Prologue | Chapter 15 – The Ghost City Visitors

Mandrake’s scribblings: … A friend of this mandrake outs up a post on the AML Blog about an opinion of a manga and he gets more likes that this mandrake could get with a chapter post. This mandrake is frustrated. Enjoy the chapter~

<Chapter 14.9 | Main | Chapter 15.5>

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-Chikchikchikchik-

A spanner clicks in place as the nut it is turning is sufficiently tightened. The man retrieves the spanner and returns it to the toolbox. He readjusts his glasses that has slipped down the bridge of his nose due to his sweaty face. He stands upright and observes his work. A scrawny tall man with unkempt black hair that was neatly combed before. This man is Kenny Balmer, the intelligence officer operating directly with Elias Coiner.

Kenny: “Right… With this, Elias won’t be having seizures every time he goes online.”

He pats the machine in front of him. The brand new supercomputer whirs loudly in synch with its kin around it. Feeling satisfied with his work, his thoughts wander towards the culprit behind the recent attempt at harming Elias.

Kenny: “Whoever did this has to be pretty twisted. You’re safe for now, Elias.”

He checks the time and sighs in relief. He is just in time. He picks up his nearby laptop and walks toward the exit.

Kenny: [She should be waiting there by now.]

Sure enough, his partner and girlfriend, Alexa Ginn, is waiting at the giant vault door. Squatting next to the vault door, she is holding up her laptop and scrolling through data on the screen. She wears a formal suit that is covered by a long sleeved lab coat. Her long dyed brown hair is clipped into a bundle on the back of her head. A pair of glasses similar to Kenny’s is hung on her breast pocket. Kenny smiles and approaches her.

Kenny: “I’m done, Alex. Have you been waiting long?”

Alexa: “Mnh? No. I just settled down…”

Alexa uncomfortably straightens herself up. Kenny closes in on her and gives her a peck on her forehead. She gently pushes him away.

Alexa: *Not in front of the camera.*

Kenny glances over to the security camera over the door and smiles wryly.

Kenny: *Sorry.*

Alexa gestures at the camera to open the vault door. A few moments later, the heavy machinery disengages the lock.

-Gagaga Ka Klang Kang-

Kenny stands closely to Alexa and gently presses his hand on her back. He then moves his hand downwards across her back. She responds with a sharp nudge to his side.

Alexa: *Let’s talk about work.*

She skips into the corridor. Kenny sighs and walks to her side.

Kenny: *Alright… How is the old man doing?*

Alexa: *Mr. Elias is fine. I performed three minor procedures to return him to peak condition.*

Kenny: *Good job. At least there are no more worries for Director Lance.*

Alexa: *I’m more worried about Agent Gibson. He was absolutely livid during the meeting.*

Kenny: *Relax, Alexa. Political shit tends to happen in our line of work*

Alexa: *That disaster that is Vietnam could have been handled better! Because of Alan, we’re stuck in this political storm!*

Both of them stop in front of the second vault door. Kenny waves at the camera and puts his other arm around Alexa.

Kenny: *Don’t sweat it. This stuff doesn’t involve you. Your performance is what matters here. Director Lance has commended your work. I even asked you out.*

She pushes his arm away and gives him a sarcastic look.

Alexa: *Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.*

The vault door finally opens. Both of them proceed to exit through the door but are stopped by a large body standing in front of the door.

Tammy: “Hi Alexa, Kenny.”

Kenny: “Hey, Tammy.”

Alexa: “Tammy? What are you doing here?”

Tammy: “I’m here to see you. How about lunch with me?”

Alexa: “Sorry, Tammy. There is a top priority mission about to start and I don’t know when it will end.”

Tammy lowers her shoulders in dejection.

Tammy: “Oh, okay. Let me escort you there then. Mission Op, right?”

Alexa: “Yes.”

Kenny: “Thanks, Tammy.”

Tammy walks ahead while Alexa and Kenny follow closely behind.

Tammy: “So, how is Indiana doing?”

Alexa: “He is still under remote suicide watch and I’m still the only one that can approach him.”

Tammy: “I hope he is getting better.”

Kenny: “Yea, even though he was prepared for it, he still took it hard.”

The shock of receiving a new magic is still intense even if one is prepared for it. Receiving shock from one’s own magic is a special rite to those who created their own magic. The ordeal of one’s own shock is a personal hell on its own.

Alexa: “Kenny, stop scratching.”

Alexa reaches behind Kenny and grabs his wrist.

Kenny: “Wha?”

Unbeknownst to him, his hand has been scratching the scar on the back of his neck. The scar is huge and covers the whole back of his neck.

Kenny: “Oh…”

Alexa releases his hand and he immediately returns it to his side.

Alexa: “Are you remembering your shock when you received your magic?”

Kenny: “Y-Yea… Thinking about Indiana brought it back.”

Alexa: “The shock happens only once when you first receive your magic. It’s better to not relive those memories.”

Kenny: “You’re right. Sorry.”

Tammy: “Is it the time when you nearly dug out your own spine?”

Alexa: “Tammy!”

