Chapter 6 – Knowing the enemy’s hand

image source:  RadoJavor

Mandrake’s scribblings: … Wow… RRL put so much traffic. But after that, it died down. This mandrake wishes for more reader participation. Push forward! Enjoy this chapter!

<Chapter 5 | Main | Chapter 7>

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A few hours have passed and the range of the spell has encompassed the top half of Vietnam. Rosetta glances hopefully at the crystal ball but it has not shown any signs of pointing to a specific direction. He spins the floating ball and no response can be discerned as the ball spins aimlessly in midair.

Rosetta: [Darn. I don’t think she will be in this country. I have to search further.]

He has to expand his search to beyond Vietnam and towards the neighboring countries. It will take a large amount of energy, but he could just take in more sunlight which is available throughout the country at this time. He draws in more energy, expanding the dark expanse of sky further.

From the outside, streams of light start to form around the edges of the dark sky. With an appearance similar to auroras, they all converge into the darkness. The streams of light gather at the forest dome where Rosetta resides.

Rosetta: “So this is what happens when you overexert a spell. It might be easier to get found.”

It is as Rosetta feared. The streams will help the enemy figure out his approximate action. Most of the decoys he set around the forest are rendered useless now. In spite of this, he shrugs it off.

Rosetta: [It’s not a problem. The priority now is to find her. I’ve set up other measures to meet the enemy as well.]

He decides that it is best for him to continue forcing the spell. It is a rare occasion where he is set up properly, protected and unhindered. With a near limitless supply of energy, he can search for the girl untethered by his miserly management of his magic. Plus, with a dragon made from nature magic tapped into the limitless energy supply, even the enemy’s full force will have a hard time reaching him.

Rosetta: “Come on. Come on. Where are you?”

He’s getting restless. From the increasingly tedious search, his shrinking mana storage, and the incoming pressure from the enemy, he is at his wit’s end. With a new leeway of energy supply, he forces his spell westwards towards the neighboring countries.

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-Thump Thump Thump-

The sound of boots stomping the floor can be heard as heavily armed police are rushing to prepare for dispatch. Armed with guns and armor, they are packed into trucks to be driven to the outskirts of the city. The city is in an uproar as the residents are alarmed at the surge of activity from the police. Long lines of trucks leaving the city have caused traffic congestions angering the motorists. In tandem with the police trucks, fire trucks packed with firemen are also slowly following the road straight out of the city. Traffic police on motorbikes are everywhere, assisting in clearing traffic for clear passage for the trucks.

A similar situation is seen at the police headquarters; as the police are packing an entire arsenal of weapons into armored trucks. On the top floor of the main building, at a window overlooking the scene, a Caucasian man stands overlooking the policemen. The man stands at an intimidating height well over two meters. In spite of his tall stature, his body is of average built. He has a face of a youth with black short hair.  Wearing black tactical gear, he gives a belittling look at the men getting packed into the trucks. He senses a person approaching him and turns around. It is the police captain his senior lieutenant. They come up to him and greet him.

Han Trang: “Agent Alan Moralles, I am Police Captain Han Trang and this Police Senior Lieutenant Au Khan.”

Au Khan: “Nice to meet you, sir.”

The two keep silent for a moment. Alan, sensing their expectation of a response, lazily gives a reply.

Alan: “Hi.”

The two officers are taken aback at the rudeness of the agent. Nonetheless they ignore it and continue the conversation.

Han Trang: “I’m required to inform you that the police teams will be ready within the hour. But we, along with many others, have some concerns.”

Upon hearing that, Alan walks closer to the two men and cast a glare. With his tall form, the men shrink from the intimidation.

Alan: “Haven’t you been debriefed by the Police General? The briefing should have been enough to convince you.”

Captain: “We are concern about the scale of this operation. So many has been recruited that it has affected the city. The citizens are getting angry.”

Alan: “It is no concern of mine. Handling this should be on your end. My concern is only the success of this operation.”

Alan gives a careless shrug. The captain is appalled at Alan’s response and is at a loss for words. The lieutenant cuts into the conversation.

Au Khan: “But is it really necessary to bring the whole arsenal, the whole police force to engage this enemy?”

Alan gives the lieutenant a look of disdain.

Alan: “I’m sure that it is pretty clear that you are debriefed that the dark patch of sky is due to the enemy’s action.”

Alan points at the dark patch of sky in the distance. It looks like a giant black hole expanding across the blue sky. Auroras are forming from the edges and converging onto an area on the ground. The officers look at the faraway scene with looks of fear and worry. They know about it as they were debriefed by the commissioner along with the rest of the policemen.

Alan: “Your entire force could not reach him. Only I and a special group of people are actually handling the enemy directly. At most, you are just labor to make this operation go smoothly.”

