Chapter 32: The Destiny of Fate [Unedited]


[Keys] The Associate drops us off a few blocks away from The Spot (for security purposes) in the rain no less. I do that thing where I open up the back door to allow Fate out which leaves him shaking his head as he drives off. I can't help it. She's real to me. #Constructs3

[Keys] So when I ask Fate this, it's not because I'm coming onto her or anything like that - but because I have a taste for a hot dog on a toasted bun with a bed of relish, honey mustard, and barbecue sauce, "You hungry," and am willing to share. Blasphemy, I know. #Constructs3

[Keys] They don't eat hot dogs like that in the Midwest. "But you do?" Fate, who can be corporeal when she wants to be, asks. Of course there's something in it for her as the vendor hands over a basket with the plump hot dog, a bag of chips, and a drink - no ice. #Constructs3


[Keys] We find a spot out the rain that was once a cold dousing and has now become a much needed downpour. We. I can hardly believe it myself as my thoughts allow me to contemplate the once unthinkable. "It's not that bad," Fate says. Is she asking or telling? #Constructs3

[Keys] "You've gotta try this other place I know that makes spaghetti with cranberry-infused meatballs," I mention. "Tangy and sweet, I'd imagine," Fate replies. Which is probably why I brought it up. Because that's what she is as I see her in an unhurried light. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's proof that once you get to know someone, they don't seem quite as scary. The scariest part is arguably taking the time to do so. But in reaching this point, Fate doesn't dismiss my reverence for her as just byproduct of the unyielding grip on my soul. #Constructs3


[Keys] Nor do I take for granted this burgeoning camaraderie that started off a bit rocky because of a vehicular indiscretion. "Still upset," Fate adds while tearing into the bag of chips as we sit ourselves and set our food beneath a tree on its raised embankment. #Constructs3

[Keys] The rain is letting up, and we're able to shield ourselves from the elements fairly well. There wasn't ever a threat of thunder or lightning. Plaza Verde is looking quite thawed-out this time of year, so the strip mall is active and street vendors are out. #Constructs3

[Keys] I want to get to know Fate - not because I want to get to know her, but because I want to get to know her. Think about that and the statement's intent for a second. What it is and what it isn't. It's probably why she's even allowing me the attempt at all. #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate volunteers the following piece of information that's a well-known tenet from our universe, "There's no such thing as good and evil. Those labels are often used to provide a moral high ground when the root of the disagreement is a difference of opinion." #Constructs3

[Keys] She goes on to say, "'Right and wrong' is a convenient narrative authored by the victorious. All your life, you were taught Goliath was this menacing evil, but that turned out not to be the case from even your own limited perspective. We wrote his story." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Lower beings or Ethereals walking around like in eBooks or other mediums stating they do what they do because they see themselves as evil is a fallacy. Everybody does what they do because they believe their course of action is correct," Fate is projecting. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Not projecting," Fate explains, "warning." That doesn't sound dire or deeply disturbing at all. She continues, "Certain factions and other interested individuals would prefer a different narrative and revisionist outcome. They're teaming up to this end." #Constructs3

[Keys] "And this would be why you so readily accepted my invitation," I acknowledge. "No," Fate disagrees, "it was a nice gesture, but I'm entitled to carry ulterior motives of not wanting to lead our latest assailants back to The Spot." That is her prerogative. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's also something that gives me indigestion (as well as pause) when I resist the urge to turn my head in searching around for whoever is after us. My eyes are not so inclined to restraint as they scan for any untoward movement throughout the parking lot. #Constructs3


[Keys] There are five or six - maybe seven different people ducking in and out from parked cars, and they're not clutching shopping bags. The strip mall is in the background, the parking lot is before us, and we're sitting exposed among trees lining Dundee Road. #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm freaking out looking for an exit strategy which includes running across four lanes of traffic. Of course, Fate remains calm sipping on her soft drink. Why wouldn't she be? She knows how it turns out, but getting there is about to be harrowing as fu--. #Constructs3

[Keys] "We need to go," I plead. Fate's totally apathetic, "Who would've thought a hot dog could be that good," in her response which should put me at ease but freaks me out even more. She laughs, "I'm prescient - not omniscient." Thanks for clearing it all up. #Constructs3


[Keys] While Fate searches out a trash receptacle, I'm looking for options. "Relax," she urges as if this is an everyday occurrence on Earth. I mean it is, but still - it's still concerning when I'm a part of it and not watching from afar or playing a video game. #Constructs3

