“Captain Varg, do you copy?” Commander Blade asked a silent communication, “Captain Varg, what is your status? Have you recaptured Ignis? Captain Varg!?”
Commander Blade growled frustratedly as he stomped around the control centre for Facility Fourteen, the Institute compound he currently found himself in.
A metal panel on the left arm of Commander Blade’s high-tech suit slid back to reveal a blue touch screen with dozens of buttons littered about its display. Blade jabbed a few of the buttons with the thick, metal fingers of his right hand.
“Glacialis, report!” Blade said gruffly, expecting to hear something from the Arcane Division member of Kappa-Squad, once again there was silence.
“God dammit!” Blade roared, ripping a chair bolted to the shiny metal floor effortlessly from its position with a single arm.
All the technicians and other Institute personnel around Blade paused for a moment and looked at their boss in silence.
“You aren’t getting paid to stare at me blankly, get back to work!” Blade snapped and immediately everyone did.
Blade jabbed a different combination of buttons on the azure display sunk into his suit’s left arm.
“Any member of Kappa-Squad respond,” Blade ordered, hoping to hear from someone from Kappa-Squad.
There were a few moments of silence before the Blade’s communicator came to life with a slight crackle.
“This is Kappa-Squad number three; Shrieker, reporting,” Shrieker said, her voice oddly muted and distorted thanks to the strange modulator device she wore over her mouth at all times.
Blade breathed a sigh of relief, “Shrieker, what is the status of Kappa-Squad? Have you managed to recapture Ignis?”
“Myself and Null are on route with Ignis now, the others engaged Ignis’ companions, I think the fighting is calming down, I haven’t heard any noises from further out into the forest in some time,” Shrieker explained.
Blade’s dark skinned brow wrinkled with concern, “I haven’t been able to successfully contact either Captain Varg or Glacialis, you best get here as quickly as possible.”
“Yes sir,” Shrieker replied, “wait, what is that?”
“What is what?” Blade asked in reply.
“I’m being pursued, they’re coming in fast, doesn’t look like I’ll be able to outrun th-” Shrieker said, concern thick in her voice before the communication abruptly died.
“Shrieker? Shrieker!? Come in Shrieker!” Blade blasted.
Blade’s communicator came alive again with the sounds of battle, the sound of Shrieker amplified scream, the sound of a sword swung fiercely, then the sound of a genuine scream of pain, then the communication went dead again.
“Shrieker!?” Blade exclaimed at the silent communication.
Blade quickly turned about to some of the hastily working but fearful personnel manning scores of computer and holographic monitors.
“What squad is closest to Kappa-Squad’s last known position?” Blade asked thunderously.
After a few seconds of feverish key tapping one woman turned to face Commander Blade, “Alpha-Squad is closest and they’re here, the next closest is Beta-Squad on the outskirts of sector eighty eight.”
“Get me a video link with Beta-Squad. Now!” Blade ordered.
A large central monitor that spanned much of a wide wall in the command centre came to life with the image of a large, blonde haired man with an equally blonde goatee beard that just brushed the very top of his collar.
“Commander?” The man on screen said, his tone was a questioning one, obviously he wondered what Commander Blade wanted of him and his squad.
“Captain Björn, I have lost communication with all of Kappa-Squad, they recently engaged with some hostiles and I have every reason to believe that they were defeated, I will send you their last known co-ordinates, find them and give me a status report, is that understood?” Blade ordered.
“Sir, yes sir!” Captain Björn replied near-instantly, a look of concern forming on his face also.
“If anyone can find them, you can Björn,” Blade said for a moment uncharacteristically softly before returning to his authoritative gruff self, “transmitting co-ordinates now.”
“Thank you sir, we’ll have something for you soon. Captain Björn out.” Björn said before the video feed faded to black.
In the depths of the forest a golden, armoured boot stepped over the body of a young woman dressed in Institute attire, laid out in a heap.
Tar’el stooped down, his great resplendent wings now folded and picked up the unconscious and weak looking Felicia from the ground.
Tar’el inspected her for a moment, her skin was unusually sickly and pale, it seemed obvious to him that her power was being suppressed in a particularly crude way, it was probably the ability of the young boy Tar’el had knocked out, the one Shrieker had carried with her.
