April 1, 2019 at 7:05 pm #17204
* Monkey: This is fantastic! The only thing that would make it better is some JAAAAZZZZZZZ!
* Gamma: Jazz would wear off too quick for a long drive
* Coleman: A fast long drive would be a strategic option that it would be good to have.
* Oleg: Unless it drove me to drink, like it seems to have done to Al. Then again, what doesn’t drive him to drink
* Gamma: A few more adventures like this one and I might be in a better position to pass judgement on him for that.
Preston asked Al “How is the pork rind supply?” and used that hopeful distraction to slow down for a moment and slip in AR, to look for how much farther to go, but sped back up in a few seconds at Al’s complaint.
* Gamma: I’m starting to sweat from this.April 1, 2019 at 7:15 pm #17206
Al tore open a pack of pork rinds and handed it to Preston. “Have some jalapenos next. Good drinkin’ food, cuz they keep they flavor on the way back up.” Preston half expected another round of croaking guffaws, but apparently that was the one thing Al had said not intended as a joke.
“Pull off up here. Ol’ Al’s gotta drain the lizard.”
Al didn’t bother fully dismounting. He stood on the running board, teetering precariously but never toppling as he loosed a steady stream. Buttoning up, he plopped back into the seat and lit a cigarette. “Good a spot as any ta let yer Ford catch us up. Ya done good today, Presto baby. Now check this out…”
A tobacco-stained nail tapped the inside of the windshield, bringing the HUD to life. A translucent map spread over the inner surface, and Al pointed to a point not far down the road. “Stop fer gas up ahead. Food if yer the sort that needs it when ya got beer an’ snacks.” The man’s face made it clear what he thought of that ‘sort.’ “Then just a tad further an’ we hit these hills, lots o’ windin’ side roads….”
He grinned in anticipation.April 8, 2019 at 1:14 pm #17470
Despite Al’s rolled eyes and muttered comments, Preston had taken time to use a proper washroom, and eat some solid food. Not too much food, because judging by Al’s expression, his stomach was not going to enjoy the next little while.
And so it proved. Keeping a vehicle on the straight was one thing. Handling curves, hills, and especially curves on hills in a smooth way while travelling at high speeds was completely another. It didn’t take long for Preston’s knuckles to be white and his soyrito to be lodged in his throat as yet again they fishtailed over gravel when he pulled the wheel around too tightly too late into the turn.
Finally he pulled over and said “Time for you to show me how it is done for a bit. I can tell I’m doing it wrong, but I’m not sure what is wrong, so let me watch someone who knows what he is doing.”Spoiler:April 8, 2019 at 6:30 pm #17491
“Presto baby, pride is a sin. But lyin’s a bigger one. So yeah, I know what I’m doin’. ” Al congratulated himself on his theological acumen. “Half a tick – got some more beer ta unload.”
Two minutes later they were careening up a 31%-grade fire road as Al discoursed non-stop about a one-legged Nigerian midget with whom he’d attended poetry slams in beret-infested Rive Gauche basements. Hairpin turns were negotiated as if on rails, with Preston certain the passenger-side wheels must be over thin air, with Al chattering machine-gun-style on the topic of Awakened gator wrassling and the best ways to win over the crowds. Catching several seconds of air cresting summits, the monologue on the knife fight that had marred The Elephant carried on without pause. Thirty minutes after taking the wheel, the Gaz slid to a halt next to Preston’s waiting Ford Americar with Al never having ceased speaking and never having provided a word of explanation about how he was coaxing his vehicle to such physics-challenging feats without scratching the paint.
“There, see. Easy. Now you do it.”April 9, 2019 at 2:31 pm #17540
Preston clutched the Jesus Handle for a moment after they’d stopped, but seemed to finally realize that it was over.
Then he burst out laughing. It took several seconds for him to even attempt speaking, and even then it was broken. “Al, you are *chortle* truly improbable *snort* I’d say that the way you *chuckle* drive was beyond belief, but the funny thing is that it is kind of familiar. I’m trying to learn to drive in the real world, not just in VR games, but you *prolonged snigger* you drive in real life like they do in VR games.” Preston lost it again. Before trying to express the thought more coherently “You are showing me everything that I’m trying to learn NOT to do!”
