Nemesis continued to squeeze the life out of her younger brother, looking at him with a feeling of complete anger, disgust and hatred.
“Neroth?” Nemesis spoke, as if asking a question, “can we take him back to hell? I wish to make his death as excruciating and prolonged as possible.”
Neroth laughed to himself, pleased at how completely Nemesis had given herself over to the demonic element that had crept into her being.
“It is possible, but unnecessary, slay him here and his soul can be tortured for all eternity,” Neroth replied, hoping to depart this backwards realm swiftly.
“Will I hear him scream? Will I hear him beg for mercy?” Nemesis asked, continuing to look hatefully at the man she held off of the ground.
“It could be arranged, now, cut him down!” Neroth said slightly frustratedly.
“Yes my lord,” Nemesis said obediently, drawing back her blade, intending to cut the snivelling coward’s head from his ignoble shoulders, thinking of the woman and girl Arthur had condemned to save himself.
Just then an arrow flew between the demon lord and his soul-hunter, embedding itself in the ground. Fixed to the middle of the arrow’s shaft was a strange device that was not dissimilar to a highly advanced looking grenade.
Moments later there was a detonation of blue light, flinging Nemesis some metres away and causing her to drop her brother, who seemed unaffected by the blast.
Nemesis quickly attempted to get to her feet, but as she tried she found her limbs felt heavy and unresponsive, she felt dizzy, disorientated and her usually keen senses were dulled.
Nemesis heard the sound of a group running across the solid, concrete floor of the abandoned warehouse she found herself in.
With her sight and other senses swiftly returning Nemesis looked at the scene before her, Neroth had seemingly vanished entirely and a group of five people stood around an unconscious Arthur, who laid in a heap behind his new found protectors.
The five wore nearly identical outfits, consisting of a close fitting black underlay and dark grey battle-armour on top that almost looked like something out of science fiction film.
Each member’s suit was slightly altered it seemed and all suits bore the same insignia on both of their shoulder pads and on the left side of their chest, the sign was of a capitalised letter I made of a series of blue outlined hexagons with a black interior overlaid, much like the armour was above the black mesh suit they wore by the letter A, but this letter was entirely filled in with a darker blue.
Nemesis looked over the group from left to right, the left most one was a woman with short, red hair. She was knelt down and taking aim at Nemesis with a strange black and silver bow that looked to have many complicated and likely adjustable pieces. Her armour seemed a little lighter looking than some of the others, likely she opted for less protection and more mobility because she favoured a longer range fighting style.
The next along was a woman as well, or, she seemed to be. She was the second tallest of the five, one of her eyes seemed robotic and the bottom of her right arm appeared to be the barrel of a gun, aimed directly towards Nemesis as she continued to evaluate her unworthy brother’s saviours.
The next one was the largest one amongst them, a man that stood at least a quarter of a foot taller than his next tallest comrade. He had a pretty face, as if chiselled from stone with strong features. He had light brown hair and his shoulders seemed quite broad. His suit was modified to expose his arms below his shoulders. In addition to that he seemed to have some kind of star, or pip beneath his insignia, perhaps indicating that he was the leader of the group, or that he had won some kind of accolade.
To the right of him stood another woman, her costume differed significantly from the others. A hood was drawn about her head and where the others had a tight black mesh-like under suit covered by futuristic looking battle-armour this woman seemed to be wearing a looser robe like underlying suit. The woman also had fewer and lighter looking pieces of armour on top with little to nothing visible protecting her legs, though any armour she wore beneath her waist was likely under the robe-like garment she wore.
The robed woman’s hands were pointing towards Nemesis brought together, her fingers interlocking and forming some kind of weird shape.
The fifth and final member was a lean Asian man that stood a little bit shorter than the woman with the gun for an arm. His battle armour was also thin and light looking, like the archer Nemesis had noted first. His head was nearly bald, what hair he had was braided into a pony tail that stretched down to the small of his back.
“If you want this human you will have to go through us demon,” spoke the foremost member of their group with steely conviction.
“If you wish,” Nemesis said, picking her demon-blade up from off of the ground.
