1964-08-28 - Daxam or Hellfire?
Summary: Johnny heard the Daxamites were into debauchery, so… he shows earth's version, to compare notes.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
mike-matthews johnny-storm 

There are many kinds of places to go out in New York City, but none are quite like the exclusive Hellfire Club. Johnny's not a member, but he has the sort of fame that gets him invitations to almost anything exclusive. He's called Mike up and suggested he see one of the more interesting places to be found on this Earth's Greatest City. (Don't tell London he said that). It's in his silver sportscar that he shows up to where it is Mike can be found, and drives off to the club itself. Tonight, Johnny is wearing a red button up short-sleeved silk shirt that makes 'shirt' seem a dubious declaration for all it covers, tucked into a fitting pair of jeans. "So, this place is… exclusive. YOu can't walk in off the street, only the wealthy and powerful — and famous — get in. This sort of place is all about knowing the right people, and meeting the right people. Not everything here is, strictly speaking, legal, but there's nothing … bad. It's a place that, frankly, the Kryptonian lady I met sounded like she thought your whole planet was like. I thought it'd be fun to show you."

It didn't take much to twist Mike's arm to go out to someplace interesting. He put on a dark blue button down shirt and a pair of black slacks for the evening and cleaned up pretty well, taking the evening off work to go out and not bartend for a while. "I see," Mike says, having learned enough about what exclusive means as far as New York standards go to understand what Johnny is talking about. "I'm not sure I will know which things are or are not strictly legal, to be honest. .as it seems that differs greatly here, but if the Kryptonian says that it sounded like Daxam, then I can imagine a few things. I'm looking forward to it."

"Its behind doors to places like this that world powers meet— unofficially— and arrange for things to happen." explains Johnny on the topic of exclusivity, just in case Mon-El didn't really get it, "And by powers I mostly mean the titants of industry, politicians, the famous." He flashes a grin then, parking in the attached parking lot and slipping out of the car, "As for illegal, mostly there's gambling. I'm a poker man myself, but some blackjack is fun. In there you can gamble for almost anything to varying degrees of legality and they bribe the police enough, I imagine, to make these sorts of laws irrelevent. Then again, if one was inclined I imagine they could find any drug they might want in there." He shrugs, "I come to meet people, maybe play some poker— but its by far not the only place to play poker with the wealthy around here. There's nothing *super* illegal in there— its mostly the tired laws against doing what you like with yourself and consenting adults that you run into." Then again, Johnny doesn't have a clue the Inner Circle exists or the kind of debauchery that happen in the upper floors behind closed doors. "This planet is a little big on big-brothering you to death." He snorts at thata. But he does add with a grin, "You look good; you'll do fine."

"So, not unlike many places back home," Mike says with a nod. Apparently the idea of such constructs isn't unusual to the Daxamite. He pulls himself out of the car and closes the door, making his way around to the other side. "We had plenty of entertainment establishments where one might meet all manner of interesting people, take part in games of chance, drink, indulge in various other pleasures and desires, and discuss business, trade, negotiate." There's a slightly arched brow to the big brother reference but he seems to puzzle it out at least within his own frame of reference, which might be slightly different — but not by much — than the intent of the phrase. "I wasn't worried," he laughs.

"I thought as much." Johnny grins and nods his head, "It's called the Hellfire Club— I don't know if you know much about our religions, but most of the world follows an Abrahmic faith that believes in 'hell', a place of eternal damnation often associated with fire. So this place doesn't even pretend to be virtuous — and most pretend. That's why I find it novel." He grins and gives a shrug, "Plus, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch? In Hellfire Club?" He heads to the entrance, and there he nods to the bouncers in suits, "Johnny Storm, and guest; I should be on the list." And of course— his voice says— you know who I am. The man appears to, and also be familiar with 'the list' to give it more then a cursory glance before opening the doors and bowing slightly to urge them in, "Anything you want to drink you'll find available, but I'm afraid none are as inventive as what you can do." Pause, "Actually… they probably pay a great deal better— especially for someone with your look."