“Now don’t get me wrong, you are a truly amazing driver, and I almost wonder if someone used footage of your driving when they made the game ‘Gumbo Rally’ — you ever get across a bayou by bouncing your truck off the back of a huge awakened ‘gator by chance? But the point is, you are running at a very high level, on pure muscle memory from what I can tell. It has been a great example of what can be done, but I don’t think this is going to work great for me figuring out how it is done. My learning style is more methodical, understanding how things work, practicing a particular move while upping how fast and how hard.”
Opening the door, he concluded, “I’m going to take my car, and drive it through these roads as fast and hard as I feel comfortable with — which will be ‘not very.’ Honestly you could take a nap for half an hour if you want I suspect, and still catch up to me with time to spare. The lessons are over, at least for now, let’s get to Vegas and see what is to be seen there.”April 9, 2019 at 5:41 pm #17551
“It’s all groovy, Presto baby. Ain’t no one can be ol’ Al. But here’s what ya don’t seem to’ve tipped to, kemo sabe. You an’ me, we ain’t inna real world, see. Inna real world people don’t git paid hunnerds o’ thousands o’ nuyen to steal ancient artifacts, an’ they sure as hell don’t visit red planets an’ reconstruct ancient rituals ta stop extraplanar incursions. Way I see it, yer VR simulations is a damn sight more appropriate trainin’ than toolin’ about like some old granny, mindin’ yer limits an’ not overdrivin’ yer ability. That sorta thinkin’s jist gon’ hamstring ya, leastways long as ya stay inna wacky perfession we find ourselves in. They ain’t no half measures in this here work. None that survive. Chew on that fer a spell. Now I reckon I’ll have that nap. Then it’s VEGAS, baby!!!”April 10, 2019 at 5:34 pm #17610
What with veering off of the main road for driving practice, the need to stop occasionally for Preston to re-fuel on caffeine, and sheer distance, they didn’t make it into Las Vegas until well after dark. Well, it had been dark on the highway, and in the outer portions of the city the lights had been dim. But the glow from The Strip had lit their way for the last few miles, and now here they were, cruising down possibly the most intensely artificial zone of fun on the planet.
Preston dragged his eyes away from a group of women clad in glittering variations of not-much-at-all.
* Monkey: whoooeeee! Hubba-hubba! I’m going to like this town!
* Gamma: Those are likely professionals working for that casino, helping it seem more glamorous, helping pull in men
* Monkey: they could pull me anywhere they wanted!
* Coleman: I can follow my instincts to a degree on this, but I need to be aware of that manipulation and not follow it blindly
* Gamma: My ability to resist instinct will be lower when I’m this tired.
“Say Al, one thing we didn’t talk about was where to stay. As part of what I’m trying to do here, I’m planning on staying somewhere fairly nice. But that doesn’t have to be the case tonight. We could find somewhere quieter, off the main strip, get a quiet drink. If you wanted. We’ve been in the car all day and all.”April 12, 2019 at 8:15 am #17659
“Swanky. Quiet. As long as its got that drink, right baby?”
Las Vegas was a city Al had never been to. It was about like on the trid, but the trid only stimulated two senses. Here in the flesh with five, there was a pulsing aura of promise and impropriety that Al liked. They took in the Strip from one end to the other. Al figured they were missing out on a lot from the car, but there was time. Though unfamiliar with the layout, it was a tourist town and very user-friendly. A few blocks past and off the main drag they easily found a quiet business hotel. It was clean and probably safe enough that they wouldn’t have to worry much about their own security. But aside from a modest array of slots in the lobby and a couple of second-string pros working the lounge, it was pretty sedate.
Al’s drink was whiskey and his dinner a passable surf’n’turf with garlic mash on the side. As they ate, he tried to remember the details of the exercise Preston was planning. Something about dressing a certain way or not dressing a certain way – high-level social engineering stuff. He figured Preston would let him know if he wanted something from him.
“My my. My mymy. Now that were a refreshin’ repast. Normally not a big fan o’ sea bugs, but that did hit the spot. Reckon I was somewhat fatigued afore, but am now feelin’ a renewed sense o’ my own virile vitality. Desk clerk says they’s a nudie bar down the street, whaddaya say?”April 13, 2019 at 11:26 am #17702
* Oleg: That was predictable
* Gamma: I did predict it
* Eliza: I just didn’t want to make it too obvious
“OK, give me ten to get changed — sorry for being high maintenance.”
