must never consider that the enemies you face on the battlefield are ignorant or stupid! Each one them has the potential to overcome you...But you also have the potential to overcome them! It's not only predicated on skill...It is determined by a multitude of factors including speed, reaction, and using your head to most efficiently get the job done!"

Scott, Jean, and Vincent, who were already breathing hard from nearly three hours of this rigorous training with almost no break in between, once again forced their tired bodies up and took their stances as they were once again surrounded by their bigger, stronger, padded opponents. They had definitely been improving in terms of skill in the eyes of both Magnum and of those who fought them...Which was an accomplishment in and of itself given their age. Yet...The three young mutant kids were being hardened and driven in a way few people ever were with boot camp from all divisions and constant training from Magnum and because of this, their determination and drive to overcome their limits was holding strong as they continued to push every one of their mental and physical limits with each passing day.

"Again!" ordered Magnum.

Then, the swarm of padded opponents rushed the three mutant kids as they began to once again defend themselves against their aggressors. They were quickly learning to hold their own against such bigger, stronger, more imposing opponents. Even the officials were surprised at times of their resilience, but that didn't stop them from going all out as they began to aggressively attack and attempt to subdue the three young recruits.

"CQC isn't about fancy technique or cinematic style moves...It's about fighting and succeeding..." said Magnum as she saw Vincent effectively perform a counter to a series of heavy punches and land three pivotal blows on three pivotal points of three separate aggressors, sending them falling to the floor in defeat, "You must move fast...And think even faster."

Then, Magnum saw Scott successfully perform a skeletal manipulation technique simultaneously on two opponents attempting to double-team him and hitting one of them with a powerful kick to the chest while subduing another with a knee to the gut followed by a two punch combo, sending him to the ground as well as he turned to his next aggressor.

"You must predict your opponents moves...You must plan each attack like a well played game of chess," said Magnum as she saw more padded officials fall as a result of her pupils' improvement, "Think 100 moves ahead...And counter every single one of them."

Then, she turned to see Jean nimbly avoid a crushing blow from one of the larger opponents and countering with a well placed karate chop to a nerve cluster on the neck while quickly using her momentum to deliver a powerful roundhouse kick to another female opponent that attempted to catch her off guard, sending her falling to the ground as well.

"You all have great power written into your blood..." said Magnum as she continued to watch her three students hold their own against wave after wave of aggressors, "But you will not always be able to use such power in certain situations. Power is only as strong as the mind, body, and soul that wield it. If only one of these components is weak, then the being as a whole is weak. And as soldiers...Weakness is not tolerated! You will not be weak! You will be strong! You will NOT let the past, present, or future weaken you! You WILL master CQC! You WILL learn to be soldiers worthy of Shadow Cell!"

Her booming voice seemed to push the three mutant kids even further as they stepped up their attacks despite their tired, sweaty bodies. The room was filled with the noises of grunts and bodies falling to the floor. The harder they fought, the harder their opponents fought back. However, this did not stop them...This only pushed them further and it was clear to Magnum that they could be pushed so much further given due time.

As this ongoing melee was turning into a truly intense battle for both the padded officials and the three mutant kids, Dr. Essex and other Shadow Cell heads including the Colonel and the General entered the room and watched the ongoing training of their recruits. There were numerous GURSO soldiers guarding them and the area around them, but this did little to take away from the overall spectacle.

"Not bad for a bunch of kids..." said the Colonel as he watched Scott, Jean, and Vincent continue to land, take, and deliver punishing blows to their bigger, stronger opponents.

"Indeed Colonel..." said Dr. Essex with a proud smile as he watched several guards fall as a result of a double team combo from Scott and Jean, "They're definitely coming into their own. And young Vincent certainly has taken up the challenge of Shadow Cell with uncanny determination."

"Yes, looks like you were right about him," said the General as he watched Vincent effectively take down two padded guards with a series of sweep kicks followed by powerful punches to the chest, "The kid really shows quite a bit of potential with all that strength and invulnerability. I heard he took three shots from a nine millimeter, no sweat."

"He most certainly did," confirmed Dr. Essex with a grin, "And trust me General...That was just a test. He most certainly can survive so much more as his focus and control over his new aptitude takes hold."

"That'll be good for certain missions, but are you sure he's the only one you could find in all your searches?" said the Colonel as he saw more officials fall to the increasingly effective blows that Scott, Jean, and Vincent were landing.

"Trust me Colonel...I got lucky with this one," said Dr. Essex, still amazed at how he had come across young Vincent in the first place, "I'm gathering new streams of data all the time and I'm hoping to compile and updated list soon. But remember...Not all mutants can become warriors of Shadow Cell."

"I understand that Doctor, but I, along with the rest of the higher ups, think this is just a single significant step," said the General, "While I can't tell you how pleased they were that you so quickly found another recruit, there is still the wide consensus that the unit is...Incomplete."

"I wholeheartedly agree with you General...It is incomplete," said Dr. Essex, not arguing the point in the slightest, for he too had been thinking about this a lot lately since Vincent's recruitment, "In order for any unit to be successful, it much encompass all necessary points of it's grand mission. And since Shadow Cell's mission is so broad and far reaching, it is hard to gauge just when such optimal efficiency has been attained. Too few recruits and they won't be strong enough...Too many and they would be too expensive and hard to command and maintain. Now this organization is already operating at record fiscal efficiency and I'd like to keep it that way."

