Paradise Hotel 51

Where Gaming Dies

Epoch: Chapter 20

“This,” Window said, with a beaming light that would betray most aspects of fatherhood. “Is the Med-Lab.” The group, much akin to a class being lead upon a field trip, followed closely behind him, although it probably should have been begrudgingly.

Dan remembered the trip to Monticello during high school where he’d gotten to sample bouts of freshly pressed mint julep tea made from the actual presses that Jefferson had used while in office. At the time, he’d still wanted to spike it…and Missy Evans.

Art by Kitano Smith

At the moment, Dan was still prepared for all of this to go ‘nuclear shit storm’…even without feeling the pressure of warning in his mind, his chest. So, he watched the punk for tells. Like he always did when around him, without letting him know. Ever. He was just…a punk. And a useless, worthless one, at that. But he could pick up on a whole hell of a lot. And…always…knew. It must have been equally useless for the kid in his own school daze…to be considered a circus act. A show.

This wasn’t Coburn elementary, of course; this was…business. And Con shot a ‘look’ at him. It wasn’t a ‘look’, by definition. But Dan recognized it as a puzzling; probably over Dan dragging his attention span over him. This, of course, issued the warrant for Dan covering his tracks of reliance.

“Put your eyes back in your head,” Dan rebuked the teenager without malice. “Or I’ll shoulder drive you into yesterday. I don’t know what you’re ‘looking’ at, punk.”

You,” Con shot back without any insult or drive. In fact, it seemed to contain…concern.

Dan knew the apparition of ‘hell’ had been familiar around his own facial structure since he’d been a boy. It had been firmly planted there by more instances than he could count. Most of the instances had involved his father backhanding him…until the last time. After he’d joined the force. After that bastard had finally lit into his mother. Not that Dan had really loved her any, or even liked her; she’d been a useless excuse for a parent. It still showed in him, in cracks, in misogynistic dog ears.

Dan smirked, signaling his relent. Emir had been prepared for the entire exchange, and thus, said nothing of the behavior among those present; cooperation among the Smiths was an ongoing process. It had often involved coaxing, on Dan’s part. And especially between Dan and Con. But there was an odd connection there, that both of them acknowledged on some level.

“You’ll have to shoulder-drive me further than yesterday, if you want to get back to the time where you were actually fast enough to catch me, oh ‘Ancient one’,” Con smirked at Dan. He did so to a cold, embittered silence. The two were still working on the clarity of their connection, the signal. Emir had no doubts that it would be a relationship Dan would acknowledge some day. The time for that, however, spoke nothing of its appearance.

“Now,” Window stated, undaunted. “This is the ‘E.O.R.’.”

The man said such as though it was the most common statement available, and in the very epitome of common English. The announcement, though, was met with desolate silence.

“Ah-ha,” Window finished, knowing Emir was sitting upon the sidelines with a purpose – one to let Window display his position, his authority as so much more at the Fields Facility than a tour guide. ‘Well,” Window chuckled, pointing towards a sheltered area within a metal-laden, professional looking room with a window. “That stands for ‘Emergency Operating Room’.”

“It’s the most amazing thing invented…that I’ve seen recently,” Window said.

“Is that because…uh,” Con started, faltering. “You’ve been around for as long as people like…Harman?”

Window actually…furrowed his brow. It wasn’t personal. “Not quite. But I’m nearly seventy. It’s not a stretch for me to sound preachy.”

“Oh, it was never a stretch for the old man, either,” Dan chimed in. “So I wouldn’t shoot yourself down like that, doc.” Window beamed, and Con nodded his agreement.

“Now…,” Window continued. “Who wants to try and tell me what an ‘Emergency Operating Room’ is?”

Con raised his hand. And Dan kicked him, at the heel. This was followed by a very thin smirk, obviously meant in dark humor…but humor nonetheless.

Art by Dcat

What?,” Con shrugged Dan off, to Coyote actually cracking a smile. “Stop being an ass-hole. I want to guess.”

“Okay, then…,” Window proposed, interrupting the mild argument. “Go ahead, Con.”

“An emergency room where you don’t have to move the patient between arrival, assessment and a sterile operating environment?”

There was a surprised silence. Even Kevin shook his head.

“That’s a pretty good guess, lad…from what I’m seeing in that room, there.”

Window lit up like a Christmas tree.

“That’s a nearly perfect definition, Con. How did you manage it?”

“Well…,” Con grinned. “It kind of…says it on that plaque way down the hall. Actually.”

Coyote chuckled, pat Con upon the back. Window raised his eyebrows…and looked down the hallway behind him. Squinted his eyes.

“That’s sign’s nearly at the end of the-“

“Uh-huh,” Con said without gloating. “Welcome to my world. We’re all mad here.” Window put a hand on Con’s head, and smiled in a fatherly fashion. Con didn’t so much as seem offended by the contact; in fact, he beamed at Window’s acceptance.

“Well, then…continuing on that track; more to the point, it’s an emergency environment, where the point of entry is then transitioned into the operating environ within its location. It’s earned us the Pulitzer in modern medicine. And a bit of reckoning with tradition.”

“You mean…,” Con cocked his head, ‘observing’ the enclosed area. “That thing…moves?

Now, it was Dan’s turn to seem confused…as much as he could, actually.

“Yeah, right, Short-Round. And you’ve got twenty-twenty.”

“Actually,” Window said to Dan. “If he can discern that plaque from here, he’d have whatever is a hundred times better than twenty-twenty. Approximately.”

Con smirked at Dan, and the man rolled his own eyes, in response. Window went on.

“And yes. That ‘thing’ does move. How could you-?”

“The hydraulics. And the fact that there’s about fifty feet of dead space below it. And…a track to support the-“

“Thanks, Mr. Wizard,” Dan flat toned. “Now, can you let the one with the medical degree and the face that looks forty years younger than it should give us the whole definition of ‘Science and technology in action’?”

Window laughed out loud, and even Dan seemed surprised at this. A good sense of humor was apparently either a mark of ‘The Future’, or a trait of those who were years…beyond their years? Dan shook his head idly, and desired the combination of tobacco between the fingers and a flask across the palm. Same hand, hopefully allowing the ash to burn into his skull. Then, he caught Emir studying him.

“You’ve got about twenty minutes before I want that talk, mister,” Dan said to him. Emir merely…nodded. It wasn’t necessarily a confirmation of their appointment. Window continued.

“Oh, my. The lot of you are enjoyment beyond words.”

“We’ve gotten bitter complaints, I assure you,” Kevin volunteered suddenly.

“Oh, I’m sure. You won’t get those from me, though,” Window collected himself. “Now,” he continued.

“Where was I?”

“You were interrupting the motor mouth over there,” Dan folded his arms.

“And now, you’re interrupting about forty years of disappointment and boozing,” Con corrected Dan.

“I’m goddamned thirty-three, half pint. And that’s only about twenty years of boozing, thank you very much.”

Silence. Then, Con’s voice vaulted into a more than entertained, giddy laugh.

“I hate you,” Dan replied, rubbing his eyes, as if to smear them out of his head.

To be continued…