Chapter 33: The Hetrodan Wars [Unedited]


[Keys] In all El Muerto's boredom, he neglected to secure the 2200 3B Gun, so Tevatron's unexpected teleport into the passenger side back seat creates an advantage which really isn't. I'll get to that later, but first this vigilante wannabe asks, "Did you miss me?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "Honestly yes," and, "I shouldn't admit this, but I was concerned about you." So now we get to it. Tevatron snatches the weapon and scrapes it against the interior ceiling which causes Sweet Charles to swerve the entire car as he turns to survey the damage. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Touching," Tevatron acknowledges while aiming the bulky weapon at my head, "but this is a citizen's arrest." This is the sound of my eyes rolling, "Yeah okay, mini militia." Sweet Charles mentions, "If you scratched the interior, Fate is going to kill us!" #Constructs3


[Keys] I know part of El Muerto is like, 'How did he get stuck babysitting this chaos?' But the other part finally snaps the fu-- out of its drool-induced trance and steps the fu-- up to push into Tevatron in an attempt to knock the weapon aside and wrest it away. #Constructs3

[Keys] It reminds me of trying to maneuver something similar to a long, large package with a lot of girth into a car when needing to ship the thing back to an online store. It can only twist, turn, and sway in the manner fixed objects like front seats will allow. #Constructs3

[Keys] And it winds up smacking Sweet Charles in the head which causes him to drive us into the oncoming lanes of traffic on Dundee Road, me to grab the steering wheel to try and pull us back from the brink of a head-on collision, and the police to take up chase. #Constructs3


[Keys] El Muerto's not in the business of hurting kids, but he does go for a punch to the temple to see about neutralizing the threat to all our lives. But Tevatron teleports, weapon and all, out of harm's way and on top of the sprawled-out mercenary in a crouch. #Constructs3

[Keys] Tevatron has free aim at me but isn't wearing a seat belt when Sweet Charles slams on the brakes and goes flying forward. El Muerto instinctively rights himself enough to grab and hold the kid's lower extremities causing a collapse across the center console. #Constructs3

[Keys] The weapon spikes itself between my legs. It's a wonder Sweet Charles was able to recover during rush hour and drive to a stop on the right (and correct) side of the road. Reckless driving, weapon charge, no seat belt - this isn't going to make it to trial. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Dyoogie," I look down at a dazed Tevatron to say, "you are not. You need training or something because you suck as a vigilante." Sweet Charles starts digging in his pockets for his wallet containing his license and adds, "All the lives you put at risk." #Constructs3

[Keys] Tevatron has got to learn the trade. Whether you fight crime outside the law or steal cars with their owners formerly in them, jeopardizing the safety of innocents will only lead to a short stint. El Muerto sits back and utters, "This is not a video game." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Can we claim some sort of affiliation to this consortium we're now a part of?" I ask Sweet Charles. He puts his hands on the steering wheel compliantly at eleven and one o'clock before stating, "If Domina was in the car, the BGPD might've overlooked this." #Constructs3


[Keys] The police officer knocks on the window and requests the customary, "License and registration please," once Sweet Charles rolls it down. Very deliberately he explains how he plans to comply with the order, "I'm taking my left hand off the steering wheel." #Constructs3

[Keys] This shi- is so degrading. Fu--in' cops. Anxiety toward them seems ingrained in our DNA. I know they're not all bad, but distrust is a mutuality. The way laws are written as a systemic power imbalance in their favor without accountability is my reality. #Constructs3

[Keys] "With my left hand," Sweet Charles continues, "I'm reaching down slowly into my front left pocket where my wallet resides." El Muerto has the weapon concealed against the interior side of the car. "What's wrong with him?" The officer asks about Tevatron. #Constructs3


[Keys] "And shouldn't he be in school?" The officer goes on to question. See that's the problem. They always seem to be looking for the bad in everything. Maybe we were taking Tevatron to school! Buffalo Grove High School is right there across the street! #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm sick of this. I've got Fate on my side, so I choose to act out by speaking out of turn, "Sounds like you already got your mind made up." I can feel El Muerto's 'what are you doing?!' eyes on me and sense the queasiness rising in Sweet Charles' stomach. #Constructs3

[Keys] "How about you four step out the car?" The officer orders more than suggests while stepping back with a hand over the sidearm for us to be cognizant of in case we hadn't remembered all the other routine traffic stops that went bad and were caught on camera. #Constructs3


