SOLACE OF MANTICORE
Part 14: The Manticore Shuffle
Previously: Square Dance, Revenge Style
Timestamp: 5th April, 1892
“Mary, I don’t care if God Almighty came down from Heaven on the Merkaba itself surrounded by a host of Seraphim and Kherubim and, flanked by Metatron and Sandalphon, spoke as the Ancient of Days as he commanded it, I still wouldn’t play Mahjong with Missus Kowalski and her group of biddies,” Solace told her mother. “I don’t like Mahjong and I don’t care how traditional it is. I’ve got 48 hours of shore leave before I have to be back on Manny and I’ve already blocked out eight hours with you and dad, four with Loyal, eight for sleep, and twenty-eight with Minerva including two plays and a dinner party. Now will you kindly take your turn… those pins aren’t going to knock themselves down.”
“Sandy, dear, you really need to get out of your comfort zone more,” Mary said, scooping up the six kilo sphere, and sighting along it, stepped forward and half knelt, sliding the ball across the line and down the waxed wood lane. The ball had incredible english and it curved almost all the way to the rim of the gutter before swinging back to run through the four remaining pins for the spare. “When you have kids you’ll want to be connected to the community and people like the Kowalskis and Janaceks and Mendels can help there.”
Solace rolled her eyes, ignoring the tiny frown from Hope. “I know you mean well, Mary. I do. But I’m too young to be thinking about a family… and Missus Kowalski is 98. She’ll be dead long before I’m ready to… er… spawn… Daaad. Mary’s giving me that look again!”
Hope humphed, then said, “Can’t hear you over the awesomeness that is a Strike… you’re up.”
Solace groaned. “But Mahj is the most tedious waste of time! They don’t even bet!” She grabbed her nine kilo ball and, with absolutely no finesse, launched it straight and true down the lane, obliterating the pin formation at the far end… except the two at the far edges. Damn it! Stupid 7-10… Ruth bleeked with laughter at her.
The game ended up being close, but Solace lost. Mary was too technical and almost always spared, and Hope got strikes 80% of the time and seldom missed a spare when he didn’t. Solace just rolled the ball as straight and hard as she could, meaning that when she was lucky, she got a strike… but when she wasn’t, she ended up with 9 and while that was good… it wasn’t good enough. Ruth and Naomi usually ended up beating her… though they were using much lighter balls and had the bumpers up.
And, of course, she ended up playing Mahjong with the Octogenarian-plus Club and trying not to scream as they chattered about their grandchildren and the prices at the local market and how their various aches and pains were doing and how MP Hitchcock was such a nice man and didn’t his wife have the nicest hats? It would have been rude to smack her head against the table… “I’m sorry, what was that, Mimi?” she asked, “I was thinking.”
Molveda Mendel, Mimi to everyone, was 102 years old and the leader of the Landing City Conservative Jewish Women’s Coalition. She was also East this round and she patted Solace’s hand. “Nothing dear. I was just saying how nice it was having some young blood around here for once. I try to get my greats involved, but they’re too busy with school and work. So… will you or your pretty lady friend be the egg donor… or will you both do it? Are you going to use those horrid tubes or do it the natural way?”
“Those tubes,” Agnetha Janacek, 84, commented, “Are called Uterine Replicators and they’re not horrid. When I had my Edward, I’d have had to give up horse riding if I hadn’t had the replicator!”
“But you did give up horse riding for Catherine,” Sylvia Kowalski said.
“Catherine was my third, I was already getting pretty old for competitive events.”
“What’s Catherine doing these days?” Sylvia asked and Solace wanted to stick her head in a bucket as Agnetha Janacek decided that it was now time to list the occupations and achievements of every last one of her five children, nineteen grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.
“And Catherine is director of advanced research at Snurlson Gravodynamics.”
Solace perked up at that. “Snurlson? That’s a subsidiary of Andros-Brandyne… What’s she working on?”
“Oh… Something to do with generating gravitic pulses to determine the composition of asteroids without having to drill. That’s her current brainchild. But it’s all very classified I’m certain,” the mother of the Commander of Homefleet said… then proceeded to ramble on about all the classified information that her Edward had told her over the years.
