Paradise Hotel 51

Where Gaming Dies

Epoch: Chapter 17

“I thought it might be better, Emir started, “If I actually showed each area of the Fields Facility to you as I spoke of them.” The group of eight, all counted, walked down a large hallway heading towards what a large marble plaque read as the ‘Elysian Fields Medical Laboratory, Observatory & Research Center/Surgical Wing’.

Con smirked.

“Think they got everything on that sign alright? Or was there more?”

Emir smiled.

Art by Kitano Smith

“Oh, there was about three paragraphs. I got Window to budge after I threatened ‘Russian Roulette’ to settle our differences.”

“Who’s Window?”

“Oh, forgive me. Window St. James, M.D. is one of the gifted doctors and researchers in the Ouroboros program. I’m also fortunate enough to have him as one of my closest friends. I think you’ll like him. He’s a codger, even though he looks to be in his mid-thirties.”

“How old are you?,” Con asked without sarcasm.

“I forget. It isn’t important to me.”

“Ah. I’m a teenager. All I have is age and the ability to shoot straight.”

Emir smiled again.

“That’s what he said,” Dan jabbed.

“I’m sorry Dan, are you talking again? Isn’t there a beer bottle around here somewhere to fix that problem?”

“Your parents should have fixed the problem, Short Round.”

“Fuck you, running.”

“That’s funny. Did you learn that from the human bullseye over there?”

Kevin glared at Dan so severely, his eyes nearly showed through his glasses.

“Don’t look at me like that, Brit Lit. I didn’t get us all killed.”

“No. I’m sure you got yourself killed right good, though. Did he shoot your mouth off first, or just start with your liver and work his way up?”

“He started and ended with the heart,” Dan said, trying not to look directly at Emir; he noticed him glance in his general direction, though.

“What d’you mean?,” Kevin puzzled. The others looked over from their own thoughts to also stare at Dan.

“Did I stutter? I got shot once. Count to ‘one’,” he held up a finger. “End of story. But…it was kind of interesting to feel the bullet go through the chair I was sitting in. He was pretty close to me. It probably went through the fucking floor, t-what the mother fuck are all of you looking at me like that for? Huh? Did I make a haiku? How many times did all of you get shot?”

Con shook his head.

“Like…a hundred. I wasn’t counting. Kev?”

“No, it was a hundred.”

Dan harpooned a look at Coyote.

“More than three times. Probably six or seven. I kept waiting for the fucker to stop shooting so I could kill him.” Coyote flashed a grin brushed with fiery anger. “Didn’t work out.”

“Ric,” Dan said, an odd look of mottled confusion and frustration upon his face.

“It felt like dozens of times, amigo. Alas…I did not stop to count, either. But I would rather not think on these things at this time. I would kind of like to enjoy the tour.”

Finally, Dan’s eyes came to rest upon Kaede. Her face saddened…and the guilt was there again. Then, she lowered her gaze slowly to her feet.

At this point, Dan looked with degrees of meaning…at Emir. Had it been respect? Mockery? Probably not that. Certainty? Location? Probably not that, either. Surprisingly, Emir spoke.

“The collegiate members of our Facility have addressed the issue with all due respect, in the way of a nickname or two.”

“Or…’two’,” Dan droned, mulling the issue over.

“Or one,” Emir looked at Dan with a perplex blend of perspective and humbleness.

“Oh. Well, that clears things up,” Dan replied. “Thanks.”

He began walking again without looking back. Con leaned over to Kevin.

“Since when does he have problems with being called names and finding the ‘easy out’. I think I would’ve tapped out at any point before I resembled swiss cheese spiked with Grenadine.”

Kevin was instantly stricken with a mortified look upon his face, and Con laughed again, tone incredibly absent of tragedy, somehow.

Art by Dcat

Con was also humored that there were Braille captions upon everything possible, and wherever there was writing. Even the marble plaque had worn Braille, upon its face, very clearly drilled, or…lazed. Or whatever they did now. Con didn’t really need the Braille in any way, shape or form, if lettering was indented into paper hard enough, like in those old school library books made when typewriters ruled the roost.

Signs were also easily decipherable. Subtitles, however, were just there to agitate the shit out of him. In direct contrast, Con absolutely loathed the second audio program bullshit where people would describe what was going on in television shows or movies. It was just stupidity in action…with dialog. It was also recklessly unnecessary in his opinion.

