The Globoid Casino

22 Aug

The space-traversing globoid named the Joyship was devoted to entertainment, diversions, and gambling. It had just entered a close orbit around the planet of Siliqua.

Captain Teb Chie summoned the men he was to send below to whip up interest and enthusiasm among the inhabitants. The experienced publicity specialist was Boge Nerr, one capable of filling the pleasure halls of the vessel with customers. He had succeeded in doing this in a multitude of different worlds.

A thin, towering figure with sparkling green eyes, the business agent entered the private quarters of his boss, anticipating what he was going to hear: the customary command to draw in large numbers customers to the globoid ship on its several ferries for hauling the public.

Teb Chie, short but muscular, opened the cabin door and invited Boge to enter.

The two men took comfortable squabs and the employer got at once to serious business.

“I want you to realize that Siliqua will present us with difficulties in attracting the public to come up here. This planet is infested with a strict, puritanical cult that calls itself the Rigorists. They oppose all wagering, gambling, and even sports anywhere on their territory. This group of fanatics will put up resistance and obstacles to the message you will be bringing to them, Boge. A lot of ingenuity will be required if we are to make money and cover our expenses, my friend.”

The agent nodded with confidence. “I believe that I can handle these know-nothings, sir.”

“Good!” beamed the commander of the globe-shaped ship. “I have myself prepared ads and copy that you can reproduce and distribute down below. A lot of these can be transmitted on facsimile broadcasts that are turned into wall notices. But it is you who are the expert in this. We shall expect you to fill all our halls, my boy.”

“I will not disappoint anyone,” said Boge before taking the flimsies off the low table in front of him, rising, and leaving for his own cabin.

Thick black clouds from the charcoal-burning fourneaux of Siliqua rose above the giant city. Industrial and residential chimblies filled the atmosphere with more pollution than Boge had ever seen or smelt before anywhere in a dozen star systems.

This population will be hungry for escape and entertainment, he told himself. There are many potential gamblers hereabouts on this dirty planet.

Once the ferry carrying him had safely landed at the regional transit port, the publicity representative started out on his campaign of advertising the arrival of the globoid positioned above.

Instructing the ferry pilot to wait for him at the bateau dock, he summoned an empty jitney cab and gave the driver as his destination the city’s wireline station, from which most of the public transportation originated. It was here that Boge bought time for a mass of announcements describing the attractions of the newly arrived space globoid carrying a casino.

The clerk taking down his orders suddenly leaned over and whispered to him.

“There is a message that I am to deliver to you, sir. Someone who is interested your enterprise will be waiting for you in the bar of the Congius Hotel. Ask for Gipon. He will be there all this morning awaiting your presence.”

Boge thanked him, then went outside and hailed a passing jitney to take him to the mysterious place he was summoned to.

What was up? he wondered. His guess was that this Gipon was somehow connected to the gambling that existed in Siliqua City That was the most probable explanation.

Confident that he could face down any threat from such a quarter, Boge walked into the crowded bar room. He motioned to a bartender who came over to see what he wanted.

“Is there a man called Gipon here? I have an appointment to meet with him.”

“You will find him in the last booth, away in the back.” He pointed down an aisle past the crowd of drinkers standing along the bar.

Boge thanked him and headed in the direction indicated.

In a high booth of wine-colored jacaranda wood sat a pudgy, chunky man in a peppermint suit. His bluish hyacinth eyes focused on Boge as if he was able to recognize instantly who he was.

“Gipon?” asked the space-dweller as he stepped before the stranger.

The latter nodded yes.

“You must be from the visiting globoid. We two have something to discuss, so please be seated, sir.”

As he sat down opposite the rotund man, Boge noticed a glass on the table.

“I’m drinking a rum swizzle,” said the native. “Can I order you something?”

“Not yet, thank you,” answered the ship agent. “I was told that there is some business that you wish to go into with me.”

“That is correct,” grumbled Gipon. “So, let me get down to cases. I called you here to give a warning that must be conveyed to the commander of your gambling craft.”