Tar’el thought back and remembered that when Felicia tried to defend herself against Shrieker and the boy, that as her fireballs neared the pair they were snuffed out as if starved of air.
The angel believed that Felicia would return to normal in an hour or two, this measure was likely only used for her transportation to the nearby Institute facility.
Tar’el began to flap his wings gently to take off, he wanted to find a safe place for Felicia to rest, he was sure other Institute members would come looking for the defeated members of Kappa-Squad soon, so a little distance wouldn’t hurt and travelling by air wouldn’t leave any tracks to follow.
Nemesis continued to stumble forwards, toward an intense light, her sight still blurred by the blood that still ran down her face.
With another heavy step Nemesis walked out of the cover of the trees and into a vast clearing.
Nemesis wiped some of the blood from her face with the back of her left gauntlet, but upon looking down at the cruel, demon-steel glove Nemesis saw her blood disappearing, as if being drunk by the armour.
Once again Nemesis dragged the back of her armoured hand across her blood spattered face and looked, just as before the blood seemed to sink away and disappear, leaving a slight red stain on the metal that also seemed to quickly fade.
“It’s never done that before,” Nemesis noted to herself.
Nemesis looked back up into the clearing and in truth it wasn’t all that clear. About twenty meters from where she stood at the edge of the forest there was a large, sturdy looking chain-linked fence set into thick, likely steel reinforced concrete slabs and pillars.
Beyond was a vast plane littered with warehouses and stretches of black tarmac and asphalt, at its heart was a single building which dwarfed the rest, it was a light cream like colour, much the same as every other construction nearby, including the concrete parts of the fence Nemesis found herself standing before. The main building bore no markings and had plenty of windows, including several making up a wall of glass on the building’s command tower which stood high above the rest of the structure.
“Arthur,” Nemesis said angrily as she continued to gaze at the façade the Institute had erected.
Meanwhile, in the bowels of Facility Fourteen, miles beneath the shell of the complex above Commander Blade stood in his command centre, eager Institute personnel working tirelessly around him as he gazed at Nemesis on the main monitor.
The impressive, muscular figure of Alpha-Squad’s Captain Steel stepped forward.
“That’s her Commander, the one we engaged after testing the device, the one we managed to save that wreck of a man from,” Captain Steel explained.
“Looks like she’s here to get him, just like he said she would,” Blade uttered in his usual deep, gravelly tone of voice.
“She’s joined up with that mystery man then? The one that took Ignis?” Steel asked.
“It looks probable, perhaps the mystery man merely pointed her in our direction, so that we would waste time dealing with her instead of looking for Ignis?” Blade asked himself in reply.
“Sir, when I fought that demon she was barely strong enough to put up any resistance, I say let me at her now, she’ll be a pile of embers in a few minutes tops,” Steel requested.
As Blade mulled over Captain Steel’s request his communicator came to life with a familiar click and hiss of momentary static.
“This is Terra of Beta-Squad reporting in, we’ve found Siphon and Glacialis of Kappa-Squad,” Terra explained.
The tall, sleek, proud figure of Terra contrasted fiercely with that of his fellow squad-mate who was small, pudgy and hunched over.
The tall, robed Terra watched as his cohort scurried about, checking the glistening silver Permafrost which still held Siphon.
“What state are they in? Where’s Varg? Shrieker and Null? Do they still have Ignis?” Blade asked over the communicator.
“Siphon is held in Glacialis’ Permafrost, it will be a while until he can be thawed out, his survival is not likely, given such a prolonged period in the ice. As for Glacialis, he is in bad shape, but he may pull through if I can get him back to master Magnus. Björn is tracing Varg’s scent even now, Shrieker and Null are still being searched for,” Terra explained at length.
As Blade was considering what he had been told a loud, mournful roar could be heard over the communicators.
“It would appear that Björn may have found his fellow captain Commander,” Terra added.
“Very well, do what you can for Siphon and Glacialis, find Shrieker and Null, I’ll dispatch another squad to your location to assist with their transportation to Facility Twelve,” Blade ordered.
“Yes sir,” Terra uttered in the same, polite, well mannered but monotone way he said everything.
“Commander Blade out,” Blade said finally, ending the transmission before instantly beginning another with Captain Björn elsewhere in the forest.
