Chapter 36: Passing a Baton Despite it Being the Anchor Leg of this Relay Race (Season Three Finale) [Unedited]


[Keys] But I'm not alone as NSFm-1 Alpha delves deep into his own story by shadowing us with seven ships which, from what I can tell, thunder down from the upper atmosphere - like well beyond the clouds. I'd be remiss in questioning the assist, so I mash the gas. #Constructs3

[Keys] I can no longer see what's going on with Bloody Guenther, but I can feel him as he bursts up from the surface where the NSF Facility resides and nearly pounces on top of Fate's Car save for me swerving with my absurd pothole and rush hour traffic reflexes. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's hard to tell what the ships look like as I arguably spend more time looking in the side and rearview mirrors than looking at the actual road, but they're quick to converge on Bloody Guenther's changing positions of pursuit with peculiarly blue lasers. #Constructs3


[Keys] And shields as Bloody Guenther does what I can only assume is use his powers to try and crush and bring down the whole lot of those ships. It emanates from their hulls which seems to stall the attempt, but he's already accomplished stalling their advance. #Constructs3

[Keys] They're losing altitude in withstanding the Celestial force, so what do they do? Convert into bipedal forms to go toe-to-toe with him - that's what. Like a rail shooter, he continues his pursuit of us but seems all the more happy to oblige them in stride. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Anybody notice how he's not dematerializing and rematerializing after us or just appearing in front of us like NSFm-1 Alpha or Fate would do?" Batxt and his big mouth. "Yo, shut up!" Damian scolds. "Seriously why are you giving him ideas?" Blondie asks. #Constructs3


[Keys] It's a good question - such a good question, I wasn't going to mention anything myself. Sweet Charles is always good for theorizing, "Bloody Guenther has essentially been in a coma for thousands of years. Give him a few moments to shake out the cobwebs." #Constructs3

[Keys] I'd rather not, and this is why those bipedal mechs are pouncing. Even a shirtless Goliath senses vulnerability and returns to the fray (via the perpendicular pursuit of that van from Chapter 32) by leaping out the rear of the moving vehicle at the Ethereal! #Constructs3

[Keys] Bloody Guenther catches the broad side of the scythe in the gut for Goliath's troubles, but like a running back, he absorbs the blow and essentially delivers his own upon impact before bouncing off the tackle attempt with the sweetness and trudging forward. #Constructs3


[Keys] There's something about that van. By my count: Impetus hangs out the driver side window firing the shotgun with both hands, El Muerto climbs out the passenger side door and is now on the roof, and Sumo Jo follows Goliath out the back. Nobody's driving it! #Constructs3

[Keys] Mahagony catches a sort of elation in Blondie who seems to be crushing more on the van than the fu--ing chunks of manhood battling Bloody Guenther and asks, "You okay back there?" Sure we're all car people, but her response is still peculiar, "I'm in love." #Constructs3

[Keys] A couple of the last cars Sweet Charles and I ever valeted before Club Soda got shot up were autonomous vehicles, so it's not that big a deal. What's a big deal is the fist that punches Bloody Guenther into the ground after he finishes swatting Sumo Jo away! #Constructs3


Keys: I'm Keys.
Fate: And I'm Fate. We're the stars of this serial that's being told thrice daily via 280-character status updates.
Keys: And we're here to say the spate of gun violence in the US is beyond fu--ing ridiculous.
Fate: I would agree with that.

Keys: I've lost count of all the lives being taken.
Fate: Look getting shot while going out in public isn't a partisan matter unless you're on the side of inaction.
Keys: It isn't even a 'both sides' issue unless the sides we're discussing are guns and racism.

Fate: Voting for (and hiding behind) racists because you like what they do on "infrastructure".
Keys: Protecting the rights of domestic terrorists to be able to do maximum damage.
Fate: Notice how quiet your enemies are as you do their work for them.
Keys: ...


