The agent drew in a breath, silencing the gunshots ringing against the metal chamber. Her gloved fingers picked the flecks of red off her pistol grip and moved to the blue armband on her bicep.
Focus, she thought, twisting the stiff fabric until her fingers bleached. Just one more blueprint, then I’ll find them. Almost there.
An interface blinked awake on the narrow wall, spraying the closet-sized security room in harsh white light. She shoved the gun into her weapons belt and swiped across the screen. Codes and overrides queued from her memory to the keys. Her purple hair glared neon in the monitor’s spotlight, her brown eyes fixed on the glowing text. She squinted and mouthed out the foreign words streaming by, but her mind hummed with a detached monologue.
Invincibility. Biotech. Corona’s cells. Almost there. Almost there.
The text stopped scrolling. Pixels dissolved into the schematics of a scaled skeleton, pulsing with thin circuits. She tapped skull of the creature, zooming into the microscopic grid of cells, thrumming in the rhythm of the system. A watermark flickered over the image, a string of numbers and titles and prototype trademarks, but among them, she caught a familiar phrase:
The corner of her mouth lifted as the translation clicked into place.
A buzz rattled her eardrum. “Agent Toris! Report, now!”
She sighed and pressed her earpiece. “Why, you in a rush, Chase?”
“Where are you?” Bullet fire and foreign shouts cracked over his panting voice.
She cringed at the noise and ran a finger over the volume control. The thin steel casing vibrated through her ear to the surface of her brain and the war cries quieted. “Quad seven, lab records.”
“Lab – What about the commander?”
“I’ll take her out in a minute.”
“Zora!” His formality broke into exasperation. “You had one job –”
“Sorry, I just got side-tracked securing enemy intel that’ll change the course of the entire war.” Zora selected a nail-sized data drive from her belt compartment, pressed the chip to the blueprints, and the screen cut dark.
“Can it wait? Quad nine’s overrun. Fifty Reds just got here out of nowhere. The trainees can’t handle it – Usand! Get over here!”
“And you soldiers can’t take them? Disappointing, Lieutenant Liric.”
“Just leaving you the best part.”
“Fine. Two minutes.”
She received a grunt in response, and communication line sizzled back to silence.
The agent flipped her pistol from its holster, reached for the exit button of the chamber – and stopped. A sound, barely a murmur, drew her focus. She held down a button on her earpiece, and atom by atom, electric pulses washed from the device to her brain. Her mind swept itself clean of all thoughts until she perceived only darkness, and in the silence, hushed breaths sounded from just beyond the door…
Fifty Reds. The smile crept back to her lips. This should be fun.
She crouched down just beyond the exit panel and hit the button.