The Venus Venus is crammed full of gambling tables, just like all the other casinos, but beyond that it's like a replay of decadent Ancient Rome -- all too-much-food and Acres of soft-focus bare flesh and pastel orgies, and it's NOT for Big Kids. Only serious gamblers or serious sensualists show up here.
We were both, of course, or at least we liked to THINK we were.
Here's the picture: Above the frenzied action of the gambling tables, hanging from the ceiling, the Four Flying Karamazov Brothers vied with the Six Nymphet Sisters and a couple live wolverines in an attempt to distract the gamblers so they wouldn't realize how many of their hard-earned Stars they were actually LOSING. The House was raking it in.
This madness went on and on, but nobody seemed to notice much. The gambling continued 24/7 on the main floor, and the trapeze action never ended. Meanwhile, on the upstairs balconies, ignorant tourists were being fleeced in every conceivable kind of bizaare schuck ever invented to separate a guy from his legal tender.
All kinds of funhouse-type booths: Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a 10-foot-tall policewoman in less-than-half a uniform (half of her was LEGS that went on FOREVER) and win a giant cotton-candy goat.
Or step right up in front of this fantastic machine, sir, and for only 1 Star your likeness will appear, 200 meters tall, on the face of a giant hyperwave screen orbiting around Tweedle-Dee once an hour. Add another Star and record a voice message.
"Say whatever you want, fella, they'll hear you, don't worry about that! Remember, you'll be 200 feet tall!"
Good Ghod. I could see myself lying in bed back at the Mint, half-asleep and staring idly out the viewport, when suddenly some vicious Nazi drunkard appears 200 feet tall in the midnight sky screaming gibberish at the world: "No more trickle-down economics! ... I did NOT have sex with that woman!...."
I will be closing the drapes tonight. A vision like that could send a drug fiend careening around the room like a ping-pong ball. Hallucinations are bad enough. But after awhile you learn how to deal with things like seeing your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife clenched between her teeth. Most acid fanciers can handle that sort of thing.
But NOBODY can handle that other trip -- the possibility that any moron with 2 Stars can walk into the Venus Venus and suddenly appear in the sky over Tweedle-Dee 12 times the size of God, howling anything that comes into his head.... No, this is not a good place for mind-twisting drugz. Reality itself is too twisted here.
Good mescaline comes on slow. The first hour is all waiting. Then about halfway through the second hour you start cursing the creep that burned you, because NOTHING is happening....
...And then ZANG! Fiendish intensity, strange glows and vibrations ... a very heavy gig in a place like the Venus Venus.
"I hate to say this," my attorney said as we sat down at the Centrifuge Bar on the second level, "but this place is getting to me. I think I'm getting The Fear."
"Bullshit," I said mildly. "We came out here to discover what's left of Humanity's Dream in Known Space, and now that we're right in the absolute vortex of it you want to quit." I grabbed one of his long, serpent-like necks and squeezed gently. "You must realize," I said, "that we've found the main nerve."
"I know," he said. "That's what gives me The Fear."
The ether was wearing off, the acid was long gone, but the mescaline was running strong. We were sitting at a small gold-topped table, orbiting speedily around the bartender.
"Look over there," I told Nessus mildly. "Two women fucking a Bandersnatch." Nothing seemed to phase me. Had to be the mescaline.
"Please," he said, "don't TELL me these things. Not now." He signaled the waitress for two more Wild Turkeys -- both for himself, no doubt. "This is my last drink," he said. "How much money can you lend me?"
"Not much," I said. "Why? And what about that Twenty I gave you at the Gaga concert?"
"Never mind that," he said, "I have to go. I have to get off this asteroid. Now."
"Calm down," I said. "You'll be straight in a few hours."
"No," Nessus said. "This is serious."
"Osama bin Laden was serious," I said. "Al-Qaeda was serious. And you know what happened to THEM."
"Don't fuck around with me!" he shouted. "Another hour in this place and I'm gonna kill somebody."
I could see he was On The Edge -- that fearful intensity that comes at the peak of a mescaline seizure.
"OK, easy, easy," I said. "I'll lend you some money. Let's get out of here and see how much we have left."
"Can we make it?" he said.
"Well, that depends on how many people we fuck with between here and the door. You want to leave quietly?"
"I want to leave FAST."
"OK," I said. "Let's pay this bill and get up very slowly. We're both out of our heads. This is going to be a LONG walk."
I shouted at the waitress for a bill. She came over, looking bored, and my attorney stood up. He was a little wobbly, his necks waving all around.
"Come on, Doc, let's go downstairs and gamble." I got Nessus as far as the edge of the bar, the side of the Centrifuge's capsule, but he refused to step off until it stopped circling.
"It won't stop," I said. "It's NEVER going to stop."
"Will it at least SLOW DOWN a little bit?" he asked.
I stepped off and turned around to wait for him, but he wouldn't move... and before I could reach out and pull him off, the centrifuge slowly but steadily carried him away. "Don't move!" I shouted. "You'll come back around!"
His eyes were staring blindly ahead, squinting in fear and confusion. But he didn't move a muscle until he'd completed a full circle.
I waited until Nessus was almost in front of me, then I reached out to grab him -- but he jumped back and went around the circle again. This made me very nervous. I felt on the verge of a freakout. I could only imagine what Nessus was feeling.
And the bartender seemed to be watching us....
I jumped back onto the centrifuge and hurried around the bar, approaching my attorney on his blind side -- and when we came to the right spot I pushed him off. He staggered out onto the second floor and uttered a hellish scream as he lost his balance and went down thrashing into the crowd, rolling like a log, then back up again in a flash, looking for somebody to kick.
I approached him with my hands in the air, trying to smile. "You fell," I said. "Let's go."
By this time, people WERE watching us. But the fool wouldn't move, and I knew what would happen if I grabbed him.
"OK, you stay here and go to jail," I said. "I'm leaving."
I started walking fast toward the escalators, ignoring him. That finally moved him.
"Did you SEE that?" he said. "Some sonofakzin kicked me in the back!"
"Probably the bartender," I said. "He'd been wanting to stomp you for awhile, I think."
"Good Ghod! Let's get out of here! Where's that elevator?"
"Don't you go NEAR that elevator -- that's just what they WANT us to do, trap us in a steel box and take us down to the basement." I looked over my shoulder, but nobody was following us.
"Don't run," I said. "They'd love an excuse to shoot us."
Nessus nodded, seeming to understand. We walked fast along the huge midway -- shooting galleries, tattoo parlors, money-changers, cotton candy booths, orgy cubicles, the usual -- then out through a bank of glass doors, out into Tweedle-Dee's main tunnels again.
I was exhausted, coming down from the mescaline rush. "You lead," I told Nessus. "Find us some light and quiet where we can count what's left of our money. I think there's something wrong with me."