As they completed the seventeenth hand, a message pinged Solace’s personal comm marked ‘Potential Action Required’. It was a message from one of her people and said, “Calendar Relay, From Stonemason: H&S, ESQ, Landing City. Doing Business with Sun King? Checked with V. R.I.H sent a big sun deck to BdM 3star actual.” Solace translated that quickly. Calendar was the Aprilists. Stonemason was McQuarry. Sun King was the Harris Government… and V was Uncle Vanya. Big Sun Deck was roughly 5 billion Solarian Credits (a deck of cards was roughly fifty cards and Big was Billion. Bigger would have been 50 Billion, Biggest 500. Modern was Million, Terrific was Trillion. It was a serviceable code and had been translated from an entirely different cypher.) BdM was Banco de Madrid, and 3star actual was three days ago. She checked the listings for Landing City lawyers and found Holger and Sparrow, Rikkard Ingeborg Holger senior partner, specializing in Patent Law… the address was across the Queen Adriene Plaza from Mount Royal Palace. “Ladies… It’s been great, but I’ve got to run.”
As Solace left the game, having lost every hand, she mentally shifted from Civilian mode to Foreign Service mode, and commented to Naomi, “Remind me to make a note… find out how many Havenite Admirals have aged mothers or grandmothers who play social games like mahj or bridge or… euchre… I’ll make a list.” The LCCJWA Social Center was only three blocks from the Palace and she was supposed to be having lunch with Mary and Minerva anyway. She’d walk… and it would take her right past Holger & Sparrow… she had thirty minutes… she could claim some business and use her connections to see the top brass, surely.
Naomi just bleeked dolefully, stretching as she sauntered down Camden Way as they made their way past the Embassies that lined the wide avenue leading towards Mount Royal. There had better better be celery at lunch. It was the least her two-leg could do for dragging her to that place that smelled of stale cloth and was full of flickering mindglows and confused emotions.
“Don’t give me that,” Solace chided. “I didn’t want to be there either… and I’m not planning on playing more myself… Maybe just getting some of my agents to attend-” she started telling the ‘cat when Ruth perked up, looked around, then leapt off Solace’s shoulder and raced into the just opening door of 808 Camden way, home of quite a number of businesses… including, on the 1st-40th and 239th-240th floors, Holger & Sparrow, Esquire. “What’s going on?” Solace asked Naomi, who shrugged. They could both feel Ruth’s concern, almost panic… but the smaller ‘cat hadn’t paused to explain and now all her friends could do was track her process up through the building… and the yelps of outrage or confusion as she brushed past or leaped past or climbed past the humans within. The duo shared a glance, then broke into a run, following as fast as they could… only to run into building security almost immediately.
The treecat that Solace called Ruth was known to the members of the Deep Valley Clan as ‘Soul of Ice’ and, appearances to the contrary, she was the older of the two ‘cats. She was also a memory singer, a historian of the People, a leader who could record and retransmit experiences between two or more ‘cats, thus passing on history and skills from one generation or clan to another. Of the two cats, she had the better grasp of human emotions, better than Naomi, also known as ‘Silent Judge’, and certainly better than their two-legged friend, the one they called ‘Sky Jumper’, and when she’d felt the emotion she’d just felt, she’d know that something very bad was going happen… even if she wasn’t exactly certain what that something was.
Soul of Ice could feel that confusing two-leg emotion that was part hate and part madness, a desire to hurt other two-legs and the satisfaction of a soon accomplished goal. It burned like a flickering candle, not a bright mindglow, but one so different from the rest of those around it that it was a candle amid flashlights, the only light that flickered. And so she ran, feeling the clusters and echoes of mindglows, intuiting the layout of the two-leg warrens, and then, when she reached an impasse she couldn’t bypass, she scrambled up a wall and into the false ceiling that hung from the real ceiling above it. The gap would have been tight for any two-leg, even a child, but Ruth was no two-leg and she ripped through the paneling, then crawled into the dimness and began racing across the uncomfortably sharp support structure, still heading towards the flame-light glow.
