Chapter 30: Thumb Tact [Unedited]


[Keys] I do feel particularly amorous as the key that was the pinkie finger on my right hand reverts back to its flesh, blood, and bone self. Mahagony is similarly aroused albeit fantasizing about another which should ruin the moment for me, but I can't blame her. #Constructs3

[Keys] If she's feeling anywhere near as much pleasure as I am feeling high, which the tensing of her body would suggest is true, you don't ever forget something like that. Although this isn't exactly what I had in mind when people mention Fate being intertwined. #Constructs3

[Keys] Skip to the end of breakfast: Here I am feeling like I'm in a hood movie (after I just got the girl) and everybody is leering at me all distracted with my cards exposed. Except it's the girl doing the leering with lascivious eyes as she finishes her coffee. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Can I get you both some more coffee?" The server asks. Mahagony speaks in floaty tones, "No. We're. Good." Satisfied with the response, the person says, "Alright I'll be back with the check," and heads off. It gives me time to ask, "What's it like?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "What is what like?" She answers my question with a question. Naive or coy, it's unclear at this point, so I opt to clarify, "Fate's hold on you. Or Sweet Charles. Or Batxt. Describe it." Her response is, "It's not a hold at all. It's a liberation." #Constructs3

[Keys] I find that interesting and explain, "In all this science fiction shi-, the evil aliens always do some sort of mind control to subvert or break the will of their targets." Mahagony shakes her head in the negative, "It's nothing like that. It's a choice." #Constructs3


[Keys] "You switching sides on me?" I must ask. Mahagony is quick to remind me of old shi-, "Like when you used me as a Human shield? No. I'm still on your side. I'm just on Fate's now too." That's not at all reassuring, but the server is back with our check. #Constructs3

[Keys] On the subject of things that are hard to do when you have keys for fingers, I can add pulling a credit card out a wallet to trying to fasten a button on jeans. "I've got it," Mahagony volunteers while anxiously plucking the wallet from my fumbling grasp. #Constructs3

[Keys] While she handles that, a patron in a dimly-lit corner booth beckons my attention. He wafts his hand to call me over, but I don't work here and ignore it. An exaggerated head motion is next, so I play him off. Then he sends someone from his table my way. #Constructs3


[Keys] For the fu-- of - it's too cold for gangsta shi-. And that's exactly what this is, as the patron's associate flashes a shoulder holster in a nonverbal nudge to get me to join them. I'm looking around for Mahagony, but her absence is proof of Fate at work. #Constructs3

[Keys] As I pull up a chair, the patron who'd attempted to wave me over initially is gracious and pushes a plate over to me insisting, "Try some of that." Helping me to decide, his associate hands me an unused fork freshly unwrapped from a bundled napkin placement. #Constructs3

[Keys] Let's get it over with. I attempt to use the fork to cut through what looks like tender poultry, but the associate lightly smacks my arm with the back of his left hand before handing me a knife with his right. Table etiquette? This is fu--in' ridiculous. #Constructs3


[Keys] It has a texture like corduroy and yet is perfectly-cooked and melts in my mouth. It would be cliché to compare this to chicken as I'm more concerned about classifying it as fish to which I'm allergic. All eyes are on me for my response, "What was that?" #Constructs3

[Keys] The patron goes on to explain, "The all-day breakfast is not what makes StLuvie's Buffalo Grove's bastion of delicacy. Everybody's doing that now. What differentiates this place is their willingness to covet and proffer a shadow menu of otherworldly fare." #Constructs3

[Keys] Those are big words for, "Oh fu--, I just ate a Slorg!" His associate smacks me upside the back of my head while shushing me. "Keep your voice down," the patron says. Yeah but first, "You need to tell your man to cut this shi- out. Keep his hands off me." #Constructs3


[Keys] "That, of course, is up to you," the patron defers. "Then can you at least tell me what that was?" I demand albeit at a lower decibel. "I'm not sure how the alien tongue pronounces this, but it's loosely translated to: Kuno," he says, "something to enjoy." #Constructs3