[Keys] That was with the right hand. The left hand works the communicator on the officer's shoulder, "Requesting backup at the high school corner of Dundee and Arlington Heights. Reckless driving. No seat belt as well as truancy. I believe they're also armed." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Oh my head," Tevatron moans to our dismay but the officer's unemotionally giddy delight. More bogus charges, "Contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I said step out of the vehicle gentleman! Resisting arrest." Terror charges will probably be next. #Constructs3

[Keys] Additional sirens are quick to oblige the officer's request as our window of escape narrows with the promptness of their approach. And Sweet Charles ain't Blondie, so I don't expect he'd be able to drive through law enforcement's assembling obstacle course. #Constructs3


[Keys] What are my options? Sweet Charles needs to drive this car because Fate is in a good place right now, and nobody wants that to change. El Muerto can't jeopardize his cover to engage the officer. I'm too pretty to fight. So that leaves Tevatron's punk as-. #Constructs3

[Keys] I turn to address him sternly without raising my voice, "You are fu--ing up! Chasing pawns. Get us out of this shi-, and I'll clue you in on what's really going on. Can you teleport the whole car?" He answers honestly, "I don't think it works that way." #Constructs3

[Keys] Tevatron teleports out the car seemingly leaving us to deal with this on our own. The officer notices his absence and adds, "Kidnapping," to this bullshi-. I push back on the indifference to reality, "You're not going to even question how that happened?" #Constructs3


[Keys] "You have a smart mouth on you, boy," the officer acknowledges. And it's smart enough to see the irony, "You're willing to treat me as an adult when it comes to crime but speak to me as a child when it comes to respect. Your actions give cops a bad name." #Constructs3

[Keys] But it's Tevatron's actions that make the difference as he reappears behind the officer, takes hold, and teleports them both off to parts unknown. Next time we see him, he's back in the passenger side back seat buckling up and asks, "What? We had a deal." #Constructs3

[Keys] "That we did," I admit, "so here it is: Sweet Charles sold my soul to Fate to save his own life. Fate wants me to bring back David from 'David and Goliath'. El Muerto, here, is a mercenary who works with Goliath. There's also some looming dire threat." #Constructs3


[Keys] As if adding himself to the mix, Tevatron says, "Cool," irrespective of the perilous path ahead. El Muerto sighs, but Sweet Charles has a burning question, "Where did you drop off the officer?" He responds quite simply with, "Don't worry about all that." #Constructs3

[Keys] Based on the dash cam footage and if the body camera was even on, it's doubtful Tevatron's part in the officer's disappearance will be caught for review. I'll bet this is the one time they probably wish a smartphone was around to detail the course of events. #Constructs3

[Keys] And that's that. A shrug marks Sweet Charles' satisfaction with the answer as we drive off and we keep moving despite the initial snag. "Why would you subject yourself to a vigilante lifestyle?" I ask Tevatron. "Because kids can't be kids," he declares. #Constructs3


[Keys] "We just passed my high school," Tevatron points out. "How many times has this story needed to be changed to be sensitive to the latest mass shooting? The nimble creative staff is conscious of its social responsibility, but this is way beyond ridiculous." #Constructs3

[Keys] He's not wrong. I claim, "I didn't have to worry about getting shot up at school. That was the reason to stay in school so we didn't get caught up with gangs." Tevatron assails, "Our parents' generation failed their responsibility to leave a better world." #Constructs3

[Keys] His motivations are noble, and he's not one for excuses, "Who cares what their intentions were? The result is we inherit a dystopian wet dream of chaos and pollution. Morning, light, change, compassion, hope, greatness. They should've figured this out." #Constructs3


[Keys] Sweet Charles pipes up, "That may be fair criticism, but I think you're giving generations too much credit or too much blame as it were." El Muerto is just not interested in this conversation and resigns himself to playing GPS, "Take a left. Head north." #Constructs3

[Keys] The south side of Buffalo Grove has the older areas of the city. Some would say it's less affluent than the newer, developing north side because the homes aren't as nice and more crime resides here. But wealth isn't flaunted, and there's more opportunity. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's easy to forget how young Tevatron is. Idealistic. He admits, "My own mom is a General in the military. NSF officials come and go from our place, but she can't save us." I point out, "Give her props. She knows enough to get an Ethereal on our side." #Constructs3


[Keys] Sweet Charles goes back to an earlier point, "It's all relative. Things were never all that good - no matter when you were raised. I'm sure past generations were saying the same thing about their previous generation. Be careful with the seductive sense of entitlement."

