The lead story on the news today was Mama and her eggs being loaded into a truck together while the man who'd captured her was led in shackles to a different truck. When they were done showing that, the news anchor announced that Extreme Adventuring has been cancelled per Caesar's order, and that the Mirage Domain was officially open.
The Quilting Circle was interesting tonite. Binion told us all about what had happened with Mama and her captor.
"You know, the Letter of The Law says that she could have claimed Mirage's domain," Binion said. "Fortunately, the Overlords who have realized this have agreed to keep quiet."
"Anyway, the poor creature was returned to where she came from. The people who accompanied her reported that she was quite reasonable once the eggs were returned to her. They said she ate a lot of meat and was quite a conversationalist. She particularly liked to listen to them tell stories about their children."
"Once they got her home, she settled her eggs in a cave and spent some time, well, nesting. The trapper had been given a choice. He could spend his last hours near the river that ran thru the area or he could try to run. He chose to stay in the area and fashioned himself a spear and club from material he found. The last Lucifer's men saw of him, he was trying to find someplace to hide."
Mirage's funeral was held today. Fortunately, it was held in private, family only. Binion told us last night that his retainers had wanted it that way. They were afraid that because of his dying in such disgrace that his body might be violated. Afterwards, the official announcement was made the challenge for the Mirage would be held on Friday.
Friday the thirteenth.
The announcement prompted a bunch of calls from Jim's people wanting to know if Olivia, Rodrick or I would be participating.
Olivia asked, "Leo?"
"Not me. I have no interest in death sports."
Then they all looked at me. I said, "death sports - ick." Then they wanted to know if we would be backing anyone. Olivia told them that she was too busy. I told them that I had no interest in backing anyone, "It's a bad Domain."
So Olivia decided that she was going to start a campaign to have the Domain changed away from the whole death sports angle. "Are you with me?" she asked me.
So Olivia called Jim and arranged an interview with one of his people. She told him, "I want to abolish the death sports aspect of the Domain, look at the trouble it leads to. And there's too much chance for abuse. I'm not personally interested in the Domain - I'm too busy managing the Domain of Prostitution. But we have to look at the opportunity to show the world that Vegas is not the cesspit that everyone thinks it is." Then the reporter asked my opinion.
"Death sports are bad."
On the news they ran Olivia's soundbite, mine, and then Jim's. He was of the opinion that participation in them is strictly voluntary and that it's when participation becomes mandatory that he has a problem with it.
Then we heard that a morning talk show host on the radio station (the one who tends to take the contrarian position as a matter of habit) had been telling his audience that he thought that the City of Las Vegas has too many people and some wholesale slaughter would help. Get rid of the vagrants and undesirables. That those who have nothing to contribute to the city (except for their protein) should be forced to participate in the death sports. The survivors, proving that they had useful skills would then be put to work in the city defensive force and earn a living, for a change.
Lovely man. I'm sure his mother is very proud.
The debate over death sports continued today. Yay.
I woke up this morning and found the message light on my phone blinking. It was the night guard telling me that there were people waiting to see me. I told Leo I'd see him later, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed downstairs. The lobby had people all over the place! The concierge told me that the people who wanted to speak to me had been taken to the Cathedral by my acolytes. All of the people remaining we were waiting for Olivia. So I scooted off that direction.
A pair of acolytes was waiting for me and explained that there were about fifty people (mostly Elves - with a few Humans mixed in) who wanted to speak to me about money.
"There were more, but we did some pre-screening for you. There were some Drow in here - but they didn't really look like they were looking for spirituality - just venture capital."
"So what do they want money for?" I asked.
"So they can enter the challenge for the Mirage tomorrow."
"Anyway - I told them to go ask their own gods for the money. There were also a couple Cats hoping you'd be generous; we sent them on to their Priest. Then there were some vagrants and homeless, even some Kobolds of all things!" Then he whispered, "There are also a couple members of the Crusaders, too."
"Okay," I whispered back. "Okay. Gather them all in the cathedral and I'll talk to them," I told him.
