Prologue | Chapter 17.5 – Watchers On The Sidelines

image source: Jacklionheart

Mandrake’s scribblings: Hello~ Here’s the new chapter. A little peek at the reserve players in the arena. Next chapter is a battle arc, so it will take a while.

<Chapter 17| Main | Chapter 18>

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-Brrrrr-

The engines of the transport plane roars as it cuts across the night sky above the Chinese City. Its view of the city below is clear but marred by a few low lying clouds. Otherwise, the dark buildings and the empty streets is visible from 50 000 feet in the air.

-Fwoom-

A pair of fighter jets flies to the plane’s side. Their job is to escort the transport plane and protect it from any intercepting Chinese aircraft. They are in forbidden airspace after all.

Jet Pilot: “Carrier One, this is Eagle One. I have returned from refueling. Please acknowledge, Carrier One.”

The pilot from one of the jets gestures at the pilot of the transport plane. The jet has just returned from air refueling. The transport plane pilot gestures back, acknowledging his escorts return.

Transport Pilot: “Acknowledged, Eagle One. Resume escort.”

Both of the jets fly to the front and continue their escort. All three aircraft circle around the city, never deviating from their route two hours ago. Aside from the pilots in the transport plane, there is an agent from the organization residing in the cargo hold. Nathan Terrozzo sits uncomfortably as he braces against the mild turbulence.

Nathan: “Guh…”

He looks at his giant companion in the cargo hold. A huge machine encased with a metal casing. The machine is carrying out its purpose, its whirring drowned out by the plane’s engines. Its sole purpose is to locate and pinpoint any source of mana from its location.

Nathan: “Hm…”

He presses his boot against the side panel of the machine. The panel is depressed but returns to form when his boot is drawn back. Light weight and durable material made for space orbit. This spectacular machine, destined for low orbit around the Earth, was created in mere weeks after salvaging the magic from the conflict in Vietnam. An impossible feat completed by a team of four agents under Director Vance commanding over a few hundred scientists, mechanics and engineers. Five machines have been produced and slated to be launched into orbit. Two of them were successfully launched, but the celebration was abruptly cut off when extraordinary amounts of mana is released into the atmosphere, rendering the two machines in space as useful as space junk. And thus, the remaining three are reengineered to be used in an aircraft.

-Brrreep Brrreep-

A call from control center. And based on the caller ID, it is one of the machine’s creators. Nathan puts on his full face helmet. The surrounding noise is dampened and the call is let through.

Kenny: “This is Kenny Balmer from HQ. Do you hear me clearly, Nathan Terrozzo?”

Nathan: “Yes, I hear you. Is this a private line?”

Kenny: “Well, we are the only ones on this call but it is being recor-“

Nathan: “Then drop the formalities. I’m tired and I don’t need any more stress piling on while on this mission.”

Kenny: “Alright. How is the machine’s performance?”

Nathan: “The machine.. Looks fine.”

Kenny: “Any noise? Clunking? Sparks? Bursts of mana?”

Nathan: “No. Why are you asking?”

Kenny: “Just standard checkup. We still don’t know its range of performance after all.”

Nathan: “So. How is its performance? You are the ones receiving the results after all.”

Kenny: “It’s good. I’m getting overwhelmed but it’s good.”

Nathan: “Really? I thought your type of magic is the type that should not be overwhelmed by information.”

Kenny: “It’s just a lot of noise in the data. But it’s being sorted out.”

Nathan: “Are you getting anything useful from this?”

Kenny: “Yes. We’ve learned a lot in the last hour.”

Nathan: “What of the Chinese agents?”

Kenny: “We received their mana reactions clearly. They are fighting using their own magic.”

Nathan: “Clearly eh? Clear as day?”

Kenny: “Yes. With equipment of the high sensitivity and designed specifically for satellite use, it is performing spectacularly at fifty thousand feet in the air.”

Nathan: “Except that the two that were launched has become duds and we have to put this one on a plane, fly it around, seeing only a tiny portion of what could have been.”

Kenny: “Hey. Tell that to the bitch that fucked up the sky.”

Kenny’s voice turns into a scathing tone. The sudden snap is certainly warranted, as his hard work has been thwarted. Nathan shrugs it off and asks another question.

Nathan: “How is the overall situation?”

Kenny: “The situation is hectic. The Chinese are giving all they’ve got. But even the agents are nowhere near Rosetta.”

Nathan: “So how about we prove our worth in bagging that magician.”

Kenny: “That is inadvisable. We should stay put and observe the situation.”

Nathan: “Why is that?”

Kenny: “That’s the main reason we’re talking. The building that Rosetta is residing in is under a grand illusion spell.”

Nathan: “Illusion spell?”

Nathan moves over one seat and peers through the window to look at the building. His effort is meaningless though, as his view from the plane is too high to distinguish the building among many grouped together in the city.

