Starcorp 2: Hostile Acquisitions

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CHAPTER 19: Place Your Bets

The Warburg Majestic Casino was the wealthiest and most extravagant casino in all the starcorps. This distinction was owed to the fact that Starship Warburg was a BX01 property and because the wealthy and powerful from throughout the Starcorp League came here to make their biggest deals. BX01 was also the location where the largest investments in adult play and pleasures was being done.

Warburg was one of 4 starships that comprised the BX01 Starcorp League administrative hub. The Berenberg was the largest starship in the BX01 cluster. Inside its habitat ring were all BX01′s banking, finance, exchange and insurance work spaces and office structures. There was also an abundance of legal, executive and government office spaces inside to meet the needs of business and political representatives from throughout the starcorp community. In addition, the Berenberg was loaded with showrooms, convention centers, auditoriums, restaurants, luxurious hotels and several dozen opulent homes. The Giannini and the Rothschild were the 2 smallest starships in the cluster. They provided most of the living spaces for the employees who ran, maintained and serviced BX01. The Warburg’s position as the second largest starship made it the ideal location for much of the starcorp’s assortment of amusement, recreation and entertainment enterprises.

The most common and lucrative entertainment business throughout the starcorps were casinos. Every starcorp had at least one and usually several casinos within their dominions. There was nothing new about the presence of casinos in starcorps. The Warburg Majestic Casino came into existence 23 years before the starcorps fled the Sol System. Little had changed internally since its conception. There had been many decorative and presentational changes over the course of this time, but the games of chance that it offered remained unchanged until now.

Nearly a year had passed since the start of work to upgrade the docking bays inside the WDF02 basestars Colossus and Goliath. Installation of the robotic docking rack was completed more than 2 months earlier. Testing and training in its operation were ongoing. The DGP09 War Machine was more than a month into drills and practice maneuvers in preparation for the coming war. Publicized reports on both events helped to engender an anxious excitement throughout the Starcorp League, and the casinos took notice. Odds were being put up and wagers were being made in every casino in the League.

Gambling on an event that was occurring outside the home star system of the casino had not been done before. The time delay discouraged any thought of doing so. The universal interest in the outcome of the coming battle between DGP09 and WDF02 caused this event to be an exception to this paradigm. Everyone had an opinion on who would win, and most were willing to place a bet on it.

The casinos listed this coming war on their sportsbook boards and attached odds based upon their calculus of each war-machine’s strengths and weaknesses. To speed up the accumulation of information about each war-machine, the casinos throughout the league came together to orchestrate the financing of Radstar, a null space data relay network. This was a startup service that owed its promise to a well-known fact among most starcorp inhabitants. Data can be exchanged in null-space from one spaceship to another.

The problem with communicating across real-space was that transmissions took decades to reach the closes neighboring star system. Normally, null-space wireless transmissions got absorbed into the ether of the void. The transmission of data from one spaceship to another in null-space was possible when the temporal fields of the 2 vessels were in sync and touching. Creating a network of communication vessels was always known to be theoretically feasible. It was the expense that held up the implementation.

The financing concern that had the Starcorp League dragging its feet had to do with the size and number of these communication vessels they would need to deploy to link the starcorps to each other. It took the power output of a starship or basestar to generate a temporal bubble that enveloped two or more star-systems. Building communication vessels of this size to do nothing but sit stationary in null-space and exchange data was an expense that had yet to find financial backing, until now. Casinos throughout the Starcorp League were desperate for timely information about the upcoming war. This kind of near real-time need-to-know about something occurring in another star-system did not exist on this scale before. A desire for updates on the coming war is what motivated casinos throughout the Starcorp League to band together and leverage the Radstar Communication Network into existence.

In the initial stage, the Radstar executives elected to go with spaceship size communication vessels. This decision was motivated by the fact that there were thousands of spaceships within the starcorp community. Purchasing and converting several hundred of these spaceships was quick and easy. The large number of spaceships was needed because of the small temporal bubbles they produced relative to a starship. This meant that they would have to be strung out across the starcorp community in chains of twenty to thirty between most neighboring star-systems. The prolonged maintenance of null-space bubbles was never a concern. Nearly 100% of the energy needed in null-space travel was in the breach of the null-space threshold and in the size of the temporal field being created. This was thought of as being synonymous with blowing up a balloon. All the work is in the blowing of air into the balloon. Tying off the opening was the only requirement for the maintenance of the inflated balloon.

