Poker Night at Pocket D   Leave a comment

Pocket D

Sometime tonight, the City of Heroes community is expected to release Paragon Chat, a social chat program that uses the City of Heroes game code as a platform for socialization, role playing, and just re-experiencing all the joys of the City of Heroes world.  There are no enemies to fight or missions to take, but the world will be brought back to something like its former glory.  If you’ve read this blog for very long, you’ve probably picked up on just how much I’ve missed this game and how much I love the community, so naturally I’m excited.

Many players fled to other games with their characters, and acted out their former reality being destroyed.  In a sense that was true, but it was never how I saw it.  Sure, I recreated Sastra Vidya in DC Universe Online, but she always stated that she was running a mission for S.E.R.A.P.H. or the Dawn Patrol or something… naturally, the folks of Paragon would be very concerned about Brainiac’s actions, would they not?

There’s a bit of a discrepancy here, and since I was so excited about the City of Heroes coming back through Paragon Chat, I wanted to celebrate by writing a story featuring a few of my characters and mentioning a couple others.  Please know that the elements of City of Heroes and DCU Online aren’t things that I claim ownership of.  Really, nothing in this piece of fan fiction is mine apart from Cyber Sunset, Sastra Vidya, Sa’d al-Bari, Warlord Taln, Jack Anthrax and Professor Flummox.  Enjoy!

***

Poker Night at Pocket D
By John Little

Cyber Sunset arched the cards and flipped them together before rifling the deck in his hands. DJ Zero’s ethereal electronica and tireless techno continued to surge through the air, somehow clearly audible without being overpowering or drowned out by the Rikti Monkeys fighting in the caged ring near their table. He adjusted his stetson and tapped a control on the arm of his circuitry-laden combat suit.

“Cantrell Draw,” he said.

“Shocking,” said Sastra Vidya, the eyes of her skull-shaped masked glowing green beneath the hood of her skull-themed unitard.

“You’ll get to play yer game just as soon as you get to be the dealer.”

“I’d just assume that a cowboy like you would have more affinity for Texas Hold ‘Em.”

“If you liked Omaha this much, we wouldn’t have this discussion every week.”

“She does not have the discussion every week,” said Sa’d al-Bari, the purple-skinned, raven-haired woman in the robes to Sastra Vidya’s left and across from Cyber Sunset.

“Bari, I think we all remember it clear enough,” Sunset said, grinning as he dealt the cards. “You can say it didn’t happen all you like, but somethin’ like it had to have happened otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

“Do not assume causality is as cut and dry as it appears,” she said. It sounded serious, but the twinkle in her eye and hint of a smile behind her veil revealed the intended humor. Sastra assumed that Bari knew what she was talking about, but that the situation wasn’t as dire as she suggested.

“You again cast cards of an inferior quality into my possession!” shouted Warlord Taln from his stool between Cyber Sunset and Sa’d al-Bari. His red skin was more noticeable than Bari’s softer hue, and even if it wasn’t the environmental survival suit and bubble-domed helmet that made Pocket D’s atmosphere breathable was noteworthy even in a place like this.

“I never cheat at cards, Taln.”

“This place is protected from such subterfuge,” said Bari. “It would be revealed to us through an enchantment of my own devising, one that lingers over this table while we gather. It also prevents me from reading your thoughts without informing you, and is why your radium-infusion device broke last week.”

“That device was not mine!” said Taln.

“So, you remember last week’s game,” said Sastra Vidya, putting two of her cards onto the table and drawing two more. “It seems to me that either the cowboy with the sword and I haven’t argued about Texas Hold ‘Em and Five Card Draw, or Taln couldn’t have cheated. You can’t have it both ways.”

“Perhaps I have overstated things,” said Bari, placing a single card on the table and drawing a new one. “And perhaps my own superior view of the planes allows me to discern greater subtleties than-”

“Your ancient mysticism is no match for my technological supremacy!” shouted Taln, pounding the table with the fist that wasn’t holding his cards.

“Hate t’burst your bubble, but I think Bari’s got the edge here” said Cyber Sunset. “She may be off her rocker about the last few years, but-”

“She is not mad, Earth man,” said Taln. “She is accurate. My telluric waveform rejuvenation scanner indicates a power surge occurred today, a mighty surge consistent with a stabilization event suffusing our reality.”

“Not you too,” said Sastra Vidya. “Look, Paragon City had a rough patch, we admit that. In one month, the Red Caps almost destroyed time itself, the Unseelie Court and Circle of Thorns weakened the barrier between realities, and the Rikti engineered one of their strongest attacks ever… but we survived.”

“Better ‘n ever, I’d say,” said Sunset. “Not a single Hamidon attack or Nemesis plot since then.”

