“Hello Mister Pryce, my name is Alex Knight and I’m a lawyer here to talk about representing you against BIS,” Marcus said, lying about his name and occupation, and proceeded to sit down. Keeping a facade up was not something I was able to do, I just stared at him, with both fear and confusion, which was probably projected by my facial expression.
“I can see you look confused,” he said with a smug smile. “Perhaps the ditzy airhead upstairs relayed wrong message.”
“Yes, uhm, Mister Knight, I thought a lawyer from the BIS was here to offer a settlement,” I finally stammered.
“Not quite. To be frank it’ll be a hard sell to any judge that you need to be compensated, but I’m willing to do for you, pro bono,” Marcus said as he pulled something out of his pocket. Looked like a small rectangular flat metal box, about the size of his palm.
“Then I think we’re done here,” I said and started to stand up.
“Sit down Archivist, or I’ll be visiting dear old Miss Elleby, and give her the same treatment as Amber. You remember her, right?” he growled.
Hearing my former title made me panic. All I could think was, ‘How the fuck does he know about the title? And Amber?’
“What are you talki—” I started to protest, trying to play ignorant. I was interrupted when a hologram appeared on the table. It showed my assistant from the previous timeline. Only someone had cut her multiple times, mutilating her beautiful face. The head and arms were separated from the torso. I could also see burned skin, skin that seemed to have been removed from the flesh. The sight of what had happened to my young assistant, and the thought of the pain she must had experienced, made the blood drain from my face. Everything started to spin from the lack of blood, and for a moment I thought I would pass out. I fell more than sat back on my seat. Then the thought hit me that he would do the same to the woman that raised me for ten years, and possibly any kids she was taking care of. It made me throw up.
Leaning back in his chair, the smile was back on his face as he looked at me. “Now that you’ve seen what I’m willing to do, sit down. And let us speak without any pretenses.”
“You’re sick, and the police will be here momentarily. The surveillance in the room will have picked up what’s going on here,” I weakly muttered, the bile threatening to spill forth once more. The hologram flickered out of existence.
He tsk-tsked a few times, before saying, “Come now Damian, you don’t think me that foolish? I’ve been reliving this timeline over and over again. You don’t think I’ve invested just one or two of them to learn how to circumvent the surveillance? Right now all they see is the two of us having a discussion about your case against BIS.”
“Wh—what?” I stammered. Confused I asked myself, ‘He’s implying that he’s a time traveller as well?’
“This little box alters the feeds,” he said, pointing to the metal box on the table. Looking up at me, he grinned. “Oh, you meant the reliving part. You didn’t think you were special, did you?”
“I don’t kn—”
“Stop playing the fool Damian. You’ve always been a horrible liar, and I’ve known you for two thousand and seven hundred ninety one lifetimes. Imagine my surprise when Major Daniels told me the real identity of the guild leader of Blue Lotus,” he said as he leaned forward again.
Thinking I might get some useful info about my false arrest, I asked, “Major Daniels gave you my name?”
“Ah, fishing for more information. It matters not, he’ll be on the run from the BIS soon enough, for the murder of your precious Amber. And the judge will never reveal why he signed a bogus warrant. Never understood why you never fucked that one. I mean, not once in almost three thousand lifetimes did you fuck her. And trust me, she was a good one. Almost as satisfying as a lover, as the satisfaction she gave me while I cut her up,” he said, while studying my face intently. “Matters not.”
“Why would Major Daniels and the judge do your bidding?”
“It’s amazing how much dirt you can dig up on people when you know you’ll get to live the same timeline over and over again. The judge would rather lose his job than be investigated for what I know. Daniels was quite open for a bribe, always has been. Too bad he has let me down, need to find a new lackey,” Marcus rambled on. Looking me deep in the eye, he said, “Anyway, someone is playing with the time continuum, I don’t know who. If you’re anything like the previous pawns, you know nothing of this. Am I right?”
I just stared at him, having a hard time comprehending what he was saying. He flashed a smile, and continued, “No need to say anything. I just need you to listen. Having spent thousands of years studying body language and microexpressions, I don’t need to hear your lame attempts at lying to know what the right answer is.”
Gathering all my willpower, I stood up on shaky legs and said, “Mister Knight, I’m not sure what’s going on here, you’re clearly delusional, but I’m leaving.”
“Always slow on the uptake, eh Damian?” Marcus laughed. “You’re a smart cookie when you got all the information, but I’ve known you for over twenty thousand years. Let’s just say you’ll never be a threat. Why they would choose you as champion, I can’t understand that. At least the previous champions have had some qualifications. You’re just an analyst, a damn librarian. Made me waste two perfectly good pawns.”
“Champion?” I asked, my curiosity winning over my urge to get out. If I had not been granted a second chance in life I would think he was spouting insane nonsense. Well the insane could not be disputed, not after seeing what he had done to Amber.
