Nemesis blasted forwards, raising her sword as she swiftly ran towards her opponent, the mechanical-suit bound Commander Blade.
As Nemesis neared she jumped towards her foe, bringing her blade over head, preparing to strike.
Blade scowled and hunkered down, bringing his left arm up to defend against Nemesis’ incoming attack.
An explosion of force swept over the canteen-like room as Nemesis’ blade clashed against Blade’s armour. Nearby tables and folding metal and plastic chairs were flung haphazardly to the corners and sides of the room.
Nemesis looked on in surprise and frustration as the edge of her weapon scraped against Blade’s suited arm, her attack leaving no visible damage, not even a scratch or scuff on the highly polished metal.
“How can that be!? I put all the strength I could into that attack!?” Nemesis asked herself desperately as Blade made his move.
Blade turned his left arm about, grabbing Nemesis’ right forearm and pulling her toward him while drawing back his right fist.
“This one’s for Siphon,” Blade said as he planted his fist in Nemesis’ armoured gut with such force that the metal floor beneath them buckled.
“This one’s for Null!” Blade exclaimed as he landed another exceptionally powerful blow upon Nemesis’ torso, “and this is for Shrieker!” Blade continued as he began to strike Nemesis repeatedly in the same instant, “this is for Glacialis!” Blade roared as he struck Nemesis on the bloodstained left side of her face, reopening the severe wound that Varg had caused not hours before.
“And this,” Blade said, preparing to hit Nemesis again, “this is for Captain Elsa ‘Varg’ Anderson!”
Blade brought his arm around in a massive, arcing uppercut.
“Siege-Breaker!” Blade shouted as his immense, clenched fist neared the reeling Nemesis’ lower jaw.
Two strange dark grey or black strips on the inside of Blade’s suit’s right elbow joint began to glow blue until finally streams of sapphire energy blasted from them, tripling the speed of Blade’s already mighty attack.
With a terrific, bone shattering metal crash Blade’s fist met with Nemesis’ comparatively soft jaw.
The reinforced windows set into the canteen’s walls, designed to withstand being shot at close or medium range shattered with the released force of Blade’s Siege-Breaker uppercut.
Nemesis began to be carried away by the sheer power of Blade’s assault, but before she left his reach Blade grabbed hold of Nemesis’ armoured leg and swung her over his head and with his incredible strength sent her crashing into the shining, metal floor.
Blade stepped away from his prone foe and cracked his neck.
“The grip you have on that blade is astounding,” Blade admitted, seeing Nemesis still tightly clutching her demonic-blade, “is that the weapon that ended Varg’s life?” Blade’s tone turned significantly more angry as he spoke those final words before stamping on Nemesis’ right arm with his powerful, boot-like foot.
Nemesis grunted painfully and whimpered slightly as Blade kicked her sword from her hand.
Blade reached down and grasped the back of Nemesis’ armoured collar. The immense Institute Commander pulled Nemesis up without issue and then threw her powerfully towards the southern wall of the canteen, the wall furthest from his current position.
Nemesis impacted the stainless, gleaming wall with a heavy crash, the force with which she was thrown embedding her in the rent metal.
Blade looked over his wall-lodged opponent with angered eyes. Nemesis looked near-defeat, her breathing was arduous and blood still ran like a crimson stream down the left side of her face, spilling onto her cruel, demonic armour.
“You’re tough, I’ll give you that, it’s been over ten years since I fought a demon that could take the siege-breaker and live, but it ends now monster. You’ve taken your last life,” Blade announced as he widened his stance and sunk a little lower, almost as if sitting on a non-existent stool.
Blade’s suit clicked, whirred and hissed frantically as various compartments all over his battle-armour slid open to reveal strange, high-tech guns and racks of strange missiles that aimed at whatever Blade was looking at.
“Go back to hell,” Blade exclaimed, “Annihilation Barrage!”