[Keys] Well that makes me feel better. I don't know how I would've explained that shi- to Batxt. "My name is Marlin Allis, and we're not butchers like how the drug trade preys on the Rylaea for Migraine Manaqua production. We are mostly connoisseurs and chefs." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Mostly?" I sigh and sense my upcoming part in all this. Marlin goes on to discuss, "There's also a critical supply chain. It's funny how I brought up drugs because that and asylum-seeking are currently being conflated as some sort of immigration crisis." #Constructs3


[Keys] Simply put, "There's much greater scrutiny on the spaceports we haven't seen since before the Space Force left, and I expect you to help us get around some of that pressure," he says. But in case Marlin missed it, I tell him, "My face is all over the news." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Even more reason for you to do as I ask," he opines. So what, "You're just gonna turn me in?" I'll take my chances now that I've got the backing of Goliath, the NSF, and ultimately Fate. "Actually," Marlin clarifies, "who'd miss you if you disappeared?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Good point. Yet and still, I'm transcendentally protected. Uncanny circumstances would befall potential captors allowing my escape. I hope. He's quick to reassure, "We don't need to go there. I'm simply asking you to steal something for me that I own." #Constructs3


[Keys] If Marlin gives me permission to steal an item that already belongs to him, apparently that isn't stealing. Come again, "Huh?" He breaks it down, "I don't know if you've ever shipped anything to another country or planet, but dealing with Customs is rough." #Constructs3

[Keys] "It's especially tough in this country," Marlin continues, "since its government now embraces recklessness (with tariffs) and racism. Normally dealing with these people is all about greed. I can understand greed, but those other two are bad for business." #Constructs3

[Keys] Now it makes sense! "What the fu-- are you talking about?" I lay it all out there. He seems a bit taken aback by my bluntness but retains his composure, "Normally people want all the details when risking their lives." It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. #Constructs3


[Keys] "It's not my life to risk," I add matter-of-factly. Clearly having no corporeal concept of Fate, Marlin assumes I mean the strength of his proposal and tries to reassure me, "You'll be well-compensated." Mahagony happens by asking, "Who are your friends?" #Constructs3

[Keys] I don't even dignify her sudden appearance with any more characters of text other than to say, the shi-'s fugazy. Not wanting to bring my lady friend in on the conversation, Marlin promptly concludes the conversation, "We'll speak again soon, Mister Davis." #Constructs3

[Keys] Or so he thinks. I put it all out there, "Mahagony, this is Marlin Allis and his touchy as- hole - I mean, associate. They want me to steal an exotic alien delicacy being held up by Customs at Buffalo Grove's spaceport." The look on his face is priceless. #Constructs3


[Keys] "In other words, Marlin's kind associate is our ride," I make light of my previous statement. His heart stops beating out its chest. These food distributors are soft. They don't know horror. They haven't felt pain. And they shouldn't underestimate me. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Nice to meet you both," Mahagony plays along. As she now always does. Plays her part in a role cast by Fate. Having access to the script beforehand affords a certain insight into its significance and direction. The clairvoyance of actors and actresses. #Constructs3

[Keys] Marlin's eyes dart between Mahagony and me as if to size us up. It's a moment of introspection before any operation when the decision can be made to either proceed or turn back. By the time his eyes fall to the plate of Kuno, this decision is already made. #Constructs3


[Keys] Marlin and his associate lead us to a four-door sedan and drive us to what now doubles as our home - The Spot. Although I don't like divulging its location, asking to be dropped off and trekking the rest of the way would've only served to have us be trailed. #Constructs3

[Keys] Home away from home becomes home sweet home until the apartment complex is rebuilt. Needless to say, I'm fortunate to have options. Nobody else is here because the Crew all (save for Sweet Charles) have day jobs. Unlike me, so that's why I took the work. #Constructs3

[Keys] "So," Mahagony says as she peels off the layers of outer garments and plops down on the couch. "So?" I'm not quite sure where this is going. "So," her eyes have much less leer but much more life to match verbalized optimism, "you ready for this next gig?" #Constructs3


