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Chapter 5 of The Unlicensed

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Stepping through George was immediately stopped in a small arched marble hallway by another velvet rope and a the twin of the man he'd just left on the other side of the red door.

"Hey Rick! How's it hanging!"

"Straight up as usual." the emaciated man replied with a wide grin "Let's see...scans show no weapons as usual...one power....no brains....yep that's you all over George!"

Clearing his throat slightly George leaned over and looked directly into Rick's face. "Fuck you." he replied with all seriousness before breaking into a similarly wide grin "So I expect that since people seem to be happy to see me I'm expected?"

"Damned if I know why but yeah the druids want to see you and passed the word." Rick said unhooking the velvet rope and re-sttaching it after letting George through " For what it's worth I really didn't give a damn - same as Eddie. I've always liked your...honesty. And the Wig really needed to be taken down a peg anyway."

"She's not here is she?" said George looking around quickly "I really don't need to tangle with her right now."

"She got her ass booted last year. Turns out she was smuggling video in and out of here and the druids caught her."

"Well that was damn stupid even for her. She's lucky they didn't do what they supposedly did to the one guy...what was his name?"

"Fred McKinzie, and that is just a rumor...or so I'm told." Rick said winking and unfolding George's "key" back into a straight steel rod. Behind him a red light over the doorway lit up just as Blaze stepped through.

"Hey Rick." Blaze said smiling and reaching for the velvet rope.

"Not so fast wonder boy. Scan shows you're carrying a weapon. Hand it over." Rick said holding out his hand.

The smile disappeared from Blaze's face almost immediately. Sighing he reached into his suit and produced a small ceramic object that looked all the world like an oversized fountain pen. "This place is full of questionable people and you expect me to be unarmed." he said handing the object along with his "key" to Rick.

"You know the rules. In fact that's what got you kicked out last time. George in a pissing match with the Wig had nothing to do with it." replied Rick dropping the object into a flip-up steel trash can "Third time is a permanent ban Blaze. No joke. The druids got hit hard last year by somebody that they aren't talking about so they put in a zero-tolerance policy. And contrary to popular belief there are people here who like to see you - myself among them - so tow the line huh?"

Looking slightly surprised Blaze replied with a simple nod of the head.

"Enjoy your stay gentlemen." Rick said grinning again "I'm using the term loosely of course."

"Later Rick." said George putting his hands in his pockets and walking with Blaze towards the end of the hallway into the main portion of the establishment.

Not more than ten feet out of the hallway a tall brown robed figure came striding towards them. "Gentlemen! Or at least Rick says I should use that term." the bearded man said with a smile on his face "Welcome to The Rose!"

"Umm...." said George shuffling his feet "...we've been here before."

"Never mind him" said Blaze stepping in before George could put his foot in his mouth "we're happy to be here again."

"Regardless would you please come this way?" the man continued smiling warmly "A table has been prepared for you."

"Lead on Darth Smiley" quipped George watching with a slight grin as Blaze put his forehead in his hand in exasperation.

Following the robed figure they entered into the central restaurant portion of the building the marble pillars and cathedral like polished beams rising from the floor to a brightly lit stained glass ceiling. Comprising the center of the design was an incredibly complex red glass rose.

"I always forget how beautiful that is." said Blaze stopping momentarily and looking up at the ceiling.

"C'mon Blaze. Admire the scenery later!" George said turning back to look at him the guide pausing as well.

"Yeah..." said Blaze under his breath hurrying slightly to catch up with them.

Walking through the enormous dining area George glanced from side to side as they passed the tables. Most were screened by the wavy distortion of privacy shields but a few weren't and he recognized people here and there. Quite a few he definitely would not want to run into outside of the building.

"The Rose shields all." Blaze reminded him seeing the look on his face.

"I know, I know." George sighed "I know..."

Blaze elbowed him in the ribs "Heads up dude we're entering the first level of the bar."

Looking up George saw a pair of stained glass doors shaped like two halves of a gigantic red rose. As he was watching a couple exited through the doors releasing an extremely loud burst of music from the space beyond even though the doors appeared no more than an inch thick at most.

"I hate this part." said George looking a bit uneasy "I think its the overwhelming noise. It messes with me."

"Steady my friend. Steady." Blaze said patting him on the back "We'll be to the meeting room before long."

"Actually..." the robed man interrupted "the meeting is to take place in the lower levels."

George looked at Blaze and just shook his head. "Wonderful."

"It'll be over before you know it." said Blaze patting his back again.

As they entered the room the beat of the music hammered them repeatedly. The robed figure motioned to four men in black suits to follow as they strode out to the center of the dance floor. Once there the four men directed the dancers away from a circle in the center where the robed man stood along with George and Blaze. As expected the center circular portion of the dance floor descended taking its occupants with it another circular disc sliding into place to cover the hole once they sunk below the floor.

As the cover closed over top of them soft amber mica lights lit up around the outer ring of the slowly sinking platform bringing a slightly old world feel to what would otherwise feel like a modern elevator. Their progress marked by lighted level numbers embedded into the walls using the same amber mica lights.

Passing level 4 the platform slowed and stopped at level 5 a narrow concrete hallway lit by a long string of florescent lights. Blinking at the unexpected change in brightness they stepped off that platform watching it almost immediately start to rise back up to the dance floor.

The robed figure leading the way George and Blaze walked down the corridor passing several different types of doors until they reached a simple oak door at the end of the corridor.

"This is where I bid you farewell." the robed figure told them "You will find the druids beyond. Good evening gentlemen." Bowing slightly the robed figure casually turned and headed back down the hallway.

"Well let's get this over with." said George setting his features into his best poker face as Blaze pushed the oak door aside in front of him.


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