Chapter 28: Home Row with an L [Unedited]


[Keys] "That's spelled K as in Kilo-E as in Edmund-Y as in Yankee-S as in Sierra-H as in Hotel-I as in India-O as in Oscar-and N as in November," Impetus tells reporters. Isn't this about a bitc-? This fu--er carries a shotgun with a scimitar! Inmates hate rats. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Should we even ask?" Blondie wonders. "Mercenaries wanna run to the cops," I claim while waving off that piece of shi- with one hand before accepting a mug of Chai Latte with two flesh fingers from the other. "Not him," Damian points to my hands, "those." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Long story," I dismiss my plight, "and we're only in the fourth chapter." Blondie examines my left hand and concludes, "You've been cursed with a reincarnation quest." Batxt nods, "Definitely a reincarnation quest." I'm like, "How do you even know that?" #Constructs3


[Keys] "Is this like some real-life Mega Maze shi-?" Damian asks. The crew seems completely indifferent to my affliction with two acting as if they've seen this before and the third not at all frightened off by its prospects. They're more understanding than me. #Constructs3

[Keys] And one thing I can't understand is, "Why didn't Sweet Charles give you the heads-up?" Batxt waits until the absolute last drip before removing a mug of Pumpkin Spice cappuccino from under the coffee brewer spout and mentions, "Haven't seen him all night." #Constructs3

[Keys] This must mean El Muerto and Sumo Jo had gotten to Sweet Charles at about the same time Goliath and Impetus had accosted me. None of them are here now. I thought you said the crew was in danger. "Did I?" Fate plays coy. Don't make me go back in my feed! #Constructs3


[Keys] "No matter how many times I bestow my gift upon another," Fate says, "it comes with the unintended consequences of a recipient's misplaced apathy and misguided loyalty. The former's not your fault. After all, the first hit was free, and now you're hooked." #Constructs3

[Keys] "No matter how many times I bestow my gift upon another," Fate says, "it comes with the unintended consequences of a recipient's misplaced apathy and misguided loyalty. The former's not your fault. After all, the first hit was free, and now you're hooked." #Constructs3

[Keys] It'd be remiss of her not to add, "You're staring at the only friends you do have because I have Sweet Charles and can get to Mahagony at any time. Now are you going to quit fu--ing around and do what I ask?" Do I have a choice? "Ah you're learning. :)" #Constructs3


[Keys] Why is it when emoticons are used to soften the messaging they often wind up turning the passage into that much more of a slap in the face? In this instance, it's because Fate has me over a barrel - always did, but 'always will' hopefully remains to be seen. #Constructs3

[Keys] You slipped up. "Did I?" You've done or attempted this many times before implying continual failure and the fact there is a way to defeat you. "Does it?" I think it does. "Even if it did, remember: I lose; you lose. And I'm content with the long game." #Constructs3

[Keys] "The problem is you don't know the extent of my dealings and certainly can't comprehend your part in them." Even centuries-old deities can make mistakes. "That's true. Hopefully you aren't one." So what now? "Lie low for a little bit. I'll be in touch." #Constructs3


[Keys] "Anybody in there?" Damian waves in front of my blank face. Blinks later, I become present, but before I can even address where I've been, Blondie already knows what I've been up to, "He was with her." Alright, "You need to tell me how you know all this." #Constructs3

[Keys] Batxt points out, "When you've been around a while, you see things - come across things." I expand the questioning, "So you know who she is?" Damian says, "Fate? Yeah," while grabbing a bottled water. Caffeine makes him jittery, and his aim is bad enough. #Constructs3

[Keys] Blondie states peculiarly, "Sometimes Humans have to open themselves up to the idea of the improbable in order to explain it." True things only seem impossible until science deciphers them, but, "You said that like you're not Human." My smartphone rings. #Constructs3


[Keys] Sidestepping my query into the immediacy of our concern, Blondie puts forth a rhetorical question we're all contemplating, "Did you just give away this location?" Rather than dwell on the likelihood, Batxt snatches the device to try and avert its certainty. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Put it in Airplane Mode!" Damian suggests. "Man, that shi- won't work," I tell him. "It'll probably take a couple hours for the police to get the paperwork to do the surveillance," Blondie notes, "but historical tower data will have us dead to rights." #Constructs3

[Keys] "It's not the police I'm worried about," I put out there in a leading tone. Goliath and his Reapers are just using the local authorities to slow us down and make their job of tracking me easier. Meanwhile Batxt is hard at work tearing apart our microwave. #Constructs3