“A warning? What kind of warning?” said Boge with feeling.

“On this planet, there is a fierce and virulent movement opposed to all forms of gambling. It is of enormous concern to me, for I am the president of the Siliqua Sporting Association. My organization represents all the casinos, sport halls, and games of chance that exist on this world. Our mortal enemy is the cult of Rigorists, and they will soon become yours as well. That is why you were invited here: to hear this message from me.

“The healthiest thing for your vessel and crew would be to depart from orbit at once.”

The hyacinth eyes gave Boge a stony stare. The visitor suddenly raised himself and moved out into the aisle. Without a word, he made for the entrance of the bar.

Threats such as these were unacceptable to the globoid casino’s operators.

The fat man had to be motivated by fear of the space vessel’s competition. The anti-gambling fanatics were only an excuse for attempting to get the new factor to leave the vicinity of Siliqua.

Boge returned to the ferry and ascended back to the ship of chance.

In a few days, bateaux full of customers were traveling up to the globoid.

Enthusiasm for what transpired in the halls of the vessel grew and spread below on the surface of the planet.

The expert players on the staff had researched anthropological literature in order to set up card games certain to be popular with the guests from Siliqua.

Five Hundred, Fan-tan, Crazy Eights, Conquian, Besigue, Faro, Picquet, and Skart were universal card games that all the dealers were prepared to engage in.

Specifically Siliquan card games were taught to the playing staff in order to meet the tastes of this particular population: Trees, Anaconda, Guts, Have a Heart, Double Draw, Follow the Queen, and Cow-pie.

For the monied elite of gamblers who came loaded with funds, there were private rooms set aside for Baccara, Poque, Whisk, and Hazard. Those who favored dice found their way into zahr and crabs parlors.

But the apex of gambling fever was located in the innermost chamber where giant electric screens flashed boundless series of numbers produced by an electronic randomizer.

Captain Chie and Boge Nerr entered this crowded hall on the third night after the opening for business of the globoid. It was clear to both of them that cash and checks were flowing to the house in a torrent. A frenzy had seized hold of both bettors and spectators. Expectancy kept all eyes riveted on the ever-changing random ciphers.

Boge turned to his boss and began to grin. “It looks like my publicity efforts have turned out…”

A great explosive sound interrupted his prideful statement.

What was happening? asked all those looking about for the cause of the noise.

All at once, the sign boards with numbers went dead. Overhead lighting went dark. Emergency battery lamps went on.

“The energy system!” gasped Chie. “It must be something electrical causing the trouble.”

Boge nodded. “We must get to the generator lines,” he said excitedly.

Throughout the halls and chambers of the ship that were dedicated to gambling, the secondary lighting system had automatically gone into operation to replace the malfunctioning primary illumination.

What was wrong? the captain wondered as the pair rushed down the stairwell to the generators. Boge was immediately behind him.

Crew technicians were already busy restoring the main system of power. The head of the team making the necessary electrical repairs gave a gloomy report on the situation.

“Someone, somehow, placed an explosive charge of azole between the main generator and the distribution grid. The entire primary network is out of order as a result of the internal blast that was suffered. The replacement repairs will take a considerable time.”

“How long?” desperately asked the captain of the globoid.

“At least a week of day and night labor,” was the answer given. “Possibly longer.”

With gambling closed down on the space vessel, Captain Chie appeared determined to uncover the identity of the invisible enemy who had caused the disaster.

He summoned Boge to his office and gave him a specific assignment.

“I want you to descend to the planet and investigate our dedicated enemies, the Rigorists. Find out what you can about their capacity for destructive actions like what we witnessed here on the globoid.”

The publicity agent took a ferry to Siliqua City as soon as he could.

Once there, he went to the Wireline Repository and looked up all the available public information about the anti-gambling movement.

Boge searched on and on, staring at the optical screen in front of him in the gigantic research room.

