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“Colonel Peters, you’re going to want to see this, sir,” a female technician said to the man as he coiled two cables with the gloves he’d just removed.

“Show me,” Colonel Peters said tossing the gloves to the technician who’d taken the helmet from him and digging into a cargo pocket on the fatigues he wore.  Peters removed a beret from the cargo pocket and covered his mussed hair as he stepped over to the console.

The bank of consoles was installed just under a set of angled windows looking down on what appeared to be a converted operating theater.  Below in the theater itself were four reclining couches.  Two of the couches looked like dentists chairs and held a woman and a teenage boy.  The other two looked more like hospital beds than dentist’s chairs.  One was empty while the other held an emaciated man with a feeding tube, wires, and other apparatus hooked to him.  The young woman appeared to be in her mid to late twenties with long brown hair done in a braid.  The young man looked to be about sixteen or seventeen and wholly unremarkable.  All were attended by a technician who was removing a helmet like the one Colonel Peters just took off but much larger and more complicated in appearance.  Each couch also had a guard in full battle gear including rifles.

“Right before you aborted, sir, we got a spike in the EM band,” the technician said pointing to a series of readouts that looked like seven color coded, parallel seismic charts.

“I know, that’s why I aborted.  We had incoming,” Peters said more than a little annoyed at being told something everyone in the room could plainly see.

“I thought so at first too, sir, and I almost said something when it happened at first.  But when the second reading popped up I was watching.  It didn’t come from the Guardian’s.  Sir, it’s coming from the environment, see?” the technician pointed with her pen to specific locations in the data stream.  Colonel Peters leaned in studying the subtle difference.

“Good work Sanchez.  Get copies of this to all Heaven personnel,” Colonel Peters said.  He straightened up and addressed the eight other uniformed people in the room.  “All personnel are to study Sergeant Sanchez’s readouts until you can spot this anomaly and differentiate it from incoming hostile elements.  We may have just cut an operation short when we didn’t have to and I don’t want to make that mistake again.  Nice work sergeant.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sergeant Sanchez said smiling over her shoulder beginning the task of sending a copy of the data stream to the team.

“First Sergeant Wilcox, please have all feeds and data queued up in the situation room for debriefing in fifteen minutes,” Colonel Peters said somewhat portly black man across the room.

“Yes sir, everything will be ready when you are, sir,” The First Sergeant said rising and beginning to survey his teams work.

Peters spared another glance into the theater below.  The helmets were off all their guardians now.  The woman was being assisted into a wheelchair by two uniformed men while the teenager was slipping his shoes on and rubbing his hand through his hair.  The two technicians tending to the emaciated man didn’t seem inclined to move him.  He still wore some sort of cap with wires coming from it disappearing into a central pedestal where the larger, more complex headgear they had been wearing now rested.  Satisfied everything was moving as necessary down below, Colonel Peters walked over to a console at the end of the panel and sat, logging in with his top secret credentials.

“Uh, Colonel?”  It was Sergeant Sanchez again.

“What it is Sergeant?” He had to send an email to General Pontous about the abort and unusual activity.  She would want to be informed before the Senator called her.  Somehow that fat politician always seemed to know when things didn’t go well.  He’d have to look in to that some day.

“Sir, I was reviewing the data feed from the mission to figure out what slice to send everyone for review and I found something else,” she said, queuing up the section of the data that caught her attention.

“So, it’s the sensory data feed.  What am I looking at?” Colonel Peters asked, trying to pull his mind out of the email he had been composing and focus on what was being presented to him.

“For the last week we’ve been getting glitches in all the data feeds, ever since we lost Guardian two,” the technician began.  Colonel Peters winced slightly at the still fresh memory of losing his friend and quickly stretched, pretending it had been a back spasm.  He still couldn’t let on how close he had actually been with Scott, Guardian two.  Peters focused intently on the more active than usual data patterns.

“So you’re getting more sustained glitches.  Shadows of other feeds maybe?” Peters suggested.

“No sir.  We’ve got heavy filters on these sensors, but look at lines three, four, and five, sir,” she pointed to the indicated lines with her pen.

“We don’t get data on those lines.  They can’t taste, touch, or smell anything in the ether,” Peters said, but he leaned in and scrutinized the feeds anyway.  “What is that?  Zoom in for me please; go to one hundred fifty percent.”

The technician made the necessary adjustments and a segment of what appeared to be three flat lines jumped to fill the screen.  However, now the lines were no longer flat.  Now, the lines had distinct and perceptible peaks and valleys for the entire time period they viewed.

“How long has this been there?” Peters asked.

“I don’t know, sir, let me reset the time period and we’ll fast forward at this magnification for the entire operation.”  Sergeant Sanchez picked up her mouse and began working with the application.  She reset the timeframe and then started playing back the data at the current magnification.  The peaks and valleys started immediately and carried on throughout the entire mission.  The end of the data feed was coming up and Peters was about to turn away when a sudden spike sent the two lines shooting off the screen.

“What was that?” Sanchez asked before Peters could voice his amazement too.  Without being told, the sergeant backed down the magnification on the data stream.  A crowd of technicians had gathered around the sergeant’s console to see what the commotion was about.  As Sanchez moved the magnification back to normal, everyone saw the data lines for touch and smell suddenly spike and rise to join the other sensory data streams of sight and hearing.

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.