The room they all sat in was more like a military pilot’s briefing room than a corporate meeting room. Rows of theater-like chairs, each with its own little table, ran up either side of the room with a wide aisle in the middle and on either side. The forward wall had a massive sixty inch flat panel display with a podium off to one side.
Military personnel of varying ranks in the digital camouflage of the Army filled most of the chairs. A young woman and a teenage boy sat on one side of the front row. The other side remained conspicuously empty. Colonel Peters stood behind the podium fiddling with some settings on the touch panel control screen inset in the podium.
“Can you hear me Brandt?” Colonel Peters asked.
“I read you loud and clear, Archangel,” Brandt’s voice responded.
“We’re offline now Brandt. You don’t have to use call signs when we’re offline,” Peters said.
“I’m never offline, Archangel,” Brandt responded. Colonel Peters let it pass.
“This won’t take long. We weren’t out in the ether for more than ten minutes and really we’ve only got five and a half minutes of solid usable data,” Peters said. The screen showed a small apartment room with two men sitting on a sofa and one man sitting on a chair. A ghostly figure of a woman that resembled Angela floated in the center of the room. Peters pressed a button and the scene began to play out in fast forward.
First, a ghostly form of a teenage boy that looked a lot like Billy appeared and jittered about for a bit, then a winged figure floated in who must have been Brandt but looked nothing like the emaciated man on the hospital bed in the operating theater. Billy’s figure moved toward the man sitting in the big chair. Peters slowed the playback, and the ghostly boy’s head merged with the seated man’s head and the small, stone colored, horn-covered creature seemed to diffuse out of the man to stand next to the chair. Peters paused the scene.
“What the hell are these things? Where did it and the other two come from? Johnson and Domenech, go over the data feeds and give me whatever you can on these guys.” Peters said pointing to two of the military personnel. They both nodded and began tapping notes madly onto their tablets.
Peters pressed another button and the scene perspective shifted to that of Angela. Now, the image showed the man in the chair holding a small cell phone with some sort of antenna modification wired onto the back. The two stone colored creatures in the doorway could be easily seen now as well.
“We’ve got to find this guy. I want Harrow and Masters to start working with linguistics. Go over every word said on the data feeds. We need a clue to who this guy is, what his target is, and what the bomb is.” Again, Peters looked at the two people who silently acknowledged their assignments.
Peters started the scene again and immediately the door flew open as the new man burst into the room pointing his finger at the man in the chair. “I want Cheung and Hendrix on this guy. I want you to figure out who he is and everything you can piece together about him down to who his kindergarten teacher was.”
Peters fast forwarded through more of the tape and began speaking as soon as Billy’s avatar popped out of the apartment building wall onto the street. “Billy, you bolted from an operation in progress and that is unacceptable. We’ll have to work on that. You also are thinking in two dimensions, only. When you’re in the ether you can do anything your brain can think for you to do. We’ll schedule some time with you in Brandt’s simulator.”
“Oh, man,” complained Brandt’s voice from the speakers mounted next to the flat panel.
“I don’t want to hear it, Brandt. He’s on your team so get him trained up,” Peters said. “The good news from this is we have a lot of images we can analyze to figure out where that building is. We got a fix on this meet from a cell phone conversation between the two guys on the couch and our man in the chair, but they’ve rabitted now. We need anything we can get including eyewitnesses from that address if you can figure out where the building is.”
Peters continued moving through the video, stopping the image with Billy’s avatar in the middle of the triangle made from the golden beams connecting the two men and girl in the dish room. The three beings, two women and a man, stood facing the two stone-colored little creatures as fire flew from their axes and splashed against something.
“What is this?” Peters left his question hanging in the air without embellishment. Everyone studied the image.
“What is what, sir? There’s a lot going on there.” someone asked from the back of the room.
“What is all of this,” Peters said circling both his hands to encompass the entire image. “Who are those people in white, what are those creatures, how can they shoot fire from those axes, why is it stopping there like it’s hitting a wall, but most importantly, why did these two little guys chase our guy here in the first place?”
The room broke out into a bedlam of conversation and speculation. Colonel Peters let it run for a bit trying to catch bits and pieces of what was said here and there. Everyone was busily involved in one conversation or another. Even Billy was paying close attention to the conversation behind him. Everyone was involved except Angela who just hung her head and stared at the floor.
“Quiet, quiet, okay, lock it up. That’s enough,” Peters said focusing in on Angela. The woman didn’t move.
“Angela, is there something you want to tell me?” Peters asked.
“I’ll tell you , but you have to promise you won’t put me in a mental institution if I do,” Angela said without raising her head.
“Angie, dear, you work for a bunch of people with top secret clearances in a black bag project for the government allowing you to do counter terrorism surveillance by augmenting your ability to have out of body experiences. You’re already in the nut house,” Brandt quipped from the speakers. Angela smirked but didn’t look up.
“Angela, I promise you aren’t going anywhere. Now, tell us what you know,” Peters said.
“They’re angels and demons. I’ve seen them my whole life.” The speculative conversation erupted again.
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.