HuHat, 8:47 p.m.
Sergei wiped his lips with the napkin he had tucked into his shirt, then set down his knife and fork and took a sip of his water. "That was quite a meal," he said with a smile. "A great recommendation Bradley."
Theodore nodded in agreement. "I'll have to bring Catherine here some time. This was delicious."
Matilda sat back in her chair and gave a satisfied sigh. "Definitely."
Bradley grinned. "I like to think I have excellent taste."
Sergei sat up straight, and neatly folded his napkin and placed it back on the table. "Well, I don't mean to cut the evening short, but we should of course get right down to business." Sergei looked to Bradley. "Bradley, after our first meeting with the contestants, I'd like your thoughts. What do you gather from the contestants?"
Bradley leaned back, folding his hands over stomach as he thought carefully. "They're very strong. I don't sense much malice, though it is most certainly present. But I am looking forward to the events. With this being the finals, I think we have some powerful contenders on our hands who are sure to present excellent entertainment."
Sergei nodded. "A very broad description, but I think I understand what you mean. Even after seeing their battles recorded, meeting them in person is a much more intimate confrontation. We don't know much about them yet. But, what of you, Theodore? How do you feel about the contestants?"
Theo took a toothpick from his lips, and quietly sat it on his plate. "I'm in agreement with Bradley. They are very strong. And I'm sure the battles will be a sight to see. Though some lives may be lost, I don't expect too many casualties. This bunch doesn't seem very blood thirsty."
Sergei rubbed his chin. "That's not something I had considered. They do feel rather calm, don't they?" he asked. "Matilda, do you have any thoughts?"
She sat up, placing her hands in her lap. She smiled, but it wasn't out of joy. She seemed cautious, and concerned, like a mother. "They're dangerous, dad," she said flatly.
Bradley and Theodore looked to Sergei, then back to Matilda.
"Please, continue Matilda," Sergei replied.
Matilda straightened her glass on her face, and cleared her throat. "While I'm sure most of them are only in it for the money, they still pose a threat."
"Yes, yes, of course. They are the strongest fighters in the world after all," Sergei said as a waiter beside him began to take the dinner plates from the table. "Thank you," he said softly to the waiter, who nodded silently.
"What I mean is, they're going to be naturally curious. Especially now that you've had Rachel give them all access passes. They'll begin asking questions, dad. And when they do--"
Sergei finally held up a hand. "And when they do, Matilda. They will get answers. Everyone deserves an answer, even if the response is not what they wish," he said softly.
Matilda sighed again. "Don't you think it looks strange? Giving them immediate access to literally everything? They probably have it out for you already. And can you imagine what poor Rachel would go through if they attacked her?"
Sergei smiled, shaking his head. "I don't see any reason for any of the contestants to attack Rachel, or any of my staff. Or even me. We have nothing to hide."
Matilda smiled finally as well. "You did tell me this is what you wanted, but I guess you're serious. And round one is tomorrow. Has everything been prepared?"
Sergei straightened the tie on his suit. "Now that you mention it, I must reach out to the pilots and security for tomorrow. You all go on to the car. I will meet you outside." Sergei raised a hand to collect the check, as Matilda, Theodore, and Bradley got up from the table. A waiter rushed over to Sergei's side, and greeted him.
"Mr. Nikolaev, how was the food this evening?" asked a strapping young waiter in a black vest.
Sergei waved a hand. "Simply scrumptious. You know, all the money in the world, and I've never had Mongolian food. It was wonderful. Please do give the cooks my regards."
"Thank you so much Mr. Nikolaev, I will. Can I get you anything else this evening? Perhaps a desert?"
Sergei shook his head with a smile. "No, no, thank you. I'll go ahead and take the check. Oh, and here is a little something for you too. You were very attentive to us, and you work very hard. Thank you for your service," he said, roughly pronouncing 'service' with his heavy accent. Sergei took a brand new one-hundred dollar bill from his wallet out of his coat pocket, and tucked it into the waiter's breast pocket on his vest.
"Mr. Nikolaev, this is too much. I--"
Sergei held up a hand again. "Think nothing of it."
