Syndicate Files: The Sister - Part 4

Inside, a bar occupied one wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves of bottles every color you could imagine and a few you wouldn't want to, from innocent-looking pastel lolly-water to deep blue syrup that promised to make you forget your troubles - and your door-key, your address and your name. Behind the long expanse of gleaming stone, two bartenders in matching uniforms and matching faces dispensed poisons-of-choice to the clientèle.

The floor was made up of little bits of what might even be genuine wood fitted together to make a pattern out of their different colors, and as I followed Sia and Ydet toward the bar a momentary ebbing of the crowd showed me the pattern was another version of the deformed bird Mordu's used as their logo.The pattern almost filled the room, except for a space about two meters by three alond the left wall where the wood gave way to a solid stone around the big fireplace.

I could tell from how close people were standing to it that the fire blazing away wasn't a real one, but the illusion was pretty good. The fire was framed by a dark wood mantle and along the top of the mantel were three large guns, antiques from the look. Directly above each of those guns was the head of an animal, different kinds of animal but all with the same look of slight surprise, as if they hadn't expected to be shot by the Colonel and they certainly hadn't expected to spend their afterlife watching rich people get drunk and lose money for fun.

At the other end of the room, directly in the line of sight of the decapitated and preserved wild-life, a half-a-dozen tables with green baize covers just like the holos were surrounded by little clusters of customers. Their expressions ranged from exhilaration to despair as the roulette wheel spun and the dice fell. For most of the residents of the station, drinking the water that came out of the tap was enough of a gamble for any one day, but I guess the rich had to get their thrills elsewhere. The Colonels' gaming tables were as good as any.

The flickering firelight gave the same febrile glitter to the eyes of the dead animals and the live gamblers alike.

Siarente and Ydet headed straight to the bar, a couple of thirsty rich girls on a night out, Neve and I trailing behind. Sia ordered a glass of champagne and then gave an excited squeal as she 'spotted' the roulette wheel. Glass in hand, she headed towards the gaming tables with all the uncertainty and delay of a piranha missile. Ydet followed with an amused smile but a distinct lack of enthusiasm, a lack of enthusiasm she made more obvious as Sia bounced from roulette to vingt-et-un to craps.

So far, so good.

Ydet examined her nails as Sia swept a pile of chips together and looked around. "Where is the poker game?" she asked guilelessly. "I heard there was poker here!"

As we'd hoped, one of the other patrons was all too eager to enlighten her, pointing out the door to the back room. Sia thanked him with a happy giggle and made her way towards it, the high heels of her strappy red sandals tip-tapping on the parquet floor.

She was stopped, of course, by the guards discreetly posted there. Stopped politely, but even so Neve tensed beside me.

Siarente smiled and twirled a lock of hair around her fingers and fluttered her eyelashes and professed herself most terribly keen on poker and just heartbroken that they wouldn't let her in to the game and before long Colonel Kurata himself emerged from his office.

He didn't stand a chance, by the time Siarente had told him that her little sister was just dying to join Mordu's Legion when she grew up and did he have any advice, and by the way, did he know Jude Kopenhagen?

The Colonel harrumped and patted her on the shoulder and warned her that this was no game for amateurs, but she could play a few hands if she wanted, and just tell him if she wanted to leave early.

Maybe he had a daughter, or a granddaughter, that she reminded him of.

Then again, maybe it was the dress.

Siarente thanked him charmingly, sipped her champagne, linked her arm through his and headed over the threshold with Ydet, Neve, me, and the hapless Colonel in tow.

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