Prologue | Chapter 8 – Turning the tides of battle

Image source: JasonEngle

Mandrake’s scribbling: Uuuu… This chapter is finally complete. This mandrake is exhausted. Hmm? Update on this mandrake? Here.

<Chapter 7 | Main | Chapter 9>

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Treant: “HOOOOOH!”

(US) Captain: “Frontline! Evade! Side flanks! Focus fire! Aim for the joints!”

-Dakka Dakka Dakka-

The frontline troops flees from the treant’s reach and the ones on its flanks shoots at the treant’s arm joints. The bullets tear through the vines that serve as the treant’s muscles, cutting down the power in its attack. As a result, the treant’s overhead smash lost its momentum and lands on the bare ground instead of the troops.

(US) Trooper: “Soil overhead!”

-Kroomssh-

(US) Trooper: “Augh!”

(US) Captain: “Shake it off! Move!”

Clumps of soil rain down on the troops. The attacker, another treant a good distance away has joined the battle. The troops reorganize into a defensive position.

(US) Captain: “Where the fuck is air support?!”

(US) Trooper: “I don’t see them!”

(US) Captain: “Is the mortar ready?!”

(US) Trooper: “Not yet, Captain!”

(US) Captain: “Fuck! I need heavy fire support NOW!!”

-Fwssssh BOOM-

Treant: “HrOOOH!”

An RPG warhead flies at the back of the treant engaging the troops and explodes. The treant collapses, its arm breaking off from its body. Reinforcements have arrived. But not the one the US troops expected. The Vietnamese troops rush in and the Vietnamese captain approaches the US captain.

(VN) Captain: “(We’re here to back you up!)”

(US) Captain: “Shit! English! English!”

(VN) Captain: “We’re here to help!”

(US) Captain: “Alright! You lead your team, I lead mine! You take on the monster at the back!”

He gestures at both treants at the VN captain. Understanding their objectives, both teams separate and confront the treants separately. The US troops are preparing to finish of the treant while the VN troops are rushing to engage the other treant at the back. The treant got up from the ground with its severed arm in hand and swings it down on the US troops. The men scramble away to avoid the attack.

(US) Captain: “Fire!”

-Dakka Dakka Dakka-

The troops fire at the treant, focusing on the shoulder of its good arm. The treant catches on to their tactic and puts its severed arm in the way to shield its shoulder. In amidst of the fighting, a trooper receives a transmission from his radio and calls out to his captain.

(US) Trooper: “Sir! The mortar team is ready!”

(US) Captain: “Don’t wait on my orders! Shoot that thing before it gets near us!”

Treant: “HOOOH!

The treant steps forward to do a closer sweep. The captain shouts at his troops gesturing them to maintain their distance from the treant. A few moments later, the troops hear a faint whistling.

(US) Captain: “Get down!”

-BOOM-

Treant: “KwOOH!”

-Krrkash-

A mortar grenade had flown over the troops and struck the treant in its torso and exploded. The explosion staggers the treant sending it crashing to the ground once more. Then more faint whistling can be heard.

-BOOM-

-Shhuuuu BOOM-

Two mortar grenades one after the other struck the treants. The explosions blow up its body, breaking its legs and destroying its torso. Having most of its body destroyed, the treant finally stays down. The troops cheer at their victory over the treant. The captain picks up the radio from his trooper to talk to his mortar team.

Captain: “Well done, mortar team. Prepare to move your gear. We’re going to engage the other one.”

He tosses the radio back and shouts at his team.

(US) Captain: “Men! Reload your weapons and march! We are taking on the other one down!”

The troops prepare their weapons and start their march. As they march pass the fallen treant, a rattling growl is heard.

-Krrrrrrrr-

Trooper: “This thing is still alive?”

Trooper: “Damn. What a monster..”

Treant: “Gr-AOH!”

(US) Captain: “Shit! Engage! Engage! Storm in!”

The scene that is revealed to them; the Vietnamese troops pushed to a corner, hiding among the burnt debris, and two angry treants throwing rocks and soil at them. The US troops open fire, focusing solely on the treant closer to them. Noticing the US troops, the treant roars angrily at their presence. It storms off towards the US troops while the other one marches closer to the VN troops for a direct assault.