Alexa shoots Tammy an angry look. Tammy shrugs off her warning.

Kenny: “It’s fine. It’s in the past now.”

Tammy: “I, myself was hit pretty hard by the shock. Struck by an unbearable hunger, I even started eating my arm. I felt like dying.”

Alexa: “Even if you are fine sharing your own hellish experience, nobody wants to hear it or chip in their own.”

Kenny: “Alright settle down. We are near the Mission Op room.”

As they approach the doors, the air becomes tense like it has been electrified.

Alexa: *… There is mana packed into the air. Agent Gibson isn’t happy…*

Alexa whispers quietly, hoping to be out of earshot of the people in the room.

Kenny: *No wonder. He intended to join this excursion.*

Tammy turns around and waves to them.

Tammy: *Well, I’ll be ditching this burning train here. See ya.*

Alexa: *Shut up!*

Alexa hisses at Tammy, fearing the people inside will catch wind of their conversation. As Tammy heads of to the cafeteria, Alexa faces the door with Kenny.

Kenny: “Ready, Alexa?”

Alexa: “Yes.”

Kenny: “Here we go.”

He opens the door and they both walk inside. The feeling that strikes when they walk in is immediate. Like many springs breaking from tension all around them. Wrapping around them. The feeling of getting tangled. And the fear of breaking like the springs around them.

Devon: “Kenny, Alexa. Glad you are here.”

Their director’s voice catches their attention. Their focus no longer wandering, the atmosphere from before is faint but still ever present.

Devon: “Get to you positions. We’re going to start.”

Kenny and Alexa: “Yes, sir”

They head down the aisle of rows of computers and equipment, each manned by a person, to the front of a giant monitor screen. The screen shows various windows displaying information and data. The largest window in the middle displays live feeds from satellites and active drones, all focused on a city in China, void of residents. Alexa turns to peek behind her as she walks down the aisle. Sure enough, Agent Gibson is there with his head resting against his hands propped up on the table. A voice calls out to Alexa.

Officer: “Agent Ginn, the machine is ready. Just set up your equipment and you’re good to go.”

Alexa: “Oh. Thank you.”

Officer: “Agent Balmer, the machine is readily accepting the data. The data is ready for processing.”

A female officer offers the seat at the computer station and Alexa takes it before setting up her equipment. The officer then directs Kenny towards the back to his own station. Right before he leaves, Kenny calls out to Alexa.

Kenny: “I’ll see you in a bit.”

Alexa, still focused on her work, waves in his direction. The couple separates, both taking on their roles in the mission.

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Devon: “How are you doing, Jerry? Have you calmed down?”

Jeroth: “No.”

He points at the large screen in front showing the live feed of the Chinese apartment building.

Jeroth: “I should be there.”

Devon sighs and nods in agreement.

Devon: “Yeah. I know. We started off great after Vietnam. How did it get so bad?”

The organization has fallen in standing in its alliance with the other nations around the world. All of the nations are now wary and distrustful of the organization and are considering drafting some laws and regulations to reign in control over the organization.

Jeroth: “We’ve over promised on our sales pitch, didn’t we?”

Devon: “Yes, the new terms are more robust but the damage has been done.”

In order to convince the nations in creating an alliance, the organization had claimed that no loss of men would befall onto any cooperating nation because the organization’s agents will be confronting the danger directly. A bold claim. Not because of arrogance by their own power, but because of their priorities set on quickly capturing any magic or artifacts upon encountering Rosetta. Furthermore, their objective that trumps above all others, to capture the magician and gain access to his vast reserves of mana, the organization is not going to allow any interference of a foreign nation.

The organization had echoed the threat of the magician to all the nations in cooperation. The nations knew nothing of the bounty of magic, mana and artifacts under the magician’s possession. All that changed completely. It started with the battle against Rosetta in Vietnam. The landscape in Son La was changed completely and a few soldiers and police officers had lost their lives. The Vietnamese government demanded reparations for the damage and loss of life the country had suffered. They soon discovered the giant egg that contained energy levels unprecedented in human history. The Vietnamese wanted to secure this power but the organization tried to smuggle it out of the country.

This was the end. The Vietnamese government fought with the organization in court under the observation of the other nations in the alliance. The organization seceded the egg to the Vietnamese and their reputation is in tatters. Their standing in the alliance has fallen and new agreements had been drafted with the nations, their sights now set on capturing the power of Rosetta for themselves.

Devon: “I’m sorry, Jerry. I didn’t pull through.”

Jeroth: “How many times are you going to apologize? It’s not your fault. What could anyone do against the wrath of the representatives of all the nations in the alliance? It is inevitable.”

Devon: “Then it’s also not Agent Moralles’s fault as well. He may have screwed up over the egg, but it is because of him that we got everything else.”

Jeroth: “I know. Moralles is mulling over his blunder too. He will not screw up again.”

Officer: “Excuse me, Agent Gibson.”

An officer walks up to Jeroth. He hands him a file of documents and leaves shortly after. Jeroth scans through the documents in his hands. They contain the transcripts of the organization’s recent appeal to the Chinese government.

