Chapter 4: Introductions

When the phone had rung, Trish had been the one to answer it with the usual greeting. "Hello, you've reached Devil May Cry…"

She had stopped suddenly, looking over at Dante before placing her hand over the receiver. "It's the Guardians of the Faith," she said, "They have the password."

While it wasn't surprising that the organization had found the password, since anyone with an idea of where to look could do so, what had followed had been shocking.

"This is Walter Kerek, CEO of the New York offices for the Guardians of the Faith," said the voice on the other end of the call, "We understand your office, as well as others of your profession, have come under fire from a band of imposters posing as our company. I'd like to meet with you and any other Devil Hunters that are available to discuss how to deal with this situation. We will compensate you accordingly for your time."

"It's a trap! It has to be!" Nero said as she ended the call.

"Very possible," Dante said, "But what if he's telling the truth? The fact they know we've been being attacked means they likely know more."

"Even if he is lying, it could be a chance to get an idea of what's going on," Trish said.

"Of course he's lying," Tatiana said, going to her bike and opening the duffel back hanging from the back, "Look at this. You ever seen something like this before?"

She returned with a rifle that she laid down on the table in the center of the room.

"I got this off one of the mercenaries that attacked me," she said.

"Ooh, nice!" Dante said, quickly picking the gun up and lifting it to his shoulder, checking the sight, "It's so light, too. Must be made of some kind of polycarbonate. If it's not loaded, might sneak right through a metal detector. Looks like a sight for one hundred to two hundred yard, a thirty round clip here, fully automatic and burst fire settings.

"Can I keep it?"

"I don't care," Tatiana said, "My point is this is a very high dollar weapon. You can't buy it anywhere, and there's no way in hell a common merc is going to have something like this."

"And the Guardians are a mega-corporation of mercs," Trish said.

"So," Nero said, eyeing the weapon as Dante ejected the clip and noted the .556 rounds it was loaded with, "it's not even just military grade. These guys are packing space age shit?"

"Pretty much," Trish said.

But they were not the only ones aware of this exchange. The great mansion of Kilroy Brauchovich, founder and owner of the Guardians of the Faith corporation stood imposingly in the Russian countryside, about, a few miles from the organization's central headquarters, the starting point from which it had been built into a global security service over the past thirty years.

There was a knock on the door to the study on the first floor. "Da," was the only answer from inside, and Gregory Samson stepped inside. Kilroy was seated by the fireplace across the room, a book in his lap as he read quietly.

"Sir," Gregory said in English, "The CEO felt you should be informed of this. Kerek in the New York office has activated Lucifer."

The book snapped shut, though Kilroy did not look up. "What is the reason?" he asked, his Russian accent thick in his English.

"He merely marked it classified, and when it was overridden, the file was blank," Gregory said, "But then the tap in his office intercepted a call. He contacted Devil May Cry."

"The Devil Hunters?" Kilroy asked, "We have already begun Operation Endwar. Contacting the son of Sparda… Is he planning treachery, I wonder?"

Kilroy's chair buzzed, turning around. It was an electric wheelchair, revealing the grayed old man to Gregory as it turned, with an enormous beard hanging nearly to his waist, and a gnarled hand clutching the control. But his eyes were those of a man sharp as ever, with a dangerous light to them.

"The question is what is he hoping to gain?" Kilroy said, "Large amounts of money regularly pass through Devil Hunter accounts, but nothing compared to what he already has access to thanks to the company. What were the details of the call?"

"Only that he wanted to meet the hunters in person," Gregory said.

"Smart," Kilroy said, "No point bugging his office, then. He'll sweep it before the meeting."

"Should I put someone on site?"

"No. Let's just wait for now. It was always a goal to test Lucifer's ability against Dante. It is a meeting two decades in the making. If he is getting them both to New York, let's just watch how it plays out."

"We do not believe Dante will be in New York," Gregory said, "There's something else. A viral video broadcast by Beelzegore, challenging Dante to come to Hong Kong."