Aljaz Rojniki was happy for the first time since the Manticorans had destroyed the Chancellor’s Palace. He’d been in university during the ‘Civil’ War, studying hyperphysics. His mother and father, loyal supporters of Otar Magnusson, had both died trying to stop the Manticoran aggression and soon… soon the Manties would know the pain of losing their spiritual liege too… what was that scratching noise? Aljaz looked up from the weapon he’d built in the supply closet at his cover job… such fools, these Manties. They’d believed him an illiterate, but skilled, maintenance technician. Soon… soon his inverter would cause space-time to fold in on itself, transporting the entirety of Mount Royal… and no small part of Landing City into Hyperspace… there it was again… was it coming from the ceiling? Rats maybe? He didn’t have time for this… He connected the final molecular circuit, priming the device, and began the process of wiring the manual detonator… that noise was driving him crazy!
He looked up, then screamed as thirty scimitar claws ripped through the acoustic tile and dropped towards his face.
Solace looked out the window of the building, down at the Palace where even now the Queen was being escorted by her mother into a waiting air-car. The bomb was utterly unlike anything ONI and Landing PD had ever seen and it had been decided to evacuate the city until it could be disarmed safely. The Midgardian who’d apparently built it wasn’t talking, but he’d been stopped from actually setting it off by Ruth’s unexpected arrival and held at bay until Solace and Building Security could arrive. Holger and Sparrow was right across Queen Adrienne Plaza from the Palace and Solace, who’d been on her way to tell Mary that the Mahjing had been Mahjed and that she’d done her daughterly duty… had had to tell her mother that there was some kind of bomb across the street from the Palace and they had no idea what it would do.
“Commander Smythe?” said Amanda Swallow, “Shouldn’t we be evacuating?” She was escorted by three Landing PD officers who’d apprehended her heading for the roof and her personal aircar.
“Almost certainly… I just have one question… why, exactly, did your partner hire that man. I spoke to your head of Human Resources, he was most forthcoming. Rikkard Holger hired Aljaz Rojniki personally. It wasn’t a general hiring call.”
“I don’t see how this is the business of the RMN, Commander,” the Lawyer sniffed.
“Oh. It’s not. I’ve been empowered by three different organizations to ask you questions. First, Palace Security asked me to look into this. Second, I have been temporarily empowered by ONI as a Special Investigator. And third, this building is owned by the New Temple Group, as I’m certain you’re aware. Your lease, by the way, has been terminated. I’m fairly certain the Queen’s Bench will rule that you are in breach of contract with what will either be determined to be criminal negligence or conspiracy to commit terrorism,” Solace explained, without looking away from the view. Ruth fastidiously groomed her claws at the woman.
“Terrorism! N… Nonsense! That bomb would never have wo…” Sparrow trailed off, unaware that her emotions had been pushed to make her more reckless and impulsive.
“Thank you for confirming that…” Solace said, turning at last from the window and, hiding the incredible headache pushing the woman had caused, fixed the lawyer with her lavender gaze. “You have thirty seconds to explain exactly how you knew that and to convince me that you weren’t planning on blowing up the FUCKING CAPITAL!”
“Would I have stayed if I knew the building was going to blow up?” Amanda gasped. “We had him under surveillance… he wanted the job too much… but he’s a brilliant hyperphysicist… crazy, obsessed with revenge! But we were able to replace the central coil of his device with a dummy… We… we just wanted the…” She trailed off, slumping into a chair. “We just wanted the plans… Imagine how much money the hyper-inverter might be worth!”
“So you hired a crazy man, let him build a bomb that could kill millions across the street from the Palace and down the street from Parliament because you thought you’d make a little money?”
“A… A little? I… It wasn’t my idea! It was Rikkard’s! He said we’d sell it to the military! We were trying to help!”
Solace considered the woman’s emotions, then said, “Surveillance? I want everything you’ve got.” She held up one hand as her earbud whispered to her. “Oh, and Rikkard Holger has just been apprehended trying to board a ship for Beowulf under an assumed identity. His home computer has been destroyed, and his office comp scrubbed by IT this morning on his orders.” She knelt in front of the clearly distraught attorney. “Tell me… did he handle the removal of the bomb’s key component?”
“I… Yes… he… he said he had someone from an engineering firm we work with remove it. They… I saw the coil myself.” She folded in on herself and shut down at that point, merely going along meekly when Landing PD finally got around to arresting her.
In the personal files confiscated from Rikkard Holger, they’d found the plans for the device and proof that he hadn’t actually transmitted them to anyone yet, waiting for a payday from auctioning off the prize after the demonstration which was to have decapitated Manticore and allowed a fleet sitting at Trevor’s Star to come through and take the devastated kingdom unaware.