[Keys] A van speeds to a screeching halt in front of us with the driver's side closest to our position. But the passenger side is of the most immediate interest as its occupant steps out and stands up higher than the roof of the vehicle with a hook staff to match. #Constructs3

[Keys] A revitalized Sumo Jo rumbles out the back of the van causing the vehicle to almost bounce upon rebounding from the absence of his weight. The driver, Impetus, shows a gratuitous amount of dexterity by flinging himself and the flailing shotgun over the hood. #Constructs3


[Keys] That leaves El Muerto who of course Fate points me in the direction of, "Behind you," as nonchalantly as possible as it appears the truce NSFm-1 Alpha mentioned is holding. I turn to see the mercenary size me up beneath a mask shielding all facial features. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's worth noting El Muerto's much smaller than Goliath or the other Reapers, but his small stature does little to discount the fact he's still a Reaper. Lethally pertinent reasons exist for that. I have zero idea how long he masqueraded as Sweet Charles. #Constructs3

[Keys] I mean him no harm, so there's no need for me to back down because I have no plans of stepping up. Goliath and the other Reapers are built like bricks with legs and arms - menacing specimens that accommodate their brutish narrative. El Muerto has powers. #Constructs3


[Keys] By now, people are screaming and scattering. Quite a few amateur cinematographers hang around to stream live video in the hopes of going viral when some journalistic outlet or social media network latches onto the story. That's how I'd prefer to watch this. #Constructs3

[Keys] I imagine most would prefer not to be the breaking news story. "That's very surprising coming from you," Fate interjects, "and knowing your 'occupation' caused a number of news alerts." While we banter about, El Muerto stands with us - I'm guessing annoyed. #Constructs3

[Keys] Conversely Fate's grin says it all telling me all I need to know about how much she's enjoying the turn of events. Enemies becoming tentative allies must be incredibly satisfying. But if the enemy of her enemy is now a friend, what does that make the enemy? #Constructs3


[Keys] It makes them a whole lot scarier if they're standing against Fate and not in NSFm-1 Alpha's consortium. But nothing is quite as scary as watching Goliath and the Reapers fight in tandem. I've never seen our assailants' weaponry before, but it won't matter. #Constructs3

[Keys] The mercenaries have total disregard for life and property. Goliath steps into the path of laser fire, deflects a stream that gets close with the swatting of his hook staff, and spikes the business end of the scythe into an assailant and through a car door! #Constructs3

[Keys] Not exactly what I want to see after lunch. Heck I wouldn't want to see that before or during lunch or really ever again, but I'm happy to not be on the receiving end of Goliath's ire - or that car he just hoisted up with the assailant still impaled to it. #Constructs3


[Keys] Fairly obvious to me, people put way too much faith in guns like running up on a centuries-old mercenary with one is either going to stop him or prevent the assailant from being smashed underneath the weight of a retaliatory car! It won't. And it didn't. #Constructs3

[Keys] Impetus provides an interesting contrast to something that really isn't a debate, but I'm trying to remain apolitical here. He uses the taut hook staff to springboard over the pools of blood (Goliath seems content to wade in) and throw himself into the mix. #Constructs3

[Keys] Earlier I made some admittedly snide remarks about his weapon choice: Primary effect is to prop up the double-edged scimitar, scimitar always was worthless, shotgun with a scimitar. I was wrong. The shotgun is the accessory, and the scimitar is the lead. #Constructs3


[Keys] Impetus' fight style reminds me of a carefully choreographed dance routine with how fluid and yet deliberate his motions are. Upon becoming airborne, the shotgun is used as a deterrent to keep the assailants at bay and distraction to keep them off balance. #Constructs3

[Keys] The natural inclination is to flinch because of the loud, booming sound - more bark than bite especially at the closing distance of him soaring through the air. But that's its purpose. Freezing the assailants, albeit momentarily, is all he needs to strike. #Constructs3

[Keys] And Impetus hits the ground attacking with swipes of the scimitar/shotgun that knock an assailant's weapon aside, a slice that opens up the opened-up target, and a side roll to dodge incoming fire putting him in position to perforate and put down the person. #Constructs3


[Keys] It took Sumo Jo a little bit to get there, but once he starts moving, he's impossible to stop. In a locomotive and battle sense. Crashing through cars is apparently his preferred tact but not apparently enough for the assailants to process the need to run. #Constructs3