Captain: “We’ve drawn one out! Where are the fucking choppers?!”

Trooper: “They are enroute now!”

Captain: “Men! Our objective is to not taking down the enemy! Hold position and defend! Stay alive! You! Go and check on the Viets!”

He points at a group of his men and directs them to the direction of the VN troops. They receive their orders and sprint towards the VN troops away from the approaching treant. The rest of the troops take cover behind burnt debris and in ashen trenches. The hail of bullets is unleashed once more.

__________________________________

– Bata Bata Bata-

The engines of two helicopters roar as they fly through the scarred battlefield. The landscape is dyed in all shades of white, black and grey. One of the helicopters has the same setup as before; a napalm turret with hundreds of gallons of napalm fuel. The other had a different turret, a chaingun turret with thousands of rounds packed into ammunition cases. Within the compartment of these heavy machines, the atmosphere is tense with the silence of the personnel focused on their mission. One of them breaks the silence with idle conversation in hopes of stemming the anxiety.

Gunner: “How much fuel is left in this bird?”

Pilot: “We’re down to half. Enough for two attack runs before refueling. What about your napalm fuel?”

Gunner: “Barely even a third is used. We stop burning the forest after refueling so not much is used.”

Co-Pilot: “Those things still light up like matches.”

Gunner: “Yeah. Are those treants? I thought those are only in fantasy stories.”

Pilot: “Treants? The tree things? Yeah, well, I heard that the culprit behind all this is a wizard.”

Gunner: “Are you serious? This world is a fantasy movie right now?”

Pilot: “Yup, debriefed by my flight commander about that fucker.”

Co-pilot: “Avoid. On. Sight.”

Gunner: “Holy shit… How is the army going to take that down?”

Pilot: “He’s not invincible. We lit those trees like it’s nothing. The guys from the other chopper shredded them easily after.”

Co-pilot: “That’s modern war tech for ya. You don’t see that in movies or story books.”

Pilot: “Not only that. I think we have wizards on our own.”

Gunner: “Really? Who do you think it is?”

Co-pilot: “It’s those agents, isn’t it?”

Pilot: “Yup. They are the ones spearheading this operation. And they always work alone. Heck, one of them is somewhere in this hellhole fighting those things by himself! They must be packing some serious magic heat.”

Co-pilot: “Agent Moralles, right?”

Gunner: “Man, that guy? He’s raring to tear shit up.”

Pilot: “Hold up. … I see them. Two of them. Those men are under pressure.”

Co-pilot: “Contacting our helo partner. We’re moving in to engage. Gunner, warm that thing up.”

__________________________________

(US) Trooper: “Choppers inbound!”

(US) Captain: “Alright! Retreat to defense positions! The choppers will clean this up!”

– Bata Bata Bata-

Two helicopters flies over the retreating troops towards the treants. They swerve around to circle the treants. One helicopter circles closer. It lets out a stream of burning napalm at a treant, setting it alight. The gunner hoses more napalm on the treant as if he has fuel to spare.

Treant: “HOOOOH!!”

The treant roars angrily at the helicopter as its partner is set ablaze. It rears back and jumps upward to swipe down the helicopter. Anticipating the incoming attack, the helicopter swerves out of its way, rising to a higher altitude beyond the treant’s reach. The gunner directs the turret at the attacking treant, bathing it in burning fuel.

-Fwoom Krakassh-

Treant: “KrOOOOH!”

-Dakkoom Dakkoom Dakkoom-

The helicopter circling further away fires at the treants, its heavy machine gun turret punching holes into them.

-Trssh Krak Prak-

Bark, wood, and stone. Everything is shattered by the stream of bullets. The treants are powerless against immense firepower and fires ravaging their bodies.

(US) Troops: “YEAH! HAHAHA!”

(VN) Troops: “WHOOO~”

The troops cheer and shout in vigor as their adversaries are set alight and shredded by heavy gun fire. Punching their fists into the air and firing what remains in their loaded guns at the treants, they relish the sight of the formidable treants staggering from the burning flames and heavy bullets.

-Trssh Kraka Toom-

After a mere few minutes of continuous attack, the treants crumble and fall to the ground, their limbs still struggling in their death throes.

