Headhunter (Part 8)

Querrick and Serius hit up multiple spots around the house, taking small wins and cashing in whenever possible, keeping track of when the bookies change shifts to not arouse suspicion. The two end up making a combined one hundred thousand Carnage Raw (one thousand Carnage Gold) and leave City of Sin where they meet Victor The Bum, they give him the thousand Carnage Gold and say ‘Operation Royal Takeover’ and Victor’s eyes go wide with excitement and he nods enthusiastically and gets to work.

            “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” Presley asks.

            “Only once,” Querrick says, “we needed the money to fund our army and I didn’t want to squeeze taxpayers.”

            “How generous of you,” Presley says, “alright, let’s go.”

            Querrick looks up at the roof and sees Lykas and Isabel on watch duty, he signals to them and tells them to come down and meet him at the next cross street. They nod and head over without a word. When Querrick and Serius get to the cross street, Isabel and Lykas are there to meet them and the four duck into an alley and take an entrance into an underground bar. Serius leads the way quickly and they come out the other side somewhere outside the Financial District. Serius checks to see if they coast is clear before he signals them over and they run like ninjas in the night. When they get to a secluded enough spot, Serius says,

            “Alright, we got the boys off your tail.” He starts, “so, why me specifically? I know they want my head for the conspiracy thing, and it makes sense they would send the Headhunter to do the job. But why me specifically?”

            “Because I did a bit of digging and found you were the most effective investment banker and stockbroker in all of Carnage, your conversion rate of Raw to Gold was second to none. So, I figured you’d be perfect for this operation.”

            “You mean—”

            “Yeah,” Querrick says, “I planned this from the start. I was never going to take your head.”

            Isabel sighs in relief. Lykas shrugs and smirks but secretly wanted to see someone get decapitated.

            “Alright,” Presley says, “what’s that guy gonna do with the money?”

            “Simple,” Querrick says, “put it in the stock market.”

            “What?” Presley is confused, “you know it’s rigged, right?”

            “Yeah,” Querrick says, “which is why he’s going to invest Carnage Gold in Carnage Gold then drip it.”

            Presley considers then chuckles, “that’s actually a solid strategy. Since Carnage Gold is the only thing worth something, the worth automatically doubles plus the dividend reinvestment would. . .holy hell!”

            “Yeah,” Querrick says, “the concept is we run scams and hustles, accumulate Carnage Gold under the radar. Gold is hard to get so it’ll be a bit of work, but the accumulation phase will go unnoticed since people that get Gold tend to hang on to it. If it were Raw, on the other hand—”

“We’d make too much noise,” Presley agrees, “however, we can’t do this quickly with small wins only.”

            “Don’t worry about that,” Querrick says, “from this point on we’ll only be going for big game.”

            Presley grins.

            Querrick and the kids go to a crowded street corner and Querrick gives them instructions on how to play Carnage Lava, a well-known street game that makes for a quick way to accumulate Carnage Raw. Querrick tells them they need at least five thousand Carnage Raw to make fifty Carnage Gold which means ten thousand Carnage Raw for one hundred Carnage Gold. At first, the kids are a bit daunted by the task but Querrick tells them that the game is pay to play and the admission is nonrefundable, and they can charge what they want. Querrick tells them to charge one hundred Carnage Raw per person as a quick way to make currency.

            Querrick goes over the game ten times. Isabel struggles with it but got the hang of it around try number nine while Lykas picks it up instantly and quickly masters the game. Querrick has Lykas be the one to play the gamblers and Isabel to collect the money; Querrick also teaches them some quick combat moves incase anyone acts funny because they’re kids. Lykas picks up on those too and Querrick gives him a dagger and a few poisonous darts (which Isabel takes from him immediately). Querrick leaves without another word while Isabel and Lykas make the call for a game of Carnage Lava.

            Querrick meets up with Presley at Carnage Central Bank along with Victor the bum who returns with one thousand Carnage Gold. Victor the bum nods and leaves without a word and Querrick and Presley go into the bank to look for some stocks to invest in. Presley warns against investing in companies because in Carnage they are naturally volatile, and one company can go up tonight and be out of business by morning. Querrick nods and says they’re not looking for companies but raw currency. Presley taps Querrick on the shoulder and motions him to follow as he knows the marketplace inside and out. The two weave through the crowd like serpents stalking prey and make it to a nondescript door, Querrick instinctively covers Presley while he picks the lock and the two slip into the back room. Inside, they are met with a staircase that leads to an underground stock exchange where all the real money is made. Government officials, princes, nobles, syndicate thugs and gang leaders and even some military are gathered up. Now, Querrick has no problem with crime and corruption; in fact, this is his natural habitat given who his parents are; the only problem he has is when children are involved, and Querrick can sense that children are being gambled in some way.

