Guardians of the Herald Issue – #114

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Angels and demons battle for human souls. Who's side are you on?

He still couldn’t believe he, Colonel Simon Peters, was contemplating believing in God. He continued to stare at the black book he held but couldn’t bring himself to open it again. Angela seemed so sure, so positive it all was real. Those who could see the monitors that displayed the representation of the ether saw the entity known as Theliel step out of Billy’s chest a short time after he arrived, and she did have an angelic appearance. Just a little while ago one of those horn-covered, stone-skinned entities Angela said were demons just appeared in the middle of the control room and then disappeared into the ground, taking Private Harrow with it. His nostrils still held that faint sulfurous stench the creature had left behind.

His heart sank as he recalled watching the creature abduct Harrow. The plan had been to insert her into the enemy’s midst but no one had suspected it might take place in the real world.  The real world…that sounded funny given the events that were tumbling through his mind at the moment. A knock on the door broke through his reverie and he dropped the book into the top right drawer of his desk, closing the drawer as he spoke.

“Come,” he said. Immediately, the door to his small, utilitarian office opened. His newly assigned clerk, Sergeant St.Clair, entered with his immaculate uniform with creases so sharp he thought they might cut his finger were he to run it along the edge.

“Sir, the new base doctor, Commander Perry, is here to report along with the naval aviator, Lieutenant Commander Malcolm, who flew him in,” St.Clair reported. Peters started to respond but the sergeant continued. “Also, First Lieutenant Bishop has arrived with First Sergeant Wilcox.”

“Excellent. Send the doctor and his pilot in,” he responded.

Two naval officers in khaki uniforms with short sleeves entered. The first, an older man with solid white hair, rounding face, a kind twinkle in his eyes, and the silver oak leaves of a commander stepped in and came to attention. Right behind the commander came a man with the same short cropped hair cut all military men wore, but his face carried more of a square jaw rather than the rounded edges of the commander, and his nose seemed to angle to one side as if it had been broken once long ago. The second man wore the gold oak leaves of a Lieutenant Commander, marking him as junior to the first man, but he also sported the coveted wings of a naval aviator on his left breast just above the ribbon bar.

“Commander Perry reporting as ordered, sir,” the doctor said, as his pilot came to attention next to him. The pilot remained silent.

“At ease gentlemen,” he said not offering them a chair. He didn’t intend for this to take long enough for them to be able to take a seat. “I apologize for the abruptness of this reception but I have something of a crisis going on right now. For reasons I cannot explain at the moment, I’ll have to ask you both to return to your quarters and remain there until otherwise informed.”

“Sir,” Commander Perry began. The colonel held up a hand to cut him off before he could get started.

“Yes, I know. You’d like to get to the medical aid station and assess your new post. It cannot be helped at the moment.” The pilot looked at the Commander and the two exchanged a silent question between them. While the doctor had the staff corps insignia of the caduceus, the pilot wore the star of a line officer on his shoulder boards. He decided both warranted at least a little information. “We have had a breach in base security and an incident in a classified area. That breach has not yet been resolved. Given the highly classified nature of this facility, I’m certain you both can understand my need for brevity with regard to details of this incident.”

Both men seemed to relax a bit given the deference of trust he had shown in giving them what little information he’d just disclosed. They both came to attention again and waited. He rose and saluted, holding it a moment longer than usual until he realized they would not return the salute given they wore no head gear. The Navy had such odd traditions, but then they were the Navy.

“The base public address system will announce the all clear. You can then tend to your duties as necessary after that,” he said cutting his salute. “Dismissed and please ask my clerk to show in the First Sergeant and the Lieutenant.”

The men cut their salute, took a step back in unison, and executed a passable about-face. They departed as they came, leaving the door open. A moment later Sergeant St.Clair came to the door showing First Sergeant Wilcox in followed by another man. The appearance of the second man caused Colonel Peters to sit slowly into his chair. The man that followed the first sergeant in wasn’t particularly tall, though he dwarfed the stocky older man by a good five or six inches. Peters guessed his height at around six foot three. He had a massive barrel chest, with arms that filled the camouflage uniform sleeves so fully as to appear ready to burst the rolled up fabric encompassing his biceps. He sported a neatly trimmed flattop of blonde hair and had one of the thickest necks the colonel had ever seen. He mentally decided if he ever had to fight this man, he’d have to keep beyond arm’s reach or it would all be over once he got a grip with those ham-hands. Both men came to attention and snapped quick salutes, which the colonel returned.

