Billy stood his ground as Brandt starred at him for the second time. Angela had been recounting their exploits inside Robert Dante’s heart. Periodically Brandt turned and just locked eyes on Billy. He wanted to wilt, to turn away and run, but he didn’t. Finally, Angela reached the part where Hugh and Planche declared that Billy was destined by God to lead an assault into Hell and Brandt’s expression shifted from puzzled disbelief to outright mirth.
There is no way Cherry there in his Halloween costume is going to lead us anywhere, Brandt exclaimed. A paladin of God? Give me a break. You religious nuts are going to compromise this mission and our base if we don’t reign you in.
Billy took a step to defend himself but Angela beat him to it.
Icarus and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his new-found faith and abilities. He single-handedly defended us from Rabdos’ attacks, Angela said, waving her arms in Billy’s direction. Brandt turned to face Icarus who was still silently flying back and forth in a motion Billy could only comprehend as aerial pacing. The winged male avatar of the Captain ignored Brandt’s unasked question but her obvious avoidance of looking at Brandt became the unspoken answer.
You too? Brandt blurted out as thought Julie had actually spoken her confirmation of what Angela had said. I’m out of it for a bit and everything goes to hell. The kid didn’t even know how to fly when he got here a few weeks ago and now he’s going to lead us against the hordes of Hell?
He’s learning, Angela shot back.
He’s right here! Billy shouted. Everyone in the room looked at him for a minute and then Brandt continued on as though nothing had happened. Theliel drifted over and laid a hand on his shoulder. Immediately, he felt a warmth emanate from her touch but he didn’t want to calm down right now and shrugged the hand off as he rose above the floor and floated towards the argument. Lancelot and Percival are teaching me how to project into the ether and be effective. It’s more than you’ve ever done for me!
Angela put her hands on her hips and shot an accusing glare at Brandt but she didn’t say anything. Brandt flew from the floor to a few inches from Billy’s face so fast the motion was only a blur. Billy imagined if they were in the real world he could tell what the man had eaten for his last meal from the smell of his breath they were so close.
Look kid, I don’t care if you’re on the team for training but your inexperience in the field is a liability and it will get people killed. Hell, for all I know it’s what got the assault team killed with that tanker-bomb Guardian Three just told me about.
That’s enough, One, Colonel Peters voice said over the communications network. Cherry has been a useful member of the team so far despite being green. Make it work.
Brandt opened his mouth to reply without breaking eye contact with Billy, but Billy cut him off.
Paladin, Billy stated flatly. Brandt closed his mouth as he wrinkled his brow and tilted his head slightly, drifting back slightly as he did. My call sign is Paladin from now on.
What? Brandt said, stopping his backward motion. You’re a cherry. Know what that means? It means you’re a virgin. It means you have no experience. It means you couldn’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag let alone lead us all in a battle against the enemy.
Billy, no! Theliel shouted sensing what her charge was about to do.
Billy felt his rage building. He’d had enough of Brandt’s abuse. He dropped his right foot back and brought up his shield as though he were going to fend off a blow, then thrust out his right hand sending forth a bolt of sizzling white energy, straight for Brandt.
Brandt had been prepared for the possibility of the attack and brought up his left hand sheathed in red energy. The sphere of crackling read easily deflected the sizzling white-hot bolt which shot towards Mihr. The angel reacted instantly calling forth his flaming sword to intercept the deadly bolt before it could strike him. Angela brought both her hands up crackling with white energy and Icarus encased his body with a sphere of red light.
You asked for this kid, Brandt said, calling forth his own ball of energy and lashing out at Billy.
The first sphere of light landed squarely on his shield but the impact pushed him backwards. He saw Brandt winding up another sphere while the hand that had just attacked him crackled anew with the red energy.
That’s enough! Archangel’s voice shouted over the net but Brandt ignored the command and began swinging his arms in a wind mill motion launching sphere after sphere of red energy to impact Billy’s shield. With each impact Billy sensed his position shift slightly up and away from Brandt. He dare not drop his guard to see where his assailant was or one of those balls of power might take his head off. Just as he was about to peek around the lower edge to see where Brandt was something grabbed his shield and tore it away from in front of his face. Brandt punched him square in the chest with a fist crackling with red energy. The blow sent Billy flying and he felt the pain cascading across and through his body. Before he could react Brandt was on him again floating above him as though standing over Billy just like the bullies back in school when they knocked him down at the bus stop.
You’ve need this for a long time, kid, Brandt said, drawing both fists back for a double punch.
Before Brandt could launch his final attack Billy closed his eyes and exited the ether, withdrawing back into his body in the Pit. He could hear Colonel Peter’s shouting over the intercom but he didn’t care as he ripped the shroud from his face and pulled the electrodes off his body before leaping off the couch and running headlong out of the Pit. First Sergeant Wilcox was hot on his tail but he didn’t care about any of that. He just had to get away.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. To catch up on the first 107 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation of Book 1, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Angels-Mark-Malcolm-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY, or get the actual book from the author’s website at http://www.firstchevalier.com/product/guardians-of-the-herald-angels-and-demons/. The compilation of Book 2 Guardians of the Herald: The Templars’ Return is now available for the kindle on Amazon as well at https://www.amazon.com/Templars-Return-Guardians-Herald-Book-ebook/dp/B01HTMBRQ2.
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