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Chapter 17 - The Gambler
ivor | Published 1008 days ago
  


Violence warning.


Chapter 17, The Gambler 

 

      Perhaps it was Jack Russo’s bad fortune that he had chosen to wear his lucky red winner shirt for the tournament that day. It was the tiny man in the red shirt that caught Burgers attention, standing out from the crowd at the lower level of the damaged gambling hall. Burger was in a bad mood, the city denied him his chance at massive slaughter by emptying its population before they got there. The few scattered thousands would have to do.  He hoped the Imams, following their destruction from afar, would not be too disappointed.  He needed to play a game of sorts, to make this more fun.

            It was the tiny figure in the red shirt, just one in the mass of tiny people seeking to escape the destruction going on around them.  Burger reached down and scooped up a handful of people. He discerningly squashed everyone on his hand, saving the one in the red shirt.  For Jack, the scene was surreal and bloody. He had served a tour of Iran, and had witnessed the carpet bombing of the city, dead bodies mangled by explosives were images he held.  They pervaded his nightmares and robbed him of sleep. Now every instinct was tuned into survival, but the situation was impossible. He was scooped up in the giant boys hand, and held hundreds of feet above the ground, An older man who was also scooped up, was grabbing at Jacks sleeve, begging Jack to help him. As the man was doing so, a huge pair of fingers descended upon him and lifted him up from Jacks grasp, a rain of blood showered down upon him.  All around him  those on the hand were being killed and crushed, but the giant avoided killing him. There was no escape, he was being singled out. After everyone else was mashed to a pulp, the giant addressed Jack.

            “Are you feeling lucky, little man?” Burger asked.

How the freak would he know about Clint Eastwood, Jack thought to himself.  Burger continued,        

 “You came here to gamble and to win, and in truth, you have survived up till now.  I now offer you a different game, one where the stakes are raised a bit.  You see, little man, it’s a game of life or death for you.  If you win, you live, if I win, you die,  what do you think?” 

            Burger was aware that the huge monster was addressing him, He could not believe it, but it seemed so. He understood the giants words, it was talking to him. He was being offered a chance to escape?  With a bluff of bravado, Jack the gambler answered. 

            “Can you hear me Giant boy?”

            “My name is Haman the destroyer, and yes I can hear you, worm.”

            “What is your game?” Jack asked.  Slade who was crushing the giant 520 foot tall New York Casino, across the street, looked on as Burger had his conversation with one of his victims, he smiled shook his head and continued ripping the casino apart. .

            Burger studying the tiny man, with his remote viewing sphere, seemed content, this little bug had the nerve to address him, and not poop in its pants out of fear. 

            The game is simple, I will set you on the street and give you a fifteen minute head start, and, Burger paused, as if heeding an inner voice.  Excuse me a minute, seems I got some pressing work to attend to right away.”  Burger kicked down the remaining walls of the fractured ruins below, and brought his foot down upon fifty screaming people, crushing them as one would a cigarette butt.  He turned his attention back to Jack.

            “Oooh, did you see how they spattered?  Like that?   Um,  I didn’t get your name,”

            Jack who glanced down at the unfortunates below, crossed himself, and said boldly,

            “My name is Jack, like in “Jack the Giant killer” Russo, Jack Russo he repeated.  Fifteen minutes is not enough time, seeing as how you are so huge,  you would find me easily,  give me an hour head start.”  Burger smiled, he enjoyed the challenge.

            “Yes we are huge to you, little Jack,  and you got a pair, as your people might say, in challenging me like that, but I like it. Ok,  I will give you a half hour to escape. Rule number one. You have to keep that red top you wear on.  I have to be able to recognize you on sight.  If you are in a building I am already crushing, you have to alert me. You can not die with the rest, your death will be really special. I promise you that.”  Burger produced a tiny medallion that he had synthesized for just such a game. It was microscopically tiny for Burger, who kept it in a storage unit on his strap; He took it out, spilling the container with the medallion and chain onto his palm before Jack.

