Colonel Peters waited patiently until Hugh de Payens and Planche, Lancelot and Percival as Sergeant Sanchez had dubbed them, were escorted from the conference room and to guest quarters. They at least deserved more comfortable accommodations, but he’d made it clear they were still confined to their quarters as he didn’t fully trust them yet. They’d seemed fine with that or at least hadn’t complained.
“Billy Ransom, I don’t know what connection you have with those two men that didn’t show up in your background check, but if they can teach you anything we can use, it is your duty to share that knowledge with your team. Do you hear me?” he asked, stabbing a single finger at Billy to add what he hoped the boy understood as an exclamation point.
“Yes-sir,” Billy snapped, cutting a quick glance at First Sergeant Wilcox then back down at the conference table before him.
“These people depend on you in there. Captain Payne clearly would have caught the full brunt of that blast if you hadn’t been there,” he said.
“Sir,” Julie Payne started. He inclined his head and cut his eyes at her. She was at least wise enough to recognize the don’t-interrupt-me stare and kept her peace.
“You have a lot of raw talent, son. Perhaps more than any other Guardian the program has ever seen, but you lack discipline and that puts your team mates at risk. I will cut you out of this program if I get wind of so much as a single breath of disobedience again. Is that clear?” he asked. He didn’t like dressing down a subordinate or soldier in public, but he hoped this would not just put his rebellious nature in check but squash it altogether. Jack could play the father figure to the lad. He had to be the authority figure, he had to be the Old Man.
“Yes-sir,” Billy answered again.
“Good. Here’s where we stand. Dante and this Rabdos character can’t hide forever so we’ll have a guardian in the ether round the clock. Angela, you have first shift. We’ll also get Captain Payne and Brandt into the ether with you. Do what you can for them. I don’t know how you do it, but clearly your abilities in there affect wounds out here. For that matter, Tinker I want to know how wounds suffered inside manifest outside,” he said.
“Psychosomatic, sir,” Sergeant Sanchez, call sign Tinker shot back.
“So if the brain thinks it’s real, it becomes so?” he asked. “How’s that possible?”
“Uh, sir, with all due respect, how are angels and demons possible?” she answered.
“Fair response, Sergeant,” he had to admit, though he was beginning to have some suspicions on that front. An idea suddenly popped into his head and he felt so compelled to get up out of his chair and go into his office that he found his hands starting to push himself up out of the chair. He forcibly resisted the urge but his arms remained in place. In response to his move everyone in the room rose and came to attention. He decided to complete the halted motion after all.
“One last thing, Sergeant,” he said as he rose.
“Sir?” she asked.
“Why did you say Dante looked like he was dead when he disappeared? Did our people look dead too?” he asked still feeling a palpable pull to his office.
“All my data feeds on Dante flat-lined,” his face must have belied his confusion because she continued unasked. “It’s like a computer connected to the Internet, sir. There’s at least a signal being received by some piece of equipment it’s connected to; the router, server, another computer, something. Disconnect the computer from the system completely and you don’t see it. When someone I’m watching is alive, I get a sort of heartbeat from them and can connect a guardian to their location anytime. I totally didn’t have that from Dante when he vanished.”
“What about our people?” he asked.
“Not the same, sir. We lost all data feeds we translate into visual representations but the five senses all remained solid,” she said.
“If we’d had another guardian on deck could you have sent them to our people?” he asked curious. Sergeant Sanchez thought a moment, seemed to come to a decision, and came to attention.
“Yes-sir. I could’ve gotten reinforcements to our people,” she said firmly. He started to dismiss the group but she continued, “but I couldn’t have gotten them back out, sir. They’d have had to extract on their own.”
“How’d Cherry do it then?” he asked.
“I don’t know, sir,” she answered.
“Yes-sir,” she said, and saluted. The rest of the room saluted as a reflex. He returned the salute and dismissed the room.
The instant everyone broke free he felt his feet almost move of their own volition. Out the door, down the hall two turns and he nearly ran into his own office door in his rush to get inside. He moved around his desk and wrenched open the top right drawer before he realized he was doing it. There sat the nearly new Bible he’d started thumbing through recently. He picked up the book and found his violent opening of the drawer had lodged his replica officer’s sword letter opener inside the book.
He opened the book to the spot where the letter opener rested. One of the pages had been creased. The crease drew his eye to the start of one of the verses that had a small twenty two at its beginning. He checked the page header and found he was in the book of Matthew, chapter twenty one. His eyes dropped back to the end of the crease and he read the verse he found there out loud.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” he whispered to the empty room. He wasn’t sure what it meant exactly but he felt a solid assurance it was important for some reason.
Guardians of the Herald is live on Kickstarter to fund the production of Angels and Demons as a real book! Go to this address to get involved and see the nifty rewards available to backers of the project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thecavalier/angels-and-demons-guardians-of-the-herald-issues-1
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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