Nemesis rushed forward, her blade ready to deliver a wide, arcing slice but as the soul-collector ran forward she felt sluggish and slow.
The person Nemesis figured to be the leader of the group rushed forward.
“Partial steel Meta-morph,” the man exclaimed, bringing his left arm up to block Nemesis’ incoming strike.
Nemesis swung her sword, it was a little earlier than she intended thanks to the tall, muscular man moving forward a few paces.
The man’s arm quickly began to change, turning to a dull grey then to a slightly shiny silver from his elbow downward.
Nemesis’ blade met with the man’s arm with a fierce clang of metal meeting metal.
“Whistler!” The metal armed man said through gritted teeth as his arm ground against the blade of Nemesis’ sword.
Nemesis saw the woman standing to the leftmost of the group bound even further left and quickly aim a shot destined for Nemesis’ cowled head.
The soul-hunter disengaged and quickly sprung backwards as a silver arrow blazed passed, it’s fletching appeared to be shifting light green and sky blue fire. Nemesis noticed that the arrow was actually fired at such an angle that it was clear the woman allowed for and expected Nemesis to try to disengage to avoid the soon to be incoming projectile.
The man Nemesis had tangled with before pressed his attack, this time both of his arms were metallic looking and making a beeline for Neroth’s unprepared warrior.
A heavy thud rung out for several hundreds of metres and the immediate area shook as if rocked by an explosion. Nemesis was thrown backwards by the force of the young man’s steely blows.
Nemesis slammed against a standing red steel girder that protruded from the ground. The metal beam groaned slightly as it bent under the dead weight of Nemesis’ form and the force of the attack that sent her flying. Neroth’s collector fell to the ground on all fours and wasted no time in trying to get to her feet. As Nemesis stirred she felt her body aching and the point on her stomach where she was struck burnt with an intense pain.
‘This man isn’t even half the strength of Sacaya, so why did his attack hurt so much? Why do his transformed arms seem mightier than my own!?’ Nemesis asked herself in frustration, but before she could come up with an answer the man who stood right most in the group of five jumped out of seemingly nowhere beside her.
‘He’s so fast!’ Nemesis thought to herself as she noticed the rightmost man was missing from her foe’s line up.
The man spun about in mid-air, delivering a fierce and powerful roundhouse kick to the side of Nemesis’ face in the same instant he had appeared.
Nemesis tumbled away again, crashing into a pile of broken concrete slabs with the sound of stone giving way to the armour clad soul-collector’s body, sending a cloud of settled, year old dust and dirt into the air.
Nemesis laid for a moment in the shallow trench she had carved through the concrete, her breathing was laboured and the pain in her jaw as well as the rest of her body, to a lesser extent was surprising. Nemesis didn’t know how, but she felt a lot weaker now than she had in hell.
There was another stony thud as Nemesis pushed a large piece of broken stone off of her and began to get back on her feet, determined to wrest her brother from the five who sought to keep him from her furious clutches.
As the hound of Neroth stood a dull, silver fist burst into the cloud of dust at a speed Nemesis could only barely match, blocking the attack, the forces loosed by the clashing of fist against blade scattered the cloud of grime and cracked the ground beneath both Nemesis’ and her assailant’s feet like striking a hard boiled egg shell sharply with a spoon.
As Nemesis struggled against her metal armed adversary’s great strength she spied a subtle movement in the distance, the robed woman moved her hands into three strange looking formations before thrusting her open right palm back towards Neroth’s hound.
The effect was not immediate but less than a second later Nemesis was struck by what felt like a wave of unseen force, but it didn’t feel like a shock wave, instead it felt more concentrated, as if all the force was directed against a single target.
Nemesis was blown backwards again, smashing through yet more reinforced pillars and other piles of debris. her face bloodied from the wall of energy that has just struck her,
“Captain Steel!” Shouted a voice inside an implant in the ears of all of Nemesis’ opponents.
“Captain Steel reporting Commander Blade sir,” the largest of the group said, seemingly in reply.
“Tell me your tracker is malfunctioning soldier or are you still at that warehouse!?” Commander Blade shouted back at his subordinate.
“There was a civilian in danger sir and a demon, we had to fight,” Steel replied.