[Keys] Using one of the displaced cars, Impetus presses his back up against it and lays down cover fire over his shoulder. Again this causes the assailants to at least rethink things for a split second, and the Reapers' startling close-quartered offense continues. #Constructs3

[Keys] Being hands-on is an understatement. Once Sumo Jo puts hands on somebody, it's over. A palm punch is enough to send an assailant flying, but he clearly prefers to grapple and does so with the voracious aggression of a suplex specialist pining for tables. #Constructs3


[Keys] Except the mat has no give as the canvas is concrete. And yet Sumo Jo hasn't lost a step. This venue is the water to his fish. The extra large body weight insulates him from the repeated impacts. It's the scientific equivalent to why a basketball bounces. #Constructs3

[Keys] Remember being younger and trying out wrestling moves with friends on mattresses or at least the carpet? He is actively trying to kill people or at least severely maim them with piledrivers the thighs don't protect and submission holds that miss the tap out. #Constructs3

[Keys] As for the ring? It's like one of those pet fences that are more perceived than anything because Impetus is doing yeoman's work of keeping the assailants corralled to this area by ocular misdirection. Goliath is like an active referee overseeing the action. #Constructs3


[Keys] When the assailants get a sense this situation isn't going their way and try to regroup (read: run), Goliath interjects with authoritative slashes to fleeing backs before engaging in some pickax action to drag these poor, flailing people back into the ring. #Constructs3

[Keys] In other words, the scene is contained - much to the approval of the Buffalo Grove Police Department. They're used to crazy shi- like this happening, and apparently upon authority of the NSF, Goliath and the Reapers seem to've been given a vigilante's pass. #Constructs3

[Keys] Justice is supposed to be blind, and they've certainly turned a blind eye to this brutality. But the tact isn't my primary concern. It's the level of coordination between so many disparate parties. I wonder what keeps them all up at night to warrant this. #Constructs3


[Keys] This is one of those 'don't tell the public so as to not cause a panic' things. It's message control. But don't tell the public what? What's coming? And why don't they see Fate's mission as ominous as it once was? "Why don't you ask them?" She tells me. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Ask them what?" NSFm-1 Alpha says as he hops down from the back of the van. "How the - why don't you just teleport like Tevatron does?" I wasn't expecting him to be in there. He responds on some profound shi-, "I'm not in a hurry to get through life." #Constructs3

[Keys] "But that wasn't your question, was it?" NSFm-1 Alpha deduces. I ask, "Why are you protecting Fate and helping me to complete her mission? How can anything be worse than what she's planning to unleash?" He looks at El Muerto and says, "Let's find out." #Constructs3


[Keys] They start off toward the crime scene but then halt and turn back toward me where NSFm-1 Alpha asks, "You coming?" I look at Fate as if to net permission but mostly out of confusion and needing guidance. With the wave of her left hand, she urges, "Go on." #Constructs3

[Keys] Upon crossing the yellow tape, NSFm-1 Alpha bends down to pick up one of the many futuristic guns strewn throughout the area. He hands it to me and asks, "Do you mind?" I'm unfamiliar with hi-tech weaponry, but my part becomes clear with further inspection. #Constructs3

[Keys] My left middle finger looks like a perfect fit for the locking mechanism above the trigger. I'm extremely glad there's no more euphoria associated with this process as that would look quite a bit out of place among all these hardened killers and an Ethereal. #Constructs3


[Keys] As I withdraw my finger and it forms back into flesh, I realize how much a part of something larger I am. There's no surprise. It's not even unique. NSFm-1 Alpha takes the weapon, reaches behind his head, and pulls out a tendril from the back of his neck! #Constructs3

[Keys] "Are you going to be able to trace the weapon back to the culprit?" I ask. He plugs into the compartment I opened, interfaces with the device, and explains, "Weapons only give plausible deniability. In that, a blueprint is much better than a fingerprint." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Advanced modes aside," NSFm-1 Alpha explains, "computers are added to weaponry as governors or to help with accuracy. The extent of these weapons' programming will give us an eye into the culprit's intent. Was the mission to terrorize or something else?" #Constructs3


[Keys] NSFm-1 Alpha unplugs from the weapon, and his tendril retracts into the back of his neck. "Well?" I don't get all into this computer shi-, but this seems interesting if not pertinent. He says, "The 2200 3B Gun is the response to the Space Force's LUNC." #Constructs3

