Paradise Hotel 51

Where Gaming Dies

Epoch: Chapter 22

Music is Life, Life is Blood

“How exactly am I supposed to feel, here…if I’m not included, ‘Mir,” Mills smiled easily. “I mean…I kind of had a role in all of this.”

“I understand that,” Emir volunteered. “And, I’ll give you your inch. Smiths?,” Emir said, motioning towards his compatriots, and then to his friend, long gone holographic. “Christopher Mills-“

“‘Mills’ will suffice,” the holographic New Yorker folded his arms, at once interrupting Emir. “I got no need for familiar nuances like the doc, here,” he said. Window actually rolled his eyes, in the meantime, in response. Emir smiled, with understanding – seemingly, as always. He continued his thought.

Art by Kitano Smith

“Mills is the Fields’ liaison for communication and what is known as a holographic omnipresent. He’s another of our marvels in technology. However, in life…he was probably the best friend I ever had.”

Emir,” Mills began, actually seeming flushed. “Come on.

Regardless…,” Emir was undaunted, though with a tempered quality to his tone. “He’s making Kevin have a panic attack.”

“I am not having a panic attack,” Kevin said with fiery indignation. Emir smiled, in his defense, in apology.

“I’m just…,” Kevin paused. Then he shook his head. “I have no bloody idea. You’ve got a computer with a pulse for a friend there, Emir. Honestly. I guess I have some resonant issues with such things.”

“Well, I ain’t got no pulse no more, Kev,” Mills conceded. “I’m a holographic mainframe image. But I got heart, dammit. Most can claim less, ya know. At least I can attempt to be a person.”

“Lovely,” Kevin shook his head. “You’ve gained more ground on the human race than Dan, then.”

“Fuck both of you, Kevin,” Dan said with genuine energy. “My New York Minute could destroy this imaginary bastard.” The passion with which Dan responded seemed to floor even Con, who was unshakable, by most accounts – especially when reacting to the actions of those he knew best.

“Alright, now,” Window finally chimed in. “Alright. I know this is a bit of a shock. Christopher…well-”

“ ‘Shock’ is a bit of an understatement,” Ric chimed in. “Although, I appreciate your levity in this instance, Doctor.”

“Levity won’t get you far in a situation as loaded as this one, Ric,” Coyote volunteered. He folded his arms, and noticed without thinking about it, that Con was taking cues from him…as usual; watching him to see what he was doing. If he was upset, Con tried to keep him grounded…but if he was holding it together…? Then Con took notice. It was a detail that kept Coyote from flying off the handle as much as he could; he’d had his share of displays in front of his younger protégé…however, Coyote tried to contain himself as much as possible. It was a dying art, of course.

“If someone would like to explain this ‘shock’ quickly, then I can keep myself from fucking going off like New Year’s, huh? Does that sound ‘alright’, Win?”

“I’m only so scared of you, Miami,” Mills had the utter nerve to ring out. “I mean…I been dead for about twenty years. I realize you could take out my mainframe and all, but-“

Christopher,” Window tried again. “Please shut your mouth. My patience is waning at this hour.”

“At any hour,” Mills responded, ignoring Coyote’s blistering eye contact. Con grabbed Coyote by the sleeve.

“Come on,” Con told him in a whisper. “You can’t be upset about this. It’s too amazing. Be upset about inflation. Or…anything else that’s probably going on this year.”

Con,” Coyote shook his head. “[ Just give me a minute to adapt, will you?]”

“[I’ll give you more than that, Cee,]” Con said. “[Tell me what you need, and you’ve got it. I’m just telling you this is amazing, is all. I hope you recognize.]”

Art by Dcat

Coyote smiled, and he noticed Mills mirror the expression. Coyote raised an eyebrow at the holographic man, then.

What?,” Mills chimed in. “You don’t think I habla?”

“Go fuck yourself, Hal,” Coyote shot back, and Con kicked him, at the shin.

“You’ve never even seen that movie all the way through,” he said to Coyote.

“Can you blame me?,” the thief responded in reflex, although Con didn’t pause in his own thought.