“The civilian I can understand but your team has more than enough ability to either kill the demon outright or subdue it long enough to escape with the human. Your mission IS and WAS to field test the A3 Dampener and to return with the recorded data, not to fight protracted combats against class three or above demons!” Blade blasted into the five members of Steel’s squad.
“Yes sir, sorry sir,” Steel replied obediently.
“Return to the Institute and bring the civilian in for questioning, immediately” Blade ordered.
“Yes sir, immediately sir,” Steel responded, his obedient tone belying his dissatisfaction with the order as he saw the pile of broken rock, metal and glass at the other side of the warehouse begin to slowly stir.
“Alpha Team move out,” Steel commanded, walking back and scooping Arthur up off of the ground before rushing off himself.
Minutes after the hasty departure of the five Nemesis tossed the rubble that buried her aside. With an exerted grunt the soul-hunter slowly began to crawl from the wreckage until she could sit up against a nearby pillar that held up the old, rickety steel framework of the warehouse roof.
Nemesis could feel her skin was wet with her own blood underneath her thick, imposing armour. The soul-hunter knew that she would heal in time, the more pressing issue was that of her missing brother whom she still dearly wished to see pay for his reprehensible actions.
The armoured hand of Nemesis plunged once more into the chaotically strewn rubble all around her, pulling her great two handed blade from the debris before beginning to try to stand.
‘I must find him,’ Nemesis thought to herself angrily gripping the hilt of her sword, ‘perhaps that group took him, if I find them I may find him.”
Nemesis took a step forward, a fierce pain shooting through her stomach as she did, causing her to stumble forwards before falling to one knee and coughing up blood over the dour, broken concrete.
‘I may have to rest a little longer first,’ Nemesis thought to herself as she once again sat back against a nearby un-collapsed pillar, clutching her stomach wound with her free hand, ‘how can I be this hurt after such a brief fight?’
Nemesis uncomfortably reclined as best she could against the steel enforced and braced pillar then began to rest, hoping that her wounds would heal before she would set off in search of the five that attacked her and more importantly, her brother.
It took some hours for Nemesis’ wounds to partially heal, much to her frustration but with the pain gone Nemesis stood, deciding she could no longer wait to begin her new hunt.
Nemesis walked to where the group had stood some hours ago and took in a deep breath through her nose, hoping to catch the fading scent of the people who took her brother but it was to no avail, try as she might Nemesis could not find the aroma of the five amongst the scores of other odours on the wind.
Nemesis walked out of the disused warehouse and looked about, the area seemed all but abandoned, with the warehouse only a speck on a much larger industrial, concrete wasteland, with teams of old, disused buildings and dozens of discarded vehicles, picked clean of anything useful or valuable.
‘Did those five know I and Neroth would be here? Perhaps Arthur enlisted the aid of others in a hope to save his worthless life?’ Nemesis thought to herself as she strode slowly across the grey expanse before her, hoping to reach the urban cityscape she saw in the distance, beyond the long since rusted chain link fences that enclosed this concrete barren.
Nemesis soon reached the boundary of this forgotten warehousing area, jumping over the chain fence and landing on the pavement beyond with a heavy, earth cracking thud.
The black eyes of the soul-hunter looked all around, the streets were empty and dark, lit only dimly by the one nearby lamppost that struggled against the dark. There were few noises to be heard, save for the sounds of police or ambulance sirens far off in the distance and the gentle rustling of a crumpled up page of a news paper that was blown gently along by the wind.
‘I could get a better view from the top of those buildings,’ Nemesis thought to herself, spying the tallest nearby building. It looked like a run-down, small and all but abandoned block of single floor apartments, maybe about twelve apartments high.
Nemesis took a run up at the building and leaped, sheathing her blade on her back mid-jump and digging her metal encased hands into the dull red brickwork and beginning to swiftly scale the rest of the complex.
When Nemesis reached the roof of the building she walked to the ledge that gave her the best view of the vast city that sprawled out before her.
The city was quiet, for the most part, there were almost no people visible on the streets and also rather few vehicles. Yet despite this lack of life the city was illuminated by countless lights, from street lamps to massive lit signs and the warm glow of light within hundreds of different buildings.