“This thing is horrifying,” said Sonja Hemphill, looking over the schematics. “It turns a planet’s gravity into a field that inverts real-space and alpha-hyper over an area whose upper bounds are limited by the size of the planet and how close it is to the edge of the hyperlimit…”
“Agreed, very nasty…” Solace said. “But why am I here?”
“I thought you’d be curious.”
“I am. But that doesn’t answer the question,” Solace sighed. She loved Sonja’s mind, but the woman liked to tease her junior officers to see if she could provoke creativity… or force them to admit they didn’t have a clue what the often monomaniacally brilliant woman was getting at. “You had me escort the bomb across the city… that’s fine, you’re an Admiral… congrats about that, by the way, but I’m not a weapon’s engineer nor a hyperphysicist.”
“You’re not. No… but I want you to look at the schematics. You’re one of the most intuitive people I know. Tell me I’m wrong.”
Solace looked at the schematics floating in the BuWeps tank and rotated them slowly… spotting what the Admiral was talking about took her three minutes. “This is based on the gravitic mine technology, isn’t it?”
Sonja tapped her nose. “Bingo. I knew you’d notice it.”
“Did this guy invent the mine? He’d have been in college back then!”
“He was. We checked. His parents were Brotherhood of Odin. Bought Magnusson’s line about reunification hook line and sinker. His papers on gravitic theory are brilliant… look, he’s got notes on something called a Gravitic Lance.” Sonja enthused.
“That’s great… but how do we stop this technology from being used against us or other civilian centers?” Solace asked.
“Oh. That’s simple!” The admiral waved her hand vaguely.
“Oh… mm… yes… the bomb doesn’t really explode… it takes about two days to reach full power and the seismic effects are pretty noticeable. We know the device exists now… any attempt to use it will create a signature that’s unmistakable and impossible to conceal. The only problem would have been not knowing. That’s the other thing. The Admiralty wants us to take this to the Solies. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. We’re going to expose the technology before the Eridani Council so that early warning detectors can be installed in every major city.”
Solace blinked. “It’s only been eight hours!”
“The Queen and Cromarty had an emergency session with the Lords of Admiralty while you were on your way across town. It was decided that there was no ethical use for this weapon and the political upside of revealing that the technology was possible to the Galaxy had a huge upside.”
“I hate politics,” Solace muttered.
“I know. Me too… You know they’re going to give you another medal for this?”
“They should give it to Ruth. All I did was walk down the street.”
“Riiight. Just walk down the street next to a bomb just as it was being armed. Tell me you’re that lucky and I’ll start believing in that god of yours.”
Solace shrugged. “It was on my way to the Palace.”
Sonja humphed, pulled up a map of downtown Landing. “You were coming from a meeting with Admiral Janacek’s mother… who, by the way, is my father’s first cousin… at the Jewish Social Center.” A dot appeared on the map five blocks from Mount Royal Palace, one block from Amherst Boulevard which, like Camden Way, ran out into QA Plaza. “And walked all the way to Camden” A line showed how Solace had walked four blocks out of the way instead of proceeding down Amherst. “Let me guess… there was a coffee shop with really good pastry you just had to stop at before having lunch with Mary?”
Solace shrugged. “It was a nice day. I had thirty minutes.”
“I checked. You left the game early after receiving an extremely cryptic message from your agents… you know, a Commander running her own personal spy ring should be more careful… even if you do have cover from the Foreign Service.”
“It’s not a spy ring. It’s simply business.”
“Business right. Why aren’t you with ONI again?”
“Because I’m as subtle as my brother is a gifted strategist… also, my budget is entirely discretionary. Anyway, why aren’t you with ONI?”
Sonja chuckled. “That’s true. You’re as subtle as an anvil dropped from great height. As for me? I’m just good at math. Regardless, their lordships wanted me to inform you that your leave has been extended another three days, then we’ll both report aboard Manny and proceed to Old Earth.”
Silent Judge sat on the edge of the table, looking at the gathered Two-Legs, trying to ignore her ‘sister’s’ smug gloating. Ever since the Human Leader had awarded Soul of Ice with the shiny medallion on a ribbon, Soul had been almost unbearable… but now it was Judge’s turn to shine. This was her place, her real of power. She adjusted her visor, and began flicking the cards with machine-like precision, each floating to land just so in front of its assigned Two-Leg.
