Chapter 25: Club Soda Aftermath (Season Three Premiere) [Unedited]


[Keys] LOL at anybody outside of Native or African Americans who complain about immigration. #irony I know Bianca, the Creative Director for @dopeenterprises, is having a fit right now because I took it there, but I'm bored and online comments always crack me up. #Constructs3

[Keys] Hello universe! The name's Keyshion Davis, but I go by Keys for short. That music you hear bleeding through the walls? It's loud as fu-- in there. I'm a valet for Club Soda. So how could I be bored driving the hottest cars for a living? None are mine. #Constructs3

[Keys] And I know I started with immigration, but somebody needs to do something about these guns. As unmistakable as my flinch and ducking behind the cover of this desk, that Space Force Major and her man (who dropped off two cars earlier) were likely involved. #Constructs3


[Keys] Life for me changed at that point, and my story doesn't have a happy ending. I'm still around to tell it so things didn't turn out too badly, but that's either an understatement or a misstatement. All the shi- I went through has me believing in fate. #Constructs3

[Keys] I won't lie here cowering on the ground and blame the two with their driverless cars for my lifetime of fu--ups. But the mercs who own this club will blame them for the incessant crackle of gunfire and those trampled bodies amassing by the entrance. #SSC3 #Constructs3

[Keys] It wasn't some vaunted, generational cabal or even Ethereal in nature. Something scurrilous orchestrated this. Somebody was pulling my strings, and I wasn't ready to meet their conductor. But that's not how fate works. It's unconcerned with my timetables. #Constructs3


[Keys] What do I mean? Fate makes you beholden to its mercy since you supposedly can't change it. The ending fixed - your path set. Club Soda (including employees) was supposed to relocate to Second Earth, but that body count says this venture is not insurable. #Constructs3

[Keys] As I grow enough of a pair to sit up and survey the situation, those aforementioned cars race by (with no drivers) heading to the back of the club. The older BMW is a classy ride, but the Ferrari is worth more than I make in 13 years. How is that fair? #Constructs3

[Keys] One night. One night away from making it off this planet. Really only a few hours actually. Coincidence? Ha. I have the right to feel sorry for myself in this moment because my hand is about to be forced in the next. Fu--ed my whole shi- up. Fate. #Constructs3


[Keys] After the subtle nudge from another event getting shot up, my hopes and aspirations for staying on the straight and narrow seem dashed. I find myself teetering on the edge somewhere between starting over (yet again) from scratch or resuming illegality. #Constructs3

[Keys] Enter peer pressure to help me make an informed decision. My best friend, who we'll call Sweet Charles, rushes to a crouch at my side behind the valet desk. I await the obligatory 'I toldja so' from him, "Man, I told you this club shi- was played." See? #Constructs3

[Keys] I do some retroactive foreshadowing, "This could've been a virtual goldmine." Sweet Charles is quick to respond with, "Yeah well it's an actual bloodbath." He often uses leading statements which is ironic seeing as how fate and I are on a collision course. #Constructs3


[Keys] And speaking of a collision course, once time resumes, I stand and move out from the cover of the valet desk and apparently into the path of somebody hurriedly yet understandably fleeing the scene. It's one of the shooters escaping under cover of the crowd. #Constructs3

[Keys] She's clutching a poorly-concealed Space Force standard issue pulse laser rifle which means the shooter's not trying to hide it. A dismissive smirk and her continuation of a purposeful trudge over to a Blazer driven by another shooter means I'm not worth it. #Constructs3

[Keys] In so many words but without any words, she essentially said I'm not shi-. Truth hurts. This decision's already made, and the shooter's bump helped push me over the edge. Like a devil on my shoulder, Sweet Charles puts his hand there to affirm the choice. #Constructs3


[Keys] The Blazer also heads for the back of the club. Arguably I should have more concern for those affected by this tragedy - of which I am one. But I'm in agreement with the shooters' idea to bounce before the perimeters get set up. Does that make me selfish? #Constructs3

[Keys] People stand around either crying or shaken and trying to hold it together. Smartphones send graphic video to media and streaming sites alike while delivering news that depends on a loved one's perspective as to whether it's good. I just want to go home. #Constructs3

[Keys] I have no interest in giving statements or interviews. Sweet Charles still has keys in his hand from a car he was about to park prior to the chaos. I'm not a car guy, so let's just say its doors open upward rather than outward. Easiest car I ever jacked. #Constructs3


