Hart Attack

By: Cristin Harber

CHAPTER ONE



Covered in dirt and squinting against the smoky debris that rained down, Roman Hart growled into his comm piece. “Get me out of here, Rocco.”

“Working on it.” His team leader barked in the background about a new extraction plan. “Hang tight, Roman. Cash, get a move on, man.”

Cash remained radio silent as explosions blasted around Roman. The vibrations killed, his headache raged. Worry churned in his gut that Cash’s target was still active, and Roman hadn’t heard a word from—

“Would help if I had some eyes.” Cash’s words drifted through Roman’s earpiece.

Good. Still alive. Still throwing digs, not that Roman could help the predicament. Seeing as he was Cash’s spotter, this wasn’t the greatest situation. Another blast exploded. Roman took a deep breath, not loving the tight spot he’d found himself in, but, even more, hating that they’d come up empty-handed. The ground shook, burning ash floating from the black sky courtesy of some weapons-stealing asshole with a grenade launcher. “Come on, dude. Take out this guy already.”

“Gimme a minute…”

Whoever was sending grenades Roman’s way was getting closer. Another round of shrapnel and fire rained down. He pinched his eyes closed, waiting.

There was a pause in the blasts, and Roman checked his surroundings. Detonation spots encircled him, basically forming small craters. A few yards right or left, he’d be in pieces. Nothing sounded for more than a minute. His confidence grew that it was almost time to roll.

“You’re good,” Cash said.

“Took long enough.” Roman bolted from his makeshift cover and made his way back toward the team.

“What good is my spotter if he can’t say where the hell my target is?”

Roman grumbled. He had told both Cash and Rocco where the dude with the bag of grenades was, but at the time, Cash had still been on the move, not ready to shoot, and their team leader was too busy with the flu, trying to keep down his lunch and not bothering to lose his mic. But when Rocco wasn’t being sick, he was shouting orders. Dude was good like that.

“Get in, get safe,” Rocco muttered.

They had acted on bad intel, gone after stolen codes that could arm an older-than-shit nuke that had never existed in the first place. That was, if you read the news reports and believed reporters. Widespread panic had ensued among several foreign governments. Over a weapon that hadn’t existed. So Titan had been called in. Boss Man stayed at HQ and Rocco led their team on the ground because a stolen nuke and codes trumped the flu. Rocco hadn’t balked. They’d hit hard, though they’d hit wrong, and were lucky to get out with their asses still intact.

If Roman had to guess, Boss Man was in his element tracking the sources of the intelligence screw-ups.

With the weight of a mission gone wrong on his shoulders, Roman arrived to rendezvous. Winters was already there, Cash seconds later. Silent, they shifted in their boots as though each had the ramifications of the day’s fuck-up running through their minds.

Rocco appeared from wherever he’d been bunkered, shaking his head and looking pale, though that probably had less to do with a virus and more to do with a stolen older-than-shit nuke.

“Bad news,” Parker’s voice came through Roman’s earpiece from Titan HQ.

“Don’t wanna hear bad news.” Rocco scrubbed his face.

“Alright, okay news for now. Tagged their phones with a tracker. Soon as one of ’em makes a call, we’re back in business. Roc, Jared’s patching through to you.”

Rocco switched channels and turned away. Seconds later, his face looked darker. “We’ve done what can do here. Load up.” He stopped, putting his hands on his knees and hanging his head.

Everyone took a step back just in case.

Cash squinted. “Maybe a little R and R is needed before the baby comes.”

Rocco laughed harshly. “You think Caterina Savage has any intention of letting the flu in our house? It’d be all, ‘ay, Dios mio. Spray down with Lysol.’” He stood, looking like he was going to lose it again, but then recovered and checked his watch. “Chopper approaching from the southwest in less than one.”

As if on cue, the eerily quiet stealth chopper hovered overhead, making ripples in the late-summer air and stirring the dust.

Roman itched to get home. He dug his hand into his pocket and toyed with a small slip of paper at the bottom. Who the hell knew why he kept it, but he did. His fingers had played with it for hours on end, making the thing soften and roll.

“Let’s go, boys.” Rocco stood back, waiting for the team to load first. He had that look in his eyes, wanting to get home, and that had nothing to do with the flu. Winters and Cash hustled too. They were heading home to their women. It’d been a subtle shift as each of them went down that road. But Roman had noticed.

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