Paradise Hotel 51

Where Gaming Dies

Epoch: Prologue pt. II

Elysian Fields Facility

Napa Valley, California


Art by Kitano Smith

The Executive office of one was orderly…utterly so. And stark. The only thing that implied that there were windows at all were the drawn shades. The view to the brilliant outside world would have been vast; the huge bay window overlooked the ‘Garden’. And the pillars, the Greece inspired columns, the vineyards were, at the moment, quite sun lit. The exterior temperature was 75 ° in the shade. The interior temp, however…felt quite a bit more than hellish. The office’s sole onyx desk was fully occupied, by but one man – he was black, ethnicity grazed by a hint of something else Ancient, late-thirties, early forties, at most. He was seated in a comfortable looking leather chair to match the pitch of his boldly sleek desk. The casualness with which he remained on hold, nearly terminally at this point, betrayed the tension of the phone call. He felt all the heat of the six rings within the broad room; it wasn’t due to a problem with the central air.

Emir Parkreiner sat calmly, as he most always did, and waited for his longtime friend to address his call; he straightened his gray suit’s jacket for the eighteenth time. It still seemed crooked. It had been a long time since he’d spoken to Chris’ brother…but then…this was for a formidable reason. Emir had decided years ago, that if he did anything with his own will involved, it would be relative to formidable reason, and dictated by such; moved by such as if a liberated, self-manipulating dial upon a Ouija board. Most Ouija boards, Emir didn’t get along with on general terms…and several palm readers, tarot renders, he’d made cry. Sob, really. He doubted any amount of the fortune he’d earned would buy back restful nights on their collective behalves. A restful night of sleep is worth its own weight in gold, and quite unattainable when past a certain point of success, in Emir’s previously held field.

Emir had been everything including successful in his former profession. Killing for hire was now legal in certain circles, of course…that and, as always, killing for Civil duty…but it was no longer a career he desired to maintain; age, and the increase thereof, hadn’t been a factor in the decision. He’d simply had enough. Had been cleared to have had ‘enough’. And, there were better things to do with time than ripping it out of other people by force; by paycheck. Or, rather, direct, untraceable deposit into a Swiss or otherwise stipulated bank account.

All of it was now moot. Used as training fodder for new agents; the huge, government affiliated Elysian Fields Facility Emir now headed as Founder/Benefactor garnished many new agents each semester; the bulk of which, after graduation, were widely distributed for assistance into various agencies or government regimes. Many remained on site, to assist when and if necessary upon request.Upon need for local hero status, at the very least. The requests could be filed publicly or privately by e-mail, phone, or priority based walk-in. Triage hadn’t lost its charm, in this aspect of business.

In addition to the main agency, the ‘Fields’ college had, per semester, many new students transferring in from all over the country. All over the world. Their University was second to none by way of technology, medical invention and practice. Their innovative tactics in education were also heightened to decadent levels. This decadence bled fully into the Fields’ curriculum of scientific study and research. The Facility, in general, incorporated a horde of multiple science, politics, religion and psychology studies into their Mission Statement; many were avant garde or wholly experimental. They were based en masse, with great candor, upon the human condition…the widening brilliance of the human stain.

One of the crowning achievements in Emir’s stint as Head Master and Administrator of the Fields was the acquisition of a US government program – approximately ten years prior – that was clearly medicine’s answer to ‘…the stuff dreams are made out of.’ The Ouroboros Program had been started…many years before. Probably much longer than decades before, from what Emir could guess…and he could guess quite accurately. The term ‘top secret’ wasn’t a flesh wound to the depth of the confidential nature of the thing. It was named after a mythical creature, a snake that regenerated over and over again, and was engrained in Greek mythos. Now that…was the piece de resistance.

If the ‘innovations’ touched upon by the very concepts of Ouroboros were fully dumped into the collective laps of the general public in anything other than health and true age surveys…it would truly be the second coming of hysteria. After all…life is just that…and meant to end, eventually. Right?

Public awareness of the supernatural had broadened substantially over the years. Need-fully, with the quickened maturity of a war-terrified culture clash. Hope and belief in the fantastic swelled as if to support its own solidarity by faith alone. And faith had already moved those mountains; there were entire sub-cultures, well-known societies that revolved around the idea that what you see is definitely not all you get. And that what you should get…is ‘full disclosure’.

But there were prices to pay for deeper understanding. When inclined to look deeper, you are sometimes rewarded with the answers you long for. This, of course, is the sharpest of double-edged swords…double-barreled shot guns, fully loaded.

None of the above made being on hold any less mundane. If not for the coffee, there might have been bloodshed. Then, mercifully…Martin was back on the line.

“I’m sorry, ‘Mir,” the man said in a strong New York accent, despite the fact that he’d been in D.C. since before the ‘Launch’.