Nemesis grunted to herself in frustration, she could not see, hear or smell anything that would put her on the trail of this ‘Alpha Squad’.
With a frustrated gritting of her teeth Nemesis thought back to her encounter with the five.
‘The one who could change his limbs from flesh to steel identified me as a demon, that means he probably isn’t one himself, in fact none of them felt like demons really, perhaps they were from another world? Neroth used to speak of worlds beyond Hell, beyond Earth,’ Nemesis considered silently, ‘still, they seemed well organised and by the look of their strange attire they are well supplied, perhaps if I search the dark corners of the world where all the demons who come to hide here dwell, maybe I can find out who they are and more importantly where they might have taken my brother. I only hope Arthur is still alive, I would not want to be deprived of my vengeance.’
Nemesis looked about herself and took in another deep breath, assessing what she had seen and smelt. With a blast of speed Nemesis leaped off of the top of this building to another, continuing to run and jump between buildings of varying sizes.
For hours Nemesis searched in an ever widening perimeter from the forsaken warehouses, all to no avail, she had not caught the scent of any of her attackers or her brother and although it seemed like her sense of smell had dulled significantly she was sure that there still should have been some remnant, some small trace of them to lead her somewhere.
‘I shouldn’t have taken that time to rest, my weakness might cost me my only chance to avenge them,’ Nemesis thought to herself angrily as she crashed through a large billboard on top of a reasonably tall building.
Suddenly a cry for help from what sounded like a young woman broke the silence that hung over this neighbourhood, immediately catching Nemesis’ attention.
Nemesis looked down onto the street, she saw a group of men and women dressed in all manner of strange attire walking towards a crossing in the road, all of them took notice of the plea for help but after a moment or two of indecision they continued to walk on, continuing to talk amongst themselves, seemingly without any care of the woman whose cry filled the air.
Nemesis too would likely have paid the cry for help no more heed had the familiar, repugnant odour of a Scorn demon not also reached her from the same general direction.
Resolved to find the demon Nemesis rushed off and leapt from the top of the building towards the origin of the foul scent, hoping she could question the demon about the group that she fought some hours prior.
A young woman with blazing red hair tied up into a bun at the back of her head ran as fast as she could under the looming shadow of the large bridge above her, the sound of crunching shale accompanying each swift footfall.
The woman wore scruffy, worn and ragged looking clothes, the kind you would expect a homeless person to wear after possibly years on the streets.
The woman looked back as she continued to run, she saw a swiftly moving shadow, it was far too fast to make out exactly what it was but soon enough a lithe, skinless demon rounded the corner as it rushed towards it’s prey.
The demon ran on two hind legs similar to those of a man but with smaller muscle masses that still managed to be more powerful than any human. The demon also gave chase with long, scythe-like blades instead of hands it used like the front legs of a quadruped.
“Tar’el! Where are you!?” Exclaimed the fleeing woman to the barrel fire lit underpass.
There was no reply, save for the snarling, frenzied growls of the demon that was quickly catching up with the woman.
As soon as it was in range the demon pounced, with scythe-like talons swung viciously, hoping to shred the woman outright or at least bring her down so it could finish her off and bring her down it did.
The woman screamed in pain as she fell, clutching her upper right arm, where the demon’s savage talons had effortlessly made its way through her clothes and skin.
Spinning about the demon eyed the red haired woman hungrily as she tightly clasped her right arm, her fingers and clothes now visibly wet with her own blood.
The demon approached and slowly circled its fallen prey, still using its scythe tipped arms as an extra set of stilt-like legs. The woman watched the demon as it looked at her with burning yellow and orange eyes, she who saw no immediate means of escape, now all she could do was hope that her guardian would return.
With a wicked, skeletal grin the demon pounced forward once again, talons ready to cleave the woman in two.
As the demon leapt forward all the woman could do was close her eyes and resign herself to her fate.
‘At least I die free,’ The red haired woman thought to herself with an almost placid smile on her face, waiting for the end.
The next noise to issue forth from the underpass was the squelch of a blade through flesh.