Björn cradled the blood covered, motionless Varg while sobbing quietly when his communicator buzzed and crackled.
“Björn? Have you found Varg, Shrieker or Null?” Blade asked, although he already suspected that he had found Varg.
“Yes, sir, I found…,” Björn paused for a moment, wiping his eyes and steeling himself for what he was about to admit to his superior, “I’ve found Varg… she’s dead, killed in combat, by some kind of giant bladed weapon, a large sword seems likely.”
Commander Blade looked back to the monitor watching Nemesis as she began to approach the main building directly above Facility Fourteen, she held an immense, two-handed sword in her right hand.
“Yeah, probably,” Blade replied absent-mindedly, “Björn, I have ordered the rest of your squad to continue combing the forest until they find Shrieker and Null, then you are to wait at the location I am sending you for transportation to Facility Twelve, you can bury your sister there.”
“Understood sir,” Björn replied.
“It is imperative we find Shrieker and Null, so find them quickly and await extraction,” Blade ordered.
“Yes sir,” Björn replied once again as he continued to down at his sister’s lifeless body.
Blade looked back at the main monitor and saw that Nemesis was fast approaching, he turned to the masses of Institute personnel on the levels below his own within the command centre.
“I am ordering a silent evacuation of this entire facility, get all valuable information, tech and prisoners out of her through the tunnels and head for Facility Twelve,” Blade shouted.
The entire room fell silent, they all looked to Commander Blade who looked back dumbfounded.
“Didn’t you hear me! Start a silent evac! This woman could kill you all!” Blade roared as he began to press more buttons on the luminous blue display set into his suit’s left arm.
The lights of the command centre turned from white to red and a muted alarm began to sound.
“Sir, is a full evac necessary? I’ve fought this monster before she’s-” Captain Steel began to ask but was quickly cut off.
“The situation’s changed Captain. Could the demon you fought before have single handedly defeated at the very least Captain Varg and perhaps even more members of Kappa-Squad?” Blade questioned.
“N-no Commander, I doubt she could have done,” Steel admitted looking back up at Nemesis as she strode towards the main complex high above Facility Fourteen, “then I urge you to allow Alpha-Squad to stay and take care of the invader.”
“Sir!” One male operator shouted up to Commander Blade.
Blade stomped forward a few paces and looked down to one of the lower levels of the command centre.
“What is it and why the hell aren’t you evacuating!?” Blade asked.
“The scanners sir, they’re detecting a huge surge in dimensional energy in sector seventy three of New Brook,” the man explained.
“Seventy three? That contains the warehouse that we found our intruder and prisoner in,” Steel remarked.
“What squads are within a few miles of that sector?” Blade asked.
The man turned away for a moment and tapped a half dozen or so keys before looking back up at Blade and Captain Steel.
“Looks like it’s just Delta-Squad sir,” the man answered.
“Very good, now get out of here!” Blade bellowed.
The man rushed out of the room with many of his colleagues.
“Sir, let us take care of this demon,” Steel petitioned anew.
“No, you and the rest of your squad are going to join the evacuation, I’m going to deal with this creature myself,” Blade answered sternly.
“But sir,” Captain Steel responded.
“But nothing Captain, do as I have ordered,” Blade said firmly.
“Sir, yes sir,” Captain Steel answered, before turning and beginning to leave the command centre, walking through an automatically opening door into a corridor bathed in the same red light.
Blade once more jabbed a different sequence of buttons on his suits wrist mounted display.
“Delta-Squad, come in,” said Blade, talking into his communicator.
“This is Captain Grey, you’re coming in loud and clear sir,” Captain Grey responded.
“I’m going to need you to take your squad to sector seventy three, New Brook, there’s a large amount of dimensional energy gathering there, something pretty big is going to crossover, The suspected site is an abandoned warehouse off of twelfth,” Commander Blade ordered.
“Yes sir, we’ll head out immediately, will let you know when we’ve dealt with whatever comes through,” Grey quickly answered.
“Very good. Blade out,” Blade announced, ending his latest communication.
“Well,” Blade said to himself, “it’s about damn time.”