[Keys] I don't understand why everybody seems to believe my being a carjacker is qualification enough for me to bring about the end of existence or break into a spaceport and steal exotic food cargo. Where was all this encouragement when I was circulating résumés? #Constructs3

[Keys] Somebody was there for me though. When my confidence wasn't. When my very conviction had waned. And yet when I look at Mahagony, Fate stares back. Without confidence, conviction, or support, what else is there? Luck? Faith? Such things are unreliable. #Constructs3

[Keys] Perhaps time? That's always a constant. Except when in isolation. Then it becomes an unbearable burden. When emotion and rationalization clash. And ineptitude and selfish blame settle within their wake of debilitation. Lash out or give in. Some choice. #Constructs3


[Keys] But there is a third option. Efficacy. "That's quite a big word for someone who uses such foul language in his status updates," Fate pokes fun at me as she arrives to little more fanfare than my not being surprised. However Mahagony is quietly enamored. #Constructs3

[Keys] She offers a soft, mutual, and prolonged handshake to my lady friend after approaching pretty much out of nowhere. Uninvited. Or inviting, dependent upon your perspective. "Why?" Fate asks my next question as an example of her ability to read my thoughts. #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm so confused: Fate answers the question I would've asked that she wound up asking on my behalf for the benefit of me, "I'm not the type of person who'd allow another to languish in the passive uncertainty of obligation. You'll know exactly what I want." #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate adds, "Which takes away the guesswork. I don't get off on you floundering." I interject, "Because you need me at my best?" She's inclined to agree, "That," but there's more, "and your completion of my tasks are more important than ineffectual effort." #Constructs3

[Keys] Thus my original point of efficacy - so important to my Fate, it can do an end run around a lack of confidence, conviction, and support. I'd even go so far as to imagine its absence is the reason for those three items being absent. Easier typed than done. #Constructs3

[Keys] Speaking of ideals, "You're the ideal person to shop for." Fate smiles, "I expect you to struggle for me, but I don't want prolonged suffering as it diminishes your long-term viability." Burnout. She grants, "One night," and is gone in the blink of an eye. #Constructs3


[Keys] And just like that, the night is over. I'm sitting up on the couch with Mahagony's legs draped across my lap. Moments are to be savored when in them, but their residual memories remain less as a remembrance and more of a welcome promise of things to come. #Constructs3

[Keys] Fate may have dominion over the future, but she has a way of making me appreciate what I have at present. This kindness - it endears me to her as would any kindness, but that kind of indebtedness is a big trap. Ask any slave master about their ignoble tact. #Constructs3

[Keys] Speaking of ideals, "You're the ideal person to shop for." Fate smiles, "I expect you to struggle for me, but I don't want prolonged suffering as it diminishes your long-term viability." Burnout. She grants, "One night," and is gone in the blink of an eye. #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate stands over us barefoot (with a perfect pedicure) dressed in silk pajamas with her hair tied up in a bun. "What are you doing here?" I ask. She mentions, "You didn't set the alarm on your smartphone. Marlin's associate will arrive in five minutes." #Constructs3

[Keys] And Fate would know. It's not so much that (since this is kinda what she does) as it is me panicking at the possibility of being late. I jump off the couch startling Mahagony out her slumber enough to be able to bemoan the occurrence, "What is going on?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "I gotta get ready!" Punctuality is important to me. The reason so many think I'm good at my work is because I take so much pride in it. As I rush past Fate, she hands me my toothbrush. Upon my return, she holds out the face towel I forgot. She's good. #Constructs3


[Keys] Refreshed and wired, Fate hands me a bottled water to calm my anxiousness on the way out. She's been so accommodating. If this job didn't involve a key, I'd be surprised. I kiss Mahagony on the forehead, although I'm not sure about leaving these two alone. #Constructs3

[Keys] As a recurring theme, I doubt there's choice in the matter. Kind of a cool occurrence, I open the front door as the associate is going through the motion of knocking, so picture him whiffing and how he's thrown off balance when his knuckles come up empty. #Constructs3