[Keys] I don't know what the fu-- he's doing. We pretty much stay in our lane within this operation. I jack cars. Blondie drives them. Damian holds the weapons. Batxt chops the vehicles. Sweet Charles gets us the best deal with unscrupulous white-collar types. #Constructs3

[Keys] Slorgs probably invented the word 'jury-rig' because it's the cornerstone of their technological ideology and prescience. If the square peg can plug up the round hole for now, it's good enough for the time being. And they've been around since time began. #Constructs3

[Keys] Damian watches all the spontaneous welding, nimble configuring, and feverish assembling with one thing in mind, "Did you just void the warranty?" Batxt pauses the molding of a new creation to argue, "No I read it. They'd only consider this cosmetic damage." #Constructs3


[Keys] Only creatives or possibly parents can understand the pride engineers feel as Batxt swings the modded microwave around for our view. "Eh?" He eggs us on for feedback. "What is it?" I ask. Blondie already has an idea, "Wrong question. How does it work?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "Back in the day, the internet used to cut out when the microwave ran, but I solved that problem with some extra plating from my uh," his explanation is a bit shaky, "stash I had lying around." Damian rolls his eyes, "Everybody knows you're not from Earth." #Constructs3

[Keys] "That's racist!" Batxt accuses. Here we go again. "How am I racist?" Damian pushes back, "You're a nine-foot fu--in' Slorg!" As the voice of calm and resident adult in the room, Blondie offers, "Not everybody chooses to hide who they are." Interesting. #Constructs3


[Keys] Enough of this. We're coming apart before we've even had the chance to come together. I make up some bullshi- and throw it out there hoping it'll suffice until morning, "One's heart determines their Humanity," because it's been a long night and I'm fried. #Constructs3

[Keys] At this point, I don't even care what happens with my smartphone. Fu-- all this. "Where are you going?" Damian prods as if the rudeness of ditching an ongoing conversation is itself enough for me to stick around. "I've got dibs on the couch," I call. #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm entitled to mood swings after all that's happened to and the looming prospect of what's ahead for me. I trust them to do whatever's necessary. No I'm not distrustful by any stretch of the imagination. Selfishness makes me realize I'll need their help. #Constructs3


[Keys] "He must be tired," I overhear Blondie say. "Your heart determines your Humanity?" Damian mocks my voice, "What does that even mean?" Batxt adds, "I thought it was kinda sweet," to three hearty cackles. Success: A new target's acquired that isn't them. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Anyway," Batxt continues, "the plating from my ship reinforces the inside. We determine whether the signal gets out - and by how much. Only now we can also amplify its range. I reconfigured the microwave to project a weaker signal across a larger radius." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Essentially a home booster on Migraine Manaqua," Damian likens. "This cannot be safe," Blondie complains, "because you're blasting out radiation, and we're all just standing here bathing in it." Batxt downplays the concern, "Radiation is always around us." #Constructs3


[Keys] "Says the only other person in the room who can survive the harshness of space," Blondie smiles. Wait. Only other person? What does she mean? Probably nothing. It's too late for it to be anything. I drift off and grab what's left of the night for sleep. #Constructs3

[Keys] Why dream when my waking life has become a nightmare? A more naive me would ask if this was Fate, but I've met her. That's not what this is. Again I'm caught up. Consumed with tangled thoughts on the subject, restlessness leaves me even more conflicted. #Constructs3

[Keys] Uncertainty doesn't just lead to volatility in markets but sanity. It drives people crazy with anxiety, and yet certainty is itself its own fallacy. What is certainty except a garbage sense of false security? Comfort is illusory. It's why I stay on edge. #Constructs3


[Keys] Belief in the ability to change the outcome and courage to get out of bed so I can seize the day are what it'll take. These thoughts inform my slumber, occupy my mind, and prevent me from being able to fully rest. In short, I'm anxious to make it happen. #Constructs3

[Keys] My awareness returns to a soft focus on the emptiness of The Spot. The rest of the crew doesn't live here, but it's there in case any of us need to crash obviously. This is one of those nouveau buildings of efficiency where no wall segments off the garage. #Constructs3

[Keys] Speaking of the crew, I need to figure out how to explain Sweet Charles being kidnapped by Fate to them. Do I come right out and say it? Break it down easy? Or beat around the bush so they can hopefully infer things from my silence? I'm not good at this. #Constructs3


[Keys] This place has all the amenities of a pricey loft, and the reason is because everybody chipped in to make it that way. Sweet Charles somehow writes everything off each year. Ha - yet another reason we need him back. He's good with money. Maybe too good. #Constructs3

