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The Red Queen's Gamble

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   “Damn you, Wilks.”

   Her chest and back tingled in pain from the bullet. No momentum, no push forward, just the feeling of being shot. It hurt every time, no matter what the weapon was.

She took a deep breath. And then another. It would be over soon. Her lungs were slowly filling with her own blood.

   Tony brought her to the warehouse a few moments before. Just in from the street she was a courier with information they could not trust other couriers with. Identifying herself to the guards they granted her access. They allowed her to cross the cement floor. She was talking with her Don about those in the family lower than herself and their placement throughout the waterfront district. It was an issue that no longer seemed important.

   He carried a .38 Long Colt pistol in one hand. The weapon was held down at his side and pointing to the left. However, he was not the one who had shot her.

He bled as well. His face was suddenly slack and expressionless.She saw him blink once. He tried to speak, his lips silently mouthing words.

   And he died.

   From the way his eyes quickly glazed over, she knew the life was gone. Must have been a heart shot. He slumped forward, the whole of his weight suddenly upon her. She could hold him. For a moment, just a moment, she would still have her strength. Supporting him took almost all of her concentration.

   Someone screamed.

   The Colt fell to the floor.

Bringing her free hand up, she touched her chest. It was there somewhere. Feeling for the edges of the wound, her fingers worked to find out how badly she was hit. When she brought her hand away, blood and a few chips of bone covered her hand. Regardless, she rubbed her hand on her clothing. This was the last act of a dying person desperately clinging to life.

   She went to one knee. The strength of her body was slipping away. She was no longer able to carry the weight of the Don. His lifeless form fell to the bare cement floor. His suit, arrow collar, red silk tie and cummerbund ruined by his own blood. His end had arrived in the same barrage of death that she received.

   Her hand was on the floor as she tried to will her elbow to remain locked, but her arm was growing numb. Losing all control, her own life slipping away, she lost the battle. She felt the slight chill of the floor on her cheek as she succumbed to the inevitable.

   In death, the world began to disappear. Things that were real and solid about her no longer had existence. The wound, and the pain it caused, were seeping away. Everything was fading to nothing as the streets and warehouses of Chicago turned black. The sounds of the cars just outside the big bay doors grew louder and louder until it was one overwhelming noise, a crescendo, like a rush of wind.

   A game was lost. The playing was over. Wilks had won.

   Only the memory remained.

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

   She would have to fare better in this next module, or die trying.

   There was a flash of light as she passed Limbo and the others, the five hundred odd virtual players testing their skill in the Great Game with her, were given a few minutes of warning before being brought up to speed. Those that still lived in the Chicago Module vanished from that existence. The Great Game reshuffled everyone and thrust them in a new level.

   It was nearly dark when they appeared over the map. The full moon gave some light to see by. Stars lit the sky above. As always, with most of the modules of the Great Game, they arrived on the map somewhere between heaven and earth.

   The night clouds above them were closer than the ground was below. Here she would hover until she gave the command for descent.

   Not as good as the older gamers with numbers or distances, if asked she would have to say that original position was over a thousand feet above the game world. Possibly two thousand. This was how it was always done. It gave the gamers a good look at the lay of the land they were about to enter. If it were daylight, she could see roads, streams, rivers, useful landmarks, as well as her fellow players who appeared with her scattered randomly in the sky.  If you knew what to look for the size of the buildings and other structures gave you an idea of the Mod you arrived in.

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