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Andrew Dobell

Nights Rise

Nights Rise

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BOOK 1 of ARCANUM BLACK OPS

When her past comes back to haunt her, Rebecca will question everything she thought she knew.

Rebecca Chance is a Black Ops Agent for the Arcanum. She works in the shadows, saving a disbelieving humanity from powers beyond comprehension night after night.

In a world filled with Magic, Magi and monsters, the Arcanum is humanities last defence against their ever-present threat.
The Agents of the Black Ops division are the ones in the field, taking the fight to the enemy.

A new organisation of mortals trading enchanted items has arisen. Rebecca is tasked with finding out more about this group and stopping them from selling these dangerous artifacts to the wrong people.
No one wants a dictator who can control people’s minds through Magic.

But when her investigations reveal a part of her past she thought long gone, and a bigger threat to the mortal world, Rebecca begins to question everything.
Who should she trust? Where do her loyalties really lie?
But with powerful items for sale to the highest bidder, Rebecca must rise above her doubts and save humanity again.

Nights Rise: Arcanum Black Ops 1, is a Special Ops thriller set in the Urban Fantasy world of the Magi Saga.

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Desert Mission
Syria/Iraq border region
Modern Day

Rebecca’s boots landed on the hard-packed, sandy ground, kicking up dust in the breeze. She stood in a small alleyway between two sandstone buildings with corrugated iron rooftops and wooden supports.
She checked both ways up and down the alley to make sure she was alone.
~ I’m on-site,~ she said through her Mental Link to the Ops Centre.
~We hear you, Chimera, the meeting is taking place in the end building. Careful, there are guards all around it,~ replied the voice that sounded in her earpiece, using her codename.
~Good to have you along for this one Boss,~ she said, recognising Director Harry Flemming’s voice.
~Any time, Chimera. Now, get going. We’ll be watching,~ he said.
~Yes, boss,~ she answered, and with a thought, triggered her suit’s Ghost Camo effect. Her fitted black stealth suit shimmered briefly before suddenly changing colour. Everything, including her head, her guns, and equipment, all of it now blended into the background, and when she kept still, she was incredibly difficult to spot.
With her gun up, she moved to the end of the row and looked around the corner. She was in the middle of nowhere with nothing else around for miles, apart from the dry, dusty desert. She stood partway along a collection of disused and bombed-out buildings that probably belonged to one or more families some time ago, before the radical Islamists took over the region, declaring it their own, and killing anyone who didn’t submit to their rule.
The only people she saw were three, no four, men in loose Middle Eastern clothing down one end of the row. They all had beards of varying size and carried AK-47s as they milled about. She also spotted a utility vehicle with a fifty-calibre machine gun mounted on the rear flatbed, parked beside a couple of dirt bikes.
~I see four guys out here,~ she whispered.
~Copy that. Be warned, recon reported at least eight going to the meeting with the seller,~ said the voice in her head. This time it was the familiar voice of her Handler, Paige, rather than Harry’s voice.
~Copy that Centaur,~ Rebecca said using her handlers codename and backed off from the end of the alleyway. She looked up, and with a brief crouch, leapt up to the roof of the single-story building in a single jump.
She ducked as she landed silently on the edge of the building, activating her enchanted Shades. The scene before her changed, showing her the supernatural energies that were everywhere overlaid atop her view of the rooftops. This Essentia drifted lazily through the air all around her, glittering as it moved, just like it did everywhere throughout the world. Rebecca ignored it, having seen it a thousand times. Instead, she scanned for glowing concentrations of Essentia that marked the presence of Magic.
Apart from the concentrated Essentia within her own body and weapons, the only other Magical signature here came from within the end building, just as she suspected it would.
Looking over the rooftops of the next few buildings, she figured out her route and started out.
She kept low and did her best to stay quiet. She was hidden from casual view, but if you looked hard, she wasn’t invisible.
Rebecca picked her way over the ruined rooftops, vaulting walls and jumping from beam to beam until she finally reached the roof next to the target’s building. She then dropped down into the gap between the two structures. Rebecca landed near the rear of the building, and she took a careful look around the edge of the wall. One guy was back here, his AK against his shoulder, ambling through the dust looking decidedly bored.
