Paradise Hotel 51

Where Gaming Dies

Epoch: Chapter 2

The silence was broken quite undramatically as Window began against all odds…to fidget.

“We can wait just one more week, can’t we? I don’t want to get shot.”

“Win,” Emir began calmly. “Dan isn’t going to shoot you because you married Shell twelve years after Harry was killed. That’s just silly.”

Art by Kitano Smith

“He’s killed people over less…and you said ‘silly’.”

“Yes I did. It’s an appropriate word when referencing killing someone you don’t know because they fell in love.”

“Love is an obsolete reason for marriage in most circles now, you know.”

“Love has always been an obsolete reason for marriage, Win.”

Win raised an eyebrow.

“So, how is the ex?”

“Ask Carmichael. I’m sure she tells him everything she thinks about me, and more.”

“Hmmm. No wonder he’s so brooding.”

“No, that’s heredity.”


“Don’t get me started on the grandparents,” Emir nearly groaned in protest.

“Oh, no. We’d be joining Ben for rounds of Jack before all of that nonsense.”

“I knew he was at Bombers’”

“You knew he was at Bombers before you asked me. Be serious.”

“He’s fired. How serious is that?”

“It would be serious if you were.”

Another pause.

“Just one more week,” Window pleaded, still sounding professional.

“Win, we’re trying to synchronize all the Program locations for this one.”

“We could wait a year and have three ‘sevens’ in the date.”

Window,” Emir actually sounded impatient. “That’s ridiculous. Why would anyone plan something around that? Dan’s not going to shoot you. Not unless you tell him you voted for Bush.”

“Which one?,” Win asked, undaunted.

Either. He was only around for some of the Bush administration…and I’m surprised that isn’t the reason he let me-“

Emir stopped short…then he was looking at one of the marble tables in particular. Window seemed concerned.

“No worries, ‘Mir,” he said, putting his own unrest aside. Emir nodded sagaciously. Win tried to lighten the mood.

How exactly did you get all the locations to agree on 07.07? A ‘live’ pool?”


More silence.

.“Oh, Emir.”

“Charity. All of it’s going to charity, I swear.”

“Uh-huh. I’ll be asking Mills later.”

“You can ask me now, if ya wanna. Got nothin’ else t’do…’cept…well, everything.”

A magnificently clear image, a hologram of a person, flicked into the lab next to Window and Emir. It was a hologram of a man in his early thirties with jet black hair and casually sleek clothing on – slacks and a cuff-necked t-shirt, thin black leather jacket. Deceptively nice shoes made to look like nothing special. The person – very late – who was wearing them…smirked. He seemed humored.

“Ya gotta keep y’ heart rate down, Win, or you’re gonna need ‘Mir t’ give ya a helpin’ hand.”

“I’m prepared for the worst,” Win told Mills’ image, fully loaded with everything that had been Christopher Mills’; personality, experiences, friendships. Now, besides being fitted with a stock ton of stunning features including omniscient, quick-fire data relay, he was designer; the utmost in computerized genius, and patented. Emir did much more than own the rights. Mills, the program was an homage of the highest order for Chris Mills, Emir’s late great informant. Chris hadn’t been thrilled about life in general near the end of his. This…for him…was better. Advanced, even.

The information Mills could dispense was at once neutral, tactical and useful. He was an Encyclopedia: Brooklyn…available in more languages than Wickipedia. Other features included all the access of the internet, satellite feeds and location projection, personnel location monitoring upon command. Security was constantly monitored and not only by Mills, but by an arsenal of agents and techs. Full surveillance recording capabilities were also a glorious security option; this feature was available in only applicable, open places. Privacy was still privacy, even for a super computer…Patriot Act and its forty-two Amendments be god damned. The term ‘super computer’ had been long rendered useless…but Mills loved the connotation.

