Until now, Colonel Peters had been focusing on the equipment failures in Heaven during the operation. Brandt’s injuries, coupled with the systems failures, had caused them to cut the mission short. However, the colonel made no bones about the fact that they’d be going back in today to find the man they’d identified as Robert Dante.
“We should have the server replaced and running in the next hour or so, sir,” Sergeant Sanchez said after consulting a status update she’d just received via email.
“Fine. Everyone get prepped for another run as soon as those systems are up to speed,” Colonel Peters said.
“Sir, that’s not enough time to get the new server up to speed for an operation,” Sanchez said.
“I thought you just said it would be running in the next hour, sergeant?” Colonel Peters said, focusing his attention on the woman.
“I did, sir but the software systems won’t have been checked thoroughly enough to be a primary system for an operation,” she replied.
“Did the backup fail during the operation as well?” Colonel Peters asked.
“No sir. We have a solid backup. Only the primary failed,” Sanchez said.
“Then designate the backup as primary and the new one in place of the backup. Can’t we do that and go in?” Sergeant Sanchez consulted something on her laptop and sat for a minute. Colonel Peters waited patiently for his technician to evaluate the question and the data she had.
“It’s risky sir, but we can definitely get you into the ether that way. If the main server fails though everyone will get bounced hard,” Sanchez warned.
“I think that’s an acceptable risk given our target intends to detonate an unknown device somewhere in the US,” Colonel Peters said.
“Sir, we have an address on Dante. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, sir,” Private Hendrix said. Colonel Peters scribbled a quick note to himself.
“Good work. I’ll get a team over there as soon as we get the official go-ahead.” More scribbling. When the colonel looked up from his pad of paper he was looking directly at Billy. Billy squirmed in his seat and looked up at First Sergeant Wilcox. The first sergeant scowled down at him, which once again oddly made Billy feel better.
“Let’s talk about the op and what happened to Brandt,” Colonel Peters said.
“I thought nothing was real in the ether,” Billy said.
“To this point it hasn’t been, but we haven’t seen these little Delta’s before either,” Colonel Peters responded. Angela stared hard at the colonel. Peters ignored her and focused harder on Billy. “For that matter where did that girl come from and how did you get her into the ether with you?”
“She said her name is Theliel,” Billy said dropping his eyes. “I don’t know. I didn’t bring her in.”
Colonel Peters waved at Sergeant Sanchez who tapped a few keys on her laptop. The screen at the head of the room flickered and an image of a fair-haired young girl about Billy’s age half in and half out of his chest wielding a sword appeared. “She’s coming out of you, Billy.”
Billy locked his eyes on the screen so he didn’t have to look at anyone in the room, but he could feel the anger beginning to rise. He hadn’t done anything wrong and he didn’t know anything about the girl either. He was getting a little tired of being talked at rather than treated as a part of the team. He set his jaw and spoke softly, “I don’t know. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Easy, son,” Wilcox said from the next chair over.
“I’m not your son. You know I didn’t bring anyone in there because I’ve been stuck on this base for weeks with you guys all watching everything I do,” Billy said, allowing a little volume to creep into his voice as he spoke and waving at the picture on the screen. “You already know everything I’ve done. I thought we were on the same team?”
“We are, Billy, and this, this Theliel did seem to protect you.” Angela let out an exasperated sigh and shook her head. “You have something to add?”
“They’re angels and demons,” Angela said in response.
“Come on, this is serious,” Specialist Masters said.
“I am serious. Why won’t you listen to me?” Angela pleaded. The door opened to the conference room and Corporal DeLuca came in. He looked tired and there was a smear of blood on his uniform at the shoulder. Colonel Peters waved him to a seat as the conversation continued.
“Because angels and demons aren’t real,” Masters replied.
“I wouldn’t go that far Masters,” Corporal Dominech said.
“Not you too,” Masters said, throwing up his hands.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Colonel Peters said, raising his hand toward Masters as he did so. “Why do you say that Corporal?”
“All the data Johnson and I have been reviewing indicates the, whatever they are, are real. At least they’re real to someone in the ether,” Corporal Dominech said.
“Well, I can tell you they’re real to Guardian One. Brandt has third degree burns over forty percent of his body. It’s a good thing he can’t feel anything from the shoulders down,” DeLuca said, hanging his head.
“How does the fire that demon threw from his axe even happen or affect Brandt’s body in the real world?” Billy asked.
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out,” Colonel Peters said. Everyone in the room focused on the still image of the woman in the pristine white robes with the flaming sword parrying the axe blow from the horned little creature with the grey stone skin.
“Maybe that girl with the little insect-lizard thing in her head knows something,” Billy suggested. Colonel Peters shifted his gaze to Billy, blinked twice, and quickly rose to leave, taking his pad of paper with him as he went.
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.