The proof that Radstar was up and working was estimated to be a few hours away. Two hours earlier, a simple math problem was sent from BX01’s Majestic Casino to the Andromeda Casino in Starcorp N3XR02. This starcorp was chosen because it was farther away from BX01 than any other. The answer to the equation was expected to arrive within an estimated ten-hour window, if all went as hoped.

The approximate time of the arrival of this reply was based on the expectation that a series of data exchanges were executed without fail. Specially designed spaceships were used to complete these data exchanges, but there was nothing exotic or excessively expensive about them. In many ways the opposite was true. The communication spaceships did not have habitat rings. They were configured to operate without the assistance of a human occupant. Where these communication spaceships exceeded the average spaceship was in power. The power plants inside a communication spaceship produced four times the energy of the average spaceship three times its size. Communication spaceships were built to produce power, but the primary beneficiary of this power was the temporal field projector.

The smallest temporal projector is five times the size of the average spaceplane. Their large size is the reason why only spaceships and starships have them. Two separate temporal projectors of equivalent size would seldom have more than a single digit percentage of difference in capability between them. To significantly add to the capability of a temporal projector, two or more of them had to be linked together. This was common in spaceships and starships, but this too came at a price. Temporal projectors had to be sustained by a significant and steady supply of power. When power to a temporal projector is shut down, the temporal reaction being sustained inside it dies out. A rebuilt projector would have to be installed to replace it. Spaceships and starships installed only as many temporal field projectors as they could afford to sustain. The power demands of the habitat and the structural integrity of the spaceship were the two greatest limiting factors to the number of temporal field projectors a spaceship or starship had. Spaceships that were built for speed did away with habitat rings and put as many reactors and temporal field projectors as they could in a sturdy compact package. This was the basic design of communication spaceships. Communication spaceships maintained three times as many temporal projectors as spaceships of equivalent size.

Extracting data from these communication spaceships was the work of relay spaceships. These relay spaceships were expected to accelerate near to the speed of light and then sustain that speed for the duration of their in-service time. The period of in-service operation of a relay spaceship was expected to last from several weeks to several months before it was swapped out by another relay spaceship. While it was in null-space, the function of a relay spaceship was to connect with the communication spaceship and exchange data transmissions. While it was in real-space, the function of a relay spaceship was to exchange data transmissions with the starcorp that they serviced. This was to be done while the relay spaceship was moving near the speed of light. There was no need to slow down, and not slowing down was the directive. This high speed in real-space was a necessary requirement.

While in null-space, a relay spaceship needed only to sync its temporal field with the temporal field of the communication spaceship in the area. To match the time dilation of the temporal field bubble produced by the communication spaceship, the small relay spaceship minimized the amount of energy it needed to produce a null-space barrier breach. This is the effect that high speed had on temporal field projections. When a spaceship is moving slow through real-space, the energy needed to breach the temporal field barrier is high. When a spaceship is moving fast through real-space, the energy needed to breach the temporal field barrier is low. This speed effect is always used to influence temporal field size. The maximum size of the temporal field bubble was depended upon the capability of each temporal field projector, the power output of the spaceship’s reactors and the speed that the spaceship is moving at the breach of null-space.

“Welcome,” Sergey loudly greeted with a large smile and raised arms. “I’m so glad that you could come.”

Frank and Charlotte were wandering through the main room of the casino when Sergey Ivanov saw them on the monitor in his office and ran out to greet them. Sergey was the manager of the Warburg Majestic Casino and a partial owner. His height, weight and features were average, but it was his attire and grooming that lent an elegance to his appearance. His behavior toward Frank and Charlotte was mildly fawning. It was clear to anyone looking, Sergey was immensely pleased to see Frank in his casino.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Frank returned to Sergey’s remark as he scanned the casino.

Frank was not the only person there waiting for the return message from the Andromeda Casino. The Majestic Casino was filled with patrons eager to see if a return message would come within the ten-hour window it was estimated to arrive in. A timer in all the wall and hanging monitors was calculating up from the start of the ten-hour window. At this moment, it was displaying seven hours and a quarter more since the start of the return message window.

