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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Swept Under the Rogue

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Click here for Rogue Possession.

“Ummm...hi.”
“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 the...it’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 together...now, 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.”
“Fine.”
“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.

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