“She’s really good at that,” Sonja said, watching Solace’s furry minion drop two cards face down and one face up in front of each of the six humans at the table. A three and an eight landed in front of her face down, and a six landed face up, all in clubs… it wasn’t much, but it could be the start of a straight flush… or just a flush. She looked around the table to see what the others had. Solace had the King of Spades showing, Theodosia (Captain of HMS Manticore) had the 2 of Diamonds, Lukas Janacek (Lt (SG), Manticore’s Tactical Officer) had the Queen of Spades, Edward (CO Homefleet, Lukas’s uncle and Sonja’s second cousin) had the 10 of clubs, and Elvis Santino (Captain of HMS Birmingham and soon to take over as Flag Captain of Home Fleet while Manny was in Sol) had the 7 of Hearts.
Sonja: 3C 8C 6C
Solace: ?? ?? KS
Theodosia: ?? ?? 2D
Lukas: ?? ?? QS
Edward: ?? ?? 10C
Elvis: ?? ?? 7H
Ante – 1 Dollar, Bring-in – 2 Dollars, Raise = 5 Dollars, 20/40 dollar limit
“She doesn’t know how to play poker at all…” Solace explained. “I’ve tried to teach her and Ruth the game, but Ruth only likes to throw cards… which she’s good at, and Naomi loves doing card tricks… but I don’t think they really understand that it’s a game or what the relative ranking of hands means. Captain, you’re low card.”
Although both Theodosia and Elvis held the rank of Captain of the List, since the ship was Kuzak’s she was ‘The Captain’, and Elvis was merely ‘Captain Santino’. Theodosia sighed, and tossed the bring-in into the pot. “Stupid tradition,” she muttered, glaring at the two dollars that had joined the six dollars anted in already.
[Pot = 8 Dollars]
Lukas, juniormost at the table but a nicely serious lad with a good head on his shoulders, considered, then said, “Raise.” tossing in a five. The game was fixed limit, 20/40… because regulations prohibited high stakes games, though it did mean for Solace and Sonja, both quite wealthy in their own rights, that the game was more for fun than actual profit.
[Pot = 13 Dollars]
Edward harrumphed. “Still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that it’s not somehow cheating… but it’s not like she can hide a card anywhere. No sleeves. Call.”
[Pot = 18 Dollars]
Elvis grunted, frowned, then agreed.
[Pot = 23 Dollars]
Which brought it round to Sonja herself. She had the start of something… if she could just get the right cards she could have a straight or a flush… or both, if she was very lucky. Still, right now it was garbage. “Call.”
[Pot = 28 Dollars]
Solace hmm’d softly, then raised. Everyone else matched the bet, though Theodosia looked like she’d rather eat a lemon. Naomi bleeked happily, and another flight of cards flew through the air, all six in the air before the first one landed, spinning right into place face up on the table. Sonja blinked… She’d gotten the 4 of spades. Better and better. Then she frowned as Lukas announced the cards.
[Pot = 63 Dollars]
“Broken Wand to Admiral Boomstick, possible flush. Suicide King to go with King David, pair of knights to the Anvil. The Captain gets Pedro the Lover, no help. I get the Sailboat Regatta, possible flush. Uncle Eddy gets Lancelot, possible flush. And Captain Santino gets Sargent Pepper, another possible flush. XO, bet’s to you.” Sonja had no idea where the habit of giving bizarre nicknames to the cards had come from, or where the tradition of having someone, usually the dealer (but that would have been a series of chitters and bleeks, assuming that the ‘cats could even tell the symbols apart), or the lowest ranked person present, describe what they all could see had come from… but it did liven up the otherwise incredibly cerebral game.
Sonja: 3C 8C 6C 4C
Solace: ?? ?? KS KH
Theodosia: ?? ?? 2D 5H
Lukas: ?? ?? QS 4S
Edward: ?? ?? 10C JC
Elvis: ?? ?? 7H AH
Solace opened the bidding, Theodosia folded, Lukas raised, Edward raised… and it was around to Santino. “We’re not really going to reveal to the Solies and everyone else how this hyperbomb really works are we?” He called, looking disgusted.