After checking in and showering, Preston had laid out the ‘casual wear’ set that Ichante had witched up, and downloaded a fashion forward hair style from a Spinrad subsidiary for his smart wig. He quickly applied all of that and just a bit of cosmetics to give him a slightly more mediteranean complexion.
* Oleg: I look ridiculous
* Coleman: The style stands out, that is the point.
Returning to the restaurant Preston apologized “And sorry for looking so gussed up, but it is kind of what I’m trying to do.”
As they walked over, he reminisced “I lived with a stripper for a while. Well, mostly-former-stripper. See, she’d landed a gig as mistress to a rich drek-head, be he wasn’t one to keep a mistress for long. In the middle of Tanya and I working to hustle him, he kicked her to the curb. I gave her my sympathies and use of my apartment, while pumping her for info about him. She might have figured what we were aiming to do, but she wasn’t going to complain about him becoming a little less rich. The ‘use my apartment for a month or two while you get back on your feet kind of stretched out. She thought she was getting on in age for the ‘taking your clothes off gig that she’d done before the mistress thing, but most other jobs didn’t pay as well as either of those. I thought she had what it took to make it as a singer, but she wasn’t interested in that grind. So when I needed space from Tanya and moved back to my own place, Amanda was still there.”
“It was a bit of an education, living with someone whose business is their looks. She wasn’t that much older than me, but her chance of ‘making it big’ was already pretty much gone, she wasn’t apt to get another chance to be a rich mistress, so she was already looking at how to avoid having to sell herself to gangers in the barrens by the time she was forty. And her way of looking at men and women, and evaluating them, well, that alone was an education worth giving her free rent for a while, but it wasn’t all that I learned.”
* Gamma: I learned that she didn’t mind my cyber arm when it came to massaging her back, the mechanical didn’t matter to her, the deftness and strength did. So that it is not universally repulsive.
* Oleg: I learned that being dependent on other to approve of you is a desperate life, but it did make her observant.
* Coleman: I learned that you can be manipulated without even minding. The way she played on my sympathies to live for free off of me was masterful.
* Eliza: I learned that it is amazing how much people will often warm up to a friendly, attractive women. Women too, not just men.
* Monkey: I learned that I love big boobs! I didn’t think that I cared much, but hers were just amazing, and when she’d —
Preston cut off his memories, and quickly wrapped up his reminiscing “She eventually found work as a hostess at a high end restaurant. Not as much money as she used to make, but she’s surviving well enough for now. Makes me wonder what the strippers do in a city like Vegas when they are getting on. There must be a lot of jobs where they want pretty women, but there must be a lot of pretty women to compete with. I bet cut-rate plastic surgeons do good business here.”
By this point they were approaching the ‘nudey-bar.’
* Eliza: I haven’t let Al talk
* Oleg: sometimes he doesn’t let me talk, balances out.
* Gamma: When I’m nervous, sometimes I babble a bit.
“Sorry, I’ve been talking your ear off. I think I’m nervous. These clothes, trying this whole social manipulation thing on a grand but nebulous scale. Wondering how much money I’m going to blow before I’m done. Anyway, let’s go enjoy some beer and boobs.”April 15, 2019 at 8:05 pm #17829
“Well, I’m plannin’ on doin’ jist that, kemo sabe. But which is it? Ya got yer social engineerin’ get-up on, but yer sayin’ let’s jist go have fun. So ya workin’ or playin’? An’ does it make a difference ta what ya need from ol’ Al either way?”
Al finished his question just as they walked through the doors of The Pitiful Princess Gentlemen’s Club and a wall of sound drowned out whatever reply Preston might have made. Their cred balances were relieved of their cover charges and the price of their first drinks as they passed the threshhold, an entrance flanked by a pair of burly tattooed orks in sleeveless T-shirts. The place was dark enough for an illusion of privacy for the patrons, most of the illumination coming from three stages bathed in that particular brand of diffuse orange light that was so forgiving to bare flesh. The place was large, the stages orbited by lots of passingly discreet alcoves, a ready alternative for men tired of the family-friendly pretense of the strip. At least a hundred customers, and not a female patron in sight, even to low-light-enhanced visitors like Al and Preston. The staff, of course was another story. As usual, most of the waitresses were more attractive than the dancers. But while the girls serving drinks weren’t wearing much, the men in the place were largely riveted on the gynecological displays on the stages, or the passing nudes rotating through the tables soliciting lap dances.