The short barrels of the dozen or so turret-like guns that had appeared about Blade’s armoured form began to glow blue as they powered up and fired, the scores of rockets that had hidden in Blade’s armour began to launch themselves towards the battered and bloody Nemesis.
Nemesis looked up at the hail of energy bolts and screaming missiles, she tried to yank herself free of the twisted metal trap she found herself in, but in her exhausted state she could not.
The bloody soul-hunter looked to her discarded sword and tried to pull it towards her as she had in the forest, but no matter how hard she tried to pull the blade closer it did not budge.
As the storm of projectiles drew closer Nemesis saw images of Laura and Sarah flash through her mind, so with one final pained effort Nemesis tore herself from the wrecked steel wall and collapsed to the floor below.
Nemesis looked up, her vision blurred by exhaustion and blood, she saw that Blade’s barrage was almost upon her and though she had freed herself from the crumpled metal of the nearby wall she was not in any condition to speed away and avoid the incoming hail of fire.
The southern wall of the canteen-like room burst like a balloon as the multitude of rockets, energy bolts and high-calibre rounds impacted and detonated, but just before the barrage hit Blade noticed a deft, black shape dart from in front the blinding curtain of light wispy grey smoke the Annihilation Barrage left in its wake.
Nemesis looked around with confused, blurred eyes, she saw a man standing beside her that must have come to her aid.
“Tar’el?” Nemesis asked in her cold, demonic voice as she struggled to her feet.
“I am no Tar’el,” responded the man in a strong, nordic accent.
The man drew back his hand as he replied, throwing a powerful punch aimed squarely at Nemesis, who was still getting to her feet. As the man’s fist flew through the air it began to turn into a mighty bear-like claw, complete with stubby fingers with fearsome black, almost talon-like nails.
The large, bear fisted man’s punch connected with a hideous crash that sent the still recovering Nemesis flying, crashing through a nearby metal and concrete wall into what seemed like the kitchen for the canteen, replete with dozens of stoves and preparation areas.
“Captain Björn!” Blade exclaimed, walking towards the large, blonde man with loud, hydraulic hisses accompanying each heavy step.
Björn did not know how to respond to his Commander, though he knew his disregard of his instruction would be met with extreme disapproval.
“Yes sir,” Björn said, turning and standing to attention before his commanding officer.
“I told you and your squad to await extraction with the wounded of Kappa-Squad,” Blade growled angrily.
“Yes sir, I know sir but… I couldn’t do it sir, I had her scent, I had to make her pay,” Björn reasoned, though he knew it wouldn’t be enough to justify his disobedience.
“Björn, you will be reprimanded later, but now you have to get out of here, you put yourself at risk being here while I’m engaged in combat,” Blade explained.
“I can’t do that sir, I know how you feel about all of us, but I can’t just walk away, not from the demon that gutted my sister,” Björn said with his typical, steely resolve.
Blade scowled and growled to himself, he knew there was no dissuading Björn, not this time. As the Commander thought how to reply he noticed that despite the uneven lighting of the room the scattered debris in this ruined hall lacked shading.
Blade looked all around to confirm his suspicion and sure enough he saw that the scattered furnishings of this ruined canteen did not cast any kind of shadow.
“Oh shi-” Blade said before the missing shadows seemed to seep from the walls and close in around the Institute Commander, enveloping him inside an orb of complete darkness in less than a second.
Björn, stunned by Blade’s apparent silence turned to look at his commander only to see a globe of pitch darkness looking back at him, he gulped.
“Shadow, I didn’t know you were here,” Björn said somewhat nervously to the seemingly empty space, save of course for the orb.
“That’s the idea,” a silky, seductive female voice spoke from within the sphere of pooled shadow, “don’t worry, I’m not here for you Captain, I’m here for the Commander. Take out the trash please Captain.”
“Yes ma’am,” Björn responded, looking to the wall Nemesis had been punched through, Björn could see that once again Nemesis was just managing to get to her feet.
