Colonel Peters leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. He knew it was risky planning to put one of his soldiers in harm’s way like this so he intended to make the operation voluntary. He’d offer Private Farrow the opportunity to make up for her monumental lapse in judgment by feeding her addiction to porn and attempting to use it to draw up a demon. Sergeant Sanchez was already making her preparations in the system to isolate the work station but still grant access to the internet. He just needed to confirm with Hugh de Payens that his plan would work.
“You actually think we can get one of those things up here?” Captain Payne asked.
“I bet we can,” First Sergeant Wilcox stated. “That’s a bold move, Colonel.”
“Fortune favors the bold, First Sergeant,” he replied.
“That it does, sir,” the first sergeant responded.
“Or gets everyone killed,” Captain Payne added.
“You’ve been very negative on this endeavor since you got here,” he said, turning to face the captain. “Is there something you want to get off your chest?”
Julie Payne sat bolt upright in her chair as he wrinkled his brow looking right at her. She opened her mouth and then closed it without a word. Finally, she seemed to have formulated what she wanted to say, but still hesitated. “Well?”
“No sir,” she said finally. “Nothing to say, sir.”
At that moment Hugh de Paynes and Planche entered the conference room. “You wanted to speak with us mon Colonel?”
“Yes gentlemen, have a seat please,” he said waving his hand to the empty chairs across the table from where he sat. They moved around the table and pulled out two chairs. He waited until they’d settled in before continuing. “We need intel on our enemy. In a few minutes Private Farrow will be brought in here and it is my intention to ask her to try and negotiate a deal with a demon.”
“Mon Dieu,” Planche whispered out under his breath.
“Language, Planche,” Hugh said to his squire. Turning to face the Colonel he said, “This is not a wise course of action, Colonel.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“The moment a pact is consummated in blood, the demon will know the heart of his charge, he will know he has been tricked,” he said.
“So?” Captain Payne asked.
“So, he will know we have set a trap for him and simply whisk his property away and we will never see the poor soul again. You will have consigned the woman to an eternity of torment for having been a pawn in his betrayal,” Hugh said. “You think you are the first man to come up with this idea?”
“Can such a deal be negotiated over several days or weeks? Can the mark have time to think it over?” he asked. He hadn’t realized the subterfuge would be revealed so quickly. He had hoped they could plant Farrow as a sort of fifth column behind enemy lines and become a double agent.
“Yes, it can be negotiated, but that is risky as well plus it takes time to establish such a relationship. A person first has to acquire a lemur of some sin that catches the eye of a watcher imp or demon visiting Earth,” Hugh said.
“A lemur, you mean one of those little lizard things?” First Sergeant Wilcox asked.
“Oui, yes,” Planche confirmed.
“She already has one. That’s why she’s confined to a cell,” Captain Payne said.
“Then we must go to her, help her cleanse this evil from her soul,” Planche said. Hugh nodded his agreement.
“This is not a tool to be used, Colonel. This is a thing to be rid of,” Hugh added.
“I need intel on these things, Monsieur de Payens. Our mission is to defeat these things. If this will help us do it, then I’m all for it,” he stated. Just then, the guard returned with Private Farrow who came to attention and cut a sharp salute.
“Sir, Private Farrow reporting as ordered, sir,” She said and cut her salute but remained at attention in place. He returned her salute and waved a hand at the last chair on the opposite side of the table.
“At ease Private. Take a seat,” he said.
“Please do not do this, Colonel,” Hugh de Payens pleaded. Private Farrow sat next to Planche, who looked at her as though he were going to burst into tears at any moment. She shied away from the man for a moment but then refocused her attention on the colonel and ignored Planche.
“Private Farrow, do you know why you’ve been confined?” he asked, knowing full well she did.
“Yes, sir. I broke standing orders and accessed the Internet via a secure station,” she said crisply.
“Correct. You compromised the security of this installation with that action,” he said. She seemed to have come to terms with that aspect of her actions, but he bet she hadn’t considered another facet of what she’d done. “You also violated the trust placed in you by myself and your direct superior, Sergeant Sanchez.”
Sergeant Sanchez shot a glance first at Farrow, and then to the colonel before returning to her laptop and the task at hand. Private Farrow’s face lost all color as the implication of that statement hit home. Good.
“Colonel,” de Payens started, but he held up a hand and cut him off.
“Private Farrow I have a mission for you that will redeem your honor, and restore your standing with the unit,” he said, inserting hope back into her world. She straightened and set her jaw instantly.
“Yes, sir. Whatever you need, sir,” she shot back.
“Don’t be so quick, this is a risky mission and could get you killed,” he started. “I’m not going to order you to do this. It is strictly voluntary.”
“Understood, sir,” she answered. “I’m listening, sir.”
“Good. The mission is simple. Return to your duties as you did before, including your disobedience of the standing order,” he said. Farrow blinked twice as her brain tried to find the risk and danger in what he’d just said.
“Umm, I don’t understand, sir,” she answered.
“It’s simple. Do your job again and keep surfing porn,” he said leaning over the table.
“Okay, sir, but how is that dangerous?” she asked.
“Please do not play games with this woman’s immortal soul Colonel,” Hugh de Payens pleaded. He ignored de Payens and continued.
“We want to draw a demon up here to try and negotiate a deal with you,” he still couldn’t bring himself to admit he was asking the private to sell her soul to the devil. That just sounded too corny. “We need to observe and gather intel on our enemy.”
“Sir, I don’t want to disappear like McCoy, sir,” Farrow stated flatly.
“You aren’t a sacrifice, Private. You’re bait. We have no intention of losing you or letting you get taken,” he reassured. He waved a hand, “Icarus and the rest of the Guardians will have your back.”
Captain Payne straightened up and nodded. Private Farrow seemed to take strength from that reassurance. Hugh and Planche both seemed to be silently pleading with him to change his mind, but he had no other alternative. They were in a war with an enemy they had little understanding of. He needed information and this was the only way to get it. He didn’t like it, but commanders from the beginning of time had needed to put troops in danger and even sacrifice them when necessary. He accepted that as part of the burden of command, though he didn’t have to like it.
“Will the charges be dropped, sir?” she asked.
“If your mission is successful, yes,” he answered. She mulled the idea over for a minute. Thankfully de Payens and Planche remained silent. Finally, she stood, straightened her uniform and cut a crisp salute.
“I’ll do it, sir,” she said.
“Good. You are released from confinement and are to return to duty immediately,” he ordered, saluting back. “Sergeant Sanchez, you will return Private Farrow to the duty roster and explain her return and that all charges were dropped and you don’t know why. However, make sure you plant the idea that Farrow here somehow has a friend in high places who pulled strings for her with me in order to get the charges dropped. Can you do that?”
“What, start a rumor, sir? This is the Army, the rumor started five minutes ago,” Sergeant Sanchez said. Everyone chuckled accept Hugh de Payens and Planche.
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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