"As do the rest of the black budget management squads back in Washington," said the General, "But given your impressive attention to detail with this project thus far...How many more do you think we'll need?"

Dr. Essex took a moment to think about that, looking back at Scott, Jean, and Vincent's impressive progress since their arrival. They were on the fast track to becoming truly powerful soldiers. Each day was hardening and strengthening them more and more. But when the time came to deploy them on their first mission, they would need to be optimized in every possible way in order to be the most effective fighting force ever known. He could already see that they were on the fast track towards doing so, but they still did not have a full team to work with at this point. And no matter how strong they got, they would have to be a full unit if they were to maximize their effectiveness.

"I'm afraid I can't give you a definitive answer General," said Dr. Essex after a brief moment of contemplation, "It all depends on the kind of mutants we are lucky enough to find and recruit. The team could have all of its true needs with just one or up to four more extra recruits."

"One or four recruits?" said the Colonel with a confused, unenthusiastic look, "Isn't that a little too broad Doctor?"

"I'm only working with what I know Colonel," quipped Dr. Essex, "Keep in mind, nobody has ever attempted a project like this before. There are just too many unknowns when it comes to mutants and training them to be a part of a group like Shadow Cell."

"Unknowns or not...I think we should still work towards getting some fresh recruits soon," said the General, not sounding at all too dissuaded by this, mainly because he had no idea just how Dr. Essex went about finding such mutants with the right stuff for Shadow Cell.

"Don't worry General...We will," assured Dr. Essex, "But we have to proceed with caution. Keep in mind, young Vincent is still adjusting."

"All the more reason to bring in new recruits Doctor," said the General in response, "I know the new kid is still getting to know the feel of the place, but I don't think we can wait too long in between recruitments. Otherwise it could affect the overall cohesiveness of the unit. We can't have novices and experts in the same team."

"Point taken General," said Dr. Essex, who didn't like to be pressured, but knew that the experienced military officer had a valid point, "But like I said...Leave that to me for now. Shadow Cell is already proving itself to be successful with many of our procedures and routines."

"Success or not Doctor, keep in mind we still have competition to deal with," reminded the Colonel.

"Yes, yes...I know...Hydra," said Dr. Essex in a distasteful tone, for he had been hearing that word way too much these past few weeks now.

"We've gone from underdogs to going head to head with their Weapon X23 program, but it still has plenty of supporters," said the Colonel, knowing Hydra tended to be a four letter word around Shadow Cell, given that the influence it exerted had always been cumbersome.

"True Colonel...But their progress hasn't been as swift or as efficient as ours," said Dr. Essex confidently.

"They're still a problem through..." argued the Colonel, thinking Dr. Essex was taking this too lightly.

"And problems are not fixed overnight Colonel," retorted the General, "I've talked to a few officials...And I know that some of Hydra's support is beginning to falter in wake of their lack of progress towards fixing the problems that Weapon X had."

"Which is actually a pity when you think about it," said Dr. Essex with a humored laugh, "After all...That's what I've been saying since this whole project began."

"Well for the sake of gaining the upper hand Doctor...Let's hope you're right," said the General.

"Patience General...Patience," assured Dr. Essex in a calm, collected tone, "Shadow Cell will keep growing...And gradually, we shall overtake anybody who stands in our way. Just remember that such a feat cannot be rushed. We must proceed carefully..."

Dr. Essex along with the rest of the officers, some of whom were jotting down notes of progress over the three mutant kids' advancement in terms of skill, kept watching as Scott, Jean, and Vincent continued to fight hard despite fatigue and exhaustion against their bigger, stronger aggressors. Magnum continued barking out commands to them as they kept going, working hard to get better and better even when they felt they were at their limits. However, part of being a soldier, especially one of Shadow Cell, meant going beyond every possible limit there was in terms of mind, body, and sprit. And with rigorous training and teaching like this, they were constantly pushing those limits further and further...Working towards the day when they would become true soldiers.

Then, while the head officials were watching in admiration of their progress with their recruits, a young female scientist came in through the door with a thick folder in hand and approached Dr. Essex.

"Excuse me...Dr. Essex?" said the young woman, catching the doctor's attention, "I have those updated files you requested."

"Ah yes...Thank you my dear," he said respectfully with an approving grin as he eagerly took the thick folder in his hands, "Is it all properly compiled?"

"Of course doctor," she assured, "We'll be sure to keep the database updated. Just let us know if you need something we omitted."

"I most certainly will..." said Dr. Essex as he watched the female scientist make her leave while he eagerly looked at the first few papers inside the folder.

"What's that?" asked the Colonel curiously as he tried to get a glimpse of what Dr. Essex was looking at that seemed to get him so enthused.

"Just the updated list of possible recruits Colonel..." he said casually as he turned towards the doors, deciding it was best if he do this in his office away from prying eyes, "You know me...I don't like to waste time."

