Rebel Heart (Chapter Three, page 1 of 9)

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Brady approached the five soldiers in urban gray tactical suits crowded around the small box with a hole still smoking from a hit by a wayward laser bullet. The box was marked with a biohazard symbol on the outside. It was small and black, and yawned open to display a single keypad with a red serial number emblazoned along its side. The world around Brady was eerily quiet after a chaotic battle over the facility. The air was tinged with the scent of burning wood and melted metals, sulfur, and the facility's damp mustiness.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Maybe if we-" one started, pulling off the protective second-skin glove to reach into the box.

"Don't do that!" Brady growled, taking the box. "We don't know what this thing is."

He held it up to the light coming from the sole window in the massive basement. The dilapidated, abandoned facility fiercely defended by the soldiers in Western uniforms was not worth their efforts when compared to the buildings in much better shape down the road. There was no running water, no food supplies, no energy whatsoever, just a deteriorating building with a score of insurgents and a small black box.

Uneasily, he looked to the others. His team continued to clear the building and toss flares into corners as they sought out any living insurgents or incendiary devices.

"They were defending it for a reason," another added. "That's the worst fight we've had yet."

"All for this thing," Brady agreed. "We'll take it with us. Fan out and see what else we can salvage from here or if there are any survivors we can talk to about these funky uniforms."

He closed the box. Brady's sharp gaze took in the smoldering remains of an escape ladder leading out of the basement's opposite end. Some had escaped, though not with the treasure they sought to protect. He looked around, unnerved that such fervent men would retreat. His dark gaze returned to the box, and he reached up to the earpiece as he moved away from the others.

"Yes," the voice at the other end of the network responded.

"Larry, we found something," he said. "Not sure what it is."

"Wait one, Brady," Larry responded then bellowed at the crowd of aides-de-camp Brady knew regularly surrounded him. "Someone grab me an intel guy!"

"Brade, I think we should get outta here," Dan said. "This place gives me the creeps."

"Me, too," Brady said and met the gaze of his closest friend since basic training. "Let's pull everyone out."

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