“Would you notice a Nemesis plot, Earthling?” asked Taln, discarding all of his cards and drawing an entirely new hand. “I remember that month well. It was my introduction to Earth. I crashed and was recruited as a potential Chosen One by Arachnos as all of that began. Even with the terrors of that month, I am convinced that Lord Nemesis is the only true danger to your world’s status quo… or at least he was until I arrived.”

“Right, your invasion,” said Sastra Vidya. “When does your armada arrive again?”

“The Talnian fleet should emerge from hyperspace any week now!”

“Good luck with that,” said Cyber Sunset, drawing his last cards. “Rikti and Shivans and Praetorians’ve been a great warm up. Oh, that reminds me, I saw Professor Flummox fightin’ Jack Anthrax at Portal Corp last night.”

“Jack Anthrax?” asked Sadal Bari and Sastra Vidya in eerie unison, an eager gleam entering Bari’s eyes and Sastra’s flaming skull mask sockets. Cyber Sunset nodded, not remarking on how unsettling he found their reaction. He looked forward to the day that the Praetorian Loyalist-turned-villain would be arrested once and for all, but he had to admit he was a fan. The guy was just awesome. Only Taln seemed to sneer at mention of the name, though he sneered at everything.

“To think I could’ve seen Jack Anthrax,” said Sastra Vidya, paying the ante and raising the bet. “I saw a familiar bolt of lighting and snowstorm near Portal Corp last night. I avoided it.”

“Do you not wish to meet the hero from Praetoria?” asked Bari, matching Sastra’s bet. “Their ethics may be tinged with shades of grey, but since rising from the Resistance movement against Emperor Cole he’s been nothing but pleasant to this Paragon’s citizenry.”

“He’s… a little weird, though,” said Sastra. “He drones on and on about his ‘miracles of science’, like that Sivanna guy I fought when I spent those months in Gotham and Metropolis.”

“Right, back when they had that weird outbreak of super powers caused by nanites from the future,” said Cyber Sunset, making a mental note to take a trip to try and harvest some for himself.

“Exobytes,” said Sastra Vidya. “Fighting The Rikti and The Praetorians definitely prepared me for anything that Brainiac fellow could throw at me. But anyway, Professor Flummox is… crazy. Between you and me, I don’t think his stuff is even real.”

“His weather machine gets results, though,” said Cyber Sunset. “Y’can’t deny that.”

“I’m not, it’s just a feeling I get,” said Sastra. “So I tend to avoid it if it looks like his signature weather patterns… a little too much crazy in one day. But if I’d known that Jack Anthrax would’ve been there… I might’ve changed my mind. I need his autograph.”

“He’s amazing for a mortal,” said Bari, nodding. “Even if he seems to have an overinflated ego. Though I suppose much of that ego is well deserved.”

“Fold,” said Taln, pushing his cards away.

“Say, Bari, what’s Sastra’s trip to Gotham mean for your whole ‘reality stopped existin’ even though stuff kept happenin’’ theory? Did that not happen either?”

“She moved to a different reality,” said Bari.

“State,” said Sastra Vidya. “Gotham is in a different state, Bari. Not a different reality. Rhode Island is a state.”

Cyber Sunset nodded, turning the information over in his mind. Portal Corp had shown him many things, many strange worlds and horrible results from the laws of physics being tampered with. And it had been a horrible month, too… Red Caps and the Winter family playing havoc with nature and the flow of time, the Unseelie Court releasing Jack-In-Irons and Eochai while the Abomination nearly escaped (again) from the House of Horrors, zombies rising from the dead in nightmarish quantities, the Circle of Thorns again using their magical banners to bring horrible creatures into the world during a seemingly endless week-long night… and a full scale Rikti invasion resurgence in the week after it all ended, the week right before Sa’d al-Bari began announcing that their reality had been demolished and that they simply ‘didn’t notice.’ And now reality was ‘back’, according to Bari… but why?

Some of those Rikti ships did attack near Portal Corp, after all… perhaps something had changed. Reality’s cohesion around Portal Corp was sketchy at the best of times, and what if all those calamities happening in such close proximity could have gone one step too far? What if only people with Bari’s unique view (or even Taln’s insane understanding of science) could see that a problem had occurred? Would things ever be the same again? Would they notice?

Sastra Vidya cleared her throat. Cyber Sunset looked over.

“Hmm?”

“What’s your wager, Cantrell Boy? Are you playing or not?”

Cyber Sunset looked at the cards in his hand, and carefully looked at Sa’d al-Bari and Sastra Vidya. The latter’s face was completely obscured by the mask, and Bari’s face was mostly hidden with her purple and green veil. They didn’t have poker faces, but the way they held their cards was, he hoped, telling. Bari was always harder to read, but he felt that he was just getting the hang of it.

“I’m in,” he said, pushing chips into the middle of the table. “Let’s play.”

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