“Put this on” He commanded, “If you take it off, I will consider the game over, and just crush the crap out of you on the spot,  No, you wear this till the end” Jack reached down and picked up the medallion,  it was funny, it looked just like his lucky poker chip that he carried in his wallet.  This was a bit bigger, and it obviously had some electronics concealed inside it.

            “You wear this, and you will be able to talk to me, no matter where you are.  If you are still alive by the time we totally wreck this city, you win. I will let you live. But if I should find you and tag you. You will stain my fingers, or worse.  We got a deal?”  Jack would say anything to stay alive, so he agreed to this deadly game of hide and seek. Burger, content that he now had a game to play, lowered the tiny human to the street level, his voice boomed,

            “One half hour, little dead man, Haaa haa haa” His voice thundered.  Jack jumped off the hand when he was close enough to the ground to land without doing himself any harm.  He glanced at his Breitling gold watch, He had till six thirty before the giant would come searching for him. People pushed by him running in terror,  He could not be concerned  about the others, he had to find a way out of town.

     “Watch out Jack,” Came the voice booming from the sky,  Burgers foot fell directly by nearly brushing Jacks side, and  crushing dozens of cars trucks and people right next to him. The force of the footfall was like an explosion, shaking the ground he stood on. The boys foot sunk ten feet below the ground level, leaving a crater in the ruined street.  It was as if a Aircraft Carrier had fallen just a few feet from where he stood, and then lifted itself.

      “Thirty minutes Jack, get a move on.”

            Slade was ripping the edifice apart in his hands, there were two thousand rooms in this hotel, most were deserted, but for the hundred or so who remained, the  New York Casino was hell. Slade watched as the roller coaster on the buildings side, sent its cars around the winding track, mostly empty.  Slade put his remote viewer in the front car, and switched to view mode, as the tiny car made it’s round.  Slade liked the part of the ride, where the car, made it’s two hundred foot climb, the highest hill on the track.  Looking straight ahead, and two hundred feet up from the top, was Slades enormous member. Slade had to laugh as he focused on himself, from the front cars view.  The tiny car took the top of the hill and then plummeted down towards the Giants feet.  “Wheeee” Slade said, as he flattened it at ground level, with his foot.

           

            The General had not slept for more than an hour at a shift.  The combination of Cigars and Caffeine and adrenalin kept him going. He supervised the actions of Yelid and Cory.  After the rescue of Buddy’s wife, he addressed the boys.

            “You boys have done an amazing job for the people of Earth, and we thank you. Now the hard work begins. We have to isolate the two to a remote area. There are some badlands just north of Las Vegas where the boys are currently tearing up the town. There you have to lure them and confront them, fight them if you have to, and stop them from their murderous rampage. We cannot offer you any weapons, their straps make them invincible to us, but you can stop them. If you get their straps off they will be vulnerable, and our weapons will be able to neutralize them.”  Yelid was uneasy with this.

            “You say neutralize them, you mean kill them?” 

            “We have no choice” General Holland responded, “There is no other way to get them to stop their rampage. They have killed thousands of Earth people, in our book they are guilty of mass murder. Our answer is the Death penalty. They earned it. You are welcome to try to talk them out of their murderous plan, but I don’t see that they will stop because of you. Our jet fighters will be circling high altitude, waiting for your success. Get the belts off and keep yours on, we will do the rest,

Killing was against the Bedem code of ethics. In spite of the damage Burger and Slade were doing, the basic rule must be followed: a Bedem must not kill another Bedem Even on other planets; the law was still in effect.  Yelid was uneasy even if it was the Earth people doing the killing. “General Holland, we know what the boys are doing is wrong, but Cory and I do not want to be responsible for killing them”  Noble sentiments, the General thought, as he said,

“Boys, if you can think of another way, let me know. It looks at the moment like we have no other choice.”

