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The Ultimate System - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

With great anticipation, the Emperor surveyed the battlefield. The first thing that he noticed was the impossibly smooth and bright green grass, more pristine than even the most carefully manicured lawn. Looking around and above him, he noticed that he and his troops had exited the caverns into a valley, surrounded by meadowed mountains on all sides, the triangular precipices jutting out from the otherwise flat slope like pyramids reaching out and over the valley.

There was a break in the center of the mountains; a smaller valley, in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of uniformed soldiers stood at the ready. Standing in the highest tower was their leader, a dark silhouette against the bright sun, his only noticeable feature a sash around his waist that the heavy winds whipped to the Emperor's right.

The voice of the leader called from the tower, a battle cry to let the Emperor know that the leader saw his men exit the caverns; "LANDSTROM!!!"

The leader's uniformed soldiers stood even more alert, hands on their weapons, waiting for the order to attack that would never come. These soldiers were there to defend, to strengthen and fortify their numbers by taking the soldiers of their many enemies and making them their own. They had never attacked and they would never attack. Their enemies came to them in droves, seeking to topple their Kingdom, and their enemies would never be successful, for the Army of the Kingdom was too great. These thousands of soldiers represented only a small fraction of the Kingdom's overall reserves.

However, many enemies came, without challenge, without beckon, of their own free will and volition in an effort to take down the powerful Kingdom. The best any of these enemies had ever done was to imprison a few of the Kingdom's soldiers, and that often only temporarily; no enemy had ever posed a substantial threat to the Kingdom and no enemy ever would.

Despite his round body and substantial girth, the Emperor looked heroic, his scarlet cloak also letting the wind take it, exposing his impressive breastplate in front, and in back...the crack of his ass.

The Emperor's forces were organized by the color of their uniforms; the Generals wore black with a white diagonal slash across their right breast and down to the left torso. The other troops were similarly adorned with the white slash, though the Captains wore green and the Corporals wore red. The privates, however, adorned themselves entirely in white.

"You will send an exploratory party of one-tenth of the Privates," commanded the Emperor, "I want to see the full measure of their defenses."

"As my liege wishes," said one of the Generals relaying the order.

The exploratory party departed, but they had reached no further than halfway between the Emperor's stronghold and the tower of the enemy when two glowing red cubes of light, each emitting brilliant flashes of spherical pearl-white explosions, cascaded to the ground. The Privates were immolated by the flames almost immediately, and the Emperor delivered new orders. "We will feint a frontal assault to set up a pincer attack, the second position is the leftmost, the twelfth is the rightmost. The feinted attack shall approach the seventh position; the pincers are to approach the second, third, eleventh and twelfth positions. Execute immediately!"

"As my liege wishes," the three Generals responsible for those parties responded.

Two Corporals led the charge up the middle while Privates were again deployed in the pincer movement. Unbelievably, the mighty Kingdom had been prepared for this movement. They unleashed two of their flare bombs simultaneously, the first one immolated the Privates making up the left side of the pincer with the second immolating the Privates making up the right side of the pincer. The central attackers did not know what to do, so they simply pressed on. Using evasive maneuvers, they managed to dodge the next three pairs of flare bombs, but were hit and destroyed by the fourth.

The Emperor glanced around at what remained of his men, four Generals, eight Captains, and a handful of Corporals and Privates.

"Forward...CHARGE," commanded the Emperor.

Two of the Generals looked at him as though he had cracked under the pressure, one General spoke up; "Emperor, it's suicide."

The Emperor didn't have time for an impassioned speech about courage and honor in the face of certain death; his men might die before he gave it. He simply repeated, "Forward...CHARGE!"

"As my liege commands," said one of the Generals and relayed orders. "I want a full-frontal assault, six units wide, to attack the fourth through sixth and eighth through tenth positions, execute immediately."

The six columns of soldiers assembled as ordered and charged bravely, though desperately into the face of sheer death. When they reached the halfway point, two flare bombs burst, the leftmost one having a blast pattern of three diagonal spherical white flares while the rightmost had a square blast pattern of four ivory flares.

The men succumbed to the flames.

The Emperor stared at the battlefield, the fires of a thousand Hells reflecting in his spectacles. He was determined to take at least one of the Kingdom's men.