[Keys] "That was pretty good," Sweet Charles admits, "but maybe you both could've added one of those 'and I approve this message' Stand By Your Ad things." Ha. I reply, "I'd say maybe next time, but I sincerely hope there isn't ever a next time with that shi-." #Constructs3

[Keys] Not that I want to come back to this shi- either. The fist belongs to those ships merging together to form a giant robot. I've heard of this group before: Super 7. Knowing anything else about them other than what I'm seeing is above my security clearance. #Constructs3

[Keys] Bloody Guenther is not so easily swayed by the brunt of technology and flexes that fist off from between himself and the punctured ground before thrusting it and the NSF Mech backward! Tevatron whisks Sumo Jo away via teleport as the van scoops up Goliath. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Dude quit gaping and floor it!" Damian screams with a screech to further enunciate the direness of what's coming. And what's coming isn't an eclipse. It's the fu--ing NSF Mech basically hurled in our direction and about to plop down on top of Fate's car! #Constructs3

[Keys] The thing seems sentient enough to try and turn in midair so it can pick up some wind resistance as I downshift to try and pick up additional acceleration. I can't even imagine if this wasn't just an empty, private road leading into the NSF Facility grounds. #Constructs3

[Keys] I can imagine how death wouldn't be an excuse for wrecking this car. Fate would take immense glee in tormenting me well within an Ethereal's jurisdiction to do so. With a jarring boom, thud, and tumble, the NSF Mech's torso and flailing arms barely miss us. #Constructs3


[Keys] Part of that is the NSF Mech reaching after Bloody Guenther who leaps over it to try and stop his pursuit of us but missing him just out the range of its fingertips as he sprints after us like he's not just using his two feet and we're in a six-figure car. #Constructs3

[Keys] The NSF Mech pushes up and to its feet before launching itself skyward in a contained flight. The van drives around that new pothole and speeds after Bloody Guenther with Tevatron on the roof firing shots. So highway or subdivision? Highway or subdivision? #Constructs3

[Keys] Subdivision. Mahagony is the first to question the tact, "Are you sure about this," as I turn down a street and stop for a school bus with its stop sign extended outward. "Yeah," I explain, "we'd be fu--ed if we got caught on the highway during rush hour." #Constructs3


[Keys] Of course this allows Bloody Guenther to catch up to us and the van to catch up to him as we all stop in a line and out of respect for the kids getting on the bus. Impetus and Tevatron move to conceal their weapons. "Blondie, switch places with me," I say. #Constructs3

[Keys] A bit less discreet, Goliath comes out from around the back of the van with his scythe at the ready. I know the bus driver is like 'will these kids hurry up and find their seats' - the NSF Mech not far behind as it touches down. Damian now rides shotgun. #Constructs3

[Keys] Many are out either exercising with brisk walks or jogging before it gets too hot today or taking a stroll around the neighborhood in tow of their dogs. The trucks that pick up the curbside recycling bins are out early. It's quiet. Shi-'s about to go down. #Constructs3


[Keys] Blondie adjusts the mirrors on Fate's car and revs the engine a little bit to get a handle on the rpm. Bloody Guenther limbers up as he can sense the clash of inevitability. It's like we're in a da-n drag race, and that stop sign will be the starter signal. #Constructs3

[Keys] The moment it closes and the bus begins to lurch forward, Bloody Guenther pounces at super speed but is put down by what looks like blue lightning and winds up being a near instantaneous reappearance and savage punch from NSFm-1 Alpha. Then Goliath engages. #Constructs3

[Keys] There's a reason I switched places with Blondie. She's our wheelwoman. Her ability to do things with the cars we've stolen is inhuman. Whether she learned this at the track or on a video game, reasonable and prudent around suburban blocks is frightening. #Constructs3


[Keys] But this is also planned without having been planned. With Blondie squirting around corners with the sense of direction like that of a person who stays here regularly, we've put distance far behind us and the action. I only wish I could see what's going on. #Constructs3