Though Nemesis had returned to her vertical base she was by no means steady, she breathed heavily and the taste of her own blood was fresh in her mouth. Despite the briefness of Blade’s assault on her it had taken a heavy toll, perhaps more than the entirety of her combat with Varg in just a scant few moments.
Björn ran forward and burst through the gash Nemesis had torn in the wall and stared at the bloody Nemesis with enraged eyes.
Nemesis reached out in another attempt to pull her sword back to her grasp, but yet again the blade did not move.
Björn rushed for Nemesis, tossing gleaming silver work surfaces or ovens to the wayside, when he neared he caught her in a powerful lariat.
The tired, lethargic Nemesis was caught like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle as she was struck by Björn’s unyielding, steel girder-like arm, driving her into the ground with considerable force, smashing and cracking the tile floor the entire kitchen over.
Björn was not done, he ran on a few steps, turning like a bird of prey in the air to come in and swoop down on his quarry. As he swung about he continued to run towards Nemesis who did little more than twitch and spit up blood.
Björn jumped up the air and morphed his right leg into the thick, tree-trunk of muscle that was his bear-form and aimed it squarely at Nemesis’ blood covered face.
“Die demon!” Björn roared as his clawed, bear-form foot neared his broken foe.
Suddenly there was a flash of intense light that seemed to pass in an instant.
The entire building shook with the incredible power of Björn’s morphed foot as it struck and destroyed the demon that killed his sister, or so he thought.
As the dust and dirt settled Björn found his clawed foot struggling against a near wall of white light.
Tar’el opened his wings back out, causing the light to fade from them somewhat and forcing Björn and his partially transformed body away.
Björn looked on angrily as the angel stood valiantly over Nemesis’ unconscious body, blocking the Institute Captain’s way.
“An angel? Helping a demon!?” Björn exclaimed fiercely.
Felicia ran into the kitchen area, quickly having to catch her breath and gulping as she saw Björn squaring off against Tar’el who seemed to be the only barrier between the Captain of Beta-Squad and Nemesis.
Björn noticed Ignis’ return, but did not acknowledge her, his focus was solely on his new, seemingly angelic foe who barred him from his revenge.
“It makes no difference what you are marauder, for shielding that demonic scum from me you will suffer the same fate,” Björn barked and shouted, “Gift of the Ursine!”
Björn began to shiver and convulse, his limbs growing drastically and with such alacrity as could scarcely be believed.
A thick coat of dark brown fur grew on flesh, with the Institute suit seeming to disappear, as if giving way to Björn’s primal transformation. Fingers and toes became coal-black clawed paws. As Björn continued to change and grow he knocked over and pushed away large, gleaming silver preparation areas.
Within mere minutes Björn had grown to an incredible fifteen feet of solid bear muscle, his shadow now blanketing the entire half of the kitchen that he was not on the side of.
The immense Bear-man was now stooped over, with the kitchen area being a mere nine feet from ceiling to floor. He looked down at the now positively minute angel with wild, fierce yellow eyes, bearing his powerful jaws that sat in his grim, dark brown furred muzzle.
Felicia began to tremble and instinctively sank away behind the largest object she could find, she knew Björn only by reputation as easily one of the most powerful Institute Captains, along side Captain Steel and Grey.
“Felicia,” Tar’el cried out, “take Nemesis, get her away from here, quickly.”
There was no reply, instead Felicia merely cowered behind a nearby stack of wooden crates and cardboard boxes.
“Felicia! Please get Nemesis to safety!” Tar’el shouted again as he readied for what was sure to be a tough fight, “what about the debt you owe her? She’s defenceless like she is now and I can’t protect her if I’m to fight this behemoth.”
“There is no protection for the demon,” Björn interjected, his voice now even deeper and more powerful, “it doesn’t matter where you hide her, for what she did to my sister I would gladly hunt her to the very depths of the hell she crawled from.”
