Actually, I think the water/rock thing would have been easier.
But in any case.... I did manage to find him.
The one we all know as "Konaa".
Of course, that left me with the problem of APPROACHING said Runner in a way that put us off on a good foot. Not exactly an easy thing to do when you've basically become someone's personal stalker ("I know what you did last summer"?). I tailed him for a bit down the street (who suspects a one-eyed hobo with a dog to have any kind of malice intent?) before he turned into a small Cafe. I don't know if he ducked in there and ordered a coffee BECAUSE he thought he was being followed, or if that's where he had meant to go all the way, or both.... but, if I had to guess, I'd say he knew. This life of ours tends to turn Paranoia into a kickass survival instinct.
I left Max outside (I never did tell you guys how I got Max, did I? Weird how none of you even asked. Oh well, I'll get back to it.) and went inside. Konaa was at a booth on the far side - no way I could just casually walk by and strike up a conversation. To get to his table, I'd need to MEAN to go over that way... and then our stares matched for a split second, and I knew it was either dive in or walk out. So I went direct. Walked straight over. I had honestly been meaning to at least say "hello" to start or something else that might be conceived as more "friendly" in nature... but what I kinda found myself saying was:
"You are one hard son of a bitch to track down, kid."
The way he looked at me - giving me this small little grin as I walked up - I knew he was already taking me a bit on the bumpy side of sane. Probably noticed my glock, not that I do much to try to hide it. Or maybe it was my age. I mean, hell, Konaa is what? 25? 23? Not even? I guess that's considered 'old' for this particular game of 'asshole' but holy CRAP; how does someone that young have eyes that old? Nevertheless, he seemed to like the fact I was being direct about the whole stalking thing. Which probably means he DID know I was following him. Go me. The Academy would be SO proud.
He invited me to take a seat. Asked if I wanted anything, and my stomach kinda answered for me. So I got a burger with fries. Couldn't really remember the last time I ate something that didn't come straight out of a package of some sort, so I'd have killed for a burger. Which... I actually think I said. Which probably was a poor choice of words. Especially since I wasn't sure if it was even past noon or not cause my watch had broken when I'd broken the nose of some twat who thought I looked like a nice punching bag. "Don't start something if you aren't comfortable with roles getting reversed." That's what I say about THAT. But anyway, he didn't seem offended or concerned by it. Even took my hand when I offered it, introducing myself. Trying my best to clarify the fact that I wasn't there to start anything, even though I was sure that he'd heard that kinda bullshit before. I started telling him a little about myself. Vague things at first, which he'd respond in vague with his own life. Then getting into more detail. Telling him about how shit started with me. About Sam. About the Asylum and all my JOYOUS adventures since I ran from THERE... and about... theories that I've had. Since I've seen the shit I've seen. Since I got out of Eden. Since I really started putting shit together and ORGANIZING the puzzle pieces to start seeing a bit more of the hidden message behind it...
"...See, that's the problem isn't it?
He, and others like Him, are the center of it all. They are the 'Gods'. Fear itself. And you can't... eliminate fear from the world. They exist down to our core as a species. Fear of the dark. Fear of strangers. Fear of disease. Fear of a puppeteer's strings... They Exist because We Exist. They get Their strengths, and maybe even Their weakness, from us. A couple years ago, things were bad. Very bad. The Fears were everywhere, and only getting more and more active. Some people called it all part of some big cycle or some shit, but it had NEVER been that bad. Not in any of the records I hacked into. And then... it was like we dropped off a cliff. Fear sightings have become an uncommon, even a RARE occurrence.
I'm not an expert in any of this crap, but, to me, it stinks. Creatures like that don't just suddenly VANISH for no rhyme or reason. I mean, sure, there were people like you fighting back for a while. But even that has kinda stopped with less and less people actually giving a damn about... well, giving a damn about each other. About keeping 'humanity', as Sam used to call it. These days, the Runners are just as bad as the damn Servants, and the Fears... are nowhere to be damn seen. I don't REMEMBER the last person who said they'd seen The Slender Man. He's just... gone. And, in His place, we have that Cult Town that Nightscream created when it got Slender to fight Plague. We have the self-proclaimed "Angels" or Attendants or whatever the hell they call themselves. We have our second Redlight in the works, and at LEAST one other Crafter running around, possibly two. We have that Harbinger thing that came from The Quiet, and is currently being held off in Eden. We have people claiming superpowers and special abilities and special 'understandings'... though not as bad as the Revenants, they're still THERE. And if you think of each of these little... 'special folk' as a needle. And the Veil that divides our worlds as a bag of water... what you get is leaking. Dimensional Bleeding. And a hell of a lot of it. It's gotten so bad, that we don't even NOTICE it. Doorways that we don't remember being there are suddenly THERE. Or the complete opposite. Even that damn Cult Town is SPREADING out into the surrounding area. You should SEE some of the mindfuckery that's beginning in neighboring towns. But you don't have to go there. Just look around. Anywhere. If you actually WATCH the world moving around... there are glitches. It's all around us, but we don't see it because no one is LOOKING for it. They're too busy looking for the Monsters who have already goddamn VACATED. Because THEY sense what's going on. THEY can feel the firestorm coming when that bag breaks and THEIR worlds slam into and crash into ours. THEY are backing off... because They don't want to burn with our world.
You want to know why I tracked you down, Konaa? Because there's next to no one who gives a shit anymore.