[Keys] Not just because the battle would be interesting to watch but because I'd feel more comfortable being able to track Bloody Guenther's movements. "I'm happy to oblige," Fate tells me as I can once again see things through her eyes. As if that isn't my norm. #Constructs3

[Keys] Never before has anybody seen NSFm-1 Alpha wince like this, but he's never before faced brutality on a same Ethereal level as his own. Bloody Guenther absorbed that punch, grabs him by the collar of his nice shirt, and proceeds to pound him into the ground! #Constructs3


[Keys] NSFm-1 Alpha's eyes wave the NSF Mech off. Too many houses. Too many condos. Too many civilians. That's just way too much collateral damage. Besides he has more trickery up his designer sleeves - or rather coming out the ports on the back of his neck. #Constructs3

[Keys] Four universal tendrils extend, wrap around an unsuspecting Bloody Guenther's appendages, lift him upward as their tension becomes taut, and slam him down into the ground just past NSFm-1 Alpha's head. Although a reversal is warranted, it's also ill-advised. #Constructs3

[Keys] Both are quick to their feet - tethered to one another. One is a grappler. And well NSFm-1 Alpha is not. Those universal tendrils give Bloody Guenther four additional chances to get in close, and he does so by pulling at a couple and ripping them apart. #Constructs3


[Keys] "I'm the one they send in to kill other Ethereals," Bloody Guenther snarls as he pulls NSFm-1 Alpha in with what's left of the remaining two tendrils that are intact and not sparking. He adds, "False Ethereals who don't understand or respect their place." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Yeah," NSFm-1 Alpha probably never gave too much thought to last words but asks, "who's they," out of sheer curiosity and utter disdain. Bloody Guenther wraps the twitching tendrils (that try to retract) around his throat promising, "You'll find out soon." #Constructs3

[Keys] The insistence of Tevatron's urgency has him flinging laser pulses at Bloody Guenther with a ferocity from some unexplained kinship to NSFm-1 Alpha. Protective purple bubbles absorb those and Impetus' shotgun blasts by forming over areas in potential harm. #Constructs3


[Keys] As NSFm-1 Alpha turns the focus to trying to keep his spinal column intact and/or his head attached to his shoulders, Goliath moves in with no special powers or reason to have been alive this long other than the conviction from an unwavering belief in self. #Constructs3

[Keys] It's a pleasure to watch Fate and him work in tandem. Their union is the one reason NSFm-1 Alpha is still alive. Hostages provide options and a modicum of leverage over a situation as the people who care about them must determine how much the bait is worth. #Constructs3

[Keys] Let it not be said Goliath doesn't understand the purpose of a kill shot. Bloody Guenther spins NSFm-1 Alpha around to meet that aggression as the Reapers' leader holds nothing back in spiking the scythe into his ally to pretty much the surprise of everyone! #Constructs3


[Keys] Except Fate. And probably Goliath. Maybe even NSFm-1 Alpha too. His blue energy signature blasts outward from a now limp body in all directions. The light would be blinding except for the fact it's not. Man, I thought he had a long-term contract too. :/ #Constructs3

[Keys] Can an Ethereal be killed? Guess so. "You slaughter your own ally?" Bloody Guenther openly questions Goliath's tactics as he staggers backward because of the strain from a previously struggling, dead body suddenly being of no further consequence and shock. #Constructs3

[Keys] "We're not playing around with you this time," Fate asserts. Bloody Guenther snarls, "Interfering with me only da-ns yourself," and points. She grins, "Oh I'm not interfering. We're stalling." He wonders, "For that boy you used to resurrect me?" Boy? #Constructs3


[Keys] "I ain't no fu--in' boy, bitc-!" I exclaim with the forward shoulder shrug for emphasis. "Calm down over there, Thug Lite," Mahagony teases. I'm just, "Tired of Bloody Guenther's shi-." She adds, "It only stings because you feel like a part of it's true." #Constructs3

