"Sir, we've gotten word on a few more leads."
"Good. What percentage actually seem viable?"
"We're still crunching the probabilities and verifications. We'll get you the packet as soon as they're done and printed."
"All right. Thank you, Agent Harlow. Keep me posted. I'll be looking over what we already have."
Agent Phil Coulson of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division retreated to the corner of the warehouse that had been set aside for his ad hoc office space. Slow and steady advancement in his almost ten years at SHIELD had worked him up to clearance level 4 and the opportunity and responsibility to be the lead on a handful of missions thus far. And up to this point, at least, they had gone well. With sufficient preparation, and luck, they'd keep going that way. He didn't want to risk overconfidence. He'd seen bad things happen to agents when they got overconfident. It wasn't a trap he wanted to risk falling into.
The division had received intel on possible hostile infiltration of Sąjūdis, the burgeoning Lithuanian independence movement. Normally, that wouldn't have been a SHIELD matter, but there was some reasonably solid information that there was something not exactly normal going on behind the scenes. Nothing concrete, but worth taking a look.
And that's why Coulson and a small team had set up shop in a seemingly derelict warehouse in Vilnius. There was a surprising amount of technology inside and an even more surprising amount of security in and outside. SHIELD had holdings everywhere it would be convenient to. And some places that weren't convenient. They all came in handy.
He sat down to take a look at the leads they had already discovered. It was ultimately up to him to decide which ones to look into further and which ones to disregard. It was important, because in the end, success relied on quality of intel. He refused to get it wrong.
It was a small restaurant, and not far off in the general atmosphere that you'd get from a similar mom and pop place in the States. Phil had eaten at any number of similar spots over the years. He looked around for the contact he was here to meet. She'd said she would be wearing a red blouse, so there had to be some-- ah. He noticed a table in the corner where a young woman sat. Dark, curly hair, pale complexion, and yes, red blouse. Quickly, he scanned the room, making sure of the exits and the general crowd flow before approaching.
"Atsiprašau, panelė Petrauskaitė?" he asked politely.
She nodded up at him. "Taip."
"Mano vardas yra Phil Coulson, mes kalbėj--"
"Yes, of course. By all means sit down. And don't worry, English is fine. In fact, under the circumstances, it is probably preferable."
He nodded and sat down, keeping his voice low. "I'm given to understand that you have information I may be interested in."
She nodded. "Yes, of course, but getting down to business right away would look very strange here. We should eat, make it look as if we are doing nothing more than getting acquainted. It would be safer."
"Miss Petrauskaitė, I don't--"
"Please, call me Rasa." She smiled at him and he didn't even consider disobeying the request.
"All right, Rasa. I guess that makes me Phil." It sounded odd even to himself by this point. On the job, he was used to being Coulson, always. But this was apparently shaping up to be not just any job.
A waiter came by to take their orders, briskly and efficiently, which suited him just fine. After he left, he turned back to Rasa. "I'm grateful that you took the time to meet with me."
She chuckled, shaking her head. "We all must do our part, yes?"
"I like to think so, yes."
"And I'm sure that is why you're exceptionally good at what you do, Phil."
"Well, I don't know if I'd go quite that far."
"I would. I could tell from the moment you walked into the building. You're a very intriguing man, Phil Coulson. I couldn't be more pleased that someone of your caliber is going to be getting this information. Some things just have to be stopped."
It was hardly as if he'd never gotten flattery from some informant or another, but he'd never quite been as charmed by it. "Thank you. I agree."
Wine and dinner were accompanied by regular old small talk. He'd gotten out of practice for it over the last decade, but somehow it flowed ridiculously easily. He barely even noticed the details of the food or even the contents of the conversation, but he was comfortable, like he'd found himself in one of those exceedingly rare moments when absolutely everything is going right. He liked it.
When dessert came in the form of a tall stacked branching cake, Rasa's expression almost sharpened a bit. "Now, let's chat about what you came for, shall we?"
"Yes, that's a good idea. I hear you have information?"
"Yes. I do. I know who you're after. My cousin is involved, and I worry that he may end up harmed because of all this madness. But he talks, as one does. Those you are looking for will be having a meeting on Thursday. One of much importance. But it will be a sizable group. I'm not sure how dangerous it might be..." She looked solemnly into his eyes.
"Don't worry. I'm absolutely confident that it's nothing my team can't handle."
She smiled, obviously pleased. "Phil, you have made me very happy."
He smiled back, just a bit. "Let's have cake while I get the specifics, shall we?"
