If the Slayer thought there would ever come a time he'd get to relive his days as a marine-in-training, it was now.
He'd been eighteen years old when he was drafted. He was smaller. More naïve. A shadow of the man he had become after the invasion on Phobos.
He had done a lot of stupid things in his life. He also found redemption somewhere along the way. Life. He found himself living it for a stupendous amount of time.
He also found himself doing the killing part of it for an exceptionally ludicrous number of years.
Discord, good, Imp's brain said as he leapt wildly for the closest window. Food, there.
The wiry hell spawn salivated as it clawed and shoved aside its brethren, all scurrying hastily in unison for the closest entrance to the screams and cries of humans. The first one to reach the glass grinned. Well, they were always more or less grinning with teeth like that.
The first Imp to reach the manor also just happened to be the first to be added to the kill count.
A massive weight landed over the thing's body, squashing it head-first into the sand in a spray and mash of gore. The others hissed and recoiled instantly at the one responsible; their small bodies cringing and tensing with rage and fear.
He dropped the heavier weapons to the ground and snapped the Super Shotgun closed; the sound akin to the crack of lightning, a sign of danger. But they were relentless. They were compelled by evil, instinct, and rage.
The Imps scattered at once, hurling fire in the threat's direction which the Slayer instantly dispelled with fire of his own from the Super Shotgun. The flames exploded as he charged through the sparks, choke-slamming the closest demon and firing at a handful more within range. They burst like packets of blood as he squeezed hard on the writhing Imp in his fist, crushing its throat to a fleshy pulp.
He flung the body aside and grasped the shotgun again with both hands, squeezing and holding the trigger; the massive hook attachment harpooning into a flying Gargoyle, pulling him into the air too. He blasted the demon before the momentum carried him forward, staring down into the trenches at the handful of Imps and glowing red portals they spawned from.
He scowled at the sight. The only thing he could think of that prompted waves like this were the destruction of Gore Nests, but that was a thought for another time when he noticed Heavies appear from the fleeting portals as well.
Swapping out the shotgun for the Heavy Cannon on his back, the Slayer squeezed the trigger, dispatching the remaining Imps and Gargoyles with a barrage of micro missiles. Though scattered, the missiles found aim, detonating in bursts of flesh and bone.
The Slayer landed feet-first into the sand again atop a dune, unloading magazines into the approaching Hell Knights, whittling them down to skeletons. But there was something quicker and smarter than them. Something the Slayer hadn't seen before and made its presence known by an Argent projectile; the searing hot energy burning through his suit as he turned to face it, swapping the Micro Missiles attachment for the Precision Bolt.
He aimed it down, watching the flesh and metal snake slithering through the trenches and fired; every bullet missing it by a thread.
The Heavy Cannon wasn't going to cut it for this one.
Grunting in frustration, the Doom Slayer swapped out the larger weapon for the Plasma Rifle and fired freely; the blue bursts of energy scarcely finding its mark as the creature curled and coiled to dodge it, all the while making its hasty approach. Up close, it was one ugly son of a moon. Not that all demons weren't, though, but it had longer teeth than most, a face far more mangled than most, and reached a staggering height when it stood to attack.
A grating knell tore from its throat as it lashed at the Slayer with charred arms, slinging toothy chains that added to the ever-growing collection of battle scars on the Praetor Suit. It was a minor price to pay for getting the thing close enough. Because the Slayer squeezed and held the trigger for a moment before letting go; a burst of fatal energy blowing flesh and steel off of the demon point blank, staggering it instantly.
The Doom Slayer grasped it by the horns before thrusting the Doomblade through its mouth, decorating the floor with its teeth. Dropping it to the sand, he turned in time to catch sight of the keen static of energy, glaring at another Hell Knight.
Only, this one was far more cybernetic than its predecessors; the glowing orange tubes and metal plates decorating its body proof of that.
It roared, exposing a line of sharp steel for teeth as it leapt straight for him, and the Slayer reached for the Super Shotgun from his back, firing at such close range that it blew shrapnel off of the thing's shiny new head.
Marine-in-training, huh? He left the Mars UAC facility in his prime. An eighteen-year-old's body just wasn't going to cut it if Hell had more in store for him.
He needed to get stronger, faster, better if he had any chance of returning to some semblance of what he used to be. The thought alone was enough rage to fuel his skirmish against the demons that night. The Slayer firing at will at any and all who dared to challenge him, leaving his mark in bloody pools everywhere he went no matter the size.
Unbeknownst to him, a pair of deep red eyes witnessed the massacre. Eyes that slunk into the darkness, vanishing as quickly as they appeared.
Daisy wished she could forget it. She really wished she could go her entire life without having seeing it, but the floating red ball was too notable to forget no matter how hard she tried.
You know what else she wished she could forget? That there was a child following her all the way back to it. An annoying child at that.
'I hate spiders,' the boy muttered behind her as Daisy concentrated hard on moving back out of the study hallway. 'You know what I also hate? Knights. They're useless when you actually need them. But that green one-that one-I want him.'
Peeking out the corner and into the ballroom again, the princess stopped; the boy almost walking into her. That didn't stop him from stepping on her dress, though.
'What?' he spat, throwing her an annoyed look. 'Why did you...'
'What's your name?'
'You have an awful memory, woman. You stand before the royal crown prince, Timothy von Wolff.'
Daisy turned; her eyes hard as she snatched the boy by the collar and he squeaked like a rat.