[Pot = 108]
“Have to,” Sonja said, raising to the limit. Everyone else called and another flight of cards went out. Thwip-thwip-thwip-thwip-thwip… shhh-shhh-shhh-shhh-shhh… even though there were only five players now, Naomi still managed to get all the cards airborne before the first landed.
[Pot = 163]
“Neener My Love to the lady from BuWeps, no help. Big Cassino to the XO, no help. Fancy Boat to yours truly, no help. The Big Boss gets the Lady with the Big Stick… very possible straight flush. And the man of the hour gets… Ogier the Dane. No help there. XO, still your table,” Lukas supplied, then asked, sounding a bit aghast. “Why do we have to? Isn’t telling everyone how to make a bomb that can wipe out a city just a little… crazy?”
Sonja: 3C 8C 6C 4C 9H
Solace: ?? ?? KS KH 10D
Theodosia: ?? ?? 2D 5H xx xx xx – FOLD
Lukas: ?? ?? QS 4S 4D
Edward: ?? ?? 10C JC QC
Elvis: ?? ?? 7H AH JS
Solace considered. “Yes, there’s a lot of potential for abuse, and we’re talking a hell of a risk, but I agree with Cromarty and the Queen. Ten.”
[Pot = 173]
Theodosia, out of the hand, only nodded, then said. “As do I.”
Lukas considered his cards, then shrugged and called.
[Pot = 183]
“Well, I don’t,” said the highest ranking officer at the table. “It’s insanity. Giving away a potential military secret like this. Raise.”
[Pot = 203]
“I agree with the Admiral… Admiral Janacek, I mean,” Elvis said, playing with his chips, then shrugged. “Call.”
[Pot = 223]
Sonja considered both the debate and Edward’s hand. He did have a very good chance at having a straight flush… if his hole cards were the Ace and or King of Clubs… but if they weren’t, she had the eight and that would cut him off there. It was a risk… he could just have garbage… but Edward was a terrible bluffer in her experience. She covered her consideration with an explanation, “It’s not actually more dangerous than a KEW and it only works on planets as far as we can tell. Might work on a star but getting it close enough would be technically improbable within the next thousand years I’d guess. Raise.”
[Pot = 253]
Solace didn’t pause. “Also, if we don’t reveal it, it could be seen as a threat. A ‘we’ve got this weapon you don’t’ kind of thing. Very bad for business. This way, the Solies think highly of our ethics and we turn an almost disaster into a public relations coup… even the Havenites will be publicly pleased… and it will make moving against us a little more risky as long as we’re in the Solies good graces. Raise.”
[Pot = 283]
Sonja and Theodosia both nodded at that, and even Edward had to grudgingly agree. Everyone called and Naomi chittered happily and tossed out more cards, her left handfoot standing on the cards that had been burned after each round of betting.
[Pot = 363]
Once again, Lukas gave the play-by-play. “Salmon of Doubt to my not quite an Aunt, vague hope for a straight, but something’s keeping her in the game. Uncle’s Alexander for the crazy lady… three kings… very nice… possible full house if she’s hiding another ten, four of a kind if she’s hiding The One-Eyed King in her pocket. Musketeers to me, maybe a flush? Who can say? Sebastian to Uncle… not helping much and it’s gotta hurt seeing that King over there flirting with the XO.” Edward frowned at his nephew at that, but Lukas ignored the old man. “And Evil Elvis gets… ooh… The Pig’s Eye! Nice. Could help, maybe not. Maybe he’s hiding the other two rockets in his pocket? Or he’s got Ajax or The Slapshot in the hole for a Full House?”
Sonja: 3C 8C 6C 4C 9H 7S
Solace: ?? ?? KS KH 10D KC
Theodosia: ?? ?? 2D 5H xx xx xx – FOLD
Lukas: ?? ?? QS 4S 4D 3S
Edward: ?? ?? 10C JC QC 3H
Elvis: ?? ?? 7H AH JS AD
Solace opened up strong. She had to, so it was no surprise when she bid ‘ten’. Lukas didn’t seem to have much, so either he was bluffing, or he had the straight, a flush, or a straight flush… he certainly didn’t have four fours, but he was staying in, so he had something worth running up against Solace’s probably full house. He called. Edward, king of the go big or go home school, raised. Elvis, who had to have a full house to stay in… raised… thus telling everyone he either had the Slapshot… no one knew why Ace-Seven was called a Slapshot… but it was. Some thought it might have to do with Lacrosse or Polo, but no one was really certain. Sonja considered her own hand. She had a gutshot straight flush, a short straight… or garbage. A sane woman would bow out… but if she drew that Five of Clubs, she was golden. If she drew the Ace of Clubs, she’d have an Ace High Flush… Not that it would beat Santino’s or Solace’s Full House… if they had it… but that last card called to her. She was sooo close. She wanted to raise, but she couldn’t. She didn’t have the cards to sell anything, and she’d look a fool if she raised and got nothing. “Call.”
