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“There are two classes of men; those who are content to yield to circumstances and who play whist; those who aim to control circumstances, and play chess.”
Mr. Big Winner:
I’m the lucky one.
My knees popped and cracked as I stood victorious. I stood too quickly, too excited. I forgot to hold my breath. I took in a big one to let loose my WHOOP. The sedative in the foggy mist made me swoon as soon as it touched my wet lungs. I could barely rebel out my victory yell. Hands grabbed hold of me from all directions. They belonged to the Halflings that made up most of Chess Master’s goon squad. Hands are a bit too generalized. Nevertheless, I witness a cacophony of swirling flurry of flesh, feathers, fur, claws and scales. In a furious rush a protective shield is forced roughly over my face. One of the more expensive dental implants in my mouth has been loosened in the exchange. I tried my level best not to choke on it as they try to hustle my old ass out of the gaming hall.
The goon squad surrounded me on all sides. The swarm of players de-crying their fate got shakily up from their places before the BINGO screens. Dozens of them began hurling themselves at us. The goons hit the oldies with neural disruptors, making them vomit and shit themselves. The biggest goons used their thick and strong iguana tails to snap at and toss bodily the other geezers out of our way. The weakened geriatric bones of these hapless players shattered on contact. It was soggy and gruesome to hear. Their screams were deafening. If I’d still had a heart, it would have been wrenched right out of me.
I watched as a goon’s fistful of claws sliced across a senior’s carotid artery. The hot spray lashed out, stinging my eyes and making my cloudy cataracts blunt even more so. I couldn’t see for shit, but I really didn’t need to. The oldies were fighting for their very lives, attacking me and my guards as the exit neared. A blue-haired wig flew past my field of vision. I could not even see who it belonged to.
It was bad. Even through the mask and face shield that was meant to protect me from the knock-out gas, I could easily smell the fear as the shit exploded out of hundreds of dying assholes, seemingly all at once. They were begging for mercy from a God that is long gone. A still twitching robotic lower leg prosthesis for a below-the-knee amputation bounced off one of the goons clutching me. The sedative mist was getting thick. The dull, yellow lights came on, sending a ghastly glow on all the frightened, saggy flesh. A pair of corneal implants flew by, hit a wall and bounced on the floor before being crushed by the panicked herd. The noise in the confined space of the gaming hall was deafening. The goons kept shouting orders in my near-deaf ears. With the noise I, of course, couldn’t hear a blessed thing.
One of the doomed tried to shove his way into our group. I don’t think the goons even noticed him at first. He began hacking and coughing. His face turned as dark as frost-bite as the old fart tried to gamely bring up his artificial lung. He probably meant it as a bribe. When they finally did take notice of the lunger, the goons straight dome clocked the poor sap.
By then the floor was slippy-slick with urine, blood and feces. I was the moving middle of the goons. They held on to me tight enough for it to have been painful. Even so, I slipped on the wet floor, completely out of control. I was sliding most of my body one way, while my right leg went the other way. My poor knee exploded as it folded under me. I hit the deck, but the goons hauled me straight once more. I was cringing as my destroyed leg was bent at a painfully inappropriate angle and was being dragged on the floor behind me.
It got progressively worse, the closer we got to the exit. Another contingent of goons awaited us on the outside of the plexi-glass viewing wall. The bettors were banging raucously on the wall beside them, just like the deranged hockey fans of old. The rich bettors were all drunk as a skunk and high as a kite, spitting while they yelled. Their breath smelled of smoke and drink and real meat protein. Their pupils were the size of dinner plates.
The crowd on the inside with us was all bunched up. They threw wild punches at one another, choking the shit out of each other with an all-out, end-of-the-world kind of madness. All the while this Roman spectacle played across the view screens, far and wide. It was the most popular sporting event in the world.
Betting on the right player to be The Big Winner is one thing, but most of the Fed Notes made on the tournament involved what was happening right here and now. Bettors bet on everything. They bet on who dies first, last, the fights, how close their horse made it to the wall before succumbing, who was hurt, in what manner, and on and on.
The players’ pleading shouts overwhelmed the sedative mist that was supposed to make them docile. It’s not working and things were just getting worse.
As we neared the exit, the goons were locked and loaded. They began inadvertently shooting down anyone that wasn’t me or a goon. Bald heads and liver-spotted faces disappeared in an exploding vapor of blood and brain. The door opened and the goons forced me through the opening and the safety of outside. We found ourselves in the hallway, right next to the viewing wall. The goons shut and secure-lock the door to the gaming hall from the outside. The gomers were pasting themselves pleading against the wall.
The bettors screamed with both joy and dismay at those who made it to the window. The big time ticked down. The cyanide pellets were dropped and they broke open in perfect deadly harmony. The players panicked anew. The bettors keenly observed through the glass as well as the over-hanging viewing screen, the order in which the horses were dropping out of the race. And they did not die straight away. Cyanide takes up all the oxygen receptor sites, so dying isn’t instantaneous. The sedative mist is supposed to calm the players down enough to be accepting of their fate. This crowd was anything but docile.
The betting crowd wasn’t much better. They got themselves so worked up, that they were practically foaming at the mouth. They were shouting at this one to hang-in there, and that one to just fucking die, already.
The players were suffocating to death, no matter how much air they were able to breathe in. And because the sedative mist was short-changed, they all died with their eyes wide open. It was horrifying to witness.