“I’m not tryin’ t’be an ass. If I even think about ditchin’ a call, it’s twenty minutes of ear traffic down the fucking drain.”

“No,” Emir started coolly, yet without distance or irritation. “I caught you in the middle of a conversation. I knew when I made the call that I’d be able to plan the rest of my day because of bureaucracy.”

“Touché’. But seriously…it’s good t’hear y’voice. What’s news? Y’gettin’ hitched?”

Emir blanched. Cracked a smile.

“No. I just…needed to ask you some questions. Some questions.”

There was a pause.

“You know this is always a secure line. And I know you really know…that it’s safe.”

“Of course. But, in all fair warning…I have some things to discuss that’ve weighed upon my mind lately.”

“Sleepless nights, still?”

Emir rubbed his temples with a thumb and forefinger. “Has that ever been a variable, Marty?”

“Aw…now I know it’s serious. You’re bustin’ out the nicknames.”


“Aw, hey…I didn’t say I minded,” Martin cut in, sounding humored. Emir was unphased by the sting of kindness in his voice.

“-I need to know where their bodies are.”

The kindness stayed, but professionalism spiked Martin Mills’ voice like an anvil cracking concrete.

“Emir…what the hell’s bringin’ this on? I know it ain’t the Cali weather.”

Emir removed the tinted glasses he wore at all times in the presence of other people. They concealed certain things Emir would always want contained, muted, in appearance. He plopped the shades upon a bare spot on the onyx desk, rubbed his eyes without tragedy.

“It’s been forty years, Martin. This year. And I don’t feel it necessary to wait for the exact Anniversary. I want to pay my respects now.”

Martin seemed taken aback.

“Has it really been…forty years? Where all that time go, huh?”

“I don’t know where it goes. I don’t really care, either,” Emir stated flatly.

“It leaves us behind, is all. Chris never liked talkin’… about time.”

Emir grimaced. Tried to make the expression fade from his face, like the thoughts of his deceased friend and Federal contact. Martin was pretty far up the chain now…was Mills’ surviving younger sibling. After Chris had been killed, Marty had decided upon a more relevant line of work to pay him homage. It was nothing either man liked to speak of…even considering.

“How’s his ‘legacy’ workin’ for you, anyway?”

“You tell me. You have the same version I do.”

“S’fine. Honestly…he’s a whole lot happier soundin’ now that he’s dead.”

“That’s how it works, generally.”

“Yeah. Whatever. He’s just lucky he has a ‘DNR’…or I’d have something t’say about that.”

Emir leaned back in his chair.

“I would hope you’re above grave digging, Martin. I don’t think even I would be able to bow that low, to right a wrong.”

“It’s just a thought. And he still owes me fifty bucks he ain’t never gonna pay.”

“I would think a college fund for each of your children on his behalf is sufficient.”

“I miss my big brother. I don’t think there’s a cure or a fund for that, no matter how digital we get him.”

A crest of sadness at the long avoided subject matter made its way into Emir’s voice then. It was a bold mar upon his strong tones.

“I…realize, Marty. But it’s what he wanted. After all he did for me…it’s the least I can do, regardless of my connections to the under and ‘over’ world…to let him rest.”

There was a long pause. An exhale.

“Yeah,” Martin said, finally. “I should be so lucky. Do you know what it’s like to have a seventeen year old little girl about to go to college?”

“I have a sixteen year old daughter who’s about to go to bed. Does that count?”

“It’s not the kind of bed I’m worrying about…but sure. How is Ane, anyhow?”


“Big shocker, there,” Martin chuckled, lightening the mood.

“Anthem has picked up on my recent unrest. I hate to worry her.”

“Oh, come on. She ain’t worried. Besides, she has you and Carmichael to lean on, don’t she.”

Then it was Emir’s turn to exhale.

“Carmichael…is quite a matter. He’s been a handful, lately.”

“Nothing like you, right?”

Emir smiled. Said nothing. Martin went on.

“’Cept, y’know…he looks just goddamn like you thirty years lighter.”

“Hey. I look forty.”

“Yeah? And who’s fault is it that y’don’t look thirty?”

“Shut up, Marty. Do you look thirty?”

“I feel like a million bucks. Y’know…besides this shit. And Syl don’t complain.”


“So,” Martin changed the subject. “What’s with Mike? Growing pains?”

“He’s been having migraines lately. And…nightmares. It’s the lunar cycle, I’m sure of it.”

“When’s the Age of Aquarius start again?”

“Shut up, Marty.”

“I’d wager, traveling aaalll the way back to why I’m getting a migraine, that the pains are hereditary. Am I wrong here?”

“Quite the opposite.”

“That’s what I thought. So…all water beneath all overpasses…”


“-why do you need to find their bodies now, Emir? Ain’t visiting Chris’ once a year enough for you? ‘Cause it is for me, I’ll tell y’that right goddamn now. No guesses as to where he is. In any sense.”

