Private Farrow departed the meeting room and Colonel Peters was once again left with just Captain Payne, Sergeant Sanchez, Hugh de Payens, and Planche. Everyone else was still slightly amused by Sergeant Sanchez’ joke with the exception of de Payens and Planche. The two Templars focused intently on the colonel, jaws set in determination.
“You are risking something that is not yours to risk,” Hugh de Payens said, stabbing an accusatory finger at him.
“It’s done de Payens. You can either help us or stay out of our way.” He’d had enough of the man’s complaining and undermining of his mission directives. “You either get on board with the program or get out. I have no more tolerance for your insubordination and dissent.”
“May we have a word privately?” Hugh de Payens asked. Planche seemed worried and turned to question his companion, but de Payens just shook his head and the question seemed to vanish.
“My office. Now. Everyone else, carry on with the plan of the day. Dismissed,” he said. The two men rose first, and departed as the room came to attention, saluted, and then moved to leave as well.
They walked the short distance to his office in silence. He didn’t turn around to see if de Payens was following or not. When they arrived at his door, he held it open politely for de Payens, assuming he had followed. He had and moved into the office, taking a seat automatically. The Colonel came in behind him and closed the door before taking his own seat behind his desk.
“Say what you have to say and let me get on with what I have to do,” he said. He had no intention of allowing this man to dissuade him from his plan, but he at least owed him the courtesy of being heard.
“Colonel, you are quite right in your admonishment of my actions. I have been a poor guest for criticizing you command so openly, and I apologize,” de Payens said. That was not at all what he had been expecting the man to say and it stunned him for a moment. His reaction must have shown on his face because de Payens wave a hand and continued. “I don’t mean I think you’re right on this, just that I should not have questioned you in public so forcefully. You must understand though that this is a risk you put yourself at as well.”
“Not that I’m averse to risk or that I’d rather sacrifice my troops than myself, but how does this operation with Farrow put me at risk at all?” he asked. He truly didn’t see any risk to himself whatsoever.
“You have seen the connections some people have to others in what you call the Ether, yes?” Hugh asked. “Most notably between angels and the people they protect.”
“The cords of energy connected to most people’s chests? Yes, we’ve seen that,” he answered.
“Well, you now have one to Private Farrow,” Hugh said, as though that simple explanation should be a revelation to him. He still didn’t understand but the implication he was somehow having an affair with the private was just dumb on the face of it.
“I don’t have any connection to Private Farrow nor any relationship with her whatsoever and I resent the accusation, sir,” he said, rocking forward and stabbing a finger down onto his desk to add emphasis to the end of his response.
“No, no, no Colonel. I do not mean to imply you are sleeping with her, no, no not at all,” Hugh said, holding up both hands as though he were trying to ward off an assault.
“Then what are you saying?” he asked, confused.
“I’m saying you are connected by the energy of your interacting on a personal level with her,” Hugh said.
“Officers are forbidden to fraternize with the enlisted ranks,” he said, reflexively. “What you’re saying sounds an awful lot like you’re accusing me of seeing the private.”
“No, no,” Hugh started again. “You have impacted her personal life with your decision and are thus connected now. Don’t you see? You are interacting with her on a one to one basis. That forms a personal connection.”
“I interact with many of my soldiers on a one to one basis,” he said. “That doesn’t make that interaction personal.”
“Do you take an interest in their personal lives, in their families, what they enjoy doing, their triumphs, and their tragedies?” Hugh asked.
“I try to get to know the men and women under my command yes, as much as I’m able,” he admitted. Most good commanders did try to get to know their troops, especially the ones directly under their command. The farther down the chain of command one went though, the harder it became to simply know everyone. This interaction with Private Farrow had revealed more about the woman than he usually knew about a soldier in his command, even the ones he took an interest in, which was true.
“Okay, so let’s say I do have some sort of connection with Farrow in a purely work-related fashion. So what?” he asked.
“So what? So, you are now connected. If something happens to her because of this decision you’ve made, it will affect you in a greater fashion than someone you are not connected to,” Hugh said.
He had to admit, now that he thought about it, if something were to happen to Farrow because of this plan he would be unhappy. No commander liked having bad things happen to his troops, whether it was a casualty or just bad news. He always wanted his people to do well, and truth be told when they failed he felt like he failed too; failed to train them, teach them, or prepare them adequately.
“So what does that have to do with those energy ropes we see on the monitor when the Guardians are in the Ether?” he asked.
“Those are your equipment representing the connection of your soul with another soul. Those connections are how we influence others to move away from the evil Satan tries to put into our lives through his minions, and toward the loving kindness that is the salvation offered by God through his son Jesus,” Hugh said with such passion he felt the man might actually fall on his knees and hold his hands aloft. “He is the one whom we Templars serve and it is for the sole purpose of preserving the penitent wherever they may be that we exist at all.”
“I have no need of saving by anyone,” he said, though he wasn’t sure he really meant it. “I’m fine just as I am.”
“You do not believe that,” Hugh said with such conviction he wasn’t sure if the man could actually read his mind or was just the best poker player he’d ever seen. His silence allowed Hugh to continue. “I’ve seen many military men who were seekers of the truth, and you sir, are a seeker.”
“Of course I want the truth,” he said, and he meant it. “We all do, don’t we?”
“I don’t mean truth in the way you do. I mean the truth of God,” he said.
“Now you’re getting religious. I’m not a religious man,” Colonel Peters said.
“Aren’t you?” he asked rhetorically. Peters sat forward to rebut de Payens’ remarks but the Templar held up a hand to stop him. “I can prove it. You indulge me just this once honestly. If I’m right you reconsider this plan of yours with Private Farrow.”
“And if you’re wrong?” he asked.
“I’ll not only stop trying to stop you, I’ll help you, but I assure you, I’m not wrong,” he said.
“I’ll agree to involve you in an advisory role. Nothing more,” he countered. Hugh started to complain but he cut him off. “This is the only course of action open to us. I have no choice.”
“Allow Planche and myself to step in if we think we can be of greater service in a more active role?” Hugh offered.
“Only if I deem it acceptable at the time.”
“Fine, show me your proof.”
“You have a Bible somewhere in your desk and you’ve been reading it recently looking for answers,” Hugh said plainly.
The man’s statement caught him off guard for a moment and then his brain made a connection that removed the fantastic element from what he’d just said. As soon as the thought occurred to him his mind immediately knew he was wrong, but he responded defensively anyway. “You’ve been watching me from the Ether?”
“You know that I have not,” he answered. Somehow, he did know that. His honor began to nag at him to acknowledge the truth of what de Payens had said. He had been seeking answers for what had been happening to him and his troops in the Bible. He’d been getting them too, or at least some helpful prodding in what seemed like the right direction anyway.
“Fine, yes, I’ve been reading the Bible and it has been helping settle my mind,” he admitted. “Okay. You win. You and Planche can advise and intervene if I deem it necessary.”
“This wasn’t about me beating you at anything,” Hugh said, leaning forward again.
“Then what was this about?” he asked, somewhat confused again.
“This was about the truth,” de Payens answered.
“What truth?” Colonel Peters asked.
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewn it unto them,” Hugh said. He seemed to be quoting something.
“What is that?” he asked.
“That is from the first book of Romans, verse nineteen. Look it up when next you are reading your Bible,” Hugh said.
“I still don’t understand where that put us?” he asked.
“That puts us one step closer to reinforcements, mon Colonel,” Hugh de Payens answered, smiling broadly as he sat back in his chair.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.
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