Nearing the cathedral, there were some of the rejects waiting around to beg as I passed by. Figuring their presence would piss Olivia off; I asked one of the acolytes to go ask Karyn to have them shown out. "Oh, and have the hungry ones shown to the soup kitchen " Then I spotted a Kobold, loitering rather unobtrusively in a corner. He was wearing a suit that had been altered to fit him, sort of. All in all, he looked pretty good. For a Kobold.
I gestured his way and asked the acolyte, "What's his story?"
"I don't know why he's still here, we ran him out, earlier."
"Why?" I asked.
"Why? He's a Kobold!"
The acolyte was scandalized; "You can't support a Kobold!"
"He could be follower," I said.
"I can't recall ever seeing him at service," he said.
"Maybe he's more comfortable worshipping at home," I said. "Where people don't look down on him for being a Kobold."
The Kobold saw that I had noticed him and started forward. His accent was solid New Yorker - kind of funny, coming out of this little lizard-rat. "Your worship - may I have a word with you? Please?"
"Yes, come into the cathedral with the others."
"Thank you - I'm grateful."
The acolyte glared at me and as we passed thru the doors said to the guard, "Leave him for last. Maybe he'll leave."
"No! Have them all come in at the same time so I may speak to them as a group."
Once everyone was seated I told them that they would each have three minutes to convince me why I should sponsor them. So I listened and took notes. There were really only five who caught my interest. The first was one of the surviving members of the Crusaders, a male Gold Elf. He began with, "I see this as an opportunity for the Elven people to demonstrate their abilities; strength, courage and a sensibility, all traits sorely lacking in the Aladdin domain."
He continued, "I would be able to represent the Elven community as it is not being represented now, since you are not really a part of the ruling city government. That government needs a representative of the more 'refined' aspect of the Elven community."
(When I was telling Olivia later she got the impression that she was being disparaged by those remarks. "What about Alfred?" she asked. I told her that he was probably just overlooked since he's been so quiet lately.)
The next interesting one, also a male Gold Elf, was another surviving Crusader.
"My reasons for wanting this are the same as my honored teammate," he explained. "But we disagree on who is best suited to represent the Elven community."
"And why are you more fit than he?" I asked.
"We have sparred on numerous occasion and I respect his abilities but he's more a 'show business' fighter while I have more real world combat under my belt."
Next was a male Moon Elf who stated that he's been in the last semester of his MBA program when the Change occurred. His argument was, "I can administer the domain and make it quite profitable. Then I will use those profits to promote the Elven community."
I liked the sound of that, but looking at him - he seemed reasonably fit - but was carrying no weapons at all. Next on the short list was a Sylvan Elf - big and muscular - carrying lots of weapons and looked like he knew how to use them.
"I do not intend to rule," he said, "but those felines are an offense. I will fight for whoever wishes it and if I meet another Elf in the finals, I will yield. I just want a chance at a Cat."
Then the last one to make the list - the Kobold.
"I want this because most of the people impacted by this domain have been my people. They bear the brunt and I want to improve the conditions for them and the other despised races," he started. Then he continued, "I respect the people I have met in combat recently and I think I've got a shot at this."
I recognized him then - he had been the leader of one of the Kobold Extreme Adventuring team that had displayed such effective tactics. He noticed that I had recognized him and added, "I appeal to you because I believe that these reasons suit your sensibilities and your sense of justice."
When everyone was done I consulted my notes and thanked everyone who'd come out but only asked three to stay behind for further discussion: the first Crusaders survivor, the MBA and the Kobold. The acolytes all cringed at the last one. When we were alone, I asked them if they were sure about this, "You know, death is a distinct possibility in these matters."
The Kobold, Tony, shrugged and said, "Just another day at the office."
The Gold Elf, Swiftwind, also shrugged, "I bow to your wisdom and wish my competitors luck."
The MBA, Steve, looked a little rattled, "But we can yield, right?"
"You can. But I just want you all to realize that there is a possibility that someone may die in the arena."
"You can yield right now," Tony said.
Steve gulped and stood a little taller, "No. I will not yield now."
"Very well. Then I have one more question for all of you: what are your intentions regarding the death sports?"