[Keys] Fate reassures me I have nothing to worry about by telling Bloody Guenther, "Not hardly. He can stand on his own two feet. Bringing you back is proof of that." Meanwhile Goliath's grip on the scythe plunked inside NSFm-1 Alpha's chest seems to be slipping. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Then what!" Bloody Guenther steps toward Fate and demands. The scythe explodes from Goliath's grasp as the blue energy subsides. With one hand, she catches the twirling weapon whose blade now pulsates of the energy signature. "Wouldn't you like to know?" #Constructs3


[Keys] "What has changed?" Bloody Guenther asks. He then goes on to provide some interesting insight here, "Humans still can't see past their hate. Earth is much closer to becoming uninhabitable than it was in my time. They need to be tamed. Guided. Saved." #Constructs3

[Keys] I don't mind the 'guided' part, but 'tamed' seems like that implies him fu--ing us up in order to break us down, and the 'saved' part just sounds icky. "You're a traitor," he accuses, "treating this lower being filth like an equal." Goliath doesn't react. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Because that's how it should be handled," Mahagony points out the proof of her earlier point. Ah point taken. "You're powerless to stand against me," Bloody Guenther dismisses. "Perhaps," Fate adds, "but I've long since learned the value of delegation." #Constructs3


[Keys] Fate flings the scythe back toward Goliath who seems to field the catch easily with one hand even as the force causes it to become an over-the-shoulder affair. Is the blue energy a life force or the visual representation of energy signature-infused nanites? #Constructs3

[Keys] I ask because Goliath somehow instinctively plays around with morphing the scythe into a sword very reminiscent of the one that did Bloody Guenther in so long ago. Plus NSFm-1 Alpha sits up as nanites repair his body and opines, "Well that was enlightening." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Funny I much prefer to be more hands-on," Bloody Guenther says while he dematerializes into a fine purple mist that dissipates before rematerializing in front of Blondie slamming on the brakes to Fate's car. That's new. Impressive braking distance though. #Constructs3


[Keys] Only Mahagony and I aren't in the car any longer. We've been since dipped leaving Bloody Guenther to face the terrified stares of Blondie, Damian, Sweet Charles, and Batxt. That still doesn't absolve me of the responsibilities to protect Fate's car however. #Constructs3

[Keys] I was kinda hoping he'd come directly after me and leave that car and my friends alone. Save for Sweet Charles whose fault all of this is, the rest have nothing to do with it. Nothing other than simply being down for whatever. As we run, we stop and turn. #Constructs3

[Keys] This'll be the dumbest, most selfless thing I will have ever done in life. And the very same Mahagony I used as a Human shield squeezes my hand at her approval of my decision to head back there to face Bloody Guenther as so many others had done on my behalf. #Constructs3


[Keys] "Hit his as-," Damian urges. "I don't think that's a good idea," Sweet Charles cautions. "Fu--in' hit his as-!" Our impetuous gunman repeats. "Slorgs are still stinging from one Ethereal alone tearing up Botswarra Outpost," Batxt says. Blondie ponders. #Constructs3

[Keys] Leave it to friends to get you to become eternally da-ned. Enemies are more accommodating because they wish to see to your quick demise and don't care about anything other than that immediate end. Of course, Bloody Guenther heard Damian. Of course he did. #Constructs3

[Keys] But there are other forces at work here and one in particular who remains noticeably silent on the Fate of her car. She guided my every action to this point without having celestially nudged me. Her powers weren't working. You've got to be shi--ing me." #Constructs3


[Keys] "Bloody Guenther!" I yell as Mahagony's and my feet pound the pavement in our and the run-up to an inevitable clash. He turns and responds, "You call out my name as if your most fervent wish is for me to deliver the death you've so callously sought out." #Constructs3

[Keys] "Yeah that's most certainly not it," I clarify as we come to a stop with not much of anything between him and us. He's unswayed saying, "Take solace in the fact your friends will witness you dying as the first of many before I go on to remake their world." #Constructs3

