The feeling became stronger as I walked past the slot and gloss-poker machines. I recognized it as the "feeling of presence" ascenders pick up over time, an instinct players get when someone else enters a closed game session. It led me toward the blackjack table in the far corner of the room, where a woman was dealing cards. In stark contrast to the room of twenty-first century executives, this woman wore a heavy green military uniform and hat. My steps slowed, but I still drew myself closer. A bald man wearing an orange suit abruptly darted into my path.
"Sir, can I see your badge?"
The woman didn't seem to notice me. I couldn't shake the impression she was watching me... somehow. I passed around the protesting security guard. Still she ignored me, but one move of her arm told me everything I needed to know. She had a descender.
"Excuse me!" I shouted as I got to the table.
With a single swift motion, the woman looked at me, her dark-green eyes locking onto mine. She looked younger up close than I thought she would be, maybe eighteen or twenty. The insignia left no doubt that hers was a Soviet uniform from the war simulation, though she bore the face of a modern American. Her skin tone was slightly tan and a small amount of white hair showed from underneath her service cap. Her eyes seemed distant, revealing no hint of emotion for me to read.
Without looking down, the woman set two cards on the table.
"Why is one more desired than two?" she asked.
There was some strange monotone in her voice, which I only seemed to notice because of her stiff and unnatural body language, that made me feel tense. I looked down and saw the cards were the Ace of Diamonds and the Two of Spades. "I don't know. I don't play stupid games."