Well, Rebecca thought, let’s liven up his day.
She waited for him to come a little closer and as he turned to head back the way he’d come, she moved out in a crouched run, holding her M9 pistol at the ready. Reaching him, with her left hand she slapped her palm over his mouth and jammed the gun into the middle of his back, firing two rounds in quick succession.
Her enchanted gun bucked in her hand from the power of the shots, but made barely any sound at all, a Magical effect suppressing the noise.
The man went limp and started to drop to the floor, but Rebecca was ready and held him easily. Quickly, she dragged him into the space between the buildings and dropped him there.
~Nicely done,~ Paige said in her ear.
~One down, five more to go,~ she responded and moved to the far end of the alleyway toward the front of the building. Looking out, she could make out the four figures she had seen earlier. There was nothing else for it, she couldn’t do the same thing she had just done, she’d be spotted, so this would have to be a more direct attack. Rebecca holstered her M9, flicking the safety on as she did so and grabbed her slung, enchanted and modified MP5 Sub Machine Gun, checking the chamber and flicking off the safety.
Then she watched and waited until the man nearest to her, got as close as he was going to get. As he turned around, she moved out at speed, her Ghost Camo keeping her nearly invisible as she went.
One step out from the back of the nearest man, with her gun up almost to her eye, she placed two near-silent shots into him, one through his chest and the other through his head.
Ptfff, ptfff.
He dropped like a sack of potatoes as Rebecca continued to move.
One of the three other men saw his friend’s face explode and moved to call out in shock, but Rebecca was ready and had already adjusted her aim.
Two more silent shots caught him before he could call out, but the other two men immediately saw him drop. The closest of the pair spun to look behind him, but he wasn’t quick enough, and with a small adjustment of her aim, she fired twice more, killing him.
The last man scrambled to the side of the building and to cover, pulling his radio out as he moved.
Rebecca was quick, but by the time she’d brought her gun to bear, the man was already behind the wall. Rebecca grabbed a small black metal cylinder from her belt, clicked the button, and threw it at the corner of the wall the man had ducked behind. The tiny item landed in the dust close to her target with a puff of dirt. Rebecca could see the invisible magical bubble centred on the item through her Shades and smiled as she ran toward her target. The item generated a bubble of complete silence, meaning that the extremist couldn’t alert his friends inside the building to her presence.
Rebecca dropped and skidded across the last few metres of the dusty ground as she reached the corner of the building. The man came into view again. He fired at her, but his rounds went wide, unlike hers.
With a burst of red mist around his head, the man dropped to the floor and stopped moving. Standing up, Rebecca walked over and picked up her Silencer and disabled it as she looked for the final man. She spotted him a short distance away next to a bush emptying his bladder with his back to her.
She didn’t want any further complications and leaving him alive would be risky. He’d spot his former allies right away the moment he turned back around and would immediately raise the alarm. So Rebecca raised her gun, took aim, and fired a single shot.
With a sudden blossom of crimson erupting from his head, the man dropped. She looked up from behind the sights of her gun and nodded, satisfied with her progress so far.
Rebecca turned her attention to the building and with her gun in the ready position, moved to the front door. There were a couple of boarded-up windows on either side of the wooden door, but nothing that gave those inside a view of her and what she had just done.
On reaching the door, she could see that it was swinging loosely on its hinges, the wind causing it to wobble about. With her gun up, she pushed the door open, ready to fire if she saw anyone inside. The door opened into a room that extended to her left that looked like it hadn’t been lived in for months. Small drifts of sand lay piled in the corner, while bits of destroyed furniture littered the floor.
She also spotted a few old bullet holes in the walls and wondered what had happened here.
Standing just inside the front room, there was an open doorway on the far wall off to her right.
She could hear voices from that direction and moved to get a better angle on it. After three steps, she could see through the next room, through another open door, and into a room beyond that. People stood talking in that third room.
A man in a dark waistcoat and a white thawb who looked native to the region had his back to her and was talking to some men she couldn’t see. She watched, aiming her gun through the two doors at the back of the man, listening to what was going on.