Though Björn’s words shook Felicia’s courage she knew Tar’el was right.
“Fire amour!” Felicia cried with gritted teeth and a grimace set on her face in expectation of pain.
The air around Felicia began to shimmer as if heated greatly, but as it did the marks and glyphs that ran down the length of her arms began to burn as hot as the heat that Felicia herself had summoned and glow a hot orange.
With her nerves steadied, though now in searing discomfort Felicia rushed from her hiding place and stooped down beside the angel to try and lift or move Nemesis somehow.
“The demon goes nowhere!” Björn roared, throwing one of his massive clawed arms at the closely bunched trio.
Tar’el once again brought his folded wings in to defend himself and those a few scant feet behind him.
“Angelic Bulwark,” Tar’el uttered calmly, causing his already white feathers to glow until they became a wall of near blinding light.
Björn’s massive claw crashed against the angel’s barrier, the force of the strike washing over the angel’s wings and all they protected, destroying the room around them utterly.
“Felicia, go!” Tar’el said, he sounded as desperate as he did commanding and virtuous.
Felicia began to drag the limp, battered body of Nemesis as quickly as she could, which was, unfortunately fairly slowly.
“She weighs a ton! This is going to be slower than I hoped,” Felicia said in reply.
“I’ll do what I can to hasten your journey,” Tar’el said as he once again threw open his wings, tossing Björn immensely powerful arm aside.
The angel turned slightly towards both Felicia and Nemesis and flapped his great wings as powerfully as he could. A strong gust blew the unprepared Felicia and the dead weight of Nemesis some meters away, through the open door, out into the adjoining canteen-like hall.
“Thanks,” Felicia shouted back at Tar’el in a pained, sarcastic tone.
All the while within the black sphere Commander Blade found himself bound, his arms and legs held fast by clinging shadow that connected out to the shell of this orb of hollow darkness. Blade looked about, all he could see was the empty blackness of the sphere he was confined in and his patients was wearing thin.
“Shadow!” Blade bellowed at the darkness around him, “don’t make me break free from this.”
“You should have left this to Alpha-Squad Cyrus,” replied a female voice from elsewhere in the interior of the sphere, “you know what could happen if you fought again.”
“I took precautions, I evacuated the entire facility, no one was at risk,” Blade responded adamantly.
“The Institute could have lost its director and commander, and for what? I know how you feel about your ‘soldiers’ Blade, but this was reckless, the threat was nowhere near grave enough to warrant you going in to combat it,” the voice snapped back.
“You may think that way, but never before has a single of my captains been killed, never has an entire squad been so thoroughly defeated, that demon must pay,” Blade growled.
“Alpha could have easily taken care of the demon,” the woman’s voice replied dispassionately, “all I care about is you Cyrus, that’s why I came all the way here from Japan via the shadow web when Captain Steel contacted me. If you continued to battle, if you had continued to throw around your power like you were your vortex reactor could have finally ruptured and then you’d have destroyed not only this entire complex, costing the Institute billions. Not only would you risk our exposure to the wider world, requiring a far reaching and expensive cover-up but you’d have thrown away your life and the one of a kind technology you carry with you. Now, vent your reactor and stand down, then I will take us to Facility Twelve.”
Blade grumbled, “fine.”
Blade’s mechanical-suit whirred and hissed, several vents opened all about the torso and upper back of the machine. With a loud hiss highly pressurised, blue tinged smoke and steam began to spew from the vents.
“There,” Blade said as the vents closed with a series of metallic clicks, “I’ll leave the avenging to Björn.”
“Good, I’m glad you saw sense,” the woman replied warily.
A milky white skinned woman walked from the darkness, as she separated from the shadows making up the walls of this hollow sphere they rippled like water. The woman’s silky black hair was bound up in a bun skewered by two decorative chopsticks at the back of her head. She wore a tight, black catsuit with light, toughened plating shielding important areas and muscles.
