That was the line of dialogue that greeted me upon my arrival at the location Third had designated for our meeting place, the parking lot behind some old factory in the middle of nowhere. I think it was technically a loading dock area or something but... whatever, it was a big empty space to stand around in.
"You give shitty directions." I shot back, but all I got in response was a shrug. I stared at the plain clothed individual before me, somewhat disappointed that he wasn't standing around in some ridiculously elaborate garb. He just looked so 'normal'. If I hadn't already known what his face looked like, I'd have probably never guessed it was him. "You know, the way things normally go, I was kind of expecting for you to just pop out of the shadows while I was exploring this place and stab me to death. What gives?"
"Well, I've got a fairly large pocket knife on me. I can have you chase me around a few dimly lit corridors, if that's what you really want." His expression was pretty dull, like he didn't care in the least for any of this... or he was bored.
"I'll pass, thanks." I shook my head, still looking my old 'friend' over. He could have at least worn a mask or something. My romantic illusion of proxies are in tatters over here. "So what's this all about then? Now that you've dragged me all the way out here?"
Another shrug. "What? I can't just want to catch up with an old friend? Shoot the breeze for old time's sake?"
"Judging by what I've seen? No. No you can't."
He sighed, frowning at me for a moment, but any sign of irritation quickly faded. "Not going to make this easy are you? Fine. But I'm telling the truth, I just came out here to talk. I suspected that once you remembered me, you'd eventually start asking questions and trying to track me down. And honestly I've got enough people stalking me as it is, so I'd appreciate one less dog on my tail... or should I say one less Mouse in this instance?"
"Fuck your entire self."
And now he's smiling. There's an expression I fucking recognize. "Such a charmer you are... So, to business? I have places to be you know."
"Yeah? Like where? Am I making you late for your big date with the tall man?"
"Hardly." And the grin gets wider. "But I'll take that remark as a thinly veiled attempt at getting in your first real question. And the answer is 'No'. I'm not a Proxy."
"Tch, what so you're a Runner now?"
"Of all people, I expected You to paint less of a black and white picture of the world... No, I'm not a Runner either. Nor am I necessarily neutral. My allegiances are with myself, just as His were. My enemy is the same as yours, though perhaps it extends beyond that... The Construct, as you've chosen to call it, is not the only duck in the pond after all."
And now I'm just confused... and looking for Strings. "If you're actively acting against it, then how are you not a Runner?"
"Simple. He can't see me." He says as if it's the most natural and obvious thing in the world.
"It's as I explained to you back then. Purge the infection and you're off the radar. It took some time... longer than it should have, thanks to your 'friend', but I eventually found the correct dosage... My Benefactor assisted me in my goals... given they were his own goals, at the time... So it was a simple enough process. He provided what I needed and I did the work in his absence... leaving him to focus on other details of his ever branching plans."
That sounded like my cue. "So you're telling me you really are Redlight?"
I distinctly remember the pause here. It was brief, but it was one of the only times during our discussion he looked genuinely irritated. It was only there for a moment, then the smile and his little 'I'm better than you' facade slipped right back into place... but it was there.
"I was a vessel." he continued, "For a time. For Redlight. Yes. But I was no more him, than he was me. He allowed me to see though his eyes... to remember it all, as most never would... so that I could serve him in furthering his interests. Though contrary to my previous claims, I was by no means 'Special'. Though I never met others, I see no reason to assume that I was the only one he treated in this manner. He was crafty like that... always one step ahead of Their game. He had to be... to stay alive as long as he had... to gain all that he had gained. Those like myself were insurance policies. To ensure his machinations survived. To carry out his will, even in death."
"So you're his successor... is that what you're saying?"
"I suppose that's one way of putting it. Yes. Though the choices I've made and the goals I have set since we were... Disconnected... are my own, I still follow his designs. Much of my knowledge was once his after all. Though I by no means hold his full memory. Merely the bits and pieces of it which I experienced firsthand while I was riding shotgun in my own body."
"So then what are you planning now?"
"None of your business."
"Oh come on! I thought you were being straight with me?"
"I am. But I fail to see where my future plans pertain to you. I have little use for you to be honest. And the fewer people who are aware of the full extent of my plans, the better. All you need to know is that I'm ahead of The Game. And that given the chance, I can... and will... end it. That is my Purpose."
"Oh bullshit. Now you're talking like friggin 'A' over there. Why should I believe any of this garbage you're spouting?"
And just when I thought his expression couldn't get any more smug... "Look around you." He lifts his arms, waving about this way and that, directing my attention to our surroundings. "What do you see?" He gives that some time to sink in. I'm looking around, half expecting something to jump out at me, but there's just nothing out there. Place is deserted save for us. "We're completely out in the open. Where is He? Think about it... when's the last time you saw Him? For the last several weeks, you've been more vulnerable than you ever have before and yet not only has He not attempted to take you... but you haven't even seen Him. Why is that?"
I had to throw my hands up at that one. I couldn't really answer it. "Fuck, I don't know. Maybe I'm just lucky like that? Maybe he was busy dealing with all the forest fires? I'm sure those are pissing him off."
Wider and wider that grin. "Hardly... You haven't seen Him because I've been shielding you from him."
"That's... not possible."
"Really? After everything you've seen, everything you've read, you would still question the realms of possibility in this world? Very well then. Shall I prove it to you?" He holds out his hand.
And then I proceeded to lose my lunch... but more on that later. As that just reminded me that I'm hungry and that there is actually a fridge with fresh food in this place.