Nepal-China Border.
January 1976.

The two SIS agents were escorted separately to a dining hall. The table was long, wooden, and well-used. At both ends of the table were two figures: the covered man and another hidden by shadows. Poe and Rai were cold, they had been sat in that frozen cell for hours. They were sat opposite of each other by the guards escorting them, Poe looked at Rai and nodded. "Leave us now please," the covered man said as he dismissed the guards.

"It's nice to be in the warmth at last," Poe joked. "Why are you locking us up anyway, what have we done to you?"

"You insulted me. I don't like to be insulted, I don't like to be called mad."

"Well, I'm sorry I didn't intend to insult you?" Rupert responded. "Who's the one joining us?"

"I am the master of this fortress. I am the voice, the voice that convinced our friend here. Convinced him to leave his old identity behind, convinced him to become a new man in this new world." The man in the shadows spoke in a Chinese accent, but clearly, a well travelled man who had picked up the pronunciation of certain words across the world.

"That makes you who exactly?" Charles asked.

"I am the voice of Xiangliu, the voice of Nianzu. I'd like to make you two a proposition. If you accept you'll be welcome here, if you deny this proposition you'll be punished severely."

Rupert started to laugh, he didn't have time for this. "Punished severely? You sound like a pissed-off school teacher. You leave us here in cells that could freeze us to death, then talk about punishment."

"I don't appreciate your tone Mr Poe, not one bit. I can see why you insulted my friend here, you talk too much."

"It's good to talk, that's how things get resolved."

"Shut up Poe!" the man in the shadows shouted. "Now listen, listen for a few minutes without opening your fucking mouth." The man paused and took a deep breath. "You came to this country to find a fellow agent of yours, a DAEMON. Am I correct?"

"You are."

"What if I told you your DAEMON, your Mr Bernard Ward was sitting with us right now? That he wasn't dead."

"Him?" Charles asked indicating to the covered man. The covered man looked at him and nodded, he was Bernard Ward. He was the man who was no longer there. The target of their investigation. "We thought you had been kidnapped DAEMON, we were worried."

"The DAEMON has abandoned your agency. Bernard Ward is dead in a sense, reborn would be a better way to put it. He chose Xiangliu, he chose Nianzu. These countries you represent are corrupt! They put you on the frontline to gather their secrets, all while they sit back and relax. If you die for them then you're a nobody. Your identities too concealed by their ways of secrecy, they'd inform any next of kin that you had died in an accident."

"I'd rather die for the right side than die for you," Poe said sternly.

"Join Xiangliu, join your brother here. Abandon your country, they won't save you. Work for us and we will fix all the errors of this sick world."

"I represent only the Queen and my country," Rupert Poe said refusing the shadowy figure's offer.

"I knew you'd be a tough egg to crack Mr Poe. I've heard so many words about how difficult you can be. Mr Rai, are you just as much a fool as your partner here?" All the eyes on the table suddenly turned to Charles, desperately anticipating his answer.


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