Chapter 31: The Return of Tevatron [Unedited]


[Keys] So what's different? What's changed? I'm still me. At least I think I am, but retaining a consciousness means I wouldn't be consciously aware of any difference. There's no mind control. No alien has taken over my body. I'm alive, so my soul is intact. #Constructs3

[Keys] This isn't to say Fate didn't employ the tactics of fu--ing with my head, cursing my fingers, and laying some future claim to my soul - just to get me to this point. But all in all, things feel normal. I feel like myself, and that scares the shi- out of me. #Constructs3

[Keys] I also feel a certain familiarity toward her. With curled fingers exposing a pretty manicure, she runs that side of her left hand across my cheek then traces all the way down my arm to my right hand where we clutch hands before she pulls away and disappears. #Constructs3


[Keys] Beyond the gate, I see the Hadrudzei is already powering down while its top and bottom back doors open outward - one pointing skyward and the other pointing downward while extending further to touch the landing pad floor at an acute angle serving as a ramp. #Constructs3

[Keys] The security worker made a good suggestion, so I head inside the building adjacent to this gate, search out the locker room, and snag a uniform. For some odd reason, I've got access to the sensitive areas of the spaceport, but I'd rather not push my luck. #Constructs3

[Keys] Properly dressed, I step through the gate and onto the tarmac. All these ships are impressive. I can't imagine what an actual spaceport outside terrestrial confines would look like. Anyway the Associate was right: This guy unloading the Hadrudzei is old. #Constructs3


[Keys] "That's a nice ship you got there!" I keep up appearances by calling out my real admiration of the Hadrudzei to its pilot. "Yeah he certainly is," the old man responds proudly while maneuvering a remote control pallet jack to a related hub pallet of choice. #Constructs3

[Keys] He? I find that peculiar, "Aren't most ships female?" As we watch the remote control pallet jack zoom around following its preprogrammed coordinates, the old man concurs, "Many are but not this one. Call me Sam." I shake his hand and reciprocate, "Keys." #Constructs3

[Keys] I doubt I'll ever again take for granted common customs such as shaking hands with a full flesh and blood appendage. Even in this cold. I notice a Space Force standard issue hand laser in a hip holster on his right side which suggests he's former military. #Constructs3


[Keys] Why is Sam still working at this age? I wonder if he wasn't able to save up enough for retirement serving in the Space Force. Maybe he simply enjoys it. Either way, the old man realizes something about me as well, "I've never seen you around here before." #Constructs3

[Keys] There's no animosity, and everything seems expected by him saying as much, "You must be one of Marlin's people. Follow me. I'll show you the cargo." The Associate was right again about Sam handing it over. That implies the part about Customs is right too. #Constructs3

[Keys] At least it's bad news I can see coming. In many respects, I'm grateful for the heads-up as it gives me time to deal with what's sure to become a harrowing experience. For now, I choose to take a moment for myself and follow Sam inside the rear of his ship. #Constructs3


[Keys] "S.A.M.U.E.L.," Sam calls out, "where'd we stash the Kuno shipment?" What is apparently the ship's computer, replies with, "Top left from your current position," as we come up the ramp. "Ah yes, that's right," he nods his head to a returning recollection. #Constructs3

[Keys] Sam naming the ship's computer after himself isn't lost on me, but I pay it no mind as we stop in front of a hefty crate in the corner of the most accessible part of the Hadrudzei's lowest level. And peaking out from behind that crate like a marker is a boy. #Constructs3

[Keys] The boy races to clutch onto Sam's leg. "Hey there, Sammy," he acknowledges warmly. "Grandson or nephew?" I deduce as the boy reaches out an unsure right hand to shake mine. Sam tells me, "Neither," as my hand goes through the ship's holographic avatar. #Constructs3


[Keys] Narcissistic or interesting? "You've definitely got a story to tell," I acknowledge. "That I do," Sam admits before refocusing on me, "but for now, yours isn't finished being written." As I move to inspect the crate, I sigh, "It's a good thing for that." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Looks like a lot," Sam says of the crate before prying off the top for my review, "but as with so many packages, it's mostly air." He digs into what looks to be a pool of shredded paper I'd imagine is easily recyclable and emerges with a decent-sized case. #Constructs3

[Keys] After being handed the case, I immediately ask, "Are you squared up with Marlin?" Sammy is rummaging around as any child would, and I'm struck by how lifelike he is. Sam reassures, "You're good to go. I'm a well-known quantity, so I get payment up front." #Constructs3