The Emperor unfastened the buckle on his upper breast; the cloak dropped to the ground. The Emperor then withdrew his rapier and sprinted toward the enemy lines. He looked up to see two flare bombs falling his way.

The flare bombs hit on either side of him, and even though the heat was tremendous, the shrill ringing sound was the most painful part of all. The heat and the sound were all that existed until he fell.

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Momentarily stunned and deafened, it all went away, but then came back a second later.

The heat, the sound, the heat, the sound.

THE SOUND.




In a movement too fast to be conscious, considering his sizeable girth, David bolted upright in his bed. Soaked with perspiration, the back of his White T-Shirt clinging to him, he struck, palm down, at the source of the sound; an old-fashioned alarm clock with the bells on top. His swing missed wide, and he ended up striking the nightstand with such force that he recoiled back in pain, holding his hand.

"Ugh," he groaned, as the alarm miraculously clattered off the nightstand and fell upon the floor, its ringing continuing unfettered.

David prepared his follow-up attack, swinging at the alarm with his palm out; he misjudged the position of the off button and struck the alarm on its side, sending it clamoring under his work station, a converted entertainment center. In a move that only David thought was graceful, he rolled off of the bed and landed on his knees. He half-crawled, half-tottered over to the workstation and reached underneath to grab the surprisingly resistant ringing alarm. Again misjudging the position of his body related to the objects around him, he smacked his head off of the part of the workstation that acted as his desk.

Now with a bruised hand, and slightly dizzy, David exclaimed, "Rat bastard!" On this, his fourth attempt, he finally managed to reach under the workstation and shut off the alarm without further bodily injury.

"I hate mornings," he muttered.

The time was 8:00a.m. David had to get ready to go to work. About a month prior, he had actually managed to find a job working as a deli clerk at one of the local grocery stores. He had to start at 9:00a.m., and it was extremely important that he make it on time today, because he would then qualify for a $50 attendance bonus for perfect attendance and punctuality for thirty days consecutively.

He dared not return to bed for five minutes, knowing it would inevitably turn into a few hours. He went upstairs to shower and reflected on the circumstances that led to him getting that job.

After losing a substantial sum of money at the Golden Goose Casino and Hotel, David decided it would be necessary to find gainful employment. He went out with his only real friend, Evan Blake, the following day to get some decent interview clothes. With only $110 to his name, he opted to shop at the Goodwill Thrift Store, so that he could afford to get some new street clothes to better fit him as well.

David applied everywhere in town, eventually landing an interview at A Penny Saved grocery store. His interviewer and eventual manager was Nicholas Allison, a runty blond-haired and bespectacled kid of about twenty-three who would probably be a lifer at the store. The reason that Nicholas got his position as Deli Manager, and the reason that he would absolutely advance no further as long as he lived, was because he didn't know how to do anything except go exactly "by the book".

Nicholas sat behind his desk directly across from David, staring at him intently. Nicholas had read somewhere that maintaining eye contact was of the utmost importance. That somewhere was the Manager's Handbook, so it became absolute gospel to him to such an extent that an explosion within a few feet of him would not cause him to break his stare. He adopted a relaxed posture that looked forced and anything except relaxed as he continued the interview.

NICHOLAS: I find it interesting, David, may I call you David?

DAVID: Sure.

NICHOLAS: Okay, thank you, David. I find it interesting, David, that the work history section of your application was three additional pages, as well as what is on the application page itself. Might I ask why your work history is so...varied?

DAVID: Absolutely. With all due respect, Nicholas, it asked for my work history for the last seven years. There were three slots on the actual application for work history, and I was so instructed on said application to include any additional relevant work history on a separate page. Given that I have had seventeen jobs in the last seven years, and that I wanted same to be readable, I opted to put five jobs on each of the first two extra pages and then four on the third.

NICHOLAS: I understand. I hope that you don't take offense to this, David, but I believe you may have misunderstood my question. I suppose the most direct way to ask is, why have you had so many jobs in the last seven years?

DAVID: Right. Nicholas, the thing that you have to understand about me is that I'm a worker. Now, I understand seasonal demand and all of that jazz, but I'm not the type of guy who can only be getting fifteen to twenty hours per week when the demand is low. Whatever my scheduled shift is, I'm going to deliver honest work the entire time without any messing around, and in exchange, I expect my hours to be kept somewhat consistent. Other employers haven't done that. In fact, this store failed to do that on one occasion, but you're a new manager. You might notice that I have worked here before.

