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Interim 1

2061JAN01 - Meanwhile, at the home of a wealthy Humanis Policlub member

The faces are cast in shadow, all except for the lean visage of the man that enters the room; his face has its own fixed shadows to it. His air of calm visibly unsettles the others. He walks to the one empty chair and simply stands behind it.

"You may sit." Says a deep voice from the head of the table. It is a voice that resonates with power and confidence.

"I prefer to stand." The gaunt man answers in a cool, smooth voice like a river at night.

"What do you have to say for yourself, Payne?" The challenge of the voice is clear but the tone is like that of a king speaking to a reckless general.

"What is there to say, Caesar? You gave me men in order to send a message to the metahumans. I did." The coolness in Payne's voice is unchanged and does not contain the submissive or apologetic tone that was called for by the one that he had come to know as Caesar, a pseudonym.

"Do not pretend to enjoy the grace of a fool, Payne. We gave you two dozen soldiers over a month ago, when you disappeared. Then you show up with them in a public place committing an obvious act of terrorism by blowing them up!" Caesar's emotion shifts exquisitely to quiet rage, the obvious product of years of carefully crafted speech.

"Your servants became my servants. Your cause if but a pale shadow of my path. Your soldiers? They transcended their existence. They knew the bliss of the martyr, Caesar, which is more than I can say for the rest of you." Payne extended his arm fluidly and snapped out his staff. Without pausing, he struck hard and fast, crushing the throat of the invisible Mage to his right flank with the orichalcum-shod oak.

Caesar remained still while the other six at the table shoved back, making various noises of panic. One shouted for the guards. From the shadows flanking Caesar, two chromed bodyguards fired bursts from submachineguns. Payne stood his ground. The bullets hit dead center in vital locations, but a coruscating field of magic deflected them just enough to allow his body armor to reduce them to nuisance.

One bullet did slice into his neck and he smiled as his flesh was torn asunder. The bullet nicked the jugular, but only slightly, a tiny jet of blood was squirting rhythmically in the air, in time with his heartbeats. He met Caesar's eyes as he unleashed deadly magic into the room that ripped into the auras of Payne's foes. Caesar looked coldly at Payne, unsurprised and unaffected.

Payne backed out of the room and lobbed a fireball down both hallways. He bowed and gave a small salute, ending the motion by plugging the small hole in his throat, a bemused look still on his face. "My compliments to your Mage, it would appear your gewgaws are quite potent. Good night."

Caesar sat in the room calmly as Payne left, his eyes burning with a cold fire. He spoke into an intercom, "Stand down and let Payne leave."

Caesar growled as he spoke his thoughts aloud, "This is not over my sick-minded friend. Even the double-edged sword can be sundered if struck properly."