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"It wasn't until I heard his voice, momma. As soon as he sang I knew he was mine."

-Jody Law, Episode 3 of The Ace to Be

Sixteen years? Under? No, that can't be right.

There's no possible way to keep someone under for that long without lasting effects. Right? So they had to be lying.

"I can see the doubt in your eyes." The male doctor said. He gestured to the woman. "Dr. Rozano, show her your cell phone."

The lady, Dr. Rozano, fished around in her coat pocket and came back with a thin, flat piece of technology that had one screen as an entire side. What the hell?

She handed it to me and I reluctantly pressed the only button on the bottom. It brightened to show a picture of Dr. Rozano and a little boy with curly brown hair smiling. Could you make calls on this? It was like a computer without a keyboard. And how did they make it so thin?

"If you slide your finger past the screen, it'll bring you to the home page." Dr. Rozano explained. Homepage?

I clicked on random "buttons" though they were really just colorful little pictures that reacted when touched. Sixteen years. I'd been gone, apart from this world for sixteen years? How was that possible?

A lot could happen in sixteen years. How much had I missed? What was the world like? Was it much different? Did people...act the same? Technology must've evolved, obviously, but technology never stopped evolving.

The people--where was everyone now? How had the government changed? Did Sarias have the same king? And agents--did the agents I worked with still have the same jobs?

A whoosh accompanied the opening of the door. I jerked my attention in that direction, dropping the phone onto the bed beside me. My body went straight into alert mode.

The man who stalked through the automatic door had a tall, firm build. Almost like...him.

He gazed over the doctors first, no doubt checking to see they were okay. Good idea. Then he looked to me and prowled forward slowly, relaxed, but with an underlying threat. This man was a hunter, trained and dangerous.

"Agent Lewis," He spoke with a gravelly voice, low and rough. "Welcome back."

The doctors had stepped back upon his entrance, which told me a lot about the authority around here. Who was this guy?

I shifted and sat up straighter, my chin coming up automatically. Cautious. Defiant. I had my own issues with authority--mostly the way they seemed to use and abuse the power at their disposal. This guy would have a hard time corralling me, he could count on that much.

"My name is Jackson Leonger." He said, crossing his arms. To my surprise, he seemed to be fighting a grin. "I'm the current Commander and coincidentally, your new boss."

Leonger. Adrian Leonger, a stern, slightly graying but capable man, had been my boss since I'd reluctantly joined up on the military crew two years, eighteen years ago. I'd liked him. He'd garnered respect. Directed his teams with precision and knew when to move in on a mission and when to hold back.

I narrowed my gaze at this new Leonger. Jackson. That's right. He'd been that teen running about. Adrian had just begun to "show him the ropes" when I'd...gone under. "Adrian?" I asked.

The Commander stepped forward until he was right in my reach. Dangerous, risky move, Commander. I could have him down on the ground before Dr. Rozano could say blood transfusion. "My father retired a year after you went under."

"I've since taken over all of his projects," he went on, "including yours."

"Project?" Since when did my life become a project? My memory was shoddy at best right now.

Leonger nodded. "16 years ago you were put under suspended animation in an effort to subdue the physical aspects of your abilities."

My abilities. I glanced over at my left bicep. There, curling out from under the sleeve was my Acemark, a birthmark that inked into a sprawling design of ivy, complete with little leaves along the edges. I pulled the sleeve down, covering the mark. A brick formed in my stomach. So that was it then. I'd actually become more of a hazard than a help. "You should've kept me under."

Leonger put his hands in his pockets and gave a heavy nod. "You're going to be monitored for a few days. If you start showing signs..."

I gave a humorless laugh. "Back to sleepytime for me."

"We're hoping to avoid that this round." Commander Leonger cleared his throat. We? What did he mean we? "I want you cleared with the doctors and into physical therapy by tomorrow. Then we'll put you in our placement program while we get you back up to speed."

"Placement program?"

"Project Initiative."

I barked a laugh. "You're insane if you think putting me back in that program is a good idea."

Commander Leonger's focus sharpened, his eyes narrowing with a threat. "With you, this is our only option. You succeed, we put you back on the field. You fail, well..."

Back into suspended animation.

Leonger was an idiot if he actually thought that putting me back into the same program was a good idea. There was a reason I had to be put under, and it wasn't for shits and giggles.

"It's not going to work," I told him, my voice clear.

"It will. This time we will have precautions in place should a problem arise."

My jaw tightened and I stared hard at the end of the bed. "Why?" Why me? It made more sense for them to freeze me or whatever and then put me in the back of a freezer for most of eternity. Or...kill me off. I had the potential to be a threat to a lot of people. And that wasn't just me thinking highly of myself.

They would be playing with a loaded gun.

Jackson Leonger stepped forward, "Because Agent Lewis, we need you."

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