In Pan Post 139 the Knights of the Round Table and the colonisers of Space Britain have returned to Camelot and have decided to vacate Caledonia for a new conquest. Tom a'Lincoln is waiting for Sir Bedivere to deliver the new coordinates but Admiral Ltexi arrives and tells them she has the information and inserts her own coordinates, tricking Arthur into a new destination instead. This time they reach Outpost Finagle, which Ltexi thinks Arthur will like and she can find a ship back to Jupiter and away from the humans. Sir Palamedes is joined by a young drow boy named Newrias, who wanted to escape the matriarchal oppression of the drow people and joined the knights on their quest to space. Meanwhile King Arthur and a few others head to the Three Men and a Squid Casino where he opts into a card game. Merlin the Younger, Prince Mordred and Morganna le Fay stand by and expect him to lose the entire ship when he uses it as collateral for his entry fee to the game. His opponent reads their horrified expressions and demands that Arthur show his cards. Using an undo card, Arthur reverses his last move and is able to win the game when he reveals those cards; all to the surprise of his son and friends. Isolde of the White Hands is likewise gambling, but on arena matches. When the Red-Tabards die she cheats and uses her powers to control their bodies and continue the fight.
Sir Kay: The ends of my toes are still blue. Are they going to break off?
Sir Kay: But what if you're wrong?!
Sir Kay: Really?!
Sir Kay goes off to find Merlin.
Faerie Knight: I'm not certain Merlin can actually do that.
Sir Greene: Probably not...but his current set is not going to fall off anyway.
Mordred: Everyone's on board. Do you have our destination?
Mordred groans. On the surface of Caledonia, before the Boreans had returned to their home, the knights had peppered them with several questions. Only Mordred had had the presence of mind to ask if the Boreans knew of a suitable world for them to colonize.
The Boreans, in their typical confusing and odd manner, had conferred back and forth with each other and their 'God' - whatever that actually was - before rattling off a string of incomprehensible numbers that they had referred to as 'coordinates.'. Fortunately, Bedivere had a good head for numbers.
Arthur marches onto the bridge.
Arthur: Onward! To our new conquest!
Mordred: Actually, the Boreans said it was uninhabited, last they knew.
Arthur looks disappointed. Mordred rolls his eyes and adds,
Mordred: I'm sure we'll have to repel invaders who want to steal our glory.
Arthur brightens. Tom takes that moment to speak up.
Tom a'Lincoln: I'm sorry, Sire, but I do not the coordinates yet. Sir Bedivere was supposed to--
Ltexi: I've got the coordinates! I'll put them in for you!
The Jupiterian admiral has just sailed onto the bridge. Mordred wonders which of the junior knights she's just seduced, as she has that peculiar flush on her face. Tom regards Ltexi somewhat warily, but at a nod from Arthur - who is clearly impatient - he stands aside to allow Ltexi access to the console.
Ltexi inputs some numbers.
Ltexi: Alright then. Jump whenever you're ready!
Arthur: Why do you want us to jump?
Mordred: Not literally, father. She is referring to the ship traveling at rapid speeds through space.
Arthur: Of course! I was only checking that you remembered.
Shortly, the ship jumps. Through the bridge window, no lush planet greets them. Instead, a riotous contraption of metal and neon lights blares into their vision.
Arthur: What manner of planet is that! The Boreans never described it like that!
Mordred levels a glare at Ltexi, who is smirking.
Mordred: I believe the woman has deliberately misled us.
Ltexi: So quick to accuse! In fact, I have done you a great favor!
Mordred: Speak quickly then.
Ltexi: THIS is Outpost Finagle. Not a planet at all, though it's nearly as large as one. A space station! Like no other, it hops through universes, and is the ultimate casino and resort! Sports and drinking and gambling and merriment aplenty!
Arthur's eyes are getting wider and more interested, though he barely understands half of what the Jupiterian woman is saying. Ltexi finishes her speech with a very clever addition.
Ltexi: Also, it's SHINY.
Arthur: Let's go!
Mordred: But what about our new planet--
Arthur: That can wait! Let's explore!
He all but bounds off the bridge. Mordred sighs.
Mordred: You will answer for this, woman.
