Dodging Colonel Peters meant dodging everyone else on base who had either gold or silver as their collar insignia. Billy didn’t know what all the bars, leaves, and birds meant but he was certain they wouldn’t be good for him just now. Authority hadn’t been good in his life before, why should that be any different now.
Billy felt the open space of the cave around him as he moved with purpose through the opening. Trucks and men moved around the vast cavern as they had the time before when he first discovered the receiving docks for the base. As then, the same burly sergeant patrolled the area with his weapon slung easily across his body in that familiar way soldiers carry their old friend. Billy recalled the previous encounter and scrambled to get his badge out as the Sergeant’s watchful gaze settled on him, changing his course of motion. He clipped the badge onto his shirt and smiled up at the sentry with an overly toothy grin. The sergeant harrumphed but said nothing more, resuming his patrol route.
Billy crossed the open cavern to the receiving docks and headed deeper into the complex, following the route he’d used to reach the mess hall on that side of the base. A short time later he arrived at the entrance of the dining hall. He steeled his nerves and pushed through the swinging doors. The room was completely empty as it had been before. He let out a long sigh, crossed the rows of permanently attached tables and chairs, and entered the kitchens. Several turns later and he arrived at the storage area, standing before the door labeled Root Cellar and went in.
The deep earthy smell of old burlap filled his nostrils as soon as he stepped through the door. He breathed in deeply, deciding he actually liked the smell, but the slight chill used to keep the root vegetables fresh he could do without. He quickly crossed to the back corner and knelt on the bags laying on the floor. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the worn Bible First Sergeant Hargrave gave him, placing it on top of the stacked burlap bags before him. One last, deep breath, and he clasped his hands to begin the Lord’s Prayer as Hugh de Paynes had instructed.
He hadn’t finished the first recitation before something caught in his nose and he sneezed, interrupting his meditation. Billy grimaced, annoyed at losing his focus. He rose, cleaned his hands and face, and then resumed his kneeling position to start again.
He quickly raced through a pass of the prayer. Upon completing the words in his mind he shot a glance over his shoulder but saw no one. He stood and surveyed every cranny of the space, but he remained alone in the room.
Billy’s shoulders slumped with disappointment. He’d hoped he could catch another glimpse of Theliel and wondered why it hadn’t worked as it had before. He replayed the event in his mind. A thought struck him, and he quickly returned to the stack of burlap, where the little Bible lay. Billy picked up the book as he dropped to his knees. He held it feeling the smooth, soft leather under his fingers as a memory filled his head.
Billy closed his eyes and began to purposefully speak the words of the prayer softly under his breath as he focused his mind on the feel of the leather under his fingers. As he moved through the words with deliberate purpose a sense of calm descended over his mind. His pulse picked up as he realized it was the same feeling from before. Excitement seeped into his mind and the calm instantly vanished. He started to get angry, then realized he was very close to reaching his goal. He rotated his neck, breathing in and out deeply. He reset his grip on the book and began again.
The deliberate words rolled easily off his tongue, whispered softly to the empty room. The sense of calm returned almost immediately, but this time Billy restrained his excitement by focusing harder on the words he uttered. A warm heat began to creep across his back as it had before, when suddenly the base PA system crackled to life seeming to be overly loud for the small, confined space. “Attention, attention. All Guardian and Angel personnel report to Heaven for mission briefing. That is all.”
Billy growled with frustration as the chill of the root cellar washed over him once again. He could feel the flush of anger cross his face as he set his teeth against the interruption. The announcement meant he was supposed to report to Heaven without delay. Colonel Peter’s angry face sprang into his mind’s eye pointing an accusing finger at him. Anger raced through him again. He was so close, if he went back now the colonel might not let him even go on the mission and then he’d have to escape First Sergeant Wilcox’ ever-watchful presence. That man was almost impossible to get away from.
A moment more and Billy decided he’d accept the consequence of not going to the briefing. He reset his position and began anew the Lord’s Prayer. After the first pass through the mantra he realized it would be some time before he could get back to the focus he had before the announcement, if he could get back there at all. A deep sigh punctuated the end of the last prayer and the beginning of the next as Billy Ransom resolved to keep praying as long as it took to get back to that calm state where he’d seen his angel, Theliel.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.
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