Shadow put her hand up onto Blade’s scowling forehead with a sly, confident smirk on her face.
“Hurry up, I hate travelling through the shadow web,” Blade grunted with displeasure.
“I’m just preparing, taking someone like you through with me is extremely taxing,” Shadow replied in a slightly patronising tone, “here we go.”
Felicia painstakingly pulled Nemesis across the steel and concrete floor, her armour scraping heavily as they inched across the ruined canteen. With every arduous tug Felicia hoped that the orb of darkness that still ominously sat in the midst of the broken room would vanish.
As the red-headed young woman grunted and pulled Nemesis with as much might as her arms could muster she heard a terrible rumble from the kitchen that seemed to shake the entire complex. As Felicia halted and released Nemesis’ arms she saw out of the corner of her eye that the sphere of shadows was beginning to change.
Felicia quickly turned about and formed a pair of fireballs, one in each hand, ready to defend herself and Nemesis from whoever or whatever was inside the sphere, however when Felicia looked she saw the sphere was melting away.
Great gooey globules of darkness fell to the ground with a terrific splat before dissipating, returning the shadows of the inanimate objects and debris all around until the orb was no more.
Felicia extinguished the fireballs in her hands and returned to pulling Nemesis away, unsure of exactly what just happened.
Björn threw his mighty clawed arm over his head in a wide arc and then down, heavily upon Tar’el who managed to recompose himself from Björn’s last attack and block it with his angelic sword held and supported above his head.
The enormous man-bear’s attack caused further damage to the ground and their immediate surroundings, but now the kitchen was no more, with the room all but completely destroyed by the fighting.
“I can’t keep this up,” Tar’el thought to himself, “I used too much of my power in my fight against that Kappa-Squad sorcerer and in using Angelic Bulwark twice so quickly. I need to find a way to disengage this man and buy enough time for us to get away and recuperate.”
Tar’el’s thoughts were interrupted by another of Björn’s attacks.
The angel managed to dodge the bear-man’s thick, furred arm, jumping forward and flipping over it as it neared.
As Tar’el’s golden boots began to touch the floor Björn roared again and brought his massive clawed arm to bear, striking Tar’el with incredible force, catapulting the angel away, sending him smashing through several piles of rubble and through the wall of another part of the complex.
Björn watched this new rend in the wall for a moment with still, unblinking eyes, to see whether the angel would continue to get in his way or leave him to his revenge.
The Institute Captain was all but ready to forget his angelic opponent and move on to the monster that killed his sister when he saw the angel emerge from the torn wall, slightly battered, a little bloody and the pristine robes beneath his armour were a little scuffed but he was still able to interfere.
Nemesis opened her eyes, she looked around and saw that she was in her inner space, it looked little different to before, the floors were still black flagstone and the walls were still basalt bricks reaching up for for what seemed like fifty feet.
“This is a bit bigger than I remember,” Nemesis said to herself as she sat up painfully, it seemed that even in her own subconscious she ached all over.
“A sign of your growth, no doubt,” replied the familiar yet sinister voice of the chained demon.
Nemesis glanced over at the bound demon, its deep, red skin tinted green by the intense light of the surging pillar of raw power at the chamber’s heart.
“Why am I here?” Nemesis asked.
“Because you are hopelessly in over your head human,” the demon spoke cruelly, “were I in your place I would consign your enemies to a bloody, pain filled oblivion.”
“I don’t need your help, I never will again,” Nemesis spat obstinately in reply.
“Impudent mortal! You receive my aid whether you accept it or not! You wear armour I forged in the fires of the hell-forges and tempered in the crucible of battle! You wield a blade I used to reap a bloody toll on the enemies of my dark masters! I have seen you in battle, the way you pull the blade to your hand is my power, one granted to you when you loosened my restraints, I could grant you so much more…” the demon explained.
“I don’t ne-” Nemesis began to respond, but Abaddon interrupted.
