Guardians of the Herald – Issue #110

Billy’s head-long flight from Brandt and the Pit carried him through the corridors of the base and into the large cavern of what he’d come to call Grand Central Station. The transport trucks, Humvees, and other military vehicles bustled around heading to or from their respective destinations, but Billy ignored both that and the welcome open space of the cavern he usually found comforting. Instead, he weaved his way around and between vehicles until he reached the row of parked canvas-covered transport trucks. He dashed between two parked trucks and then dropped to all fours, scampering under the one to his left. He rapidly crawled under two more before scrambling to the tailgate of the third and climbing inside the empty bed. As soon as he got inside he dropped flat, slid up against the tailgate, and waited.

He didn’t have to wait long.

He heard a boot step into the stirrup and saw fingers grip the handle built into the tailgate just above his head. The first sergeant popped his head up just over the tailgate at eye level and quickly surveyed the truck bed, looking right over the top of him but missing what was literally right under his nose. He released his grip and jumped down to continue his search, issuing an unintelligible string of curses as he moved to the next truck.

Billy waited several more minutes before rising and peeking his head out to see if the coast was clear. Nothing moved along the row of truck tails and the stone of the cavern wall. Billy scampered over the tailgate and lowered himself softly to the ground before heading to the main exit on this side of the cavern and his ultimate goal.

A short time later, Billy entered the chow hall area and headed straight into the kitchen. The workers looked up when the double swinging doors opened to see who might be entering their domain in between meals, but returned to work when they recognized his now familiar face. He headed straight back to the dry stores and what he presumed to be safety, longing for the comforting smell of onions and old burlap. He grabbed the handle of the door and yanked it open, slipping through as though he were infiltrating the control room of an enemy base. He gently swung the door closed, breathing a heavy sigh of relief as he turned to head to the stack of bags he used for his quiet time.

“Gah!” he exclaimed as he turned and came face to face with First Sergeant Gideon Hargrave, who sat on the neat pile of empty burlap bags waiting for him.

“I got a call from some French guy who said you were coming,” Gideon said, uncrossing his legs and rocking forward to rest his forearms on his knees. “He told me what happened. You can’t run from this kid.”

“I…I,” Billy stammered. He didn’t know what to say. He liked Gideon, even thought of him as a friend such that they were in this place. He just didn’t know what to say to him. Anger started to well up in his mind as did the tears in his eyes, but he was determined not to let the older man see him cry like a child. He’d at least resisted tears to this point and was determined not to give in. He set his jaw and straightened his spine a little more but kept quiet.

“Good,” Gideon said, rising with a slap of his hands on his thighs. “Nothing wrong with being a little pissed off. Shoot, if that guy had done what the French guy says I’d be pissed off too, but you gotta be bigger than the jerks, kid, and I don’t mean physically though that ain’t a bad idea neither.”

The confusion this idea caused in Billy’s brain must have been showing on his face because Gideon crossed the short distance and placed a thick ham-hand on his shoulder in fatherly comfort.

“Look, bullies are bullies because they’re missing something in their lives and they want to push folks around to make themselves feel better. You’ve got something this guy wants and doesn’t know how to get, and that makes him mad so he takes it out on you,” Gideon said, gently squeezing Billy’s shoulder. “You be the bigger man and let him be a jerk, knowing he envies you is all.”

That last statement gave Billy an idea that seemed so elementary he was ashamed he hadn’t already thought of it. The physical rules in the ether didn’t apply to him so he could be as big or as small as he wanted, just like he could fly. The problem was, so could Brandt. He’d just have to be more creative than Brandt and come up with ways to be bigger that Brandt hadn’t thought of and didn’t know how to defend against.

“Listen, I spoke to the colonel and he agreed to give me a shot to convince you to go back to the ops center and get back after it. If you do, there won’t be any punishment. That other guy was out of line, but you have to go back on your own,” Gideon said, stepping back and placing his fists on his hips. “This running away crap ain’t what warriors do, kid. We stand our ground and we fight. That bully ain’t gonna leave you alone until you bloody his nose.”

“I can’t do that,” Billy said, dropping his eyes knowing he could never bring himself to actually hit the quadriplegic in real life.

“Why not? You got good spirit in ya, I seen that,” Gideon said, genuinely confused.

“I, I can’t explain. We aren’t supposed to talk about what goes on over there,” Billy said.

“Okay, okay, I understand classified. Shoot, even the potatoes are Top Secret in this place,” Gideon said, waving his hands to encompass the vegetables in the room. “You gotta understand though, until you stand up to this guy he ain’t gonna leave you alone.”

Billy straightened up and drew back his shoulders as an idea formed in his mind. “Bigger man, huh?”

Gideon nodded his agreement.

“Okay. I think I know how to stand up to him,” he replied.

“Good. Now get your butt back over there and make sure you apologize to the colonel in person, but don’t be the pouty little boy. Be the man like you are right now, colonels like it when they think they’ve helped their privates learn to be strong,” he said.

“I’m not his private,” Billy said, firmly resolving never to run from his problems again.

“Here’s an Army secret kid,” Gideon said, motioning Billy in closely as though they were surrounded by enemy agents trying to eavesdrop on their conversation. “Colonels think anyone that doesn’t outrank them is a private.” The over exaggerated grin on Gideon’s face made Billy smile, though the joke wasn’t that funny.

“I can stand up to two bullies now, I think,” Billy responded. Gideon’s body language changed immediately as he squared his shoulders to face Billy with a frown on his face.

“The colonel ain’t no bully, kid. He’s a colonel. They tell you what they need, how they need it, and when with no sugar coating. You gotta be man enough to take it straight from a colonel, kid. Sugar coating is for boot lieutenants and new corporals. Everybody else is interested in getting the job done.”

Billy nodded, though he didn’t fully understand that last bit about corporals and lieutenants. Gideon returned the nod as Billy turned to leave. He now had an idea how to deal with two people causing him trouble with one move. It was risky, but if it worked he’d put all this difficulty behind him.

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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 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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