North of MarathonMature

Headquarters was hidden well - the entrance was within the large temple of the goddess Nemesis at Rhamnous, just north of Marathon. As Armstrong walked through the ruins of the old sanctuary, making note of his posture and breathing at this time, he allowed his mind to become receptive. His mind travelled back to the days in Tibet, the days of snow and peace after what had occurred - the one place he could truly feel calm. 

It was why, after a few more years in the service of N.E.M.E.S.I.S., he had asked to be stationed there. His home - that gleaming white capsule embedded in the Himalayas - was now among the people he had once studied under, and he had guarded them ever since.

At last, he had reached the entrance - the cult image of Nemesis herself - goddess of divine retribution, the centre of her own little world. Armstrong moved fluidly towards the statue, took to one knee, and bowed his head, eyes wide open. 

In response, the pressure pad beneath him gave way by a millimetre, and a thin blue strip of light quickly scanned his face - after a flash of green as confirmation that it truly was Sherrinford Armstrong and no random element in the grand plans that were to come, the floor before Nemesis groaned and gave way to the opening doors and staircase extending down into the depths, a white light waiting at the bottom.

There was a certain electricity in the air that seemed to make the emptiness of the place all the more unbearable - there was a near silence as the multitude of people seemed to flow seamlessly throughout the myriad rooms and chambers of the crystalline citadel, and at the end of the hall was a particularly bright light - the office of the Contessa. Armstrong focused himself and prepared his mind for what was to come before taking the last few bold steps and moving inside.

"Contessa," he said as he took a seat on a cool metallic couch, "how lovely to see you in person again. You don't look a day over twenty, if you don't mind me saying." She hissed in a joking rejection, and moved to face him properly.

He wasn't lying - she was a beautiful creature, with pristine skin like alabaster, dark brown eyes that had an almost hypnotic effect, her shoulder length hair coiffed to perfection, and full red lips that desperately attempted to conceal the two fangs hidden behind them.

"Sherrinford Armstrong, you have been called to the headquarters of N.E.M.E.S.I.S for a singular purpose..." she hissed, only to be interrupted by the offer of a hip flask. She greedily snatched it, and feverishly gulped at the liquid within. Once finished, she smiled, and handed back the flask with immense grace and dexterity before slowly reclining upon a leather throne. "Please tell me it was donated this time," she grumbled. "Wilson brought a bag taken from a nine year old, just last week. All that damned paperwork..."

"Synthetic," he replied swiftly. "A few pals were tinkering with haemoglobin-based oxygen carriers and I merely had the thought of submerging them in a tawny port solution - a little 'thank you' for Tibet." A warm smile appeared upon his face, and for a few seconds there was a flash of happiness upon hers.

"I'll cut to the chase," she began, a cold expression quickly returning to her face. "There was a recent 'event' in Ruritania - one which resulted in these three men vanishing from the face of the Earth." As she spoke, she snapped her fingers, and the cool white lights dimmed as a holographic image of three men - two relatively stocky and square, wearing black suits and ties with white shirts; the central man tall and gaunt in a silvery-grey silk cut suit. Armstrong nodded, and pictured a blank canvas in his mind as the Contessa continued.

"They entered a chapel on the coastline, and were found to have vanished by morning. All that was found in the building was..." The Contessa's voice trailed off as a new hologram appeared - a crude altar crafted from organs taken from corpses. Looking closer, Armstrong  could see the freshest of the organs added were utterly pristine, compared to a few blackened lungs here and there from smokers and at least three alcohol damaged livers. He also noticed a slight crystalline formation over several of the organs - sodium chloride, by the looks of it.

"I'm supposing that the salt was added by our mystery trio," he eventually said, a clearer tone to his voice brought about by the grim view. "The altar looks to have been held together by some psychical presence - some form of ritual?" The Contessa nodded gravely, and clicked her fingers twice - instantaneously, the holograms warped out of existence and the cool white light returned.

"The ritual was to release whatever force was holding the altar together - the result was a series of unusual natural phenomena around the area, resulting in several deaths. I need you to find out what was released and why," the Contessa purred, "and then..."

"Let me guess - stop it from killing us all?"

She smiled a little. The door opened, revealing the silent bustle outside. As Armstrong stood, he felt her hand on his shoulder - soft, yet with the hidden strength of at least a hundred.

"Oh, and Sherrinford? Cock this up, and your jugular is mine. Your new assistant is in the garage. Get moving."

The door closed. 

The End

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