[Keys] I make use of one such amenity: The shower is great for rehearsing, "Fate is holding Sweet Charles hostage." Seems a bit forward. How about, "We all knew this business was risky. Sweet Charles perhaps knew it the most." Nah then they'll think he's dead. #Constructs3

[Keys] Upon exiting the shower, an audience (I didn't even know I'd granted) is left stunned. Acoustics carry across The Spot, but I should've accounted for Batxt, Blondie, and Damian's promptness. It's hard to look them in their eyes, but at least they now know. #Constructs3


[Keys] The combined level of their disappointment is matched only by my intense need to get dressed. I'll catch pneumonia like this - with a towel as the only thing separating me from them. It's surprisingly warm in here, but I don't have much luck left to push. #Constructs3

[Keys] Fate differs from luck by the level of premeditation. One deals with divine intervention whereas the other pins its hopes on a lazily scientific concept of chance. Preparation actively increases the likelihood of me achieving my preferred outcome though. #Constructs3

[Keys] Take this change of clothes for instance. Planning ahead made that possible even if I couldn't have anticipated my current situation. But it's not foolproof because I've got nothing when Damian asks, "Why didn't you tell us last night so we could mobilize?" #Constructs3


[Keys] I don't know. Batxt questions, "Where is Sweet Charles being held - at Fate's compound or someplace else?" I don't know. Blondie follows up with, "How much time do we have to meet her demands before things become more uncomfortable for him?" I don't know. #Constructs3

[Keys] "What do you know?" Damian has a little bass in his voice. "Not a whole fu-- of a lot," I admit. "What did she say?" Blondie prods. "To await further instructions," I tell them, "calm down. Fate needs us." Batxt does not agree, "You're joking, right?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Blondie stares into my eyes while diagnosing, "No he's under her spell. The indifference. The recklessness." Damian takes my right hand and surmises, "There has to be another way." It is what it is and, "This is awkward," so I add, "can I get dressed?" #Constructs3


[Keys] They're right to be concerned. I was concerned myself until about the second key. Now my very inhibition is being lifted while my better judgment is becoming cloudy. "How many more keys do you think until he turns on us?" That's a good question by Batxt. #Constructs3

[Keys] On some level, I appreciate them looking out for me. There's no discounting a positive social support structure, but they don't see this the way I believe Fate sees it. You don't need leverage unless something incontrovertibly tough needs to be dislodged. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Ding, ding, ding!" Fate alerts me to my having provided the apparently correct answer to a question I didn't even know was being asked. The crew can't overhear my interaction with her, but my reaction, "Oh shi-," clues them in she's communicating with me. #Constructs3


[Keys] The crew swarms me even worse than before like a press gaggle with just as many shouted questions. "Where is Sweet Charles?" Damian demands to know. "How can we reclaim your soul?" Batxt is more specific. "What's the next assignment?" Blondie wonders. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Everybody shut the fu-- up!" I can't concentrate. "Don't be like that," Fate chides my impulsiveness. Playing along solidifies her bargaining position, "He's with me - purposely vague, I know. I haven't decided that yet. And Mega Maze Industries Spire." #Constructs3

[Keys] After relaying her sentiments, I sense a shift in the crew's tone and tenor. A seat at the table should be a bargaining chip - not manipulation. Don't do this to them. "It's what I do," Fate cites an example, "and you no longer mind when I do it to you." #Constructs3


[Keys] "We can't just break into that place," Blondie cautions, "because it's a bit out of our league. We're not some movie caper thieves." Damian concurs with the assessment, "We'll need a test run." They're actually considering this. Or is it already decided? #Constructs3

[Keys] "As long as I get to do recon," Batxt announces, "I'm in." On cue, Damian shakes his head at the thought of there being anything subtle about a Slorg doing surveillance at a Human corporate headquarters. Hmm. I offer up, "Hold on, Damian. This can work." #Constructs3

[Keys] "During your many exploits, Batxt always plays the background at the chop shop and never gets to engage," Fate points out. "He'll be extra motivated for the task. You know your people well." Too true. I also want his eye for tech scoping out the building. #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate, I'm going to need to borrow your car. "Oh you're asking me now?" She snipes back. I mean I could just steal it again. "You're insufferable." And you're bitter. It's like this isn't a reincarnation quest but retribution in the form of my penance. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Well yes, it's both," her matter-of-factness is chilling. I wonder how many times she's done this to others over the eons. I mean, when doesn't Fate come up during conversations about circumstances beyond one's control? And how many times has she failed? #Constructs3