“If you want your brother you need me to gift you greater knowledge, unless you want him to slip through your inept fingers, if you want your beloved and her spawn to go unavenged, forever to rest in Neroth’s black soul-vaults,” Abaddon snapped fiercely.
“I don’t need you or your power demon,” Nemesis answered, yet both she and the demon could sense the uncertainty in her voice.
The great, fanged maw of the demon formed into a slight smile, like a shark smelling blood in the water he closed in for the kill.
“Human, you need not give yourself over body and soul, merely let me grant you a few more powers, I could make you destruction incarnate, give you enough strength to lay low those who keep you from your bloody vengeance,” Abaddon spoke, his words sounding more and more tempting to Nemesis’ pained ears.
“What can you offer me?” Nemesis asked, thinking over all of her recent near-defeat against Varg, her utter destruction at the hands of Commander Cyrus Blade and her beating at the hands of the newest Institute Captain she had come into contact with.
“The armour you wear, it was forged for endless war, the blood it drinks it drinks for you, to sustain and renew the strength within you. You need merely know how to draw upon its power. With the slightest encouragement your wounds could heal themselves in a fraction of the time, your broken bones could be fixed within mere minutes, mortal diseases would blight you no longer,” the immense, crimson demon explained, his words and offers sounding ever more tempting to Nemesis, who continued to listen intently.
Nemesis was silent for some seconds, much to the muscular demon’s displeasure.
“Hurry Dannie, the angel and human girl that led you to this place, they protect you staunchly while you dally here, the angel fights on your behalf against losing odds, would you leave them to die? Would you let Arthur forever slip through your grasp!?” Abaddon roared, surging forward as far as he could before the thick, demonic chains snapped tautly, halting his advance.
“No, never, I will tear Arthur’s soul from his worthless carcass even if it’s the last thing I do!” Nemesis shouted back at the immense, crimson demon from beneath his shadow.
“Then what is your answer?” Abaddon asked, holding his unbound arm out as far towards Nemesis as it would go.
Once again Nemesis was silent for a few moments.
“Quickly Dannie! Every moment you delay the angel draws closer to his death, every moment you dither your brother creeps further away from his punishment!” The great demon barked urgently.
“Yes! My answer is yes!” Nemesis shouted in answer, reaching her hand out to shake with that of the demon lieutenant Abaddon.
Suddenly Nemesis eye’s opened, she sat up, tearing herself from Felicia’s weary grasp.
Nemesis reached out and pulled her demon blade to her hand.
“Nemi you’re awake,” Felicia said somewhat joyously.
“Where is Tar’el?” Nemesis asked, standing back up to her full height.
“He’s out there, he’s still fighting with the Captain of Beta-Squad, please, if you can go help him,” Felicia pleaded.
Nemesis began to stride towards the ruined adjoining kitchen, as Nemesis walked she felt the wounds all about her battered body healing, flesh re-knitting, muscle reforming, bones resetting, new tissue being created to patch up the wounds both inside and outside of her body, including the great gash down the left side of her face which had now formed into a pronounced scar.
As Nemesis pushed through the swinging, blue double doors that led into the adjoining kitchen she heard a monstrous roar and the clashing of two mighty forces.
Nemesis picked up the pace, quickly making her way through what little remaining of the barracks kitchens. When Nemesis stepped out into the rubble strewn plain she saw the immense, monstrous bear Björn had become.
When she scanned the area for Tar’el she found him climbing out of a trench in the dirt, one that was no doubt created by an altercation with the Beta-Squad Captain that didn’t go the angel’s way.
Björn sniffed the air and turned his mighty, ursine face toward Nemesis.
“You’ve returned, good, now I can gut you where you stand!” Björn roared, beginning to charge at the waiting Nemesis.
Nemesis charged forward with her demon sword raised.
As the pair neared Björn threw his huge arms forward and Nemesis swung her blade to meet them.