After making a hole in the betting crowd, the goons tossed me and my fucked leg onto a stretcher. I pulled the mask and face-shield free and let it drop to the floor as they hurried me along. They wheeled me to the VIP Infirmary. Just as I pulled the displaced dental implant from the back of my throat, we rolled through the door. I felt an instant of relief. I made it. I clutched the dental implant with a tight fist as the Medico machines took over. They shot this old boy up, straightaway, thankfully narcing me into bliss.
What a fucking day. I was still awake, but feeling no pain. I glanced over to the partition. The curtain separating us was billowing out and I caught sight of the poor fuck who’s donating his knee. I say donating, because I suspect it wasn’t the boy’s idea. He was kept on stand-by because we were matched, him and I. My body won’t reject his parts. There is a great deal of Fed Notes to be had from genetic harvesting. Fresh viable organs also bring in money, but if you can find an exact genetic match, your avatar can keep you alive far beyond what is your right. Like everything else, harvesting takes Notes and connections.
From the way he screaming and carrying on, it seemed to me like the boy had changed his mind. But he’s appears to be a young buck. He’ll recover with a robotic replacement, just fine. Besides, I’m sure he had already given the honorarium of Fed Notes to his loved ones, so he has to go through with it.
The boy is a pawn. I’m smiling through my thick veil, feeling even a little sorry for the poor kid that’s got to give up his knee for me. But I don’t feel too bad. We are all just game pieces, waiting to be moved about at the whims of the Chess Master. I put the king in check-mate when I got BINGO first.
I slipped all the way under as the Medic machines scooped out my bad knee and replaced it with the boy’s. It’s a great knee. Sure it’s a previously owned one, but it’s got low mileage.
When I came to, my new knee felt numb and full, but I’d expected that. What I didn’t count on was both my ears tinny buzzing and hurting like a motherfuck. I began stirring and a Tech came over.
“We, hello there, Mr. Big Winner!” she said, sitting down beside my cot.
“That’s me,” I replied, then asked: “Still no word on Vanessa?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Farr,” she began.
“Call me Orlyn,” I interrupted.
“I’m truly sorry, Orlyn, but unfortunately there is still no word from The Harbor. I’m sure they are searching high and low for your granddaughter.”
I nod. Naturally, I wasn’t expecting any good news from back home. There are scores of underground tunnels in The Harbor, and Vanessa could be anywhere. I knew they were pissing in the wind, but it was important that I was seen asking after the girl’s welfare.
“Do you feel up to a little chat?” the Tech asked me.
“Sure,” I enthusiastically replied, “If you hit me up with some more of that happy juice you’ve got flowing into me, I’ll talk and talk until I start making shit up. I’ve got the worst case of self-induced flu you ever did see.”
“I’m sure you do,” she begins with a cheesy grin.
“It was the last hurrah, after all,” I explained.
The organizers of the Annual Sixth Decade BINGO Tournament kept their peepers on us at all times. I suspect our hotel rooms are monitored. Hell, they probably even have sensors in the shitter. Bettors will do anything to get an edge on the betting. So, the Tech could easily have been sitting behind a view screen, watching me partying my ass off from the other side of the resort. Maybe she was calculating the final betting odds.
“You really tied one on, didn’t you, Orlyn?” She asked me, nodding her head like she understood. I nodded back at her, but sheepishly. Fucking that zombie boy still kind of freaked me out. It’s not something I do every day of the week. “I’m sorry you are still feeling poorly,” she said. Let me see if I can help you with that,” and dialed me up another nice dose. “How’s that, then?” She asked. “Are you getting enough?”
I smile at her, appreciative. They weren’t stingy with the pain-killers, either. I could vouch for that. I ran my tongue exploring around the inside of my mouth. My dental implant was imbedded, right back where it was supposed to be. They fixed it and I am grateful to them. As I began to feel the warmth encasing me, the out-processing began.
“What’s wrong with my ears?” I ask, wondering about that high-pitched, uncomfortable buzzing.
“Now that you’ve won, Orlyn, you are entitled to Deluxe Medical. So, we took the liberty, while you were unconscious, and installed a nice new pair of cochlea implants.”
“Well, isn’t that fabulous,” I stated. Deluxe Medical is wonderful!
“That’s right,” she stated cheerfully. “The implants were approved by Chess Master, herself.”
“She approved it? Why?”
“Yes, Sir, she sure did and when the buzzing dissipates in a few days, your hearing should be as good as new. As to why, all I can say is that she was adamant that you’d be taken very good care of.”
So, that’s why I am conversing with a human Tech. Normally, I would have been out-processed by a micro-processor Medico machine. Instead, I got a real flesh and blood human. She wasn’t even formerly-living, as the dead zombies prefer to be called. Now that I think of it, the dead probably aren’t with-it enough to collect information and crunch data anyway. Mostly the cold dead tend to be on the unskilled side of the labor pool. But Mr. Orlyn Farr got himself a real live human being type person. Damn, I was moving up in the world!
“Will I be talking with her, again?” I wonder. Not that I really wanted to, but she might.
“Well, as I’m sure you are aware that her time is exceedingly valuable, so probably not.”
“Of course,” I replied, “I was just wondering.”
“Is there anything I can help you with? Any questions, perhaps?” the Tech responded.
I looked up at the Tech, who was still smiling down at me. I did have one question. It was the only one I had an interest in being answered: “How long until I get my Winnings?”
“You will get your prizes, very soon, Orlyn. Out-processing won’t take long at all,” she promised. “And then it’s off you go to Paradise Acres!”
“Perfect,” I said and closed my eyes. They don’t need to be open anymore to talk to this Tech. So, I lay there, answering all her fucking questions.
I tried my level best not to ruin it by thinking too much about little Vanessa.
“Chess is ruthless: you've got to be prepared to kill people.”