 

Bendict and Astar choose not to lock in, but rather, to enter the atmosphere independently, they would rendezvous once down. The location would be a place called Death Valley.  The Monopods slid through the thin air as the heat shields took on a glow.  Both had reviewed the transmissions coming from the planet. They were aware of the destruction going on, and they were also tracking Yelid and Cory.  Bendict suggested that they should back up Yelid And Cory, who would most likely need their help in restraining Slade and Burger. The rescue ships were following just a few time periods behind. It would be great if they arrived early. The entire known planetary system was aware of what was going on in this remote unexplored sector. There were rumors that even the Supreme Watcher was alerted to the situation, after all, a rift in a wormhole corridor was a cause for galactic concern.    

“The Element of surprise is our top card” Astar nodded in agreement and joined Bendict as he switched on the stealth app.  The pods gracefully hovered over the desert floor,  both Astar and Bendict stepped out and locked their craft. They would travel on foot. Their navigation tools showed their location on a map,  They were also able to track the others.

“Oooh look at this” Astar said, kneeling down,  a tiny gas station stood on the side of the two lane road below the girls feet.  It had a shingle roof, a vent for a fireplace, a rickety wooden front porch, with a door and signs in the windows. Two pumping stations stood beside the store. All could fit under the girls thumb.

“It’s darling!” She said. This was their first contact with Earthly things. They were aware there was a size difference, but seeing the tiny shack was a thrill.

“Tiny people” Bendict grinned.  It would be great to meet some he thought. The blinking indicator on his strap caught his attention.

“I got to get back into my pod for a minute Astar, I am getting a transmission, and I think it’s from Punims pod”  Bendict opened the door panel, jumped in, and tuned in on the signal frequency.

 

The beautiful Bellagio was being ripped asunder under Slades crushing hands He liked punching through the walls and windows, ripping the rooms apart and turning the inside of the building, out. Slade took a deep breath and blew out his exhale, These were dense structures, and although they crumpled, they needed a bit of work to demolish them. Burger was handling the other side of the street, He had just walked through the Venice Casino, literally.  The sensation brought a smile to Burgers face.

“OK little Jack, time to find you,”  He eyed the strip before him, There were still people scurrying. Burger grinned as he sent out his remote viewers in search mode. It shouldn’t take too long.  The casino before him stood some thirty stories high,  the size of a good bench,  Burger turned his back to the square like structure, and sat himself down. The structure was not built to withstand the millions of tons of weight on the roof. The concrete pillers snapped and shattered. The steel beams bent before snapping. The roof buckled from the weight, and set a chain reaction on the floors below. From the roof down, the floors fell upon themselves, Those in the building had no means of escape. The ceiling simply fell with the weight of the boys bottom resting on it, the walls of the casino burst outward, shattering the windows and walls. Burgers immense frame sunk deeper and deeper into the structure, to his amusement.  He stood up and looked at the remains of the building, while brushing debris and mashed bodies off his rear.  What was that that caught his eye, in the street two blocks down?  His viewer confirmed that it was Jack, running toward one of the downtown Casinos. 

Jack glanced up the strip and saw the dark haired colossus sitting on Ceasers Palace, He watched as the building disintegrated beneath the giants rear. The structure blured and shattered under the boy.  Amazing, he thought as puffs of dense grey smoke rose from the demolished structure.   While the boy was occupied, Jack ran into the lobby of the Mirage,  He was surprised there were still people there, some even at the Slots!   He knew he could not stay, The giant would seek him out and destroy everything in his path.

 The stupid flying silvery beach ball with the big lens, was following him everywhere.  The last thing the camera recorded, before Jack whacked it with a sledge hammer, was of Jack  running to a downed motorcycle, in the parking lot.  The owner lay sprawled on the curb, hit by flying shrapnel.  The motorcycle still had the key in it.  Jack lifted the heavy machine, climbed aboard, and with a satisfying roar of the motor, headed south. He would seek the side streets, and try to avoid being found. If he could get out of town, the bike would take him miles away to safety.