[Keys] Peering out at and into the car parked on the curb has me wondering about, "Is Marlin going to be joining us?" I hear the associate's voice for the first time, and he says something I'm not quite sure how to take, "Some men are more suited for the kitchen." #Constructs3


[Keys] In a way, it wasn't a sexist thing to say despite the perspective even though it's historically out of place although not in that context since I'm dealing with a gangsta as- chef so maybe what the associate said was a compliment. I'm so fu--ing confused. #Constructs3

[Keys] "As we've established you can talk," I have to ask, "would it be okay if our dialogue could continue on a first-name basis?" He responds, "No that would not be okay." Awkward. I'm pressing the issue, "So do I call you 'The Associate' or just 'Associate'?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "Either-or works for me," the Associate claims. As the car doors slam closed, I can already see our chemistry is off to a rousing start. This is why I prefer to only work with the Crew or alone. But he does have insight into the exotic food smuggling game. #Constructs3


[Keys] After putting on seat belts, we're on our way. The Associate points to the glove compartment and suggests, "Check out the itinerary." I do so and smile at the irony of us arriving three hours early, barring any flight delays, to steal the cargo from a ship. #Constructs3

[Keys] "The Hadrudzei?" I make mention of an interesting name for a ship. "Yep," the Associate explains, "if you ever need anything smuggled, the guy running this ship is who you want. Without the Space Force, Earth no longer subscribes to Voluntary Declaration." #Constructs3

[Keys] Voluntary Declaration is a Space Force commercial travel policy that states you can bring whatever you want on a ship just so long as it's declared beforehand: Weapons, large amounts of baby formula, etcetera. This way, the flight crew can be prepared for it. #Constructs3


[Keys] And it works both ways. That extra undershirt would get you thrown under the jail - which was fair. The ability to pack anything, with full disclosure, sacrificed privacy, but the increase in convenience and safety sold the mandate without too much issue. #Constructs3

[Keys] Why do regimes of changing Earth governments tend to try and validate their existence by undoing every facet of the previous administration even if the policies were founded upon both solid and common ground? Taking shuttles have since become bullshi- again. #Constructs3

[Keys] One wouldn't take the Associate as somebody to defer on much of anything, but here he is asking my opinion, "Since we've got some time yet before the Hadrudzei arrives, I was wondering how you think we should approach this." Uh - how the fu-- should I know? #Constructs3


[Keys] I'm wondering what the Associate brings to this, but that wonder also intrigues me. If he's not here to help me steal this package, is his focus more on the getaway? I don't necessarily want the answer, but it does beg the question: Who am I mixed up with? #Constructs3

[Keys] I already know what I'm mixed up in. Anyway I take a stab at the shot in the dark, "I'd imagine the best time to strike is when security is its highest as that's when they'd least expect it - before the package gets unloaded and brought inside the terminal." #Constructs3

[Keys] The Associate nods his approval and smiles, "That's a bold proclamation. You strapped?" No, "If weapons enter into the equation, I messed up somewhere along the planning," guns just aren't me. "Admirable," he states before declaring, "I'll have your back." #Constructs3


[Keys] Spaceports, like airports, are ginormous plots of land, but they make much more efficient use of the acreage because their focus is on landing pads as opposed to runways. Ships have vertical landing and takeoff capabilities eliminating most weather delays. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Grab the Hadrudzei's manifest in the back seat," the Associate points that way with a thumb. I'm liking having the majority of the functionality back in my right hand, but the glove stays on for privacy purposes. "Quadrant A, Landing Pad 13," I tell him. #Constructs3

[Keys] The Associate takes that information and uses it plus the overhang street signs to navigate the maze of streets intersecting the spaceport. Each quadrant's secured for safety concerns, so we'll still need to park well outside the terminal. For now, we wait. #Constructs3