[Keys] The case is about half the size of a briefcase, so I remark, "This sure doesn't seem like a whole lot for all the trouble." From that utterance, Sam either realizes or confirms, "You really are new to this lifestyle - not just new to the task but the trade." #Constructs3

[Keys] He kicks some knowledge, "Take it from me, I've seen wars started over less - much, much less. What do they call it? The pettiness of perception?" Hmm, "That's an interesting way of putting it," I say. He's wise, but small talk only stalls the inevitable. #Constructs3

[Keys] A better use of the time would be to make use of his wisdom, so I inquire, "How would you suggest I get myself through Customs with the Kuno?" I hope my question isn't taken as too selfish, but somehow I sense Sam is just happy to have somebody to talk to. #Constructs3


[Keys] Other than the ship's computer and avatar, that is. Sammy now hovers around me with an active, projected curiosity in his anxiousness about what's in the case. S.A.M.U.E.L., by contrast, seems more passive and not much for conversation unless spoken to. #Constructs3

[Keys] Anyway I haven't led an otherwise blameless life, so I need all the help I can get. Sam imparts the following knowledge on me, "What you're holding isn't illegal because itself is illicit but because it was illegally-obtained, so duties can't yet be levied." #Constructs3

[Keys] "The ability to tax is more important than the act of collecting taxes. The ability performs a gatekeeping function. I'm sure your governments don't have an agreement with the world of origin, so the commercial relationship becomes one-sided," he states. #Constructs3


[Keys] Sam holds out an open left palm and speaks with pointed movements of his right hand, "If you go through," he thrusts his hand forward, "that's essentially surrendering to Customs. You could go around," he brushes his hand past, "but that's intent to evade." #Constructs3

[Keys] "So could you take me over all this in the Hadrudzei?" I ask because, "I can't imagine a spaceport wouldn't have measures to cover any underground incursions." Unfortunately, "I can't get involved in it," he explains, "as I'm just the messenger after all." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Besides," Sam mentions, "I have business on Ceres. Getting caught up in yours will not only make me culpable but late. Rather than play into your adversary's hand, flip things on them," he says while turning over his own right palm to grasp his left fist. #Constructs3


[Keys] Distraction it is. I wave goodbye to the Hadrudzei from a safe distance behind marked indicators on the ground that are far enough away a ship's upward thrust won't cause any detriment. Sam's a cool dude. I doubt his story is anywhere close to being over. #Constructs3

[Keys] Space travel is relatively safe, but Earth still has both an actual and a perpetuated problem with terrorists, so any commotion is sure to cause a panic. I don't even need to overdo it. "What have you turned from jacking cars to ships now?" Who the fu--? #Constructs3

[Keys] Certain things in life don't make any sense like how 'most relevant' is often defaulted over 'most recent'. To me, the most recent is the most relevant. Or how this punk as- kid appears out of nowhere to challenge me. The younger generation has no respect. #Constructs3


[Keys] Sam gave me insight into how to get out of this, but the overarching lesson was to respect your elders. I admire the idealism of youth, but it bothers me how they interject their brash brand of activism into the delicate, global conversation with audacity. #Constructs3

[Keys] I get the whole thing about throwing themselves headfirst into the urgent imperative of saving the planet. I understand the appeal of fresh ideas. I realize Sam's generation literally squandered the promise and fu--ed everything up for all to come after. #Constructs3

[Tev] He can try and dismiss my youthfulness to his own detriment: Nobody's seen or heard from Domina or Dyoogie in quite some time, so the sole defense of Buffalo Grove falls to me! It's a little scary, but I want him to know my name, "You can call me Tevatron." #Constructs3


[Keys] I secure the case in my right hand while subtly removing the glove from my left. It's clear I'm not a fighter, but this Tevatron reminds me of those kids whose parents never told them 'no'. You can't reason with that type. Their worldview is all fu--ed up. #Constructs3

[Keys] "The way I see this," are you fu--ing serious - this little bitc- isn't out of high school, so how does he even have an opinion, "you can either surrender or things'll have to become rough." Yeah things are gonna have to become rough. That's an easy choice. #Constructs3

[Keys] It makes me miss Domina and Dyoogie's reign. She never needed to grandstand, and he just fu--in' killed people. There was respect. Boundaries - lines were drawn not to be crossed, and the criminal element stayed out of their way. :( The good ol' days. #Constructs3


[Keys] I deliver a backhand but wind up swinging through nothingness! Tevatron isn't there. Am I hearing things? Before I have the chance to further question my sanity, Fate appears as my anchor to imply only she has the right to play that game, "Keys, look out!" #Constructs3

