The man sneered at the creature below him, "Look at you," he bellowed, "Nothing but a shell of your former self. I'd have a hard time believing you were the Mask of Neutral if I'd just met you."

The creature looked up at him through a shattered mask. She knew he was right: she knew how broken she was, how powerless now that human and Kiedran were locked in war.

"Though, I really hafta hand it to you," the man shrugged, "Stopping you wasn't as easy as I'd thought it would be. I mean, all I had to do was ignite a war between two races that hated eachother, and it took me months of manipulation and planning before it all came through.

So you wanna hear it? The big flaw in your plan that I managed to see and exploit?"

"It was the girl," the creature said, pulling the cloak tighter around herself, "Right?"

"Ah, but how did I know it was the girl?" With a wave of his hand, the image of a certain tiger Kiedran appeared at his side. After a few seconds, she was joined by a blue-haired human, who promptly grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her. The man dismissed the images with another wave of his hand. "How could I have been so certain that I could keep them together even while you drove them apart, filling her heart with hate and rage? How did I know their relationship was strong enough to keep her from her duty and forge an alliance that could hold back the human onslaught?"

The creature shrugged, "Lucky guess?"

Tossing back his head, the man burst with laughter that filled the chamber, echoing into the emptiness beyond its marble walls and setting the creature on edge with its maniacal sound, "Was that an attempt at humor, Ephemural?" He gasped once he'd managed to control himself, "Or are you now too delirious from your waning power to even make a decent guess?"

The creature shrugged again, but said nothing.

"No, my dear Ephemural, it was so much more than a guess," he waved his hand again, stirring the air around him into another vision, "I based my moves off destiny itself."

The creature bolted upright, managing to find the strength to actually stand, "You're saying you've seen the plan? But the creator won't let anyone see it! Not even us!"

"Of course I haven't seen the plan. But I did make an educated guess as to what was in it," he motioned to the vision now forming at his side, "Behold, see why your plan was always doomed from the start, and why my race will soon overrun this planet as they have so many others."

The creature, of course, knew she had no choice in this little matter. She didn't have the strength to resist him, and besides, she had to know just what could give the man so much confidence in his own power. And so she sat and watched the image unfold itself, revealing the secrets of another universe to her.

Sunday night. Johannesburg. Another club. Another floor lit with pulsating light panels and crowded with shaking, convulsing teenagers he should probably bust for possession, but didn't because of the roll of hundred-pound notes the owner slipped him not twenty minutes ago.

The blue-haired man turned from the balcony overlooking the dance floor, leaving his scotch forgotten on the railing. Why did he keep doing this? As a Templar, he could be tried for treason if he was ever caught accepting bribes (although half the Templar garrison in this town was taking bribes from someone or another, so really that danger was about as imminent as a swarm of flying pigs landing on his head). He didn't even need the money. He'd resolved his debts months ago and had his apartment refurbished just last year. High-quality furniture, too, the best South-Arigan craftsmen could offer. So was it the thrill that kept him coming to the town's red-light district, hitting up sleazy club owners and drinking the same scotch-on-rocks? Maybe.

More likely, it was just boredom.

A couple high-schoolers waltzed by behind him, one of them tossing a cute little glance over her shoulder as she went to join her friends on the floor below. 'Not in your dreams, sister,' he thought as he smiled and waved back. He was a corrupt cop, not a pedophile! Besides, he already had his fill of empty sex for the weekend. No need to add anymore.

"Freshen up your drink, sir?" A timid voice asked behind him. He turned to see the most beautiful Kiedran girl he'd ever gazed upon standing there, with a platter balanced precariously on her fingertips. Her golden eyes, normally the ones that should be lighting up a room, were cast downwards in the usual sign of Kiedran subjugation. Her fur shone somehow in the dim light of the bar, her long, scarlet hair drifted just over her shoulders.

"Sir?" She asked, backing up a few steps as his gaze wore on, "Sir, is something the matter?"
"NO!" He gasped suddenly, stilling his beating heart. "No…I'm done drinking, thank you."
"Thank you, sir." She replied before turning to leave.

He watched her return to the bar just behind him, sliding back into place in time for a bunch of drunk teenagers to start barking orders at her. He let himself watch her for a minute before turning back to the dance floor.

"What the hell're you doing, Trace?" He grumbled to himself. "She's a Kiedran, you're a Templar, tasked with keeping her kind in check! Could you even imagine the scandal!"

Oh yes, the scandal, THAT'S what he was afraid of, not the inevitable jerk of a hangman's noose around his neck! The only reason the Templar hadn't nailed him and half his buddies for corruption yet was due to them keeping their heads low and doing their jobs when needed. If anything like this ever got out…

Then again, that's what would make this exciting, isn't it? And a night with a Kiedran would certainly be a long-overdue change. Besides, maybe she knew someone who shared his particular…viewpoint on how things in this country should go. Maybe she could provide a way into the resistance: Lord knows he had tried on his own. He was dreaming, of course, why would a bartender know anything about the Kiedran Oppositional Front? Still, it gave him the excuse he needed to push himself away from the balcony railing and head over to the bar.