“Yes, every goddamn new reset, some new bugger has knowledge from his previous life. I call you champions. All of you are goodie-two-shoes, wanting to upset the status quo. I quite like the status quo. When I win the third challenge, I let Silvertech rule like they want to, and live the rest of my life in lavish luxury,” he said with a hint of petulance. Then he started laughing. “You know, I usually don’t have a chance to talk about this. Well, I do with people before I dispose of them. But with you, I know you so well. You’ll never become a real champion. You’ll peter out and become nothing. I think I’ll enjoy your fear, it’s already so sweet. Almost arousingly so.”
Gulping, I asked, “So are you going to kill me?”
“Unfortunately I can’t. Can’t even hire someone to do it, not before the Challenges are over. Of course you’ll lose like almost everyone else did, so whether I kill you or not depends on how much of a nuisance you are.”
My curiosity made me ask a very stupid question, “Why can’t you kill me?”
“Oh, I guess I could. But when I break one of the unwritten rules, I spend the entire next lifetime in pain with every breath I take. And one of the unwritten rules is that I can’t kill or maim the champion, or arrange for others to do it, not until the Challenges are over,” he said with a look of disgust. Which then turned almost savage. “Not a rule against killing your loved ones, though. And even if I don’t do it in this lifetime, I’ll just keep doing it over and over again in my next lifetimes. Even though you won’t be there to see it. You champions never return after you’ve failed. Removed from the time continuum somehow.”
“You’re sick,” I said.
“Didn’t start out that way, but once you’ve experienced all the pleasure in the world for several thousand years, it starts becoming boring. I only really derive pleasure from causing pain and misery. It’s new every time, the way someone reacts to being flayed alive is so sweet,” he said with an almost euphoric smile.
I did not say anything, but he seemed like he did not need a prompt to keep talking. “There was this champion a thousand lifetimes ago. He got involved with everyone’s favourite female game reporter. He made me so mad, so now I’m punishing her every time after a reset. Driving her to suicide.
“There’s not a lot of fun in it any longer, I got the necessary triggers down to a science now. Brainwash Aragoth into blackmailing and raping her is usually enough. Did you know she has only ever slept with one guy? Who’d have thought, right? Anyway, it’s almost so boring I feel like stopping, but you know why I don’t? Principles. I promised him I would make his loved ones pay, so I’m doing it. Well, I’ve been doing it until now. Your little stunt gave her enough time to get out of Aragoth’s noose. But don’t worry, I’ll find some other way to make her pay, and don’t interfere with it this time. For now Amber have sated my desire, and if you don’t fuck up my plans any more, this will be the only lifetime she suffers.”
“So you’re here to threaten the shit out of everyone I care about?” I asked. Finally having found a form of mental equilibrium.
“Yes. I was actually all set on actually demonstrating what I could do, until I learned who the new champion is. The powers that put both of us here, removes my knowledge of everything inside the games on every reset. But that won’t give you enough of an edge for you to win the Challenges, you’re simply no threat. Because they keep changing small details, at least the previous champions whined about that before I killed them. One of the details they change is how the new champion finds out,” he ranted.
He stopped and looked at me, “They also deletes all memories of my last lifetime, but give it back after the next reset. To sate my curiosity, tell me how did you find out? Did they go with the disgruntled council member spilling his guts? Oh that reminds me I should start replacing those fools. Or did you get all the way to the end before you found out?”
I did not answer him, but he was studying my face intensely. He broke into a grin, “So you didn’t make it to the end. That means they went with the memo play. Let me guess you received a memo you shouldn’t have received, detailing the deal between Dawnguard and Silver Tech. You got all self righteous and I killed you? Ah, your face tells me all I need to know. Did I make you suffer? No? Huh, I must have been in a hurry.”
“If you’re just going to be threatening me, I don’t see a reason to continue this,” I said and started for the door.
“Don’t be too much of a nuisance, or I’ll just live with the pain in my next lifetime, not knowing why until the next lifetime again. Think about Miss Elleby, Amber and all your little guildmates. I’ll make them suffer for every hindrance you put in my way to win the Challenges, in this lifetime and all those that follows,” Marcus called after me as I stepped into the elevator pod.
‘Holy crap. What the hell is going on? Is there more time travellers out there? What the hell am I going to do?’ was all I could think about on the way back. This changed everything. He might be lying about not knowing ingame details, but everything else he knew. There was no way he could know that without being a time traveller. All my plans and hopes for the future went out the window. I had to figure out what my new priorities would be.
‘Should I tell the others about this wrinkle?’ I thought before stepping out of the pod, and headed back to my room. It was time to make some new plans. First order of business was to find a way to secure Miss Elleby and the family of my guildmates from the madman.