"I've read a little here and there. We have multiple Gods, but I myself have never been particularly religious. I read a bit about the faiths here as there were a number of folks in the town where I first arrived who suggested that I find some religion," Mike says. There's probably a story there, but he doesn't tell it right that moment. "Honestly, I prefer not pretending. I think I'll like this place." There's a glance over toward the bouncers and he gives them both a winning smile, though says nothing at all to them, instead letting Johnny do the talking and then following him on inside. "Could be. I've thought, perhaps, about finding another place to work that pays a bit better. Not that I mind my current apartment, but I do find having to manage finances is something I'm more used to having people for. And I could use a bit more room. And a view of something other than a wall."

Johnny leads them first towards a table, and when a scantily clad woman— if one looks around its not only women that are scantily clad, but more then the other variety— comes over to ask for drinks, Johnny flashes her a grin. "Scotch, neat." He settles into the kid leather couch, relaxing into its luxury. Once Mike gives his order and she departs, he looks curiously over to the man, "I could make an inquery, and make an introduction. I'm not a member here but I have enough fame to talk to lower levels. Believe me, I don't at all enjoy having to manage finances. The Foundation does the accounting in my life: so I can completely relate. This place pays people very well, I'm certain. Perhaps as well as anyone in the city, for the job, at least." But then he tilts his head and grins, "Did you run into some puritans? Careful beyond the city limits with people talking religion, it can get dangerous." Pause, "Well, not for you. But still, what led to them trying to convert you? Me? I'm an athiest. This is my life, its mine to live, and when I die, I'm dead. I don't answer to anyone but my conscience. I don't believe in any higher power that has any claim to judge me."

"The family that I stayed with were very nice people, and very open-minded from what I'm learning about this place, but it was a small town. I found that mentioning the Gods around them generally met with wide-eyed stares and offers to come and visit their churches, which I figured were much like our temples," Mike says as he settles himself into the couch. He orders himself an old fashioned and says, "They were not at all interested in learning about the Gods of others in return." He shrugs his shoulders just a bit. Apparently he made it out of the ordeal without too much trouble. He nods and says, "I'm not sure that I believe entirely in Gods of any sort, but it was part of my education." He looks around the club some and says, "I wouldn't mind if you made an inquiry. While I don't mind where I am, I'm certainly interested in alternate opportunities."

"Yeah, the religious in the world— especially in America— don't have a 'learning about others' thing very often." Johnny sounds amused by the very idea, "At least half the world is monotheistic — here, you can safely assume anyone you meet is probably a Christian. The first rule of their faith is 'you shall have no other god before me' which — despite the literal wording — is taken to mean there is only one god and everyone else is a heathen to be converted or shunned. At best. There's… very different interpretations of this religion, with the largest being the Catholic Church and the various Protestant groups that formed to rebel against the central orthodoxy of Catholicism, some centuries ago. This nation was founded, in part, by people following a *very* strict interpretation of this religion and who were persecuted for this interpretation in their country of origin. To this day, we feel the touch of the Puritan roots in how… conservative we are." He pauses, "Puritans are our Kryptonians, I expect." Once the drinks are delivered, he reaches up for his scotch and flashes a smile, sips it and settles into a chair to regard the club. "I'll show you some of our games later, after a drink. But certainly, I'll make an inquiry. It doesn't hurt to know your options at the very least."

There is a point during the explanation of religion that Mike is clearly lost, as he doesn't have the history or understanding with which to associate some of the words with anything he conceptually understands. Though once Johnny explains the Puritans as Kryptonians he say "Ah," and nods with new understanding. That makes it all much more clear. "The Kryptonians also believe in mroe than one God, but I think I understand the analogy." Analogies are something he usually has no trouble with so long as he understands what at least one half of it is referring to. He raises his glass and takess a swallow of it before he looks around the club. His attention wanders from person to person, studying each individual for a few moments, curious. "What games will you show me?"