Al led them to the farthest table from the speakers that he could find, which allowed the possibility of strained conversation. The chair he left for Preston had a view of the stage. Al took one with his back to it. Turned it a little to watch, but a quarter cigarette later their drinks came, claiming his attention. He commented on a passing elf girl, but it was pretty hard to hear.
Three drinks on, Preston had been approached about a private dance by eleven different girls. None had pitched Al, who was drinking and smoking and hunched in his chair in sort of upright, half-fetal pose. His focus was more on a spot somewhere a few inches above the scarred tabletop, if anywhere, though he would look up at sudden noises, the nearby pool table seeming most successful at capturing his interest.April 15, 2019 at 10:39 pm #17830
“Well, what I’m” Preston got that far before the barrage of sound hit them on the way into the club. He tried again a couple of times, but the barrage of visual distractions also got in the way. Eventually he gave up conversation for the moment, picked up his drink, and faced out into the chaos until he could make something out of it.
* Coleman: Constant distraction makes it harder to stay on a plan, likely makes it easier to get people to spend beyond their plans
* Gamma: The level of distractions is making it hard for me to concentrate
* Oleg: It is disgusting that I can admire what an efficient money-stripping operation this is.
* Monkey: I’m not sure that this is —did she really just DO that?— really a good time. It has all the trappings, but so far I’m not having much fun.
* Gamma: I’ve always had more fun doing things than just watching.
* Coleman: I’m sure the hope is that I now spend more aggresively in hopes that I’ll get the enjoyment level that I expect.
* Eliza: It doesn’t look like Al is having much fun either.
Preston finally took note of Al’s demeanor.
“Hey Al, this may be the quiet corner, but I can still barely hear myself think. Once you’ve done looking around, want to go shoot some pool? Or maybe billiards. A search is pulling up a few places, but they’ve got way too much glittering marketing to tell what the tables are, and I can’t tell just from some wide-angle shots. But whatever, somewhere a bit quieter for some drinks?”April 16, 2019 at 5:21 pm #17878
“WHAT? YER NOT HAVIN’ FUN? SHEEE-IT, PRESTO BABY, DONTCHA LIKE POON?” Al shouted over the music. He glanced over at the gentleman’s club’s pool table, and it was indeed occupied. And maybe Preston had already completed his experiment here and needed a new venue. Al had said he would help. He stood, drained his beer, left a 100-nuyen note under bottle, and nodded to the exit, leading Preston out.
Outside it was cool and, compared with the cacophony within, felt peaceful despite the constant flow of traffic. “I’ll allow it were loud in there. Don’t bother ol’ Al much.” He pointed at an ear. “Dampers. Nothin’ fancy, just takes the edge off the big decibels. Few shotgun blasts in a small oasis cave on the Saudi Peninsula convinced me o’ the need. Hell, thought fer a spell I’d be wachin’ my shows with subtitles the rest o’ my days. Got ’em soon’s my hearin’ come back. Useful ever since fer crap music played too loud an’ flash-bangs detonated too close. Ya got ear mods?”April 16, 2019 at 9:52 pm #17889
To Al’s demand about his feeling on porn, Preston just rolled his eyes. It wasn’t that he didn’t like it, it was just that … frag he didn’t know what it was. It could sure grab his attention, but it just didn’t hold it for long.
Once they were outside and could talk, he listed to Al’s talk about ears and replied “Nah, eyes and ears are what I was born with — other than stuff shoved in my eye for a smart link. I keep thinking about going for those, but, I don’t know, when I got this arm installed, it messed me up a bit. I mean, good thing it was my left, because I didn’t want to touch anyone with it for the longest time. Even though it looked pretty normal I felt like everyone was looking at it, judging. Didn’t stop me from doing some headware since then, but bodyware, I guess I’ve just been worried about how it would feel.”
