Colonel Peters took a moment to order his thoughts before dialing General Pontus. He liked to have a short bullet point outline of what he wanted to communicate in his head before he called his superiors. Sometimes he even wrote them down before the call, but this time the list was short and simple. It read; communicate the threat faced, Guardian One was out of action, and a replacement was needed. He usually opened the conversation with a brief greeting, then hit the bullet points in list form, and let the other side decide what topic they wanted to discuss first. He hesitated momentarily then dialed the general’s secure line.
“Good afternoon, Senator Maxwell Radcliff at your service,” the senator said robotically answering the phone as he had thousands of times before. Colonel Peters wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Um, Good afternoon senator. This is Colonel Peters from the Southeastern Guardian unit,” the Colonel responded hesitantly, not sure how he’d misdialed so badly.
“Peters, Peters…Ah yes, Colonel Peters, the acting commander for the southeastern region. How are things down there in Hot’lanta?” the senator responded with a good natured chuckle, as if he were the first to coin the age old name for one of the South’s largest cities.
“Um, I’m sorry senator. I was trying to reach General Pontus. I must have misdialed somehow. Please excuse the interruption,” Peters said.
“No misdial Colonel. General Pontus has been reassigned to the Pentagon as of yesterday. I had her phone forwarded to my office until we can get a new commanding officer assigned. I was planning on informing you later this week more formally, but this will have to do. Congratulations, you’re the acting CO down there.” A long pause carried into an uncomfortable silence. “Hello?”
“I’m still here, sir. Thank you, sir,” Peters stammered.
“You’re welcome. Now, what did you want to tell the general?” Senator Radcliff asked.
“Well sir, we have a situation, sir.” He didn’t want to be on the phone with the senator any longer than he had to.
“Go on,” the senator replied, dropping all pretense.
“We have an imminent threat in the next twenty four hours and I’ve lost my prime Guardian. I need a replacement in the next six hours or our subject might be able to successfully carry out his plan.” There it was. Now to see how the senator reacted.
“Lost, what do you mean lost? Explain,” the senator instructed.
“We’ve encountered a third party in our operating space,” the Colonel said making sure not to reference anything remotely similar to what they actually did, not even on a secure line. “This third party is able to injure Guardians at home while they are abroad.”
“We were told that wasn’t possible,” the senator sputtered. “How’d this happen Colonel?”
“Sir, I’ll have a full briefing for you via secure email in my after action report as soon as we deal with the threat. I need that replacement, sir,” Colonel Peters insisted.
“Tell me now Colonel. We’re still evaluating how we lost our strongest Guardian less than a month ago, and now you say we’ve lost another one on your watch? This might change our personnel assignments a little.” The threat was not lost on the colonel.
“Sir, he was burned by fire projected by the third party.”
“Third party, what is this third party you keep talking about?”
“I’d rather not say over the phone, sir,” Colonel Peters lied. He didn’t want to tell the senator anything he didn’t know for certain, and they didn’t know anything for certain about the Deltas regardless of what Angela thought.
“You’d rather not say or you don’t want to say?” asked the senator. Colonel Peters drew a complete blank as to what to say. The silence drew a moment more and the senator continued. “Never mind. Just tell me what this third party is?”
“Again, sir. I’m not comfortable discussing the topic over the phone.”
“Colonels who want to become generals typically answer questions put to them by senior members of the Armed Services Committee.” Another threat. He had had enough.
“Senator, I do not react well to threats. My assumption is you’re going to install a more compliant commanding officer, and when you do he or she will want an executive officer they know and have worked with before. So, my tenure in this position is short lived as it is. Your empty threats to get me to divulge information I simply do not have are just that, empty.” A potentially career ending move, but he’d never liked bullies who used force to get what they wanted and this overweight bureaucrat was no different than any other school yard bully. When the senator responded he did seem to be cowed just a bit.
“There, there Colonel. No need to get your back up. Can you at least tell me what the target is?”
“We’re not sure yet, senator. We are examining all the data as we speak. I’ll have more for you soon.”
“Have more for me in four hours, son. I’m jumping on my jet and I’ll be there by then. You get me my answers, now!”
“Sir, I need my replacement. The Guardian we lost was our number one man. I’m hamstrung to stop the threat without another Guardian,” Peters said.
“I’ll bring you one of the Home Office’s best and brightest, personally. You just get me my answers.” The line went dead announcing the conversation’s end. Great, the head of the Armed Services Committee was coming here in four hours. He selected another line and dialed an extension.
“Sergeant Sanchez,” the other side of the line answered.
“Sergeant, fire up your A game. Daddy Warbucks will be here in four hours and he wants answers,” Colonel Peters said, using the nickname started by General Pontus.
“Holy crap, sir! I don’t have enough people or time to sift all this data and get ready for an inspection,” Sergeant Sanchez exclaimed.
“This isn’t an inspection, Sergeant. The senator is looking for answers about the threat. Focus all your efforts on that data,” the colonel ordered.
“Sir, you know how the First Shirt is about inspections,” Sanchez countered.
“You let me handle the First Sergeant. Get on that data, Sanchez.”
“Yes, sir.” Another line selected and he dialed another extension.
“First Sergeant Wilcox,” came the simple greeting.
“First Sergeant, Senator Radcliff is coming in four hours. This is not,” he emphasized the word not, “an inspection. This is concerning our current operation.”
“Understood, sir,” the First Sergeant responded.
“I mean it. No one is to be pulled from their current duties to clean anything,” the colonel emphasized.
“Roger that, sir. No personnel assigned to Heaven will be assigned clean up detail,” Wilcox confirmed.
“Thank you, First Sergeant. That will be all.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” The line went dead but Colonel Peters had a sneaking suspicion First Sergeant Wilcox would still find a way to get their area inspection ready despite his agreement with the orders.
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.