In plain terms, he was the Operating System for the Fields; voice activated, acting in full surround sound and the most efficient projection technology since Japan had designed ‘fake-out’ ships for fooling radar arrays. Mills, in appearance and connection speed, was no less impressive…regardless of how bitter he was about his program being made in the USA. He loved the US, and his home – aside from serious political ‘fuck you’ tirades – but would rail for hours, if unblocked and un-muted, about how Japan’s technology would always be the best. Nintendo was still on his ‘must-promote’ list. He would swear under oath – amendment for computerized testifying indicative, here – that Nintendo had been involved in his schematics grid. No one believed him, and no one could prove anything.

Mills chuckled, shrugged.

“The worst ain’t f’you, Win. Got no doubts about that.”

Window rubbed the back of his neck, seemed to work out non-existent kinks.

“We’ll see. How’s Ben’s B.A.C.?”

“It’s been better,” the New York accent dragged throughout the content of Mills’ words.

“But…gosh…I don’t think the guy’s seriously had a bar sit-down this bad since his thirty year anniver-“

“I recall that very well, Chris…,” Emir interjected. “And I don’t need a recall. He’s never been the same without Eva.”

Mills grimaced, waved a hand apologetically.

“Aw, ‘Mir…I’m sorry. I just…I know all these dates…”

“Don’t apologize,” Emir said the words with meaning. “There’s no need for apology at all.”

“Yeah,” Mills snorted. “Well, I got all the goods on people medically and chronologically speakin’, that you got, with the divination. That’s a lot to process, bud.”

“Thank you, I realize,” Emir exhaled.

“I realize you need to eat about two grand more calories than you have today, or-“

“’Or’ I lose weight?” Emir shook his head. Mills still looked at him critically.

“I’m sorry…am I supposed t’not care that you’re skippin’ meals an’ raisin’ people-“

Art by Dcat

Then it was Win’s turn to interject.

“We won’t be doing the ‘raising’, obviously, Mills.”

“Well,” Mills started, sounding impatient. “I don’t know what you science assholes are waiting for. Get on that already. C’mon.”

“Are you feeling lucky in the resurrection department, Christopher?,” Win asked, kindly. Hopefully, even.

Mills shook his head.

“You people really don’t grasp ‘DNR’, do ya? Well let me spell it out for you. ‘Do-Not-Raise.’ There. Good? We clear?”

“Crystal. Thank you, Mills.”

“Stop bein’ a cock, wouldja? Couldja, please?”

Emir looked at both the men, one flesh/blood, one years of technology focused and lit.

Both of you are being cocks. Now, could we get this show on the road?”

Mills and Window both looked at Emir in surprise.

“You said ‘cock’,” Mills joked.

“I realize. I also realize you have my entire vocabulary saved somewhere.”

“D’ya wanna know how many times you’ve said the word ‘cock’ in my history?”


“Aw…C’mon. Please?”

“Thank you. No.”

Window fought back a chuckle. Mills was undaunted, continued a new thought.

“So,” he said. “We ready for ‘The Big Comeback’, or what?”

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?,” Emir asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Mills nearly laughed. “You’d be surprised what Ollie’s callin’ it.”

“No, I wouldn’t, Chris. Maybe Ben would be surprised.”

“Doubt it,” Mills smiled. “Try again, huh?”

“You’re fired. You’re all fired.”

Mills still smiled. “Uh-huh.”

“Seriously,” Emir began again. “Ask Ben if we’re ready. Because I’m not proceeding without him, and then hearing it for the next century.”

“I am asking Ben,” Mills responded, sounding surprised. “Multi-tasking. Being omnipresent; ‘super-computer’ waves of the future.”

“Aren’t you obsolete yet?”

“Ouch, ‘Mir. God,” Mills feigned injury.

“Well?,” Emir asked.

Mills seemed worried. Thought.

“How sober do y’need him…really?”

Emir answered without missing a beat.

“About as sober as usual?”

How sober do y’need him? I mean…really. No jokes.”

Emir sighed. Win massaged his temples with a thumb and forefinger.

“He is off-duty,” Mills retorted. “And his EKG’s off da chart. I think he’ll need a vacation after next week.”

“After today,” Emir said.

Window spoke finally.

“He’s needed a vacation for twenty years. He’s simply lost without work, you see.”