“I’m sure he can punch our detonators,” Con mentioned in continuation, Dan snorting a laugh in short response; Dan was still smoking his last Pall Mall.

“I didn’t need to lift a finger for all of your annihilation, kid,” Mills said flatly. “But, frankly – in defense of that statement – if I coulda, I woulda reversed the world to make your end a non-occurrence. Really.”

Con smirked at this…and then smiled at Kevin to reassure him. Kev simply shook his head, and waved to Con that he was alright.

Kaede stood – oddly – just behind Dan. It was perhaps a subliminal option…but Dan took great notice. He turned to her…and cocked his head slightly, saying nothing. When his vision was noted, the young woman pushed her chin up, nearly into his face, and met his gaze without flaw.

“Afraid of holograms much?,” he intoned, cigarette still contained at the side of his mouth.

“I’m more afraid that you can still aid in populating the earth, Dan,” she responded easily, without hesitation. Dan laughed, and actually tossed the cigarette, less than ¾ done with. Kaede raised her eyebrows at him, awaiting a harsh response. But, there wasn’t one. And it never came after her comment.

“Oh, my God,” Con finally bubbled, to Mills. “Now that I have your attention, apart from all the angst…when the hell did you – or…well…holograms? When…? I’m sorry if that’s not the appropriate term, alright?”

“Oh, no kid,” Mills smiled kindly. “I appreciate that. But we been around for about a decade ‘n’ a half. 2020 was a hoot of a year, I’ll tell ya. After a big peace treaty got blasted by a terrorist group in 2016, and the towers got hit in the year of ‘perfect vision’ – no offense, kid -“

“None taken,” Con said calmly.

 “-it was decided that holograms would be a good idea as far as HR goes. Although… good  things happened in that year, too. Stocks, trade… drug legalization sinking the last of the last of the Deficit. Apple stock alone-“

“Jesus Christ,” Coyote shook his head. “What do all the Narcs and Feds do with their time if they’re not tracking down drug runners?” 

“Handle terrorism? And vacation a lot. The government’s practically throwin’ pensions at people now that they got money back inna bank. Serious. You guys should be set if ya decide to throw down with us.”

“I haven’t decided anything, thanks,” Coyote flat toned. Con squeezed Coyote’s arm, and cocked his head at the Puerto Rican. Even through Con’s bandana, Coyote could see the teen raise his eyebrows, ‘come on, give the dead guy a break.’ Coyote moved his head from side to side, ‘alright, alright.’ Con smiled. 

“He’s a bright one,” Mills motioned towards Con. “You should take some pointers, and chill out, Miami.”

How the fuck do you know I’m from Miami?,” Coyote blanched without direct anger. 

“Super computer,” Mills smiled. “Hi.” At this, Con chuckled with genuine enjoyment.

“Gotcha there, Cee,” he said. Coyote held his attention at the hologram. 

“I don’t know what that has to do with-,” Coyote began…then stopped. Thought.

“People know about the Syndicate here?,” he asked, temper waning. Emir looked on sagaciously. 

“God, yes, they do. You’re gonna flip your shit when you find out-“

Mills,” Emir said quietly. “That’s fine, for now. They’ll find out, soon enough.”

Dan smirked. “Just tell me they have a statue erected in my honor, and I can die happy…for once,” he said. 

“How’s a New York City bullet train station, for ya? ‘Course…that’s cause of you ‘dying’ after your ‘Wide-Eye’ days, you know.” Dan furrowed his brow. Nodded. 

“It’s a start,” he said. 

“You’re a conceited asshole,” Kaede said. “Welcome to it.”

Dan smiled at her. It was a blatant, mock come on, and she lowered her eyes from his before he take his own away. 

Mills snorted. 

“Yeah, Irish. I’d be all over that,” he said. Kaede flushed brilliant rose, and still had the reserved nature to seem embarrassed.  Con’s voice sparked into a shrill chortle.

“I’m all over the idea that Apple is still in business. Didn’t they make the-what was it? Oh, yeah…the Apple II-e?,” Con asked. 