‘Am I dead?’ The redhead asked herself after a new moments of numbness, still with her eyes clenched shut.
The woman slowly opened her eyes to see a massive, imposing figure standing with a blood soaked blade between her and the demon.
“Tar’el?” The woman said as if asking.
The dark silver clad warrior turned her red hood hidden face towards her right shoulder.
“You’re safe now,” Nemesis replied before looking back at the demon intensely.
The redhead pushed herself back a few feet before beginning to stand, still heavily favouring her blood soaked right arm.
The demon on the end of Nemesis’ blade snarled and hissed as it struggled to pull itself off of the demon-steel blade.
“What’s a Scorn demon like you doing on earth? Are you one of the millions exiled by the Lord of Hatred for your failure?” Nemesis asked cryptically as she continued to watch the demon squirm.
“I answer no questions of scum like you,” the demon gnashed and growled in response.
“Very well, maybe a little more pain will loosen your tongue?” Nemesis asked suddenly pulling her sword back towards herself and kicking the demon squarely in the chest with such force that not only did it shoot off of the blade like a bullet from a gun but the ground around her seemed to shake as she did.
The demon quickly slowed itself mid-flight, spinning about and landing on the ground on all fours once again.
“I will rend your flesh! No longer can you hide behind him and his strength,” the demon spat, breaking into a swift run as he did.
“I hide behind no one monster,” Nemesis replied in kind, also beginning to run towards her demonic foe.
As Nemesis ran she could feel her old wounds, the pain they caused were like tiny daggers in her sides and down her chest but still she thundered towards the demon, blade at the ready.
The two quickly neared, as they did the demon sprang forward, with blade like arms ready to strike, Nemesis swinging her sword in reply. The blades met with a terrible thud, not unlike the sound of a hammer striking an anvil but the sound quickly changed as the demon and Nemesis struggled against one another, locked in a contest of raw power; now the noise that filled the air was a dull grinding, the demonic steel moaning as it grated against the Scorn demon’s scythe-like talons.
If this were merely a day ago, or even the start of this very day Nemesis knew she would have overcome this demon in an instant, yet now she was struggling.
Nemesis mustered all of her strength and with a sudden rush of power the soul-hunter pushed the demon’s bladed arms away and while the beast was defenceless she stepped through and kicked the demon squarely in its lower gut with a massive, armoured boot, sending it crashing away.
Nemesis used the brief respite to catch her breath and regain her composure, all the while watching the spindly demon get back on all fours before rushing towards her again.
As Nemesis lifted her blade and felt its weight in her hand she knew she didn’t have the power to restrain this demon as she had thought, instead she would be forced to kill the monster before it overcame her.
The two clashed again, exchanging swipes and sword swings, each time the other blocking the attack.
As the demon continued to fight it gave in more and more to its blood lust, its attacks becoming little more than a storm of frenzied swipes and swings, luckily for Nemesis she had just enough speed to keep pace with the demon, else she would have been cut to ribbons. The more savagely the demon attacked the more openings Nemesis began to see until finally as the beast brought both talons down from above Nemesis swung her blade mightily, bisecting the demon at the waist.
With a pained growl the demon’s torso fell backward from its lower half while its lifeless legs dropped forward, both parts of the beast beginning to burn and crumble away as most demons do in death.
Nemesis fell to one knee beside the crackling demonic remains, much of her energy seemingly spent. The soul-hunter looked back to see the red-headed woman still watching nearby and still grasping her bleeding arm.
Standing to her full height Nemesis began to walk over to the red haired woman.
“Get back; demon,” commanded a deep voice from above, quickly Nemesis began to turn to see exactly who it was that spoke but before she could she was already set upon, sent crashing to the ground.
Nemesis looked up to see the end of another sword, the blade was made of a kind of pallid gold metal and seemed to almost hum serenely.
The person who held the blade was a tall, dark skinned man who also wore scuffed and soiled looking clothes. The man appeared to be in his mid twenties, his head completely bald and his eyes a strange, magnificent white with a golden ring surrounding his irises.
“Begone spawn of hell,” the man said again as he raised his pristine blade into the air.
“Tar’el! Stop!” Shouted the redhead, rushing between Tar’el and the fallen Nemesis, “this woman saved my life.”
