The alarm claxon jolted everyone into motion, including Colonel Peters. Two quick steps brought him up behind the soldier currently working the main monitoring displays for Guardians in the Ether. Captain Julie Payne’s readout was the only one active at the moment. Her view showed her investigating the hospital room where the woman Dante had come to visit was staying in. He reached over and snatched the hand set from its cradle instead of wasting time looking for his own headset.
“We have an imminent breach forming!” Specialist Johnson reported as he began scanning the readouts from his duty station at the main control panel.
“Scramble all personnel! Where’s the breach targeting?” Colonel Peters demanded as he placed the receiver to his ear. “Icarus, we have a breach forming. Get back here on the double!”
“All Angels and Guardians report to the Pit to defend the installation, this is not a drill,” Corporal Domenech announced in his headset. He checked several displays and began scrolling through data on one of the displays before he responded. “Sir, as near as I can figure it’s an attack on the Pit or Heaven, sir. Right here!”
He spun around and scanned the control room as though he might be able to see some sign of the pending assault. The enemy had been very quiet for some time, but the last assault they’d been through had toppled a building. He wasn’t sure what he could do to defend against that himself, and the feeling of helplessness was an unsettling one.
“Sir, Icarus is on station,” Domenech reported
He turned back around and saw a view of himself from behind on Icarus’ display. He slammed the receiver back in its cradle and crossed the room to the shelf where his headset rested. He pulled it from its charger and slipped it over his ear, pressing the power button once it was nestled firmly against his skull.
“Comm check. Icarus do you read?” he asked.
“Five by five Archangel,” Icarus reported back.
“Sit back and hold station in ambush position. You may be our only defense, but hold for my signal. Repeat, do not engage without my authorization. Acknowledge,” he ordered.
“Acknowledged,” she said. Good. This was too coincidental. They’d just made the deal with Private Farrow for essentially throwing out all charges against her for violating the base’s security policies and now they had a pending assault precisely where she was mere moments after her release from house arrest. He turned his back to the control stations and moved away from where Farrow was working.
“Icarus, I want you to focus in on Private Farrow over there,” he whispered. “Get in close so you can see everything she does and hear everything she says. Acknowledge.”
“Roger that. Moving in,” Icarus confirmed.
He turned around and moved back to the control panels, sliding up behind corporal Domenech with his back in the direction of Private Farrow. Icarus’s view was closing in on Farrow’s work station just as he leaned in to the Corporal and asked, “You are aware of the configuration of Private Farrow’s work station, Corporal?”
“Yes, sir,” the corporal said softly recognizing the need for discretion.
“Good, make sure she cannot see Icarus’ data feed or view,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” the Corporal agreed. He moved his mouse and made a few adjustments and shifted his eyes to meet the Colonel’s gaze. “Done sir.”
“Outstanding, Corporal,” he said as he resumed his normal position.
“Archangel, we have one of the lizard Tangos crawling all over Farrow, and he has buddies,” Icarus reported.
“Hold position,” he said into his microphone. “Domenech, what’s the status of that breach?”
“Stabilizing in another few seconds sir. We should have contact any moment,” he reported.
“Archangel, we have contact,” Icarus whispered softly over the comm link. “Eww, it’s a she and man is it ugly.”
He snapped around and found Icarus’ display. There on the display he saw one of the grey stone-skinned creatures sitting on the control panel in front of Private Farrow. The creature clearly had sagging, thin breasts hanging almost to its navel with greasy locks of rope-like hair twisted and matted running from the midpoint of its scalp down its back. The creature appeared to be talking to the lizard creature, which sat upon her outstretched hand. In the other hand she held a roll of parchment and a quill.
Colonel Peter’s heart raced. It really was happening that fast. He stood up and looked out the viewing window into the Pit below. Billy Ransom and Angela Magdala were both hastily donning their helmets and mounting their couches.
“What is it saying to the lizard?” he asked as crossed back to the shelves and printer away from Private Farrow. He wasn’t sure if those creatures could hear him, but he didn’t want to give anything away.
“I can’t tell, sir. I can’t hear from my current position,” she reported. “Maneuvering to a better vantage point.”
He was about to counter that when Farrow rose and crossed the room to stand by the printer next to where he stood. She opened the paper drawer of the printer and took out several sheets of blank paper. As she straightened the paper she leaned slightly toward the Colonel before moving away.
“I can see her. She’s offering me the deal and I’m going to sign,” Farrow said, and moved back to her station, laying the paper down on the counter next to a pen.
He spun around, took two steps and looked at the display screens. There on the monitor, the demoness unrolled the scroll over the papers Farrow had set down. Farrow held out her hand and the demoness stabbed a finger with the quill. Watching Farrow jerk in the room and on the screen at the same time was unsettling. He focused on her real hand but didn’t see anything. However, on the screen a smooth trickle of blood began to flow where she had been pricked by the quill. Farrow looked at the demoness and seemed to be contemplating something. Finally, she took hold of the quill and moved to the paper with it.
“Archangel, the lizard knows about the deal! It told the demon! Abort, abort!” Icarus shouted.
“Abort! Abort!” Colonel Peters shouted into the room and every head snapped around to look at him save one. Private Farrow scrawled her name on the paper before her with the pen.
Immediately on the screen the demoness shot her hand out and a flaming axe materialized. Icarus dove into view from the right side with red lights shooting from her hands at the demoness as she attacked. The creature caught both beams with a gout of fire from her axe head and then swung the butt of the weapon out deflecting Icarus’ charging attack as well. Icarus’s body obscured the view on the monitor for a moment and when she passed the demoness had climbed astride Private Farrow’s shoulders with her axe raised high.
“No!” Colonel Peters shouted, dashing toward Private Farrow, but before he could take his second step the demoness struck her axe butt on the console. A giant crack immediately formed under the blow issuing forth oily black smoke that enveloped both the demoness and Private Farrow. In the room Private Farrow had just enough time to exchange a knowing look with Colonel Peters before she vanished into thin air.
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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