Jeroth: “Those cursed Chinese… They are in over their heads.”

Jeroth throws the documents onto the table in vexation. Like the many times before, the Chinese has stonewalled their appeal completely. Jeroth massages his eyes with his fingers.

Jeroth: “It has to be China… It has to be fucking China…”

China. One of the strongest nations in the alliance. Due to their strong military power as well as agents with magic specially trained by the organization, they have gain confidence that they are not a nation that will fold to the threat of the mystical magician. Had Rosetta appeared in a nation with weaker forces, perhaps they would broker a deal with the organization.

Jeroth: “Is this new mana detection system worth it?”

Despite the political turmoil, the organization had its own breakthrough. Due to the efforts of Kenny Balmer and Alexa Ginn, a new system of detecting sources of mana is created from the runes salvaged from Vietnam. However, in order to use this technology properly, a new satellite has to be launched into orbit. They could not launch such a satellite without attracting attention and ire from the alliance nations. As a result, the organization had to negotiate with the nations in order to launch the satellite without political incident. In the end, they were able to launch the satellite in exchange for transparency.

Devon: “I believe it’s worth it. But it is unfortunate that the Chinese government had to use underhanded tactics like that.”

Upon learning that Rosetta is currently hiding in China, the country has restricted anyone from the organization from stepping on Chinese soil. In addition to that, the country has cut of all border access from the United States and has imposed restrictions on all Americans entering the country. With this restriction, the Chinese intends to fight the magician in hopes of getting a mystical bounty before the other nations take action. As a result, the organization is forced to observe the situation from afar.

Devon: “They have dispatched two teams to confront Rosetta. Based on how only one of our teams managed to strike him, they are expecting a better boon with two.”

Jeroth: “At least they didn’t gamble with all three teams. They are smart enough to hold back.”

Devon: “So, has your own strike team reached their objective?”

Jeroth: “Yes, they are on standby and battle ready.”

Devon: “What if they succeed? The Chinese, I mean.”

Jeroth scoffs at the notion.

Jeroth: “They will never take him down. They will probably put a few hits in but they will not take him down. Not them. Not even us. The best we can do is to shave him away bit by bit.”

He bends forward, eyes focused on the large screen.

Jeroth: “And when there is little of him left… When he is weaker than me…”

He presses down on the table with both hands and stands up.

Jeroth: “I will take him down on my own.”

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“Bu-hek!”

The middle-aged policeman Bao coughs loudly as the coffee he was drinking trickled into his wind pipe. Bending over from the wheezing coughs, he tries desperately to keep the can of coffee in his hand upright. His partner Luo next to him looks on with a slight tinge of disgust.

Luo: “What’s with you?”

Bao: “Nothing.”

He straightens up and looks around him. All of his colleagues are standing next to their patrol cars wearing the same expression. Anxiety and fear. He sighs and leans on the side of his patrol car and drinks his coffee.

In front of him are armored vehicles bearing the initials ‘SWAT’. Their occupants has disappeared inside the giant apartment building bearing guns and shields.

Parked behind the police cars are military vehicles. Armored cars equipped with heavy weapons, armed personnel carriers carrying armed soldiers and tanks with their barrels aimed straight at the building. Bao watches the soldiers arm themselves and erect sturdy barriers and shrugs in disbelief.

Bao: [What in God’s name is going on?]

This question has been repeated many times already. Out of nowhere the police were ordered to set a perimeter around this apartment city. Then suddenly, the SWAT teams were dispatched to the same spot and all the military equipment and personnel from the nearest military base was deploy there soon after. The chiefs from each faction grouped together to orchestrate a plan to storm the building. The military and SWAT will sweep through the building while reserve forces from both factions cooperate with the police to maintain a secure perimeter around the building.

Bao: [What is in this building that needs all this?!]

His heart quakes in terror at the possibility of a monster hiding between the walls of this large apartment building. And what’s more…

Luo: “Is your nephew going to be alright? He’s one of the officers securing the lower floors, right?”

Bao: “Shut up! Don’t talk ill of my nephew!”

Luo: “I just worried for him. Look at how crazy this situation is. This is like war.”

Bao: “He will be fine! He is a fine cop! Way better than you! That’s why he is in there!”

Luo: “Cheh.”

Luo scoffs and looks away. Bao returns his focus to the building in front of him. He chants a prayer in his heart in hopes that nothing horrible will happen from hereon out.

“WAAAAAAAH!!!”

Suddenly a loud wail startles everyone outside. The policemen hide behing their patrol car and whip out their pistols. The SWAT officers and the soldiers quickly retreat behind their barricades and point their guns at the building, armed and ready. However, one policeman shows a different reaction.

Bao: “ZHI HAO!!”

Screaming his nephew’s name upon hearing his wail, Bao sprints past the safety of his patrol car towards the building entrance pistol in hand.

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<Chapter 14.9 | Main | Chapter 15.5>

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Author: Q-ichi

I'm a mandrake

2 thoughts on “Prologue | Chapter 15 – The Ghost City Visitors”

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