What Happens in Undervegas - Part 1: Eightball
rating: +18+x

“Hey hey hey!” Veronica yelled in her high-pitched voice to a couple passing by her counter. “Lookin’ for somethin’ to loosen ya up a bit?” The couple, a guy and a girl, merely gave her a strange look as they continued walking. “I see the way you two were lookin’ at each other, don’t think I don’t know what that means!”

In silence, they disappeared behind the slots, some of the brightest things in the casino. She preferred it dark. The neon lights of the interior could really give it more character like that, something in no short supply there in Undervegas. Besides, it reminded her of home.

A man in a beige trenchcoat approached the bar as Veronica withheld her enthusiasm. She rested her chin on the palm of her hand as she leaned into the counter, her other hand casually running through her curly orange hair as a makeshift brush. She'd be cursed with knots no matter what she did with it, and the curved horns sticking out of her head didn't do much to help. It was a beast of its own will.

“Hey, whatcha got?” the man asked, rubbing his hands together for warmth.

Veronica sized him up and said, “I’m from hell, I got fuckin’ everything, whaddaya lookin’ for?”

“Uh,” he stammered, looking behind himself cautiously.

“Hey, mista trenchcoat,” she exclaimed, holding both hands flat, “you comin’ in here all suspicious-like? It ain’t a good vibe for the rest o’ these fine folks. Just ‘cause I feed off that kinda energy doesn’t mean it’s good for business, eh?”

He nodded, trying his best to stand still despite whatever sort of withdrawal he was going through at the time. “Premium on coke, right?” he asked. “With you, uh… you folks. You sell cheap.”

You folks. She thought that was cute, though it did imply that demons and humans were on equal footing. “Only the best from the fourth circle, my good friend,” she said, opening up a drawer and pulling out a sealed baggie. “No cops back home, I’ll tell ya that much. Fifty for an eightball.”

The man smiled, retrieving a wad of cash from one of his coat pockets before counting up to the cost. “You’re doin’ a charitable service, lady.”

After stuffing the cash away in a separate locked drawer, the man was already using the counter to draw a line in white. The amount of coke leftover from that counter after a busy day made up practically a whole gram. She straightened out her pinstripe suit and felt good about herself for a moment on an otherwise unusually slow day, even though junkies were the easiest sales in the business, but that moment was fleeting.

“Avarice,” said another man who was well into his forties. He had been asleep on one of the booths, his head slouched over on the counter. His kind had planted their roots down right there in Undervegas, conducting their business from the eyesore of a pyramid called the Luxor. Veronica herself didn't even know what the three letters in their organization, SCP, stood for, but she knew enough not to get too involved with them. Besides, hardly anything came of their time in Undervegas except for alcohol and, inevitably, prostitution. No human could resist that much temptation on a 24/7 basis. Just like demons. “That’s the one, right? The fourth circle?”

“Speakin’ of cops…” she muttered under her breath. “Back from the dead so soon, Harry?”

“Men made to push boulders…” he continued. “Jousting eternally. Isn’t that right?”

Sighing, Veronica leaned to one side as she faced the large man. “Look, pal, you know how it goes. Lost in translation, unreliable narrators, purple monkey dishwasher, yeah? Nothin’s ever that simple. And ya know I can’t just give you Foundation pricks what ya want.”

“Oh, I'm aware,” Harry said stroked the beard that trailed down to his neck. “It's a shame. You'd get an awful lot of benefits working with us. No more having to worry about overlords or crime…”

“Yeah, 'cause I'd be imprisoned,” she said in return. “I ain't stupid, Harry.”

“You don't know what goes on inside the Luxor. All you've got is campfire stories you tell yourselves to stay in line.” He turned his head to one side, eyeing the only other participant at the bar. “Looks like we’ve got a case of possession. How much cocaine do you have there, boy?”

The man in the coat took what he had and tripped over himself in an attempt to sprint away from his own paranoia.

“He ain't a cop!” Veronica tried to tell him, but he was already long gone. “Dammit, Harry, I’m gonna have to kick ya out now. No cops, no cop impersonators, you know the rules. Out.”

As he slowly came to a stand, stretching and cracking his back in the process, Harry exhaled, pointing a finger at Veronica. “This place is a hotbed for anomalies. The Foundation might not be at war with you, but the Coalition sure as hell will be when they find out about this. Keep low and stay to yourself or else.”