[Keys] "But where Ennead Tech Corp opted for simplicity in design and size," NSFm-1 Alpha elaborates, "RefCo chose a much larger and more modular design that's highly customizable." This weapon is an oversize assault rifle that's slightly deeper than it is long. #Constructs3

[Keys] Its width is larger than one'd expect to, I assume, give the weapon a measure of heft and weight balance. These are the thoughts of a car guy, but he confirms, "There's a big market for infinitely customizable weaponry," to the dismay of male enhancement. #Constructs3


[Keys] Though we all seem to now be on the same page, I still push the issue, "It sounds like they should call this thing a midlife crisis for 'short'. Most people just buy ridiculous cars worth more than my home," because I like fu--ing with Fate, for a change. #Constructs3

[Keys] Stewing she simply shakes her head with a sneer meant to maintain professionalism in front of NSFm-1 Alpha but as if to prophesy dire consequences for me when the Ethereal's not around. He adds, "It's essentially an operating system masquerading as a gun." #Constructs3

[Keys] I can imagine, "That's short of impossible to legislate because anybody could program an upgrade module to perform any conceivable function." NSFm-1 Alpha acknowledges, "The police unions hate being outgunned, but they're making due," referring to Goliath. #Constructs3


[Keys] Goliath enters the conversation all nonchalant like he didn't just fu-- up a bunch of people and addresses Fate directly with his stoic voice of authority, "So very stubborn. You know what threatens this universe and still insist on completing your mission." #Constructs3

[Keys] "What's coming?" I lean over to NSFm-1 Alpha to ask. "You don't want to know," he responds. Fate doesn't need lecturing and probably needs no justification but snaps back, "Bloody Guenther can help us!" I inquire, "Who?" NSFm-1 Alpha clarifies, "David." #Constructs3

[Keys] "He cannot be controlled!" Goliath assails. "Maybe that's a good thing?" Fate pushes back. Continuing the rolling commentary, I ask NSFm-1 Alpha, "Is it me, or do you sense some tension?" He says, "Very little is known about them." And that's my point. #Constructs3


[Keys] They argue like friends who share different political views. They argue like roommates who need some space. They argue like they've been dating for a while and they're feeling the mounting pressure of its seriousness. They argue like an old married couple. #Constructs3

[Keys] Fate has power over the endpoint. It's her calling. Goliath must oppose it. It's his destiny to do so. She doesn't want or wish harm upon him. He doesn't want or mean to control her. They represent a counterbalance to the other, and opposites attract. #Constructs3

[Keys] "How can I net love like this?" I ask with rhetorical intent. NSFm-1 Alpha answers, "Maybe not use your lady friend as a Human shield." That again. Still, seeing them embrace while the Reapers and some assailant coalesce around - I'm broken. Wait what?! #Constructs3


[Keys] "He doesn't know anything about who's responsible for this attack," El Muerto says in the voice of the assailant. Oh! He did that thing again like when he took over Sweet Charles. I wish I could've watched, but I was so taken by Fate and Goliath before me. #Constructs3

[Keys] Or should I say Fate and Destiny? What is and what will be. I doubt Goliath would accept being known as that because Goliath and the Reapers sounds so much cooler to me. "Can the assailant lead us back to their base of operations?" NSFm-1 Alpha inquires. #Constructs3

[Keys] Don't answer that. Please don't answer that. "He can," El Muerto answers. Da-n it! No. No. No. "I think El Muerto and Keys should check it out," Impetus suggests. Fu--! I give him the 'nobody asked you' look, but our ride arrives, so it was Fated. #Constructs3


[Keys] Consider my tongue bitten however. After seeing how Impetus carried himself, I'm just glad we can be considered 'on the same side'. No sly comments. No disagreement. Oh and it helps that Sumo Jo is leaning his weight against me waiting for me to pop off. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's not so much intimidation as it is a playful acknowledgment of how this all could've gone. Each Reaper seems to follow Goliath unquestionably, but they have their own backstories as well and (unlike those affected by Fate) go where the moment takes them. #Constructs3

[Keys] As her car weaves around carnage and emergency vehicles to a stop next to the jump-out van, its doors open up to nobody's surprise in revealing Sweet Charles. No car jokes at Fate's expense - I'm starting to see this for what it is but in a different light. #Constructs3


[Keys] Sweet Charles. Batxt. Blondie. Damian. I was going to leave them behind to follow Club Soda's move to Second Earth. Just take Mahagony and uproot. But that's what people do. We grow up. And we grow apart. So we're expected to grow apart together now? #Constructs3

