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The three of them spent a few hours searching for civilization in the woods. In that time, Mateo described to them the appearance of The Rogue, and they discussed preparations for his return. Well, they tried to discuss it, but there weren’t any real solutions. He was too powerful for them. They probably got lucky when the powers that be decided that they had had enough of Horace Reaver. Without a little help from someone like that, they were effectively powerless, especially against another power. What could they do? They had some kind of town in their sights when the scene changed and they were teleported back to Topeka. The Rogue left them alone for the rest of the day, and so they made an effort to discuss anything but.
The Rogue abruptly woke Mateo and Leona up the next year, “you guys ready to let the dogs out?” Cute reference.
“How long have you been there?” Mateo asked.
“Does that matter?”
“I’m trying to get a sense of how often you’re spying on us. And if you’re the type of creep to watch people sleep.”
“Did you mean to rhyme?”
They didn’t respond.
“I’m watching you every second of every day.”
“Nice to know,” Leona said.
“One of you is going to die today.”
Mateo reached back, hoping to get a chance to punch the Rogue in the face so that he could continue his strategy of being unpredictable.
Mateo’s fist was met with extremely powerful winds. He struggled against it for a few moments before surrendering and falling to his ass. The back of his head slammed against the pavement, causing a ringing pain down his whole back. He felt Leona’s body land on top of his, trying to protect him from the debris and piercing rains. “It’s a cyclone!” she screamed.
Mateo looked up from his position where he could see Prince Darko calling out to them from several meters away. “Come inside!” is what they thought he said before he disappeared through a doorway.
“No!” Leona cried out. He had gone into a building on the edge. Literally. It was about to fall into the sea. He must not have noticed that. Leona helped Mateo up and together they struggled to reach the building so they could get him out.
It was a tad bit quieter in the building. Rafters and furniture had been smashed and cracked. Water was flooding in from the street. Prince Darko was reaching out to them from the floorboards, unable to pull himself to safety. As they ran towards him, the building followed, dramatically being tipped over from the heavy winds. They could see the ocean raging from beneath, calling to them with hunger. Despite its pleas to feed it, Mateo and Leona each took one of Prince Darko’s shoulders and tore him away from the danger. The house dropped down again so that it was hanging on by a thread. They had to climb out, holding onto whatever permanent structures they could find, like columns and the staircase. But they did it. They managed to crawl out from the building before it fell into the water.
“We have to move as far inland as possible!” Leona yelled. The other two agreed, so they made their journey across. They saw no one else as they were tripping and squirming, ever forward. “We’re in Venice!” Leona cried out. “It’s been all but abandoned!” Samsonite had said something about an increase in storm intensity. It made sense that Venice would feel that since it was apparently mostly water.
They tried to stick together, but sometimes the wind wasn’t interested in letting that happen. Prince Darko used his strength to push himself a little faster than the other two, and so he was gradually extending the distance between them. Mateo and Leona tried to call him back, but he could either not hear them, or was pretending not to. This was just more evidence that it was a mistake letting him into their group. But it was one they could never have avoided. He was indeed on their pattern. If he wanted to stay close to his half-brother, there was nothing they could do about it. It wasn’t like they could file a restraining order.
The Rogue appeared between them and Prince Darko with a smirk on his face. The wind wasn’t bothering him at all, so he must have been safe in some kind of other dimension. He lifted his hands like a wizard and slowly lowered them again. As he did so, the winds decreased, but so did they. He was slowing time, but allowing them to perceive it as such. They couldn’t move any faster, but they could see what was happening. He never stopped time completely; just kept it in slowmo. Mateo looked over and saw a billboard or street sign or something flying down the street, heading for Prince Darko. It was the manifestation of that common dream where you’re running as fast as you can, but getting nowhere.
When Prince Darko noticed the sign as well, he turned his head to see the other two one last time. The Rogue had been right in that one of them was going to die. But how did he know this? Was it a guess? Did he place Prince Darko in that spot? Did he manipulate the sign? The winds? Or did he do nothing more than travel to the future and report back. Who the hell was this guy, and what did he want? Prince Darko made an attempt to run towards them while Mateo and Leona tried to meet him halfway. The Rogue teleported himself over to the sign and nudged the edge of it to match. He had no intention of letting Prince Darko survive this.
The sign flew closer and closer. Prince Darko gave up running and faced his threat. He slowly moved up his hands in defense, a useless attempt to protect himself. Though things were moving in slow motion from their point of view, the wind was in reality moving at high speeds. The debris would kill him either way. The Cleanser appeared next to Mateo and said, “watch this.”
Time began to slow down even more as the sign was reaching its logical conclusion. Prince Darko was determined and prepared. He didn’t look scared, just ready for the next thing. The Rogue restarted time to its regular speed at the last second so that Mateo and Leona could see the crash in its full destructive magnificence. And then Prince Darko was gone, thrown into the abyss. “Let’s see that again,” the Cleanser said.
“No!” Mateo argued.
“Who the hell is this?” Leona asked. Oh, that’s right. He told her about the Rogue, but not the Cleanser. Whoops.
The Cleanser drew Mateo and Leona into his timeless dimension. He then mimed turning back a dial to rewind the scene to the point just before Prince Darko was struck.
“I don’t want to see this again.”
“Just watch,” the Cleanser petitioned.
The Rogue sauntered over casually to watch as well. “I wasn’t going to show them this.”
“Well, I am,” the Cleanser said. They didn’t seem all that happy to see each other, but they also didn’t seem to hate each other. Mateo could feel between them some form of sick mutual respect. He showed them the scene frame by frame until the sign met Prince Darko’s hands. At that moment, Prince Darko disappeared. He wasn’t thrown off or knocked over. He leapt out of the timestream, and he made it look like the sign itself was what powered him.
“What in the world is that?” Leona asked in anger.
“I told you he was lying,” the Cleanser said with a smile.
“All right, enough,” the Rogue commanded. “I’m going to restart time. You find your way to safety and ride out the storm, then this tribulation is over.” Oh, is that all? Click here for the next installment...