Saturday, December 31, 2016

Swept Under the Rogue

Click here for Clean Sweep.
Click here for Rogue Possession.

“Yeah, hi.”
“My name is Gilbert Boyce.”
“Zeferino Preston. But they call me The Cleanser.”
“They either call me The Apprentice, or Oh My God, Get Away From Me.”
“Stirring fear in others seems to be something that we have in common.”
“The difference is that I do not enjoy it.”
“Maybe you don’t, but that body you’re in sure does.”
“I’m working on that.”
“I have a few ideas.”
“I’m not sure I can trust you. I mean, we’re standing on a frozen lake, for God’s sake.”
“First of all, never rhyme around me. Secondly, frozen lakes are exciting. And C, can anyone trust anyone?”
“I trust...”
“Who? Mateo Matic? Leona Delaney?”
“You stay away from them.”
“Why, ‘cause they’re your friends? You’ve still not learned. How many years are behind you in your personal timeline? You should know by now that guys like us don’t have friends.” Zeferino drew near and spoke softly. “Those two don’t care about you. I saw what happened on that prison tower. You were a patsy. They only let you come along on the jailbreak because they felt bad about it afterwards. Aren’t you angry with him for what he did to you in the Shimmer?”
“I can get over it.” Gilbert drew even nearer, and spoke even more menacingly. “That’s why they’re my friends, and why you have none. They done me wrong, but I can learn to love them again. They felt bad about the prison thing, and had we seen each other again, I’m confident that he would express regret for what he did to me on Worlon. Have you even once felt bad about something you did?”
“Once,” Zeferino answered honestly. “When I killed Horace Reaver, a few spawn ended up as collateral damage.”
“A few what?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s just that they were innocent, and not a threat to me. I’ve not killed anyone since who didn’t deserve.”
“According to whose calculations?”
“To mine. I have been granted the latitude to make these decisions. I’ve even been asked to do it. You see, we have these contracts...”
“Are you trying to tell me that you have a license to kill?”
“You could put it like that, but I understand that I’m not James Bond in this movie.”
“You’re the villain, yes, I would agree with that assessment.”
“Not sure how interesting a character he would be if he didn’t have any opposition.”
“Are you saying you’re only bad because you believe in some sort of Lucasian cosmic battle between good and evil that can’t end or they wouldn’t be able to keep making movies?”
“It can’t end because that would cause either a boring utopia, or endless, actionless nothingness.”
“I would love to get inside that head of yours to understand how your ego got so goddamn big. You are not the epitome of evil. You’re just part of it.”
“By that logic, Mateo wouldn’t be wholly good.”
“Why are we talking about him? This is a fight between you and me, which is why it has nothing to do with good or evil.”
“We’re talking about him because he’s a tweener.”
“A what?”
“He is supposed to be a salmon, but he’s more influential to our world than any chooser I’ve ever known, or will know. We’re talking about him because he’s a project of mine. If I’m going to do what I need to do, I need him either on my side, or warming the bench.”
“Please, no sports metaphors.”
“Don’t change the subject. This is important. I’m trying to accomplish something here. I’m trying to fix the world.”
“Well, that’s funny...because that’s kinda what I’m trying to do.”
“Riiiight? So you get it?”
“No, I don’t get why you have to kill Mateo.”
Zeferino shook his head. “I don’t have to kill him. In fact, I’m contractually obligated to keep him alive. He’ll cause problems for my work, though. Man, when he gets to the late 23rd century? After he takes on’s epic. People start really paying attention after he does all that. I can’t have that. Or at least I need to be in control of it.”
“How are you gonna do that? Torture him? Now that he’s still a young salmon, you think he’ll be more malleable.”
“Nothing so distasteful, I assure you. But yes, he needs to be conditioned. I was under the impression that you would know how to do that.”
“Why would I know anything about brainwashing people?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it brainwashing, but I don’t think I have to remind you of the time you were the leader of the free world.”
“I spent four years losing everybody’s trust. The real Donald Trump is the one who got all those votes.”
“Still, I think you would have value to me.”
“Well, I have my own agenda, and it doesn’t include you at all. It’s slower, more painful, but it’s also thoughtful and intricate.”
“You want to start at the beginning, yeah I get it.”
“I’m not sure you do. That’s a simplistic perspective of it.” Gilbert thought for a second. “Did you ever get the chance to see Maxxing Out, or its first sequel?”
“I did. How is that relevant?”
“He was trying to create the perfect reality. But he couldn’t do it with all these people getting in the way.”
“So he tried to kill them, yeah. Real noble of you.”
“Don’t focus on the fact that everyone else in the galaxy would die. Remember that he protected all the children.”
