Guardians of the Herald – Issue #105

Colonel Peters sat at the plain metal table across from Private Farrow and let his words sink in.  First Sergeant Wilcox sat beside him, staring at the woman with a solemn visage.  First Lieutenant Jones in his precisely creased uniform remained behind them both, flanked by two of his soldiers, armed and wearing the armbands of military policemen.

“Don’t I get a lawyer or something, sir?” Private Farrow asked.

“At this time Private, we are determining if we will handle what you’ve done under Article 15 or if we move forward with Article 32,” First Sergeant Wilcox replied.  “Do you know the difference?”

“No Top,” Farrow replied.

“Article 15 is Non Judicial Punishment and equivalent to a formal reprimand,” Colonel Peters said, saying the words as though they were memorized and rehearsed, which they were.  “This procedure permits a commanding officer to administratively discipline his troops without resorting to one of several courts-martial options.”

“Article 32 means we move forward with determining which courts-martial we would use,” Wilcox finished.  He and the First Sergeant had done this a few times before.  Jack knew the routine just as he did.

“So if I accept the deal and work the op like you said, sir, I can stay in the Army?” she asked.  She spoke in a steady voice.  Clearly Private Farrow was not highly educated but she had a steady quality about her and strong demeanor.  She wasn’t wilting under his steady gaze as most junior enlisted did when a full-bird Colonel was displeased with them, much less thinking about kicking them out for compromising the security of a top secret installation.  This plan actually might work.

“Yes, private. If you do the op we return you to active duty and everyone knows you received administrative punishment,” Colonel Peters said.

“A Ninja Punch is a lot better than a Big Chicken Dinner, private,” Wilcox said.  “That’s the best you can hope for too if this thing goes the distance, and it will if we have to.”

He didn’t like playing hardball with the woman, but he really was out of options.  They needed some solid intel on these things Angela wanted to call demons.  He had to admit their stony grey skin with bumps and horns all over the place made them look demonic, but real demons?  Now Billy said he’d been to Hell and someone at Tech Evangelist was on Satan’s hit list?  Things were beginning to spiral out of control into the truly abnormal, in a place where weird was the order of the day.  He needed an advantage, and he’d get it from Private Farrow or she’d get drummed out of the Army, it was that simple.

“I’m not looking for a bad conduct discharge, sir. Can I think about it?” she asked.

“No.”  He’d already thought about it.  He needed this to move quickly and he wasn’t sure how long it would take for one of these things to make contact.  “If we walk out of this room, so does your opportunity.”

She raised her head and stared intently into his eyes.  “Tell me one thing before I decide, sir, and I need an honest answer.”

He was asking her to risk her life so he owed her at least that, “You’ve got it, private.”

“Do you want me on your team or am I just a tool now?” she asked.

“You knowingly violated a standing order and compromised the security of a top secret government installation, allowing the enemy to gain access.  At this moment you are a tool,” he answered, and he watched her face fall.  She wanted honest and direct answers so he would give her honest and direct answers, but he had to admit she wasn’t without hope so he’d give her that too.  “However, you I don’t believe you were aware of the exploit the enemy was using so I’ll grant it wasn’t malicious in nature.  You are a tool now, but whether or not you remain so depends on your conduct from this moment forward.”

She never hesitated.

“I’m in,” she said firmly.

“Good,” he said, nodding as he stood.  The First Sergeant and Private Farrow both rose a moment after he did.  “You are hereby restricted to quarters for one month with loss of pay equivalent to one month’s pay stretched over two months.  A formal letter of reprimand will be entered into your service record book but it will reflect the lack of malice and an exemplary willingness to participate in extra duty as recompense for the infraction.  First Sergeant Wilcox will draw up the papers and bring them by for you to sign.  You are dismissed and may return to you duty station immediately.”

Private Farrow executed a hard salute, faced to the right, and marched from the room followed closely by First Lieutenant Jones and his security detachment.  A moment later and it was just he and the first sergeant left in the room as the crack of heels on tile echoed through the hallway outside.  His oldest friend in the world relaxed and looked him in the eye silently asking the same question he was thinking.  Did they just do the right thing?

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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

Pre-order the physical book NOW until November 1, 2015. Go HERE to get yours and save 40% off the cover price, that’s just $4.79 +S/H.

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