"Well be sure to let us know if you find something," said the General as he and his subordinates turned their attention back to the ongoing fight between their recruits and the training officials.

"You know I will General," said Dr. Essex as he passed several GURSO soldiers and made his way down the vast corridors of the facility.

When he reached his office, he shut and locked his door securely like he always did. Nobody dared to disturb him and he wanted to keep it that way. Ever since Vincent's recruitment, Dr. Essex had been in a rather good, confident mood. It was a most certainly unexpected treat to find the lone survivor of the Prodigy Project alive and well, brimming with the potential to become a full fledged member of Shadow Cell. He showed a lot of potential and skill even though he was still so young, but this only offered further assurance that he had what it took to succeed in this unit. Along with Scott and Jean, they were quickly learning the ways of valor and strength that all soldiers needed both on and off the battlefield.

At the moment, his master plan was proceeding smoothly and with greater progress and efficiency than he ever could have hoped. Scott and Jean were hardly recognizable compared to how they were a mere two years ago. The affects of their training was starting to show in their nimble young bodies and their newly determined minds. In addition, he could see that they were continuing to grow...Closer to one another. He had hoped for that to happen, but didn't expect it to transpire with such magnitude as he saw the evolution of their connection and interaction.

However, he was still divided on just how he would incorporate Vincent into these grander plans. He thought the boy had died along with the others, yet he fought and survived with a tenacity that Dr. Essex was bent on utilizing. He wasn't sure how he was going to implement him, but it was still too early to make a definitive choice just yet.

He continued to let his mind wander as he went over some of the papers concerning recently discovered mutants that may have the necessary qualities for Shadow Cell recruitment. Every week or so, he would get these new reports that he had specially ordered from a few government agencies including the FBI and NSA. They weren't always as useful as he would have liked them to be, but that was mainly because the people who made such reports had little knowledge over what they were really observing. It a way, it was kind of sad in the eyes of Dr. Essex because it showed just how ignorant even the elite of this country could be. But hopefully in the long run...His plans would change that.

He continued to go over a few reports concerning what appeared to be only suspected mutant activity and not real witnesses. They came from everywhere in the country from a suspicious case from a Texas rodeo to a mine in Cumberland, Kentucky. There were a few others, but some not always within the United State. Some of the reports about mutants in Britain, a suspected mutant in Germany, and a few interesting reports in the rural areas of Siberia in Russia did look intriguing, but recruiting over international boundaries was not an easy task to say the least. Erasing the lives of their own citizens was easy and done with uncanny regularity, but doing it to foreign citizens was a bit more cumbersome and Dr. Essex wanted to avoid that. It had been hard enough erasing Vincent's paper trail and he was only from Canada. The only reason they managed to succeed was because he was an orphan with a sketchy past and the General had managed to use some of his diplomatic skills to cut a deal with a few high ranking officials in Department H, the details of which he didn't bother with since he got what he wanted in the end.

Tossing aside the international reports, Dr. Essex focused back on the domestic reports. However, with this compilation, he wasn't finding much. Many of these mutants didn't seem to have the power qualifications he was looking for or the right stuff to be soldiers. Nevertheless, he kept skimming over the reports, making note of some that might be worth looking into as he went. Then suddenly...Something caught his eye.

Setting aside the rest of the folder, Dr. Essex took a closer look at a particular paper concerning a suspected mutant that was said to be very powerful...But very unstable. However, that is not what caught his eye...What garnered his complete attention was the name.

"Wanda...Maximoff," said Dr. Essex to himself as he read over the name, a slow grin forming on his face, "Could it be?"

Dr. Essex then turned to his computer and began feverishly typing, going through layers and layers of databases until he came across what looked like a collection of medical records. The name, Wanda Maximoff, definitely meant something to him. Even though he had never known anybody by that exact name...It was one he recognized nonetheless. Using his high level clearances to hack into medical servers, he finally found exactly what he was looking for. It was a record of a girl being admitted to an insane asylum at a young age and documented what was only described as 'freak and unexplainable phenomenon.' As he read it, the grin on his face turned all the more sinister as his eyes suddenly flashed a bright red color at the computer screen.

"Wanda Maximoff...The daughter of one of the most powerful mutants on the face of the planet," said Dr. Essex with excitement as he read over a description of her unique powers, "So strong...So much potential...And he threw her away. That ignorant fool threw her away. Oh what luck the fates have blessed me with!"

His search was over...He had found the next recruit to Shadow Cell. Getting up from his desk, he quickly made his way back down the halls where Magnum was just finishing up her session with Scott, Jean, and Vincent. And it was a good thing they were done...For there was an important new task that he wanted them all to be a part of.

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

AN: There you have it! Vincent Freeman is now a part of Shadow Cell and Wanda Maximoff appears to be next in line! Stay tuned to see how her life is changed forever in the X-men: Evolution universe as Shadow Cell continues to forever alter the path of history. Shadow Cell is beginning to truly take shape and it won't be long now before it reaches its full potential! There's plenty more to come so sit tight and watch as many lives are forever changed in this unique AU that I have created. And please, don't forget to REVIEW! Send me your feedback via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish everybody the best!

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