– Bata Bata Bata-

The engines roars. The troops gets up on their feet and hail hurrah. They wave their arms at the helicopters as they fly off to their next battle.

__________________________________

Officer: “Heli team 3 has successfully neutralize the threat. Proceed to the next conflict point.”

News of the victory has been received by the mission control room at the base camp. This has stirred the attention of many officers in the room, including an agent from the organization.

Indiana: [Another battle won. That’s 15. So far this operation has been running in our favor. But…]

Despite, the unexpected appearance of the tree monsters, Rosetta’s resistance is anticipated and the allied forces are repelling the attack successfully. Indiana turns his attention to his work laid out in front of him. Satellite pictures are arranged on a light table, showing the latest view of the battlefield from above.

Indiana: [The offensive is showing signs of success.]

Reports by the scouts indicated that the streams of light from the edges of the void has dissipated, suggesting the loss of strength of Rosetta’s magic spell. Indiana picks up another picture laid on the side and holds it over the light table. The picture is pitch black with various spots showing colors from the infrared range.

Indiana: [Some of the infrared radiation from the fires can still be seen despite Rosetta’s spell. But, this tells a different story that I expected.]

The image shows red hot spots where fires are rampaging unobstructed. However, the number of hot spots are few and far between. Despite efforts done by the helicopters to set the forest on fire, the fires have not made far into the void.

Indiana: [Something is putting out the fires and it’s not Rosetta.]

Rosetta is preoccupied with his spell; the latest transmission from the organization headquarters has informed him that the spell is still active. The napalm has been setting fires deep into the void, but all of them are smothered by another ally of Rosetta.

Indiana: [I don’t know who or what it is hiding in there. It will turn up when we put pressure on Rosetta. This is strange. This isn’t how Rosetta reacts.]

Anger and anxiety builds up in Indiana. Indiana has been puzzled at recent events that unfolded. Rosetta is usually not keen in causing serious harm or casualties. He will normally conjure obstacles or alter the terrain to impede their progress and escape in the confusion. His tactics are always defensive in nature and he will avoid causing any casualties as much as he can.

Indiana: [Ever since those tree monsters appeared from the void, reports on casualties have been coming in.]

Even if the operation has gone in their favor, the number of casualties cannot be ignored. The tree monsters created by Rosetta have been attacking the troops with an intent to kill. Deaths have been reported and even more reports are filed in regards to troops retreating due to crippling injury.

Indiana: [There is a high turnout of participants from the native authorities due to us promising a low danger risk operation. At this point, this has become an outright lie.]

After the operation, the despair and grief over the lost lives and crippling injuries will spur the Vietnamese government to demand compensation for crippling their forces. This will put rifts in the alliance and put the whole organization under scrutiny by the leaders of the international community.

Indiana: [Some heads would roll for this.]

However, this is not the only concern. Rosetta’s new strategy of fighting might be a grave sign of what his current mission entails.

Indiana: [This can be desperation. He has something to protect now. I’ll should bring this up to Mr. Gibson, but not right now. My turn will be coming soon.]

Indiana shifts his focus towards his computer. It is linked to a satellite in space and is currently downloading the latest set of images of the battlefield taken when the satellite pass over in orbit. He looks at the images as they are loaded in, comparing them with previous images in hand. Glancing between them, his eyes glint in delight and his face breaks into a grin.

Indiana: [I still can’t use the normal photographs. But the infrared pictures is enough.]

The normal photographs are useless as the smoke from the fires have spread across the sky, blocking the battlefield from view. Nonetheless, images in infrared provides a clear image of the burning forest.

Indiana: “Haha! The spell area has shrunk!”

Indiana voices out his thoughts out of elation. The void has retreated, shrinking its radius and revealing burning forests and ashen wasteland caused by the napalm attack. Burning down the forest has definitely impaired the extreme nature magic spell and impede Rosetta’s mission.

Indiana: “This will be where I will find you.”

Indiana has been closely observing the deterioration of the void. Using the satellite data and live reports from the battlefield, he will extrapolate Rosetta’s likely location for an accurate missile strike. Based on satellite images from before Rosetta started his spell, he is determined that one of the giant swells in the forest is hiding Rosetta and he has to figure out which. Thus, the offensive effort to burn the forest will deteriorate Rosetta’s spell area. The deterioration of the void is used as an indicator.