“So that he could be a creepy father figure. Gross.”
“Well, I’m not gonna do exactly what he did...but there are a lot of people who just gotta go.”
“You sound like Hitler.”
“I knew you were gonna bring him up. What I wouldn’t give to shoot that man in the head.”
“What would you give?”
“Don’t change the subject,” Gilbert echoed. “What do you want from me? What’s supposed to happen here? I met this weird apparent human in the early 21st century who told me you were there at the same time, but that we weren’t going to meet until later.”
“Oh you were there at Analion’s fall too? Me, you, Kallias Bran. What a weird convergence.”
“Do you know why we’re here, or not?”
“I assumed you were here to help me,” Zeferino said plainly.
“I thought you were gonna help me.”
“Maybe we could help each other.”
“In what capacity?”
“Let’s sign a contract. You help me manipulate Mateo, while I promise not to hurt him, or anyone he cares about.”
“What do I get out of it? I don’t want you to manipulate him.”
“I’ll let you do the one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but never got your chance.”
“What’s that?” Gilbert asked, unconvinced that Zeferino had any clue what he was talking about.
“I’ll give you the opportunity to kill Horace Reaver.”
“He’s already dead.”
“I know, I killed him.”
“And I’m a time traveler, I could always just go back and kill him before you did.”
You could, but then you would lose your power.”
“How do you figure?”
“Horace Reaver is the reason you can do what you do. If you destroy him, it will destroy you. It might even kill you too.”
“Like a vampire?”
“No, not like a vampire. Christ, are movies the only thing you think about? It’s just this weird thing, I can’t quite explain it. But I promise that, if you kill him, you’ll only be killing yourself. He doesn’t have to be alive for you to be what you are, but you cannot be the one who takes him out of the equation.”
“If that’s true—and I’m not saying that I believe you—then how could you help me with that?”
“I have an extraction mirror. It can take people out of the timestream at the moment of their death. That’s your loophole. If you don’t kill him in the timestream itself, then you’re free from the consequences.”
“That sounds made up.”
“I can show you the mirror. I’m not lying.”
“You could be lying about the loophole, or the idea that I would need one in the first place.”
“I could.” Zeferino paused for effect. “But do you really wanna risk that?”
Gilbert thought over it, and even though he knew the Cleanser was a gifted manipulator, he really couldn’t risk the whole thing being true. “An extraction mirror, huh? You mean like—?”
“So help me God, if you say a word about Doctor Who, I’ll just kill you right now. Like, I don’t even care.”
“So you’ll help me?”
“I will help.”
Zeferino smiled.
“But I will do it in my own way. I need full creative control. You have to trust the process, are we clear?”
“As mud,” Zeferino said.
“I will also need some protection. If you go back on your word, if you break our contract, then you will have to lose something.”
Zeferino laughed. “What could you possibly take from me?”
“One of your sisters.”
Zeferino stiffened up, but knew that he had to remain calm if he was going to get what he wanted. “You couldn’t. I would protect them from you.”
“That may be, but it needs to be in the contract just the same, along with a clause that says you can’t employ help from your family while I’m working for you either. They would make things unfair.”
“Very well. I accept your terms. We shall work out the details, but now, let us drink. I believe this to be your poison of choice?” He apported a bottle of bourbon, as well as two glasses, into his hands.
“If we’re gonna do this,” Gilbert said, “then let’s do it right. I hear the best place to drink is on Luna about 14,000 years from now when Durus collides with Earth.”
“Gilbert, Gilbert, Gilbert. You’re a weird one, aren’t ya? All right, fine by me.”
And so The Cleanser and the soon-to-be-named Rogue, traveled to the future and watched the planet be destroyed by a different kind of rogue. Later, they reluctantly began executing their truly insane plan. Their relationship was never bound to work out, though. Things went horribly wrong seemingly ever other week, and once around Christmas. In the end, Gilbert won out. Even after working against him so long, he managed to get himself back in the good graces of Mateo Matic. Zeferino was no match for the two of them working together. They gathered several other allies along the way, and ultimately bested him in a fight to the death. True to his word, for an earlier breach of contract, Gilbert acted on his promise to kill one of Zeferino’s sisters. He asked for help from a man named The Warrior so that no one would know of his involvement. Unfortunately, she was not the one they should have been worried about. Former Conservator—and current Extractor—Arcadia Preston, would go on to cause for them a great deal more problems. And the only one who could put an end to it was the Cleanser himself. They would need the extraction mirror.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Microstory 485: Basement (Part 2)