[Keys] It stands a good chance the owner of the vehicle got taken out during the shootout, but even if the person didn't, it'll take the cops for-fu--ing-ever to figure out what happened to this car. Low priority, I've got at least a week to enjoy my new ride. #Constructs3

[Keys] After adjusting the driver's seat, I fix the rearview mirror and switch on the stereo. The voice of complicity, Sweet Charles uses his silence to try and talk me out of this as he happily hops into the passenger side and puts his window down to match mine. #Constructs3

[Keys] "We can still meet the contact if you're up for it," he offers. I would've missed this if I had to hop aboard SpaceStation Konxerus for Second Earth as originally planned. In times of economic downturn, networking is the quickest way to get back out there. #Constructs3


[Keys] After all, the biggest recipients of government welfare are the rich. They hide behind the law giving each other tax breaks. More power to them. Part of me wants to learn what they know - put my money where they put their money. Every bit of it's legal. #Constructs3

[Keys] But that doesn't make it right, and I've been a carjacker long enough to know what's wrong. We both try to rip you off, but I respect you enough to mask up, whereas you hand your shi- over to them freely with double taxation on the money you make and spend. #Constructs3

[Keys] Don't get me started on these high-as- Illinois property taxes. I'm still swerving around pot holes. Before we level Robin Hood parallels or class warfare accusations, please know I'm simply looking to level the playing field for myself. At your expense. #Constructs3


[Keys] Harsh I know, but there's no reason to sugarcoat, no time to play games, and no turning back now as we head east down Lake Cook Road on path to Highland Park. Sweet Charles elaborates, "The business isn't yet ours." Huh? "It's not a done deal," he adds. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Wait the fu-- a minute," I reply, "didn't you say we secured the opportunity?" Anticipating my ire, Sweet Charles offers prepared remarks, "I mean we did until you decided to move to Second Earth and I had to turn it down." Well da-n, how will this work? #Constructs3

[Keys] "Everything's negotiable, Keys," he dismisses my irritation with his own. "Yeah but it's late. This guy already has a poor impression of us and won't stand for our rudeness," I surmise. "This woman," Sweet Charles points out and assures, "I'll handle it." #Constructs3


[Keys] He better. I don't know these people, but I know him. In my field, Sweet Charles holds the title of 'plug' or 'connect', and his record is impeccable. He's brought me lucrative, issue-free business for years. Well until now. Otherwise we'd have no story. #Constructs3

[Keys] Highland Park is like one large, gated community. Each mansion has gates enclosing its interior grounds. There's a lot of old money in this city, but ball players and recent executives also live around here too. In hindsight, I should've turned around. #Constructs3

[Keys] Sweet Charles has me pull into a long driveway peppered with armed guards. "These are some real straight shooters - religious types," he states. That just means they stick to their own code, and we'll never fully understand it. Guns and Ethereals, fu-- me. #Constructs3


[Keys] I've lost count of how many guards there are, but it almost doesn't matter because I don't have any concept of the layout. Knowing the number of potential hostiles will only get me so far when I really need to make use of my surroundings to get out of here. #Constructs3

[Keys] We're ushered through a service entrance on our way to an extension to the main property. It's like a flat panel showroom in here with views of every corner of the estate plus news channels. Something familiar splashes across the screen with WZZZ playing. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Can you turn that up?" I ask. While we wait, the indifferent yet hospitable guards oblige my request. WZZZ's local correspondent, Harle Bernard, addresses some sort of traffic accident, "Crews are working to clear the westbound lanes of Lake Cook Road." #Constructs3


[Keys] She goes on to say, "One car is being pulled out a ditch while flames from an exploded SUV appear to be under control. Witnesses detail some sort of high-speed drag race. Investigators have released an initial statement confirming two fatalities." Oh shi-. #Constructs3

[Keys] It looks like the shooters I bumped into caught up with and went up against the Space Force Major and her man and lost. "Well that's not eerie at all," Sweet Charles jests. They'll never figure this out. We're the only leads. Is this coincidence or fate? #Constructs3

[Keys] In the moment, what it is - I silently opine, is convenient. I should've taken my as- home. "Somebody you know?" A woman's voice breaks the morbid ice. Sweet Charles introduces her, "There you are! Rosaline Julander." I should've just taken my as- home. #Constructs3


