Saturday night. The Strip. The air is loud with the throng of excitable youths believing that fortune is smiling upon them and they can win big in the various tables and boards. Suddenly, a raucous cheer erupted from the roulette table. In the centre of this cheer stood a confident, if shaken, young man.
“Black seven. We have a winner”
The man was feeling assured. This was the fifth time he had won on the table today. He could retire happily with the money he had made. Maybe he could move into one of those fancy apartments on the Strip. No more dirty water and Canned Food for him. No more working his fingers to the bone on the farms, earning barely enough to sustain him. His name would be all over New Vegas Radio. Life was good.
“Go on again, Frank. Your luck’s in tonight”, an elderly drunkard slurred.
“Yeah, Frank. How much more can you win?” said a passing bartender.
Frank wasn’t sure. He knew that he was getting ahead of himself. He remembered a lesson that his mother told him when he was a child. How did it go? He remembered: “Never place all your eggs into one basket.” But what could go wrong? He had won 5 times already, a near impossible feat on the Strip. He was sure his luck was in. Quickly, he moved all of his chips to Red 5. 5 was his lucky number. It would not fail him now. Time slowed to a crawl as the ball span around, slowly juddering to a halt.
“32 Black. The House wins.” The croupier started raking Frank’s chips in. Every last one. His riches were ripped away from him just as quickly as he earned them. There was a stunned silence. No-one could believe it. The audience that had built up around the table didn’t know where to look. Neither did Frank. A cold sweat was forming on his brow. His mind was racing, yet his body was numb.
“Impossible!” Frank cried. “I made a mistake! Please let me have another go, sir!”
“Sorry sir, the House has won. Please step away from the table.” The croupier replied, without a hint of sympathy in his voice.
“No!” Frank exclaimed desperately. “I want to talk to the manager of this Casino!”
The croupier gulped. “You, you want to speak to Mr House, sir?”
Around the table, the audience drew in a collective gasp. Everyone knew who Mr House was, but no-one had ever met him. He was the subject of many tales and stories across the Mojave Desert. Elderly Grandparents remembered the name from when they were children. Mr House was first noted in records in 2020, 261 years ago. A businessman who has pioneered many things across many generations, often named as one of the greatest minds in the world. His age is just one of the many mysteries about him.
Franks jaw dropped. “Mr House?” His mind was a blur. Too many things have happened today. He needed a drink. But the money! He needed the money. It was his last way out of a life of drudgery. He spoke up:
“Yeah. I’d like to speak to Mr House.”
The Croupier became visibly shaken. His fists clenched and a sweat formed across his brow. He had faced situations like this before, but no-one actually asked to go and speak to Mr House. Just one mention of his name is enough to deter people. This man was different. Although he was weak and broken, he was not stupid. The Croupier was worried. His mouth moved before his mind did:
“Very well, sir. I’ll take you to see him. Please follow me.”
Franks heart jumped. He instantly regretted his decision to speak up. Going to visit Mr House was one of the last things he had on his mind. His heart rattled after each step he took up to the VIP area. He was going to meet an enigma. A legend. He was probably the first person to meet Mr House in many years. After being told to wait in the lobby area by the Croupier, he couldn’t stand still. After minutes that seemed like years, he was waved into the visiting room. This is it.
As he walked into the room, he was confused to see that there was nobody waiting there for him. A large screen, surrounded by panels of controls, stood against the wall of the room. The screen blinked into life. A portrait of a handsome, dapper middle aged man popped onto the screen. Speakers blared out:
“Hello there, Gambler. I know all about your situation, as I was the one that had partook in it. I would prefer it if you did not speak, so that my message can clearly be drummed into you. Simply put: I run a business. You are my consumer. You come into my casino to waste away your hard earned income to forget about your miserable life. By performing well at my Casino, you have cheated your way into success. This cannot stand. You have not made an honest living, like I have. I had to ensure that you did not keep your dirty money. One must learn to be great and I am the one who has helped to guide you along that path. Now go. You are not welcome in Vegas anymore.”
Chastised, hurt, and ripped off. Frank despondently trudged down the stairs. The Casino was quiet, with all eyes staring at him. He didn’t meet their glance. He just walked out into the warm night air. Staring up at the sky, he wondered what he was going to do with himself. He didn’t want to go back to work, that’s for sure. There were bigger things in store for him. As he walked towards the front of town, he wondered what his life would lead to.