[Keys] "Huh?" Tevatron wonders. Sweet Charles points out without accusing, "The risk versus reward of saving kids as a vigilante doesn't quite square. Keys and I steal cars for money while El Muerto kills people for money. The end does not justify the means." #Constructs3

[Keys] "In fact," he continues, "it's the wrong question to be asking, but you have to be honest with yourself in order to answer it." I blurt out, "Tevatron's trying to impress a girl," which wasn't meant to cause the kid to blush, internalize, and try to deny. #Constructs3


[Keys] El Muerto is much more talkative than I've ever known - at least back to when he was trying to kill me, "Their point is do whatever you want, but do it for your own reasons. That's the only way to do what you love to the fullest. Don't hold yourself back." #Constructs3

[Keys] I turn to ask, "Why don't you ever say anything when you're in your original form?" El Muerto smiles, "It's a long story." Sweet Charles looks back through the rearview mirror and counters with, "That's not an answer." Tevatron questions, "Original body?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "Yeah," Sweet Charles adds a little perspective, "not having any special abilities is kinda the minority in this car." It's interesting he doesn't remember how or when El Muerto took over his body - otherwise he'd have explained the in-body experience to us. #Constructs3


[Keys] By effectively evading the question with a refusal to answer, we won't learn the particulars at this time. I don't push the issue and leave El Muerto his space. It's just wild I even know him at all - all of them. This plight has expanded my whole world. #Constructs3

[Keys] Whether I asked for it or not, my life is being taken in a different direction. Previously my existence felt like a person riding a bike while smoking - completely defeated its own purpose. Purpose. The need to have a calling. A sustained defining moment. #Constructs3

[Keys] I can see why the adrenaline junkies chase after the next and a greater high. It's hard to believe anything could beat the rush of stealing a car while the owner and occupant still happened to be present, but here we are. And here I am right in the middle. #Constructs3


[Keys] "There," El Muerto points out. "Laurine Byles?" Sweet Charles carefully maneuvers into the leftmost lane where he can turn into the parking lot. Tevatron does a search on his smartphone but is left perplexed, "What would a clothing store need with guns?" #Constructs3

[Keys] "And a private military contractor," I must add. Tevatron remains skeptical as people with loaded shopping bags walk by, "This can't be the place." But El Muerto confirms, "The unit my host belongs to dispatched from here. The recollection is unmistakable." #Constructs3

[Keys] Sweet Charles finds a space far away from the Mady Ruggeri Mall - probably ten minutes worth of walking distance to the entrance, but nobody wants car doors being opened up onto Fate's vehicle. He mentions, "At least with this ride, we fit in around here." #Constructs3


[Keys] "I fit in wherever the fu-- I go," I say as I exit the car. Naturally Sweet Charles takes that as license to bitc- out, "Good because I don't have any otherworldly enhancements, so I'm staying behind." It's all good. Tevatron asks, "How do we play this?" #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm not sure where I became the strategist, but I'll try my best. Here goes, "You're the most nimble of us, so take the weapon and hang back. Watch our backs and only engage when you see the signal." Enlisting his help is as irresponsible as it is crucial. #Constructs3

[Keys] Turning to El Muerto, I explain, "In an episode on TV this past weekend, one of the protagonists pretended he was affiliated with the antagonists while the other acted like she was captured. We're going to do that here. Hopefully we'll get better results." #Constructs3


[Keys] Mady Ruggeri Mall is a newer fixture around these parts. It reminds me of a time when I had more disposable income and would frequent malls more often. I'm also reminded of how embarrassing it is when El Muerto stops to look at the freestanding mall map. #Constructs3

[Keys] I'm being high school, but I have the scars of class warfare to show for it. Wandering around aimlessly still seems much cooler in the eyes of those I didn't ever hang out with, secretly wanted to, and would run into at a reunion I'd never decide to attend. #Constructs3

[Keys] "This way," El Muerto says while tugging on my sleeve a little bit to keep up appearances. Let me preface this next point by saying Laurine Byles is a women's clothing store with an equal focus on outward fashion and the dainty unmentionables of lingerie. #Constructs3


[Keys] Awkward? Oh yeah. Would I want to be anywhere else right now? Probably. If Mahagony were here leading me around the store, this would be so much different. But as it stands, I am not secure enough in my manhood to withstand the onslaught of femininity. #Constructs3

[Keys] As a saleslady comes up to us, El Muerto notices my anxiety (which plays into our ploy) and whispers over, "You alright?" I'm really not, but I subtly shake my head at him to end the scrutiny for now. This feels like some cruel initiation for a fraternity. #Constructs3