NICHOLAS: I did notice that, David. However, it doesn't seem that I can find any personnel record for you in order to determine whether or not you are eligible for re-hire. I ran your social through payroll, and you certainly worked here for seventy-three days, but beyond that, I don't know anything.

DAVID: Right, I was a cashier that time. That was the problem; they didn't know how to staff the front end in anticipation of the upcoming demand seasons. Someone would quit in December, and they would be replaced, even though the first couple months of the year are traditionally slow. However, I feel as though I can rest assured that, with a clearly competent and concerned manager such as yourself, you know how to manage your staff in relation to anticipated demand, so I'd be able to maintain my hours.

NICHOLAS: Absolutely, that's something I always try to do, and thank you for the compliment!

Needless to say, personnel record or no personnel record, David got the job. It was actually a good thing, too, because his previous manager had taken the time to write on his personnel file, in permanent red marker, "ABSOLUTELY NOT TO BE RE-HIRED!!!"

Grocery stores, David thought, are probably the last place on Earth that will actually start keeping personnel files on a computer rather than hard copy. He smiled wryly as he left Nicholas' office.




It had been a regular day at the deli, just cutting meats and cheeses, checking the tags on stuff to make sure nothing had been in the case for seven days, and then replacing those tags, when they were there, with tags saying the stuff had only been opened for four days; typical deli stuff.

David's shift for that day was 9:00-15:00 because it was a Tuesday. David's usual schedule was M-Tu, 9:00-15:00, W-Th, Off, F-Sa-Su 9:00-17:00, and at $9.50/hour, the money he was making could have been worse. He took home between $525 and $550 every two weeks.

David was getting impatient for the day to end, though, because he had made a Meat & Cheese tray for a bitter old crone who was scheduled to come and pick it up at 3:15, but David had a feeling that she'd be in earlier. David looked at the clock; 2:56. He turned around and went through the motions of wiping off the stainless steel countertop upon which the slicer sat. Out of the corner of his eye, at 2:57, he noticed that the Chipped Ham display for that week's sale wasn't 120% full, which would draw a litany of complaints from his relief, a whiny little college girl named Melissa. David got out the chipped ham cube that had been opened, removed the shrink wrap sealing it at the end, and placed it in the slicer.

DING!!!

David was getting really sick of dinging on this day; he turned to see the old crone looking up at him from the customer's side of the display case. Spit flew from around her mouth as she addressed him, "Don't ya shee customersh when they walk up to ya counta?"

David responded, "I apologize, you seem to be a bit early, but fortunately, I already had your tray ready for you. Let me go get it, please."

David brought out a positively immaculate M&C tray; in fact, he took great pride in his M&C and Vegetable Trays, despite the fact that he hated virtually everything else about the job. The first thing the old bat noticed was the little plastic bag taped to the side of the tray cover. "What the hell ish that?"

David looked at the Meat & Cheese tray, "That's your tray, Ma'am, Size #2 Serving 20-25, Cubed Virginia Ham, Cubed Oven-Roasted Turkey, Cubed Roast Beef...a personal favorite of mine...Cubed White Cheddar, Cubed Swiss and Cubed Lorraine, Honey Dijon in the center, 100 toothpicks."

The old lady stared at David as if he'd just sprouted a second head. "The bag, you shhtupid dundershkull, what'sh in the bag?"

David replied, "The condiments, ma'am, you'd asked for seven different condiments. The tray only has a slot for one condiment, therefore, I had to give you a separate bag with the other six condiments in containers."

"You blithering IDIOT," she exploded, "Let me shpeak to your bossh!"

Nicholas came out and requested of David, "David, what is the problem, here?"

David began, "Nick, the problem is-"

Nicholas interrupted him, "Mr. Allison in front of customers, please, Dave."

He hated being called Dave. "Mr. Allison," he grumbled, "The problem is that Ms. Wilhelm-"

"Heim, you numbshkull," the old woman chimed in. "Wilheim, ish my name."

Nicholas cut in, "I apologize, Ms. Wilheim, I'm certain that David knew your name and the mispronunciation was an honest mistake."

