Billy and Angela arrived at the theater as First Sergeant Wilcox trotted up slightly out of breath. The first sergeant was in full battle gear. His helmet sat askew on his head, the body armor he wore was too big to fit properly, and the rifle he carried seemed odd in some way. Billy almost didn’t recognize him as the three of them flowed into the room.
“Hey kid,” Wilcox said stepping in behind Billy.
“What’s going on First Shirt?” Corporal Williams asked as he took up his station next to Angela’s couch as she began connecting the leads to her equipment.
“He’s Angel Two I bet,” a man with an overly large nose joked from next to Brandt’s table.
“That’s not funny DeLuca. No, really Sarge, what gives?” Williams repeated.
First Sergeant Wilcox waved Corporal DeLuca over and stepped toward Corporal Williams. Williams hesitated but met the man half way. DeLuca crossed the room and joined the pair.
“The Colonel assigned me to the kid as his Angel. I am Angel Two,” Wilcox affirmed.
“No way!” DeLuca exclaimed.
“Uh, okay,” Corporal Williams said deflating somewhat. Wilcox didn’t hesitate.
“This is your detail Corporal,” Wilcox said with conviction to Williams. “You boys have been doing the job. I’ve been pushing paper. I don’t know how to do this as well as you do, so when we strap it on I’m Private Wilcox until further notice.”
“Just in here?” Williams asked.
“I’ve got to start training with you boys until the Colonel finds a replacement. We’ll figure it out, but no, other places too for now,” Wilcox said.
“You sure about this First Shirt?” Williams asked.
“It’s Private, and yes,” Wilcox said.
“Private huh?” DeLuca asked. Wilcox nodded. “Then get your ass back to your post…private!”
“Not the smartest thing to do Chuck,” Williams said shaking his head as he moved back to his position by Angela’s couch. Corporal DeLuca just chuckled as he walked back to Brandt’s hospital bed and checked several readouts. First Sergeant Wilcox returned to stand behind Billy’s couch as he reached overhead to draw the oversized helmet down on its cable.
“I’m sorry about your demotion Private Wilcox,” Billy said, pausing before strapping the helmet onto his head and covering his face.
“Don’t worry about it kid. I’m still a First Sergeant,” Wilcox said smiling that unusual smile. Billy frowned at the odd smile and watched it turn into the reassuring scowl that looked more natural on the older man’s face. “Now get that crap strapped on. We’ve got a job to do.”
Billy smiled and pulled the helmet down over his eyes, buckling the chinstrap. Once the helmet was in place Billy leaned back into the couch and shifted his shoulders trying to get comfortable. He didn’t really understand what was going on with the First Sergeant and was worried he had somehow caused trouble for the man. His thoughts were interrupted by a call from the speakers in his helmet.
“Comm check, Cherry. You read me?” First Sergeant Wilcox’s voice said.
“I read you, but what do I call you?” Billy asked.
“I’m Angel Two, kid,” Wilcox said.
“Cut the chatter Wilcox,” Williams voice said on the channel. “They have to get into the training room, so boot him up and let’s roll.”
“Roger, Cherry is booting up now,” Wilcox said.
“I hate that name,” Billy said, shifting his helmet on the headrest. A small display appeared in Billy’s vision counting backward from ten.
“Keep up with Angela and me in the Danger Room and we’ll see about a name change,” Brandt’s voice said.
“Boot up in three, two, one,” Wilcox said.
The black of Billy’s vision began to turn into a soft gray. Billy formed a picture of the door to the green room with the odd handle in his mind. As the light slowly brightened a fuzzy, indistinct doorway became visible in the center of his vision floating in space. The light became brighter and brighter and the details sharpened in Billy’s vision. By the time the light reached the level Billy’s brain registered as the same as the rest of the complex the doorway appeared as if it had been taken off its hinges and now floated on a white field in front of Billy’s vision.
I’ve got a door, Billy said in his mind.
Roger that Cherry, Wilcox’s voice responded in Billy’s head.
That was slow, Cherry. We’re already inside. Not gonna ditch that call sign like that, Brandt’s voice said.
Keep your pants on General. I’m coming, Billy said irritated. Someone chuckled on the channel but Billy couldn’t tell who it was.
Billy looked around marveling at how things looked coming into the ether. The experience was new to him and he enjoyed the sense of privacy he had in the area before going through the door as they called the process of entering the ether. Only this time he was actually going through a door. The last time he’d done it he’d concentrated on an image of the man they were looking for and when he stepped toward the man his vision had changed from a field of white to the apartment with the man seated right before him.
Billy’s hand reached out for the door knob and a sense of fear settled over him. What if one of those demon things was waiting for him just beyond the door? What if Angela and Brandt weren’t there to help him? He didn’t really know what he’d do.
Umm, there aren’t any of those things behind the door, are there? Billy asked, swallowing hard.
Oh, for crying out loud, Brandt said.
No, Cherry, they don’t know about this place. Like I said, I haven’t seen any here, Angela said. Just come through the door. We’re just on the other side.
You sure? Billy questioned again, taking hold of the door knob but not turning it.
We don’t have time for this, Brandt said. We’ve got an operation in less than an hour and he needs to be able to do some things by then. Open the door Cherry and let’s get going.
Don’t be scared, kid. I’m right here, Wilcox voice said.
Remember what I said about fear, Angela said. You promised.
Billy remembered the promise, he just felt silly now that he actually contemplated talking to God. Billy shifted his mind away from thinking out loud as he did when he wanted to talk to someone in the ether and focused his attention inward where only he could hear.
God, I don’t want to be scared of those things. Please don’t let there be one behind that door and if there is please keep me safe from it, Billy thought, as he turned the handle on the door and stepped through.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.