Much like every major city in America once the War had come to its inevitable conclusion, Atlantic City was left a shell of its former self. Most of the buildings were bombed out wrecks, disease ran rampant and violence was the order of the day. For years thick smoke mixed with the constant mist coming in off the Atlantic Ocean, creating a muddy soot-like substance that seemed to cover everything and everyone.
Finally, after months of negotiations, Aethon Global Unlimited came in and purchased the entire city. However, unlike Comcast Systems, they had no desire to remake Atlantic City into their headquarters. Instead they arrived with fleets of demolition equipment and hundreds of AGU corporate military units to clear the entire city of everything that was still there. The remains of buildings were razed to the ground and what was left of the population was forcibly removed, given one-way tickets to wherever they wanted to go.
After a year Atlantic City was a blank slate. Aethon carved it up into six sections and sold each off to the highest bidder, making billions. The city would no longer have a mayor or any type of central government. Rather each corporation would control their zone how they saw fit, with decisions for the city as a whole being made in boardrooms instead of by voters.
Shina-Yasuyan Multinational purchased the entire Marina District and built what was at the time the largest casino ever seen in the world. The entire casino, including restaurants, entertainment and the like, are housed in a single domed structure the size of several football fields. The dome itself, which is translucent and at times so clear it appears like nothing is above you except sky, has been repeatedly named as one of the new wonders of the globe.
The Shina-Yasuyan Hotel and Casino Complex also includes a large residential area where employees can live as well as four 122-story wedge-shaped towers that surround the dome at equidistant points. The Complex has its own police force, medical facility and is accessible via magrail, car or boat. The neon lights and videos that play on the sides of the towers can be seen for miles in every direction. It is a city within a city that towers over everything else like a small sun.
Korehammer got his first good look at the Shina-Yasuyan Hotel and Casino Complex as the limousine emerged from the tunnel that connected the Marina to the Atlantic City Expressway. He had been to Atlantic City many times as Malcolm Chernova, but had never had a reason to go to the Shina-Yasuyan.
He had to admit that he was impressed.
It had taken a little over an hour to make the trip and he did his best to play the part of a bored millionaire playboy for the sake of his driver. The man had barely said two words the entire time and it had unnerved Korehammer a little bit. Usually people tried to talk him up when he was Chernova and the silence had made him suspicious.
However, given that was Korehammer’s natural state, he was willing to let it go for now.
The limo pulled into the valet area of one of the massive towers that housed the hotel portion of the complex. The driveway was large enough to fit seven cars side by side and was busier than Korehammer thought it would be at this time in the middle of the week. Valets rushed to and from, carrying bags and seeing to the needs of new arrivals.
The limo came to a stop directly in front of the main entrance, in a space that was obviously reserved for special guest of the Shina-Yasuyan. Korehammer continued to play his part and waited for one of the valets, a young woman with pink curls and freckles to open the door of the limo for him. Normally he hated all the pomp and circumstance that went along with being a ridiculously wealthy man. However, Korehammer knew it was a necessary evil that in the long run could help get this job done faster and get him back to being retired.
Korehammer got out of the car and the valet held out a NIIC reader. Korehammer dutifully waved his wrist over the device and it softly chimed. The young girl looked down and said “Welcome to the Shina-Yasuyan Hotel and Casino Complex Mr. Chernova. Would you follow me please?”
“Spasibo. And you are?”
“My name is Melody sir. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“You as well.”
Korehammer followed her through the large glass doors and into the vast lobby of the hotel. The first thing Korehammer noticed was that the floor was made of glass and that there was water running underneath his feet. He looked up and saw that the entire rear wall of the lobby was a fully functional waterfall that was at least four stories high. The water changed color, going from blue to green to crimson as he watched. At the base of the waterfall were a number of concierge desks where guests were checking in and marveling at their surroundings.
The rest of the lobby was brightly lit, with holovideos advertising the many delights the Shina-Yasuyan had to offer. It made the Solar Garden Hotel Casino back in Philadelphia seem like a backroom dice game by comparison.
Standing by a marble column was Neomi Wynn, who was smiling at him with her impossibly white teeth. She was shorter than Korehammer had thought, with a gymnasts body and her hair down around her shoulders. As he and Melody approached her grin widened and he thought he may go blind from the whiteness of her teeth.
“Hello Mr. Chernova. I’m Neomi Wynn. It’s a pleasure to meet you face to face.”
“It is very nice to meet you as well Miss Wynn.”
“Please sir, call me Neomi. My hope is that this will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
“Of course Neomi. Is my room ready?”
“Yes sir. We have you in one of the Imperial Dynasty villas. Normally we reserve them for special friends of the Shina-Yasuyan but we made an exception for you. We want to ensure to make a good first impression.”