Leaning herself into the counter, she pouted her lips and raised her brows. “But mista, I’m just a bartenda! I don’t know nothin’ about nobody!”

Procuring a bottle wrapped in a paper bag from his jacket, Harry lifted it to his lips and growled as he walked away, eyes narrowed on a smirking Veronica. The Foundation agents just simply couldn’t bring themselves to admit how much they loved the place, always a thorn in the side of demons just trying to go about their day. It was a slow day, after all, and she wasn't done milking the junkie.

The sound of someone hitting a jackpot on one of the sea of machines across from her let her know roughly what time it was. Always had to have a jackpot somewhere to hook the guests in longer. That was cut short by a different sound, a single ringing of a bell coming from behind her.

“Vicky!” a small voice hissed from behind her, accompanied by the sound of the metal doors of the elevator sliding open. “Vickyyyyyy!” There was a time when she enjoyed hearing that voice. That time had passed.

She turned around to face Altha directly. Half of her body was hidden around one corner from inside the elevator, her finger making a beckoning motion for her to hurry. She had a head of chin-length silver that draped comfortably around the sides of her face, which never failed to accentuate the roundness of it.

“Can’t you see I’m on shift?” Veronica argued, taking a cursory glance around for anyone who may have been listening in on them.

“Roo needs your help!” Altha continued to hiss, holding the sliding doors open with one of her sharpened nails.

Veronica rolled her eyes and tilted her head back before slowly nodding. ”Roo needs your help- Of course Roo needs help, what else is new?”

“C’mon, she really ain’t doin’ too good this time.”

Crossing her arms, Veronica inhaled through her nose, tapping her foot in thought. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about Enreau, just that these incidents were always going to get out of hand no matter what. Exhaling, she raised her hands and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll play the hero, but don’t think I won’t point the finger at you if the boss hears about this.”

Save for a few members of the staff, the demons resided in the basement of the casino, which was an awful lot like the hotel hallways above ground, but without the sunlight or cheer. The light fixtures on the ceilings were all red, orange, or purple depending on what each residence wanted outside their rooms. Some of the demons living there had done so for several decades, their unholy, wicked energy permeating into the hallways.

You never opened any of the doors in the livin’ quarters, as they were called (though some swore that it was live-in quarters), as nobody could quite be sure of what horrors await them on the other side. Veronica herself had once fallen victim to a room that had its shelves stocked fully with the same doll, everything inside lacking any color whatsoever. The dolls all turned to her and began implanting thoughts into her head that made it difficult to think of anything but making more dolls to increase their number. She took that day off.

Enreau’s room, on the other hand, was a familiar one. The overhead light was always flickering wildly when she entered but always seemed to mellow out by the time she left. On that day, it was audible. Every time it shone its violet light down on the four small pools of water spaced out evenly across the floor, it buzzed and sometimes even shrieked in agony.

“Enreau, hey girl,” Veronica said over the intermittent noise as Altha trailed slowly behind, making her way through the tiny kitchen at the front of the apartment. “What’d ya get into this time, huh? Impaler? Heartstopper? Xalthumum? Judy Dench? Talk to me.”

“It was Vermillion Vagaries,” Altha told her, much to the dismay of Veronica. “And a lot of it.”

Kneeling down next to the pool Enreau was lying in, the bartender lowered her voice and asked, “Where’d ya get your hands on veevee, eh, Roo? Even I don’t supply that- it’s just a bad time guaranteed.”

With her head bent all the way to the floor behind the pool, Enreau’s eyes were pure white, having rolled all the way back. Her mouth was wide open and six stick-like legs were protruding from it, but no sound was coming out, even as her body gently convulsed every few seconds. The long, straight black hair on her head was suspended in midair as if she was underwater, jerking unnaturally in any direction her head moved.

“I already gave her some numbing tonic,” Altha explained. “Barely helped at all.”

“Vagaries are some strong shit,” Veronica pointed out, inching closer to Enreau’s open mouth. “Get me an empty bottle.”

Altha hurried back to the kitchen to grab one from the surplus of empty bottles sitting on the counter. It wasn’t like Veronica was surprised at that. As soon as she handed it to her, Vicky began flicking her fingers together to get some sparks and eventually a small flame, which she held in the palm of her hand. She then lowered the open orifice of the bottle into the flame, sucking it in and dissipating instantly.

