I. Escaping Zamiel

The night sky was dark, the warm ocean air filled with the stench of burning flesh. Out in the middle of the English channel, upon the flaming wreckage of a once great warship, two monsters did battle. One of the combatants was a tall, thin bespectacled woman with long dark hair; she was dressed in an ill-fitting suit, one that would have looked fitting on a more masculine form than hers. The other figure was much less human, appearing more like a living nightmare than a man. His dark red coat writhed about him as if alive, and his lanky form was cloaked in shadows. Upon his face was a grotesque and predatory smile, one that spoke of unending hunger and depraved desire.

The woman, her body barely able to contain the trembling from the sheer terror she felt, managed somehow to stand firm against her enemy. Her blue eyes, almost glowing in the shadows caused by the flickering inferno raging on around them, shone with steely defiance at the beast. The ultimate effect of her dark glare was lessened somewhat because of her cheeks, which were still wet from recently shed tears. Firming her resolve, the woman raised her weapon, an immensely long flintlock musket, and aimed its sights towards the smiling monster in front of her. Her enemy's smirk only widened in amusement upon seeing her bravery, his sharp grin and vile stare all but goading her into attacking.

"Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor," the dark haired woman recited, her words tinged with a German accent. "My bullet punishes all vithout distinction!" With the utterance of her battle hymn done, the trigger was pulled, flint struck the pan, and the resulting spark ignited the black powder sending musket ball rocketing out of the barrel at impossible speeds. The simple lead ball raced forwards so fast that it looked like a blazing beam of blue light in the darkness.

The monster barely grunted as the ball slammed into his shoulder and exited the flesh and bone easily, like a hot knife stabbing through butter. The bullet changed trajectory in mid-air, zipping across the area and hurtling itself back at the man; impossibly, the projectile seemed to be moving even faster upon each change in direction. It pierced his body yet again, the large wound spraying scarlet blood across the flight deck of the carrier. The musket ball quickly performed its impossible dance once more, twisting about through the air, blue after image racing through the night, before yet again mercilessly tearing through its target.

"Again!" shouted the woman desperately as her magical bullet slammed and pierced into the monster. "Again! Again! Again!" She continued to scream. Her gambit was a desperate one. The only weakness of the beast before her that she knew of was its inability to cross water; if she could manage to push him off the flight deck and into the English Channel below then she might have a chance at surviving. Over and over her bullet battered her foe, pushing it backwards, ever so slowly, towards the edge of the deck. Finally, as his feet were mere steps away from the edge, the bullet raced forwards, only one last blow needed to send him overboard. "DIE UND GO TO HELL!"

But before the final strike could be dealt, a loud vicious and metallic clang echoed across the deck. The woman shrieked in terror as the man lifted his head and grinned, showing her musket ball caught tightly in between rows of razor sharp teeth. "Guess what I just caught?" he asked her, his ragged voice sending pulses of cold dread down her spine. With a brutal show of strength he crushed the metal ball with his teeth, then spit the fragments out. "I... caught... you. Rip. Van. Winkle." Each syllable was spoken slowly, with utter relish. It was obvious that the monster derived exquisite pleasure from her complete and absolute defeat.

The woman whimpered in dismay as the demon in red stepped closer and closer, his hands held out like talons ready to grasp. Her mind screamed at her to run, but her shaking legs would not obey. She wanted to scream and beg him for mercy, but she knew that such a creature as he was incapable of it. She was absolutely certain that fleeing or pleading for her life would only result in prolonging her upcoming agony. The best she could hope for right now was a quick death.

No, her mind shouted at her. No! It couldn't end like this! Not like this!

She couldn't die! Not here, not now, not when Millenium was so close to achieving their revenge! She wanted to see London burning! She wanted to be there when Britain fell! She wanted to see the fear in the eyes of the Americans and the Russians when they saw their old ally brutally raped and devoured, knowing full well that Millenium was coming for them next. She wanted to see the flag of the Third Reich flying over the ruins of the great cities of the world, and fight in the eternal, glorious war that the Major had promised her.

No. No, that wasn't entirely true, a calmer part of herself noted. She had always prided herself on being a loyal soldier in Millenium's ranks. She was, after all, one of the organization's original members. But that wasn't the real reason she wanted to live. Pride and nationalism were her mantras, but at the moment, with the pure embodiment of the Black Hunter steadily advancing towards her, she couldn't have cared less about any of it. The truth was, she was scared. What she wanted above all else was to survive. She didn't want to die, especially not at the hands of him. She didn't wish to face a horrible and painful death, and that was exactly the kind of death she would suffer from at his hands. His eyes, his terrible glowing red eyes, promised a death so horrifying and terrible that all thoughts of the Major, Millenium, and every grand ideal ever put forth into her head since joining the ranks of the Third Reich had vanished.

Help me! Her mind silently cried out, praying for the first time in over fifty years. God, help me! She whimpered in fear as the monster approached. Please, please, please, someone help me! HELP ME!

As if in answer to her silent prayer, a burst of green light flickered forth from the dark, appearing directly in front of her. It soon solidified into a large, ovular portal, bathing her startled face in an emerald glow. The appearance of the strange spacial rupture caused the monster to stop in his tracks as well, the dark features of his twisted face twitching in confusion. Before he could react further, the woman took the opportunity presented to her. She was a cornered animal, facing complete and utter destruction. Now that escape was in front of her, she showed no hesitation.

Gripping her musket tightly in her arms, the woman leapt.

As her body fell through the infinite haze between worlds, and just before the green portal sealed shut behind her, her ears were assaulted by a frightening, inhuman roar from the monster. The hellish sound held the fury and the anger and the madness of a million tormented souls, each of whom were decrying the unfairness of being deprived of their meal.

As she fell, Rip Van Winkle felt terror seize her heart. Terror, as well as giddy exhilaration upon realizing that she had actually escaped her Zamiel.