[Keys] I've got a question now, "Why did you bring me into this, Fate?" By now, Sweet Charles is standing outside the car with his hands cupped on its roof - watching. I point out, "I'm a nobody. More powerful beings could've done what you wanted more quickly." #Constructs3

[Keys] She separates from Goliath to address my obvious concern, "It's not always about what I want. I'm more a 'what will be' kind of woman. How things get there is often left to interpretation." NSFm-1 Alpha hands El Muerto the weapon as he heads for the car. #Constructs3


[Keys] Sitting in the car with all this silence is awkward. El Muerto is sitting in the back seat still in his assailant guise like, 'can we get moving?' But having possessed Sweet Charles earlier, I'm sure he knows all the secrets. How quaint to have options. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Everything alright, Keys?" Sweet Charles continues to lie to me by not telling me the truth! I choose to break my silence, "You sold my soul to Fate so you could keep the Crew together?" He admits, "Among other things." Are you - what the?! I'm furious. #Constructs3

[Keys] El Muerto sits back in the seat probably wondering how he drew the short straw, but I'm not letting this go, "What about Batxt? He's like her minion now! This is not a good look, dude." Sweet Charles drives off slowly and admits, "I know. I fu--ed up." #Constructs3


[Keys] He fu--ed up? "Are you fu--in' serious!" I snap, "I have keys for fingers, and we're in the middle of some shi- sandwich with an ancient war on one side and some new war that has everybody including fu--ing Ethereals shi--scared! You fu--ed up? I'll say." Constructs3

[Keys] Then Sweet Charles responds, "I'm sorry what I did in trying to better the Crew's circumstances, to help us out, that in fact you took it a different way," on some dismissive shi-! Stunned I turn to El Muerto for guidance, but he declines, "I'm not in this." #Constructs3

[Keys] But, "You bring a unique perspective having possessed Sweet Charles. You know his thoughts." El Muerto nods, "Very true, I've known his thoughts, but I never knew what was in his heart. The fact you don't either (as his best friend) should be troubling." #Constructs3


[Keys] El Muerto's right about that, but Sweet Charles beats me to the punch, "He's right about that." Wait a minute. How's this my fault? I reiterate, "I'm the victim here," and hold up my left hand with its remaining keys for fingers. Where's this coming from? #Constructs3

[Keys] "It's always about you," he assails, "and nobody else! The move to Second Earth." I hit back, "Forgive me for not wanting to be a carjacker all my life." Sweet Charles responds as if I've proved what, to me, sounds like a nebulous point, "And there it is." #Constructs3

[Keys] I say, "Earth has gone to he--! Fu--in' hate groups walk around freely - cosigned by the policies of fascist governments and the silence of voters. You can have this shi-! Club Soda moving to Second Earth was my way out." He asks, "What about my way out?" #Constructs3


[Keys] I point out, "You worked for Club Soda and could've come with." Sweet Charles disagrees, "No I couldn't. The Crew got business because of me - my connections. I kept you-all out of it. I know too much. Messengers get a pass, but middle people get shot." #Constructs3

[Keys] Well how the fu-- was I supposed to know? Criminality offers lifetime employment, but there's usually no benefit to its retirement package. "So your only out was to become Fate's bitc-?" Sweet Charles smiles at me, "A bit graphic, but yes I bent over." #Constructs3

[Keys] Fu--in' sellout. Unbelievable. "Where do you come off offering up your soul as well as mine?" I wonder, "How does that even work?" He admits, "I've always been your underworld agent. It's what I do - cut deals." Yeah I add, "That's what I'm afraid of." #Constructs3


[Keys] El Muerto has all but checked out at this point leaning up against the window and finding more enjoyment in the accumulation of his breath on the glass. "I'd never turn state's on you," Sweet Charles draws an ironic line as we pass the last police roadblock. #Constructs3

[Keys] What he's done however is amass a formidable albeit incongruous army capable of protecting him, but I wonder at what cost. What could Fate possibly want of his, or more precisely, when is she going to collect on this debt? Her prerogative is a certainty. #Constructs3

[Keys] All should be forgiven at this point. We should both be willing to put things behind us and move forward. Everybody should be working together to figure a way out of the mess. But I'm not talking about Sweet Charles because Tevatron just can't let shi- go! #Constructs3

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