“Yup,” Mills responded. “That was when Dan was about thirty girls down the drain.”

“Oh, that’s being polite,” Dan snickered. 

“Yeah, I’m sure, American gigolo. Well, what the hell else has Steve Jobs and the Apple kids done since that? Have they given up and tried making cars?”

At this, Mills actually laughed. Hard. It was a wonderful sound – very human- and Emir smiled; it was with great appreciation.

“Kid. Holy Christ,” Mills said. “Ya got no clue. None at all. Are ya into music?”

“Um…,” Con responded. “To my dying day. No bullshit.”

“Well, then…,” Mills smiled again. “This is your time. I can only tell ya…you’re gonna be floored by what technology’s got to show ya. And these assholes were gonna make me wait until tomorrow. Well…no fucking way. The shit they say. Ya got any idea what that is in computer time? Well…,” Mill didn’t let anyone guess. “It’s about this long, and this- well, hey, they can fucking forget it. I wanted to tell you all welcome. For Christ’s sake. Even White City’s got a party going-”

Mills!!!,” Window ventured, though Emir kept suspiciously silent. “Could you please give us a goddamned second without the world falling in on us? Could you please?”

“Aw, Win,” Mills said. “Don’t make me feel so bad. I know I do you and the Fields a lot of good. I just…felt left out, is all.”

And, for all the world, Mills looked dejected. Dan just looked at him.

“Well, if were reincarnated into a computer…I would be goddamned relieved…asshole. I wouldn’t be insecure about it. And…e-fucking-specially…if I could punch our detonators.”

Con smiled.

“Look, Irish,” Mills said. “I could punch the detonators on this entire place-“

“Actually,” Emir said, interrupting…and Mills ignored him.

“-But I’m not gonna do it. Fucking….I’m not gonna do it. That’s…well. That’s a Presidential button-type deal. Not my problem, really.”

“Uh-huh,” Dan said. And he eyed Emir. “It’s time for that talk, you know,” Dan continued, to Emir. Emir nodded.

“I know,” he said, without much ado. “So. Shall we step into the chapel?”

At this, Dan shook his head…and chuckled. Then he chuckled again.

“Of course,” he said. “Well, of-fucking-course. Why didn’t I see that coming? Of course. But, please,” he said, mock-bowing. “You first.”

At this time, Emir acknowledged Mills.

“Chris, please help Window while I’m otherwise engaged.”

Mills blanched.

“Well…Emir,” he started.

“We were giving you off until tomorrow,” Emir responded. “But since you felt the need to help…then by all means.” And Dan followed Emir, towards the small sacramental building. “Be my guest.”

The rest of the Smiths were blithe, in response…and especially, as Con was nodding that all was well in the situation. However…

“You have no idea how much I could help you in the next fifteen minutes, ‘Mir,” Mills said. “Being a Super Computer and all.”

“Oh, I know how much you could help,” Emir smiled. “And I’ll let you know.”

Mills frowned, knowing Emir wouldn’t so much as breathe his name in the next fifteen minutes. However, as Dan and Emir defected towards the other side of the Courtyard…Window seemed hopeful.

“Does this mean I can take over the tour?,” he asked with cheerful abandon.

“Yes,” Kaede said in a jagged tone. “It does. And…I would get on that, if I were you. Before the heavies get back.”

Then, Window was absolutely delighted. Con chuckled, as Mills grimaced, in all his technological glory.

“Wonderful idea, my dear,” Win said. “Now…where shall I begin?”

“How about…at the music part?,” Con raised his hand once more. “Unless…you had other plans?”

Window’s smile was an intense one.

“Oh, well…actually…?,” and Window beamed again. “I have a special idea to inspire those here…with you in mind, son. And I know you’ll be thrilled to be spared Dan’s colorful commentary…if only for a moment, regarding the subject.”

Con stood, nodded, and puzzled for a moment, then…grinned, interest piqued. Window clapped his hands together, and then rubbed them, conspiratorially – as if to manage heat.

“Well, good,” he responded. “That’s what I thought.”