David was sick of two things: being interrupted and kissing ass. The latter was unavoidable, but hopefully the former was over with. "The problem is that this meat and cheese tray had a request for seven different condiments. As you and I both know, Mr. Allison, there is only one slot for condiments on the meat and cheese trays. Ms. Wilheim is upset that her meat and cheese tray came with a bag for the additional condiments rather than them being on the tray."

Nicholas turned to the old crone; "Ms. Wilheim, A Penny Saved would be happy to reduce the price of your meat and cheese tray by ten dollars given this inconvenience. We will also put a special note for future orders that all condiment containers are to be placed somewhere upon the tray, and the meat and cheese can be built around those. Will that resolve this issue to your satisfaction?"

Ms. Wilheim looked at Nicholas; for some reason, she liked him. "Yesh. I would be shatisfied with that, but pleash inshtruct your employee to do it right nexht time."

Nicholas again turned to David. "Dave, can we do it as Ms. Wilheim requests in the future?"

David knew that the tray would look like shit if he did it that way. Nick knew it would look like shit, David knew that Nick knew it would look like shit, but what else could he do? "Yes, Mr. Allison. I'm capable of that. You have my apologies, Ms. Wilhelm."

Ms. Wilheim glowered at David; even though she noticed the deliberate mispronunciation, she didn't say anything this time. Nicholas said to David, "Thank you, David, you may now proceed to the time clock and punch out."

David really didn't like the way Nicholas said that; his shift had actually been scheduled to end three minutes earlier, but Nick was making it sound as though clocking out was a punishment to satisfy that old witch. "Yes, Mr. Allison, thank you, Mr. Allison."




David left the store and got into his friend Evan Blake's car. Evan usually picked him up from work every day except Friday because he worked from 17:00-0:00 Monday through Friday. He managed to get his nervous tic of tongue-clicking during interviews under control by, literally, biting his tongue. With his genuinely infectious smile, and the fact that, with his striking blue eyes and spiky black hair, he was actually remotely handsome under all of his extra pounds, he had no trouble finding a job.

Failing to find any clothes at Macy's that would fit him adequately, Evan Blake decided to go to the Men's Big & Tall store. He bought a suit, changed in the bathroom, returned the shopping bag with his street clothes to the car, then came in and filled out an application asking to talk to a manager. His work history was rock solid; prior to being laid off through no fault of his own, he'd worked as a security guard at the same location for over a decade. His job was to sell clothing until the store's closing time of 10:00p.m., then to spend the last two hours of his shift helping stock whatever came in on the truck that evening. They usually didn't have floor salesmen help stock, but when Evan politely requested that they consider allowing him to do so because he needed more than five hours per shift, they agreed without hesitation.

"How's selling fat people clothes going?" asked David, clearly failing to take into consideration that he was a "fat person" who would have been shopping at Evan's store, had he not had to resort to going to Goodwill.

Evan rolled his eyes. "I don't know why you always ask that," he responded. "Some people are bigger than others, who cares?" Evan continued, "Anyway, it's good that we have those kind of stores, otherwise people would have to go to every single clothes store there is to try to figure out who has their size or not. With us, if you're big or tall, you'll find it."

"Is that the company motto?" David asked. "My God, do I hate my job, and that old witch Ms. Wilhelm."

"She's just one customer," Evan retorted. "How bad could she be?"

"How bad? Let's just say her only redeeming quality is the fact that she'll probably die before me. I look in the obituary every day just to make sure I don't miss the chance to dance on her grave."

Evan replied, "You're too negative, things are going great for us. I think we should get an apartment sooner."

David countered, "Evan, we've discussed this. The reason I want to wait six months is to make sure that we both have a ton of cash banked. Even then, I'm going to need to find a job making more money, or a second job, or something where I'm not going to end up in prison for killing an elderly woman. As we have already agreed, if one of us loses a job and gets tapped, the other will cover him temporarily, but we have to make sure we have that nest egg first, just to make it less likely."

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David had actually been showing promising signs of responsibility over the last month. While he and Evan had had a temporary job the previous month cleaning out county-seized homes that an individual bought and converted to rentals, that individual had told them they could have whatever was in the rental properties. David had sold almost all of it and netted about $500, which he split with Evan. Upon getting his first actual paycheck, David opened a checking account and deposited $400, as well as the $250 from selling the stuff from the rentals, and gave $100 to his mom for that month's rent. David even packed his lunch for work, and made a habit of being as frugal as possible.