[Keys] My cold sweat turns into visible shivers of fear stemming from the horrific unknown of what's next. You have to chuckle at the predicament, so I do, "Is this the part where we talk things out?" Bloody Guenther disagrees, "No this is where your story ends." #Constructs3


[Keys] Actually it's not, and since this is a first-person story, I can literally stall the thing out with soliloquy until a more preferable ending when the cavalry arrives. There's still some tricks up my sleeve or rather in my hand on the screen of my smartphone. #Constructs3

[Keys] I can use this exposition to my advantage because taking the time to explain some glaring abnormalities in the postures of at least two of the Ethereals I've met can only help. But to do so, we need a baseline, and that baseline will be Rock-Paper-Scissors. #Constructs3

[Keys] In normal circumstances, Science beats Mysticism, Barbarism beats Science, and Mysticism beats Barbarism. Mysticism-Science-Barbarism. Keep that in mind for this next part. Ethereals should thrive in the realm of Mysticism, but that's not what we've seen. #Constructs3


[Keys] NSFm-1 Alpha utilizes Mysticism and Science. The proof is in how he has all the normal Ethereal abilities but also used his nanites to get a techno-corporeal leg up especially when regenerating his biological damage. The Ethereal of the Robots as it were. #Constructs3

[Keys] On the contrary, Bloody Guenther prefers Mysticism and Barbarism. He doesn't normally do all the flashy, cool stuff that a Fate or dare I say a Tevatron (who's not even an Ethereal) would do. It means he's a merciless fu-- that likes to work with his hands. #Constructs3

[Keys] We already knew he was formidable because of the lengths so many had gone to in hopes of just containing him. But this makes his advantage enormous and causes me to wonder who's big and bad enough to be able to put him down permanently - to eradicate him. #Constructs3


[Keys] "And this is important to our cause how?" Fate pops in to inquire. Because brute force is in Bloody Guenther's wheelhouse. Rather than separate the body from itself while leaving his life force intact, separate the life force from the body and split that! #Constructs3

[Keys] She's not as excited as I would've hoped, "We've already considered this and contacted the means of making it happen. Remember I know how it all ends." But you still won't have control over how it gets there. This is where my carjacker intuition comes in. #Constructs3

[Keys] Separating the infinite into portions to blunt the infiniteness of its power when pit against a more complete infinity such as yourself, NSFm-1 Alpha, or whoever you claim is on the way to do the deed will splinter off damage in a collateral of directions. #Constructs3


[Keys] Rather than allowing it to spill out all over the place, let me pick a few areas to concentrate the aggregate on. Places that can contend with Bloody Guenther's essence or at least minimize the carnage. He's facing a new universe. We have home advantage. #Constructs3

[Keys] "Where would you suggest?" Fate already knows the answer but asks this question for the benefit of the reader. Everybody loves a tournament, music, and superheroes. That's at least enough targets for two one-shots and a mini series. Plenty to occupy him. #Constructs3

[Keys] "What could go wrong," Fate asks facetiously. But she immediately disagrees, "No you didn't let me finish. It's the reason I'm here, now. What could go wrong is you underestimating how he isn't concerned with the sanctity of your narratives." Wait - huh? #Constructs3


[Keys] Back to actuality, Bloody Guenther is using my unapparent (to me) rudeness to his advantage. Totally disregarding my imperative to move the story along, he makes a move for Fate's car in order to do what I can only imagine is smash it on top of me! Ironic. #Constructs3

[Keys] Fate isn't going to allow that to happen, grabs his wrist with one hand, smacks him with the other hand, and kicks her adversary backward with authority at the end of her heeled pumps. She surely puts the sexy in casual when sending Bloody Guenther flying. #Constructs3

