Diane stepped back from the waves of heat streaming from the other.
"And fire has purged it more than once. It belongs to us."
"We've shared this world for so long," Diane said, "but you've remained a secret. How've you managed that?"
The living flame before her spoke again.
"Look to your legends. The theft of fire; you know what happened to the thief. Or your visions of hell."
The flame deepened in color, growing colder for a moment. "You are ridiculously easy to manipulate."
"I've researched the legends," said Diane. "That's how I found you in the first place. But scary monsters and hellfire can't be the whole story. How have you kept yourselves hidden?"
The flame moved closer to the bank of computers Diane used for her research.
"All this," a flame licked out towards one of the computers, "will soon be no more than melted metal and plastic."
"That will do you no good," Diane answered. "I have everything backed up offsite."
"That will be taken care of, at the proper time."
"Why are you here?" Diane asked. "I haven't found any evidence of this kind of encounter. Hints, but nothing approaching proof."
The plastic casing of the computers began to melt in the heat.
"We are very careful how much information we allow survive." The flame moved closer to Diane. "Or who."
Diane moved, unhurriedly, behind her desk.
"You don't frighten me."
"You should be frightened," the flame countered. "People burn easily."
Diane smiled as she pulled a small breathing mask from her desk drawer.
"You have even more need of oxygen than we do," she said.
The flame increased to a blaze, shadows flickering across the walls. Diane slammed down the emergency release and the office was filled with a fire-suppressing, inert gas.
The flame roared and shot towards her. She backed up but a tiny tongue of fire singed the back of her hand before the flame guttered out.
Diane held the breathing mask to her face and, wincing from the pain of the burn, flushed the gas from the room.
She frowned. "That was easier than the research suggested." She shrugged. "Maybe it's just a question of today's technology."
She left her office, heading for her off-site backup.
Later she'd notice tiny flecks, flame-colored, in her irises. But, by then, her research would be gone.