The Riker’s den
“Lucas, don’t push your luck. You already lost a bunch.” That was the nagging Lucas had to listen to the entire evening.
“I’ll get it back, dear Pearl. Just wait.”
When? Tonight’s event had an one clear finale - game of The Riker’s Luck. Obviously, Lucas kept his eye on the game. To qualify to play at the grand table, he even placed more bets than he should have and lost half of his embezzled money. Not that unusual, he had done it in the past - to get wealth he had to invest capital.
It wasn’t a good excuse to Pearl, who was adamant. “We already have what we came for, so let’s go back.”
Lucas would be in the positive if that damn Reider wasn’t a dumbass! He failed to breach the security, because of one fatal flaw in his plan - the AI discovered him. So what he was first? Lucas wasn’t happy about it, but after all said and done, he lost Charlie’s money.
At first, Lucas was still in a daze because of his meeting with Jeffrey, so he didn’t realize his mistake. After a while he made safe bets with the rest and won some and lost some, only to proceed to the major event. He needed the cash back.
Waitress in a fancy dress dragged him from his pondering, as she said, “Mister L? Please, follow me, and remove any devices.” She presented to him a small box padded with the finest leather.
“See you later, Pearl,” he whispered into his microphone, but Pearl didn’t respond — he was melodramatic again. So Lucas nodded to the waitress and said, “Naturally.” Then he entrusted his precious electronics to her and followed to the main stage.
There was a massive table with ten seats all around. Intensive lights illuminated every place in a different color, and Lucas sat down under the yellow light. Even the chairs were comfortable, Riker spent a fortune on it.
Creators of this peculiar table drawn hundred lines in a complicated pattern, intertwined and because the middle was sitting on a circular platform, getting any sense of it was almost impossible. Almost infinite combinations were possible, and thanks to quantum tunneling predictions would fail.
A man clad in colored coat glistering with all colors of rainbow hoped on a platform and snatched a microphone. “Brilliant elites of humanity! My name is Riker, and this is the time we all were waiting for. Time for The Riker’s Luck.”
Despite that, a large crowd formed a circle around the table. There was no reaction. If he expected a loud cheer, he would be sad. Nonetheless, he said, “Who will claim the early price? Who will get the lucky prize? We’ll see — let’s roll the circle!”
As he said that, the circle rolled with loud clicking sounds. Very loud. Lucas thought it must have been the hundreds of complicated connections. When it stopped, the color of his chair changed to an indigo. Riker pulled up a large stack of metallic cards and every player received two.
“First round starts — as per tradition — with a blue player.” Eyes of everyone rested on a woman dressed up in a daring red dress and black mask decorated with dandelions.
“Let’s start big, shall we?” Tone of her voice was playful, and she put two golden-plated chips in front of her. “Two thousands on blue.”
The next player on her right side shook his head, as did the one next to him. But then a robust man with deep looming voice said, “Call. Yellow.” Lucas shook his head as well. His two cards were the most useless - two subroutines.
When nobody else wanted to challenge her, Riker grinned and shouted, “Play your hand!”
The dandelion woman inserted a card into one of the three slots in front of her. “Firewall.” The moment it clicked, an electric current surged through the table, and a blue light illuminated a path into the center.
Her opponent was studying the path for a while, and then inserted his card into the middle slot. “Trojan Horse.” Because the red color illuminated his seat, a red light shot through the table and reached a few slots of various players, including the firewall card.
“Oh my, how bold,” she said, and despite the threat of his card, her voice sounded calm. “Raise, four thousands.”
Her enemy simply added two golden chips on the table. “Call.”
“Firewall.” She did the same move as before, and even more connections flashed in blue.
As she revealed her card, the man visibly twitched. Who wouldn’t? Her luck was extraordinary. Why? Getting two firewalls was as rare as four aces in poker. He revealed his last card, “Forced restart.”
“Oh? Trying your luck?” she said as lights of his color surged through the paths on the table. Her firewalls split the large circle into tens small squares and around twenty rotated by random degrees.
Some of them connected, and the colors flickered. The crowd became agitated as the light show continued. Beam over Lucas’ seat went from indigo, green and back to yellow. Then back again. Most of the other player’s colors changed, except for the most important - the woman remained blue.
“The winner of the first round is Miss T!” Riker shouted with a grin. “Let’s roll again!” A mechanism pulled cards down, consumed them, and the circle rotated again.