Ltexi: I rather think not. I will enjoy Outpost Finagle quite a bit - it's never been nearby before whenever I've had leave - and then I will find me a ship back to my OWN people, who have more than enough crazy already without you bunch.
Mordred can't really argue against the assessment of Arthur and his people as crazy. And he won't be too upset to see the Jupiterian woman gone, who has done little except stir up trouble, as far as he's concerned.
Mordred: Then leave, if you are so eager.
Ltexi fixes him with a horrifyingly sweet smile.
Ltexi: My sweet morsel, you know that saying things like that only makes me want to stay longer.
Mordred turns and stalks off the bridge, refusing to rise to the bait. He hears Ltexi's laughter echoing after him.
* * *
Newrias: But where are we going?
Sir Palamedes: To our destination!
The short drow lad - who asked to come with the knights, given that he was tired of living in a society where he was oppressed by females - looks around him, confused. His face has the narrow aspect common to drow, but his cheeks still retain the fat roundness of his youth. His eyes are a brown so dark that they're almost indistinguishable from his pupils. His long white hair is in dreadlocks; it was once held back with a ponytail, but the women of Space Camelot took great delight in fixing up his hair.
He has a lean muscular frame, having been in training to be a soldier, and is most proficient with the longknife and sling on his leather belt; strangely enough, Outpost Finagle seems to have no qualms about armed visitors. He is shirtless, and wears only sandals and loose white trousers; he still regularly complains of being too hot, and spends as much time in heavily air conditioned areas as possible.
Newrias: But what destination is that? The deeper we get into this nightmarish labyrinth, the more lost we get!
He nearly crashes into Sir Palamedes, as the knight stops and turns around.
Sir Palamedes: Heed me, youth, and heed me well. If one wishes to be a man of renown and recognition...you must never admit that you are lost.
Newrias: So we are lost?
Sir Palamedes: Indeed not!
Newrias: But you just said--
Sir Palamedes is already stalking down the corridor. Newrias blushes as a scantily dressed 'woman of the evening' beckons at him from an alcove between two bars, and he hurries on. Back on Caledonia, there were no 'women of the evening', only 'men of the evening'.
Elsewhere on the space station, Arthur is watching a wall with dozens of screens, each showing a different sporting or gambling event taking place on the station.
Merlin: That's fascinating, it looks like they're employing extraplanar logic in this game of 'time tag'.
Sir Bedivere: And look at those fascinating chronological instruments! Like those on Space Camelot, they do not use cogs, but these also tick backwards and forwards!
Arthur is watching all the screens with intense focus. Finally he stabs his finger at one of the screens.
Arthur: That one!
Bediverse and Merlin pause from their analysis. Mordred and Iseult of the White Hands look up from perusing menus.
Arthur: Of all the challenges this strange planet--
Merlin: Ltexi told you, it's a manmade complex.
Arthur: --holds, this one seems to be the worthiest! I shall enter that tournament!
He marches down the corridor, and the other knight scramble up from their tables, disappointed at not getting to sample the local cuisine, but not eager to let their king go into potential trouble unaided.
Mordred: Father, it's the other direction.
Without missing a beat, Arthur turns on his heel. Shortly, they arrive in the Three Men and a Space Squid Casino - one of many extravagant casinos on the space station. Sir Tristram is instantly drawn to the slots, and rapidly develops an addiction - and a debt.
Arthur's eyes are drawn to the Finagle tables in the center, and sits down to play.
Finagle Host: The Daily Sigma requires an entry fee to play.
Arthur: You would dare deny a king?!
Finagle Host: Rank alone does not--
Merlin: What is the entry fee, sir?
Finagle Host: 100,000 standard PCC-issue credits.
Arthur appears stumped for a moment, then says,
Arthur: I will wager on the outcome of this first game in the tournament! If I win, I do not have to pay the entry fee!
Finagle Host: A bold request. It will be honored, if you have collateral to put up in case you lose.
Arthur: Space Camelot!
The others blanch in horror.
Mordred: No, Father--
But it is too late. The display and controls in front of Arthur light up.
Finagle Host: The wager is accepted. Please be advised that, in the event of a loss, all personnel will be required to disembark your ship within an hour of then.[/i]
Mordred: Merlin, Bediverse...we must help Father win...at all costs.