As they headed back to grab Al’s truck, Preston rapped his right knuckles on his left forearm, making a clunking sound. “Of course, this arm wasn’t the best when it was new, and, well, it wasn’t new when it came to me. Maybe after this last job I’ll get something new, better. Maybe that would make me feel better about it all.”
He brooded for a bit, wondering if he’d been wrong to take Fisher’s arm from his corpse, but to leave his eyes alone. Then he gave his head a shake, and asked “They say everyone’s reaction is different. Implants ever bug you?”April 17, 2019 at 11:42 am #17906
Al answered without any need to think about it. “Only the eyes, kemo sabe. Only the eyes. See, some ‘ware I got a’purpose, some merely by happenstance. But fer the most part, they’s add-ons. Extras. The eyes, though, now that’s almost the only part o’ me done got replaced. Pretty much the only thing they had ta take a real part o’ me out ta put some cold dead gadget in. Sure, they look real. An’ work great. I’ve had ’em upgraded considerable an’ tricked out some since that first outta-the-box pair shoved in my skull by a minin’ camp quack back Cambodia way. But they’s my eyes. amigo. Sooner lose both legs an’ an arm than try meetin’ someone’s gaze an’ havin’ ’em see not my soul but a dead polymer surface with nothin’ behind it but optical sensors an’ circuitry. Warn’t no choice inna matter, an’ after a few days o’ blindness, I can appreciate the Good Lord’s blessin’ o’ sight. But I’d swap ’em back if I could. Never fer a zillion nuyen have I or would I ever give up any piece o’ myself voluntarily. Nosirreebob.”
Al’s tirade had brought them in sight of the pool hall Preston had found. Covering the remaining distance, they went inside to find it a lot dirtier than the Pitiful Princess but considerably quieter, sporadic hums of muffled conversation erratically punctuated by the sharp impacts of phenolic resin spheres. There were fewer men here, and no women at all, clothed or otherwise. A real step down in Al’s book, but to each their own. He congratulated himself on the unhesitating sacrifices he made for co-workers and friends.
“Play much?”April 17, 2019 at 3:31 pm #17920
I play occasionally, mostly professionally. Not ‘I make money from it’ professionally, but ‘it is a good excuse to hang around a bar waiting for your mark to come in’ professionally. It’s a great way to kill time, especially if you don’t really mind losing more often than not.” He paused, realizing that Al was already procuring beer.
He acceptd the bottle “At least, I used to play a fair bit that way, not as much now, I’m out of practice.” He rapped on his cyberarm again “But if I shoot left, this thing helps. Great fine motor control, no trembling, carefully calibrated force.” Al pointed out an empty table, and Preston slotted in a cred-stick — it had been his suggestion after all. “I hear ya about wishing you could have your meat back. I shouldn’t have ever taken this arm and gotten it installed, but I was young, out of my mind with fury and vengeance, and I thought I needed the edge that it had given my old mentor. Turns out in the end I iced the guy with a mix of detective work and giving up all illusions of being a good person, and I didn’t need the arm for that at all. But you can’t ever really get meat back, so …” he fished a ball out of a pocket and made it dance across the knuckles of his metal hand “… I try to focus on the positives these days. It took me a few years, a few addictions, and a few failed relationships to figure out how important that is.”
He racked up the balls then offered the break to Al. “I guess we can keep score if you feel like it. Mostly I just want something to do while I get drunk enough to go back to the hotel and just pass out tonight.” He shot a glance at Al “I think you know why. But my other reason for Vegas is all about being seen in various places, so I need to stretch this out for a couple of hours.”
April 17, 2019 at 5:53 pm #17929
- This reply was modified 8 months ago by Beta.
“Coupla hours. Coupla weeks. Ol’ Al ain’t got no place to be,” the ragged man said as he shot the cue ball for a vicious break. He sank one, then got a few more before scratching on a bank shot. He wasn’t bad, but not great either.
“So if’n yer doin’ yer groovy thang, ya need me ta be watchin’ fer anything or doin’ anything, or jist mind my business an’ keep yer six clear?”April 18, 2019 at 4:42 pm #17967
“You ask good questions, Al. And I’d like to give a good answer. But for one I’m going to shoot these balls and drink some beer before I even try to answer, and when I do that will start with ‘but for two.’ Not trying to string you along, it’s just … ah, I’ll get there.” Some of the striped balls went into holes, but after a couple of shots he sunk a plain ball and passed the table back to Al, quipping “back in my ‘killing time’ days I’d now mutter about my luck, and how if you ran the tables you had to give me another chance. But in truth I was just too greedy for my skill on that shot.”