‘Seriously, blind people. Quit your bitching and just figure it out. You don’t see me bitching about that stupid shit, do you? Oh. I guess not. Damn. Served. Bang.’

“You payin’ attention, lad,” Kevin asked Con quietly as the two brought up the back of the line.

“Hard to not listen, Kev. Right?”

Kevin smiled. Then Dan was speaking again, to Emir; his tone was deviled, but without its usual bite of sarcasm and anger.

“I’m sure you find this entertaining to some extent. Isn’t this like playing with your food after it’s digested?”

“Not quite,” Emir said, noticing Con cock his head at Dan’s statement.

“It’s like making a better meal and benefiting from the enlightened cuisine.”

“That’s lovely. Really. Well, I’ve got some things to say about that that can wait about…,” Dan thought. “Half an hour. Then, I’m probably going to have the appropriate amount of bottle anger to launch at you.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. The first time was a little short lived.”

“You’re goddamn right about that. But I don’t really care, either. About…that. Whatever. It’s your parking lot. Drive away.”

‘I think it’s his ‘everything’, man,” Kevin retorted. Dan raised an eyebrow at the Brit, but otherwise refrained from a response.

“That’s not an over-statement,” Emir chuckled. “But, generally, it’s considered rood to gloat.”

“Not in our line of work, amigo,” Mask added.

“Ric’s got a point,” Con agreed. “And nobody really cares if you look like an asshole in our line of work, either. Isn’t that right, Irish?”

“Your mom’s right,” Dan said flatly. Con bristled, but said nothing, surprisingly. Then Dan looked at the abruptly stoic teen, as Coyote eyed him violently.

“Not that I’m keeping track or anything,” Dan said with all the emotion of a park bench. But he’d said something to diffuse his prior statement, and Con nodded approval.

“We’re going to be continuing our tour of the Facility in a place of particular significance to all of you, especially considering the events of the last several weeks. The ‘Med Lab’.”

There was a moment of silence.

“If there’s one Frankenstein monster or zombie in there,” Dan chimed in. “I’m going to be chopping some skulls, drinking my meals for the next month, and you can go fuck yourself.”

Emir laughed easily, and Dan – finally – cracked a smile.

“Seriously, Dan,” Con smirked. “We’re all clones. Get the memo.”

Kevin stopped walking abruptly, folding his arms. Con lagged back, and stood by him, grabbed his arm and pulled him into walking with him.

“I’m just kidding, I’m sorry. Don’t make that face, it adds like, sixty years to you,” he laughed.

“Does not,” Kevin responded, mock-wounded.

“I assure you, you’re not clones,” Emir said calmly. “Those failed the first four times…and the geneticists just gave up.” Then every Smith in the aisle stopped short. Dan gave Emir the eye screw of his life.

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’m joking. Follow me.”

Then, Emir was leading them into the main entrance of the Med Lab; it was attached to the building where the Smith Wing resided by a long, insulated suspension bridge. It was all windows yet, an interior hallway at the same time. The view was dazzling, even at night.

“Welcome to the Perfect Horizon Bridge,” Emir said with poise. “It’s the best view of the Fields while still indoors. It was dedicated with the construction of the Med Lab, which was built over a three year period starting in 2026.”

“Who was it dedicated to?,” Kaede asked, peering down at the ground far below them.

“There are seven pillars,” Con pointed out. “Guess.” Kaede didn’t really respond; she counted the pillars with her eyes. There was a mirror lining the base of the huge bridge, in a sweeping arc; it barely looked real. The mirror was probably one protected by a form of shield for weathering the elements. It reflected the pillars so they looked infinite, extremely long.

Most stopped to look…and Con grinned as he felt the height of the bridge, through wall and glass and their new surroundings; before them was a huge, sweeping environment – what looked like a city, amidst the green grass, pristine and angelic. Con’s smile suddenly dimmed, drained from his face as he fought back the flashbacks of the window…the glass…

Kevin glanced over at him, as the others took in the spectacle, and tilted his head a bit to signal that he was focusing concern upon his young brow. Con shook his head ‘it’s nothing’, but Kevin kept the look firmly placed.

“I’m okay, Kev. I’m alright. You’re the one that’s bleeding.”

Kevin glanced down to his glass injury, where he’d rendered a mirror useless to aid him in the weaponry department; he’d discarded the glass after peaceful environs were discovered. The hand, he’d wrapped while they’d been idling in the kitchen area; Kevin thought the wound beyond superficial, and it was, though it stung like ice was coating it.