[Keys] Judgment is polished by trial and refined by error. "Sweet Charles," she says back to him in the same exaggerated manner he used for her name like out of a sitcom with the kooky humor I don't find funny. None of this shi- is funny, and they're too cozy. #Constructs3

[Keys] I wonder if what they have is somehow more than professional - something inappropriate. Between them, it's playful, but I find it awkward. Rosaline senses my unease, or maybe she's just being an empathetic hostess when asking, "Who's your reluctant friend?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Rosaline's hair wafts her scent in my direction as she turns toward me. Form-fitting jeans, heels, and that top of hers. Is she going out or returning? It's not the beauty I most notice because it's hard to be superficial with all these guns trained on me. #Constructs3


[Keys] "This is my buddy Keys," Sweet Charles announces happily. "The one you told me about?" Rosaline prods by nudging him in the side with a soft elbow. They play off each other well as heard by his response of, "And only." It's thick in here. Uncomfortably. #Constructs3

[Keys] In the interest of cordiality, I extend my right hand and focus on eye contact as she shakes my hand with both of hers. Oddly Rosaline holds on for an extended period of time disregarding my gaze in favor of seemingly an inspection. Personal space much? #Constructs3

[Keys] But it's as if I've forgotten how to retrieve my own hand as the pressure from Rosaline's grip increases to the point of cutting off the circulation in my arm. Similar to when a foot falls asleep, the pain is sharp. "Keys is a peculiar name," she muses. #Constructs3


[Keys] Pain is a misnomer though. It's the numbness I'm most concerned with. It's the stumble of the sleep-deprived before the fall. Dropped to my knees, I fight back against the weight of lethargy by latching onto the one thing that allows me to focus. Anger. #Constructs3

[Keys] Anger for the way my life has gone but sorrowful at the same time. Can fury and remorse coexist without madness? The tears streaming down my face are anything but cathartic. Confused perhaps. They drain inhibition while the rage explodes conscience. #Constructs3

[Keys] No, not confused. Repurposed since there's nothing there. No Humanity - just the ruthlessness of ambition not marred by having to lie about it. Unburdened by the cowardice of proffering a false reality from a convenient narrative. In this moment, I own it. #Constructs3


[Keys] Because in the next, it puts in a bid for my soul via Rosaline still hung up on my name, "What's it short for?" And I hope these words didn't come out my mouth, "It's short for 'you don't need to fu--in' know'," but they did, and her guards heard them too. #Constructs3

[Keys] With weapons aimed at me, I'm afforded a measure of inference into what those people inside the club felt. However insincere my anguish for them is, since my empathy is misplaced, I try to blink my own self awake but realize I don't think I made it either. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Oh you made it," demoralizing Fate (hereafter capitalized) intrudes on my thoughts to reassure, "and then proceeded to steal my car." I call bullshi-, "That's revisionist," but her smirk shuts me down, and Sweet Charles, who set me up, is noticeably absent. #Constructs3


[Keys] "You really should've taken your as- home," she laughs. Fate is messing with me by mocking my narration to you while doing so from the past within the parameters of the story line. Reread that a couple times. This is the knee-buckling extent of her power. #Constructs3

[Keys] From my knees - isolated, I start to freak the fu-- out and grab hold of her death grip with my free left hand during an ill-Fated attempt at pulling away. Of course, this plays right into her hands (literally) making it easier for Fate to take both of mine. #Constructs3

[Keys] She pulls my arms apart for leverage and proceeds to guide me onto my back by pressing that direction with a high-heeled foot to my chest. I'm at her mercy - a continuing theme, and the pressure causes shortness of breath. I panic. This is all by design. #Constructs3


[Keys] "We're going to have a little chat," Fate explains. "When I want your input, I'll allow you to breathe. Do you have any questions before we begin?" The preternatural weight of her foot compressing my chest lessens so I blurt out, "How can I defeat you?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Staring up at my demise, I can tell she's amused by the sentiment but promptly reapplies the full pressure to my chest catching me off guard and at an even greater loss of breath let alone a loss for words. Her response is trite, "If only this were a game." #Constructs3

[Keys] Fate continues, "Your incessant need to think in terms of wins and losses is an unhealthy fascination. Trying to get over, at my expense, has placed you in debt to me indefinitely. Creditors always set the terms, so you're going to have to work this off." #Constructs3