Indiana: [Nature magic has a unique characteristic to replenish and self-repair, so if we push hard enough, we can force the spell into revealing the center.]

However, the data has proven that is not the case. Upon closer inspection, one could see that the spells area is constantly changing, resulting in irregular shapes. Indiana, on the contrary, sees it clear as day.

Indiana: [Sly. You’ve made it so that the spell area can be moved by your will.]

Indiana is thrilled. To see through Rosetta’s tricks in this game of cat and mouse, he feels that all the time training under the organization has honed him into a fine agent.

Indiana: [The center of the spell is not a point… but a circle.]

He draws a circle on the map. With it, he superimposes the forest swell locations over it. Two of them sit within the circle. His analysis has filtered out two possible locations of Rosetta’s shelter.

Indiana: [Rosetta. In the end you still have it on your terms, huh? A 50-50 chance.]

Should he pick one, or the other? His decision is not hard at all.

Indiana: [Johannes has more than enough missiles to strike you.]

He will attack both locations. Rosetta is more worth than a risk of a meager 50-50 chance. Agent Gibson has made sure that point is abundantly clear. Thus, right now the person he has to contact is…

Indiana: “Telecoms, patch me through to Agent Johannes Scarl”

Indiana jogs over to the telecommunications desk and orders the telecommunications officer to establish a radio contact with Johannes. When the officer confirms the contact and passes a pair of headphones to Indiana.

Indiana: “Agent Scarl?”

Johannes: “Speaking. I assume your call means that you’ve successfully determined Rosetta’s location?”

Indiana: “Yes. I have narrowed the locations down to two.”

Johannes: “Two? Two targets? So one missile will not hit Rosetta? Can you not narrow it down to one?”

Indiana: “I cannot. Rosetta has played his tricks to the very end. 50-50.”

Johannes: “Argh… A missile is a lot of money and effort on my part.”

Indiana: “Considering who we are facing, it is worth it. Agent Gibson would launch fifty missiles instead of the allowed five.”

Johannes: “Yes, he would. Alright. I authorize it. Relay the coordinates to me. I’ll establish a connection to the naval fleet. They will launch the missile and I’ll use my magic to guide the missiles to a perfect strike.”

Indiana: “I’ll get on it right away.”

Hearing the order, Indiana returns to his station to send the coordinates. Suddenly, a recent report causes a commotion in the command center.

Intel Officer: “New report! Scouts have discovered a new type of enemy!”

Everybody, including Indiana, stop in their tracks. They pay full attention to the distressed officer’s following words.

Intel Officer: “The enemy is a giant version of the tree monsters! At least twice the size! Its appearance is similar to the tree monsters but with a blood red appearance!”

At the intel officer’s description, Indiana is hit with a revelation.

Indiana: [Is that-]

Officer: “Is it covered in blood?! It killed people already?! Call the- Hey!”

Indiana: “Have the scouts observe this new monster and its behavior. Also, put out orders to everyone to avoid and not engage it.”

Indiana pushes the officer away as he interrupts him. The rest of the officers are bewildered at his suggestion.

Officer: “Agent Strauss, what are you even saying?!”

Indiana: “I have reason to believe that this new monster will not be an enemy.”

Officer: “What reason do you have to risk the lives of the troops?!”

The officer shouts in rage and the others nod in agreement. Indiana is unfazed and continues his explanation.

Indiana: “I never said to ignore it completely. Observe and avoid.”

Officer: “You think this monster is an ally?! Are you crazy?! That thing isn’t human.”

Indiana: “We are fighting a different battle than the ones you usually have with the common human.”

Indiana glares at the outspoken officer before shifting his glare to the others.

Indiana: “My organization is well prepared to handle these kinds of threats. We have our own monsters. Tell me. Do any of you know what happened to Agent Alan Moralles?”

__________________________________

-Crrrraakkssshh-

A mangled body of a treant crashes onto the ground. Countless wounds from gunfire scar its body and flames from incendiary fire licks the branches, slowly turning it into ash. Triumphant cheers roar from the victors of the battle. Drunk on the euphoria of victory, they are thrilled that they felled such a tremendous beast. Unfortunately, their celebration is short-lived. The team captain quickly berates them to stay on guard.