“I don’t get squeemish ’bout my own blood spurtin’ out, kid. Thankfully. More worried ’bout that ghost’s look on your face. I thought you liked heights.”

“I like heights, I just don’t like admiring them through broken glass with my guts all over it. It kind of detracts from the mood, if you catch my bullet.”

Kevin looked down, and a pall struck his face; Con felt the muscles in Kevin’s stomach tighten with his physical reaction to what was certainly guilt.

“Oh, Kev…it’s not like that. It wasn’t your fault. That kid was a sneaky mother fucker. Hence, my phobia of people standing behind me with guns.”

Kevin cracked a rich smile, a needful one.

“Is that right up there with arachnophobia?”

“Oh, yeah. But…I like spiders. Got no problems with the leggy bastards.”

“What about the leggy bastard that gunned you down, kid?”

Con frowned.

“It’s nothing personal, but…I hope he got hit by a bus…then it backed up. How’s that as payback for catching a speeding bullet?”

The two started walking again, as Dan and the others meandered slowly after Emir. Dan kept shaking his head every once in a while, as if – against odds – he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Caught more than one, fuck it all. The lot of us were a crossbreed of bleeding pin cushions.”

“You said ‘fuck’,” Con chuckled, and Kevin lightened.

“That’s what he said,” Kevin returned.

“And,” Con continued. “Isn’t that cross-hair?”

Kevin lowered his voice a bit.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there, lad. I would have cleaved that boy’s arteries to spare you those grisly thought patterns.”

“I…would have liked that. You know. Considering. I thought…,” Con stopped mid thought.

“What, Con?,” Kevin folded his arms as he walked the expanse of the bridge.

“I thought…it would hurt more…I actually thought…I would be alright. How fucked up is that?”

“Shock,” Kevin said in a reminiscent tone, eerily shaded by tints of red. “Is a blessing that runs unchecked in the worst circumstances, Con. It’s not ‘fucked up’. It’s a form of humanity.”

“I guess I’m okay with that. I’m not sure if I…really wanted to know. I just wanted…to keep-“

Con stopped. “I don’t know. I don’t fucking know.”

“It’s alright. Don’t have to know right now, do you?”

“I guess not,” Con sighed. “I just feel like everybody’s loser right now, though.”

“Not only a member, am I,” Kev chuckled grimly.

“Kev. Drop it. Nobody thinks it’s your-“

“Hey, ‘target practice’,” Dan’s voice suddenly cut into their conversation as he addressed Kevin from the front of the group. Kevin lowered his head so his eyes showed. He didn’t do so often.

“You think you could step it up a notch back there? I’d like to see this place and make some goddamn life decisions before my life line plunges off this bridge, already. Think you can make that happen? Really? Don’t look at me like that. I’m not saying anything everyone else isn’t thinking.”

“Actually, yes you are, you asshole,” Kaede’s anger flared against Dan’s comments. He smiled at her in what seemed to be honest enjoyment – nothing Dan usually partook in. She rolled her eyes at him, and returned to silence…the view.

“Yeah,” Con took his and Kevin’s conversation up again, as Kevin pushed his glasses firmly against the bridge of his nose. “No one likes him.”

“Bet his liver blood would taste of pure alcohol,” Kevin snorted.

“That’s the sexiest thing I’ve heard all day,” Con flat toned, and then Kevin was laughing out loud. Dan shot him a ‘wtf’ look, and cast obscenities under his breath as he continued his walk across the massive bridge. Kaede kept glancing over at Dan periodically, seemingly at random. But he caught her eyes amidst one glance, and grinned full bore at her until she looked away sheepishly. At this, he was – as always – amused.

Coyote ran a hand over the smoothness of the glass, gauging its strength, probably. He had a hand in a pocket and casually looked out at the city of a place. He cracked a smile. Marvelous fits of mischief could be achieved in a place like this. Just…marvelous. And the security measures would be incredibly fun – incredibly exciting – to familiarize with. Even if…he didn’t really have a need to line his pockets currently. He doubted they would charge rent if he wound up staying…here. The thought was staggering, and very inconceivable to the point of disability right now. So, Coyote simply took in the view, and smiled over at Ric, who marveled quietly, hands clasped behind his back like a scholar. A rather huge, ‘ready for bear’ scholar.

Emir looked back, keeping enough of a distance to let the group maintain privacy…and he smiled slightly.

Soon, all were following Emir through the enormous sliding doors,

and into the lab.