Keeping the bottle in the same position, she held it over Enreau’s mouth as a smokey substance was drawn out of her body. The legs latched onto the bottle's neck and skittered their way up to Vicky's hand. She was pincered by two of them as she grimaced in her pain, using her other hand to smack at them and ward them away with fire. When there was no smoke left to siphon out, the creature in her mouth became disassembled and the disembodied legs were sucked up as well. She stuffed a cork in it and set it to her side, taking a deep breath as she leaned back in relief.

"Is that all of it?" Altha asked, coming in closer to check on Enreau's spasming body, holding a hand at the back of her head to stop it from smacking against the floor.

Still catching her breath, Veronica nodded, taking one more look at the bottle of black smoke. "That's all of it." She withdrew a cigarette from her pocket and stuffed it in her mouth, creating a small flame at the end of her thumb to light it. "Why the fuck anyone does that shit is beyond me."

Enreau's convulsing had slowly come to an end as the overhead light was back to being a solid, uninterrupted violet again, mercifully bereft of any shrieking. She seemed to have started to relax in the water, her eyes closing finally after they righted themselves in her skull. “I was bored,” she said in a low murmur.

Picking herself up off the floor, Vicky shook her head dismissively and said, “Nah, I ain’t buyin’ it." She exhaled a cloud of smoke before letting the cigarette rest in her mouth again. "Ya do brimstone patches when you’re bored. Ya do summer salt when you’re bored. Hell, ya do twenty shots o’ rum when you’re bored. Veevee? Ya don’t do veevee unless somethin’s royally, thoroughly, and exclusively fucked.”

“You’re not entitled to know everything about me,” Enreau went on, turning over in the pool and facing away as Altha continued in her attempt to comfort her. “Never asked for your help, Vicky.”

“Goat shit,” Veronica exclaimed, leaning in closer to the two. “Can’t ya see you’re worryin’ your poor, beautiful Altha? I get interrupted by her at work one more time askin’ if I can save your sorry ass from yourself, I’m takin’ it up with Ganta.”

Enreau turned her head just enough for her skeptical pair of eyes to glare at her as she said, “You don’t have the balls.”

Smirking with a slight chuckle, Vicky turned to Altha for a moment for an extra bit of emphasis. “This broad thinks I don’t got a brass nutsack.” She turned back to Enreau, adding, “I know the guy. He ain't so bad, doesn't want nothin' to come to nobody that don't deserve it, but his conjoined twin Francis? Hates substance abuse, nearly killed him. Now I ain't one to rat anyone out to the boss, but those two might be the next worst thing. Trust me, few things worse than hearin' a lecture from the two o' those bozos."

Still glaring, Enreau went silent as she rested her head back down on her arms.

“Yeah, I'd think twice too,” Vicky said as she stood up, making her way out of the apartment as Altha took a moment to follow, giving Enreau a kiss on the head beforehand.

“Is that true?” she asked once they were on the other side of the door. “You really know Ganta and… Francis?”

“Fuck no, the guy’s never talked to anyone,” she replied, speedily walking down the hallway back to the elevators. “Probably doesn’t even have one o’ them conjoined twins for all I know.”

As they stood there waiting for the elevator, Altha nodded quickly as if she felt dumb for not picking up on that sooner. Ganta had a reputation for being the most mysterious and deathly terrifying residents in the building, but nobody really ever knew why. “Thanks again for… all o’ this. Sorry to keep botherin’ you with Roo all the time, I just get so worried.”

The doors opened and Veronica stepped inside, turning back around to face Altha directly. “Ya know ya don’t need to stay with her, right? Nothin’s contractually obligatin’ you.”

“No, I love her,” Altha said as she shook her head and looked at the floor in front of her. “I do, it’s just… I mean, you know.”

Veronica walked forward and blocked the doors from closing, adding, “Promise me you’ll get outta this if it don’t get any better, ya hear? Seein’ through lies is one o’ my many Satan-given talents. I’ll know.”

Altha offered a weak smile and said, “I promise.”

Vicky let the doors slide shut as she returned the weak smile for the last few seconds they had together. Even though she knew it’d never work out between them again, she still remembered those particular years fondly. Painfully.

She was glad she was stocked up on heartstoppers that night.

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