For Kayelle - from "The Alliance"
A dramatic color or pure white?
She could wear either and her new wardrobe provided choices not known on Viridia.<O:p</O:p
White it was. A simple dress with a decorous neckline in a fabric soft enough to cling, promising much while revealing nothing. Hair loose, brushed until it shone, no decorations and no jewelry. She’d looked into Rohan’s mind and seen herself there. She’d make that image live and see how he reacted.
At one fifteen, she entered the game room and found a high chair waiting for her behind Dakar’s chair. She sat, ankles crossed, legs decorously slanted to one side and accepted a drink from a passing waiter—as Dakar’s guest, she would pay for nothing, the gold token unnecessary.<O:p</O:p
A deal was proceeding, the automatic machine delivering cards to each player in the prescribed order, so she had an excuse not to look at Rohan. It was enough to feel his reaction in her mind.
He was fascinated, not even looking at his cards until Dakar reminded him. He reacted badly and then lost the hand with foolish bid, the knuckles of the hand holding the cards going white when he realized his mistake.<O:p</O:p
Kayelle wasn’t proud of her satisfaction. It felt unclean, as if she lowered herself in everyone’s eyes.
All players returned their cards to the machine and it whirred longer in the shuffle than usual before announcing the deck damaged. No one looked at Rohan as the supervisor passed a new deck with the seals unbroken around the table before removing the jokers and inserting it in the machine.<O:p</O:p
Dakar was right. The cards were boring, the individual reactions predictable, as round followed round, the odd mistake in calculating the probabilities coming almost as a relief. Even the big pots followed predictable patterns and Kayelle stopped following the run of the cards when she sensed Dakar was playing with only half his mind, the rest waiting for a pattern to emerge to say that the next kill was imminent.<O:p</O:p
Rohan’s mind was more active. He was hungry, not for the credits, but for the thrill. He enjoyed the build-up to the moment when his opponent realized they’d over-committed and were going to lose big. He wanted Kayelle to witness his triumph. Dakar had taken her away before the last one; she’d have to stay for the next.
It started slowly, with the player on Dakar’s left calculating whether he could afford the Authority’s rental on his chair. As long as he occupied it, the charge was one million per week, only vacated chairs were auctioned. He’d shared the spoils of the last kill. Was it enough?<O:p</O:p
The tiny doubt was the trigger for him to shift his reading of the probabilities just a little, his selections becoming unconsciously more aggressive. Two hands later both Dakar and Rohan had recognized the shift and were ready to pounce.<O:p</O:p
Until this moment, Kayelle had accepted Dakar’s reputation without considering what it meant. She’d thought him a good man, honorable and decent. Now she saw the killer instinct unleashed as he planned one destruction and prepared the way for others. Rohan looked no further than his current victim, Dakar was setting up future conquests when the spoils would be higher and the task a hundred times more difficult.<O:p</O:p
She had a decision to make.
Did she follow Jean-Paul’s example and interfere because she could, or stand back and observe. The young man on Dakar’s left was out of his depth with these two, she could nudge him into making the right decisions and let him escape the consequences.
There was the oddest sense of some mind just beyond her perception watching, judging. Could the Authority employ telepaths to monitor the game? It could be their final, unbeatable, defense against cheating. Jean-Paul had proved he could monitor their minds undetected. Was there another like him here? She could almost feel him surrounding her. A sudden longing swept the young gambler’s plight from her mind.<O:p</O:p
Jean-Paul, where are you? I need you!