Tar’el looked at the redhead, “are you sure?”
“Yes, she saved me from another of those… what did you call them?” The redhead tried to explain.
“Scorn demons,” Nemesis replied as she began to get to her feet, her cold, reverberating voice not making her seem any more trustworthy than she already appeared.
“Why did you come to Felicia’s aid demon? Did you hope to claim her as your prize instead?” Tar’el asked forcefully.
Nemesis laughed to herself coldly, “no, my reasons for aiding her were two-fold. First I heard her cry for help and second I hoped to question that demon about a group of people I ran into earlier, but I was unable to restrain the creature.”
“Well, thank you for saving me,” Felicia said earnestly, still grasping her severely wounded arm in pain.
“I am sorry I failed to protect you myself,” Tar’el said shamefully as he took hold of Felicia’s blood soaked arm, placing one hand over the wound and beginning to emit a strange, soothing white light from his own palm, directed down at the deep, bloody cut.
Nemesis looked on, intrigued. Within minutes the wound closed and began to heal, as it did and as the blood almost seemed to fade away Nemesis noticed strange, marking on Felicia’s arms. The markings looked like complicated patterns set within a circle.
When Tar’el had finished healing Felicia’s arm she was quick to take it back and hide the markings, seeing Nemesis staring at them with her blank, black eyes.
“There’s no need to be sorry Tar’el, you can’t be everywhere at once,” Felicia said warmly before looking back to the armour clad woman in front of her, “you said you wanted to question that demon about some group you encountered, you could always ask us, maybe we know something, it’s the least we can do for you coming to my rescue.”
“Very well,” Nemesis began, “some hours ago I was set upon by a group of five, the group consisted of two men and three women. They wore strange suits overlaid with dark grey armour. They all bore the same insignia, that of what looked like the letter ‘I’ made of blue hexagons with the letter ‘A’ placed on top.”
As Nemesis finished her explanation she saw Felicia looked visibly unsettled and Tar’el looked uneasy too.
“M-members of the Institute!? What did they do? Are they looking for me!? I can’t go back, I won’t go back in that cell!” Felicia said, quickly flying into something of a panic.
Tar’el took hold of the Felicia and looked deeply into her eyes, this seemingly started to calm her.
“I won’t let them take you back Felicia, believe me,” Tar’el said sincerely.
“What is this Institute?” Nemesis asked.
“A secret organisation that takes in ‘gifted’ humans and turns them into soldiers to fight against any creatures not from this world, like you, demon,” Tar’el explained.
“I am no demon,” Nemesis replied coldly in response, “where do I find this Institute?”
“You don’t,” Felicia said, still visibly flustered, “they find you, at first it seems like they’re helping, give you a place to call home when you’ve been abandoned, when you’ve lost everything but then they experiment on you, they try to unlock what you have buried deep inside.”
Again Tar’el grabbed Felicia firmly and looked deeply into her eyes and again she seemed to calm a little.
“It is best we don’t speak about it for now, but sufficed to say if you had trouble with a single Scorn demon you won’t last long against the squads of the Institute. The ones you encountered were Alpha squad, each squad is named after a letter in the Greek alphabet,” Tar’el explained, “now unless you have any other business with us, demon I suggest you take your leave.”
“I told you, I am no demon,” Nemesis replied, her voice failing to convey her slight annoyance.
“You carry the taint of demonhood, you wield a demonic blade and wear demon armour that is millennia old, even if you were once something else you are changed by the corruption of hell. Now, leave us,” Tar’el said with a scowl etched on his face.
“You both have knowledge of this Institute, I will not leave until you give me the information I require,” Nemesis retorted.
“Then you shall have to wait until the morning, we have been travelling a lot the last few days, Felicia needs to rest,” Tar’el said protectively.
Felicia thought about speaking up but she was drained, rest was definitely the right course of action right now.
“Are you ready to go?” Tar’el asked Felicia who simply nodded in reply.
The two started to head off, Nemesis followed close behind, likely they were going to some hideout or hovel. Nemesis had a lot of questions, both about this Institute, about Tar’el and about Felicia…