Blade strode out of the empty, red lit room, he walked through a steady stream of panicked Institute personnel to a nearby lift that would take him to one of the higher levels of the subterranean complex.
Elsewhere, back in the dense forest surrounding Facility Fourteen Björn was speeding forwards. He had already delivered his sister’s body to Terra and Toad and now he followed the scents of Shrieker and Null, as well as Ignis to find the remaining missing members of Kappa-Squad.
Björn was flanked by his two remaining subordinates, a broad, muscular man called Shieldwall who carried an immense shield on his back that was just as big and broad as he was and Mitosis, a young, athletic but none the less bizarre and sickly looking woman with damp, pale looking skin.
“There,” Björn said suddenly, changing direction and speeding off.
His two squad-mates followed him until the trio came upon the bodies of Kappa-Squad’s Shrieker and Null.
“Looks like they’re just unconscious,” Björn remarked, continuing to sniff the air, “you two, take Shrieker and Null back to the others and go wait at the extraction point.”
“You’re not coming with us Captain?” Asked the rather solemn looking Shieldwall.
Björn took in another deep nasal breath.
“Not this time Shieldwall, I can smell them, they’re at Facility Fourteen,” Björn remarked.
“But Commander Blade said-” Mitosis began to say, but Björn cut her off mid-sentence.
“I know, I’ll face the consequences later. Please take care of Shrieker and Null, I’ll see you at Facility Twelve,” Björn said, looking angrily in the direction of the scent he smelt.
Shieldwall and Mitosis looked at one another for a moment, “yes, sir,” they answered together, Shieldwall picking Shrieker and Mitosis taking Null.
Björn began to run off towards the Institute’s nearby compound, a look of bitter anger etched on his face as he rushed between the trees.
Felicia’s eyes suddenly opened, she expected to see the white walls of an Institute cell, but instead she was greeted by the sight of trees, moss, rocks and dirt.
Felicia sat up, rubbing her head as she did, her sight was slightly blurry.
“Tar’el? Nemesis?” Felicia said out loud as if asking.
“I’m here,” Tar’el responded, now returned to his restricted human-like disguise, although he still retained his robes and golden armour from his true angelic form.
“Where are we? Where’s Nemi? Did you guys win and what are you wearing!?” Felicia asked, continuing to nurse her head a little.
“We’re a little ways off from where I found you, or rather, where I caught up to your kidnappers. Nemesis and I got separated in the fight, but yes, I suspect we both won,” Tar’el explained, “and as for my clothes, they are the standard dress for an angel of my rank and position.”
Felicia stood from the ground, wobbling a little woozily as she did.
“Oh, well okay,” Felicia said, pausing for a moment before continuing to speak, “if Nemi managed to beat Varg don’t you think she’d have continued on to the facility? Maybe we should go there too? To meet up with her.”
Tar’el sat in thought for a moment, pondering just exactly how he should answer Felicia’s question.
“If you’re still sure you want to help Nemesis get her brother back,” Tar’el answered.
“Yes, I still owe her for saving my life,” Felicia stated.
“Then we can get going whenever you feel ready, we’re pretty close to the compound anyway,” Tar’el explained.
Felicia brought up her right hand and conjured a fireball in her palm. The young woman looked deeply into its calm flames before extinguishing it.
“I’m ready,” Felicia replied.
Tar’el jumped from the moss covered rock he sat himself upon and together with Felicia walked off towards the Institute’s Facility Fourteen.
Nemesis plunged her armoured hands into the vast bulkhead that barred her entrance into the Institute’s compound, tearing the thick steel like cardboard.
As Nemesis’ armoured hands grasped around inside the thick, metal door she clasped two thick, steel rods that were obviously part of the door’s locking mechanism. Putting all of her inhuman strength to use Nemesis pulled as hard as she could.
The immense bulkhead groaned and whined as Nemesis continued to pull. The door began to buckle, metal twisted and bent as Nemesis relentlessly tugged, seeking to rip the bulkhead from its strong, metal frame.
With one final burst of strength and a powerful cry the barrier like door finally succumbed, letting out one final, pained groan as Nemesis tore the bulkhead from the ground and tossed it aside with a heavy crash.
Nemesis took up her sword once again, pulling it from its resting place beside her and walking inside the now gaping wide entrance to the Institute’s facility.