On Lucas’ turn, he picked up a somewhat useful card - a green memory bank. If he played that right, even a firewall wouldn’t stop his victory. The second one - switchboard was borderline useless in normal turn, but…
Somewhere in the jungle with an angel
Just outside the barrier, the Blobrg was bouncing around, slashing with everything it had at the translucent protection, but nothing reached inside. Not even the smell of his burned meat. Instead, the air cleared and felt like after a good rain.
“Hey angel,” I said carelessly, and rose. “What’s your name? Fine, if I talk normally?”
I moved only a few steps to get closer before I halted under her piercing gaze. She lifted her eyes and was examining my face with a strange stare. What? If I remembered correctly, angels were normal people, forced to take a course in god-law, and then serve.
After an annoyingly long time, she let out a shallow sigh. “Granted. I’m Sera.”
“Hi. Sera, so what do you say about my plea? Is it achievable to get the Juggernaut?”
Katherine stopped us with a wave of her hand. “Wait. Wat’s ‘tat again?”
“The Juggernaut is everything our patron stands for. Glory, strength, fearlessness,” Sera answered almost mechanically. “Because you are a candidate, I can share details with you.”
As was Katherine gazing at the screen in front of her, her face brightened with every line she read, and at the end she beamed and grinned wildly.
Normally I would check my pants to hide my excitement, but despite I had a hundred percent reality limit, there was nothing. Stupid Lukas! But we will rob the government and I’m going to get my old body back, you’ll see Katherine! What is a few years life compared to my body?
“Wat now? I want it!” Katherine’s eyes brightened like that time when she received my five hundred donation, and she grasped Sera’s hands.
Sera didn’t like that and fluttered, but even she couldn’t fight the Katherine’s energy and revealed a mild smile. “Okay, I sent a request to our department, they are reviewing it.”
As they were talking about heaven bureaucracy, I was examining the Blobrg. Everyone said it was a stupid creature, and it would chase its prey until devoured. So one lesson my mentor told me was to sacrifice someone for it to eat and run. Yeah, sure. My eyes rested on Katherine, who was arguing with Sera about swords for Juggernauts. No sacrifice, we’ll run.
Blobrg’s wound already healed, and the critter was invisible again, but I was sure it still bashed on the barrier. Relentless creature. The meadow inside the barrier wasn’t large enough for us to be out of its reach, sadly. The only way to escape was with teleport scrolls.
Because of stupid rules, they were talking for over an hour, so I sat down and meditated. Yeah, as if. I was brewing agility potions with my exploit instead.
After a while, sera’s melodic voice grabbed my attention, as she said, “Please bear witness, hero!” Katherine was on her knees, holding a two-handed sword in front of her and recording it. Wait, wait! Quickly cleaning the alchemy tools, I scrambled up and ran towards them. Stupid Angel, I wished to see her ceremony!
“Katherine, do you willingly swear to abide by laws of Feran, bound by his rules, and bask in his glory? Do you swear to always meet your enemy with glory?”
Running even that short distance was too much for my stamina, so I had to rest leaning on a tree’s trunk. The gorgeous streamer presented her sword to the angel and slowly rose, proudly staring into her eyes.
“Yup, I swear!” Katherine couldn’t suppress her grin and shouted. Sera maintained her stoic expression and placed her unarmored hand on the sword’s edge. Blood. The blood ran down the sword’s hilt, and when reached Katherine, she shuddered before screaming in pain.
Sera turned towards me. “I-” Seeing Katherine like that affected my voice. Clenching my staff helped a bit, but I diverted my eyes before I confirmed, “I witness.”
Sera ignored her scream, even smirked a bit, and said, “Katherine the Juggernaut, you are now the fifth glory seeker.” Then she turned her head towards me again, showing her teeth. Ominous. “Ceremony completed. Thus, I tear down the barrier.”
“Wait!” I jumped towards that stupid lady, but she vanished when I reached her. Change of plans! “Katherine, pull teleporting scrolls while we can. Marketplace!”
Without waiting for her, I tore mine down. She didn’t. That stubborn girl turned her armored back to me. Her hair tumbled down, and she pointed the bloodied sword at the crackling barrier. “No. Always meet with glory!”
“No!” I willed my body to move, but after I cast the spell on scroll, there wasn’t coming back. “Katherine, you can’t win! Come on, we’ll go on an adventure and find the ring!”
She didn’t listen to me, and strolled towards the danger. “Win, or die in glory. Sera said ‘tat.” The cracks in the barrier stretched, and Blobrg’s victorious cry deafened the meadow; I couldn’t hear her last words before I vanished.