~Wait there, Chimera. Let the deal play out for a moment,~ said the voice of Rebecca’s handler through her earpiece.
~Copy that,~ Rebecca replied in a barely audible whisper.
The man before her spoke to whoever else was in the room. “Yes, yes, that’s right, this will allow you to control the minds of anyone you wish, and they cannot resist. It is a gift of Allah. Here, let me show you,” he said and moved to pick something up.
Rebecca heard movement and the distinct sound of a gun’s action being racked.
“Hey, hey, what are you doing?” shouted a man she couldn’t see.
The man she could see raised his hands in surrender, a gold chain glinting as it swung from his grasp, glowing with Essentia through her enchanted Shades.
“I’m about to show you what this can do. Trust me for a moment please,” the Initiated said, his voice imploring.
“Very well, but if you try anything, we shoot you,” the unseen voice answered.
The Initiated nodded and draped the necklace over his head, hanging it around his neck, and stepped sideways, revealing another man in the room knelt on the floor with cuts and bruises covering his face. The Initiated pulled out a knife and handed it to the hostage.
What was he doing?
~Centaur?~ Rebecca hissed through the comms link.
~Wait, that’s an order,~ said her handler.
From the sounds of the other men in the room, they were also questioning his actions, but he continued anyway.
The hostage took the knife, clearly looking confused until the Initiated spoke again.
“Stab yourself in the eye,” he said.
The hostage obeyed without question and slammed the six-inch dagger into his right eye.
Rebecca flinched as she witnessed the act and watched as the hostage dropped to the floor dead.
And that was why these terrorists could not get their hands on items like this, she thought. The man with the item lifted the chain over his head and placed it on the table without any sudden movements. A silence had descended over the meeting, and as she listened, she could hear two men she could not see talking in hushed tones.
They had just seen Magic. Real-life Magic and that was always a shocking moment for anyone. It upturned your idea of the world and how it worked for the rest of your life. Unfortunately for them, it also signed their death warrant.
Rebecca felt she’d seen enough, and with the item on the table in the room, it was the perfect time for her to intervene.
~Centaur?~ she asked.
~Cleared to engage, Chimera.~
Rebecca moved into the next room, her gun up and ready. She approached the door and brought the other men in the far room into view. She noticed another room beyond this one too.
“Everyone freeze,” she said aloud in Arabic, cancelling her Ghost Camo to reveal her black-clad form.
“Who are you?” the Initiated said as he spun to look at her, his face a picture of shock while the two terrorists looked at her in equal surprise. One of them raised his hands like the Initiated did, but the other, who had his AK-47 in his hands, moved to shoot at her.
Having expected at least one of them to make such a stupid move, she adjusted her aim well before he could lift his gun in time and placed one bullet right into the middle of his brain pan.
He fell like a rag doll, letting off a brief spray of gunfire that hit only walls before he came to rest on the dusty floor of the house.
“Whoa,” the Initiated said.
“Anyone else want to try being clever?” she asked.
~Chimera, we’re picking up a surge in Essentia, I think you’ve got incoming,~ said the voice in her ear as Rebecca noticed the Essentia in a room, beyond the one the Initiated was in, suddenly swirl and flare. With a snap of displaced air, a man appeared in the shadows of the far room.
~Magus! We’ve got a Magus,~ her handler yelled in Rebecca’s ear.
The Initiated seemed to sense the Magic as well and turned to see the mysterious figure.
“There you are,” growled the Magus in barely concealed anger.
“Shit,” the Initiated hissed and bolted to the right, out of Rebecca’s view, followed by a crashing noise as glass smashed and wood splintered.
The other terrorist also saw the Magus appear and immediately started to panic. “In all that’s holy, what is this?” he said and approached the table where another AK rifle rested. Rebecca advanced another step, aimed at the Magus and squeezed the trigger, unloading her weapon into him. The Islamist recoiled as she moved into the room. She stepped up onto a wooden chair and then up to the table top, keeping the trigger on her gun depressed the whole time, firing a constant stream of Magically enhanced bullets at the Magus.
The Essentia-charged rounds lit up the Magi’s Aegis with a flare of Magical energy in Rebecca’s vision. The Magus stumbled backwards under the barrage of gunfire. Rebecca kicked the Islamist in the head as he approached the table going for his gun, sending him sprawling back.
As she glanced to her right, she saw that the Initiated had thrown himself through a boarded up window and suddenly popped up from where he’d fallen in the alleyway before running toward the front of the building.
