Colonel Peters waited until the door to his office closed fully before speaking. Corporal Seth Williams and First Sergeant Jack Wilcox stood before his desk at crisp attention. No one comes to a colonel’s desk for a good reason and these men knew it.
“At ease gents,” Colonel Peters said. Both men snapped their hands behind their backs to parade rest. “No, I said ease, men. Look, take a seat. Nobody’s in trouble here.”
Both men moved to sit in the uncomfortable looking chairs all military offices have in front of the desk.
“Corporal Williams, thank you for bringing what Angel 3 is seeing to our attention. We knew about her visions when we took her into the program. In fact, it’s why we wanted her. Until yesterday, though, I didn’t think they were real,” Colonel Peters said.
“She really sees those things when she’s not inside, sir?” Williams asked.
“Yes, she really does, and apparently they are all around us in here,” Colonel Peters said, waving his hand around his office. All three men looked deep into the corners of the room. Corporal Williams unconsciously slid his right hand to the butt of the pistol he wore at all times, all the angels were required to be armed at all times. The motion wasn’t lost on Peters, who raised a cautionary hand toward the corporal. “There’s no need for that if the data is right. It wouldn’t affect them anyway.”
“Exactly what does the data say, sir?” Wilcox asked, returning his attention to the conversation.
“That’s why I have you in here now. When those three figures in white appeared and engaged the demons…” Colonel Peters started.
“We really think they’re demons, sir?” Wilcox interrupted. Peters sighed knowing this was coming sooner or later. He didn’t really want to address it at this point but it didn’t look like he had a choice.
“Well, I don’t know what they are…yet. But they certainly look like demons, they act like demons, and they were definitely hostile toward the cherry. What do you suggest we call them, Jack?” Colonel Peters asked slipping and using his friend’s first name in front of a junior noncommissioned officer. The faux pas appeared to go unnoticed by the first sergeant.
“Demon is as good as any I guess, sir,” Wilcox said flatly.
“Delta would be fine for me,” Williams added.
“Fine. Demon, delta, I don’t much care,” Colonel Peters responded. “As I was saying, when those three Delta’s engaged the figures in white we got spikes on the EM band and thought we had incoming hostiles but it wasn’t incoming signatures that caused the spike. The sensory channels for touch, smell, and taste shot up to merge with sight and hearing just before I called the abort.”
“But they can’t feel or smell in there, sir,” Williams said. Colonel Peters nodded his agreement.
“No, they can’t,” he agreed. “At least they couldn’t.”
“What do you mean by that?” Wilcox asked.
“I’m not sure. Ever since we lost Guardian One we started getting what we thought were echoes in the data feed, but they don’t seem to be echoes.” Both men sitting across from the colonel looked confused. “Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve got Sanchez and her group looking into it. She’ll figure it out, you know that.”
“So what do you want us to do about that, sir?” Wilcox asked.
“Watch your Guardians closely when they’re out in the ether. We need to learn whatever we can. I’ve got the techs watching the data too,” Colonel Peters said.
“I feel an ‘and’ coming, sir,” Wilcox added.
“Yep. I want side arms issued to the company. No one goes anywhere unarmed anymore. I don’t know what these things are, how they get in and out of here, or if they’re even real, but I’m not taking any chances. I don’t want some guy looking for his 72 virgins to get what he’s after and take a bunch of us with him. We’re fighting these guys so let’s be ready to fight if it comes to that,” Peters said with firm resolve.
“Side arms and two extra magazines for everyone, yes sir,” Wilcox confirmed.
“Corporal Williams, will you go bring Corporal DeLuca up to speed on our conversation.” It was phrased like a question but colonels didn’t give junior NCOs options.
“Yes, sir,” Corporal Williams said standing quickly and snapping to attention before rendering a crisp salute. Colonel Peters didn’t stand but returned the salute and waited for the corporal to leave before he continued.
“Sorry about the slip there, Jack,” the colonel said.
“It’s okay, sir. It happens,” Wilcox said. “You think we’ve got a game changer here don’t you?”
“Yeah. Not really sure how either,” Peters said pulling his beret off and massaging his scalp. Something occurred to Wilcox and he shifted his expression to one of consternation.
“What is it, Jack? Spit it out,” Peters said.
“Why did you call me in here to tell Williams to watch his Guardian?” Wilcox said after a short pause. “I’m a desk pogue, not a field operative.”
“I need an angel to look after the cherry. You’re the only one we’ve got until we can get another man assigned,” Peters said to his old friend as he tensed for the onslaught he knew would be coming.
“What? You wouldn’t let me do anything for Scotty because I’m not qualified but now you’re assigning me to some snot-nosed puke we just got?” Wilcox exploded, not caring if his voice carried beyond the office walls.
“You know as well as I do…” Peters began half-heartedly.
“Don’t quote regulations crap to me Simon, Scotty was my friend too, and we both owed him,” Wilcox said forcefully leaning toward the desk. Peters allowed the familiar use of his first name from the man who had served with him when he’d gotten his battlefield commission. He was right, they both owed Scott Carpenter from that same battle that had made him a quadriplegic and ultimately the most powerful member of their program.
“I miss him too, Jack,” Peters countered.
“And you didn’t do squat when he needed us the most,” Wilcox accused. The first sergeant was toeing the line of insubordination.
“That’s enough First Sergeant,” Peters said, straightening his spine noticeably and adjusting his beret.
“Oh, truth hurts the bird does it?” Wilcox said referring to the eagle rank insignia of a colonel that was affixed to his friend’s uniform. Colonel Peters ignored the jab and issued his orders as if it hadn’t been said.
“You’ll be Angel Two and insert yourself into Sanchez’s physical training regimen,” Peters ordered. First Sergeant Wilcox sat forward as if to respond and then thought better of it, slumping back into his chair.
“Yes, sir,” he said in resignation.
“Dismissed, First Sergeant,” Peters said standing. Wilcox waited a moment before standing himself, snapping to attention, and rendering a crisp salute.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.