"Hmph," Kilroy grunted, "And the son of Sparda will doubtlessly answer. Something we can take advantage of. The Hong Kong facility has been purged?"

"As you instructed, and the chrysalids will doubtlessly soon overtake the city, generating massive amounts of negative energy."

"They will not," Kilroy said, "If Dante goes to Hong Kong, he will wipe them out. Let our men beat him there. The first capture team failed, so send another, armed with the suppressant. Bring him back alive."

"If I may, sir, the scientists believe the sample we obtained from the one named Nero is more than sufficient for the new project."

"It may suffice, but a quarter demon is nothing compared to the true half-breed. Dante has already proven himself more powerful than a Demon King. And Nero does not compare to Dante. If not just that his power would create something far greater than Nero's, I am curious how a half-breed human could possibly be greater than the five most powerful demons alive. Send the team."

"Yes, sir. And the New York situation?"

"As I said, we watch for now. I believe Kerek is looking to eliminate the terrorist Kellvone. And if he is, so be it. Kellvone won't last more than a few days with the Devil Hunters after him anyway, and with Lucifer there, it won't take that long." Kilroy paused, smiling to himself. "I almost pity those Devil Hunters. What Lucifer will do to them will be worse than any nightmare they've ever encountered."

That had been about eighteen hours ago as Trish and Tatiana retrieved their bags in the New York airport after crossing the ocean in a commercial jet under false identities. Three suitcases and one four-foot attaché case that Trish lifted up over one shoulder made up their load as they walked from the front entrance of the airport where Lady was waiting with a car.

"Any word from Dante yet?" Trish asked as they approached and Tatiana tossed her bags into the back seat.

"Nothing yet, but he should be in the city by now," Lady said, pushing the trunk release so Trish could stow the attaché case, "That's not what I think it is, is it?"

Trish closed the trunk and walked around to climb in the passenger seat. "Of course not," she said, "Dante took that with him. Considering I'm on my way to say hello to a guy in charge of a whole branch of these mercenaries, we decided it best I not have it with me."

After checking Tatiana was seated in the back, Lady started the engine and pulled the car out into traffic.

"Hardly the kind of outfit I'd expect at a business meeting," Lady commented, glancing at Trish's attire.

She was dressed in her usual black leather pants and heeled boots, with a black denim jacket over a dark red top. Trish simply smiled and retrieved a pair of dark sunglasses from a pocket of the jacket and put them on. "I thought something a bit tamer than full femme fatale would be the best choice," Trish said.

The heeled boots were what always bothered Lady about Trish's outfits. Any woman with sense would never wear heels in any kind of strenuous activity, let alone in combat situations. But then, Trish wasn't exactly human. Twisted or even broken ankles weren't even a concern to her, and Lady had several times seen those heels put to deadly use when jammed through eye sockets or between bone joints. One time Trish had actually used the heel of her boot to separate a man's knee with just one expert twist.

Two years ago had been when Lady had come back to the Devil May Cry office and met Trish for the first time. She had been hunting a particularly elusive specter at the time, and had mistaken Trish for her quarry. Dante had brushed the whole thing off when she questioned him but had turned up to stop them before someone was seriously hurt. And apparently he had thought the whole thing very amusing.

But it was on Dante's promise that she accepted Trish as his partner. Lady had never seen the proof in action, but Dante assured her that Trish may be a demon, but she was no devil. But she trusted Dante. More than twenty years ago she had tried to kill him, and even back then he was so far beyond her that if he'd been serious, she would have been dead.

Dante had lost his brother back then, by his own hand no less. And as he and Lady watched the tower Vergil had raised sink back below the earth, she had seen something then that forever changed her. It hadn't been much, just a single tear, and Dante had tried to hide it, but she had seen the heart in him in that moment.

He may have been a demon, but he was no devil.

And for two decades since, they had worked together frequently. Dante gave her most of the credit for the organization, but without him she'd never have been able to build what they had. Devil Hunters had always been separated and often alone, but now they were all linked. A worldwide network that allowed easy funneling of weapons, funds, and other supplies to individual hunters. They still operated alone mainly, but it was far easier to get in contact when help was needed.

But now, this recent attack had been so fast and efficient, Lady couldn't shake the feeling that their network had been broken into by this mercenary organization and that had been what allowed them to coordinate this attack so perfectly. In under forty-eight hours, more than four hundred Devil Hunters had been killed, captured, or were missing.

There numbers were never enormous, and even if they didn't count the missing ones as dead, Lady guessed that there were less than twenty of them still free and alive in the entire world. Before the group in Paris had gone their separate ways, Lady asked Dante to try to make contact with Sakon Kima, a Japanese hunter with a safe house in Hong Kong, who seemed to have eluded capture but had been dark since.

Sakon was a rare one, a hunter who was purely human but with a strong enough will to actually wield Devil Arms himself. Weak-willed individuals would often have their minds taken if they attempted to use the weapons, the devils within still very much alive. Lady hadn't tried any herself in her entire life, and preferred to make do with more conventional weapons. She feared for Dante every time he took a new one, as he had told her that some were much harder to resist than others. The Ifrit gauntlets he had captured two years ago being one of the worst, as the vengeful demon within attempted to take him every time he donned them, in spite of Dante having proven his will was stronger multiple times.

And this train of thought always led to depressing her. Every Devil Hunter out there had lost someone important to them. Friends, family, everyone had their sad story. And because of their dangerous lifestyle, it was sort of an unspoken rule that they did not become involved in relationships, not with normal people and especially not with each other. But that was a rule she had broken more than once.

She'd barely been sixteen when the events with Dante and her father had changed her life forever. She was sure Dante was about the same age, maybe a little older than her. And over twenty years of working together, things had happened and they'd happened more than once. And each time they swore it was the last, going their separate ways and not even speaking for weeks or months at a time.

Some Devil Hunters would retire from this kind of work. Some would only last a few years, others a decade, and some that had been Hunters even before she and Dante had begun had been at it for almost forty years. But if they weren't killed, they invariably gave it up because they'd fallen for someone, because they couldn't keep living the dangerous life when they had a new family.

Lady sometimes thought about what it would be like, to live in a house in the suburbs, a white picket fence and kids in the yard. But she couldn't quit, not yet. And Dante, well, the only thing harder to picture than Dante quitting this life was picturing Dante with a day-job.

And now there was Trish. Lady had never admitted it, but she was sure it was happening. Demon or not, why else would Dante constantly be around this blonde bombshell?

She needed to clear her head. "You want me to come with you to this meeting?" she asked Trish.

"No, then if it is a trap, they'll have two faces to follow," Trish said, "Drop me off and take Tatiana to your safe house, if there is one left here."

"There is," Lady said, "We've got one in a condemned office building downtown. The actual bunker itself is in the basement level, but the whole building is ours, or at least, it's owned by a front that belongs to us."

"Any other hunters left here?" Trish asked.

"Sirius, you know, the big Brazilian?" Lady asked, "He's at the safe house now trying to find someone for me. Michael, the New York hunter, was also here, but has disappeared since we arrived. We're still trying to find out what happened."

"You mentioned something on the phone about needing my skills," Tatiana said, "What exactly would that be?"

"When Sirius finds Kellvone, we need to know who was funding his group," Lady said.

"Kellvone," Tatiana said, "I know him. That terrorist cult that set off bombs in Moscow, Paris, Berlin, and London in the past three years. He managed to slip every net we set for him in Europe. He's in New York?"

"That's right," Lady said, "Saw him myself. He managed to lose me, but that's not going to happen again."

"I don't get it," Trish said, "When did the Devil Hunters start chasing terrorists?"

"Since this one targets ancient places of power and generates unacceptable amounts of negative energy," Lady said.

"I see," Trish said.

Negative energy was a general term the Devil Hunters used to describe the intangible feelings of evil pervading a location. The site of a murder, haunted houses, and other similar things. An uncomfortable nausea in the gut that seemed to be only in such a location was a sign of negative energy. As the levels of negative energy grew, it began to distort reality, causing phenomena such as levitating furniture, visions, and all manner of other unholy things. And when the negative energy grew strong enough, it could spontaneously open an unstable Hellgate, allowing the denizens of the demon world to cross over. It would not remain open long, so rarely was something truly powerful able to cross, but even smaller, weaker demons could cause great havoc among civilian populace.

"I had to clean up a few after he was done," Tatiana said, "This group is intentionally opening Hellgates, but then not maintaining them. Most cults hunters have dealt with will open one, usually through ritual sacrifice, and then attempt to maintain it, but this one is long gone before the gate is even open., and they do it with general death and destruction from their bombs than something more precise. There has something else driving them."

"And when we bring their leader in alive, he's going to tell us," Lady said, "Do you have your kit?"

"Of course," Tatiana said, "The only question is how long it will take to break him."

"Okay, we're coming up on the Guardians' New York headquarters," Lady said, "I'm going to stop a couple blocks down and let you out. I don't want to be followed back."

"I don't blame you," Trish said, opening the door and stepping out of the car once it stopped by the sidewalk, "You might take a scenic route back anyway, just to be safe."

"You worry about yourself now," Lady said, "I've got a bug in the glove box we can put on you…"

"They'll probably check for that kind of thing before I go in," Trish said, "Don't worry. If something goes wrong, you'll know, because I'll be bringing that whole building down."

Lady pulled the car away from the sidewalk, back into traffic and turned away at the end of the block. Trish took a moment to take her makeup case from her inside jacket pocket and touch up her lipstick before starting toward the Guardians of the Faith headquarters building down the street.

Lady and Tatiana were several blocks away already when Lady's phone rang. "Tell me you have good news, Sirius," she said into it.

"Just got a hit on the police scanner," Sirius said, "A concerned citizen phoned in about shady characters they saw in a condemned office building on the west side of town."

"Any reason to believe it's our guys?" Lady asked.

"Well, what if I told you that entire block and several surrounding are built over a Native American burial ground?" Sirius replied.

"Ancient site of power if I ever heard one," Lady said, "Are the police on site?"

"No. Sounds like they took a look out from their car and called it in as nothing."

"Great, meet us there with quiet kits, SMGs and silencers," Lady said, "Even if Kellvone isn't there, one of his flunkies can lead us to him."

"Guardians of the Faith Security Agency," Trish read as she entered the building lobby, "You're safe with us. We'll see about that."

The lobby of the building resembled the Paris headquarters almost exactly, a large open room with marble flooring, a single reception desk at the far end of the room with two elevators on either side, and multiple doors on both side walls, at least one of which doubtlessly led to the ground security office.

"Devil May Cry to see Walter Kerek," Trish said to the receptionist without waiting for a greeting.

"Yes, ma'am, I have the note you were expected, though not when," the receptionist said, "Take the elevator on your right and I'll let him know you're here."

"That easy, huh?" Trish asked herself as she stepped into the elevator. She had been expecting someone with a metal detector at least to search her for the pistols holstered under her jacket. Not that taking her guns would make her any less dangerous, and maybe they knew that.

The elevator rode up to the thirty-second story, and the doors opened directly into Karek's office. It seemed like a wastefully large office, and other than a few potted plants along the walls, the only furniture was the man in question's desk.

Kerek was a white-haired man in his fifties, clean-shaven except for a bushy mustache, and dressed in a brown business suit that Trish would not have been surprised if it creaked when he moved, with how firmly pressed it looked.

"You'll forgive me if I'm a bit disappointed," Kerek said as Trish approached the desk, "I was expecting Dante to come himself, not send his secretary."

"First of all, I'm not his secretary, I'm his partner," Trish said, "Dante is occupied with another job at the moment, and anything you'd tell him, he'd tell me anyway. Now, how about you give me a good reason to not burn this entire place to the ground?"

"Of course," Kerek said, "The attacks on your people no doubt have you on edge. Well, I can tell you that it was not us, or at least, not anyone under my authority. This is the problem with mercenary companies, they tend to hire people who are talented over those who are trustworthy, and we're no exception. Need a light?"

He offered Trish a lighter from his pocket when she fished a pack of cigarettes from her own. With a smile, she accepted it and lit up before giving it back. She didn't smoke regularly, but for some reason the image of her puffing on one put people at ease. Her demonic regeneration prevented the nicotine from affecting her system in any case.

Kerek tapped a few keys on his keyboard, then turned the computer monitor toward Trish. The image on the screen was a photo of a man who looked to be in his late twenties to early thirties with dark hair, and Trish guessed of European descent, likely German or French. And she knew his name already anyway.

"Do you know this man?" Kerek asked.

"Never seen him before," Trish said.

"He's gone on a spree across Europe and Britian," Kerek said, "Information says he indoctrinates followers like a cult and they conduct explosive attacks on civilian populations, And he has also managed to elude not just every police attempt to catch him, but also our organization as well as your own people. I'm surprised you don't know."

"Devil Hunters tend to operate solo or in pairs," Trish said, "So what's so important about this guy?"

"He has someone in our organization supporting him," Kerek said, "A traitor, funneling information as well as funds to him through different bank accounts each time. That is how he always manages to elude us, at least. And I believe that traitor is also responsible for the attacks on your people."

"This is why no one should ever trust mercenaries," Trish said.

"Some of us to have more important goals than money," Kerek said, "I for one want to create security for the entire world. It's just that money is a big part of creating something like that. And the fact is this traitor is using what I helped build for personal profit. That is not acceptable.

"To cut to the chase, I want to help you. I have good reason to believe Kellvone is in New York, and if we can get him, he can lead us to his contacts. And because you Devil Hunters are the wronged party, I wanted to give you a chance to have a hand in it. Considering Kellvone has with more than one of his attacks opened unstable Hellgates that your people had to clean up, your expertise will be appreciated. I'll even pay you for your time."

Trish exhaled a slow breath of smoke as she looked at him. "I'll be honest, Kerek, this isn't what I expected," she said, "On my way in I was actually expecting to be putting a bullet in you before I left."

"Well, I certainly hope it doesn't come to that," Kerek said.

"All right, I've listened," Trish said, "But this mess involves a lot more than just me. I can't make this kind of decision on my own."

"I understand," Kerek said, and from the drawer of his desk produced a business card, "My number. Speak to your company and if you're willing, give me a call. Time is not unlimited, though. We need to move before Kellvone slips our net again."

"No wonder Dante misses when things were simpler," Trish said to herself as she left the building, Kerek's card in her jacket pocket, "We're probably going to be dealing with more humans than demons here. That just always ends up being messy."

And Lady was already hellbent on getting Kellvone anyway, so maybe this would work out for the best.

Meanwhile, at a nightclub in New York, another group was coming together. Two young men, one in his mid-twenties, the other barely 18, entered the bar. The older was dressed in a faded brown trenchcoat over a blue polo shirt and blue jeans, while the younger was in a black leather jacket and faded jeans.

They passed through the bar, giving no acknowledgement to anyone, even the owner, as they went into the back storage room.

Past the bar's supplies of alcholol and other neccesities, in a corner tucked away out of sight waited a woman. She was in her mid-twenties, and the very definition of a blonde bombshell, and she was herself dressed in a blue denim jacket over a red blouse with blue jeans. She was seated at a small desk where a single tower computer sat. On the screen was a list of names and photos.

"We're here, Lucifer," the older of the pair said as they came to her.

"I hope you're ready," she said without looking up, "We have a lot of work to do. And it starts with a man named Kellvone."