The Rigorists campaigned against gambling out of profound moral anger. They believed that wagering led to vice and degradation of everyone involved with it. Bordels with prostitutes were frequently adjacent to casinos. They thought that wherever gambling raised its head, sin and crime followed.

Degeneracy of all varieties resulted when games of chance were permitted.

Young, inspired Rigorists had brought fires and bombings on many notorious dens of gambling on the planet’s surface. The syndicates had come to fear the violence of the self-righteous. Where would the sword of the puritans strike next? was asked everywhere on Siliqua.

Boge decided to find and talk with Mr. Gipon of the Sporting Association.

It was apparent that the planet’s gambling interests and the globoid faced a common dangerous enemy.

He found the wirephone number of that organization and used a public transmitter to make a call.

Boge had to wait only a minute out on the cobble sidewalk before a black electromobile appeared at a low speed, searching for him. The person with whom he had spoken had promised him transportation to a meeting with a high official of the Sporting Association.

All the windows of the vehicle were of one-way glass, so that no one inside it could be seen or identified.

Boge opened the right side passenger door and met with a terrifying surprise. A gargantuan shape in a red uniform sat staring at him.

“Climb in, please,” said the heavy figure. “We have certain things to talk over.”

The overwhelmed publicist did as ordered and the passenger car began to move forward. Soon it was cruising the streets at a leisurely speed.

“Permit me to introduce myself,” began the man sitting beside Boge. “My name is Teno Drimn, and I am executive director of the Rigor Organization. I take it that you have heard of us. The population refers to us as the Rigorists.”

“I know a little about you people,” admitted Boge. “Your ideology is completely opposed to all varieties of gambling, is it not?”

Drimn gave a single nod as his walnut eyes glowed with pride and satisfaction.

“Some believe that we are against all recreation, but that is not true. Our hatred of games of chance arises from how these depraved activities corrode the soul and conscience. Men and women are driven to desperation and evil when they become losers. And even occasional, temporary winnings harm those who seem to have fortune on their side.

“No, nothing of value can ever result from the sort of activities that go on up there aboard your casino globoid. They are totally abominable.”

Both passengers paused as the driver turned a corner onto a mimosa-lined boulevard.

“There are those who claim that the perpetrator of the explosion aboard the globoid had to be one of your members,” reported Boge. He waited for a response that only came after an interim of careful thought.

“I was informed that the head of the Sporting Association met with you. I have no doubts that slanderous accusations were made by him about me and my comrades.”

“I take it, then, that you deny all suspicions and allegations of any sort.”

The face of Drimn turned red. “Indeed, my followers are perfectly innocent. Ask yourself this: who has a direct economic interest in the failure of the globoid? Whose planetary monopoly is being threatened? It is clear why that selfish clique of professional gamblers on Siliqua is attempting to defame us, the Rigor movement. They have to throw blame and suspicion off of themselves, onto me and my colleagues.

“But there can be no question over where the true guilt lies. The crime on the globoid was a result of competition and rivalry.”

“I shall have to ponder what you have told me,” said Boge with a slow sigh.

So, the Sportmen accuse the Rigorists, while the latter try to incriminate the former.

The outworlder asked Drimn to leave him off at the space docking station.

Boge sat with Captain Chie at the chief’s table in the casino dining room.

Over Anguilla from a distant star system, the publicity agent related his experience with both Gipon and Drimn.

“The Sporting Asociation wants us to blame the Rigorists, just as the latter have the planetary gambling interests as their target. What can we make of such a situation, sir?”

Chie was about to give an answer when a loud, shrill siren noise struck their ears.

The gambling patrons, at a loss as to what was happening, looked about in panic. Boge and the Captain sat in stunned silence, neither one saying or doing anything.

A large man in a white chef’s cap ran forth out of the globoid’s main kitchen. “Fire!” he shouted with terror in his voice. “The ovens are ablaze all of a sudden!”

At the same time, black smoke began flowing into the great dining hall.

The chef hurried up to the table of Captain Chie and gave him an instant report.