Emir stood. He stretched his neck, his 6’3’’ frame average with the raised ceiling of his quiet, contemporary office. Only candle light from controlled sconces lit the room. And from the eternal flame that mounted the wall next to the picture of the Twin Towers…the Union. The flame never went out; Emir saw to that much. There was also the comforting muteness of daylight, covered, concealed. The combination of illumination was a subtle relief that made things more bearable on a personal level. Professionalism was an iron commodity, impossible to spend, to burn out. But it didn’t bring with it…rest.

Emir tried again, patience a gracious virtue, and especially for Martin.

“Martin. I apologize. I wouldn’t ask anything vexing of you…if I didn’t truly think it worthwhile to do so.”

“How much worth does peace of mind carry these days, ‘Mir? We goin’ by U.S. or Euros? Or plastic? Got a ton of that. Credit goes a long way these days, don’t it. We got all kinds. I never really lived down killing that Vermillion bitch.”

Martin’s tone wasn’t really bitter…it sounded more frustrated, actually. Emir’s eyes flashed, and the surrounding candlelight was splashed with a kiss of emerald for a second. Then Emir knew it would come; the answer he’d known he would get since he’d drawn the shades. Since he’d lit the flame so many years ago.

Martin exhaled again. This time…there was a cathartic quality to the breath, as it left his body, hit the receiver. Or the headset mic.

“There…uh…are some things…you should probably know, bud. Some things. And I wouldn’t worry…not a goddamn person on this earth is gonna put one in this dome. Not…’cause of this. Not now, ‘Mir. And you know I got Life insurance.”

“I don’t follow.”

“It’s one of those personal security things that helps me sleep at night?’

“Not the insurance, Marty. The things I should probably know.”

“Oh. Right. Well…Christ is all. I didn’t really expect t’be tellin’ you this today. And…I don’t really expect you t’wanna talk to me after this, either. That’s okay, y’know. I wouldn’t talk t’me.”

“Martin,” Emir started, feeling the slightest twitch of impatience in his sinuses then. “Don’t make me jump on a bullet train to finish this conversation. I’d be talking face to face on screen right now, if I didn’t have reservations about that.”

“Alright. I’m sorry. I’ll just say it. Alright? That Vermillion bitch…she was pretty icy. I really could’ve cared less that she was just the finger on the trigger. I doubt she took it personally when I strangled the life out of her. But before that…she kinda let something slip.”

“She wasn’t the kind to let things slip.”

“No, I know. It wasn’t that kind of slip. It was the ‘on purpose’ kind. The, ‘gosh, I’ll let him have it, oh shit he’s choking me-“

“-Martin. Bullet train.”

“They aren’t buried anywhere, Emir.”

There was silence. Emir didn’t waste time vocalizing his reactions. It had saved his life on countless occasions. He waited. Martin went on.

“There’s no record of ‘em in the Philly Coroner’s Office. Or the Special Cases Unit. The files ain’t been punked. Or destroyed. They never were. The Feds confiscated the bodies.”

“That…,” Emir started, with little to no time to digest the information just given to him. “…was a pretty big slip.”

“Actually…after we fucked, she mentioned how Chris was lucky. To have an actual burial. I dunno. Maybe she figured I’d been lyin’ when I told her I’d hated the bastard. But…I wasn’t lyin’ at the time. I was pretty cross at him f’dying. Pillow talk is worth its weight, I’ll tell ya.”

“Tell me how they came up. And…why you never mentioned?”

“Oh. That’s easy. Because I wanted ya t’have a fucking life to yourself-“

“-That’s reasonable,” Emir threw in, meaning it.

“-And,” Martin continued, undaunted, unafraid. “…because she used the Stasis Units as an example. Then she used your people…as an example o’ them. I put ‘7 and 7’ together…but I didn’t say anything. Maybe she was gonna bookend dead brothers, I got no clue. But I got her number punched, okay. Then…I did a shit ton of digging.”

“What happened?,” Emir asked, without anger or vendetta; his feelings were muted and far beneath the will to act, to acquire information.

Art by Dcat

“Well, here’s the short version. I don’t wanna rack up your minutes or anything.”

“I think I can afford it.”

“-There’s this…’Omni’ Collection. This…clusterfuck of people that’ve met their Maker…that certain…other people…have taken an interest in. It’s a long, long list. It spans a couple decades, too.”

“A couple?”

Several decades. A buncha decades.”

“Harman’s one of those ‘certain people’. Is he not?”

There was a long pause, accented by the swallowing of a very solid-sounding lump.

“Annie’s not the only one that’s perceptive here, huh.”

“Guess who she got it from.”

“Guess who you got it from.”

“Bullet train,” Emir repeated without threat, but promise.