A couple of games and another beer and a half and Preston finally addressed the issue. “So here is the ‘but for two’ I’m kind of playing a game on myself here. I’m pretty good at blending in, at talking with people, at getting along without making a fuss. But I’m pretty bad at deliberately trying to fool people. I go around here planning on how to pull some grand social manipulation, spinning some elaborate story, it just isn’t going to work. I’ll blush, choke, look stiff or shifty eyed. Maybe I’ll get better at that stuff some day, but today I’m just not a con man. So I kind of have to plan some activities, some ways of dressing and ways to act, and then forget about all that planning and focus just on doing those things. And maybe it will work or maybe it won’t.”
“So trying to answer your question, it kind of takes me out of that zone. Makes me think about what I’m trying to do here, and then I can’t really do it very well. This whole idea that I could do this is probably fragging stupid when I can’t even talk about it well, when I have to run almost totally on instinct and not proper planning. But worst comes to worst it is a few days getting to know Vegas, and who knows when that will become useful later?”
“Anyway, now I’m thinking about it. So I’ll do my best to give you an answer. ‘But for three’ this whole thing is more a matter of instinct than it is of logic or planning, so I don’t know if I can break it down super clearly. But here goes:”
“First of all, you contrast with me, which makes me stand out more. Normally I hate standing out, but I kind of need to if there is any chance of making this work in a brief time. Our current clothing styles are pretty different, our ages are different, that is enough that when people see us together some part of their brain is going to start thinking “there is a story there” and most people hate not knowing, so they make drek up. That is a bunch of what I’m trying to do right there.”
“Second, with any luck, someone is going to make up a story that makes them think they want one of us for something. Doesn’t really matter what, that is a crack that can be worked on, you know? From there it is all instinct, and instincts aren’t perfect. That is where having back-up can be fantastic, because you can take more chances. I can take more chances. If something comes along for you, well you can make your own call.”
“So what’s next? Tonight we hit a couple of different kinds of clubs. Tomorrow I’ll buy some shoes that might impress people who actually care about brands and style in men’s shoes. And I’ll buy five digits of chips at a casino and play some games where there is an audience. Not real high roller stuff where an unlucky streak could wipe me out quickly, but the sort of thing where bets start at three digits probably. Get a bit of experience with different games and the players, become comfortable in a casino, and most of all be somebody that others enjoy playing with. Congratulate them, commiserate with them, challenge them with a bet when they want that excitement. Make myself part of the story they are telling themselves about their Vegas experience.”
“With luck, when they see me again, they might smile, they may greet me, they might invite me to their table. Maybe we’ll win some and decide to pay too much money for a good table at some sort of show. You know, become part of some other people’s Vegas experience. Hopefully someone or someones Horizon, for one of my objectives, but mostly I want to see how far people will write me into their stories.”
“You are welcome to come along for however much of it you might like, or can sleep in, or wait for me in a bar. That I keep going back to you will let people add more pieces to their story.”
Preston stares at his beer bottle, briefly confused at how it got empty while he was talking
* Gamma: I’m getting pretty drunk if I don’t even notice when I’m drinking
* Monkey: I’m not drunk, I’m just happy!
* Coleman: Good, I should lose this train of thought pretty quickly
* Monkey: I should get another beer
* Eliza: If I go to the bar now, that voluptuous amazon is flirting with the bartender and probably won’t notice if I ogle her rack
“Frag, sorry for talking so long, looks like I talked myself dry, so I’ll shut up and grab some beers in a moment. So yah, it’s like I was saying, stories and all that. And after a day or so if nothing is taking, maybe shake things up some more, but I’m trying not to think that far ahead much.”April 18, 2019 at 6:08 pm #17973
Al stood and chalked his cue and listened to Preston. What he learned was that there was a whole lot more to doing the whole social thing than he’d ever considered. Or ever would. Since it all just came naturally to him anyway.