“Containers of the colza oil we use in our cooking somehow caught fire,” he breathlessly announced. “Flames are spreading to any object that is inflammable.”

“Is the sprinkler system in operation yet?” inquired Teb Chie.

“We waited and waited, but they failed to come on, sir.”

“Is anything being done, then?” asked the Captain, rising from the table.

“The kitchen staff is fighting to keep the fire from spreading, but all that they have are small, useless extinguishers. Fortunately, the engine crew is arriving with more powerful chemical retarders. At least the damage has been contained and limited to the kitchen facilities.”

Most of the dining patrons had fled the eating hall by now.

Chie turned around and addressed Boge.

“I have to take charge of this battle against the fire,” he mumbled, then walked away.

Returning to his own cabin, the advertising agent realized that this had been another attack by one of the forces opposed to having the globoid casino remaining in orbit near Siliqua.

But who specifically was this dangerous enemy?

Having fallen asleep earlier than usual, Boge woke up during the dead period of night. The space vessel was, by now, devoid of all its customers and patrons, these having descended homeward in the ferries. Fully rested, he decided to take a walk about to learn what he could.

Quiet now reigned in the halls and corridors of the gambling section. One might be led to believe that the entire crew and staff were slumbering in their cabins.

Boge made his way toward the rear area of the ship, where the fractal mechanisms were located. He was conscious of not being seen or heard by anyone still about. A sense of being invisible struck him. He proceeded to the rear section from where the globoid was propelled when traveling through the vacuum of space.

The corridor into this area came to an end with a thick door of titanium alloy. Knowing the simple combination of numbers that could open it, Boge pressed the buttons in proper sequence. The door slowly opened in front of him, revealing the particle generators of the engine system.

An unforeseen factor stood in front of the power chamber. It was the small shape of Captain Teb Chie, who held a pulse pistol in his right hand. The weapon was aimed directly at the newcomer, Boge.

“I know what you are here for,” said the skipper. “But please tell me what made you suspect there was internal orchestration of the threats?”

Boge drew a deep breath. “Simple logic led me to conceive the idea that the origin of our troubles was right here aboard the globoid. The culprits were not the planet’s Rigorists or the surface gambling syndicates. They had their motives, but never strong enough for such violent action as the setting of fires. No, the instigation had to be aboard with us.

“But what the motive could be eluded me. That remains the great mystery that I have no answer to.”

Captain Teb Chie grimaced sardonically. “How else can I convince the bulk of our shareholders to sell their stock to me at a deep discount? The market value of this casino has fallen to rock bottom on the exchanges of a dozen planets. My brokers are busy buying up holdings at bargain rates.”

“You plan to gain personal ownership of the globoid?”

The Captain, nodding yes, failed to anticipate the leap that Boge made toward him. A blow to the lower right arm of Chie dislodged the weapon and made it fall to the floor. This allowed the publicity agent to pick it up and take control.

The situation now reversed, Boge ordered the Captain to head for the vessel’s small but secure brig. It was easy to have the incriminated Chie locked up now that a convincing argument for his arrest was possible.

“Here is the individual responsible for the recent explosions and fires we have suffered,” explained the one who now held the gun.

The Captain was willing to confess his culpability now that he was cornered.

“I saw rivers of money flowing to the absentee shareholders who shared in the colossal profits of the globoid’s casino. But year after year, my salary remained unchanged.

“So, I came to see my chance of becoming one of the richest operators in this section of space. What could help me buy up shares at lowered prices more than a series of damaging incidents? Suspicion automatically fell upon the Rigorists of Siliqua, and even on the competitors we have on the planet’s surface.” He lowered his voice and whispered to Boge. “Join with me and let me free. I will make you wealthy, my friend.”

“Too much of a gamble, sir,” answered the one who had caught him. “I have never been a risk-taker. It is only by chance that I came to work for a space casino. I am going to play it safe in this particular instance,” he declared with an enigmatic smile.

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