Matt's Personal Log - Episode 34
I really don’t know what to say about the Hall. It’s a fantastic casino, sure, with one of the widest selections of foods and drinks from around the galaxy that I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of the most dangerous places I’ve even been. Let me explain… or at least try to.
Upon arrival Alyr, Paizu, and Becky took off for terra incognita – ostensibl to do some training, but Alyr said he’d try to keep in touch in case we found out any news regarding the ships or Galaxina. The rest of us went through an orientation of sorts, where we learned the rules, regulations, and reprimands that went along with gaining access to the Hall. (Fun stuff.)
We got some rooms (this was harder than it sounds since the Starfleet people with us didn’t have any money – we settled on salvaging some goods from the Temple-Ship and selling that for walking around cash. Personally I was carrying around enough for about a week’s stay, which was fine by me since I didn’t really intend to stick around too long any way (funny how things turn out).
After checking in, me, Thanos and Karr hit a couple of bars and had some food. Thanos was itching to hit the tables so me and Karr went sight-seeing a little. We found out about something called the ‘Black Patch’ or something like that – basically it was a slime pool that people would swim in and get ‘visions’ of the future (so, like taking a bath in LSD). I figured what could be the harm, so I gave it a try – the visions I saw were both exhilerating and disturbing, and yet in no way whatsoever helpful to my current circumstances. Still, I think I’d be willing to give it a try some other time.
After that, Karr and I hit another bar that Thanos had mentioned, one that had jellyfish in the walls playing music. I expected psychedelic; what I didn’t expect was Wagners Flight of the Valkyrie! Then a two-headed man calling himself the President of the Galaxy named Zappy or something offered to buy us a drink – we of course accepted (it isn’t everyday one meets the President of the Galaxy, after all), and so of course we woke up in a trashed room (Karr’s), suffering from the worst hangover I’d ever experienced, and learned that we’d been drunk (and apparently blacked out) for the last five days. Gotta say, this losing stretches of time think I’ve added to my resume is starting to get real tiresome…
Well, one of the rules we’d been giving had been that we had to gamble at least once a day – no staying and just enjoying ourselves, we had to risk something. Not a problem really; I’ve never been much of a gambler, so one or two tries at a slot machine would tie me over. Thing is, drunk me seemed to like gambling a whole lot more – all of my latinum was gone. Sure, I now had a pocket full of lobi crystals (the Hall’s standard currency), but I had no idea how long it’d been since I last took a risk.
I figured I’d get in a game of cards – I’ve never been good at it (never got the hang of bluffing), but sometimes taking a risk attracts Lady Luck’s attention and you get paid. Not that night (at least in terms of money) – I lost it all. I’d taken a seat at a table betweeen two very attractive females – one was a Nebari, the other an Interon. I was really enjoying myself, chatting the two of them up while playing, trying to keep the good times rolling for the table. I think I did a good job at that at least; no one seemed to get overly pissed when the Nebari girl (her name’s Chee) won the final pot of the night and wiped the rest of us out. I continued to flirt with her and that’s when I found out she and Musa (the Interon) knew each other and had been working the table together. Chee said I could maybe earn my money back if I’d help her with a problem she had later that night. Per my usual modus operandi, I agreed before finding out exactly what that would entail.
She and Musa were involved in what was essentially a living chess game – the kind where the pieces are living beings and the fate of contested squares would be determined by the close combat abilities of the pieces involved. Of course, this kind of contest was a ‘to the death’ kind of thing – nothing new to me, but one which I thought I had left behind me long ago. ‘Course before I knew all this, I’d gotten Karr and Thanos involved (Chee needed rooks, and who better than the two biggest combat machines I knew?). I was to be a champion (or knight back on Earth), and Chee was going to be the queen. Musa would be calling the game, and I heard through one or two people that she’d won this contest a couple of times before, so that at least was some good news. (Later, during the match, I found out that she didn’t so much understand the game of chess as her previous opponents probably had no clue about it.)
The match was a good one, all told (and not just because we won in the end) – Musa was well matched with whoever was calling the game for the other side. We did seem to have the odds stacked against us though – that, or Chee and Musa didn’t know enough people on the station to put together a formidible team. We lost a lot of people in the beginning, but I think the turning point was when the opposing queen threatened Karr. Their battle was fast and furious; Karr seemed to be out of it though – he spent a lot of time playing around (it might’ve been because he was facing a female and felt overconfident). Next thing I knew, Karr was hitting his knees and the bitch-queen was moving in for the kill. Then, her head exploded – don’t ask me how, ‘cause I don’t know. The thing I do know is that after that the opponent started moving more cautiously, which gave Musa time to build up her tactics.
One of their bishops attacked me – she looked like a Human and was dressed like one of Dracula’s brides. Unlike Karr, I didn’t joke around and dispatched her quickly (even if I did slip on my initial pass). Thanos was the next to fight, against a rook. That battle was epic, with the two titans just hammering away at each other. It actually looked like it’d be close – and thank all the deities in the galaxy that I didn’t have to fight one of those rooks – but Thanos eventually won out. (He didn’t look like he could handle another fight though.)
One of their champions got a chance at Chee then, which I watched with some concern. Chee’s a slight girl, and didn’t look like she could handle herself in a fight, especially as she had two knives and no armor against a man in full plate armed with a sword and shield. Then she jumped, looking like ERB’s hero jumping at a Thark. She was amazing – and quick! She must’ve struck a dozen times before he’d even swung his sword – sure, she wasn’t doing any damage, but it was fun to watch. Eventually though, the sword struck home and Chee crumpled to the ground. He moved in for the kill and she pounced, driving her knives into his groin and killing him nearly outright. Chee looked like she was in as good a shape as Thanos, though, so we were running out of decent combatants.
Eventually, we got into a situation which could possibly end the match. It required Karr to tackle the remaining opposing rook, which would give me a shot at their king. Karr was up for it (at least he said he was, though he didn’t look it). The fight that ensued was nearly as epic as the one Thanos had gone through – only this time it looked like Karr was going to lose. Then outta nowhere, he reached up and did that shoulder-grabby move that I witnessed before, the one that his friend did to knock him out and that Karr did to me by way of demonstration of what had happened. It worked again; the rook hit the ground and before I could even give out a congratulatory whoop, Karr had started using the rook’s skull as an adult toy. That dude disturbs me some times – more and more often lately.
I then had my chance at the king, and closed on him with some excitement in my heart. I don’t know if was the setting or just half-remembered dreams of my childhood books, but I was starting to enjoy this. I figured this guy was gonna be a bad-ass, so I spurred my Equs and drove my spear at the king.
(An Equs? Oh, they didn’t have horses in the stable, only these Equses. An Equs looks kinda like a horse, only it has talons instead of hooves and a beak-shaped mouth. They’re also reptilian instead of mammalian, and they’re sapients and quite capable of speaking many languages. My steed was named Drozana, was silver in color, and was quite pleasant!)
Anyway, I drove my spear at the king, and with Drozana helping me aim, caught him full in the chest with my spear, punching his heart out of his back. I was feeling immensely disappointed at the ease of his death, and then immediately felt fear as the heads of all the remaining ‘pieces’ on his side exploded, killing the lot of them. (Like I said in the beginning, this place is dangerous.)
The prize for winning was some sort of injection – we were told it involved some sort of RNA learning, and would help with whatever skill-set you asked to be injected with. I guess we’ll see if it works. We all went out to celebrate our victory (and our continued breathing); Chee did give me back the money they took from me at the table, and she invited me up to her room for the night! This champion thing worked out – I got the girl and I got paid! Gotta say, life’s looking good right now.