Larry Glenfiddich sat with four others in the crude makeshift poker table in the sub-sub-basement of Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was a grizzled man, thirty-seven years old and clad entirely in tobacco-scented black denim. His thick mutton chops were starting to grey a bit, and his gnarled British teeth clamped down hard on a cigar. Whiskey was on his breath and he was a bit grumpy that he’d been shunted to this seedy and illegal venue to feed his gambling addiction, but Vegas, like much of the rest of America, was limping through a state of martial law since the nuclear terrorist attack on Dunsinane Circus. All the casinos in Vegas had been closed down: all major tourism centers were frozen until that damn hamster with those damn nukes could be found.
And searching, they were: the Navy Seals were busting in the doors of known hamster owners, looking for Jon Hammster or one of his mad minions. At this juncture, Hammster’s claim that he had more than one nuclear weapon was believed to be a bluff. Yet no chances were being taken; despite the massive blow to the world economy, any place that a large number of people might congregate was being evacuated. Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, the French Quarter, the Vegas Strip, and many others were all ghost towns now, empty save for the military men posted there.
But Larry didn’t give a shit about any of this. He was a gambler: A mighty one. Well, mighty back in his hometown of Stoke-On-Trent, and he’d flown into Vegas for the first time to test himself in the world of high-stakes poker. Within minutes of landing, however, Dunsinane was all over the news; then the American President was declaring the closure of the major urban centers. Flights were grounded. Larry was furious, but he’d come to Las Vegas to gamble. He’d find a place to play. And hell, what bigger gamble than risking getting torched out of existence by an evil, anthropomorphic rodent?
So he’d found a group of like-minded individuals, stranded in Vegas under similar circumstances, and they’d cautiously sneaked into Harrah’s. This was possible because at the time, the Marines posted in the area were severely understaffed and spread very thin. So it was that Larry and three others crept into the casino; but it was quickly determined that, due to the military and police presence, they shouldn’t be on the ground floor. Larry and his new friends crept towards the stairs, grabbing what supplies and bottles they could on the way. They slipped down the stairs into the sub-sub basement (which had traditionally been a laundry room) and they’d set up shop with their stolen cards and chips.
Besides Larry, there was Tito Rincón, from Panama City; Charlene Moses, from Orange County, California; Jacques LaRongeur, from New Orleans; and David Onishi, a local. As they slugged Johnny Walker Blue and bet with chips that weren’t tied to real money, they shared stories of their backgrounds and waxed poetic on the dire implications of the rise of the hamsters.
“I always know we’d get attacked, me,” said Jacques, “I knew dis would ‘appen. Only, I thought I would be aliens.”
“This is much worse than aliens,” Charlene said, tossing a few chips into the pot, “They were always here. They were plotting against us the whole time. Who knows what else they plan to do?”
“Kill us all,” said Onishi, “That’s all they want. But they won’t be able to. Our boys will take them out.”
“Can it with the wartime shit,” Larry said, “Play poker.”
Larry was starting to warm up to this basement game. While it wasn’t quite what he’d had in mind when he bought his ticket to Vegas, he kind of enjoyed the free bottles of whiskey and avoiding all the rampant commercialism of Vegas. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to discuss war. He’d seen war! Though not American, he’d been part of the SAS and he was on the ground in Iraq, too. He’d seen violence, war and devastation firsthand. That was against people though: what the hell was this hamster bullshit?
Forget about it, thought Larry, Play.
But Jon Hammster didn’t want him to forget about it. And Larry Glenfiddich would never forget it again: for as they sat in the seedy basement of the Harrah’s, far around the world, Jon Hammster was busy proving that it wasn’t just America he was targeting. And within minutes, the news reached the Vegas basement, popping up on the iPhones of several of the illicit poker players.
“L…L…Larry,” said Onishi, shaking as he held up his phone, “Uh… Jon Hammster has struck again.”
“Shut up, Mate, I told you. I don’t want to hear about some damn hamster,” Larry barked.
“Uh, no, Larry,” said Rincón, “This is different. He dropped another bomb.”
“Where?” Larry demanded.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Stoke-On-Trent, England,” said Onishi.
Larry, the grizzled, big and burly combat veteran, flung the table aside and fell to his knees. He roared like a wounded animal, his cries echoing about the sub-sub-basement. They probably alerted the police and Marines, but Larry didn’t care. Not about that, not about poker, not about Vegas. He only cared about one thing:
He had to kill Jon Hammster.