Nathan: “Is there any way in?”

Kenny: “No. The entire Chinese force in the building are trapped in the illusions. Magic agents included. Even the SWAT team that landed on the roof is stuck there in confusion.”

Nathan: “The SWAT that dropped on the roof, they are incapacitated?’

Kenny: “Yes. The spell stops them from entering the building. It’s also the same for those on the ground. Anyone that attempted to enter the building is hit by the spell. To sum it up, the entire building is enveloped in the illusion spell. It is magic on an impressive scale. ”

Nathan: “So? It is a pretty grand spell. But what’s so special about it? After the chaos in Vietnam, this is relatively tame.”

Kenny: “That’s not all there is. There is something else about the spell. While the entire spell covers the entire building, there are many mana signatures inside the building. Besides the Chinese agents, there are about thirty others.”

Nathan: “Thirty mana users?!”

That fact surprises him. A small army of thirty protecting Rosetta. Their numbers far surpasses their own. A flurry of thoughts churn in his mind.

Nathan: *What kind of magic are they wielding? Has Rosetta really amassed such a large group of mana users? How are we going to take them on?”

Kenny: “Not exactly. These readings… These people do not feel real.”

Kenny’s words derail his train of thought. With this information, Nathan follows up with a question.

Nathan: “They aren’t real? So they are part of the illusion?”

Kenny: “I guess so. The mana signatures look weak, like it’s just enough to maintain their form. In spite of this, they are giving the Chinese forces hell.”

Nathan feels relief. Now that their threat seems less viable, he shifts his focus to the main target of the mission.

Nathan: “What about Rosetta?”

Kenny: “He’s still on the top floors. He’s not moving. As usual, his mana is crazy. I can’t pinpoint his exact location but I can see him from the fucking moon.”

Nathan: “Yeah.. I’ve even seen the pictures taken with the mana probe.”

He knows what Kenny is getting at. Right before boarding the plane, he is debriefed on Rosetta’s location. He recalls picture received from the mana probe shown to him.

Nathan: “That… It looks like a black hole.”

A literal black hole. Rosetta’s mana is so concentrated that his surroundings could not be measured by the probe.

Kenny: “The machine could not measure it and sent back a lot of junk data. After screening for the useful data, I get that monstrosity.”

Nathan: “I guess tracking him down will be a lot more easier now, won’t it?”

Kenny: “I don’t think so. Rosetta is not going take that lying down. He will push back with some magic spell of his own.”

Nathan: “Well, if he is going to hide all that mana, then it is going to take a while.”

Kenny: “Right. Until then we should strike him as hard as we can. As many times as possible.”

Nathan: “Now we’re talking. So, how do we get in to face Rosetta?”

Kenny: “You can’t. You will get caught in the illusion spell. Rosetta is unreachable at this point. The most we can do us observe the situation and wait for an opportunity. Best play it safe because you guys are all we have”

Nathan: “Okay. I got it. We’re the only ones that can reach Rosetta. When China blocks us, they REALLY block us.”

Freezing all flights bound to China from the States, as well as holding anyone that looks vaguely American entering the country. Beefed up security on transport and shipping routes. Like ancient China with the Great Wall of China, the country literally locked itself away from the world.

Kenny: “So, that reminds me, how is Miss Greeves doing?”

Nathan: “She is doing fine so far.”

Nathan opens his jacket flap and looks inside. The inside of the jacket shows nothing but pitch black darkness.

Nathan: “She has not touched the panic button at all. In fact, she’s very quiet.”

Kenny: “She’s such a tough soldier isn’t she? Reclusive too. Like a pure maiden-Ow!”

-Krok kk-

Kenny’s sentence is cut off and the audio pops for a moment.

Nathan: “Is that Miss Ginn? Send my greetings to her.”

Kenny: “Will do. And for the record, she is just upset that I’m taking my time talking. New data has just rushed in.”

Nathan: “Sure.”

Kenny: “I will need to relay information to Greeves. Be sure to keep your magic open to communications.”

Nathan: “Acknowledged. End of discussion?”

Kenny: “End of discussion.”

Upon Kenny’s confirmation, the call ends. Nathan lies back and peers down to the Chinese city below. He sighs as the unpopulated city lights the night with its empty streets.

Nathan: “It will be our turn soon enough.”

He lifts his jacket flap and peers inside.

Nathan: “Greeves. You will be debriefed on the current situation. The time to attack is near. Stay vigilant.”

Deep in the darkness, a big machine is floating listlessly.

-Vrrm-

The machine flashes its lights and revs it powerful engine in confirmation to Nathan’s words. A huge armored vehicle that looks like a cross between a tank and a sports car. Its grayish armor lined with black runes and huge weapon canisters on its back. This is the weapon piloted by Clementine Greeves.

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<Chapter 17| Main | Chapter 18>

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Author: Q-ichi

I'm a mandrake

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