“Spasibo. I hope they live up to their reputation.”
“Oh they will sir.” Wynn then looked down at the holopad in her hand and said “Your bags have already been taken up so if you’ll follow me I can take you to your villa and you can get some rest. I’m sure you’re tired from the trip.”
“Da. That would be wonderful.”
Wynn extended her hand to the right of the waterfall where an elevator waited. She explained that these elevators were strictly for the use of those staying in the Imperial Dynasty villas and other high roller guests of the casino. A young man who couldn’t be older than 19 waited for them to enter the elevator car and then closed the doors behind them. Wynn simply said “Floor 121 please.” and the elevator quickly began to ascend.
In moments the car came to a stop and the doors opened to a small hallway that had only a single set of double doors. From what Korehammer could tell they were made of actual wood and not the synthetic material you saw almost everywhere else. Wynn gestured to the NIIC reader that was mounted on a small pedestal to the right of the doors. Korehammer dutifully waved his left wrist over the reader and was rewarded with a female voice saying “Thank you Mr. Chernova. I hope you enjoy your stay with us here at the Shina-Yasuyan Hotel and Casino Complex.”
Wynn swung open the doors with a flourish and revealed what lay beyond. As Korehammer looked around, Wynn explained that this particular Imperial Dynasty villa included four bedrooms, a kitchen with a pantry stocked with real food (Korehammer didn’t even see a synthstation anywhere.) as well as a pool table, a holoscreen that took up an entire wall and a balcony that overlooked the harbor.
Once again, Korehammer had to admit he was impressed.
Korehammer noticed his bags on the floor in the master suite. Good to know no one had tried to tamper with them. It would have been unfortunate if the DRZ DetonCard he had rigged in the bags had exploded and taken half the building with it.
Wynn was waiting for him by the doors when he had finished his brief tour. “Is everything to your liking Mr. Chernova?”
“It is all very impressive.”
“So glad to hear it sir. Did you need anything else before I leave you for the evening?”
“Da. The sports book at the casino. It is open 24 hours I assume?”
“Yes sir. You can also place bets from the holoscreen in the living area if you wish.”
“Good, good. Also, could you make sure that a pot of coffee is sent up tomorrow precisely at at nine? I am a creature of habit and need my kofe first thing in the morning to function.”
“Of course sir. Anything else?”
Korehammer smiled. “No, that will be all. Thank you dushen’ka. You have been most helpful.” Wynn blushed every so slightly as she turned and left the villa.
Once he heard the click of the door closing, Korehammer looked up at the ceiling. “Please lock the doors and set so that I am the only one allowed to enter. No exceptions.”
The same female voice from before said “Acknowledged Mr. Chernova.”
Korehammer went over to his bags and quickly checked on the weapons and ammunition her had brought with him as well as the Stasis Cradle. Satisfied they were fine, he opened the second duffle bag and brought out a small slate grey plastic box. He took it into the living area and attached it to the villa’s neural interface display via an optic cable and waved his NIIC over it.
A robotic voice said “Stealth system active.” and just like that, Korehammer knew he could use the neural interface display and not have to worry about anyone sticking their nose where it didn’t belong. It was ancient tech by any standard, but it still worked flawlessly and made sure there was no record anywhere of what he was looking for.
Korehammer waved his NIIC over the neural interface and was greeted once again by the same female voice. “How can I help you?”
“Is a Quinton Zechiel currently staying at the Shina-Yasuyan?”
“Where can he be found?”
“Mr. Zechiel can be located at the Senshō Sports Parlor. Would you like for me to contact him for you?”
“Nyet. That will be all.”
Korehammer looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was almost ten in the evening. That meant that the cyber fights in Vegas would just be getting started and Zechiel would be getting ready to place his first bets of the night.
Seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a new friend.
Korehammer went into the bedroom, took a quick vibro-shower and changed his clothes. He slid one of the X-22 handguns into a holster at the small of his back, just in case. He didn’t expect trouble but Malcolm Chernova was licensed to carry a large array of weapons, so better safe than sorry.
He walked out of the villa and waved his NIIC over the reader next to the door. He heard the locks engage and the voice said “Enjoy your evening and good luck Mr. Chernova.”
Korehammer found it a bit disquieting that he was starting to find that voice appealing.
He called the elevator and it opened seconds later. The same young man was operating it and asked where he wanted to go. Korehammer said the Senshō Sports Parlor before he knew it, they were on their way.