The little idiot damaged his remote viewer, and for that Burger was angered, he regretted letting the little worm go. Burger would forgo random destruction, and would make a concentrated effort at seeking the tiny man.  He saw a man in a red shirt duck into the lobby of a Casino,  stooping down on hands and knees, Burger forced his hands through the tiny glass doors, and groped the main lobby, pulling out a handful of people. One was wearing a red shirt, but it was not Jack. Burger dashed them to the ground and mashed them, with a curse. Are you in this Casino? He spoke into his straps mike, The medallion Jack carried would transmit the message.  Jack hearing it, responded,

“No, you can rip it apart, I’m not there,  How much longer is this going to last?” Jack challenged.

Burger pleased with the response replied,

“Oh it will end soon enough for you, as soon as I get my hands on you”

The giant observation tower on the strip was three hundred feet taller than Slade, but not for long. Slade crumpled the towering needle like cardboard, the top support bent like soft wax, and fell to the boys feet. Twelve hundred feet below. The observation deck crunched under Slades foot. He noticed Burger kicking through some ruins, and asked if everything was OK,  Burger intent on his hunt now, nodded his response.

“There you are” The voice boomed, Jack looked up from his hiding spot in the alley.  The Giants massive form towered above the buildings,

“Consider yourself dead, it was a good fight you put up, but now it’s over for you” Burger reached down into the alley to grasp the tiny human.  Jack looked up, cursed and quickly planed his evasion. The boys hand was lowering toward him as Jack made his move. Cranking the Harley he reared up on his hind tires, and with a noisy blast, tore down the alley. 

“What?”  The motorcycle caught Burger by surprise. The alleyway was narrow, filled with obstacles, but this was working in Jacks favor,  Burger had a difficult time reaching between the narrow passageway,  It made Jack hard to reach.  Jack raced down the alleyway, aware that behind him the buildings were being torn apart. His bike bounced as he tore out once more onto the strip, heading like a bat out of hell, south,  Burger looked down from behind the building that Jack escaped.  He tore the building down viciously, and started to pursue Jack,  The Engine roared as Jack gunned it, leaning into the sleek machine, swerving to avoid the many obstacles blocking his path. He was aware of the pounding footsteps that were gaining on him, He realized he could not outrace this giant.  Burger was gaining on the tiny man, when he swerved off the strip, and into the parking lot of the Treasure Island Casino,  not stopping in the lot, he headed for the underground parking structure and disappeared within.

Burger looked down at the elaborate structure with it’s grotto and pirate ships. Burger knelt by the building and lowered his view to look into the parking structure. It was dark in there. His ears perked up as he heard the sound of the motorcycle gunning.

“I’m so ready for you” Said Burger, grinning. “Come on out to daddy”  Burger watched as the tiny motorcycle sped out of the structure, making a sharp right turn, and raced to the street.  What Burger did not observe, was the red car that exited to the left. This was the car Jack traded for his motorcycle. He gave the driver fair warning and did not want to look back when the Giant found himself chasing the wrong guy. By that time Jack would reach the south side of town, and head out into the open road. He was sure the giant had other things to do, then to track him down.

Burger looked at the tiny motorcycle in his hand, and the rider laid out next to it.

“You’re not Jack” He roared.  His fist pounded the machine and it’s rider.

“OK, Jack, Where are you now” Jack was reluctant to speak and give away his position, but he was already ten miles out of town, so he said with impunity,

“Well how de do Mr Haman, It looks like I beat the odds, eh. You had me worried there for a while”  It was late, Burger still had it in his plans to confront Yelid and Cory, and besides that, the Las Vegas strip was smoldering ruins. It irked him that this tiny speck could outsmart him, but no problem, After Cory and Yelid were taken care of, it would be His and Slades world, and the stupid little worm was still holding the tracking unit. 

“Lets get out of here,”  He called to Slade. “We got some more work to do.”  


continued          

 




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