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August 6th, Saturday Evening

 

Freedom City, the Boardwalk

 

Opening Night!

Sir  August Card has great pleasure in announcing

The High Steaks

Reopening Night

August 6th

Entrance $500

All inclusive food and drink

Complementary $50 Chips for Gambling

All night Event

Places Limited

 

This is a Card Productions Ltd Event

Please refer to rules and regulations etc with regards to High Steaks gambling and conduct

Strictly Black Tie Only

No Riff-Raff

 

So said the "open" invitation flyer. Of course, not many could afford such a swish event. And besides, the flyers had a habit of being onlcy circulated amongst the rich and powerful of Freedom City. Or, ideally, the rich and powerful. The last words of the flyer were often alluded to with an unspoken emphasis. After all, places were limited, and choices would have to be made. 

 

The High Steaks had been closed for a few months, done up, and looked even more resplendent than ever. It had always had an excellent reputation, but now, it seemed, it was gunning for a world class one. 

 

Stretch Limos dropped off well dressed couples, or singles (and even a well known playboy with a dame on each arm). The building looked neither completely modern or completely antiquated. Built in the 70s, it kept the best of that era and had styles both before and after bolted on. Perhaps it shouldn't have worked, but the refurbishment had clearly involved some excellent architects, artists, and builders, and it most certainly looked the part, in and out...

 

 

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A rented limo glided to a stop in front of the reopened hotspot, and an extremely attractive blonde in pearls and a strapless champagne gown poured out of it. 'Lynda Reynolds' was fairly tall, probably around five eight, and she strode forward with impressive confidence for someone wearing three inch heels. Her striking looks and timeless elegance suggested she couldn't be more at home in a place like this, and more than a few heads followed her panther-like entrance into the club.

 

Which all made the whole thing more hysterical to Lynn Epstein, the middle-class daughter of a college physics professor and a former forklift driver who was hiding under all that (literal) glamour. 

 

You attend one high stakes poker game two years ago, and lo and behold, an invitation addressed to your pseudonym shows up in your mailbox!

 

She'd had a very good time the last time she visited the High Steaks under its previous management, though the details were a bit hazy; definitely a few too many vodka martinis that night! It was fun to feel pretty and powerful and make a few pulses race every now and again, and to conjure up some spiffy new clothes and an impressive up-do to show off her  graceful neck.

 

Ms. Reynolds headed over to the cashier's cage to pay her entrance fee in crisp hundred dollar bills, keeping an eye out for both trouble and any familiar faces. 

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GM

 

If Sir August Card was nervous on opening night, he did not show it. Warm and cool at once, he was. 

 

He stood just shy of six foot, a man in his fifties but well preserved in body and mind. He still had a handsome face and, dressed up in a most splendid black tie suit, complete with white gloves, he cut quite a dashing figure. 

 

He stood at the lobby, with the restaurant already half full. Above the restaurant, a glass balcony, where those souls that were brave enough to gamble (at this early juncture) could have a view over the diners. And all were treated to an excellent view of Freedom City. The High Steaks building was over a dozen stories tall, the lower levels being kitchens and devoted to Sir Card's other business venues. There was even a modest little art gallery, showing the works of a local Freedom City artist - not of particularly outstanding quality, but still, it added, said Sir Car, to the class. 

 

Mr Card appeared to be chatting, casually to an Arabian gentleman and his elegant wife, who, one would imagine, were dripping in wealth. However, the astute would note he was casually checking out every entrant to the opening night. 

 

"Welcome to the High Steaks, Madam"

 

The woman was nearly six foot herself, blond, icy, beautiful. A Scandinavian lady with short blonde hair and steely blue eyes. Her smile seemed genuine enough, although distant, somehow. 

 

"My name is Snow. Silver Snow" she introduced herself. Presumably a stage name, or some parents with an amusing sense of humour. She was dressed in an all white tuxedo, matching her complexion. "Are you dining alone, or with company?" she asked, all glacial pleasantries. 