            “Hey,” Presley says, “keep your morals to yourself. Down here’s no place for the righteous.”

            “I know,” Querrick says as he straightens his face to a stoic expression, “can’t help but get the sense children are involved.”

            “They are,” Presley says, “which is why this isn’t the place we’re making our investment.”

            “Good,” Querrick says, “let’s go before I start head hunting.”

            The two leave the room without a word.

            The next room they enter is where the real money is made. We’re talking about the money of princes, kings, multinational conglomerates, secret councils that run the world. This is the room where the devil’s money resides. Everyone is wearing either an expensive, custom-made suit or royal garbs. Crowns that can illuminate a coliseum sit atop people’s heads; rings that can harness the power of the sun sit prettily upon people’s fingers as they sit around the table that controls every aspect of Carnage down to its bones.

            The Round Table of Carnage.

            The Round Table of Carnage was built before the city itself; it is meant to control every aspect from finance to consumerism to corruption to politics. Everything related to the nature of power and social dynamics happens around this table. The heads of the table are each masters of a specific domain and they work together to make sure the city runs like a well-oiled (and corrupt) machine. Each head’s identity is anonymous and there are twelve heads in all; however, there is a thirteenth spot at the table which is open to anyone with a large enough investment or a big enough status. The thirteenth spot is only reserved for those not known for anything that lies in the realm any of the other head’s master. Example: if there’s a military head at the table, another military man cannot take the thirteenth spot. Lucky for Querrick and Presley, the Dark Commander isn’t at the table which means this operation can run smoothly.

            “Well,” the head of finance says, “I’d never thought I’d see little Querrick at The Round Table of Carnage. What brings you here, son of the Dark Commander?”

            “I’m here to make a little investment,” Querrick says, “however, this investment needs to be kept private.”

            “Oh?” the head of finance says, “trying to buy your way out of your contract, eh?”

            “Why am I not surprised you know this.” Querrick says.

            “It’s my job as head of finance to know everything in this city,” the head of finance says, “well, as it relates to finance of course.”

            “So,” the head of finance says, “how much are you going to invest?”

            “For right now,” Querrick says, “I only have a thousand Carnage Gold. However, that amount will quickly increase over the next forty-eight hours.”

            “I sense an operation,” the head of finance chuckles, “royal takeover perhaps?”

            Presley is surprised but does a good job keeping his poker face.

            “Oh don’t be surprised, Presley,” the head of finance says, “I’m the one who taught Querrick here the operation.” The head of finance smirks, “I’m also the one who helped him pull it off.”

            Presley and Querrick look at each other and nod.

            “So, Querrick,” the head of finance points to the thirteenth spot, “shall we begin?”

            “The game will be very simple,” the head of finance says, “since you’re running the operation ‘Royal Takeover’ starting with one thousand Carnage Gold, the game we’ll be playing is Ten Card Carnage Lava.”

            “I always struggled with this game,” Querrick says.

            “Which is why I chose it,” the head of finance smirks, “I’m not going easy on you this time, little Querrick.”

            “I wouldn’t dream of it.” Querrick says, “what are the stipulations?”

            “Oh, they’ll be very simple. Two divines win the game. Five wizards win the game. Two darks lose the game with a fee, of course. Two naturals and one divine are worth ten thousand Carnage Gold. One divine and four elementals are worth five thousand Carnage Gold. Three lovers are worth seventy-five hundred Carnage Gold. A mixed batch is a bust. Ten divines is worth one hundred million Carnage Gold, five divines fifty million. Ten darks and five darks are the debts owed and you lose the game. You get all that?”

            “Yeah,” Querrick says and looks to Presley who nods.

            “Well then,” the head of finance shuffles the deck of cards and lays out ten on the table. The cards magically float to the center as the head of finance is a wizard archetype, “let us begin.”

            The game goes like this: ten cards are placed at the center of the table. Each player gets five cards with various archetypes. One player puts down a card, face up, and proceeds to choose a card from the center he thinks matches it. Example: if a player draws a divine archetype, chooses a card from the center and it matches, the player gets to go again. If that player chooses another divine, that player wins the game and it starts over again. However, should a player choose dark archetypes in the same manner, they lose and have to pay a penalty to the winner.

            If the player chooses archetypes that don’t match but are complementary, they earn currency in Carnage Gold. Example: if one draws a elemental archetype, say fire, then picks air, they are compensated whatever the set amount for the complementary archetypes. In this game, a fire and air archetype are worth twenty-five hundred Carnage Gold.

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