“Sir, Second Lieutenant Bishop reporting as ordered, sir.” The man’s voice matched his appearance with a deep bass that filled the room as he announced his arrival.

“At ease. Take a seat gents,” Peters said, waving his hand at both chairs. The first sergeant waited for the lieutenant to sit before taking his own seat. As the men sat he assessed the man’s age and thought he looked a little older than most second lieutenants he’d come into contact with over the years. He chose to ignore it for the time being. “Glad to have you, Bishop. I confess I haven’t had a chance to read your SRB yet, which is a negative reflection on me and I’m sorry.”

“Not a negative reflection at all, sir. The first sergeant was explaining you have an incident going on right now. Anything me or my team can do to help, just say the word and we’re on it,” Bishop said.

“Good to know, Bishop. Do you have any trigger time in the bush?” he asked.

“A tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan that I can discuss,” Bishop responded.

“Hammer’s good to go, sir,” First Sergeant Wilcox chimed in. Colonel Peters visibly raised an eyebrow as he regarded his first sergeant.

“Hammer?” the Colonel asked.

“My call sign from back in the day, sir,” Bishop responded.

“Well, any man that’s had three tours in combat zones and has the blessings of my first sergeant here is okay in my book. Make sure you check in with Master Sergeant Kelly in the armory. Draw weapons and ammunition. I want your team in full battle kit at all times ready to back up the security team as a reactionary force,” Peters said.

“Can do, sir,” Bishop shot back. “We already have our weapons, sir. Spec ops travels with their own gear at all times but I’ll draw ammo and get the men suited up. Do you want us in battle gear at all times or just ready reac to grab and go?”

“I want a fire team on duty in battle gear around the clock for the foreseeable future, but the rest of your team can be grab and go. We haven’t yet resolved the breach of security to my satisfaction and I don’t want to be caught off guard if I can help it,” the Colonel stated, adding emphasis by slashing the air with a knife-hand several times as he spoke. He rose and extended his hand to the lieutenant, who stood and took the offered hand in his own with a crushing grip. He stifled a wince returning the handshake before saying, “Welcome to the team Lieutenant. You are dismissed. First Sergeant, please remain a moment.”

The two men exchanged salutes, then the lieutenant executed a sharp about-face and left the room. The first sergeant moved to the door and closed it before returning to stand by his chair. Peters waited for the him to get back to his chair before sitting back down himself. The first sergeant followed suit.

“He’s good to go?” Peters questioned, leaning slightly forward. “I thought all second lieutenants were universally worthless in your eyes, Jack?”

“He’s a mustang,” First Sergeant Wilcox said. He rushed on before Peters could ask his next question. “I served with Hammer on my last tour in Afghanistan. He’s a solid performer, Simon. I’d trust him with my men and my life.”

So he was a mustang, an officer that had been an enlisted but received a commission into the officer corps. Only the best of the best took this long route to command. That explained the age and appearance of what was usually a very, very green and untrained soldier.

“How’d he get his commission?” he asked.

“His unit was coming back after a week-long patrol. They got ambushed heading up the mountain side and had to fight their way to the landing zone up top. They were already low on ammo and rations when they got hit, but they made it up there. The chopper pilot flying in to extract them was green and got zapped. The bad guys got reinforced before the second chopper could get scrambled to their position, and heavy stuff was coming up through the valley. The second bird almost got shot down too. They held off the enemy for almost twenty-four hours before they could suppress the valley and get another bird to them. Half the unit was KIA by the time the bird got in, and to make matters worse, it sustained heavy damage trying to get off the mountain and went down halfway through the valley. The remnants of the enemy forces were between the crash site and their forward operating base. He led the escape and evasion through the lines and got all the survivors home,” Wilcox recounted.

“Medal of Honor?” Peters asked.

“Silver Star,” Wilcox replied flatly. “Should have been the Medal of Honor but politicians got involved, because the reason their usual pilot wasn’t flying in to pick them up was because an idiot senator’s son grounded the bird for maintenance it didn’t need. They didn’t want to implicate him in the investigation. It was an election year for her and they felt it would make the senator look bad.”

He could feel his anger rising. Politicians universally caused problems when they got involved with military matters. Even the good ones hindered their efforts. Civilians just didn’t understand the esprit de corps that existed between warriors. He started to formulate a response when the PA system clamored to life.

“To arms! To arms! Incoming bogey, Colonel Peters report to Heaven,” the public address system announced followed by the bugle call to arms. He and the first sergeant shot out of their chairs and ran out of the office headed for the control room at a dead run.

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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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