“Good, good,” Sergey cheerfully approved Frank’s reply. “Make yourselves at home. You’re my special guests. Food and drinks are on me.”

“Thank you,” Frank replied with a turn to look at Sergey’s smiling face.

The two men shook hands, and Sergey threw in a slight bow from the hips. Frank entertained this mildly servile behavior from Sergey with the façade of being pleased by the display. He grinned and nodded at a pace equal to his greeter. Charlotte gave little attention to this activity and looked about at the casino with an admiring smile. She was clothed in a glittering figure-hugging evening gown and modestly adorned with expensive jewelry. Frank was dressed in a sharply cut suit that matched the groom of his hair.

“The place looks great,” Charlotte announced with a wide smile.

Sergey positioned himself alongside Frank and Charlotte as he began to impart on the changes and additions that were recently done to the casino. The three of them strolled through the main room as Sergey lauded the improvements.

“It looks different,” Frank commented as they walked.

“I like it,” Charlotte heartened to Sergey with enthusiasm.

“So, are the changes for the rollout of Radstar?” Frank questioned with a look toward Sergey for a response.

“Yes,” Sergey answered without hesitation. “Radstar is going to change everything.”

“It hasn’t worked yet,” Frank returned with a dubious shake of his head and a smile. “And you’re running out of time.”

“It’ll work,” Sergey retorted enthusiastically. “And we owe it all to you,” Sergey continued with glee in his voice. “This all started with your contract with the Earthers and now this war with DPG has Casinos all through the League taking in record bets on the outcome. And with Radstar we can get news about current events in a few hours instead of two to seven months. This is going to reconnect the starcorps.”

Frank accepted this answer with a dubious look. The clock was ticking ever closer to the end of the ten-hour window, and Frank had his doubts that the return message from the Andromeda Casino in Starcorp N3XR02 would arrive any time soon, and he was not alone in his opinion. The casino sportsbook had the odds at 3 to 1 against the return message coming within the ten-hour window and 2 to 1 against it returning within the next twenty days.

“I hope you’re right,” Frank responded with a smile to Sergey’s rousing declaration.

After a few minutes of walking, Frank, Charlotte and Sergey came to a stop just inside the High Limit Gaming Lounge. This room was small by comparison to the casino main floor, and it was less crowded with people and games. Slot machines dominated the room, and much of the remaining space supported table games. The room was full of people gambling, drinking and talking. Unlike the main room, there was still room enough to move three steps without bumping into another person.

“As you can see, everyone is here,” Sergey declared with pride.

Mingling about in the room was a who’s who of the rich and powerful. At a glance, it appeared that half of the people in the room were big business financiers with publically familiar faces and the other half consisting of their attractive plus ones. Several individuals noted Frank’s entry into the room, and a few gave him a wave or a nod. Charlotte returned the attention of several in the room with a smile and a wave. Frank had slowly looked around the room before settling his gaze on the distinctive hair and broad back of Ryan DeWitt seated at a Blackjack table.

“Please, enjoy the amenities,” Sergey proffered after noting who had Frank’s attention.

Sergey gave a parting bow and then left Frank and Charlotte to enjoy the room. Seconds after his departure, Frank began to walk toward the Blackjack table where Ryan was seated. The burly Ryan was richly adorned in a velvet tuxedo. Standing by his side was his consort, an exceedingly attractive young man. His clothing had a feminine flare and his face was adorned with makeup. None of this was shocking for this room or for the starcorps in general. All forms of sexuality were acceptable here. Charlotte held on to Frank’s arm as she followed his lead. Frank steered his way to a vacant chair that was situated second from the left end of table. The table was a semicircle and had seven positions. Ryan was seated at the chair third from the right end. Ryan’s consort gave Charlotte a smile and a wave, and she returned the gesture with equal felicity.

After seating himself in the vacant chair, Frank pressed his wand to the rectangular monitor built into the table while speaking the command, “computer connect-enter.” The rectangle lit up into a computer touch screen that was linked to his wand. Frank began to negotiate the computer screen commands with well-practiced taps and swipes with his fingers.