[Keys] A few hours pass like a few minutes among strangers listening to WZZZ on the satellite-fed radio preset as commentators and analysts discuss and try to make sense of the day's news. I really do enjoy being part of a team despite the reason for its existence. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Just think about how it'll feel once you're on my team officially - willingly," Fate predicts from the back seat, and of course, the Associate doesn't notice her. But I do obviously, and yet she's even more recognizable - dare I say relatable and familiar. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's not only about being receptive to Fate's altogether put-together (well) appearance or her superficial beauty underneath the clothes, but she's interesting on a level that intrigues me and I'm starting to care about. Curse and effect. It's taken hold. #Constructs3


[Keys] "There's the Hadrudzei," the Associate points toward the sky as a small ship pierces its cloudy veil upon a purposeful descent. Sitting here watching ships come and go really is quite fascinating. It almost makes me yearn for stealing those instead of cars. #Constructs3

[Keys] "I love it when you become aspirational," Fate acknowledges, "because it shows me you're capable of bigger, better things - of evolving." I try to ignore her and ask the Associate, "So how does this work? We knock the fu--er out, take his shi-, and dip?" #Constructs3

[Keys] He laughs, "The pilot's a tough old man. He's successfully done pickups and deliveries to war-torn ravages throughout the universe. We wouldn't have much success in that tact and honestly don't need to. He'll hand over our cargo. Customs is the problem." #Constructs3


[Keys] "How do you think it'll feel once you've utilized the fifth key and recovered half your fingers?" Fate goads. As we exit the car, I instinctively open the back door for no apparent reason (according to the Associate) but in a chivalrous manner (toward her). #Constructs3

[Keys] The trek across the parking lot is arduous but not because of how far the terminal is from where we parked. I'm treading through this haze that takes me away from the Associate and sets me on course of the Hadrudzei. Again Fate plays a hand in my guidance. #Constructs3

[Keys] "W-where's the Associate?" I ask within the funk of my stupor. Fate answers, "You left him to handle things on his end," like I should somehow know that already. Minutes of my life are just gone! As I'm waking up, I hear, "What are you doing back here?" #Constructs3


[Keys] An armed security worker gives me the benefit of the doubt in offering, "Only authorized personnel are allowed in this area, and you're not in uniform. You tryin' to get that OT?" I admit, "I'm trying to steal some cargo before it gets through to customs." #Constructs3

[Keys] So this elicits a hearty laugh from the security worker, "Yeah right," before I'm presented a handy, portable device known as a DNA Recognition/Authorization Tablet or DRAT (for short) complete with a grubby sensor plate and a request for my, "thumb please." #Constructs3

[Keys] Tired of hiding who I am, I pull off my right glove and let this impulsive chip on my shoulder fall where it may. "Okay you're confirmed." What?! "I love watching the ships before my shift as well, but always go to the lockers and get into uniform first." #Constructs3


[Keys] My right hand is fully restored. I can't quit looking at it. The question isn't what but when? "I'm pretty sure you know the answer even though you won't remember the circumstances," Fate says to me after the security worker moves on to make the rounds. #Constructs3

[Keys] Using each key has always provided an increasingly euphoric effect - an addicting effect that's made me more anxious to complete her tasks. So maybe the question isn't what or when but how? Short-term memory loss? "Focus more on permanence," she advises. #Constructs3

[Keys] The more pronounced the pleasure becomes on the front end, the greater the license Fate has to wipe away facets of my personality that don't endear me to her on the back end. It isn't what, when, or how? It's why? "And you have your answer," she confirms. #Constructs3


[Keys] I stagger backward at the realization but don't get far due to a gate being in my way. Not that I'd get far enough away to make a purposeful go at running, Fate stalks my position at such an angle it feels like every avenue of potential escape is covered. #Constructs3

[Keys] Isn't there a saying about not missing what you've never known? But the reverse seems more applicable: I don't know what I'm missing. It's especially true since I have everything I ever wanted as she presses up against me, if only to underscore that point. #Constructs3

[Keys] I've miscalculated. I thought it would've taken all ten keys to cement her hold - not five. I thought there was still time to figure this out. My mistake. Fate uses the close proximity to whisper in my ear, "We've got some cargo to retrieve." Yes we do. #Constructs3

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