This was going to be one of those nights, wasn't it? One of those crazy nights when he might wind up anywhere at all, just like in college. God willing this wouldn't end with him waking up naked on the football field with his boxers on top of a flagpole again, but still, his hands shook with anticipation as he approached the bar.

"Can I help you, sir?" She asked with a voice that summoned a choir of angels to sing in each ear. In that moment, just that one moment, it didn't matter that she was a Kiedran and he was a human. It didn't matter that fur covered her skin, or that her ears were perched atop her head, or that fangs covered her incisors. He wanted to be with her, just hold her close and take in the very scent of…holy crap, what was he talking about! This lovey-dovey shit wasn't him!

"Sir?" She asked again, "Did you need something?"

"Yes!" He gasped rather suddenly. He needed to clear his head, "Um…rum and coke! No ice!"

She nodded, keeping her head down and her eyes on the ground just as years of training had taught her. But he didn't want that! He wanted to gaze into those eyes for the rest of the night and never look back, he wanted to see her talk and laugh with every bit of her heart! Holy shit, he was pretty far gone, wasn't he!

A shot glass slid into his hand and she walked to the opposite side of the bar, hips swaying ever so slightly beneath the tight-fitting, black waitress' pants she wore. He took one look at the glass before downing its contents with a single gulp, hoping to ask for another just to have her attention for a few more minutes. Unfortunately, her hands are still full with the other morons surrounding the bar. The Friday crowd was really testing the lone bartender to her limits, there was just no way he could even hope to occupy her time. Damn, just how was he going to even go about seducing her if she was so…

A bottle of Jack Daniel's, already perched precariously on a lower shelf, brushed against her tail as she turned. He saw it, made a move to grab for it, but it was too late. It smashed into the ground with a loud crash that drew the attention of everyone at the bar. Whiskey immediately spread out over the tiled floor as a look of hopeless fear filled those gorgeous golden eyes. She stooped over to start gathering up a few shards, just in time for a second bottle from the crowd to bounce off the back of her skull. She collapsed into the puddle while some drunk-off-his-ass frat boy vaulted the bar and screamed at her barely conscious body: "Stupid bitch! I wanted that!"

"Yeah, teach the klutz!" Someone in the crowd jeered as frat boy's foot connected with her ribcage. Another bottle narrowly missed her head as she howled in pain, and the crowd suddenly surged forward in search of some blood to cool off some of the steam it had built up.

The blue-haired man didn't know how, but all of a sudden the gun on his leg holster was firing up into the air while he shouted: "Stop! In the name of the Templar!"

The whole bar fell silent almost immediately. The only sound came from the speakers mounted near the dance floor, and even that ended as the DJ lifted the needle off his record.

The gun leveled itself on frat boy, "Get back, now!" He bellowed.

"Hey man, I'm just doin' your job for ya," frat boy chuckled, obviously way too drunk to offer the Templar with a pistol even the semblance of respect. "You're the one who's supposed t'be keepin' the li'l furfags in check."

For some reason, he really wanted to kill frat boy right then and there. It'd be easy: Pow, pow, right in the chest, just like he'd been trained. But he'd also been trained to suppress any animalistic urges. He may have been corrupt, but he was still a professional, after all.
"Help her up!" He screamed at frat boy, "Now!"

Frat boy's nose scrunched up in disgust, "You seriously want me to touch…"

He was interrupted by a single gunshot, and a split-second later frat boy's knee cap had been replaced with a mass of splintered bone and assorted gore. And just like that, frat boy's on the ground, swearing his head off. The whole crowd fell completely silent, any attempts to laugh this off as just another drunk off-duty cop waving his pistol around completely vanished.

"You!" He screamed, switching targets to another face in the crowd. The new hostage's eyes widened while his hands rose.

"Hey man," the new target whined, "I didn't do nothin'!"

"Help her up! NOW!" That finally did it. The wide-eyed man vaulted the bar and helped the Kiedran up. Finally, the blue-haired man could see what a dire state she was in: her whole face a bloody, furry mess, her blood staining the front of her apron and soaking into her uniform.

"Now take 'er up front!" He bellowed, waving the pistol from side-to-side at the crowd, "Nobody follows, understand!"

The crowd obeyed perfectly, clearing a path for the wide-eyed man as he carried the unconscious Kiedran. The blue-haired man soon joined them, thrusting his pistol into the face of anyone who so much as looked at him funny. Fortunately, everyone learned their lesson from frat boy, still bleeding all over the tile behind the bar, and the trio made it outside to the blue-haired man's cruiser without so much as an intimidating stare.

After some short and simple instruction, the kid helped the Kiedran into the passenger seat and even buckled her seatbelt while the blue-haired man hopped into the driver's seat, not once allowing the gun's sights to slip off the kid. Soon he was driving away, nothing but another set of taillights in the darkness of the South Arigan bush.