'Now you listen to me, Timmy,' she hissed, effectively stilling him. 'Keep talking and I won't hesitate to turn you into demon dinner.'
Before Timothy could have asked, she yanked him closer to the wall and he trembled at the evidence before him. Because not only was the floating pink monster chewing on its fifth helping of knights, but there were more levitating... devices. Two glowing skulls that illuminated the marble walls with their ethereal, cerulean flames. Was it fire? Or energy? And what kind of skull was that big!?
'... Stay here,' she instructed firmly as she pulled him away again. 'And don't move a muscle until I tell you to.'
The prince nodded and shuddered all at once. Daisy breathed deep, and; clutching the Combat Shotgun; dove for the staircase railing, trying hard not to focus on the pain in her ankle. The remaining knights either fled or were made a meal out of. There was no chance of making a run for it, and sneaking past them came with an impossibly high risk. If they were caught, they would be ambushed and killed on the spot.
Daisy might have managed to kill two or three Imps before the Slayer intercepted, but a concentrated assault was only asking for her doom.
The princess was so deep and desperate in thought that she barely noticed the blue glow of flame on her left until it was too late. She went still as it approached, seemingly unaware of her by the slow path it made in her direction. Up close, the skull was far more horrifying than she imagined. It bore a semblance to something made out of stone; its fangs glorified hooks, and its horns stretching out almost as long as its head.
Now was hardly the time for fear, though. Gulping hard, Daisy raised the shotgun slowly, aimed, and held the trigger.
The princess clenched her teeth as the butt slammed into her shoulder; the gun firing anything but shells. It was a projectile that stuck to the skull and flashed, inciting a streak of panic when the head turned to glare at her with burning orange eyes. In fact the entire thing changed colour as it tore out a malefic screech and Daisy tensed, bracing herself for the worst.
However the demon's attack was promptly snuffed; the sticky projectile exploding suddenly, disintegrating it into bony shrapnel that scattered across the landing. Daisy bit back a scream of surprise before realising it was killed on the spot.
Her heart pounded wildly. This time, with adrenalin. There was something to be said about the empowerment killing a demon left her with, and finding her confidence again, the princess breathed deep as she stood, turning to aim down her sights over the railing.
The second she did, though, she quickly realised the attention her earlier assault garnered. The second floating skull noticed her, and fast. Screeching, it smouldered like apricot fire before launching in her direction. With no time to waste, Daisy squeezed the trigger once; the butt punching into her shoulder mercilessly, unleashing a buckshot shell straight into its hideous mug.
It burst into a spray of sparks as Daisy aimed for the next one, blinking rapidly to dispel the bright afterimage it left on her pupils. The red ball wasn't all she noticed though as she squinted. Near it was...
'Timothy, you...!' she hissed, staring in rage and disbelief as the boy scurried past it without a shred of caution.
Well, if she didn't know what it was, she might have too a couple of months ago.
It spotted the boy and Daisy held the trigger, arcing a sticky bomb into the colourful amalgam's back. Not that that did much. If anything, it only prompted it to move; Timothy shrieking as it gave bumbling chase, spewing acid that barely missed the boy, melting the surrounding walls into psychedelic goop.
Seething with frustration, the princess made for the staircase fast. All those years of dancing in heels seemed to come in handy leading up to this single moment as she didn't miss a single step, sprinting and aiming all the while.
'Hey!' she called out to it in a desperate attempt to divert its attention. 'You ugly... red... toenail! Up here!'
It was to no avail. The demon was fixated on the crown prince; blood dribbling from its maws as it floated after him, and in his panic, the boy leapt past the entrance. She didn't know what compelled that. Either the unsightly remains of the knights near the doors or his own mindless terror.
Growling, she made to call out to him instead until realising there was no need to. The boy's face was a hideous canvas of snot and tears as he wheezed and stumbled pitifully, somehow managing a U-turn with the demon in tow; the both of them sapped of energy, it seemed. But better yet, it gave Daisy the visual she needed.
Aiming steady over Timothy's head, she all but muttered, 'On the floor.'
The boy dove straight for her feet when she let go of the trigger, squeezing out a grenade that caught the red ball straight in the mouth. Daisy stared, mouth agape, as it swallowed the projectile readily before it exploded; its belly expanding quickly before settling, and the demon drooping, looking ill.
Well, a grenade to the stomach could do that to anyone... right?
Except, anyone would probably have burst into smithereens by now. The demon - though visibly weakened - was still alive.
This was the chance they needed. The princess made to grasp the crown prince and run when she noticed a hand atop the demon's head. A hand that gradually revealed a familiar green body as the Slayer clambered over the meatball and clenched his fist, ruthlessly digging the blade from his gauntlet into the thing's single eye.
It let out an almost comical cry before it collapsed in a fold of pink skin, meat, blue blood, and bones; the Slayer walking over the remains like one would a line of ants, perhaps. The crown prince looked about ready to let out a similar noise; covered in demon blood; as he somehow scrambled to his feet again and bulleted for the doors.
Daisy didn't stop him. And even if she did, she didn't know how far she'd get, because the shotgun in her arms clattered to the floor suddenly and she stumbled. She quivered terribly and turned as pale as death.
She expected to hit the ground but instead, collided with the Slayer's chest plate almost gently. Rifle in one hand, he held her with the other, studying the weak look on her face. It was a first for him. And an alarming one, because Daisy - if anything - scarcely ever looked this distraught.
'My arm...,' she whispered, trembling in his grasp. 'I can't... feel my arm.'