“You probably should just come down here and shoot me. It’d be a relief, at this point.”

“Martin, I have so many people in D.C., it’d be easier just to put you on hold, and wait a minute.”

Dead silence. Another lump, this one impossible to get down.

Marty,” Emir blended some warmth into his tone…with effort. “I’m not being serious.”

“Neither am I.” Martin cleared his throat. “But, yeah. Harman’s a big spender on that list. Lot of good names for proprietors; Aramis Cate…Argent Cruz…Curtis Black-“

“Martin, I’d dare say this is a long list. And that I know most of the names intimately.”

“Well,” Martin coughed. “I mean. Come on.

“Okay, then. Cut to the chase, please. I have other things to do this morning, and if the entirety of the earth I stand upon is about to shift, then I’d like to prepare accordingly.”

“Well, Emir…this is your seismic shit fit. Hope you survive the experience.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem. Do you?”

“They’re all onna list. Ric. Dan. All of ‘em.”

“And…Harman?” Emir knew…but he found it appropriate to ask, anyway.

“You gotta pay extra to get yourself on the list, but…he just seems to come back, anyway. I doubt it’s all because of blood money. Ya know?”

“I should say.”

Martin continued, seeming at ease with the subject for the first time, as he spoke.

“I’m pretty sure he and the others in the proprietary Circle don’t argue about adding each other to the list.”

Emir responded matter-of-factly.

“Most of them are probably overpowers to begin with, Marty. They probably don’t have to argue…they merely run interference once the bullets start fly-“ Emir stopped short. He thought.

“Emir? I know this is a lot.” Martin sounded concerned. The kindness of a friendship over forty years old stood up, lifted the weight of the subject matter. Still, for a long time, Emir didn’t speak. He studied the flames cresting his office walls; the ones contained within glass, within the life he’d built for himself while utterly, ceaselessly…alone.

“Emir…just listen, okay? I know – and a lot of people know – where they are. It…ain’t a secret on the Hill. It’s just…a ‘wonder when’.”

Emir nodded, to no one who could see him. And he grasped at the concept that nothing was chance. It wasn’t a mistake that he’d run into Window at that medical conference in ’26. Wasn’t a mistake that Win had helped run Ouroboros for ages at that point. That Ben, Shell and he had been higher ups in the Program since the mid-nineties. And now…they would be rewarded with the Atma of all possible outcomes. Someone knew where the members of the Syndicate were…and that they were above ground. Attainable. Acquirable. Apparently, realizing he should have asked a long time ago, it was common knowledge, this location. This possibility…of revival. But all things had their moment.. And now, it was only a matter of time. The madness of science would laugh inexhaustibly in the face of death, and then wave a fond ‘hello’. ‘Good to see you again. Fucker.’

“I guess,” Martin Mills started, a smile obvious upon his lips, upon his tone. “We don’t have to wonder ‘when’ anymore, huh?”

“No. And…I believe now…is an appropriate time. When…can we get things rolling, Marty?”

“How does ‘now’ sound?”

“How soon is now?

“Uh…now, now? Get on that bullet train, and getcha ass t’D.C., ‘now’ ?”

Emir folded his arms. Thought.

“’Mir? Hullo? Don’t make me get the Secret Service in here…”

“There’ll be a lot of planning involved.”

“No shit, Sherlock. They ain’t goin’ no where. Now, come on. Let’s talk over lunch. I know y’can be here in 2 hours or less…and that you eat seven ‘squares’ a day-“

Eight,” Emir said indignantly.

“Whatever. Whaddya say?”

“Make it dinner, and you have a deal. I…need to digest. And…I’m not speaking of food.”

Martin relented.

“Deal. You know…I could come down there, if it’s easier. I could use a tan.”

“That’s alright, Marty. You’ve put yourself out enough today. And Sylvia would wonder.”

“She’d wonder what took me so fuckin’ long t’get a mistress, is what she’d wonder.”

“I’ll come to you. Be safe. I’ll see you around six, EST.”

“I’ll be waitin’. This…is really gonna be some paperwork. You know that?”

“I really don’t give a shit, Marty. But thanks for all due warning.”

“No problem. Thanks for all due process.

With that, Martin hung up, and Emir was standing with a surprising, relaxed quality to his stance. He was at his best when in the midst of complete inner conflict. It was a comfortable old coat to slip over his shoulders. He wore the coat well.

Then, without an inkling that he would do so…Emir Parkreiner ignored the fact that the shades were voice

operated and automatic…and he manually, as if throwing off that familiar coat of stress and battle, threw open

the drawn shades, letting the light of the day warm him. Only the expanse of the Garden filled his eyes, save the

flicker in his peripheral vision…of a light that had never gone out…and had never, would never diminish. Itwould re-ignite.

It would be reenacted…with a fervor fitting of the Passion Play.