[Keys] By whiffing my attack, I'm thrown off balance. It allows the kid to appear behind and punish me with a free punch to the right side of my head which sends me to my knees and tweaks my back in the process when I fail to recover and slip on the damp pavement. #Constructs3

[Keys] I kinda appreciate Fate not being all up in my ear because I'm really trying to focus here, but it's clear I'm being outclassed on some superpowered shi-. Honestly I wouldn't turn the guidance away because I don't know what the fu-- is going on right now. #Constructs3


[Keys] Got to shake off disorientation before Tevatron finishes me off, but he seems to be more talk, "After seeing your photos all over the web, I deduced," deduced - get the fu-- outta here, "you'd be wanting a speedy exit, so I tapped into the spaceport cameras." #Constructs3

[Keys] "You mean hacked," I correct the record. Gotta keep him talking, "Anyway I found you, and the BGPD will soon be here to arrest you." What does he mean, "Anyway? Hacking is also a crime." He responds, "It doesn't matter. I have friends in high places." #Constructs3

[Keys] "I know you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps while having to wait for that trust fund," oh did I say that out loud, "but you can tell me: Did your mom take your tests for you too?" His ensuing boot to my face has something extra, pent-up, and spiteful. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Keys, seriously," Fate pleads, "stop playing around. You've touched a nerve but not in the way you were intending." Oh great, this fu--er's got unresolved issues with his mother. She counters me, "When is it ever a good idea to talk about someone's mom?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Under normal circumstances, I'd push this kid's buttons even further to try and cause a slip-up - to use his emotions against him. "Except in this case," Fate plays off my train of thought, "he draws strength from his maternal anguish. Roll to your left!" #Constructs3

[Keys] Tevatron tries to play soccer with the wrong set of balls but misses the kick at the insistence of Fate's guidance. "I get it: Keyshion Davis, keys as fingers, Keys for short. How stupid. Sounds like a failed comic book idea," oh he wants to talk shi- now! #Constructs3


[Keys] Whereas Tevatron is able to focus his emotion on the task at hand, I seem to be losing control of mine, but this isn't exactly a bad thing. One day, he'll learn holding all that in is unhealthy. Today I'll show him why. "I like it," Fate says of my plan. #Constructs3

[Keys] After all, I have the distraction I wanted. But he doesn't know that as I lie still. "Took the fight out of you already?" Tevatron doesn't come off as cocky, but his confidence builds like that of a promising novice. He'll be a force in the years to come. #Constructs3

[Keys] Remember I'm supposed to be in this area, and well Tevatron's not. "What's going on over here!" The security worker from before calls out while rushing to my aid. I curl up in the fetal position and lay it on thick, "He attacked me! I couldn't stop him!" #Constructs3


[Keys] "Why don't you face me straight-up?" Tevatron accuses more than questions. The youth and their ideals. The universe doesn't work that way, and I'm not sure it should when delegation is so much more efficient and satisfying, "He tried to steal this case!" #Constructs3

[Keys] "We've got an unauthorized male in Quadrant A near Landing Pad 13," the security worker says into an Ear-To-Mouth Com. To that end, it's the first time I've had the chance to look at this vigilante in training. Black boots and trench coat. Must be a phase. #Constructs3

[Keys] Nobody dresses like that. And that hair. These fu--ing kids. "Get the case to the holding area," bingo, "I'll deal with this," the security worker offers. But when we both bring our eye contact back to Tevatron, me to see the look on his face, he's gone! #Constructs3


[Keys] "He was just there," I say. "You saw him right?" The security worker nods in the affirmative, "Yeah I did. We can't both be going crazy?" Fate, ever observant, alerts, "He has teleportation powers." I'm glad she's here, because I certainly missed that. #Constructs3

[Keys] Oh snap, I thought he was just nice with his fists like a featherweight that can throw sustained attacks in a blur. "Not quite," Fate smiles and prods, "see if your comrade has any ideas." I think she gets off on knowing the outcome and playing Ethereal. #Constructs3

[Keys] "I'm new," I admit somewhat truthfully, "is there some sort of protocol for this?" The security worker beckons others to our position, "There was an attack, the perp is still on the loose," and orders, "so get him inside quickly and alert Customs." Uh-oh. #Constructs3


[Keys] Whisked away like some sort of VIP, a handful of security workers still remain behind in their search for Tevatron, but he won't be back. What that unfortunately means for me is I'll be unable to shake him, "Unless you divert his attention span," Fate adds. #Constructs3