[Pot = 463]
Without missing a beat, Solace capped the pot. She had to have the Full House or the Kings. No doubt about it… Shit… should have dropped out, Sonja thought. Everyone else called and it was back around to her in a flash. Four players left going into the River… could she drop out now? No. She still had a save. Still had a way to win this. One card could seal the deal for her. It was a long shot… but it was only ten more to see it. She shrugged and flipped the chip into the pot. It spun, and was still spinning as Naomi launched the last five cards, face down, across the table.
[Pot = 563]
Lukas couldn’t call the last card, of course. The River was down. Now it was down to a final bet. Sonja snuck a peak at her final card. It was the Clover, the Blackberry… the Ace of Clubs… She’d gotten a Ace High Flush… but if Santino had the Full House, she was sunk. If Solace had the Full House, she was sunk… if Lukas had… she had no idea what the young man had. Edward… edward didn’t have the Straight Flush he was pretending he had. She and Solace had the cards he needed. But he was going to go right on pretending. At best he had a Queen High Flush. The betting went round the table and Elvis capped it before it even reached her.
“Fold,” Sonja Hemphill said. She knew when she was beaten. She tossed her cards into the Muck and Naomi gathered them up with her hand-feet.
[Final Pot = 723]
“Show and tell time,” Edward said, since he’d been the last to call. “What you got, son?”
Elvis grinned hugely, flipping up his hole cards to reveal the Ace of Spades, the Seven of Diamonds, and the Two of Hearts… Aces over Sevens, a Full House.
“Shit,” muttered Edward, tossing his own cards out of turn, not bothering to reveal them.
Solace smiled. “Very nice Elvis. Very nice… It beat my Full House, Tens over Kings” she said, flipping up her original hole cards to show the Tens of Hearts and Spades. Elvis grinned, but his grin faded as she continued, “But not as nice as Four Kings…” she flipped up her final card to reveal the King of Diamonds. “Still nice though. Lukas? Did you get your Straight Flush?”
Lukas blushed, then shrugged apologetically. “Yes ma’am… Sorry about that,” the young man said, flipping up his hole cards to reveal the Two, Five, and Six of Spades… the lowest possible straight flush… but a straight flush was a straight flush. When someone had the cards and was willing to take the chance… kid had real gumption to play that hand to completion. Sonja’d have to watch him… maybe he wasn’t as big an idiot as his uncle. No wonder Solace liked him.
Sonja: 3C 8C 6C 4C 9H 7S AC – FOLD (Ace High Flush)
Solace: 10H 10S KS KH 10D KC KD – Four Kings
Theodosia: 9D 8S 2D 5H xx xx xx – FOLD
Lukas: 6S 5S QS 4S 4D 3S 2S – Straight Flush in Spades
Edward: 9C 7C 10C JC QC 3H QH – MUCK (Queen High Flush)
Elvis: AS 7D 7H AH JS AD 2H – Full House (Aces/Sevens)
Next: Solace of Manticore – Part 15
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I also have an original Novel (it’s space opera) in very slow progress here. Please check it out. Let me know if I should create a Blog for it too. I also have a very silly second chain about a Jumper named Zed, temporarily on hiatus. It isn’t very long.
Explaining Poker Terms
I didn’t know if the poker notation was a good choice or not, but I figured it would help people follow what was going on a bit better. C = Clubs, D = Diamonds, H = Hearts, and S = Spades. Yes. almost every hand (and every 2 card hole pair) has at least one nickname. Below is an explanation of each.