[Keys] Cultural taboos are rooted in fear. Being labeled as a sissy and ridiculed are a part of socialization. People fear what they don't understand. And what they fear, they must try to control. Men are fu--ed up, and I'm not quite sure what women see in us. #Constructs3


[Keys] The saleslady seems cheerful, energized, and eager to make her numbers, "Hey, how are you doing today?" El Muerto goes right into it, "I'm well. Is the manager around? I've captured Keyshion Davis." Her demeanor sours as she states, "He should be dead." #Constructs3

[Keys] Wait. What the? How the fu--? If I didn't need to remain in character, I'd report this (lack of) customer service. El Muerto explains himself, "He can't be killed. We tried in every way, but Fate's influence thwarted us at every turn. My squad is gone!" #Constructs3

[Keys] Ha I'm immortal. "Shut up!" The saleslady snaps in an actually intense inside voice so as to not startle any of the legit customers, but it scares the shi- out of me as El Muerto drops to his knees devoid of a fu--ing head! And apparently there's only one. #Constructs3


[Keys] I'm torn between wanting to throw up and wanting to gasp which means I'm otherwise petrified after watching the decapitation in real time. Although I watched it, I'm not sure I witnessed it because the saleslady's breakneck method only now comes into focus. #Constructs3

[Keys] Now I've heard of clothes that protect the wearer from weapons (like Ennead Tech Corp's gauntlet technology), but clothing that is itself the weaponry? There's no outward intent for bludgeoning in those free-flowing cuffs or the drape of that pleated skirt! #Constructs3

[Keys] Well this is a fu--ing signal if I ever saw one. Like clockwork, Tevatron teleports in with that da-n oversize gun which doesn't quite fit the kid's tiny frame. To my pleasant surprise, El Muerto's spectral form emerges from his host's body as it collapses. #Constructs3


[Keys] El Muerto's then solidifies to a corporeal form. Neat trick. This fu--er's got too much of a story to tell to let decapitation stand in his way. But it's interesting how possession gives him another life. It's like the host took the brunt of that. Yikes. #Constructs3

[Keys] The adults can take it from here. I dive behind a circular clothing rack for cover. Tevatron shows off a mod of the 2200 3B Gun by unleashing a spread of laser pulses and then strafes behind an aisle's endcap doing his best to treat this like a video game. #Constructs3

[Keys] The saleslady drops to a knee to dodge Tevatron's attempt on her life and then brushes El Muerto's kick aside and uses a portion of its deflected force to push backward and back up to a standing position she stabilizes by planting her heels into the carpet. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Okay this gun shouldn't be legal," Tevatron admits before teleporting away in the midst of Saleslady 2 bringing it to him in a stylish pantsuit that displays extraordinary flexibility in the fabric as she kicks then chases with a sweep upon his reappearance! #Constructs3

[Keys] "It's not legal for you," I call out. What is he - like twelve years old? Saleslady 2 didn't even connect with the endcap but knocked the thing off kilter sending lingerie to the floor. Her sweep was merely in the direction of Tevatron and it topples him. #Constructs3

[Keys] Sorry about the naming convention, but I didn't think to ask the salesladies what their actual names are while they're trying to fu--ing kill us. And yet no bystanders have left. I wouldn't either with these sale prices. Women's clothing is mad expensive. #Constructs3


[Keys] And I only know that because of Mahagony's complaints and the corroborating evidence from our joint bank account. I could sit here on this carpeted floor and make a poignant, well-stated case about sexism in commerce, but I'm more interested in the clothes. #Constructs3

[Keys] That came out wrong since my interest is technical - not fetish or inherent. In other words, I don't get off on it, and I wasn't born to equate myself with it. My fascination is on how the salesladies are seemingly using the clothes to alter air molecules. #Constructs3

[Keys] Powerful fighters like Dyoogie can focus their life force through his sword for instance which extends the range and lethality of it. But I wonder if the salesladies' clothing is somehow more nanite-based like Domina's to give them these powerful abilities. #Constructs3


[Keys] El Muerto is formidable in close, but he's more of a masked matador than a masked luchador and can't get close to Saleslady 1 for fear of being shredded. And Tevatron is pinned on his back with the weapon between his chest and Saleslady 2's crushing ability. #Constructs3

[Keys] In other words, the kid can't breathe. And if he can't breathe, he can't concentrate. So since he can't concentrate, he can't teleport. Really we're fu--ed unless these two switch up. I make my sole entry into this fray by pushing over the circular rack. #Constructs3

[Keys] The effort forces Saleslady 1 to evade the mass of lingerie and metal as it lands on the floor and buys El Muerto time so he can, "Get to Tevatron!" There's no hesitation in his rush to get Saleslady 2 off the kid which, of course, draws her blunt force ire. #Constructs3