Swiftwind spoke first, "I'm afraid that it is too deeply ingrained in the populace to totally get rid of it. It is the only path for some, those who have no other means of support or survival. In the case of some beings, it is the only path to social acceptance. There is room for non lethal versions of the current competitions, room for options - improvement."
Steve said, "I'd agree to look at the market indicators involved to see if there was a window of blah blah blah paradigm blah blah blah proactive blah blah blah grow the business blah blah blah quantify blah blah blah justification blah blah blah pie chart blah blah blah."
When I finally noticed that he'd stopped talking I said, "Thank you. And you, Tony?"
"As long as there's money to be made you can't get rid of it. But you can clean it up. 'Windy' there has the idea. There isn't a lot of opportunity for some people around here. For some people who participate, it's like the Warhol clock, but for others if there was any other way to make it, they would do it."
I thanked them for their patience, then announced, "I will provide the entry fee for all three of you."
Swiftwind performed an extravagant bow; "I will bear the Temple's colors with honor!"
Tony snorted, "How? Wearing a gold jockstrap with wings?"
Swiftwind was offended, so I sent them off to the Paris to get their promissory notes before tempers could flare.
I met up with Olivia at dinner to compare stories. She too had awoken to find her message light flashing. She ignored it and went to breakfast where Karyn found her. Olivia ordered Karyn to 'educate' the night guard to the fact that she only accepts messages on a silver tray. "Now - what was he babbling about?"
"People want you to pay their entry fee so they can enter the challenge for the Mirage tomorrow. Each and everyone of them assures me that they are undefeatable."
"Ah. Crackpots." Olivia said.
"No," Karyn said, "but more than one looks questionable. Some of them have already left."
Olivia said, "Give them all one sheet of paper and tell them to write down why they want to be an Overlord. Front of the page only. Give them only an hour to do it."
"I was going to suggest noon," Karyn said.
"It doesn't take me that long to eat breakfast," Olivia said.
"I was thinking you could spend some time at the pool .."
Olivia liked that and demanded that everything be spelled and punctuated correctly. If they weren't, she wouldn't read them. Later, at the pool, Karyn brought her thirty 'applications' that had passed Karyn's screening and Olivia read thru them. Some were more eloquent than other and most were along the lines of, "Because I need a job/cash etc." But three of them basically said, "I'm really good at killing things." Another explained that they wanted a cushy desk job and another one consisted of one sentence, "Because I will win."
"Then there were a bunch telling sob stories and some that complained about the evil of the world and the unfairness of life," Olivia told me, "They were out immediately."
Karyn handed her one last application, "This one was interesting, a young lady who wrote about her abusive background. She was a runaway who'd ended up in a travelling circus, as an alligator wrestler. She says that her claim to fame is that she once stunned a baby elephant with a roundhouse kick."
"Sounds like a petite little thing," I said.
Karyn told Olivia that since she sounded amusing, she'd included her application with the rest. Her spelling and grammar were unique, to say the least. So Olivia decided to see her, the person who'd written, "I will win." and the one who's looking for a cushy job. She also picked one "I need the job" and one 'sob story' at random.
Before Karyn left, Olivia asked, "There wasn't one singe person looking for some sort of social change?"
"There was one - I 'filed' it with the crackpots." Olivia asked to see it and Karyn got it for her.
"And?" I asked.
"The person who wrote it went on and on about death sports being 'bad', 'People should negotiate their problems. Death sports and all competitors in it perpetuate the poor thought patterns that had made life so unbearable, Before. What we need is a Domain of Personal Growth. It's a beautiful world - we can make it into what we've always dreamed it could be'." Olivia had Karyn re-file that one back with the crackpots. Then Karyn brought in the five finalists.
The first one was Manuel - a fellow who was looking for a cushy job. He was an undocumented laborer from Mexico, a Human about fifty years old or so. He'd spent his life traveling, following the crops and working them and sending most of his meager salary home to his family.
Olivia told me she was really impressed with the man - he spoke with virtually no accent and explained it away with correspondence school. He believed the best way to not get caught and shipped back to Mexico as an undocumented laborer was to educate himself so people thought that he 'belonged'. He admitted that he had no 'traditional' job skills but since all his job applications at all the casinos had been ignored he figured, 'What the Hell'.