“Do you like to gamble, Mr. Weaver?” Ryan queried as he looked at Frank with an amused expression.

An instant after Frank stopped tapping into the computer touch screen, and just before Ryan asked his question, a streak of light built into the table began blinking in rapid succession from the direction of the dealer’s station to Frank’s touch screen. The presence of the light alerted the dealer that Frank had purchased some chips. He glanced down at his monitor, noted the purchase amount, collected the chips in the appropriate quantity from the dispenser at his station and slid them across to Frank. The lights stopped blinking when the chips registered inside Frank’s touch screen.

“Not particularly, normally I don’t gamble with money,” Frank returned as he positioned and organized his chips.

“What do you gamble with, Mr. Weaver?” Ryan questioned with a sly undertone in his voice.

The dealer began calling for bets in a soft voice and with hand gestures. Frank pushed his ante forward just as he began speaking his answer.

“I gamble on myself.”

“Oh, that’s true of all gamblers,” Ryan disputed pleasantly and with a smile. “Gamblers are people who think they’re smarter than everyone else.”

“Gamblers are people who place their fates in the role of some dice, the spin of a wheel or the fall of the cards,” Frank corrected. “I prefer to gamble on my talents—my ingenuity.”

“So, you think you’re crafty,” Ryan responded with a smile. “You gamble on your skills. I can respect that. Gambling on luck is a fool’s wager.”

In the middle of Ryan’s discourse, the dealer began passing out cards to the five players at the table.

“Still, it is possible to make a fool’s wager, even when you’re gambling on yourself,” Frank softly returned as he watched the fall of the cards.

Ryan gave Frank’s reply a momentary chuckle. He stopped to tap down on the table for the dealer to deal him a card and then another. He waved the dealer off after the second card and then began speaking his reply with a hint of a laugh in his voice.

“Only fools make a fool’s wager. Win or lose, succeeding in life is about being strong, smart and prepared. You’re just a nobody if you don’t put a bet on the table.”

Frank tapped down on the table for a card and then a second card as he listened to Ryan’s return. He waved off on a third and then looked toward Ryan just as he began to speak.

“But when you’re not prepared for what’s about to happen, then the smart thing to do is back away from the table.”

“That’s where the fun comes in,” Ryan responded quick and with a decide smile. “Who is the better man?”

“Losing isn’t fun,” Ryan contradicted gently. “Especially if you lose big.”

“True,” Ryan conceded hesitantly. “But high-stake bets can be exciting.”

The dealer turned over his card and announced that Frank was the only winner at the table. The dealer was in the middle of collecting the bets of the other players when a roar of cheers resounded through the casino. Everyone who was not looking at the wall and ceiling monitors suddenly began looking around for the reason behind this outburst. Within seconds, all eyes focused in on one of the many wall or ceiling monitors in the casino. In the display was the message:

Beth Stevens, Andromeda Casino, Starcorp N3XR02

To: Sergey Ivanov, Majestic Casino, Starcorp BX01

Equation: 12x + 32 = 176

Answer: x = 12

The dealer was awed by this message for several seconds and did nothing but stare at it. At the end of this time, he glanced at the gamers across the table, flashed a wide smile, and then he pushed Frank’s winnings over to him.

“Congratulations,” the dealer complimented with a nod.

Frank accepted the compliment with no response. His attention had already turned back toward Ryan. He exchanged a brief stare, and then he began to speak.

“You’re going to lose,” Frank coldly retorted.

Frank stood up from his seat, took a chip off his winnings and slid it over to the dealer.

“Thank you,” the dealer quickly spoke with a nod.

“Enjoy your winnings while it lasts,” Ryan enunciated with disdain in his voice.

Frank slid the remainder of the chips onto the rectangular touch screen monitor built into table, raised his arm that had the wand wrapped around the wrist and then spoke to it.

“Computer, deposit my winnings-enter.”

Frank’s wand verbally acknowledged the command, and then the rectangular computer touch screen in the table lit up. A streak of light from Frank’s touch screen to the dealer’s station began blinking in rapid succession toward the dealer. The dealer noted the activity on his monitor, and then collected the chips that were in front of Frank. When the chips were back in the dispenser, the lights went out.

“I will,” Frank answered back just before turning and walking away with Charlotte on his arm.

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