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What Could Have Been (and Never Should Have)

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They come for her when she’s 18.

It isn’t the first time, but it is the last. The first time she was sixty, and then thirty two, and then forty five, and then twenty, and now eighteen. The man—although there’s something slightly off about him, as if she can’t look directly at him—stops her on the street and offers her a job. The ultimate in job security, he tells her, full benefits and no need to worry about being let go if the economy takes a downturn. She takes it, of course.

It isn’t until much later, after she truly meets her new employers, after she visits Mictlan, after she begins to regret her decision and then can’t because the feeling of regret has been taking from her, that she learns why they came when she was 18. When she was 19, she would have travelled with the Evil Renegade, and the Celestis are working against that.

By taking her at 18, they altered the timelines without using a weapon, breaking a plan of Faction Paradox—ironically also working against the Evil Renegade but with a much larger time-frame—and stalling the Enemy for a moment.

A note: The Evil Renegade was, at one point, an agent for Faction Paradox, but the War has developed since then. By this point the Renegade tries to avoid all groups, and their abductees frequently turn into agents for the Celestis or the Faction.

When she is 18—again, still, always—she is given new orders, She is being sent on a mission too dangerous even for the Investigators, her Mark altered, her mind restructured just enough to fool anyone who looks. She is sent to join Faction Paradox, told to infiltrate the Faction and report back whenever possible. She thinks, in the tiny area of her psyche still left to her, that she is less a spy than a bomb, and they will detonate her when needed.

This is not so far from the truth.

The Faction recently experienced a series of defeats, and her initiation comes quickly. At the age of 18, she stands in front of her infant self, on a street where the timelines are already weak (without the Celestis, she would have been standing there with the Evil Renegade, engaged on other missions) and slides a knife through her own heart. The Faction approves.

The Cousin who tutors her goes by Jack Harkness; his shadow carries a revolver. On orders from the Celestis, she chooses grenades.

A note: Cousin Harkness continued to have interactions with the Renegade after his induction  to the Faction. It is unclear which side Harkness truly supports. (It is unclear which side anyone supports.)

The War continues, has continued, will always continue. Rose is sent on missions by the Faction and reports to the Celestis and has encounters with every other power in the War. Her mask has tooth marks down one side, a relic of her first mission.

She runs with Jack for a while, and they mesh well. He has memories of meeting the Evil Renegade, but his strongest are of her convincing him to join the Faction. Her reciprocation completed the loop and solved a paradox while creating a more subtle one, for which they both received commendations.

A note: Promotions in Faction Paradox are strange and almost at random. This is because one must be promoted by one’s future self, which can be difficult to arrange without dying in the process.

Later, earlier, never, she meets River Song, a Remote whose media influence has sent her to kill the Renegade. It is a hopeless mission for her, and Rose laughs, mask laughing with her, for the Renegade will never die, and even the Faction’s attempts make little difference. (She laughs because of this and because powerful beautiful River is still nothing to Cousin Tyler and because she is Faction Paradox and humour is woven into her biodata.)

When she meets Amy Pond, River makes more sense. Amy is a future Remote, one of the twisted first generation, so impacted by media Rose finds it hard to see where human ends and Remote begins, which is perhaps the point. Amy’s concepts formed River through the later Remote’s interactions with the earlier, and Amy has run into the Evil Renegade too many times to be much use even as a Remote. The Renegade left her with a burning desire for home, a fatal flaw in any species in this War, and she struggles on only through her close-enough appearance to a Cousin.

A note: The Remote are not allied to Faction Paradox, but the Remote find it useful to pretend that they are, and the Faction finds it useful to not try too hard to wipe them out. This results in a similar appearance to alliance.

Rose’s first-last encounter with one connected to the Renegade is the Claras. After the Cwejen, the House Military was eager to replicate its success, perhaps with a more subtle army (from which goal it can be seen that the House Military never had a very good grasp on subtle). Preceding years of failures, the House found Clara Oswald, a human who had travelled with the Evil Renegade. Whether it was her and Cwej’s shared pasts that allowed them to be duplicated or something else, the procedure was a success, and the only apparent difference between Claras was their surnames. Clara and Rose give each other the same flinty edged smile and move on. They aren’t each other’s targets, after all, and for all that Faction Paradox loves chaos, there is more served by letting the Claras run loose than by trying to control them.

She meets the Evil Renegade many times, always with a jolt of what-could-have-been. They stare at her, brown eyes concerned, perhaps looking at her potential timelines, perhaps looking at her, and she smiles in response, crossing her arms with a rattle of bones. Once she even enters the Renegade’s timeship, while on a hunt for a once-dead Cousin. The Cousin isn’t there, but she sees the future Renegade standing at the controls, hair flopping into their eyes, and she gets a thrill from the thought of facing multiple of the Renegade.

A note: The other powers attempt to infiltrate Faction Paradox on a regular basis. While the initial infiltration is frequently successful, the spies always fail on one simple point: the Faction is incredibly, impossibly addictive.

Rose dies when exploding all of her shadow grenades at once. She is standing in the centre of Mictlan at the time. The damage to the Indentured is horrific, to the Celestis less so.

(The Celestis bring her back and strengthen her Mark, hoping to control her more this time. It is no more successful.)

(Faction Paradox is proud of their success.)