Morganna: And then conk him over the head afterwards, so he doesn't drag us into any more madness.
Mordred: Mother, what are you doing here?
Morganna: The game Finagle intrigued me...and then I realized what a great shiny object it would be to your dunce of a father. It seems I am too late to stop it. I'll start packing my things.
Mordred: Mother, wait - please help us win this.
Merlin: You don't need her, you have me.
Morganna shoots Merlin a scathing glare.
Morganna: Very well. I'll stay. And then take over once Merlin admits she can't do enough to secure his victory.
Arthur's game pieces appear as holograms on the table before him, and he arranges them within the game's starting parameters on the half a dozen floating and rotating holo-game-boards. He opts to draw cards from only two of the many available suits, and mulligans his first hand. And his second.
And his third.
His fourth he is about to throw away, but Bedivere interrupts.
Sir Bedivere: I recommend you keep that one, Sire!
Mordred: Especially since you draw one less card every time you mulligan...
Arthur: Very well, Sir Bedivere. I will heed your counsel in this matter.
The game begins, a series of moves, bluffs, and wagers. Arthur's opponent is a Grey, who has drawn a hand from six suits and opted to use half his potential game pieces, keeping the rest in reserve.
Arthur: Go fish.
Grey Opponent: I have not yet asked you for something.
Arthur: What's taking you so long?
The Grey eyes the human king curiously, and appears to be hiding a smirk.
Grey Opponent: Got any WILD cards?
Arthur: Go fish.
The king has said that almost before his opponent finished asking. The Grey is definitely smirking now.
Grey Opponent: I call your bluff.
Behind Arthur, Merlin has gone white. Arthur has not one but three WILD cards in his hand.
Arthur: You can't prove it.
Grey Opponent: I can call on the host to force a proof.
Arthur: If you call on the host, you forfeit the game if you are wrong.
The Grey Opponent is clearly reading Merlin's expression, and so is confident.
Grey Opponent: I call on the host.
Before the Finagle host can trigger a public display of cards in Arthur's hand, Arthur speaks up.
Arthur: Oh, look at that. I have an Undo Turn of Cups here.
Grey Opponent: You haven't had a turn yet. You have nothing to undo.
Finagle Host: Incorrect. He can undo his most recent mulligan.
The Grey Opponent seems to pale, as Arthur's cards disappear, replaced with the hand he had drawn just before this one (and had previously thrown away). Then the Finagle Host triggers the public display of Arthur's cards, revealing no WILD cards. The Grey sags.
Finagle Host: Victory to the human!
Mordred and the others watched with stunned looks. Morganna grins and wags her finger at Merlin.
Morganna: Perhaps you'd better sit over there, dear, your face is giving away everything.
Elsewhere on Outpost Finagle, Isolde of the White Hands is cheering on a gladiatorial match. Sirs Scottius, Alistair, and Britthomas the Red-Tabards are fighting reluctantly, egged on by her, and she has bet on them. After all, their opponents are just three oversized toads half their heights!
Isolde: Kill them already, you daft fools!
The three Red-Tabards lower their visors and stab clumsily with their swords at the toadlike aliens, who leap up high and back down to land atop the three knights, who clatter to the ground in a heap of armor. The toadlike aliens flick out their barbed tongues, piercing holes in the Red-Tabards' armor and flesh. The hapless knights, pinned down by the weight of their armor and their opponents, aren't able to move or defend themselves effectively, and soon die.
Isolde: Dammit, I bet good coin on you three!
The three toadlike aliens stand off their foes' corpses and receive the accolades of the crowd. The cheering falters when the three knights get up, their movements jerky, and the toadlike aliens turn around in astonishment.
More barbed tongues and leaps are ineffective against the corpse puppets, and the toadlike aliens are soon backed against the wall before being gutted.
Isolde: That's better...
DISCLAIMER: Britt the Writer and I had different ideas about Newrias's age. I was envisioning him being a young adult, but now that Britt has taken him in a different direction, I'm very uncomfortable with the line about him being beckoned to by a lady of the evening, even though it's only intended as a means to illustrate Newrias's culture shock. I would remove that line, but due to Geb and Britt the Writer's strong opposition to editing posts, I am leaving the post as it is, and only adding this disclaimer.