Evan turned to David and his eyes widened, which happened anytime he was going to say something important. "Been to the casino?"

"Casino," David reflected. "Well, I told you about the Free Play. Their computers liked me last month, because I know none of the bastards there would do this personally, so I got $20 Free Play for each week this month. This is the fourth week; in fact, I'm going there later today to use the Free Play. I've just been running it through on Slots, haven't taken a dime of my own money in."

Evan exclaimed, "You really haven't!?"

"Nope," David replied, "I played $5.00 on a penny slot and won $50, but I lost that at Craps the most recent time. I think I left there with two dollars, or something. The first two times this month, I won $12 and then $14."

Evan was incredulous; "You lost $50!?"

"Well, yeah," David said, "but it was a derivative of the Free Play. I wanted to play Craps, and it was House Money; a free ride, as you might say."

Evan inquired, "But you won $50 on the slot machine?"

"Yeah..."

"And, you could have left?"

"I guess, technically, I could have."

"And, you did not leave."

"No, I didn't."

"So," Evan concluded, "How did you not lose $50?"

"I don't know," David admitted.

Evan dropped David off at the bank, as it was David's payday. Evan offered to wait while David went in, but David stated that he was going to deposit his entire check and then walk over to the Golden Goose Hotel and Casino to see what he could do with the $20 Free Play on his Golden Eggs card.

David approached the teller, "Excuse me, I'd like to make a deposit."

"Very good," the teller glanced behind her and noticed that the customer indicator for the drive-thru had been flashing. "Where's Becky?"

A voice from an unseen office replied, "She's on lunch."

"Lucy?"

"Had to use the restroom."

The teller glanced apologetically at David, "Please excuse me."

"Sure," David said. "No problem."

In one sense, David felt pretty good about how he had progressed over the last month. He had taken down his website for The Ultimate System, he was saving money, about to get out of his Mom's house for the first time at the age of thirty-eight, he had a job that absolutely sucked but was still a job, and he finally had some clothes that did not reveal the crack of his ass. At the same time, though, he didn't understand why he worked if he could not enjoy any of the benefits of having money, especially since he knew that his betting system absolutely worked. He was tired of going to the Golden Goose to search for abandoned credits and to run through his Free Play, which he'd almost certainly be losing the following month.

He sighed. It isn't that bad like this, he thought.

His reverie was broken by the teller's voice. "Again, I'm sorry about that. How much did you want to deposit?"




David went to the Golden Goose Hotel and Casino to use the $20 Free Play, which he knew could be the last bit of Free Play he'd ever see at that casino. He selected Video Keno this time around, and decided to go $0.25/card picking ten numbers. After seventy-nine plays, he only had about $10 in actual cash and was down to his last card on the Free Play.

"I guess this is it," he said.

David touched the "Draw" button on the screen; he hadn't even gotten in enough plays to decide whether he liked the draw button on the screen or the one on the console better. He looked down at the one at the console trying to decide, but noticed that he hit for Bonus Games as he glanced back up.

During the Free Games, one of the Cards hit 8/10 for $125 and the total of the entire play was $128; he was up to $138.

It had to be a sign.

David cashed out his ticket at the virtual kiosk and absently stuck the money into his wallet. In almost a fugue, he marched over to the Let It Ride table; it had to be a sign.

Arriving at the Table, he pulled out his wallet. "I'm buying in for $1,000. I want seven black, eight green and twenty Red, thank you."

"Changing ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS," called the dealer; she had to make sure a floor supervisor heard this one.

"Change one thousand," called back the floor supervisor.

Just about every other table games player in the casino looked David's way. What on Earth was someone doing buying in for $1,000 at this locals’ casino? It wasn't impossible for someone to lose $1,000, cumulatively, but for someone to buy in for that all at once was nearly unheard of, especially at the Let It Ride table, of all places!

David felt the eyes upon him and looked up; he winked at a couple sitting at the Three Card Poker table, "Ultimate System, game on."


Go back to chapter 2.
To be continued in chapter 4.

About the Author

Mission146 is a proud husband and father of two. He generally fell quite a bit short of the expectations most people had for him, though happily so. Mission146 is currently a salary-slave in Ohio who enjoys documentaries, Philosophy and gambling discussion. Mission146 will write for money, and if you wish for him to do so, create an account on WizardofVegas.com and send him a Private Message with your request.


Written by: Brandon James

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