“We could go without him,” Mills suggested. “He’s being pretty stubborn. And he’s tipping really well. Carve may not give him any grief this time.”

I might,” Emir suggested.

“Cut the man some slack, Emir,” Window started. “It isn’t every day you find out six of the most important people you’ve lost in your life are going to be alive again-“

Seven,” Emir interrupted.

“What-? Oh…Right.”

“Actually,” Mills injected. “Counting the ‘Windy City’…”

“Don’t start with me,” Win threw back.

“Geez. Everybody’s on pins and needles today,” Mills speculated.

“Do you blame us?,” Emir asked.

“A little, yeah,” Mills answered. He wasn’t serious.

Elysian Fields Facility

Bombers’ Bay, Campus Venue/Bar

Ben Shepard sat, leaning hard upon the bar, nearly forehead to cherry wood. He didn’t care if he got fired, didn’t care if he got ‘fired’, didn’t care…period. The world was changing today, and solely to throw a wrench in it for him. Club him to death, then back to life. Neither concept of life or death, felt different right now. It was all zen…all static.

Carve was soon standing comfortably near him; he had been a bartender for others in his past, personal van garde member to some of the best, the bloodiest. Now, though, he spent his ‘Six’ retirement doing what he did best…watching out for his patrons. For partial ownership of Bombers’, Carve had agreed to a docile retirement; he had been one of the best in the killing fields. Now, he made a killing at the Fields. Both professions bore its fruits. Neither made sense when talking to the man directly. He was a constant aid, beyond reasonable and beneficial in counsel. Ben felt Carve was speaking to him as if he actually cared…and probably did. Mills had just faded from holographic sight…and, as usual, had been a sympathetic asshole…who knew exactly where he was coming from. That helped nothing.

“Ben?,” Carve started, two tones above the music volume. “You good? Will you need help out?”

“Not for a goddamn while, Carve. Thanks for the ‘salude’.”

Ben held no more anger in his tone; the first five belts of White Horse had washed that out of it. Usually Jack Daniels was his poison, but another, Bombers ready brand was needed for the festivities this morning. Ben didn’t care now, and was glad of that; he was eyeing the ‘151’ and thinking about throwing his career away. Some career. Some life. Emir could drag him down there, himself, or not at all. He wasn’t ready for this. He just wasn’t ready.

“Alright, Ben,” Carve responded. “Just tell me ‘when’…I…I know how things are, alright?”

“I know you do. You probably have one-up on me.”

“Nah,” Carve offered, smiling, mid-thirties. “I don’t think so, Benny.”

Ben nodded, unsmiling, and Carve left him alone. Yeah. The whole damn place was buzzing with it. The chatter in the halls, the chatter in the bar, the youth all about him. Well, Ben looked like youth, but it was feeling drained, spent within him. Drained like the contents of the glass, ice included this time, that he was emptying into his gut, his bloodstream. He hadn’t felt this good in years. He hadn’t felt this horrid…in decades. History was making itself into a spectacle. This spectacle…was rocking Ben for all it was worth. He motioned for ‘another’…but Carve was already getting him exactly what he’d been going to ask for.

The man simply had a way with drinks. Like Ben had his way with the scalpel. The blood work. All that blood was working against him currently, flowing upstream…and, unfortunately…it was winning.

Elysian Fields Facility

Ouroboros Wing, Stasis Lab

Thirty minutes later…

“That’s it,” Win walked towards the alpha stasis bag. “I’m not making us wait any longer.”

Win,” Emir said in his most heartfelt tone. Win stopped immediately.

“Allow me to do this.”

Emir walked, as Mills and Window looked on, towards the bag marked: Harman Smith.

“Your people are ready?,” Emir asked Win. Win smiled calmly.

“Of course they are. Don’t be foolish.”

Emir approached the unit upon the closest marble table.

“Oh…I believe I am being the most foolish right this instant…I have ever been in my life.”

Win nodded…not really agreeing. And they waited.