“Well, Presto baby, it’s mighty clear you’ve given this a fair amount o’ thought. Reckon I wish ya well. Doubt I’ll be doin’ much sleepin’. Maybe some o’ that waitin’ in a bar. But all that stuff yer plannin’ on doin’, well sir, that’s all right there spot inna middle of ol’ Al’s fun things category, so reckon I’m happy ta be the wing man yer lookin’ for. The one gives ya the leeway ta take them risks.”
Preston went to get the beers. Al set to racking up the next game. A couple of men approached the table. Al noticed the place had gotten pretty full. All the tables were in use. One of the men said, “All right, old timer, let’s see what you’ve got.”
Al said, “Private game, amigos.”
The man said, “Hey, I’m trying to be nice. Let you play one more. My friend here plays the winner. Which will be me. Or I can forget being nice and you can step off right now. Your friend left. I’m next for the winner. So play nice and watch your step.”
Preston came back. Al spoke to Preston as if the two men were not there. “These fellers want the table. They’s bein’ civil enough in an asshole sorta way. It’s your show, kemo sabe. Jist let ol’ Al know where this falls on yer risk continuum.”
The men did not like being ignored and talked about. “Hey!” one said angrily. “Yeah!” said the other one.May 1, 2019 at 4:51 pm #18357
* Oleg: I’m tired and these clowns are wearisome
* Eliza: I should be able to defuse and avoid a confrontation, but that won’t get me noticed
* Monkey: Escalating is easy and fun! It is like opposite-time-for-Preston
* Gamma: I’m not a very good brawler
* Coleman: I might take a couple of punches, but bouncers should interfere quickly at a place like this, it is not so rough
* Eliza: I’d best let Al know
<<Al [Preston] By the way, I’ve decided that getting attention might work better if we DO make a fuss.>>
Preston addressed himself to the nearer of the men. “‘Hey’ what? Did you think your opinion in this matters?”
* Oleg: I’ll call him ‘Bub’ and the other ‘Bozo’
Preston handed off a beer to Al, took a pull from his own bottle, and then let it dangle by the neck from his left hand. He snapped the fingers of his right hand then pointed to a spot on the floor. “How about you boys stand over there, and after we finish our next game, maybe the loser of our game has to play one of you.”
* Monkey: It would be so good if I could say things like that and sound chill doing it, instead of like a hopped up smarmy nerd. I should work on that.
* Coleman: I did work on that; I put whine into my voice program.
The response was not long in coming from Bub “What the FRAG? Who the drek do you think you are, talking to us like that?” The man was right up Preston’s face, chest puffed up.
* Oleg: If he had antlers we’d be literally butting heads by now.
* Eliza: That is good imagery, actually
Preston stood his ground and drawled back, “Are you an elk shaman, and is it rutting season? You seem so eager to butt heads.” He jutted his head toward the man’s face. “But nah, you aren’t that special, except to your lover boy over there.”
Bub shoved Preston away, but followed him, fists coming up. He was probably just doing it as a threat, but it was provocation enough. Preston whipped up his cyber-arm even as he kept moving back, and he smacked the bottle hard across the man’s knuckles.
* Monkey: It would have been more dramatic if the bottle had broken
* Coleman: but this way I still have an improvised club
<<Looks like we’ll be getting kicked out soon, do whatever is fun until then>>May 1, 2019 at 5:59 pm #18363
Al winced at the sight of the near-full bottle viciously impacting the man’s knuckles. That had to hurt.
Preston might pass himself off a the retiring computer guy, and trash-talk was clearly not his strong suit, but Al had seen him in action and knew he needed no assistance with these guys. Still, he had directed Al to have fun, and, in any case, it was simply not in Al’s nature not to back a friend in a fight.
Apparently, the second guy felt the same way and moved to help his friend. From the way the first guy was holding his injured hand, eyes tearing, Al figured that one was done already. If he wasn’t careful, this would be over all too soon. So he intercepted the second guy and instead of crushing his testicles with a knee or pulling him to the floor using fingers thrust deep into his nostrils, he pulled the man’s arm but also kept it straight with a palm at the elbow. Then, the man’s center of gravity well out from himself, and acting too quickly for his victim to resist, Al swung one leg in a circle on the floor, guiding the man around and gathering centrifugal force before releasing him, sending him barrelling full force into a trio of orks, ruining the biggest one’s shot and sending beer splashing across synthleather gang colors.
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