[Keys] Silence. I've touched a nerve! "Not really," but that wasn't a 'no', "I'm trying to concentrate on pulling into your garage," Fate claims. Then I hear the crackle and rumble as the door pulls up - Sweet Charles having left the opener inside the stolen car. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Nice car," Blondie's in love. As the driver side door opens upward I announce, "Everybody, Fate. Fate, everybody." A bit less hospitable, Damian pulls his gun from between the waste of his jeans and the small of his back and uses that silly sideways aim. #Constructs3

[Keys] Sexy boots and leggings are the first to be revealed from underneath the waning concealment of the raising door. I'm not a foot guy, so says the guy who can't stop staring at feet. Anyway Damian won't let me admire the emerging view, "Don't fu--in' move!" #Constructs3

[Keys] "Please don't shoot the car," Batxt pleads as he sops up Blondie's drool with his own technological lust. In her chunky wool hat, puffy coat, and either some sort of dress or skirt, Fate approaches with unabashed femininity and no fear to hand me the keys. #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate flings her eye contact toward Damian, then looks at the rest of us while pointing in his direction, and asks, "Has anybody ever told him holding the gun that way is probably the reason his shot is so inaccurate?" Actually yes, "All the time," I claim. #Constructs3

[Keys] "It helps me throw these bullets at fools faster," Damian defends himself, but there's no denying the situation is already diffused. Fact is he hasn't pulled the trigger, and she affirms 'his' decision, "Contrary to popular belief, I'm not here to harm you." #Constructs3

[Keys] It's kinda like meeting somebody famous for the first time, but equate that to a demon without the lights flickering, spontaneous tremors, and shi- flying around. Because there's no need. Fate being larger-than-life is inherent by virtue of her very name. #Constructs3


[Keys] Blondie reaches over to Damian and ushers his weapon downward, but she still insists on questioning, "What have you done to Sweet Charles," with civility as the preferred tact. Fate responds, "It's more what I'll have to do to him if Keys doesn't succeed." #Constructs3

[Keys] "But why?" That answer didn't satisfy Batxt because, "I know you have a soft spot in your heart for us." Fate is quick to confirm, "I do." Damian starts to express skepticism, "After what you did," but she cuts him off: "I brought you-all back together." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Friends move on, live their own lives, and grow apart," that wasn't meant to sound dismissive, so I follow up with, "why us?" Fate smiles, "I wanted your paths to be different. I may be keen on destroying the universe as we know it, but I do still care." #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate is as Fate does: Rewriting the future to suit her whim is the mandate she fancies. Whether we choose to live up to our greater purpose is no longer up to us. A proper amount (of) as well as properly applied leverage (during) serfdom elicits advocacy. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's the desire to be a part of something larger than yourself. It's why people join orchestra or team sports. Sharing common interests and working toward a greater aspect of their expression is key to understanding the limitlessness of one's capabilities. #Constructs3

[Keys] In short, Fate is crew. What good is destroying a universe and remaking it in your own image if you have nobody to share it with? She turns to me and admonishes, "You're out of your mind. That doesn't even make any sense." I tell her, "You love us." <3 #Constructs3


[Keys] It's not often a person gets a chance to joke around with an eons-old deity. But that goes by another name as far as this arrangement with the crew is concerned: Breaking the ice. We must work together. I'm trying to improve their comfort level with Fate. #Constructs3

[Keys] Notice I mostly refer to them and not myself. I'll play the part of Fate's messenger because it's not all that different from being her herald. At least with this, the audience is a little more receptive as am I amenable to the task. She's made me pliable. #Constructs3

[Keys] I wonder if my attempts - these antics to sway the crew and bring them into the fold were mine alone. Was Fate just playing along when manipulating me while solidifying their support? It scares me that I don't know and am starting not to care either way. #Constructs3


[Keys] Damian is smart. He's skeptical, and his eye contact darts between Fate and me in an attempt to ascertain her influence. We've kept up appearances, but I can tell he'll be a problem. She won't soil her hands. For now, I deflect, "Batxt, you're with me." #Constructs3

[Keys] Exactly what he wanted to hear, "Shotgun," is almost a preprogrammed response to a long-awaited chance to venture out into the field. I can feel how enthusiastic Damian is not as his gaze burns a hole through the back of my head while Blondie consoles him. #Constructs3