“Damn it,” Rebecca hissed. Her target was getting away.
Focusing on the Magi once more, she saw Essentia flare again as an invisible force hit her like a battering ram and sent her flying off the table, shattering the furniture in the process.
As she flew through the air, she plucked an Essentia grenade from her belt and threw it into the meeting room she’d just been thrown out of.
She landed on the floor of the front room and noticed the Magical necklace bounce onto the floor next to her.
She grabbed it as her grenade exploded with a massive shockwave of Essentia and kinetic energy, kicking up dirt and debris and throwing it everywhere.
Rebecca slung the necklace over her head and jumped to her feet. She charged into the meeting room again, her gun ready, looking for the Magus.
She spotted the Islamist buyer, or what was left of him. At least she didn’t have to deal with him anymore. A groan up ahead caught her attention, and she spotted the Magus picking himself up off the floor. She immediately opened fire again, keeping the trigger pulled, and moving up on the figure as he fell back again from the force of the attack.
The bullets slammed into the Magi’s Aegis, causing the Magical shield to flare and hiss when, with a sudden final flash, it disintegrated entirely.
Unimpeded by the Magi’s shield, the bullets hammered into his body. Blood erupted from his chest and head where the rounds hit home.
Rebecca fired for several more seconds, her enchanted gun never running out of rounds to shoot.
~I think you got him,~ her handler said into her ear.
Rebecca released the trigger and stepped back, but kept the gun trained on the mess of blood and gore that had once been a Magus.
He seemed to be dead, but as with anything when it came to the Magi, it paid dividends to be careful and never take anything for granted.
She’d killed Magi before, but they did not go down easily, and if they were prepared for you, you really didn’t stand much of a chance. She’d got lucky this time. He’d had his Aegis up, but the Magi clearly wasn’t expecting to have to deal with someone as tooled up and ready to fight their kind as she was.
The sound of an engine roaring to life caught Rebecca’s attention suddenly, and she turned toward the front of the house.
The Initiated was making a run for it.
Rebecca ran from the back room, through the meeting room, jumping over the rubble from the explosions, and through the next two rooms, finally reaching the front door as the truck bumped up to the nearby road leaving a cloud of dust behind it.
She glanced at the dirt bikes and ran to the nearest one. She slung her Sub Machine gun onto her back, snatched her Universal Key from her belt, plunging it into the ignition.
The bike revved to life beneath her as she released the clutch. The wheels spun, trying to gain purchase, before catching and rocketing her forward, away from the front of the house, and bouncing up onto the dirt road.
Getting the bike steady beneath her, she gunned the engine, bringing the machine up to speed, and quickly gaining on the truck.
With her keen vision, she could see him looking at her in the rear-view mirror. As she approached the back of the vehicle, he started twisting the steering wheel back and forth, making the truck veer from one side of the road to the other.
She needed to get the truck to stop, but for the moment she had enough to deal with just keeping the bike under control. The rough dirt track was bouncing the bike in all directions, making keeping the thing upright enough of a job with two hands, let alone one. So drawing a gun and shooting out the tires was not really an option right now.
As she watched, she noticed that the Initiated had pulled a gun, and reaching behind himself, placed the barrel up against the cab’s rear window. The man turned his head away, bracing for the noise, and fired one shot.
A spiderweb of cracks appeared, radiating out from the hole the bullet had created, but the window held in place until the Initiated elbowed it a few times and it fell out of its frame and landed in the rear flatbed of the truck.
Rebecca watched in mild amusement as her target tried his best to get a shot on her, angling the gun over his shoulder and firing off a few rounds.
They didn’t go anywhere near her, but they did seem to half deafen the man.
Idiot.
He seemed to give up on the gun for the time being to focus on his driving, so Rebecca brought her bike closer to the rear of the target’s vehicle and hopped her feet up onto the seat in a crouched position.
She accelerated once more and closed in on the back of the truck, only for it to brake suddenly. Rebecca leapt from the bike as it was crushed beneath the vehicle, while she landed in the back and rolled to her feet. Rebecca moved quickly and ran to the driver’s side behind the cab. She was about to swing out and pull open the door when she suddenly remembered the item she was still wearing around her neck. She grasped it, concentrating on the energy that she could feel coming from the item, and directed that energy at her target as she spoke.
