Saturday, February 8, 2014

What Happens in Vegas

Las Vegas. A place where dreams come true, people go broke, and an alien chronicler and her world-famous supervillain friend can fly down from space without even being the biggest spectacle on the block. "Okay, I can only assume you aren't here to gamble."
"I am a cultural observer. I came to this city to witness the highs and lows of human emotion."
"By highs, do you mean..."
"I'm going to a casino. The other 'highs' are best observed elsewhere."
The two of us entered the Palace of Decadence, one of the more honestly named outfits on the block. It had a lush red carpet, and the aromas of tobacco and alcohol were heavy in the air. I saw the slot machines, the blackjack table, and the roulette wheels. Such memories they evoked.
"So, Phoenix. What have you been up to?"
"Making a better soft drink. Actually, making the best soft drink. Mathematically optimized root beer." I licked my lips at the thought of the drink, and the intricate algorithms I had written to create it. "What have you been up to?"
"Museums. Palaces. Ordering a few billion books from Amazon."
"I wonder if they offer expedited shipping to your spaceship."
"They don't, but I have a shuttle for things like that."
A bouncer approached us, and it occurred to me that the New Archivist looked like she was seventeen or eighteen. Not old enough to set foot in a casino. Of course, chronologically, she was barely more than a year old, while her Archives fed her millions of years of memories. "Wanna show me some ID," the bouncer asked.
I stood up, and gave him my most intimidating supervillain stare, on that said 'I have killed before and I am willing to kill again.' The bouncer returned with a look that said 'I'm a Las Vegas bouncer, I'm not going to be intimated by some scary looks.'
Fortunately, the New Archivist was better prepared for this sort of thing than I was. The diadem on brow glowed bright red, and shot forth holographic images of a dozen forms of identification. "I am the New Archivist. If this proof is not sufficient for you, I can contact my spaceship to arrange for more."
The bouncer walked away, muttering something about crazy tourists.

The New Archivist and I looked around just in time to see a slot machine pay out. A guy who barely looked old enough to gamble screamed with joy. "Yes! I win! In your face, mom, telling me not to gamble! You know how much I won? Fifteen dollars just today!  This is the best thing that ever happened to me! Yes! YES! I am the greatest. The great-" he the let loose a twenty-one gun salute of coughing and gagging.
The New Archivist looked at me. "Smoking?"
"Probably," I said. "I'm not an expert at diagnosing these things, but I'd estimate he started three years ago, and is currently up to a pack a day." A quick look at his credit card information proved he bought at least fifty percent more than that, and it wasn't all tobacco. Neurotron was quick to offer criticism: Buying marijuana with a credit card. Smart.
You don't have to tell me how to conduct illicit dealings.
Rather than get into an argument with the quarrelsome AI, I made conversation with the alien anthropologist sitting next to me. "So, did you enjoy your visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? I don't mean to brag, but some of my finest forgeries reside there."
Suddenly, the New Archivist turned to stare at me. "You used to live here? In Vegas?" A bit of a non sequitur. Must have been information flowing through the glowing diadem of infinite alien knowledge and bottomless MySpace posts that she had on here forehead.
"If by 'here' you mean this particular casino, then no. If by 'here' you mean Las Vegas, then yes." It was a long time ago, before my career as a villain, before I ruled Estveria, before I'd invented indestructible armors and sentient computers. "I had been a professional card counter for two years."
"What happened?"
I didn't like this direction of conversation. "Let me think, what could happen to a professional Vegas card counter? The casino's all got together and got me a big teddy bear full of candy and asked me to stop. I was so happy that I agreed, and went off to chase unicorns." In case you're wondering, I was being sarcastic when I said that.
Being a master observer of the human condition, my companion picked up on my subtle message to drop the subject.
We spent a few hours catching up, and she described some of the places she remembered going (she'd never actually been more than a few hundred miles from Earth, but her predecessor had left her memories of all of his myriad travels).
I talked about my plans to graft on monopole wings to use as plasma thrusters (they would have the side benefit of being energy efficient and looking freaking awesome).
She was interesting and nice. But she sure didn't seem like Lucy.
"Well, I'd hate to go, but I have to give a speech to the U.N about Estveria's new foreign policy, and since the last time I was there I took everyone present hostage, I need to arrive early for a security check-up."
I walked outside and flew cross-country. I had a killer speech (metaphorically, not literally), and I didn't want to be late.

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