The small team of Win’s medical people were in the adjoining room, readying the equipment. I.V.s, saline, stabilizing agents, the appropriate sedatives, r.e.m. guards and even restraints, for good measure. There were kinetics-enforced restraints now, so no amount of strength mattered…if you could actually get the person who needed restraining into them. That’s where the sedation came into play, however. In this case, all present had the upper hand. And one present, in particular, thought of another time where that same hand had been raised in wrath, ugly and gruesome. Now, it would be different, though the motion of forced will remained. This had to happen. And there was no doubt. Catharsis was guaranteed…with all cost relevantly, gracefully upon the line.

Emir walked over to the stasis bag…and pressed several buttons upon the keypad. There were spare moments then, without movement, or sound; abruptly, the hiss of air decompressing was heard, like a pressure seal being released. That was the most accurate description. Preservation of the highest order had its hierarchy; slowly bring the unit’s occupant back to room temp. Very slowly, very carefully. It took little time, in general. Minutes. This was stasis technology, though, and specially developed for routine checking of the occupant’s condition. Sometimes release was necessary; upon court order, upon bag or unit deterioration.

In relative terms, release is always necessary for change. And things were changing.

Emir had known in his spine, his gut, that this would happen. And he wasn’t disappointed. The Stasis bags provided their own sources of preservation, separate from the larger, more permanent units. Stasis having been released, the pure white bag under scrutiny currently…pivoted quickly, sitting bolt upright. No man/hologram uttered a word, watched for seconds, as the technologically enhanced body bag remained seated, still locked, zipped. The only other movement followed soon thereafter, accompanied by a deep, sharp ripping sound; the bag was suddenly, and with a terrific amount of force, precision, split in two. Flinging the shucked pieces of the thing like a rabid ear of corn, there sat a very familiar figure, though several times removed; he looked unabashedly at Emir, with all the force of a stray .45 round.

It was Harman. Very much alive. Very fixedly staring at Emir. But he was different. The eyes were the same, but he looked merely…twenty. Maybe a bit older. But he looked young. And quite utterly naked. That was also expected, however.

“Jesus Christ,” Mills breathed. Emir, Window and the now young Smith in question looked at him, deadpanned. He shrugged it off, unapologetic. Window turned to Emir for levity in madness. There was little. And, in fact, little tact.

In a voice that bore sparse rasp, small evidence of non-usage over a forty year span of time, the young apparition of Harman Smith spoke easily, with a slight smirk.

“Not quite,” the younger Harman said, sounding humored. “But I came close.”

He exhaled, inhaled, calm and observant – he scanned his surroundings with little direct interest. Then Harman exhaled again; this time it was in a tone of discipline.

“It took you long enough to figure that out, Emir, but then again…,” he stretched, his neck popping. “It always does take you forever to piece things together. Wouldn’t you say?”

Emir remained unrattled; this was redemption day, graduation day. He needed no cross of fear or trepidation upon his back now.

“I’d say,” Emir started, ease and familiarity in his tone. “It takes you little to no time…to piece yourself together.”

Harman arched his back, unashamed in his nakedness.

That occurs with practice. A nice bout of practice,” he smiled. “But nevertheless…Touche’. So, Emir. How long has it been? Five years? Ten?”

There was a silence then, quite stale, lurching among the men.

“It’s been forty years,” Emir managed to reply without sounding touched by the response.

Harman had little reaction, himself.

“Damn. It really does take you forever.” Then Harman was moving his attention. He smiled again, seemed relaxed like a lion assured a satisfactory meal.

“Hello, Window. You look well. Certainly…older. But not by standards, considering my length of time spent absent.”

“Harman,” Win acknowledged with politeness. Something appeared to bother Harman, but he made no mention of discomfort of any kind, looked around again, nonplussed.

“Ben wasn’t up to attending the festivities?”

Window went to speak, but was cut off by a smear of simulated nerve.

“He’s too busy toasting the event currently,” Mills intoned. Harman nodded, smirked.

“At least someone is celebrating. I get the impression this is a matter of lockdown, not leisure.”