The waiter politely shook Sergei's hand, and hurried to gather the check for him. "Have a wonderful evening, Mr. Nikolaev."
Sergei stood to his feet after paying the bill, and straightened his jacket. "And you as well." He walked outside to the large four door black SUV that Theodore had personally made for him. Theodore honked, and Sergei ran around to the passenger's side, opening the door and hopping in. The drive back to the hotel was about forty minutes, and Sergei was already making phone calls for preparations for tomorrow's opening round of the finale.
The H.U.B., 9:15 p.m.
"Ugh, why can't my dps ever do anything right!?" Rachel said as her fingers rattled away on a keyboard. Her mouse bounced between twenty-seven inch monitors and lots of flashing lights, numbers both positive and negative, and a flurry of what appeared to be nearly five dozen player characters. "Move away from the strike zone, noob! It's an instant kill! And why the heck are you taking agro!?"
Before she knew it, her team had been wiped, and the dungeon had been failed. Rachel sighed, rolling away from her desk, and then flopping into her bed. She rolled over her blanket of shooting stars and put herself into a sort of human burrito, then slipped out one arm and snatched a comic book from her bedside table. "The Chancellor Corrupt Volume One. How did he manage to find this?" she whispered excitedly to herself. But before she could slide the comic out of its plastic wrapping, there was a knock at her metal door.
"Hm? Come in!" she said in a sing-song voice. The metal door slid open like something from a space voyage movie, and hissed when it closed back. It was Geno who was at her door, and he gave Rachel a nod. "What's up kid? You got a minute?' his gruff voice sort of scratchy beneath his mask. Rachel nodded, unrolling herself and sitting on the edge of her bed.
"Sure. What's up?"
Geno rolled Rachel's chair over beside her bed, and sat in it backwards with his hands over the backrest. "I'm gonna need a few upgrades. These guys are a new kind of threat, and I wanna be ready for them."
Rachel frowned slightly, though she had felt this was coming. She understood that Geno was only being cautious, but she still didn't like the idea of bigger, better guns and weapons. She sighed, finally raising her head to Geno. "Is that gonna be for both of you, or. . .?"
Geno shook his head. "Just me. The boys is fine. He's the dangerous one, not me," Geno said, chuckling at his own humor.
Rachel nodded, swinging her feet back and forth over the edge of her bed. "I guess I can help you out. Leave your gear with Mars and I'll have something for you by tomorrow evening. What did you have in mind?" Rachel asked.
"Mostly the weapons. A lot of these guys are fast. If something goes down, I'm gonna need to be able to catch them. And putting the boy in danger isn't something I want to resort to."
Rachel nodded, now digging through a cluttered drawer in her bedside table, then picking up a pen as she found a clean notepad. "What else ya got?" she said, suddenly excited. Rachel loved working on new projects.
"A non-lethal option. Something that packs a punch but won't blow their God damn heads off."
She nodded twice, writing quickly. "Anything else?" she asked, looking up.
Geno thought silently for a moment, his hand under his chin. "A portapotty would be cool."
Rachel raised an eyebrow, but took down the request anyway. "Okey-dokey. I'm gonna have Mars and Brock draw up some plans and we'll hop to it early tomorrow morning. I'm gonna get a good night's sleep to see what I can come up with."
Geno stood up from Rachel's chair, and spun it around to face her desk, then patted her on the head. "Thanks kid. You always come through for me."
Becoming invisible, Geno walked off out of Rachel's room, through her walls. As he left, he heard her cry out.
"Hey! I said no cloaking in my room!" she screamed.
He laughed, shaking his head. "But I knocked first!" he called back, still walking away.
"I meant coming or going!" she screamed again. But Geno had already walked out of earshot.
North Tower Lobby, 9:22 p.m.
"That was a delight, my friends. We must do it again sometime," Sergei said happily. Matilda embraced her father, and bid him goodnight.
"Everything is in order. Get some sleep, okay? No more late nights," Matilda insisted.
Sergei held Matilda closely, then pecked her on the forehead. "I won't be up much longer, I promise. I'm going to send the schedule down to the broadcasting station, and have envelopes prepared for the morning. Then it's off to bed!"
