CHALLENGE

After a bit of a break, I'm back to do a subgenre challenge. 1500 words on a dystopian technothriller (thank you random generator for that one!) Check out the others at terribleminds.

WAR OF THE TECHNO-SPIES, PART 1

"Go." The word whispered in my ear was more like a guttural grunt than instruction. I charged forward, heading for the glass doors that marked the entrance to the building I had once called home. The others stayed hidden, waiting for my signal everything was clear.

Cameras on top of the low roof swivelled towards my position. I prayed the jacket Hector had designed who keep me camouflaged. The cameras rotated back and forth, tracking the sensation of movement, but unable to pinpoint my location. I reached the door and found the security panel chest-height on the wall.

Glovegrove had one of the best defense systems in the world. My former employers were dedicated to technological advancement, racing against facilities in every country attempting the same. The secrets buried in this underground facility were guarded by a retinal scan, saliva test and biometric screening as you passed through the doors. None of us would have made it. Faking the first two tests only guaranteed a painful death when the biometrics activated an electro-pulse that would melt the cells of anyone who didn't register in the system.

Good thing it didn't matter. I was one of the next wave of super-soldiers, designed and bred here for this type of mission. I hit the panel with the palm of my hand. Sparks leapt out of the console, traveling at breakneck speed through my body, and finding no way out, returning to their source. The wires burned, releasing a silky ribbon of acrid smoke. The cameras above sizzled and sparked. I kept my hand still. Inside, I watched as the red lights on every checkpoint and closed door switched to red.

I stepped back. I panted, waiting for the shaking to stop. I didn't hurt, but I felt like I was buzzing from too much of something. "Clear."

The others were with me quickly. The five of us made an unlikely group, not all from the same country, not all working for the same organisation. But tonight we had one common goal.

"Nice work." Smith went to clap my shoulder and I moved away.

"Trust me. It wouldn't end well." His eyes widened but he didn't comment. We all had our weaknesses. For the next ten minutes, I would be charged with enough voltage to kill anything living that made the mistake of touching me.

"This way." He led us in, somehow appointed the de facto leader. Smith knew this place as well as I did, maybe better. He was an early-gen soldier, bred for something approaching a normal life undercover with an enemy. You needed to experience freedom to be normal.

"Do you want water?" Eloise hissed as she fell into step behind me. The faint inflection on her words gave away her origin more than any of us could. I just shook my head.

The building above ground was sleek and open, all that glass giving the illusion it was penetrable. Not even a grenade could shatter it though; people had tried. It wouldn't have mattered if this facility had fallen. I recognised the door as we came to it. I had been through it only a handful of times, leaving the training grounds for test missions until my pod had failed the last.

"Now what?" James asked. He was the same age as Smith, an American who had been disavowed by his company when our government had captured him. He and Smith would only admit they had met one another inside the island prison that kept technosoldiers. If he had a talent, he hadn't shared it with us. He barely tolerated the rest of us, preferring to confer with Smith.

"You," Smith nodded at the lean girl bringing up the rear of our line. Her codename was Stealth, and if she had been given any other, she wasn't willing to share it. Of everyone I had met in the last three years, she scared me the most. She passed by Eloise and then me, not even looking our way. Her gray eyes were always vacant, looking at something no one else could see. Considering what she could do, it made sense. She was almost my height but probably only two-thirds of my weight. She had caramel-coloured skin and the most I had managed to glean from Smith was that her entire family was killed years ago before the end of the Amero-Europe war. Her hair was tied up tight in a bun, revealing an etching symbols that started at the nape of her neck and ran the length of her spine.

Glovegrove would have destroyed nations for the chance to have someone like her under its control. She approached the metal door, shaped to like the entrance to a bank vault. If anyone had broken in, they would have seen this as the source of everything. The founders believed in hiding in plain sight. If broken, the entrance underground was locked under a steel floor. Instead of a doorway, it would be a vault, with rows of safes and locked files. You could leave a millionaire, but without a single one of their secrets.

Stealth leaned against the door, her arms spread as if giving it a hug. She turned her face to one side so her cheek was pressed into the steel. I could see her eyes were closed. I'm still not sure what happened next. I had seen her do it before, and each time, I stared, trying to figure out just what happened.

One minute she was there, the next she was gone. I heard Eloise's quick breath. It was her first time seeing what Stealth could do. She had been the last to join our crew. James was grinning; not his usual tight-lipped stoic look but sheer glee over what had just happened. Smith shook his head, trying to hide a smile but I could see it on his face. I could do a lot with my talent, but it couldn't compete with someone who could literally vanish.

A bell rung and then the heavy wheel affixed to the door rotated. It started slow, picking up speed until it had completed a full turn. The door swung outwards. Stealth stood there. Her chest heaved but you couldn't hear her breathing. The only other sign she was tired was the dew of sweat that covered her chest and forehead. She wiped them away and stepped aside.

"After you," she curtsied.

"Brilliant." Smith bounded forward. I let Eloise pass me. Now that we were here, a familiar worry took hold of my stomach and twisted. The smell of stale damp and medical sterility oozed out of the long stairwell Stealth had revealed. The stairs were lit - my reset of the security system had rebooted everything - but it didn't look inviting.

"Coming?" James turned his head to me. He stood just outside the door, his hand gripping the metal. I nodded, wanting nothing more than to run away. But I was here now. We were here now. This might be the only way to stop our countries from destroying what was left of the world.

I walked forward. Air rushed past my ears and his next question felt like I was underwater trying to hear. My knees shook. I clenched my fists, trying to keep from letting my fear show. Satisfied I was coming, James turned and walked in.

The gunshot broke through my blocked ears and jolted me back into the world. Immediately I looked down. Nothing. I jerked my head up. Eloise fell to her knees, blood painting its way across her back. Smith started up the stairs and then fell, the sound of the gun carrying down into the tunnel. I had just enough time to see the surprise on his face.

I ran forward. James was frozen in the line of fire. Stealth had moved to a side of the vault. I couldn't see the gunman but he must be down there. I was moving fast, almost at the door, when James turned. He held a gun by his side. I tried to stop, but nothing could take me out of his sightline. He raised his hand.

"Sorry kid, but my loyalty isn't to you." He fired.

I raised my hands to block the shot. It didn't matter. I felt the bullet hit my gut, like a fire being set under my skin. I tripped and fell. He turned, gun still high. Stealth wasn't there. I could feel the blackness ready to explode behind my eyes and take me with it, but I held on. James ran into the tunnel and I rolled onto my back. Gray eyes appeared above me. There was nothing vacant about them now. Stealth pulled me towards the wall, and we disappeared.