[Keys] It's way worse than free will with preconditions because Fate is taking an active, corporeal (!) role in making me feel like I have no meaningful choice, my actions are predetermined with no bearing on the outcome, and the path I'm on is already set in stone. #Constructs3

[Keys] "You have a particular skill set I can use," Fate says before lessening the pressure on my chest. Three status updates without air, I definitely take this opportunity to respond, "I could say no." True but she adds, "I never said I needed your skill set." #Constructs3

[Keys] Before I can blurt out 'wait', her foot is just too quick. I'm focusing on the absence of any surroundings so I don't have to think about suffocation. "Unlike you, I'd like a win-win. I want you to recover some items, and you need a job," Fate has a point. #Constructs3


[Keys] I'm listening - not much else I can do under the weight of this circumstance: "I'll supply the logistics needed to perform the work, sufficient motivation to keep you on task, and adequate payment upon completion," all I heard from Fate was the last part. #Constructs3

[Keys] "How does that sound?" A consummate salesperson, she even tests for reaction. Allowed to breathe, I promptly answer, "When do I start," but I'm having the da-ndest time of figuring out whether it was the asphyxiation or my greed that cemented this decision. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Immediately," is the last thing I hear from her before actuality returns to focus and I'm thrown to the pavement of the driveway in front of a standing Sweet Charles plus the blurry features of that stolen car. An armed guard prods, "Now get the fu-- out!" #Constructs3


[Keys] "Let's bounce," Sweet Charles crouches down to help me up - not that I want anything to do with him. Seriously what in the actual fu-- just happened? How could he do that to me? I try to push off the ground but notice my fingers don't press. They clink. #Constructs3

[Keys] There comes a point when you know something's wrong with your body. Whether that's a result of being able to sense changes to its norm or an intense, off-putting fear from the subconscious realization of a physical ailment, I don't know. Arms are freezing. #Constructs3

[Keys] Head is spinning. With a hearty exhale from stress and fatigue, I reach for my forehead but catch Sweet Charles hesitate and back away out the corner of my eye. Who knows what's up with him. Anyway my own touch feels foreign. Hands on fire - burning up. #Constructs3


[Keys] I peek at my hands before looking past them to see Sweet Charles' reaction. Not an excuse, but he had no idea this'd happen. Melded to the metacarpals from each hand, ten different keys replace my fingers and thumbs as metallic phalanges without the flesh. #Constructs3

[Keys] The pain is indescribable because I've never not had my fingers, so I don't know how to process this. My body's own confusion manifests itself as a fiery rejection of this alchemic perversion causing me to keel over screaming with my hands jutting outward. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's at this point Sweet Charles puts aside his apprehension (or guilt) and helps me up and into the stolen car's awaiting passenger seat. And I mean to tell you, it is not easy putting on a seat belt without working fingers. The things we take for granted. #Constructs3


[Keys] Awaiting our departure, I lean my head against the headrest. I'm clearly still in shock but calmer as thoughts of futility work their way among those of my pain and confusion. This says nothing about how upset I am at not reading (more into) the fine print. #Constructs3

[Keys] Sweet Charles gets in and we're quickly on our way. I'm not gonna lie: The thought of how I'd be able to continue these status updates now that I can no longer interact with any touchscreens does cross my mind. But I guess that's why they make a stylus. #Constructs3

[Keys] My eyes fall upon a leisurely focal point as I stare out my window at corporate parks and various, different instances of shopping centers. There's not much else to see along this surprisingly well-lit road. The silence is telling, but I don't want to talk. #Constructs3


[Keys] Awkward. How do I start a conversation with my best friend turned worst friend who turned me over to some alien, demon, or whatever the fu-- Fate is? I don't know. All I know is he has enough puzzle pieces to keep me from jabbing my fingers in his neck. #Constructs3

[Keys] Fu-- it, I'm curious, "What does she have on you?" My voice is airy. Maybe that's the result of a sore throat from all the bellowing, or perhaps I've become more soft-spoken since the torturous breath play. Did Sweet Charles go through one of her sessions? #Constructs3

[Keys] "You," he admits. "Me?" That defense seems convenient, so I push back, "Fate did this to me because I 'stole her car'." Sweet Charles takes his eyes off the road to look at me and emphasize, "These people are powerful. Obviously this car doesn't matter." #Constructs3


