Did you have a nice weekend?
That’s what you ask, right? On Monday?
It’s not just bitching about it being Monday again? Because I’ll tell ya, that sort of thing gets old at about fourteen. But then I don’t usually follow much of a calendar.
That is one thing I’ve had to get used to, visiting you folks. See, back in the future, round about 2120, I started using Stardates in the Federation to try to standardize things. I knew the way we were expanding we’d start to lose cohesion if we stuck strictly to the year/month/day Earth standard.
The Stardates are based on that, of course, because that’s the homeworld. But by reducing it to a number, rather than names, we took it away from anything specifically tied to the evolution of the seasons on a particular planet.
Let me give you an example.
If it’s September 23, 2187 – a particularly good day, but I can’t tell you why – then it’s written as Stardate 18709.23, no matter what planet you’re on. The ‘1’ is from the century. The ’87’ the year, the ’09’ the month, and the ‘.23’ the day.
Of course, once we hit 3000 I’ll have to figure out something else, but this works for now. Frankly, when I came up with it I had no idea my lifespan was going to be extended the way it has, so I didn’t think it would be my problem!
Right. The point is, I don’t use months, haven’t for a couple centuries, so the whole idea of ‘first day of the week’ is rather foreign to me at this point!
Okay, so here’s the usual spiel: click on any image to purchase the book of Volume One; click the buttons below to pre-order A Quiet Revolution and to enter to win signed copies.
As for the chapter, well, Vegas was fun. Not just because we got married there, but getting to do the tourist thing, even for a day or so, was so enjoyable! I was familiar with the city, of course. Just like today, in Vegas anything goes, but even more so in my time. Since Vegas is a Free State, it became the clearinghouse for anything and everything which needed to fly under the radar. But I never spent time there enjoying the city, you know what I mean?
When we got to play tourist and dump some cash into the slot machines? It was such a blast!
Of course, who expects to win in Vegas?
The audio of the chapter is at the end, so don’t miss hearing it, and in a day or so this will be available as a podcast too.
Chapter 13: NEVER Play the Slots in Vegas!
‘So now what, ‘Wilma‘?’
They’d packed up their meager belongings, checked out of the hotel, and now were back in the casino section of the revived Luxor, gawking like tourists. The temporary IDs, too valuable to discard and probably too dangerous, were buried deep in Kendra’s bag, under a towel, between pages of a copy of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Kendra suggested the casino because it would be more difficult to eavesdrop on them there.
‘Well, ‘Willow’, we’ve got to think about where we go next. By this time tomorrow, the wedding of Kendra and Aiyana Cassidy will be a matter of public record, and I’m sure that the Free City will be receiving all sorts of nasty visitors shortly thereafter. So Willow and Wilma should be elsewhere.’
‘Why can’t we stay here? Use our old account to buy tickets under that name and send them off on another wild goose chase?’
‘Because, my dear, sooner or later they’ll realize that it was a wild goose chase and end up back here, even more determined to find us.’
‘Plus, we’ve already used that trick once. No respectable operator will get caught out twice like that. You just saturate the destination and the departure points until your little fishes – us! – get caught in the net.’
‘And we shouldn’t just run off to ‘somewhere’ again. We need to have a destination that makes sense, a place we can start figuring things out.’
‘Houston,’ answered Cass immediately.
‘HLC’s corporate offices. Maybe we can get into the records and find out if they’re behind this and who ordered it.’
Kendra paused. ‘Not bad. One little problem. How do you get in?’
‘My ID is good for all – oh.’
‘Bingo. Aiyana Cassidy’s ID is good for all HLC properties. Unfortunately, I suspect that if Aiyana Cassidy shows up, something very terminal will happen to her, and since I’m rather attached to her, then I think we should avoid that.’
‘Um. Yeah.’ She blushed at her naiveté, then spoke again. ‘What if HLC has nothing to do with this? I’m out of a job!’
‘Any ideas on that, Ms. Secret Agent?’
‘Don’t rush me, I’m thinking. Here,’ and she pushed a handful of coins into Cass’s hands. ‘Go hit the slots. We need to blend in here, not stand out.’
‘How about this one?’ It was a glitz-covered machine, three meters tall, with multiple screens and buttons. A giant glowing sign above it read, ‘BIGGEST JACKPOT IN VEGAS!’ It was highlighted by spots shining from a half-dozen fixtures, but was standing alone. Nobody was playing.
‘Why isn’t it getting any action?’
Cass peered at the directions before responding. ‘That’s why. It might have the highest payout, but it also sucks in the most money. Look, hundred dollar increments, you have to bet the maximum for four consecutive pulls and hit the pattern exactly, you don’t win anything if you’re even a little bit off – damn!’
‘Well, if I’m reading this right, you have to do four consecutive eight-thousand-dollar bets to hit that payoff! No wonder nobody’s playing – where are you going?’
Grinning, Kendra said, ‘Getting you thirty-two grand in coins.’
‘It’s not my fault! You brought me the money!’
‘You didn’t have to put it in the damn machine!’
‘It was your idea! ‘Blend in’, you said! ‘Look like tourists’, you said! What are the odds that we’d hit the jackpot?’
‘According to the casino manager, three hundred twenty-nine million, six thousand, two hundred and five to one against.’
‘So how could I expect to win?’
‘Irrelevant. It’s done, you won. At least we won’t have any money worries for a while. How much did it pay off?’
‘Sixteen million. After taxes.’
‘I just wish you’d been able to avoid the cameras a little more.’
‘The manager was about to throw you out, you were hanging all over me and getting in his shot -’
‘Exactly! Photo recognition AI anyone?’
‘Yeah, oh. Well, what’s done is done. How do you feel about short, black hair?’
‘Maybe a pageboy cut? But definitely short. Eyebrows, too.’
‘What about you?’
‘Nobody was looking at me, I didn’t hit the biggest jackpot in Vegas.’
‘Black is NOT my color!’
‘At least we didn’t have to cut it. Should have guessed we could find a wig in Vegas, and this way we won’t have to worry about the new ID not matching.’
After the delay in the Luxor, they’d decided to ditch the ‘blend in as tourists’ idea, and instead taxied to the locals’ side of the city, to a middling-sized restaurant named ‘Guy’s Diner’. They settled into a booth, ordered, and were now discussing their next steps.
‘I think you need to contact HLC, discretely. Is there someone you can trust completely?’
Cass fiddled with the black wig, thinking. ‘Maybe. Lisa.’
‘I don’t think you ever met her. Dr. Lisa Mantchev. She’s a bioelectrical engineer, with another PhD in applied computer networks, but right now she’s working with algae to try to combine power generation with oxygen cycling. It‘s actually a neat concept if she can get it to work. Since life generates electricity, she thinks that -’
Kendra’s eyes were glazing as she reached out a finger across Cass’s lips. ‘Do you trust her?’
Pushing the hand away, Cass answered, ‘Yes. She and I were pretty close for a while.’
‘How close?’ asked Kendra archly.
‘Why, ‘Wilma‘! Are you jealous?’
‘Not at all, ‘Willow‘, dear. Purely professional interest, I assure you.’
‘Uh-huh. She and I are friends, that’s all. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, actually.’
‘So there are some things you shared that she’d recognize as coming only from you?’
‘I think so.’
‘That’s a start. Okay, so you’ll contact her, make her believe it’s really you, then we’ll get her to poke around, see if there’s any crumbs we can follow.’
‘And if there aren’t?’
‘Then we’ll have one more ally. Ah, here’s supper. Eat up; we have to catch the nineteen-fifty shuttle.’