- Seven Card Stud = This is the game they’re playing. It is a stud variant, meaning that there is no discarding. Instead, the game proceeds in 5 betting rounds. Before the first, the players ante, then they’re dealt 2 cards face down (hole cards) and 1 card face up. Then there is a round of betting. After that, the players each get a second face up card… and another round of betting. A third face up card, round of betting, fourth face up card, round of betting, and a final face down card (the River) and a final round of betting. In the first round, the player with the lowest face up card starts the betting, but after that, the player with the best hand starts every subsequent round.
- Broken Wand = My own name for the 4 of Clubs. Clubs are also known as Staves or Wands, and 4s are called ‘Broken Aces’ because a 4 looks like an A with one leg missing. An Ace can be called The Heart or The Cup, The Spade or The Sword, The Club or The Wand/Stave, and The Diamond or The Coin/Pentacle. So a Broken Ace of Clubs is the Broken Wand.
- Suicide King = Because the King of Hearts is often depicted stabbing himself in the head, he’s called the Suicide King.
- King David = The King of Spades is nicknamed ‘King David’
- Pair of Knights = Kings are abbreviated K, so a pair of knights is two Kings
- Pedro the Lover = Pedro, Nickel, Five-Spot, and Fever are all nicknames for a 5, and ‘the lover’ is a Heart. Five of Hearts. Pedro references a different card game.
- Sailboat Regatta = A Sailboat is another name for a Four because the 4 looks like a sail, A Regatta is many Sailboats, and since a Spade also looks like a sail, the 4 of Spades is a Sailboat Regatta.
- Lancelot = One of the specific nicknames for the Jack of Clubs.
- Sargent Pepper = My own invention. The Ace of Hearts is a ‘Lonely Heart’, and well… it’s a Beatles reference.
- Neener My Love = Neener is a corruption of Niner or Nine. My Love is a Heart. Neener My Love is the Nine of Hearts
- Big Cassino = The Ten of Diamonds is called the Big Cassino because of the card game Cassino. It is not a misspelling of Casino.
- Fancy Boat = The Fancy Boat is the Four of Diamonds. The Love Boat is the Four of Hearts.
- The Lady with the Big Stick = The Lady is a Queen and the Big Stick is a Club. Queen of Clubs.
- Ogier the Dane = Ogier the Dane is a nickname for the Jack of Spades. As are Pam and Eunuch.
- Salmon of Doubt = Salmon is a nickname for a Seven. The Salmon of Doubt is a book by Douglas Adams (hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy… sci-fi… Space… Spades)… I made up the name as an homage. Dunno if it works, but many of these are already silly.
- Alexander = Nickname of the King of Clubs.
- The One-Eyed King = Nickname of the King of Diamonds, aka The Man with the Ax, the Butcher of Baghdad, and Julius Caesar.
- Musketeers = Spades are Swords. Three Swords is Three Musketeers. Three of Spades. I made this one up.
- Sebastian = A three is called a ‘Crab’ (no idea why). But Sebastian is the Crab from Little Mermaid, a love story. Hearts. Crab of Hearts is Sebastian. I made this one up.
- The Pig’s Eye = The Diamond Ace is called this.
- The River = the final card in 7 card stud.
- Burn = before dealing the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th cards (4th Street, 5th Street, 6th Street, and The River) the dealer discards a card face down, burning it.
- Ante = The starting price to play the hand. Usually quite nominal. In this game, it was $1.
- Bring-in = Whoever has the lowest card showing after the initial deal in 7 Card Stud pays the Bring-In or Folds. This is an opening bid, and it’s usually less than the full bid. The player after the one who pays the Bring-in can call the Bring-in, or ‘Complete’ the bid and go to the full bid. In this game the Bring-In was $2 and the Full Bid was $5. Both are considered ‘Calling’. No Checking (saying I’ll wait to see what everyone else does) is allowed in the first round of bidding in 7 Card Stud. The second player can also raise. In this game, it would have been to $10.
- Limit Bid = This means that all raises are in increments of 5… or later 10. Not all limit bidding doubles the limit in the second half of the hand.
- 20/40 = this means that the first two rounds of bidding (sometimes three) are played with a limit of $20 per person. Then the last three (or two) rounds of bidding have a limit twice that, at $40. Sometimes the Limit is doubled when the cap is doubled, sometimes it isn’t. There are many many many house rules for poker.
- Any other questions, just ask.