[Keys] I admire how Sweet Charles hasn't yet apologized, made any excuses, or spouted meaningless proclamations of hope. That means we're seriously screwed and probably won't make it out of this. Although I'm still providing the monologue, so at least I made it. #Constructs3

[Keys] "They wanted you which I would've assumed made me expendable," he surmises, "but you've been crippled in your current state and need my help." Hmm. The rep precedes. I ask the next question, "So if I find the locks these keys go to, can this be reversed?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Sweet Charles shrugs, "No idea." I remind him, "You never finished telling me about their leverage." He first takes us down a detour that leads to Dundee Road so we can avoid Lake Cook Road before answering, "If I didn't bring you, they'd come get you." #Constructs3


[Keys] Buffalo Grove. A village turned city, two vigilantes are required to protect it. Because of this incredible growth, there's opportunity for the 'resourceful' as well as distraction for those wanting to disappear. Welcome home. Good luck trying to find me. #Constructs3

[Keys] When I claim I had to jack a car every night just to get home from work, it's true because my main source of employment called for that. Yet Sweet Charles sees it differently, "You're small-time which means expendable." Yeah but I reply, "Always have been." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Not to me," he refutes, "and that's how they got to you." Through him. I'm assuming the alternative was death, but, "What are we dealing with?" I just said 'we' which implies all's forgiven, but I'm still cautious. Depending on his answer, especially so. #Constructs3


[Keys] A mile passes before Sweet Charles speaks next. He chooses his words carefully, "As far as I can tell, this is faction-level. The way Fate did her number on you, I thought it was the Pillorians." The Ethereals? "But this is something else - disparate." #Constructs3

[Keys] I determine, "Then there's an excellent chance what we're about to steal for them is also going to put us at odds with one or more other factions." He agrees with my assessment, "That's where they play." Except they don't play, and we better be on our game. #Constructs3

[Keys] I almost don't want this drive to end because it means a new phase in my life is set to begin. But I'm also eager to get this over with. This - these keys for fingers, a sadistic play off my name. Part of me thinks we should've stopped off to buy gloves. #Constructs3


[Keys] But stop off we do at my apartment complex before Sweet Charles says, "We'll begin in the morning, so try to get some rest," and goes on his way. With the stolen car heading out the periphery, a short pathway, a flight of stairs, and my reservation await me. #Constructs3

[Keys] Whether earned - whether deserved or not, I feel such a sense of dread on this walk. There's no shame or remorse because I'm much less concerned about how I got myself into this as I am more focused on pulling out every trick and treachery to get myself out. #Constructs3

[Keys] The apartment complex uses DNA Recognition/Authorization via rectangular sensor plate (on the side of each outward-facing door) serving as the lock. It's convenient for me since I've lost the dexterity needed to be able to manipulate an actual set of keys. #Constructs3


[Keys] As I motion to close the door behind me, I take notice of the view from my second floor apartment. Don't they say other senses become more acute after losing one? The moon is as bright as I've ever seen it, while the TV's murmur rises to a crystal clarity. #Constructs3

[Keys] There were big events earlier (aside from my own), and WZZZ's news anchor, Sem Slacy, can't help but ask Mega Maze Industries' CEO Denah Tress about them, "You're in an exclusive (albeit not yet inclusive) club. What's your take on what we've been watching?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "I'm always struck by how a woman is expected to comport herself by maintaining a demure composure and how a man is allowed to comport himself by flying off the handle," she mentions. "The latter behavior lent credence to the potential for the accusation." #Constructs3


[Keys] "You've dealt with sexual assault investigations in a corporate sense?" Sem follows up. "Unfortunately," Denah answers, "but I can tell you the accused wouldn't be keeping their current position let alone be elevated to another after acting out like that." #Constructs3

[Keys] Not like I haven't benefited from the dangerous last gasp of the patriarchy, but my reason for wanting that disturbing sexism to go by the wayside is sprawled out across the couch in front of the television. Covered in a blanket, she tried to wait up for me. #Constructs3

[Keys] Her name is Mahagony. Yes the 'a' and 'o' are reversed. You'll have to ask her parents about that. She's lucid enough to be aware of my presence and let me worm my way into a seat on the right side of the couch before lying on top. I hold her. I'm home. #Constructs3

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