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It had been a while since Natalya Browning, the infamous Bombshell, had made a public appearance but that wasn't out of character for the WWII heroine at all. The one-time spy and soldier stepped out of her own Bentley, one long leg at a time, tossing the keys to the valet when he appeared. Since it was a public appearance, Talya was dressed in her signature black, wearing a high necked, backless dress that was slit to well above the thigh. With her golden curls and her red-as-sin lips, she looked nothing like a woman who'd had twins less than a month ago; which, really, was the main reason she was here tonight. One more layer of deception between Talya Browning and the woman who lived with the Espadas family. 

 

Still, just because it was work, didn't mean it wasn't also fun. 

 

Gliding forward easily on her equally soot black heels, Talya waited for the woman in front of her to pay and took a chance to glance over those arriving. With her clutch tucked absently in one hand, Talya's gaze cut to Sir Card first before moving over his guests.

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As the Danger family retinue was disgorged from their limousine one might have taken the matronly woman fussing with the tall young man's tie as a grandmother, of course this being the Danger family little was as it seemed, "Rachel, I'm not going to embarrass the family."  Ace intoned with the patronizing air only those who had know a person since birth could muster.  "You all mingle and I'll handle the reception line."  he suggested and rolled his eyes as he made his way to the line admiring the blond in front of him with a mischievous grin.  

 

"Well long time no see Ms. Browning, you're looking,"  he paused with a wry smirk, "Fit."  he alluded subtly to her recent condition.  "You'll have to give me the name of your trainer."  he suggested with a smile as he looked over the crowd, "It is good to see you out and about."  Ace confided, "Rachel is dreadfully afraid I'm going to cause a scene like that time in Morocco."  This being Aces first society outing as the de facto patriarch of the Dangers cast more import on the relatively minor function than it might otherwise.

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Lynda smiled sweetly at Ms Snow. "Alone for now, but hope springs eternal. My invitation." She briefly displayed the card before returning it to her clutch. But soon she heard (and smelled) two familiar presences, and she turned to note the arrival of both Talya and Ace, which put her in a bit of an awkward position: did she reveal herself or maintain the facade? At the very least, she couldn't break cover in front of the staff, so she'd have to wait for a more private moment to do so.

 

"Mr. Danger, what a pleasure! I was hoping someone from Danger Manor would make an appearance tonight." Her warm smile was something to behold.

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GM

 

"Do excuse me Sir, I will catch up with you later about that business arrangement, mark my words" said Sir Card, politely, to his Arabian guest. He ushered in another tuxedo wearing woman, a red headed olive skinned beauty who smoothly ingratiated herself with the man. 

 

Sir Card walked smoothly up the three heroes, all schmooze and elegant tailoring. 

 

"Ah yes, Mr Danger, delighted to meet you. So glad you could come. And your beautiful plus one, I take it..." he asked Ace, leaving an enigmatic question in the air, his gaze shifting from woman to woman on either side. 

 

"Although plus two is fine, as well" he smiled, with white teeth. "Why not? It would suit your name, after all!" he said, pleasantly. If Silver Snow, the Scandinavian hostess seemed vexed by her employer, her glacial face did not show it; her faint smile remained faint, and smiling. 

 

"I do hope you would join me later in the evening. Bring a touch of dashing adventure to the place! Perhaps a game of poker? I fancy trying my luck tonight!" he beamed. 

 

"If you are the gambling sort, and a gentleman - well, haha - I am sure you are a gentleman, please forgive me. And I am sure your lovely friends here are ladies. Well, I do have an exclusive club upstairs. Members only kind of thing. Man like you, well, would be a first class member, I am sure!"

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The space outside the front doors twisted, a column of shimmering golden light lanced down from the stars, and in the familiar flash of the Freedom League's Lighthouse transport system a massive figure hove into view.

 

Corpse-pale flesh seethed and trembled from where it protruded from a suit so black it was hard to perceive, and from the hairless, looming head with its two abyss-like black eyes distended a pair of slender antennae. 

 

Folding his arms behind his bloated back, the alien bowed slightly to the startled door attendants. "Dol-Druth, Speaking for Dotrae. The League has given their invitation to me." he introduced himself flatly, holding out a slim holographic rectangle whose alien script shifted to vouch for the identity of the holder. With the other he held out a small, colorful thing that looked like an electric razor with no blades "My frazz-that is, my neural-phrase disruptor. Please be careful with it.