[Keys] Quick on his feet, El Muerto sidesteps the uncanny attempt, snatches a dress from its hanger, twirls back into the outskirts of the deadly range, and drapes the dress over Saleslady 2's head in an effort to disorient her and buy time to reposition himself. #Constructs3

[Keys] And no sooner does he reach down offering a hand to help Tevatron up is the kid teleporting into the reworked interest of Saleslady 1. And out of it. And back in. Again and again. Over and over. Frustrating her. Priming himself for the prospective kill. #Constructs3

[Keys] This begs the question as to whether he's killed before and if this should be his first time. Innocence matters even to those who disregard their own in order to meet the wayward demands of ambition. Kill or be killed? Is innocence or life more important? #Constructs3


[Keys] I say both, and the loss of either of which would be devastating. Especially in this instance when I can do something about it and do something for someone other than myself for a change. This isn't quite the effect I envisioned Fate's influence would have. #Constructs3

[Keys] But here I am stepping in between Tevatron and Saleslady 1 in a test of my temporary immortality. Temporary at least until I fulfill Fate's mission. Makes me wonder about stalling for the next year or hundred or indefinitely. "That won't happen," she says. #Constructs3

[Keys] "What are you doing?" Tevatron questions. "Trying to save your soul," I admit in a surprise to myself. Fate snickers, "You would know." Saleslady 1 has the chance to right herself, but by the time that happens, the manager calls off the attack, "Enough!" #Constructs3


[Keys] "I don't really know if it's been enough," Fate disagrees upon merit. "You're obviously responsible for the Plaza Verde attack, so I should have my men destroy what's left of your empire, Brenda." So that's the manager's name, and these two know each other. #Constructs3

[Keys] But this is no store manager. It's more like one of those undercover executive-type situations because I sense a lot of clout in her tone, "Sofan, Standon," apparently the salesladies' names, "please attend to our paying customers. I will deal with Fate." #Constructs3

[Keys] As El Muerto lowers the rigidity of his fighting stance, Tevatron makes the mistake of interjecting his inquisitiveness, "What's going on?" I never saw myself as a mentor, but I take him off to the side and say, "This is the part where we shut the fu-- up." #Constructs3


[Keys] "Your dealing with me is what I've come to discuss," Fate points out the irony of the circumstances. Brenda snipes back, "You've become bold since rekindling your love and allying yourself with some of the most powerful on Earth, but you forget your place." #Constructs3

[Keys] This unapparent hierarchy is astounding. Sure I might joke with Fate here and there, but my shi-'s harmless. I'm no threat, and I hold no illusions of having any power in this arrangement. I've just never heard anybody talk down to her like this before. #Constructs3

[Keys] "We do not exist as equals," Brenda goes on to say. To further illustrate her point, "Your power is tempered and finite whereas mine is unlimited and untethered," she makes an example of me by casting her hand outward and grasping my body in a mystical grip. #Constructs3


[Keys] I can barely breathe, and not for lack of trying. It's like I sneak a breath whenever this fu--ing Ethereal isn't omni-. Is it omnipresent? Omnipotent? Omniscient. Nope. I can't think. Isn't ripping the life from me impossible since Fate owns my soul? #Constructs3

[Keys] Hmm. If it was ever allowed to reinhabit my body, it'd be nice for there to be a vessel to return to. Fate is completely cool which likely implies she has foreknowledge of the outcome and responds, "Those who brandish power are afraid to fully wield it." #Constructs3

[Keys] "I don't fear you," Brenda disagrees. "True," Fate concedes, "but killing him and forcing me to start over will anger those we both answer to. Can you afford to lose anymore position in the succession plan? A princess stuck on Earth overseeing my issues?" #Constructs3


[Keys] Definitely not the store manager. Brenda hits back, "Politics, but I'm sure those very same would be quite perturbed by your latest problematic association with our adversaries." Fate won't be described as circumspect with this, "Unlike you, I don't care." #Constructs3

[Keys] "No I don't suppose you do," Brenda says before dropping her hand, its crazy grasp, and me to the floor. El Muerto and Tevatron rush over to see if I'm alright or at least doing better. Context is everything: Does Fate not care about her handlers or me? #Constructs3

[Keys] Brenda prods, "Follow me," and leads us to the back where the safe resides. She mentions, "A combination is a kind of key, so it should be easy for you to open." Sure enough, the digits are imprinted on my metallic ring finger. I never noticed that before! #Constructs3

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