There were three things he walked away with that night: the knowledge that the cake was delicious, the fortunate amount of detail Rasa had managed to pick up, and the complete confidence that his handpicked team would be able to produce a favorable result.
It all hinged on Thursday.
When an entire dedicated SHIELD team was working together on one goal, the efficiency at which they could accomplish things was almost frightening. They had the rudimentary basics of the plan of action worked out within twelve hours from Phil returning to base. After that, it was just a matter of refining until everyone was on the same page. It helped that logistics and team coordination were two of Phil's strengths. It also helped that out of the available agents to serve as his second in command on this op, he'd managed to net the most capable. In fact, he wouldn't be surprised if Harlow ended up being his head on some mission some day.
By Wednesday afternoon, the team was running drills flawlessly. Harlow had managed to source the blueprints of the home the meeting would be taking place in, and Phil had plotted out the best plan of attack. His confidence in the information from the original meeting with Rasa Petrauskaitė hadn't waned, but he knew better than to not reinforce his confidence with ample amounts of preparation. Backup sources of information corroborated what they already had, they worked out alternate plans for any number of variances in the proceedings, they were ready, and Phil was proud of them.
Everything was set to go.
When Thursday night rolled around, the entire team had taken their places in various spots around the target home. Communication was set and everything was ready to go. There was no hesitation. Phil trusted his team, and they trusted him in return.
People began to arrive, one by one, trickling to the house from various directions. To any standard observer who happened to be paying attention, it could have just been some sort of house party. Given their intel, it didn't seem likely.
The meeting was scheduled to start at half past ten. Phil gave it to eleven before raising his walkie and giving the order to move in. They breached the most tactically sound entry points and moved in, just like in drills. Phil was right in the thick of it.
They moved silently, they moved surely. The only voices in the house were coming from the basement. As one, the agents headed down the stairwell, and they waited outside the doorway. Phil waited until they were all in the ready position. It didn't take long. He gave one nod to Harlow and then gave the signal to move in.
They moved in.
The team entered the large basement meeting space, guns drawn, sliding with ease to the most tactically significant spots in the room. Those at the meeting stood absolutely still. Phil brought up the rear, stationing himself at the exit door. The room was covered. Tactical perfection.
And then he saw Rasa, smiling.
The horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach barely lasted a moment before her gaze met his and it slid away.
"Right on time," she said with a smile. "They're all yours, my friends, to do as you please. I'm sure any number of them would be welcome additions, but they're expendable. However, the one at the door is mine. Leave one or two. You know why."
Almost as one, his entire team dropped their weapons to the floor. He did as well. He felt none of the alarm that would normally come from such a circumstance. Instead, he felt oddly removed, like he was watching some film that didn't even seem realistic.
Rasa walked up behind him, resting her hands on his shoulders. She chuckled slightly and leaned in to whisper into his ear. "It must be overwhelming, Phil. Just watch for now. And by all means, realize what's happening. And be glad it won't happen to you."
She stopped talking, his own perceptions grew sharper, and the slaughter began. His team, that he'd carefully hand-picked to bring here, simply stood, unresisting, as their throats were ripped out, one by one, in a morbid, almost bacchanalian frenzy. Vampires. Of all things, vampires. He struggled fruitlessly against Rasa's entirely-too-strong grip as the life was bled out of far too many entirely capable agents.
Russell was on the floor like a lifeless rag doll, two of the vampires latched to his neck. Westphal was slumped against the wall, the brightness draining from her eyes. Hoshida and Huntley were being passed around between a small circle, the vampires laughing festively. Duchin had managed to make a feeble effort to fight back, but she was obviously losing. More and more of these small stories were taking place, immersing the room in death and failure, the coppery scent of blood filling the air..
Coulson was no stranger to death, but he knew in his gut that this would be the last thing he'd ever see, and he couldn't say that his own death wasn't deserved because of it.
Her voice resumed, almost conversationally, at his ear. "They're livestock, Phil. Don't worry about them. Their lives have served their purpose. This is a better end than many."
"Kill me and get this over with," he managed to grit out.
"That's not precisely the plan, my dear one. I was not lying when I said you were exceptional."
"Then what--" He didn't finish the question. He knew the answer.
Rasa wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him back tightly against her. "Don't think of it as dying. Think of it as being reborn." Her other hand rose to his jaw and she turned his head away from the carnage to look at her. The surreal filter over reality rose again. "You'll thank me later." With that, she pulled his head gently to the side and bit his throat.
His consciousness slipped slowly away, and Phil Coulson's life was no more.