Olivia said that he should have come and applied at the Aladdin.
Oh. So Olivia offered him a job. A management position, "I need someone who knows farming. I sure don't."
"But I don't know how to manage," he told her.
"But you know the crops. You can help my manager who doesn't." Manuel thought for only a moment before accepting the offer. Karyn went to show Manuel to H.R and stopped to give the next man a look.
That next man was Gabriel, the one who'd written, "Because I'll win." He was a nondescript looking human. "He reminded me of Steve Buscemi," Olivia told me.
"So you'll win, eh?" she asked him.
"What do you intend to do when you win?"
"People wish to risk their lives for money, for whatever personal reason - that deserves honor, respect. It's a hard decision to make, I understand that. But I do not understand or approve of the circus-like atmosphere that surrounds the whole thing. It's undignified. I would like to correct that. Not all agree that the whole idea is a good thing but I think that the decision is a noble one, one that can trace its heritage back to Ancient Rome and Greece, and one that should be honored and take place in a dignified manner."
Olivia asked, "Why will you win?"
"This competition is not about killing, it's about dominance. Dominance over another person. I have some - experience - in giving people cause to see thing my way. People have been known to ask me to talk to others, to convince them into seeing things my way."
"You were a fixer?"
Gabriel shrugged, "Depends on how you look at it but when I solve a problem, it stays solved. Now, your Greatness, if you'll pardon me?" Olivia blinked and nodded. He turned to Karyn and said, "How you doin', Sue Ellen?"
"I am not the person you think I am," Karyn sneered at him.
Gabriel just nodded at that, "And your sister? How is she?"
"I lost track of her in all the - excitement."
"I didn't know you had a sister," Olivia said.
Karyn nodded, "We were in Vancouver - on business - and made different travel arrangements. Hers fell thru."
"It's okay - he can do it," she whispered to Olivia. Then she said to Gabriel, "My name is Karyn."
"Of course it is. My mistake."
Olivia thought for a moment before telling him, "Okay - you can hang out for awhile."
Then it was time for the random sob-story that Olivia had chosen. He just flat out said, "You know listening to all of this - maybe this competition isn't really for me - but if you could spot me 50,000.00 - I just know my luck's gonna turn."
"Nope - you're out of here," Olivia said as Karyn grabbed him by the arm.
Next was an older Human man, who'd retired Before and explained, "I've seen a lot of shit, you know? In Korea you got used to it and now, well, nothing scares me anymore. I don't know what kind of shot I've got, but I want to take it. Anything can happen, ya know? If I win, I'll do what you tell me to, no problem."
"Then what do you intend to do if you win?" Olivia asked.
"I'll go along with any agenda you've got. I have no interest in politics," he assured her.
When asked what he did, Before, he said that he'd been a grocery store butcher. "I figured, what the Hell - the worst that can happen is you say, 'no' and tell me to go home." Olivia told him to go home.
The last one she spoke to was Annie, the female gator wrestler. She was Human, but barely taller than a Dwarf. She was very muscular, was missing a good number of teeth and had a large number of scars.
"Why do you want this job?" Olivia asked.
"Well ya know? There ain't a lot of gators in Vegas and the only guys that would hire me for a hooker - well; they're kind of creepy. I saw one of these fights before - it just seems like a whole bunch of jumpin' up and down and tryin' to be scary." She scratched herself and confided, "I had a twenty foot croc jump at me once - I kicked it in the head. A big ol' pussy jump at me - I'm gonna kick 'im in the nads, grab his whiskers, jump on and go for a ride!" More scratching. "Anyway - you seemed more likely to give me the money for this than you would give me a miniskirt and make me one of them there harem girls."
"I'm not hiring any new harem girls, right now," Olivia made perfectly clear. "If you win what will you do?"
"Hell and damn! I haven't thought that far ahead! But from what I seen - them puddy-tats don't know what they're doin'. All I gotta be is smart enough to hire people who are smarter than me. Like you did!"
So Olivia is sponsoring two combatants - Gabriel and Annie. Corellon help us!
After dinner, we got word that we aren't the only ones sponsoring people. The others are all keeping their people under wraps so that no one gets an advantage. Should be an interesting competition!