A few minutes later Korehammer got his first look at the Shina-Yasuyan casino and it was almost overwhelming. Sound seemed to come from every direction and holoscreens screamed for attention. He could see what seemed like miles of slot machines, heard screams of victory and defeat from the virtual table games and saw the neon glow of at least seven different bars. Yet above all this controlled chaos was a cloudless night sky filled with stars and a bright full moon. The juxtaposition was jarring but provided a welcome escape from the sensory overload of the casino.
Korehammer asked a cocktail waitress where the sports book was and was told to follow her, she would take him there personally. He figured that Wynn had put the word out that a new high roller was in the building and that everyone should keep their eyes out.
Soon Korehammer was walking into the Senshō Sports Parlor, where you could bet on any sport taking place anywhere in the world. The cavernous room was filled with large padded chairs where betters could sit and watch the results of the games in real time. Each had a small holoscreen that a person could access or you could watch one of the many massive screens that took up one entire side of the room. The sports book also had private suites on a second floor where high rollers could sit and watch games without having to deal with the common masses.
The moment Korehammer entered the room he was approached by a tall, dark-skinned man with dreads and glasses. He wore a dark grey suit and tie with a white shirt and had a datapad cradled in one arm.
“Mr. Chernova I presume?”
He had to give Wynn credit. The woman was very good at her job.
“Da. And you are?”
“My name is Thaddeus Tindal sir. I’m one of the people who run the Senshō. Neomi mentioned you might be stopping by.”
“Yes. I’m afraid sleep eluded me this evening. I thought I might come and see if the Senshō was worthy of all the amazing things I’ve heard about it.”
“Of course sir. If you will follow me I’ll show you to one of our private suites.”
“Suite” didn’t quite do the room Tindal ushered Korehammer into justice. He figured it was at least twice the size of his old apartment in The Plex and almost as luxurious as his villa here at the Shina-Yasuyan. It included several large padded chairs, a bar and two large holoscreens. The one wall was entirely made of glass and had a sliding door that could be opened to the main room down below.
Tindal cleared his throat to get Korehammer’s attention as he walked around the suite. “Neomi set up a generous line of credit for you to use during your stay here. If you’ll just scan your NIIC on this datapad I can get the account online for you.”
Korehammer did as he was asked and moments later her received a message on his NIIC that the account was active and how much credit the casino was extending to him. The amount was more than generous and a bit over the top, but it didn’t really matter. Maybe on a future trip he would see if he could put a dent in the house’s bottom line, but not this time. He had business to take care of.
“Did you need anything else sir? A drink? Something to eat? Some… company perhaps?”
Korehammer smiled at him. “Spasibo but no. I think I’ll just watch the previews of tonight’s cyber fights and start to spend some of the casino’s money.”
“Excellent sir. Good luck and if you change your mind, just let me know.”
Tindal left the suite and Korehammer heard the door close behind him as he walked over to the sliding glass doors. He pulled them open and the sounds and smells of the main floor washed over him. He used his NIIC to pull up an image of Quinton Zechiel on a holoscreen and looked out over the parlor.
It didn’t take long to find Zechiel. He was sitting in one of the large padded chairs, a holoscreen in front of him showing the cyber fight previews. He had an unlit cigarette dangling out of his mouth and a drink in one hand, a sheen of sweat visible on his forehead even from this distance.
From what Korehammer had seen, Zechiel was into the Shina-Yasuyan for big credits. Bigger than even a highly paid corporate attorney could reasonably afford. That was definitely something Korehammer could use to his advantage.
Korehammer left the suite and took the stairs down to the first floor. He walked over to where Zechiel was sitting and took a seat a few chairs away from him. Within moments a waitress appeared to see if he needed a drink and Korehammer ordered a vodka and tonic on the rocks.
After a few minutes he gestured towards the holoscreen in front of Zechiel. “Who do you like in tonight’s fights tovarishch?”
Without looking over Zechiel said “Tobias Zavaleta is looking like a sure thing. He just had a complete systems upgrade and is fighting London McLaren, who hasn’t won shit in months. That’s where I’d put my money if that’s what your asking.”
“Interesting. But what about Jovena Rackman? I heard she just had a nanite bone lace and skin weave done. Should make her a pretty difficult opponent.”
Zechiel snorted. “Rackman? She’s a bum. Couldn’t fight her way out of a wet paper bag. Woman’s got no skills. Karla Carrick is going to kick the snot out of her.”
Korehammer could see why Zechiel was into the casino for so much. He had no objectivity to his betting and simply went with his gut. That was never a good combination when betting.
“What about Corrine Caldera? What do you think about her?”
The still unlit cigarette fell from Zechiel’s mouth and hit the floor, not that he noticed. He slowly turned his head to look at Korehammer, the sweat on his forehead seeming to increase tenfold.
Korehammer let a small smile cross his lips. “I believe you have something for me?”