“I get the impression Ben is celebratin’ for alla us,” Mills chuckled.

Window gave him a warning look that Mills didn’t have to see to perceive.

Harman ignored the comment.

“So,” Harman diverted his attention back to Emir. “Did you simply want to sate your curiosity, or did you have some particular use for me? I dare say…I have superior uses for myself, if you can think of nothing off the Louisville Slugger.”

“I do have at least one job for you,” Emir volunteered, boldly.

“Oh, really. Well, what’s that?”


Both men turned to Mills once more.

“I hate t’be a prude and all,” Mills started with discomfort in his voice. “But could we get some clothes happening here? I mean…c’mon.”

“My manhood too much for you, Christopher?,” Harman chuckled. Mills said nothing in response. Perhaps was trying to calculate how Harman knew who he was. But it was exhausting to try and figure out overpowers in general. Let alone Deities and Demigods – loosely termed.

“That’s fine, turpentine,” Harman joked. He motioned to Emir again. “Garcon,” he said with just the slightest thread of bite to it. Emir’s eyes sparked brighter green through his shades…and Harman smiled a bit more. Emir, was unphased besides that spare reaction, however. Window took the initiative…and tossed some scrubs down over Harman’s lap, which Emir hadn’t noticed him retrieve. Again, Harman chuckled, acting as if he was playing along with a child’s game…for sport.

Harman then hopped strongly down off of the marble table, looked around again, frowning as if pleased, nodding approval. He spoke as he pulled on his obligatory scrubs.

“So, if we’re all spared the holy sting of nudity…what’s all this about, Emir?” He pulled the scrub top over his head, hair sun-blond and tussled. Short. Emir merely motioned with his eyes…to the other marble tables. And the other seven Stasis bags. A slow, even smile spread over Harman’s face.

“They’re all here. You resourceful bastard. I’m sorry I made fun.”

“Would you do the honors?,” Emir asked quietly.

“You better goddamn believe I will,” Harman answered with a hearty excitement to his voice. Then he looked Emir straight in the eyes once more, through the glasses. Through the tint, the tainted nature of their past. “After that,” he continued. “I’ll consider us even.”

“So be it,” Emir answered without hesitation.

Harman clapped his hands together, rubbed them.

“Well, now…let’s get started, then. I’m feeling some oats that are about to get spent.”

Then he paused, looked critically at Emir. “I don’t have to bring them all back. It would be so much easier if-“

“Dan, too,” Emir interrupted fixedly. “Bring them all back.”

“Suit yourself. But I warn you. Dan has always been a problem child, regardless of who’s house he’s plastered into.”

“I can handle that. I can handle him. You know I can. Obviously.”

“Point blank range isn’t applicable in conversation, Emir. Barely in combat. Are you certain?”

“I won’t say it again.”

Harman remained calm, business like.

“Very well. That’s fine. Not my problem anymore.” He thought for a moment, scanned the varying sizes of the bags. Rested his glance upon one. The smallest.

“I’ll start with Con. He’ll be the easiest to manage…which isn’t saying much.”

“Afraid of what might happen?,” Mills injected himself into the conversation again. Again, his comment was met with humor, on Harman’s part, while Window shook his head incredulously.

“No. You?”

“God, yes,” Mills answered honestly.

“Regardless of need,” Emir told Harman. “We have a full medical team prepped and ready to sedate them until everything is situated. Besides…your healing abilities-“

“Are very much improved.”

Emir paused, took pause.

“You’ll learn, in time. You do this dance enough, Emir, you emerge as your own personal best. I’d say, sedation is the only thing they’ll need…to keep them down after I’m finished.”

Emir nodded in reflex…nearly looked to Window for his reaction. He didn’t really need to look…but he had been curious. The curiosity grew, and made great promises for the next few hours. Days. Years. Decades. Ad Nauseum.

“I’ve learned that time takes its toll. It may yet give it back,” Emir ventured, meaning the words.

“Well said. Now, shall we?”

Harman smiled, a young yet wise grace to his lips.

And they got started, all possible history in check.