Matilda walked over to the employee elevator, then slid her I.D. card through the reader. After a short delay, a small green light lit up on the card reader, and the elevator doors opened. "See you in the morning, Dad," Matilda said, now being joined by Theodore and Bradley now. The lights inside the elevator blinked, as Matilda selected the lower tenth floor.
Sergei waved to them as the elevator doors closed, then proceeded to the lobby elevator, where he would make his way up to the fifth floor and the production room. There was a blue stained glass windows with large white print reading 'Production and Casting', and Sergei tapped lightly on it twice. Then, he slid his I.D. card through the card reader beside the door, and went inside. It was empty, but the lights were still on. Sergei shrugged, making his way over to the casting desk where he then sat behind a computer, and went to work.
After about an hour, he had completed the schedule for tomorrow's match-ups, assigned the appropriate helicopters and pilots, and had print-ups for contestants for the day's events. "There. All done," he said, standing to his feet and stretching. He left duplicates on the production desk, and took the copies to be distributed with him as he exited the production room.
Heading downstairs to the lower tenth floor, Sergei passed RC's room, and sat the copies in a metallic mailbox that read 'Magistrate Outgoing'. He loosened the cuffs on his wrists, then made his way to his room. "It's going to be an exciting day," he said softly to himself.
Day Two, 9:01 a.m.
Behind the hotel, fireworks erupted and lit up the sky with an array of beautiful colors. The beautiful medley of trumpets over the hotel's intercom system awoke it's residents just a minute after the hour. The televisions in the hotel automatically flickered to life, as 'Golden Gate News Morning Hour' began to roll live.
"Good morning Golden Gate Residents, and welcome to the Golden Gate News Morning Hour. I'm your host Victor Skye, and with me as always is my co-host Yasmine Janine." Victor was a younger guy. Bald headed with steel framed glasses and a goatee in a brown suit with a blue tie and white oxford shirt.
"Thank you, Victor, and good morning residents." Yasmine was about Victor's age. She had green eyes, jet black hair tied neatly into a bun on her head, and she was wearing a blue powersuit with a white oxford shirt as well. "Today, as you all know, is the first day of a lengthy series of battles. Today is day one of the Secret Cup finals. And our contestants look promising."
As the contestants rested the previous night, a vanilla envelope was placed under their doors. In the envelope was an image of their opponent, and detailed information about the arena that they would be doing combat in.
"And this morning, we've already received the official match-ups for each contestant, along with the arena's they'll be fighting in. And boy, Yasmine, I have to say, these arena's are going to be a big point of focus in these fights," Victor said excitedly.
"And you can't stress that enough, Victor. Thanks to some very clever decision making by the Research and Development team, along with Mr. Nikolaev himself, these arena's will provide an array of opportunities for contestants and viewers alike. And now, your official match-ups for the day." Rolling from the top of their television screens, a large display over the broadcast listed the first round battles.
"And we've got quite a few interesting fights coming," Victor began again. "From the top down, it looks like Kai Alvarado and Rowal Torai will be taking each other on in 'the Fallen Church of Jubilee'."
"And following them, Bethany Cunningham and Lace XIII will be having a heated ladies bout in the Sahill Cathedral," Yasmine confirmed.
"Up next, Louis Ebon will be dueling Mango. Their selected arena looks to be the Cursed Battleground of the Xiang War. In the mountains of Japan. Interesting!"
"And finally," Yasmine continued. "T-EN4 Seraph, or Angelica, will be facing Jack. Another 'ladies' match. This battle will take place in the A-W Underground Network."
The contestants now had a good look at their opponents, and they had been given as much information about their respective arenas as possible. The screen faded away, and the casters were back in view. "Contestants, your battles are about to begin. Are you ready? Please report to the rooftops of any of the three towers of the hotel and you will be escorted to a helicopter where you will be flown to your arena. The finals are about to begin!" Victor said, just as the news began to roll credits.
And now, their journeys await them. As of 9:10 a.m., the contestants were to report to their battlegrounds, where they would face off in a battle to the death.