Captain: “Get your asses back in line! We need to-“

*Thoom Thoom Thoom*

Trooper: “Enemy incoming!”

The sound of heavy foots steps alerts the men. The troops ready their weapons and point them in the sound’s direction. Due to the ever-present smoke in the air, a silhouette of the treant can be seen approaching at an alarming speed.

Trooper: “My god, it’s huge… Wait! Captain! Is it-”

Captain: “It is! Do not engage! Do NOT engage!”

The captain urges his troop to retreat from the monster’s path. As it through the smoke, its form slowly comes into view. Its size is massive. At over 10 meters, it is a monster similar the ones the troops are fighting except that it dwarfs them and sports a bulkier body build. Its appearance can only be described as terrifying. Blood red branches and vines entwine its entire body and broken branches jut out from its body like spiked armor.

*Thoom Thoom Thoom*

Trooper: “Ghh…”

Its speed is tremendous. Despite its size and bulky form, the strange monster storms pass the troops in quick strides at speeds similar to speeding vehicles on asphalt roads. The troops can do nothing but cower from the monster’s sight. Then, it slows down to a stop in front of the defeated treant from earlier.

Giant Treant: “Grrrk.”

-Kraksskraka-

Releasing a grunt, the giant lifts its leg and stamps the ruined treant. The troops watch in horror as the body snaps and cracks into pieces.

Treant: “GrOOOH!!”

Giant Treant: “KSRA! HA! HA! HA! HA!”

A lone treant roars angrily at the giant treant. It races towards the giant to attack it. The giant breaks into a loud slow laughter. It swipes the treant in its hand. The treant is helpless as its body creaks and cracks from the giant’s grip.

-FwooTHOOM krshssh-

Trooper: “Fucking shit!”

It bents its body and smashes the treant into the ground. The ground is flung into the air as it shakes violently from the force. The tremors reach the troops, shattering their stance and morale.

-Srssh susssh-

The giant treant’s arm gripping its victim convulses suddenly. The branches and vegetation moves around erratically for a few moments before the giant lifts its arm from the ground. It gets up and breaks into a run in search for more prey.

Trooper: “That thing just took out a monster. What the fuck…”

Captain: “Men, we retreat. Let’s get the hell out of-“

Trooper: “Captain! That thing is still alive!”

Everyone turn to look at the crater the giant treant left behind. The treant crushed by the giant treant emerges from it. Its body twisted and broken, red vines and branches crawl all over itself. The treant contorts and snaps its body into shape, the red vegetation now a permanent feature.

Treant: “Krro! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!”

The treant releases a hollow laughter similar to the giant treant before running off. The troops are silent and motionless. Having watched plenty of horror films in their free time, they know exactly what has taken place. The captain walks to the front and faces his troops. In a low and solemn, voice he said…

Captain: “Men, We’re done. Send a field report to intelligence. We retreat and we are done. We will not come back here again.”

__________________________________

Indiana: [That’s Alan.]

Indiana has that thought as the intel officer reads the latest report in a hoarse voice. The other officers are petrified in fear. Indiana feels indifferent to the atmosphere and voices his orders to them.

Indiana: “Recall all forces. From now on, this operation will be conducted by the organization agents. Me, Johannes Scarl and Alan Moralles.”

Officer: “W-Wait. You’re taking over?”

Indiana: “Yes. This battle will escalate further. All field forces are to evacuate the area immediately. This is no longer a fight for humans.” [It’s time the titans join the fray]

As Indiana ended the conversation, he walks over to his station and pulls out an aluminum briefcase. He opens it to reveal a telecommunications computer. He turns it on and proceeds to establish a connection to the organization.

Indiana: [Alan will be the army. Johannes will be the assassin. My only job left is to report to Agent Gibson.]

The connection to the organization is established and Indiana puts on the headphones and speaks into the receiver.

Indiana: “This is Agent Indiana Strauss. Identification number India-Tango-Romeo-Sierra-Hotel 35043. Connect me to Special Agent Gibson.”

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<Chapter 7 | Main | Chapter 9>

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Author: Q-ichi

I'm a mandrake

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