“Jump out of the truck,” she shouted, loud enough for him to hear.
Without question, the man opened the door and leapt out into the air. Rebecca followed him but in a much more controlled way, landing and rolling on the ground, while her target fell and tumbled to a stop on the road.
Rebecca stood up and walked over to the man while the truck veered off the road and rolled to a stop a hundred metres away.
~Who is this guy?~ Rebecca asked her handler.
~His name is Salih Ajam, he’s from Syria and was serving that Nomad Magus you killed back there. He ran from the Nomad a while back, we’re not sure where he got the item from though.~
~Okay, let’s see what we can find out,~ she said and crouched down a short distance away from the man. “Salih, are you conscious?” she asked in Arabic.
The man groaned and turned his bleeding head to look at her. He looked Rebecca up and down, taking in the curious black catsuit she wore that was strapped with weapons and other items.
“You think I’m going to talk to a western whore like you? You should be covered up,” he said as he started to lift himself up.
She wasn’t sure what she expected from this man, but his comments served as an insight into his world if nothing else. A world she did not like the sound of. She also wasn’t keen on being called a whore either, and when he was halfway up, she backhanded him across the face with her fist.
He fell backwards with a grunt.
Time to get the answers she needed, she thought and grasped the curious pink crystal on the necklace again. “Sit up,” she said.
The man sat up quickly and looked at her in surprise. “Hey, you can’t…”
“Did you steal this item from the Magi you were working for?” she commanded again through the necklace.
“No,” he said immediately, while clearly trying to stop himself from talking. “Stop it, you can’t do this.”
Rebecca smiled. “So, who did you get it from?”
“I bought it from the Eclipse Union,” he said.
“They’re an Initiated group?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“And they sell Black Market magical items?”
“Yes,” he answered again, much to his continued annoyance.
~We’ve not heard of them, they’re new,~ her handler said in Rebecca’s ear.
“Where can I find them?” Rebecca asked again.
“I don’t know,” he said, a look of defeat on his face.
“Where did you…” she started, but stopped as Salih raised his hand.
“Okay, okay, I’ll give you the information you want. They found me, and we started talking. They knew I was Initiated and asked if I wanted anything as they had some items for sale. I thought I could sell it to those guys back there and make some money, you know?”
~That’s great Chimera, he’s of no further use,~ her handler said in her ear.
Rebecca stood up and sighed.
“So, what happens now? Are you taking me in? You’re Arcanum, right?”
She didn’t answer, she just drew her gun and shot him in the head. Salih managed half a yelp before his brain was turned to mush and he dropped to the ground.
Rebecca holstered her gun and pulled the necklace from over her head, coiling the chain into her palm and closing her fist around it.
“Portal,” she said.
Through her Shades, she saw the surge and flare of Essentia as a disk of black energy with swirling edges appeared close by.
She walked over to it and stepped through, finding herself in a bright white room with no differentiation between floor, walls, and ceiling.
In front of her were several very futuristic-looking workstations made from floating black holograms. Within each one, a man or woman sat operating it wearing a white suit and a headset.
Inside the workstation directly in front of her, sat Paige, her handler, who removed her headset and smiled. Rebecca walked up to Paige and bumped fists with her with a wink. “Thanks,” she said.
“Any time,” Paige said.
Behind Paige, Rebecca could see Harry looking at her. He wore his usual dark tailored suit and polished shoes. He was a handsome man who seemed to be in his late forties or early fifties. His dark hair was greying at his temples, but it only served to make him look more distinguished.
Just behind him, his assistant, Megan stood and nodded to her in greeting. She wore a pencil skirt and a silk blouse, and held a clipboard against her chest.
Rebecca walked over to Harry, feeling weary suddenly as her adrenalin faded, and she started to feel the bumps and grazes she’d picked up during this latest mission.
“Well done Agent Chance, it’s always satisfying to watch a professional at work,” he said in his clipped, British accent and deep voice.
“It was touch and go there for a moment when that Magus appeared,” Rebecca answered.
“You handled it well, though. Congratulations. We’ll need to debrief you, of course.”
“Briefing room three should be free,” Megan said.
“Excellent,” he said to Megan. Then, nodding to Rebecca with his laconic grin, he said, “See you there in ten.”
“Of course, sir,” she replied.

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