And, if this keeps up, there isn't a single damn one of us who's going to get out of it.
....So. Wishing you hadn't asked me to sit down, yet?"
Konaa said nothing for a long while and that's when the waitress came with my plate, though I didn't touch it at first. I hadn't discussed my theory with anyone else other than Fracture, but he agreed that it made sense. Agreed to help. Hell, I don't even honestly think that Fracture is FROM my version of reality. Some events in our histories don't seem to line up, and he's mentioned a couple of people being alive who I'm pretty damn sure are as dead as a damn doornail over here. Like Mitch, for instance. Morningstar's old Canadian playmate turned whatever-the-hell. On Fracture's side, she's not only alive, but actually is one of those hell-bent Runners who never seem to die, no matter how hard of a shit kicking they take. Never even hinted at turning Proxy, either. So, yeah. I think Fracture's a little bit out of his jurisdiction. But ain't that just MORE proof of how screwed to hell this all is? The only real reason Fracture is on board at all is because we're his experiment. He has worries that HIS side of things are headed in the same direction that WE are at, and he wants to have a sandbox to see what can be done to stop it, or even just delay.
Fracture and I have spent a LOT of time just talking shit over. Apparently, good ol' Robert turned proxy before kicking the bucket on his side. As a Highest of all things, under the codename "Loveless". Fracture and "Duckie" (as Fracture calls him) did him in. There was all kinds of crap like that right across the map...
At last though, Konaa nodded. Making a comment about how he was never one to wait for something to go wrong.
"So how do we stop idiots from running with scissors?"
So... I told him the rest of my theory. I told him about how I'd always planned on killing Redlight. And why. But then... I went into how I was now thinking that the Red Bastard could actually serve a purpose. After all, if the issue is that the Veil is getting too damaged, too thin... then, really, a good place to start... should be to give it an energy boost. And if there is one thing a Crafter hosts, it's energy. Energy to manipulate reality itself. To create loops and alter perceptions.
Then... I'd do something that Morningstar himself insisted on TEACHING ME how do to.
I'd convince him to cooperate.
But, first, I needed to get him there. I needed something to subdue him. To pin Redlight down and stop him from playing any of his usual tricks... even if it was a long shot, a weapon of faith... I was ready to have a bit of faith in that kinda crap...
He gave a slow nod. Seeming more... invested... with what was coming to be our little alliance. "I knew Redlight, when he was Spencer... He and I worked together many times, tried to build a safe community for those like us, until... It was too much for him, and he snapped under the pressure." He sighed heavily. "Maybe it's time to settle that score.." He indicated a large duffel bag by the table, then paused a bit, seeming to debate something in his mind. "...There's something in there that might just do the trick. It's not a special weapon, really. But if you want belief empowered, there's little better tool than what I have."
"We got little else other than faith, to be honest. And I'm not the believing sort..." I scoffed a laugh. "Well. I wasn't." My eye drifted to that bag. "...Timothy Holiday, or 'Zero' if you'd like... he fought that Bleeding Tree with it, if I remember right. At least, that's if Zero was actually coherent enough to differ reality from dream at that point. And the first redlight... he was killed by that tree. It's a long shot, but it just might work. I know you don't have a single damn reason to trust me, but there's no sense in BOTH of us risking our damn necks. If I could just... borrow it. For a bit. If I actually survive, I swear on the graves of my family that I'll bring it back."
I thought for sure that Konaa was going to shoot me down. Or laugh. Or both. I mean, it's no secret that the guy protects that piece of his like the Holy Grail and it's not like he knew me from Adam, you know? But, by the time I'd finished, Konaa... no... June Reynolds was just beaming. Grinning from ear to ear. A strange kind of relieved expression settled over him. And then he reached over, unzipped the bag, and pulled out a cardboard package about a foot wide and five feet long. Offering it to me freely across the table.
"Your story, pal. I'd be glad to give you the means to continue it. But...yes, I would like it back. It's got considerable sentimental value. Just...There's no point in not letting it do what it's meant to. Save the day."
"...Heh. You're alright, kid."
"I've been called worse. Honestly, I'm tired. Burnt out. I dealt with my own personal demon... Rhodes is dead. How, well, I think I'd rather not go into it. But he was as bad as they get. Worse than Morningstar, worse than Nightscream - he never needed corruption, he was already that bad. Now that he's gone, I feel like I've...done my part.
So. Go do yours.
Just remember that a lot of people died so that we could make it this far.."
"...You think you'll try to settle? Your eyes are older, but you're still a young thing. You shouldn't waste your years without a home. Or people to share a home with. It's rare thing to find. Even rarer to keep. But it's worth the pain. Least, it was for me."
"...I've got a girl." He beamed a little. "One that was waiting patiently for my stupid ass... One I think I can finally get back to now."
"...Heh. The ones that wait are usually the ones that make it all worth it. Trust me on that."
"She was in this too, but... well. She retired some time ago. Good on her. Now that things are settled, I think I'm going to...go to school again. God, what a weird thought." He rubbed a hand through his hair, chuckling. "Go to school. What am I gonna do without random monster attacks?"
"You'll just have to make do without the Nightmare." A bit of a laugh. "School. Career. Family. Sounds like you're goin' for the royal flush. Good for you, June. Just like you said: A lot of people have died so we could make it this far. No sense just 'surviving right? You gotta live. And live for those who didn't make it. If that means taking risks... then all you can do is roll the dice.
I'll handle Redlight.
You go get your girl."