She felt the buffeting wind of entry, its familiarity awaking a visceral response. With swift and practiced movements she checked her pod, ignoring the incongruity of her recent dreams. Alana activated her suit’s microphone, receiving the satisfying green confirmation icons of her squad members. At least that was still working. Now she allowed herself time to study her immediate environment more deeply; she was wedged into the pod. Of alien design, it nevertheless cocooned her from the blazing heat of atmosphere entry. Information scrolled across her HUD and she recognised the moment when the pod began its release. There was not the usual delayed and organised process; the pod blew free explosively, kick-starting the powered suits reaction. Armoured wings flicked free, her jets burning brightly to arrest her descent. One quick check showed her team members awake and signalling, their concern muted as they professionally absorbed their surroundings.
“Count off!” she ordered, green icons flicking on and off as they acknowledged her command.
“Flight pattern Delta.”
Again the icons flashed and she watched them move closer. All except one, which flashed a strange purple as it continued to fall. It was not one of hers. External scans showed it to be a pod of similar design to that from which she had so recently exited. Alana watched as rockets fired on the pod’s exterior, slowing its descent enough to allow a controlled landing. Her sensors detected life-signs from within, and she split her squad; half would provide aerial cover whist she and the others investigated.
It did not wait for help, exiting from the pod with sure and rapid movements. Heightened senses detected the arrival of the armoured figures and it smiled, revealing a mouth full of jagged teeth. They must not see it yet, there would be time enough for introductions later. First impressions were important and it knew that right now they would not be good ones. Its hunched body and wizened face, along with its tattered coat and broken shoes portrayed a poor ancient. Mammon was ancient, poor in spirit but never in wealth, and liked his victims to be unprepared for his true manifestation. He sniffed the air, grinning as he recognised a familiar scent, and sprang into the nearby foliage. The Cursed Hills were one of his favourite places, full of hate and possibility.
A slight rustling drew his attention, the tribesman’s ragged cloak giving away his hiding place. Mammon’s wolf-like face sharpened into concentration, his hooked fingers arcing into claws as he leapt. The tribesman stood no chance. Bow and arrow clattered to the floor as Mammon fed, drawing out the man’s essence quickly, the only disappointment that he could not savour the soul wailing as it fled its empty shell.
The air shimmered around Mammon’s frame. He used a little of the newly-gained power to reshape his bowed frame. There was a man he had admired, who had once been great. Mammon had met him on the flagship as he struggled to redeem himself in the eyes of the Church. It still caused Mammon pleasure as he cut short the human’s life, redemption had been promised but never achieved. Instead, he had drained his victim dry, relishing each mouthful as Victor Espada died. Memories always accompanied such a process, and in Espada he had found a treasure trove of experience. The man had fallen low, the Inspectorate finding and indoctrinating him in the Prelate’s Grace and then he raised himself up again. Such a shame that Mammon found him.
As Tauran demons went, Mammon was of the lesser kind. Not due to his abilities, rather to his lack of ambition and his own proclivities. Avarice was his true calling and drove his every waking moment. He never had enough, was always coveting that which others had, and bored easily.
Others of his brethren found him a simple target, taking what he had gained and throwing him down. Mammon had fled their domains, looking for and finding an ever-changing world where he could fulfil his every desire. His senses had tasted something different with those within the pods, and he was looking forward to taming them and forcing them to his will. Afterwards he would kill them, but they seemed strong and full of fight. He hoped so.