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Best of Barney Vinson

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April 34, 2093 -- A Vegas Odyssey

14 April 2002

The old man shuffled out to the front solarium as a bright sun burned through the afternoon smog. Settling into his hydro-lounger, he looked at the date on his wrist computer. It was the 34th of April already. Summer would be here in a few more weeks, and he hadn't even waxed the blades on the family hovercraft.

He pushed a button, and the Las Vegas skyline appeared on the solarium wall. The casinos glowed like miniature cities: Slotboat, Lots O' Slots, Arcade Hilton, Slotstown, Video Palace, Slot Machine Island, Reel Experience, Golden Slots. With a sigh, he watched the bullet train from the Arizona coast speed toward the Las Vegas Strip.

He never got used to looking at the Strip without remembering the days when cars clogged the intersections. Of course, that was back in the 20th century, before automobiles were banned by the government. Now there were so many hovercraft and balloon ships in the sky you needed a flash-gun to find your way to the mandatory drug screening every week.

Yes, the state of Nevarizona had certainly changed since the Great Earthquake. Everyone got enough to eat now, thanks to greenhouse farming, but the 75 percent sales tax left little money at the end of the month. Fortunately, the federal income tax was ruled unconstitutional by the former Supreme Court. Otherwise, most of the citizens would probably be deported to Jupiter, where all the federal prisoners and gang members lived.

Suddenly the old man heard the hiss of the school ship, and then his two grandchildren were at the solarium door. "How was school today?" the old man asked, hoping the two weren't thirsty already. Now that Lake Mead had dried up, each family was allotted only one mega-gallon of water a day.

"It was okay," answered his granddaughter, tossing her paper jacket into the trash compactor.

"Did you learn anything?"

"Yeah, we learned the names of all the presidents," she answered, then closed her eyes as she recited. "Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jodie Foster."

The old man chuckled. "You left out a few, but at least you know more than you did yesterday."

His grandson approached with a stick of turkey in his hand. "My class was neat, grandpa," he said. "We learned all the payback percentages on the slot machines. The teacher said if I quit school, I could probably be a casino manager by the time I'm 16."

"You stay in school," the old man said. "Or do you want to spend the rest of your life working around a bunch of robots?"

"No, sir."

His granddaughter tugged excitedly at his sleeve. "Grandpa, tell us about how Las Vegas used to be."

"You mean when I was young?"

"Yes," his grandson cried. "Please?"

"Well, all right," he said, impulsively reaching for his pipe and then remembering that tobacco had been illegal for the last 35 years. The two children sat at the old man's feet, looking up at him with expectant faces.

"When I came here, Las Vegas was a real special place. Of course, that was before gambling was legal all over the world. Back then, it was against the law in most places, and I guess that's why this town was so unique. Why, there were all kinds of attractions that used to bring in tourists by the millions."

"What kind of attractions, grandpa?"

"Well, table games for one thing."

"What were table games, grandpa?"

"They were gambling games, most of them played with cards. There was blackjack, baccarat, poker. They had a spinning wheel game known as roulette, and one with dice that was called craps."

"You said a nasty, grandpa."

"No, that was the name of the game. Now listen, kids. I know you've never heard of anything except slot machines, but these table games were really something. People used to bet real money on them, none of that plastic stuff like you see nowadays -- and they had human dealers, too."

"You mean there weren't any robots?"

"Nope, there weren't any robots in those days." The old man's eyes clouded. "Of course, that was before the government disbanded the corporations and took over the casinos. The first thing they did was get rid of most of the humans, because salaries and insurance just got to be too expensive."

"So what did you do, grandpa?"

"I did what any other red-blooded Nevarizonian would do. I went to slot machine school. Why, I could dismantle a Megatrillion ten-reeler and put her back together in less than a micro-minute. Robot mechanics hadn't been perfected yet, and I made enough money to retire by the time I was 120."

"Las Vegas must have been fun in those days," his grandson said wistfully.

"Oh, it was. You wouldn't believe it, but I remember when every casino had a showroom. People would sit out front, and all the big stars would come out on stage and sing songs."

"You mean like on Astro Vision?"

"Well, in a way. But like I said before, it just got too expensive. So the government took out the showrooms and put in more slot machines."

"Gosh."

"And a lot of things were free back then. You parked your car free, you got in the casino free, and if you played any of the games you got free cocktails and sometimes even a free meal."

"What's a cocktail, grandpa?"

"It was a drink made with alcohol."

"You mean like that junk we put in the hovercraft?"

"Yeah, but this tasted a whole lot better," the old man chuckled. "I never did understand why they outlawed it."

"What else was there, grandpa?"

"Well, there were human bellhops in all the big hotels, and they used to carry people's luggage up to their rooms. Then the hotels put in automatic luggage chutes, and that was the end of that. And back before GlobalCop, every casino was staffed with real human security guards. It was really something."

Suddenly the door of the solarium slid open, and the old man's son peeked in. "I thought I'd find you kids in here," he said. Looking at his father, he added, "Dad, you weren't telling them about the old days again, were you?"

"I'm sorry, son," the man sighed, climbing slowly to his feet. "But sometimes it's hard to keep it all inside."

"Well, come on back to the dining module. The food drinks are almost ready."

"Food drinks?" the children cried. "I thought we were going to McDonald's."

The old man smiled. Some things never changed.

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson