Fire and Brimstone

A Chaotic Introduction
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Arnold Trumain entered the café with a somewhat smug attitude. The back and forth over e-mail had taken months and he had finally agreed to this meeting out of sheer curiosity at who it was on the other end of those communiques who was so persistent. As he stepped in he looked to his left and saw the man sitting at the arranged corner booth, away from other patrons. He was early; Arnold liked that. 

The man was about average height, middle aged, slightly balding on top, and dressed in a non-descript gray business suit and conservative tie. He looked exactly like Arnold expected he would; as opposed to Arnold himself, who looked like he'd just stepped out of Sturgis, wearing a black Harley Davidson t-shirt, blue jeans, and a leather biker jacket with a beard that his new friend thought could reach his navel. Arnold walked over and the stranger stood and reached out a hand:

"Hi, I'm -" 

"Sit down." Said Arnold, cutting the clean-cut business man off as he sat and picked up a menu.

"Straight to business. I can respect that." The bald man sat down and cupped his hands in on the table.

"I don't know what business you think we have; I'm only here to shut up your damn e-mails." Arnold made a big show of reading the menu, making the point that he wasn't interested in being there.

"If you didn't want to talk then why did you come?"

That slightly wrinkled middle-aged face had Arnold pinned on that point. The truth was that he could have cut off communication and disappeared into obscurity at any time; but in spite of his misgivings the funny man across from him had brought up some good points in his correspondence.

Arnold sighed, "You're right, I'm curious. I want to know how you found me. And I want to know who else knows about us." Arnold immediately regretted giving in on this point, as the bald man smiled as if he'd just won a horse race.

"We were sorting through some old filing cabinets, cleaning up some decades old trash. You know, old records and forgotten paperwork. We came across some old Nazi war records that mentioned your organization. Considering the Reich's interest in you, I thought it was worth investigating. But I'll give you credit, you're a hard man to find." 

Arnold frowned. "Hard is too easy. And the Nazis couldn't have left much for you to go on."

The bald man seemed to be growing more confident, which was troubling. "You're right. I had a hunch." He shrugged as if his hunch was nothing important, but the implication was obvious. That hunch had the power to unlock millions of American dollars in wire taps, field agents, hackers - just to track down a fairy tale from a demented Nazi's death-bed confession. The authority behind that hunch was enormous. And most troubling to Arnold was that the hunch had been right.

Arnold had expected the answer to be some careless social media post or e-mail had given them away. Maybe a persistent cop who wouldn't give up on an unsolved homicide and a necklace one of Arnold's people may have thoughtlessly left on the scene. That the man sitting opposite him could have found him with so scant evidence, and 60 year old evidence at that, was game changing. He took a drink from a glass of ice water that some waitress had managed to leave on the table without his noticing. That shrug, and all of the weight it carried, had Arnold reconsidering his opposition to this arrangement. He leaned forward and asked pointedly, "What is it you want from us? You fight a very different war from ours."

The bald man leaned in as well, resting his elbows on the table. "It's simple. If you exist, then your enemy also exists. And if your enemy exists, then they are a threat to the cause I have sworn to protect."

Ah, now they were in Arnold's territory. He smiled, "You're right, you know," he said as pulled a small pocket mirror out of his jacket. He surreptitiously slid the mirror across the table, "Here. The modern ones don't work, you see. They don't use silver anymore. But try this antique out." He winked and nodded his head sideways towards a few of the patrons sitting at the bar on the opposite end of the café. 

The calm demeanor of the business man started to crack as he took the mirror. A bead of perspiration began to swell on his forehead as he tilted the mirror to view those patrons through its reflection. A second bead of sweat slowly rolled down towards his nose as he saw only empty bar stools in the mirror. The man obviously prided himself on being prepared for anything, but he hadn't been prepared for a dinner meeting this close to the danger which he had, until that moment, only suspected might exist in his nightmares.

Whatever his surprise, he recovered his composure quickly, set the mirror down covering it with his palms, and turned back to Arnold. "I think you've made your point. This is exactly why we need you. You can provide us with invaluable intel on a threat that we didn't even know existed before."

Arnold relished being back in control of the conversation. He leaned back, stretching his arms over the back of the booth. "And what can you offer us?"

"Money. Agents. Technology. The resources to expand your operation ten-fold."

Over the last several months of e-mails, the bald businessman had made this argument several times. Arnold had heard it before, raised all his objections, and they had all been resolved. He hated to admit it, but Arnold knew when he arranged this meeting that he was eventually going to agree. He also knew he was going to regret it; the trick would be getting as much out of the deal as he could.

The bald man pressed his advantage, "We can start slow and earn each other's trust with an exchange of agents, just like we discussed in e-mail. Here's the dossier on the agent who we would lend to you." He pulled out a cheap prepaid smart phone with a single file on it. Arnold took the phone and glanced over the file. Based on the resume, this agent was sharp - intelligent, experienced, with excellent martial arts skills and even a tour in Afghanistan. Arnold knew they could use some more fresh combat experience in their ranks. And he knew that giving the right agent to the bald-headed businessman could yield tremendous returns.

It was decided, then. Arnold leaned back again, stretched his arms across the back of the bench, and spoke up in a booming voice, "And the Brimstone Society offers you BLOODRAYNE in exchange!"

At the mention of Brimstone, the other patrons who gave no reflection turned towards the corner booth - their faces angry, contorted in surprise and fear. They all stood and began moving cautiously towards the booth where the two men sat. The business man was obviously uncomfortable, but he steadied his demeanor with the knowledge that his new friend would not have put his own life at risk in such a foolish way without a plan.

And it was at that moment that the plan became clear. A figure crashed through the window on the opposite side of the café, rolling to a kneeling position. It was a young woman, somewhere in her early 20s. She had long deep blood red hair with two childish ribbons tied into it streaming behind her. She wore black leather boots and a black and red leather corset that looked like they belonged in a BDSM burlesque show. And she had two swords that she wore on her arms, one cuffed to each wrist in a way that could only be described as painful to look at. 

The vampire patrons turned at the sound of breaking glass. Arnold had no need to look, he could see what was happening by the look on his business man's face. The redhead stood and cat-walked to the first of her foes who she decapitated mid-leap as he lunged at her. She kicked the next square in the jaw with a flexibility that would impress an Olympic gymnast followed by a right hook that turned its head completely around, snapping its neck. She proceeded down the line, the shape of the café creating a small aisle that forced her opponents into a single file, perfect for a demonstration of kicks, punches, stabs, and gruesome slices. 

As she reached the last one, she shoved one of her swords right through its gut, blood flowing from where the sword pierced its back. Then she hefted, a one-handed bicep curl lifting the still screaming vampire off the floor by its pierced ribcage. And then she pulled it close to her and bit its neck and let out a soft sensuous moan as she drank from its jugular. And when she was done she cleanly sliced off its head, letting it roll over towards the booth where the two new business partners were sitting as she lowered her sword and let the body slide to the floor.

She followed the head, and as she walked over to the booth the businessman could now see that the swords rotated on a hinge at her wrists, folding back towards her elbows. Painful, impractical, but ever so intimidating. She reached out a hand towards him and introduced herself, "I'm Rayne."

The business man stood without missing a beat, took her hand and, despite the slippery red slime, shook it firmly, and replied, "Phil Coulson, SHIELD."



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