 

Adjusting his more conventionally black tie, whose relative visibility stood out dramatically from the rest of his attire, the planet inspector ducked through the cramped doors and into the strange, archaic building aflame with yellow light. 

 

Pausing to look over his surroundings and to take stock of the people he was going to interact with, Dol-Druth noted with inarticulate distaste everything the establishment represented. Here was, even more than its exceptionals, the core of his fear of what terrestrials would do if they ever entered the Republic or became a galactic power. The harsh, arbitrary cultural divisions even between their sexes, the inherent exclusion and fear that ruled the dominant societal ideals, the worship of individual power.

 

It was enough to make even one of Dotrae wonder if maybe the Grue weren't all that bad...but the Grue were ruled by the Meta-Mind, even the ones who had broken free or never heard its voice were warped by that all-encompassing stamp...maybe there was no hope, maybe this was the future, writ small and primi-

 

Quote

Job to do, Dolly

I want to see their chancers!

Ooh, that one with the golden hair, he's lovely...

I-! Yes, we will proceed. Card, right? Sir August Card?

That's him over there!

Thank you

 

Striding across the carpet on legs that looked almost truncated against his bulk, the ambassador harrumphed to get the man's attention from his other guests. It was a struggle, but he resolutely kept his eyes off of the athletic blond man who'd so entranced Phar-Gult. "Sir Card? We are Dol-Druth, Speaker of Dotrae of the Lor Allied Republican Plurality of Systems, the League has recieved your invitation, but thought it best that I make use of it, to broaden my and my government's understanding of your world. They intend no disrespect." He bowed again, to the host and to the others gathered nearby.

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GM

 

Even Sir Card, normally unflappable, raised his eyebrows at an alien in the High Steaks. 

 

"Ah, yes, Sir..." he said, quickly recovering. "...If I may call you Sir. The High Steaks is open to all, of course. All who pay, haha, haha" he said moving on and beckoning another of the Fabulous Five hostessed to them. 

 

Bubble Pink was also beautiful, also dressed in a tuxedo (although one might wonder if the cloth was died just slightly pink). She was Japanese, and had a bright pink punk hairstyle, straightened up to give her another four or five inches. 

 

"Bubble, may I introduce Mister Dol-Druth. He, ahem, I think he will need a dedicated guide today. After all, must be all rather peculiar and whatnot, I suppose...er...I hope you don't mind Mr Dol-Druth. I would just like to make you as comfortable as possible"

 

"Sure thing, August" replied Bubble Pink with a smile. "Be my pleasure. Not everyday we get an alien. And such a refined one too" she said kindly. She was good, but not as good as Card. Clearly an alien was pretty freaky. Her mask wasn't bad, but the astute could see through it. 

 

"Say, do you eat, Mister Dol-Druth?" she asked the alien, pulling out a menu. "Our steak is the best, if we do say so ourselves. First class French chef. Oh, and if you drink, I'd be pleased to get you something" she added. 

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It was hard to tell, but at the mention of 'steak' the alien grew even paler.

 

Quote

I...of course, they still eat corpses here

Well, we do too

Not raw ones! Not...meaty bits cut up and singed a little! We eat properly processed food!

I think the distinction is a little academic. Eat up, Dolly, we'll make sure you aren't horribly sick

 

Coughing lightly and adjusting his tie, Dol-Druth nodded affirmative. "Yes, we eat and drink to absorb nutrients and store energy. Though your planet's cuisine is somewhat unique. Almost, we would say, singular."

 

"Your fermented fruit concentrates aren't right for our digestion, but your liquid oxygen and hydrogen alone is perfectly suited. A pitcher of ice water and plenty of fungi-that is, mushrooms, with the steak, the meat well-done and well-sauced-" so I won't have to taste whatever poor thing you're serving me "-and a great many of those stalkéd vegetables, what do you call them, aspargiagos?"

 

"Sir is the proper term, Sir Card," the planet inspector added to their host with a gracious look that was lost somewhat in the cold depths of his black eyes. "Dotrae has no strictly-defined genders, but we...I am approximately masculine. We appreciate the guide and shall make no trouble for them."

 

"So," Dol-Druth looked at Bubble Pink and hefted the small bag of complimentary chips, absurdly small in his massive hand "what do you suggest we use these for first?"

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