Gilbert Boyce: Hello—ouch! What’s this dolly doing in the hallway? Is anyone down here?
Custodian: I am.
Gilbert Boyce: Ah, you must be The Cleaner.
Custodian: I am not.
Gilbert Boyce: You’re holding a mop.
Custodian: Why would the Cleaner be carrying an actual mop? He doesn’t literally clean things.
Gilbert Boyce: I thought it was kind of a joke.
Custodian: No, I’m just the custodian for this actual custodian.
Gilbert Boyce: If you’re just the custodian, then how do you know anything about the Cleaner?
Custodian: Just because I’m not him doesn’t mean I’m not knowledgeable. I am aware of your world of time manipulators. I’ve even learned a few things myself. I’ve been using these secrets to try to fix the company’s problems...but too many people have made too many mistakes. Everyone is to blame here, and you two are just making it worse. All your energy in one place is destabilizing the structure.
Gilbert Boyce: I didn’t mean to come here. I was drawn to this building and to the Cleaner, at this very moment. Has something happened here?
Custodian: Many things have happened. Analion Tower is a system that holds within it the majority of an organization’s system. Or rather it did. Neither one is holding up well.
Gilbert Boyce: I don’t understand.
Custodian: That’s okay, I don’t really either. What I do know is that a handful of people here have uncovered the truth about this building. It follows a parallel set of physical laws. Some have exploited this, while others, like me, are just trying to understand it. The Cleaner showed up a few days ago, and has been sneaking around ever since. If you’re here for him, then I get the feeling he’s on the thirty-ninth floor.
Gilbert Boyce: Okay, thanks.
Custodian: But I would not recommend you go up there right now.
Gilbert Boyce: Why not?
Custodian: It is not yet time. You’re not destined to meet him until he transforms.
Gilbert Boyce: Transforms into what?
Custodian: Something different. That’s all I can tell you. That, and the fact that you’re not supposed to look for him, nor he for you. You’re supposed to run into each other organically.
Gilbert Boyce: When is this going to happen?
Custodian: You’re time travelers. The question of when an event occurs is impossible to answer.
Gilbert Boyce: So, I should just move on?
Custodian: You should just move on. If I were you, I wouldn’t be so anxious about meeting him anyway. He’s dangerous, and you’re dangerous. Together...the world is in grave danger.
Gilbert Boyce: That sounds ominous.
Custodian: It sounds as it is. Now, I would like you both to leave. The system is collapsing just fine on its own. It doesn’t need you two here making it happen faster.
Gilbert Boyce: Wait. What is that? What does that butto—

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Microstory 484: Floor 1 (Part 2)

Lobby Guard: What are you doing here?
Firefighter: We were sent here. Did someone call 911?
Lobby Guard: I did, but I just requested the coroner. The subjects died on impact, you are not needed.
Firefighter: With respect, sir, you are not qualified to pronounce someone dead. Now let me through so I can do my job.

Lobby Guard: We are on lockdown, I’m not letting anyone through.

Firefighter: The fire department belongs to emergency services, we need to get by. I don’t know what your building’s policy is regarding lockdown, but I assure you that we are allowed to break it. Now..move!

Lobby Guard: Your emergency services are not needed. Nobody is hurt, just a few people are dead.
Firefighter: Reidemeister, inform the chief that we are being rejected at the door. Then get an ETA on the nearest police cruiser.
Kallias Bran: My ears were burning.
Firefighter: This doesn’t concern you, Bran. You’re not a cop anymore. And didn’t you used to be older?
Kallias Bran: I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.
Firefighter: He’s locked the door. We can’t get in, and do not have clearance to break in. That doesn’t mean there’s anything to investigate here.
Kallias Bran: You don’t need clearance. I know this building. It’s special.
Firefighter: What the hell is that thing?
Kallias Bran: It’s the Escher Knob. It’ll get us in.
Firefighter: This isn’t one of your crazy theories, Bran. This building is actually real.
Kallias Bran: Yes...and no.
Firefighter: Oh my God, how the hell did we end up inside?
Kallias Bran: I brought the lobby to us. Go on and get to work so they can lift the lockdown and get these people back home safe. And you...
Lobby Guard: H—how’d you do that? You were there...and now you’re here.
Kallias Bran: Speaking of which, I need you to take me to Freight Elevator 2. I have some business on the thirteenth floor.
Lobby Guard: There is no Freight Elevator 2. There has only ever been one.
Kallias Bran: Never mind, I can see The Superintendent on the second floor. He’ll know where it is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Microstory 483: Floor 2 (Part 2)

