“You made it. You actually friggin’ made it.”
The man, our driver from a few days ago, is absolutely elated to see us. I think his name is Kumar? I can’t quite remember because it’s been a little while…
Either way, he’s embracing Francis as if they are long-lost lovers, and Francis is clearly uncomfortable with all of it. I feel obliged to step in and tell Kumar to “back the hell off,” as Delta always says to me, but I decide it might be a bit rude.
The building here, one named Riff’s Cafe, is a dark restaurant with sparse lighting, mostly directed to one big stage in the center of the room. It’s structured so similarly to the fight club from earlier in the day that my body instinctually tenses up.
I sure did defeat a lot of opponents back then, didn’t I…
“Yeah, I sure am here,” Francis says. “You’re Kumar, right?”
“Yes I am! God, I can’t believe Francis Bacall knows my name!” Kumar shouts. “Bro, you gotta hear my gig tonight.”
“What was your band again?” Francis asks.
“Good/Probably. We’re the top upcoming pop punk band in all of San Fran. Hey, drop an RT on us and we’ll send you a shirt. I know you’ve got some hella tight followers on your platforms.”
“Heheh, yeah…” Francis nervously laughs.
“Okay, just take a seat in the VIP area right here,” Kumar says, beckoning us to a random empty table in front of the stage, “and sit back while you enjoy the friggin’ show.”
He leaves us as quick as he came. The three of us sit down and Delta immediately presses the button to call a server over.
“Why did we choose to come to a place like this?” I ask. I look over the menu, which consists mostly of cold sandwiches with names that appear to be puns, but since I don’t understand any of them it is hard for me to know for certain.
“Remember the whole evil Persian Mob thing from like an hour ago?” Francis asks. “We had to find a place to let things cool off for a while, somewhere they’d never look for us.”
“And this restaurant is that place? How come?”
The server arrives at the table. “Welcome to Riff’s cafe,” they say. “What’ll ya be getting?”
“Whiskey, bottle service,” Delta says. “Rocks.”
Francis tilts his head to the side. “Delta, I wasn’t really planning on—”
“Just for me, don’t worry.”
Francis and I order soft drinks and something called “chicken fingers.” I was not aware that chickens had fingers on this world, let alone that they were considered a delicacy enough that people would eat them in a somewhat low-key restaurant such as this one.
Our chat now turns to the most important subject there is: What to do next.
“I want to fight a lot more people,” I say. “Bring me as many gangsters as you can locate.”
“No,” both of them say at once.
“We don’t want to die,” they say, again in unison.
“Okay, so then, what do you propose?”
“Well…” Francis lowers his head and sighs for a moment. “It’s not a certain thing yet. I still need to convince Delta’s wife about it.”
“And I still need to face the fallout for it,” Delta adds.
“But we might both be taking a couple weeks off work to help you with all this. In fact… I’ve already looked into all the Amtrak train schedules.”
“Um, a really big vehicle that transports many people across entire regions.”
“Like a caravan, but powered by the magic that is electricity…” My eyes glimmer with the possibilities that electricity can bring. For all of the wondrous creations I have laid eyes on thus far, what more is there in store for me? Just how splendid a land is this place we call Earth?
“Yeah, and if the plan goes well, we’re going to take you around the United States. We’ll tour around the country, show you all the cool sights and tasty food that will help you level up. Then after we’ve done as much as we can… Uh, that’s as far as we’ve planned out for you.”
“So what you’re saying is…” My heart can hardly take hearing these words. It’s beating so fast.
Delta raises an eyebrow. “Is…?”
I take a deep breath. “So what you’re saying is… We’re going on an adventure?!”
“Yes,” Francis says. “An adventure of a lifetime.”
“Yes! Indeed, this is the greatest thing I have heard in ages. This calls for a huzzah!”
“Huazzah!” Francis shouts.
“Huzzah!” I shout.
We both stare at Delta, and she gives a look that suggests she would rather perish than join in our celebrations.
The server comes back and lays some glasses and a bottle of liquor on the table. Delta puts two small cubes of ice into a glass, fills the rest with alcohol, and downs the entire thing. She wipes her face and says, “Huzzah.”
“Yeah!” I shout.
“Julie’s going to kill me, but fuck it, huzzah.”
“But before we can go on any adventure,” I say, “we need a team name.”
“No,” both Francis and Delta say.
“Yes,” I say back. “Yes we do. We cannot thrive without a team name. This is a demand from yours truly.”
Delta sighs, then pours herself another glass. “Alright. But don’t make it something shitty.”
“I will do my best,” I say. “We need a team name that evokes just how important Destiny is. How we can seize our fates and make great things of ourselves, as long as we believe in the Heart of the Cards. Team… Heart of the Cards…?”
“You are the only one with the system, though,” Francis says.
“Ah, that may be putting too much spotlight on myself,” I say. “It would be unfair, then, considering you two are systemless.”
“Systemless…” Francis’s eyes go wide.
It clicks in my mind as well. “Oh. Systemless. I see, I see…”
Delta is now a quarter of the way through the bottle of whiskey and now wears an unsettling smile on her face. “Systemless? I know the perfect team name,” she says.
“Me too,” Francis says.
“As do I.”
“Well then,” Delta says. “I guess we’re about to go on an adventure as…”
All three of us shout it at once:
Delta and I stare at Francis until he lowers his head onto the table.
“I thought it was a good name…” he mutters.
Now that we have christened ourselves the Systemless Squad, I take a celebatory swig of whiskey and start to feel really great. The chicken fingers are great (I gain a destiny point for them, too, so now I’m at 41 DP), the atmosphere is lovely, and Kumar’s band finally comes out to play about halfway into our meal.
“Welcome to Riff’s Cafe, and we are Good/Probably!”
But none of that matters, because the Systemless Squad is about to begin a real adventure!