[Keys] With me driving - which with these keys for fingers should be interesting, Batxt hops into the passenger seat, I help Fate into the back seat like a gentleman, but she takes to it like an overseer. Regardless I'd be fu--ed if we didn't have power steering. #Constructs3


[Keys] One would expect Fate to be asking me what I planned to do about Damian, but she already knows my future. Because of this precognition, I've never seen her concerned - only intrigued by the prospects of her clairvoyance and interested to see things play out. #Constructs3

[Keys] The fact is she hasn't yet achieved her aim. Whether I'm the latest attempt at trying to get the job done, the next step in moving things along, or what I'd preferentially consider the end game remains to be seen. Each can still portend a foreboding demise. #Constructs3

[Keys] "I know you're immersed in thought," Batxt looks over to say, "but where are we headed?" Poker-faced, two-faced, or stone-faced - a glance at Fate through the rearview mirror gives no useful indication. "We're gonna pay a visit to our friends at Eloquery." #Constructs3


[Keys] Blondie is a great judge of how to get the best out of machinery. This car is amazing. There's no other way to put that other than to say people like me don't usually get an opportunity to drive cars like this. Luxury hybrid parts are not yet in demand. #Constructs3

[Keys] First it was domestics. Then it grew to be cheap foreign cars. Next luxury cars and midlife crisis vehicles that suck in snow were added to the portfolio. On every single one of those, their parts can be moved and there'd be less questions about origin. #Constructs3

[Keys] Luxury hybrid parts only come from specialized plants that produce a low yield. We could chop this car, but the demand for its parts isn't yet there - only exposure (to the deed). Even overreacting Wall Street cats'll tell you that's not a good investment. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Why do you want to be Human so much?" Surprisingly I've never asked that before, but we've got a few miles left yet before our arrival at Eloquery. "Who's older - the Slorgs or Fate? After billions of years, I'd like to be something else," Batxt admits. #Constructs3

[Keys] "That only cites how you came to the conclusion," Fate claims, "but doesn't mention why you've chosen Humanity. They're so impetuous and childlike. You could do much better." I raise my right hand to call attention to myself, "Human in the car over here." #Constructs3

[Keys] "They live a life of inconsequential chaos that I admire," Batxt says. "Their very value to the universe is overstated by virtue of Ethereal narratives they cling to so they're minuscule placement on the food chain doesn't feel so much like an afterthought." #Constructs3


[Keys] Basically Batxt wants to appropriate the culture but not have to deal with its challenges. Slumming it is always fun when you don't have to stick around once things get uncomfortable. And they will. Humans do not have their shi- together in the slightest. #Constructs3

[Keys] "But," Fate observes peculiarly, "much of Humanity's shortcoming is due to Ethereal manipulation. What if those Ethereals could be displaced at the head of the table? There's a movement underway to try and do just that - one our efforts will complement." #Constructs3

[Keys] That's some sadistic common ground Humans share with the rest of the universe. We're always in conflict with ourselves. The Doran civil war is well-documented. It's probably pretty presumptuous to believe the whole Pillorian Regime is on the same page too. #Constructs3


[Keys] "The fence has electrifying elements that aren't on during the daytime. There's a four guard setup: One at the gate, two walking the internal perimeter, and one watching the four - no eight (out and inward-facing) omnidirectional cameras," Batxt rattles off. #Constructs3

[Keys] "How do you plan on doing this?" Fate inquires before rephrasing for even further clarity, "What are you planning on doing?" At the end of an obnoxiously slow 10 miles per hour parking lot speed limit, I find a space and hop out stating, "I'll be a guest." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Can you do that thing where you see through my eyes and communicate inside my head but plug Batxt in temporarily?" I ask while concealing my fingers with gloves and zipping up my coat to block out the chill. "I can," she agrees. Then, "It's game time." #Constructs3


[Keys] "The mantrap you just passed is automated," Batxt alerts as a new voice inside my head. "Look both ways as if trying to catch your bearings for the first time." I am. The lobby is big but disproportionate like the head of an insect to the rest of its body. #Constructs3

[Keys] The receptionist calls out to me, "They got you working today too?" Luckily small talk comes naturally to a professional bullshi--er, "I'm just thankful I don't have a position that depends on an act of congress for my pay." Batxt, do I go left or right? #Constructs3

[Keys] "Right. That keyboard you're typing on to sign in has a built-in fingerprint scanner." Sneaky. Just like how not all doors need metallic keys. The one calling to me uses keycards. Swiping my polymer third finger gives me an early start to the New Year. #Constructs3

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