I’m going meta again. For Floor 2? Meta!? Say whaaa—? Let me explain. The thing is that nothing happens on the second floor after Alpha’s death. Why is that? Well, the lobby is actually two stories high. An atrium runs from the bottom, almost all the way to the top, which allows people on the higher floors to conceivably see what’s going on below, but there are still rooms. Everybody works on the outer side of the building, and the atrium is really just to have a nice view, like a courtyard, but without a sky. I’ve talked more about architecture on this site than you ever thought I would, eh? Anyway, like I said, the second floor is different. It doesn’t have rooms on the outer side. It just overlooks the lobby, but doesn’t otherwise serve any real purpose. That’s why there can’t actually be any action here. In the first part, someone happened to be standing there, but once the building went into lockdown, everybody was removed from the first two floors, and ordered to remain away from the view of the atrium. So that explains why I keep bringing up the lockdown without actually depicting the announcement of it. Sorry if that was confusing. Here are a few other things you need to know. I titled each installment in the first half as “Part 1” which sort of locked me into this motif, but now I’m regretting it, because Part 2 wasn’t always a logical continuation of the greater story being told. I came up with the idea of witnessing the events of every floor in a building as a man falls from the roof a long time ago, and did not mean for it to have anything to do with time travel, let alone insert it into the salmonverse. It carries with it a connection to the Serkan Demir series, which was another story originally intended to stand alone. I’ve talked very little about where the hell the thirteenth floor is, and what it does. Obviously, I don’t have space for it here, but I do have plans to explain it in greater detail. But for that, you’ll have to buy (for free) my book. I intend to release it sometime in 2017; I don’t have that in front of me right now. No, I can’t just look it up; I’m on a deadline! I don’t even think I’ll have time to read this agoain and revvise it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Microstory 482: Floor 3 (Part 2)

Food Service Worker 1: Food Service Worker 2, what the hell are you doing?
Food Service Worker 2: I’m doing what I always do for breakfast.
Food Service Worker 1: We can’t serve breakfast. We’re on lockdown. Didn’t you hear the announcement?
Food Service Worker 2: Of course, but that won’t last forever, and when they lift the lockdown, people will be hungry.
Food Service Worker 1: At least three people died. They’re not lifting it anytime soon. And when they do, they’re gonna send everybody home. Stop getting food out, you’ll just spoil it.
Food Service Worker 2: You don’t know they’ll send us home. We have to be prepared.
Food Service Worker 1: Part of the charm of all this tragedy is not having any responsibilities. Don’t create work for yourself, or for me.
Food Service Worker 2: That might be the absolute worst thing you’ve ever said. I’ll check the list.
Food Service Worker 1: Very funny.
Food Service Worker 2: No, really. There’s a list.
Food Service Worker 1: What are you talking about? Of all the things I’ve said that you don’t agree with?
Food Service Worker 2: No.
Food Service Worker 1: Oh, okay.
Food Service Worker 2: Of all the things you’ve said that no one in the world agrees with...except maybe white supremacists and Donald Trump.
Food Service Worker 1: Oh, don’t compare me to a man like that. Talk about saying terrible things. I can’t believe you’ve kept track of everything you hate about me. What would Food Services Manager have to say about this? Maybe I should go have a little chat with her right now.
Food Service Worker 2: Who do you think started the list?
Food Service Worker 1: Why are you telling me this?
Food Service Worker 2: I didn’t think you mind. You hate everybody anyway.
Food Service Worker 1: Well, why are you telling me just now?
Food Service Worker 2: It has just now come up.
Food Service Worker 1: I don’t hate everybody.
Food Service Worker 2: Yeah, you kinda do, and I don’t think you want to get into this.
Food Service Worker 1: Now I definitely wanna get into it.
Food Service Worker 2: All right, fine. All you talk about is how you used to work in this magical restaurant in New York City, and now you’re slummin’ it with the garbage people in a corporate cafeteria. I’ve got a little secret for ya, Food Service Worker 1; everybody likes tater tots. Not a human on this planet doesn’t like deep-fried grated potatoes. Not even your precious New York one-percent.
Food Service Worker 1: What about fruitarians?
Food Service Worker 2: And you’re contradictory. Do you think I really meant literally no one on the planet? Christ, you’re impossible.
Food Service Worker 1: I don’t have time for all this hyperbole. I’m goin’ out for a smoke; that is, unless you need me to do anything, like serve more potato grease cylinders.
Food Service Worker 2: No, but I think our soft drink contractor is bringing his puppy today. Maybe you’d like to give it a good kick? [...] Enjoy your kiss with cancer!