[Keys] I realize she can't give me all the answers, but at least it's got me asking the right questions as I ponder what juicy morsel could be more appealing than me being this kid's first collar. I hope this Kuno is worth it to someone. No wonder it's so pricey. #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm ushered into a break room with tables filled to capacity but one in particular featuring some of the hardest people I've ever seen. It's clear my presence is disturbing lunch, but for all the thuggish appeal of Customs, I've honestly never felt safer. #Constructs3


[Keys] Everybody has a day job like I did with the valet gig, and I can imagine they're a little bit too good at theirs - just like me, to the point of the proficiency being questionable. Concerning Customs, one can bet they'll get their money. My kind of people. #Constructs3

[Keys] Five bodies sit around their table which leaves one open spot. I'm tempted to pull up that last chair, but Tevatron is watching and will reappear soon, so my focus is on the exit strategy. There are two doors, and I need to make my way to the opposite one. #Constructs3

[Keys] My security worker escorts get Customs up to speed on the situation, and as if incensed over the potential incursion on their turf, the five of them become immediately protective of me and offer that chair like I'm one of their own. I don't even work here! #Constructs3


[Keys] I guess there is honor among thieves of the same guild. Upon approach, one of them immediately asks me, "You new?" I have no reason to lie (any further), "Yeah." Although I don't think they'd care either way because another speaks up, "We got your back." #Constructs3

[Keys] An unwritten code exists, so I won't write it down here. Just know it exists to address inequalities in the criminal justice system, and game recognize game. It is what it is - just like how there was no 'S' at the end of recognize. Again it's comforting. #Constructs3

[Keys] But it's not like there's a social network for us where we can share bold stories of illegality and ask for advice - dare I say mentoring. People put too much shi- on the internet. Red flags are everywhere, yet the scrutiny is inconsistent. Except for us. #Constructs3


[Keys] Inequities are not the point. The point is the camaraderie that comes from inequity. So when Tevatron reemerges in the blink of an eye, it's clear whose side Customs aligns with as they pop up from their meals to huddle around me in defense of my position. #Constructs3

[Keys] I'd imagine a moving target would be harder to hit, but I'm reminded of the questionable grade school chastisement that punishes the bully and the bullied equally under the peculiar pronouncement of, "Yes you were being chased, but you shouldn't have run." #Constructs3

[Keys] But fu-- that. After witnessing Tevatron shirk punches by virtue of vanishing and then reappearing at some other place outside harm's way, my as- can't climb over this table fast enough as I hustle toward the door on the opposite side. And yet I look back. #Constructs3


[Keys] Undisciplined. I'm the one running away as another indication my fighting skills are not up to par, but even I can tell Tevatron isn't going to be able to handle Customs. Despite it being five on one, his ability to teleport should make this no challenge. #Constructs3

[Keys] I won't go so far as to call this fight unfair. After all, he has powers! Everybody should be at least evenly matched. But inexperience will be Tevatron's downfall. You can't beat back brute force with less brute force. You either need more or finesse. #Constructs3

[Keys] And Customs is methodically picking him apart. It's a concentric gauntlet. Two take Tevatron on at any given time while three hang back awaiting his teleportation. Then one of the original two jumps into a new tag team while the other hangs back to rest. #Constructs3


[Keys] Not that I'm overly concerned for his well-being. I just can't seem to escape this feeling of being connected to him somehow. Now I wouldn't say it's like being related or linked in any way, but it seems to be one of those six degrees of separation things. #Constructs3

[Keys] Is this newfound compassion a byproduct of Fate's hold? Doubtful. I doubt it's even compassion. The guise may be such, but self-preservation is the lead. To save Tevatron (who's focused on trying to prove himself) is to liberate my own self from all this. #Constructs3

[Keys] I pass off eye contact as a fleeting fling of disrespect, but within my deceptively smiling eyes is the ulterior motive of refocusing Tevatron on what his original mission was about. Choices. It's either continue on like he's doing or trail me out the door. #Constructs3


[Keys] Why would people put themselves through such torment? Tevatron doesn't seem to be guided so much by anger and hatred as he is the need to feel alive. He's too young for a midlife crisis but old enough for the yearn to want to experience more - or anything. #Constructs3

[Keys] Here's to hoping I can get him focused on me before I get him focused on the next. I bolt out the door and into a hallway before slamming it closed for added effect. I hope it's jarring enough to enunciate my point for me, but just in case it's not, I wait. #Constructs3