The insides of the main building were walls and floors of highly polished metal, there were dozens of empty rooms, some full of what looked like military equipment and others with computers.
As Nemesis walked each step she took came with a heavy clank as her armoured boot met the shiny steel floor.
Nemesis could feel the panicked commotion deep beneath her feet, hundreds of people and scores of heavy vehicles all scrambling to escape, it seemed if Arthur was anywhere in this compound he would be on one of the lower levels.
Nemesis continued to confidently stride through the well lit metal halls of the complex, passing by a junction of corridors, one of which led into a large canteen like hall, as Nemesis passed by a shape in the midst of that hall caught her eye and caused her to stop, step back and look down into the large hall.
The shape was that of a man, well, more or less. All Nemesis could see of this figure was his dark skinned, bald, scarred face. The rest of the man was hidden beneath a suit of armour that whirred and buzzed with the man’s movements.
“Who are you?” Nemesis asked in her usual unearthly tone.
“Commander Cyrus Solomon Blade, head of the Institute organisation, I’d ask you the same, but I don’t really care, you won’t be alive much longer,” Blade explained gruffly.
“Where is Arthur?” Nemesis questioned coldly.
“That man Alpha-Squad picked up when they smacked you down? He, along with every other prisoner of note is currently being transported away from here,” Blade explained in answer.
“Then it looks like I’ll have to go through you to get to him,” Nemesis said, gripping the hilt of her demonic blade tighter.
“Looks like,” Blade retorted with a somewhat grim half-smile on his lips.
Björn stepped out of the forest, looking upon the above ground portion of Facility Fourteen. He had followed the scent of the creature that was responsible for his sister and fellow captain’s death.
Björn saw that the main entrance to the building was now open, its large steel door cast aside like scrap metal.
The large, blonde man leaped the tall fence encompassing the scattered buildings and began to run towards the main complex.
“Elsa, I’ll make them pay, I promise,” Björn thought to himself as he rushed forwards, his eyes now turned a fearsome yellow from the deep blue they once were.
Tar’el and Felicia continued to run through the forest, the trees were thinning and Tar’el could see a bright light where the tree line ended up ahead.
As Felicia drew closer to the very facility where she was kept and starved of any human interaction she grew more uncertain of her choice of actions, her heart started to beat nervously faster and she began to feel sick, yet still she pressed on, determined to help Nemesis save her brother from the same fate.
“We’re nearly there,” Tar’el announced.
“Y-yes, we are,” Felicia answered uneasily.
A large slab of concrete fell from the ceiling of the abandoned warehouse in north-western New Brook, slamming down and shattering beside a bloody Delta-Squad member.
An immense, demon with blue skin as dark as the night sky held Captain Grey aloft in his colossal grasp.
“Pitiful human filth,” Locar said as he tossed the bloody Captain aside.
Captain Grey’s limp, defeated body slammed onto the ground beside the heap of his squad-mates.
“You won’t get away with this demon, we are-” Captain Grey stopped to cough up blood, “we are one squad of many, you will be-”
The Captain stopped suddenly as the Locar’s vicious spear-like weapon pierced his gut.
“Silence mortal,” Locar spat disgustedly at the human who now looked back up at him with glassy, vacant eyes.
Locar began to walk out of the ruined warehouse, taking one last look back at the five he had already killed and the near utterly destroyed building.
“Pathetic,” Locar spat as he looked over the corpses of Delta-Squad before he took a small glassy orb from a dark leather satchel at his side that seemed to be fastened to his belt by means of some kind of barbed hook, not dissimilar to those used to hang large animal carcasses.
At the centre of the hollow orb was a the gaseous image of some kind of demon-hound.
“Find me Nemesis,” Locar commanded the beast within the orb before throwing it at the floor.
As the glass shell of the orb shattered, black smoke poured forth, it swirled around until finally coalescing into the skeletal form of some kind of unholy looking hound. Gas continued to spill from the broken orb, filling the spaces between the bones and bringing the beast to life.
“Find me Nemesis!” Locar roared.
Immediately the demonic hound began to sniff around, snarling as it found its bearing.
Locar smiled cruelly.
Both the immense blue demon and its strange dark hound took off as great speed, they headed through the city.