Alan’s statements have belittled them. The police captain gets angry at the remarks but is nudged by the senior lieutenant before he can lash out at Alan.

Au Khan: “… What sort of enemy will we be facing?”

Alan: “To put it simply, We.”

Alan gestures at himself.

Alan: “Will be fighting a monster. As to who or what that monster is, that’s none of you concern. Your duty is to follow your orders and for your sake, keep yourselves alive.”

The police captain steps forward, looking livid as if he is challenged.

Han Trang: “You’re saying you have the power to fight this enemy?”

Alan does not answer the police captain’s provocation. He gives a smirk, relaxes his posture and leans back against the window. The window pane cracked behind him but he paid no attention. Both of the police officers are startled at his bold action but are silent with significant anguish. This pleases Alan.

Alan: *Heh. At least these people respect the chain of command.* “I trust that you and everyone else know that this operation should be kept confidential. Things like public witnesses and news from the media and press should be handled by you but only on our orders. I don’t need you making martyrs.”

This infuriates the police captain.

Han Trang: “What do you mean by that?!”

Alan: “The way your country censors information is obsolete. Primitive and stupid. Accept that and learn how to handle modern opinion and media.”

Au Khan: “That’s enough captain. Let’s leave.”

The senior lieutenant is holding the police captain’s shoulder. The police captain understands his intentions and only balls his fists in anger.

Alan: “If you don’t like our supervision, you can always opt out. It might be unbecoming of a high ranking officer like you but that’s your own risk to wager. We’ve given you ample time to agree to those terms. Those that didn’t will stay behind and help us leave the city. The gag orders are still in effect regardless if you are in or out.”

Being fed up with the conversation, the officers storm off. Alan turns and watches over the troops. In spite of the unknown nature of the operation, a larger number of them still opt to participate in it. This is likely due to various reasons, like the thrill of a covert operation, the huge payment upon participation by a US organization, patriotic spirit of defending the country against an unknown threat, or just plain curiosity about the strange phenomenon with the sky.

Nonetheless, the ones that refused are extremely vocal, voicing their distrust of the organization, mentioning various theories like the operation’s purpose is to secure something that will monopolize power or to cover up a manmade accident that the organization might have caused. They also accused the organization of using the Vietnamese forces as sacrificial pawns to forward their goals.

Alan: *Well, it’s not like it is entirely untrue.*

They have every intention to use the Vietnamese forces to defeat that monstrous magician. However, it should only be the agents of the organization that will be dealing the blow to the magician. The Vietnamese forces will only serve to remove the clutter and mess the magician might have conjured. Nonetheless, they have to handle the incident with proper care and ensure the wellbeing of the Vietnamese troops. This alliance among nations is crucial to their organization in their mission. So their actions on the allied troops will be heavily scrutinized.

Alan: [How vexing. I have to babysit these weaklings while I’m hunting. Whatever. As long as a few of them survive, I can still report it as collateral damage.]

Alan shrugs off those thoughts. For now, he should focus on the task ahead. He recalls the information that has been sent to him by the intelligence team.

Alan: [Hmm… There’s not much to work on.]

Satellite images have turned up empty as the light absorption from Rosetta’s spell caused black patches to obscure the images. Previous images from days before Rosetta’s spell show that a lush tropical forest covered the whole area.

Alan: [This is still a good lead…]

With the abundance of nature around him, the magician is most likely using nature magic. Using the environment to his advantage, the forest can be used at his disposal. Alan grins at the possibility.

Alan: [If that’s the case, I might have an advantage in this. I’m getting thrilled.]

If the opponent is using nature magic, Alan’s power is suited to overpower it. In fact, his own power is nature magic as well but with a much sinister nature. He obtained the ability from the organization, not from Rosetta, but the magic was originally from him. The organization managed to get a treasure trove of magic when they struck hard against the magician 23 years ago. The magician has turned elusive since then, and the organization has grown exponentially, striving to capture the magician for good.

Alan lets out a huge breath. He is excited. To have chance of confronting the great magician himself, to pit his magic against him, he is exhilarated at the thought. His vile magic will no doubt do a number on Rosetta. If he manages to take Rosetta down completely, he will be celebrated by the organization and by the world.

– bata bata bata-

The sound of a propeller engine interrupts Alan’s thoughts and he glances upwards to see a military helicopter circling the police compound and descending on a clearing prepared by the police. Alan gets up from the window, dusts himself off and quickly walks towards the building’s exit. A military helicopter comes into view as he leaves the building. The compartment door opens to welcome Alan in.