[Keys] With my back pressed up against the wall on the other side of the hallway, I slide down to a seat on the floor where I wait but not long. Tevatron appears before me and stalls a collapse as if from teleportation fatigue. He's young but was recently taxed. #Constructs3


[Keys] "You've got," I pause for some assistance here... "Twenty-three seconds," Fate advises. ...and then continue, "twenty-three seconds until they bust through that door." It's an actual eternity for those who watch commercials. I stand up to catch Tevatron. #Constructs3

[Keys] It isn't my place to coach or mentor the kid, but perhaps another could, so I hand him off to one who might. NSFm-1 Alpha shows up and accepts Tevatron's punished frame as if by obligation and not a whole lot else in the form of words until he notices Fate. #Constructs3

[Keys] Again she notices a method of transportation I missed, "So the Humans have their own Ethereal now." NSFm-1 Alpha responds to her directly while draping Tevatron's arm around his neck, "Yes and no." An Ethereal? This guy? Then he and the kid dematerialize. #Constructs3


[Keys] "NSFm-1 Alpha could see you," I state something that isn't supposed to be obvious. "Get going," Fate orders, and I quickly comply to the tune of my noticeable absence when Customs busts through the door and spreads out to search for either Tevatron or me. #Constructs3

[Keys] Vast experience stealing cars and evading pursuit or capture contributes to my sense of direction that leads me to the counter area out front. I propel myself butt-first and then swing my legs over the countertop to daylight as I plop down on the other side. #Constructs3

[Keys] I catch the Associate out the corner of my eye transacting business but don't blow either of our covers in knifing my way through the crowd and heading for the ever inviting exit. With it in sight, I tamp my all-out hustle down to a brisk walk of urgency. #Constructs3


[Keys] Unbeknownst to me, the Associate used his key fob to unlock the car doors at a distance. Something told me to try the front passenger side car door and see. Or rather someone - Fate sits in the back seat awaiting my entry. I get in and pull out the case. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Don't you want to take a look at it?" She asks both a loaded and leading question. "Honestly no I don't," I say for all the trouble it took to get this. "Yeah you do," Fate insists in her own sinister way by pointing her left index finger directly at me. #Constructs3

[Keys] Before the Associate returns, my finger is already inside the lock on the case. Surprisingly there's no knee-buckling rush of pleasure to go along with the withdrawal of a re-formed finger. Fate tells me why, "Because I don't need to convince you anymore." #Constructs3


[Keys] The case innards are packed exactly how one might imagine intergalactic shipping of food to go: Insulation, a freezing element, and the precious Kuno. But, with smuggling, everybody knows the most important part isn't so much the cargo but the case itself. #Constructs3

[Keys] How does Fate even know these things? How does she know I know about these things? How can I be asking these questions at this point? Fate adds, "Especially when the most interesting part of all this is what more Marlin has to hide." And she's not wrong. #Constructs3

[Keys] I make a mental note of the content placement within the case and make the most of this time before the Associate returns by disassembling those items and placing them on the driver's seat in a methodical order so I'll be able to put everything back together. #Constructs3


[Keys] As the Associate sits down in his seat and closes the car door, he asks, "How did it go?" I have everything put back together again and hold up the resealed, prized case to doubly illustrate my success, "Not too bad," but I can never unsee what I've seen. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Great work," he says before pointing toward the back seat with a thumb over his shoulder, "you can put it back there. I don't know how you did it, but Mister Allis will be appreciative of your effort." I do add, "As long as pay is involved, we're square." #Constructs3

[Keys] It's like fu-- the bullshi-. Gratitude is nice and all, but I didn't and don't work for free, and that spaceport was a nightmare. Old-school smugglers, Humans teleporting, Ethereals, and fu--in' Customs. Marlin better set me up nice. That's all I know. #Constructs3


[Keys] Well perhaps not all I know. Because I now know a lot. More than I ever thought I'd need to. But certainly more than I ever wanted to. I essentially hand the case to Fate who the Associate can't see, and she asks, "So how are you planning to play this?" #Constructs3

[Keys] Again the level of irony in her question is astounding. I should be asking her the same thing, for guidance, and since she already knows the outcome. Maybe this is ultimately why I'm not a fan of prequels: I'm the living, breathing personification of one. #Constructs3

[Keys] What I mean by that and in dealing with Fate, my future is already predetermined, so the present (which is ultimately the past from her perspective) has yet to be written. In other words, I should've been a wrestler instead of a carjacker. Pretty wild huh? #Constructs3

Next Chapter →

Enjoying what you've read? Support us by purchasing one of our other stories in the continuity.

Add this Experience to Your Collection!