[Keys] And Fate loves that car to display skills I haven't seen since her earlier tussle. Blondie throws the car in reverse, spins it into a forward-driving position, and hurries out of there as Bloody Guenther recovers and lunges for me at an imperceptible speed. #Constructs3


[Keys] I move to step in front of Mahagony as if my allies needed anymore evidence I'm in it with my life. That continued spine for this mayhem was the first domino - giving them a momentary breather to be able to gather their second wind and mount a final stand. #Constructs3

[Keys] Saying my Fate is in someone else's hands is a poor assumption at worst and literal inaccuracy at best. I may hope much more powerful fighters than me will come to my aid, but I don't expect it. They've all got to be exhausted. And Fate has her own hands. #Constructs3

[Keys] No matter how many clever plays on words I've come up with during this story, it still doesn't stop me from resorting back to thinking in cuss words when staring down obliteration like, 'Why the fu-- did I get out of bed this morning?' Hindsight/foresight. #Constructs3


[Keys] So accepting of Fate's whim, it almost comes as a disappointment when Goliath cross-checks Bloody Guenther with the re-formed scythe's staff. Standing above his foe, the mercenary deftly commands the nanite-infused weapon converting it back into the sword. #Constructs3

[Keys] Goliath hacks downward, but Bloody Guenther is again saved by a purple bubble absorbing the attempted impact. The Ethereal grabs the sword blade with an off hand and shoves backward, but the mercenary has good footwork here and reverts back to the scythe. #Constructs3

[Keys] In the motion of the weapon slipping from Bloody Guenther's grasp during a technological reformation, Goliath is able to twirl the scythe into an optimized striking position he uses to smack the underside of its blade against the back of the Ethereal's neck. #Constructs3


[Keys] This allows Goliath the ability to steer the obviously aggressive Bloody Guenther without any sort of deflectable impact. His guidance is unwanted, and the resistance is great, so it takes everything he has to hold on, but it's just enough of a redirection. #Constructs3

[Keys] And NSFm-1 Alpha rematerializes in a vicious tag team attempt to prove he is vindictive by punching Bloody Guenther in the throat. Held down by the scythe, the resultant purple bubble's protection is a bit of a misnomer when not exactly blunting the force. #Constructs3

[Keys] It took two Ethereals and somebody worthy of being included in the same sentence to cause Bloody Guenther a visible wince. The Associate along with the Palatine Triad send in a circumferential spray of gunfire for the sole purpose of keeping him off balance. #Constructs3


[Keys] I just stand here. But I stand with them playing my part as a focus and the target of Bloody Guenther's introductory ire so it remains constrained to this general vicinity. A total stall tactic. Customs works at a furious pace evacuating the subdivision. #Constructs3

[Keys] Something big is coming, and I don't mean the NSF Mech reverting back to its seven separate M-Class Fighters so they can douse Bloody Guenther in laser fire either. Reality staves off giddy anticipation because things'll become worse before they get better. #Constructs3

[Keys] As that van speeds through with Impetus, Sumo Jo, and El Muerto hopping out to go in for a close-quartered melee with an Ethereal, I realize (short of Domina and Dyoogie) these are our biggest and baddest; and they're about to have their as-es handed to them. #Constructs3


[Keys] From the earliest time of childhood learning, we're taught to show - don't tell. Well watching Bloody Guenther pull Tevatron out of mid-teleport and very nearly turn him into paste if not for NSFm-1 Alpha's intervention tells me everything I need to know. #Constructs3

[Keys] The kid's got a future as far as #Constructs4 is concerned, but I can't help thinking his mom's reaction will somehow be worse than this current beatdown. All this devastation: Bodies, mecha, housing - strewn everywhere. And yet Mahagony and I still stand. #Constructs3

[Keys] We got our 'to be continued'. Thanks to Fate. Yep she saw this all along, and her laughter only underscores it. "How is this boy's death funny to you?" Bloody Guenther inquires. I meet his blackened eyes but point skyward to alert, "Scoreboard, bitc-." #Constructs3

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