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Dinner, Chapter 4

The Flop

By Mercedes ChanttooPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
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Disclosure: AI-Generation. This story is a product of collaboration between the author and AI, serving three key roles: Writing Assistance (to refine grammar, enhance ideas, and adjust tone); Personalized Feedback (offering critique and suggestions for improving the narrative); and Visual Creation (entrusting the image generation to AI, as it lies outside my expertise). In crafting this narrative, I employed the capabilities of ChatGPT and Mistral for textual content, alongside Dall-E-3 for the visualization aspects.

Victoria strode in with an air of unmistakable confidence, the leather of her jacket creaking softly with each step. At her side, a new presence—Martin—whose tentative steps betrayed his unfamiliarity with the group's rhythms.

The air was thick with the scent of welcome as Ace's digital cadence turned to the newcomers. Her cool voice hailed them. "Ah, the Vixen returns. And who's the fresh meat?"

Martin paused, his eyes darting around the room before he stammered out his response. "Uh, call me The Martian," the name escaping his lips more as a question than a statement.

Laughter erupted around them, light and teasing, as Emma passed drinks to the newcomers before reclaiming her cocktail from Lyra. Their glasses met in a quiet toast, sealing their shared moment.

As Astra and Jenna entered hand-in-hand, the room instantly brightened. Their affectionate greetings filled the air, radiating camaraderie. Mike and Martin, however, received only awkward, distant handshakes.

Ace's welcome was a familiar refrain, as the two newcomers joined the ensemble as "Ms. Bennet" and "Ms. Darcy.” Ace rotated to face Lyra, "What shall we call you this year?"

Vix jumped in teasingly, "We know what you'll pick!"

Flustered, Lyra protested "I don't know yet, don't put me on the spot!" After a not insignificant pause, she relented. "Fine, I'll go with LyLy for now."

"But you'll change it later, right?" Astra ribbed. Lyra stuck her tongue out, as Astra’s comment drew a round of laughter.

Ace projected their chosen names onto the table top, causing lively negotiations to ensue over the seating arrangements. The table came alive, a dance of light that rearranged themselves amidst groans and cheers.

"Yes," Emma exclaimed, "Barbarella gets to sit between LyLy and Sir Foldsalot—score!" Her joy was infectious. "Let's get everyone drinks."

The room, alive with the clinking of glasses and the low hum of conversation, settled into a comfortable cadence as players found their seats. Laughter rippled through the air, punctuated by the occasional clatter of ice in crystal tumblers.

Tom leaned back in his chair, casting a sidelong glance at Victoria. "I'll bet the first round's on The Vixen when she taps out early," he teased, eliciting a chorus of chuckles.

Victoria, unfazed, retorted with a confident toss of her hair. "You'll be folding long before me, Tom. I see you're keeping an extra roll of chips in your shorts for if you run out. Or are you just pleased to see me?"

Emma burst into laughter, the sound clear and contagious across the room. "Vix, put those claws away," she chuckled, making playful growling sounds.

Astra leaned closer to Jenna and quipped with a wink, "Looks like our Martian friend might find himself in a whole new galaxy with this crowd."

Jenna chuckled, casting a glance at Martin, who seemed to float on the edges of the banter, his comfort clearly challenged by the spirited and confident regulars. "I hope he brought his space suit," she whispered back. "It can get pretty wild in this orbit."

The gentle undercurrent of friendly wagers and light-hearted taunts continued until Ace, with a digital chime that cut through the buzz, requesting their attention. The room quieted, all eyes drawn to the holographic dealer standing regally at the table's heart.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I trust you're ready to raise the stakes in this game of skill and chance," Ace intoned, her voice an orchestrated blend of warmth and authority. With a flourish, she initiated the digital fanfare, a cascade of harmonious tones that signalled the game's start, and the players leaned in, anticipation etched on their faces.

But before the first card sailed across the table, Ace's calm facade flickered with an unexpected announcement. "Tonight's buy-in will be 10,000 creds," she declared, her tone betraying no sense of the bombshell she'd just dropped.

The room's atmosphere detonated into a mixture of shock and laughter. Martin, already teetering on the edge of his comfort zone, nearly choked on his drink. "That's insane!" he coughed out, his eyes wide as saucers. "You told me 1,000, Vicky!" His words, though unintended, struck the air like a discordant note, causing a fleeting but palpable tension.

For an almost eternal second, the room stilled, every pair of eyes pivoting towards Martin. The collective gaze of the group, a mixture of raised brows and surprised glances, conveyed a single, unspoken rule—here, she was Vix, not Vicky, a nuance of familiarity the alien had yet to grasp.

Before the quiet could settle into awkwardness, Mike interjected with a flourish, his hand cutting through the air as he quickly took charge of the situation, in a way only he could. "Ladies, ladies, must be a glitch," he said, his tone a mix of assurance and command, glancing at Tom. "1000 it is."

Ace's holographic form flickered, chuckling as if she had made a mistake. "My apologies, I must have momentarily crossed wires with a high-roller tournament. Let's dial it back to recreational levels, shall we?" she quipped, her tone rich with synthetic cheer, saving Mike and Tom the need to roll out explanations.

Dealer sticks snapped into action, a mechanical ballet as they swiftly retracted the highest value chips. "It’s a one-pony trip tonight," Ace corrected, the air now cleared of misunderstanding. "First five hands we play ‘Hold 'em high’!"

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About the Creator

Mercedes Chanttoo

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