Short fiction

Gambling Odds Part A: a story in two halves by: GF Willmetts.

The one thing that the Earthers have a reputation for above all others is to gamble. They’d bet which foot they’d start to walk with first as babies given the chance. Amongst themselves, they’d bet which raindrop would end up at the bottom of some clear silicate. Even long odds against winning won’t deter them. This number lottery many of them indulge in has near impossible odds, yet they believe the promotion that if they keep trying then one day it might be them. I wonder how many of them never be this winner but maintain this belief? It’s the selling of a dream not the prize that fires their imagination. Did I not add that we think them fools but fools that might win occasionally no matter the low odds. An odd measure of optimism and prey to gamblers like ourselves.

It is their gullibility that, in part, restricts us from landing on their planet, let alone gamble with them. The warning signs and vehicles patrolling to keep us out. The temptation is too great. One of our own characteristics. We like to push boundaries. To see how low a set of odds they will face and beat them.

I wasn’t stupid. I took my fen Bod and remembered to take some collateral to bet with. The Earthers have a thing for cheap agates but we needed something stronger to temp them, especially as they were now exploring their own outer planets. Their planet has enough agates for everyone to have a scrape of one and yet they put big value on something we can pick up on any of the known planets by digging holes in the ground or scaping a few cliffs. There’s no knowing what some aliens put value on. Their bodies. Property. Local currency for trading. Food. All kinds of organic bi-products.

Even so, we thought we needed something big as collateral to show we meant business at the biggest poker game we can find. All the ones leading up to it and we were running out of agates. Oh, we won from time to time but we wanted in on the biggest stakes game and that needed a bigger ante to buy our way in. The Earthers had to see we could lose big if they wanted to take everything off them for bigger stakes. We played their game. Made the same casual mistakes that they called identifying marks that they can pick up on so we could mislead them with a good hand. They thought we had been taken in but we were doing them.

Only thing was we were following what we were going to do instead of what were doing and they won our final collateral. We handed them the merchandise but as we left their world, we hadn’t told them that it was a damaged ultra-flight engine. We weren’t likely to be prosecuted by our own people for going to a restricted planet by giving away something really valuable. We had lost some agates and a broken engine and had sore egos. We had also learnt that the Earthers could win against impossible odds and we were just unlucky. No wonder they always felt optimistically lucky. Have a single chance and they’d probably win it. If we report that if asked, we might save ourselves some restricted confinement.

As we reached the outer systems, our mass detector recorded another ultra-flight coming up behind us and exceeding it. Our instruments noted it was the defective motor we’d left behind. They must have repaired it. We thought it might get to one of their outer planets before exploding but this was beyond all expectations. And we gave it to them. That won’t go down well.

See Gambling Odds Part B

© GF Willmetts 2024

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Gambling Odds Part A: a story in two halves by: GF Willmetts.
Gambling Odds Part A: a story in two halves by: GF Willmetts.


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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