Another agent is present in the compartment. Wearing a similar getup like Alan’s, the man is of average height and muscularly built. His medium slicked back hair is squashed by the headphones used for communications over the loud helicopter engine.

Alan: “Agent Johannes Scarl! It’s a fine day to hunt, isn’t it?!”

Johannes: “Get in! We need to be updated with the latest information and prepare for the mission!”

Yelling over the helicopter engines, Johannes hands Alan another set of headphones. Alan takes the headphones and climbs into the compartment before slamming the door shut. Johannes signal to the pilot to take off and the helicopter takes off in the direction of the black sky. Adjusting the headphones on his head, Alan begins the conversation.

Alan: “So how did it go with the People’s Army of Vietnam? Did they chicken out? I don’t see any military presence in the area.”

Johannes: “They are in full cooperation. However, they can only supply troops and air support. The land vehicles will not reach here in time. Rosetta will escape before then.”

Alan: “Tsk. Even when we had the whole country is on military alert since last week. These people can get their shit together?”

Johannes: “Get a grip on the situation. The military alert was issued when Rosetta is in Thailand. They never expected him to be in the heart of Vietnam.”

Alan: “Whatever. Rosetta anticipated this. The bastard is out of the range of shore bombardments from the US Navy. We don’t even have air clearance to fly fighters. Do we at least have the clearance for launching ballistic missiles?”

Johannes: “We do. We’re allowed to launch five of them. Any more will attract attention and balloon the costs of the operation.”

Alan:”Cheh- Why are we still worrying over costs when we’re up against Rosetta?!”

Johannes: “Money is money. Even you still complain about your pay. That’s not the real issue though. The real issue is this. We’ve done some scout operations in there.”

Johannes opens the compartment window, revealing a clearer view of the pitch black void that reaches towards the sky. Nothing could be seen from the inside, not even the unaffected scenery from the other side. Like a gigantic cloud of darkness. Auroras form from the edge of the void but they faded into the darkness as they went further in. The surroundings have been affected with the scenery now darkened as if the weather had cast a stormy day.

Johannes: “Rosetta is gathering energy from the sun. The energy is very likely used to power his spell looking for someone. For such a magic to create this…”

Johannes casts another glance at the black void. Alan opens the compartment window and put out his hand to feel the air outside.

Alan: “The air is cool and damp. As if the whole area is experiencing night. Have you confirmed my theory? Because this feels like what I have been saying. If Rosetta had used physics based magic, the surroundings would have dropped down to extremely cold temperatures.”

Johannes: “Yes. It seems so. The scouts have reported that the area in the void does not have extreme cold temperatures. Furthermore, they also reported that the growth of the forest have been increased exponentially. You are right. Rosetta’s spell is based on nature magic. Pilot, on the way to the destination, set a flight course that brings us closer to the void.”

Pilot: “Yes sir. I have to warn you that we will be retreating if the air currents get rougher.”

Johannes: “Acknowledged. Get us closer.”

The pilot sets his flight course that will fly pass closer to the massive void. As the helicopter flies across the side of the void, its size is tiny in comparison. The helicopter’s navigation lights make the huge vehicle look like a firefly flying across the night sky. Alan peers into the black void, takes out a flashlight and points its light into the void.

Alan: “Nothing. The light is totally taken away. We aren’t sure if the spell will drain energy from machines and electronics, correct?”

Alan furrows his brows as the void towers above him. He hates the spell, the biggest obstacle between him and the taking down mankind’s greatest threat. Capturing him will not be easy without light to aid him. To his words, Johannes interjects.

Johannes: “We’ve just confirmed it from the scout team’s report. The spell only takes light energy from light sources. All their equipment works fine but peripherals like night vision and visual electronics could not be used at all. Rosetta’s spell for gathering energy seems to serve as another layer of protection for him.”

Alan: “You can’t even see the light from a screen?! Hah! Just what is this nature magic?! Hahahah!”

Johannes: “Yes. Within the void, it is pitch black and all sources of light are rendered useless. Because of that, the missiles will likely be rendered useless along with vehicle transport. The Vietnamese forces will be tied down as well.”

Pilot: “Agent Scarl and Agent Moralles. We’ve reach our destination.”

The pilot lowers the helicopter’s altitude to descend in a clearing next to a military outpost. The police, firemen and military troops have set up the base of operations a short distance from the void. Alan gets up, opens the compartment door and looks around at the state of the base. He turns to Johannes.

Alan: “Well, if we can’t catch the fox, burn its den to the ground, right?”

When the helicopter hovers closer to the ground, Alan jumps off and lands on the ground with a thud. He straightens up and walks towards the awaiting officer. The officer salutes and greets him.

Officer: “Welcome, Agent Moralles. Agent Strauss is waiting for you in the briefing room.”

Alan: “Good. Guide me to him.”

The officer nods and guides him towards the tent the farthest away from the void. Inside the tent are many Vietnamese and United States captains debriefing with another agent with a familiar face. A Caucasian with a tanned skin color and dark brown hair. The hair on the sides of his hair is shaved, but the top of his hair is long and braided into locks. Agent Indiana Strauss.

Alan: “India. I’m here. John will be joining us shortly. What have you got so far?”

Indianna: “Agent Moralles? We’ve already gone through the troop formations and their orders. You just have to look through the formations and plan your actions from there. Given the difficult nature of Rosetta’s magic, the native troops are unable to march into the spell’s effective area. Our soldier fared no better. With the fast growing vegetation, it will be tough to reach Rosetta.”

Indianna indicates the position of the troops on the map. The Vietnamese are stationed at points around the spell area. They are positioned near the edge of the void where visibility is still possible albeit impaired. Small squads of US troops are scattered around the Vietnamese troops with some elite squads stationed inside the spell’s area. Alan glances over the formations and plans his course of action: forge a path straight to Rosetta.

Johannes: “Good afternoon, Indianna. Is Alan updated with your attack positions?”

Indianna: “Yes. Thanks for picking him up.”

Johannes enters the tent and shakes Indianna’s hand. Alan calls Indianna as he mulls over the map.

Alan: “India, any intel on Rosetta’s location?”

Indianna: “Yes. The locations are here, here, here, and here.”

Indianna points at several points on the map that is positioned in the center of the void.

Indianna: “These are locations Rosetta will likely be in. We’ve looked at earlier satellite images and there are these growths that bulge out in the forest shortly before the sky turned pitch black.”

Indianna hands over some pictures to Alan. The picture shows a satellite’s view of the forest. In random locations in the forest, green bulges can be seen towering over the tree canopy. A red circle is drawn on the forest putting these locations cluttered in the center. A glint briefly appears in Alan’s eyes before he turns to Indianna for further clarification.

Alan: “How reliable is this information?”

Indianna: “Very. These are the exact locations that showed abnormal growths in the forest in comparison with satellite images a few days ago.”

Alan flips through the pictures, burning the locations into his mind. His face twists into a wide sinister smile. This is it. This could be his chance to sink his teeth into Rosetta. Still focused on the pictures, he sends Indianna another question.

Alan: “Aside from knowing that it is nature magic, what else did you get from the scouting mission?”

Alan’s voice trembles slightly. It is subtle enough to overlook but both Indianna and Johannes picked up on it.

Indianna: “Nothing else. The scouts were faced with a wall of hard vegetation that grow rapidly even after repeated attempts to cut them down. Aside from this defensive wall, we speculate that there will more surprises if we force it hard enough.”

Alan: “Yes… And no doubt whatever opposition Rosetta will throw at us, he will use nature magic.”

Alan is getting more excited. Things cannot get any better than this. How everything seems to be served to him on a silver plate.

Alan: [With my magic, I will devour everything.]

Johannes grabs Indianna’s shoulder.

Johannes: “Indianna. I need to talk to you about something.”

Indianna nods and follows Johannes to an isolated part of the tent.

Indianna: “Is this about the balistic missiles?”

Johannes: “Yes. Since I cannot see into the void, I will not know which target to hit. You’ve isolated various locations that might hide Rosetta. So, I’m giving you the authority to decide where I launch my missiles.”

Indianna: “Y-You’re giving me authority to launch a missile strike?”

Indianna faces away to handle the weight of the new orders given to him. He turns to Johannes and nods.

Indianna: “Okay. What do I have to work with?”

Johannes: “I have only five missiles. You’ve listed 11 locations. I need you to narrow it down.”

Johannes: “… Alright. I’ll do my best with it.”

Both of them nod to each other. Having done with their conversation, they walk back to the others who are waiting for them.

Alan: “Anything I should know about?”

Johannes: “Just new orders for Strauss. Organization agents only.”

Alan, realizing that they are in the presence of US and Vietnamese men, nods his head.

Alan: “Alright…”

Indianna stands in front of the captains who stand in attention.

Indiannaa: “We are beginning the operation. Prepare your troops for the assault!”

Captains: “Yes, sir!”

The captains salute and march out of the tent. Johannes heads towards the telecommunications station to establish contact with the US Navy. Indianna turns Alan.

Indianna: “Alan, the troops will be ready in 1500 hours, 20 minutes from now. Be prepared by then. When it starts, we-”

Alan: “We will strike down Rosetta!”

Alan exclaims his proclamation with blood thirst in his eyes.

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<Chapter 5 | Main | Chapter 7>

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Author: Q-ichi

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