"Blackjack." Johnny grins, shaking his head a moment, just sort of watching Mike as he studies the people. "Poker is more my game, but its also a much more complicated game— one I can teach you in my apartment if you enjoy gambling. With poker, you play against everyone else on the table and you play the people as much as the cards. But with Blackjack, you play against the house— the establishment— and it has more simple rules." He pauses a moment, and gestures to a waitress, and when she comes over, "A deck of cards, please. I assure you no betting will take place; I'm going to show them to my friend here to explain the rules, then we'll go bet." He then grins to Mike, "The club will want to be involved in any actual gambling— so they get the winnings if we lose."

Mike Matthews seems intrigued as he watches people come and go, their interactions with one another, the way that they look at one another when they talk, as though taking the measure of each individual and then they in relation to one another. He seems interested in this little corner of the world and those in it, and how they relate to one another. Though when Johnny mentions the game, he nods, recognizing the name. "I've heard of it but I haven't played." He then enjoys his drink while Johnny arranges for cards. He smiles and says, "We have gambling establishments and the rules are similar there. One doesn't gamble in the House unless the House gets its cut."

Johnny receives the deck with a smile for the waitress, then sips his scotch as he pulls it open. He explains all the rules: the betting, win conditions, value of the various cards. As Blackjack isn't a terribly complicated game it doesn't take long, but he's patient and easy if any questions come up. The only two involved rules are doubling down, splitting and insurance bets, but he explains those as well after everything else is explained. He even deals out a couple fake hands with 'him' as dealer to show the play-through. "There's a lot of gambling games, but I prefer card games. They all have a bit of… skill involved. Blackjack is entirely you-verses-the-House, so the others that play have no impact on you at all, and as the dealer has no discretion, its all about how much you will risk based on the limited information of the dealer— the one visible card. There's other games— roulette and craps for example— but they're pure chance. There's no skill. I find those boring, myself. But! I have been known to do some drunken craps playing, and it is certainly *exciting*, so I can show that to you too, if you like." He smiles, looking curiously at Mon-El, "Is this like any game from your home?"

Mike Matthews listens as the rules are gone over and seems to be paying attention, following along easily enough. He nods his head and says, "That sounds straightforward enough. I have played some more complicated games, but they are likely both similar and different. Blackjack sounds a little like a game that I played back home but the decks have a different number of cards and they are arranged differently." But he seems to grasp the game with only a few questions, about the deck and about game play. "We have other games that are similar to roulette with the wheel, and craps is like the dice? We also have chance games like that. There are some others that we have that I have not seen the like here. One has a more vertical wheel and involves spinning crystals and a sphere that rolls within.." He explains a little with hand gestures and then waves it off. "There is also betting on competitions of strength, and races. Is this a thing that you do here as well?"

"Blackjack is a game of odds; it has skill, but in every moment you're just weighing the odds of getting a card closer to 21, or likely to bust you. Its skill based, but the skill is …well, its such a skill game that its possible to 'count cards' and never lose— especially if you have a partner. I won't teach you the nuances of counting cards because I don't like being thrown out of places with really good scotch." Johnny's grin is wicked, and he lifts said scotch up in a toast, but then he nods, "I don't think we have anything like this vertical wheel of yours, but it may be a difference of *technology* and how we *present* the game, more then the rules of the game itself." Then he nods, "Informally, between people, there are bets on anything at all. But then there's sports. It might be boxing— punching eachother in the face and kidneys until someone can't get up. Or racing. Or our more professional sports, baseball, football. We bet on all of those. Now, individuals aren't allowed to bet on themselves or even their sport— otherwise they may 'throw' a match for a payday, but despite 'allowed' it still happens. For that you contact a bookie. The Yankees are playing the.." he names another team, "..in Baseball, next week. I have a hundred dollars on the Yankees with a spread of … Well, a spread bet is… See, its easy to bet Team A will win and Team B will lose. A spread is betting on *how much* a win or loss will happen, and your payout is on how accurate your spread bet is." He sighs a bit wistfully, "But poker… In Blackjack, you play against the house. In poker, the house takes a fee for every hand, but your opponents are the other players. It is a war, poker. You bet against eachother. You bluff, sometimes to make them think your hand is better but you're betting low to draw them out. Or to make them think your hand is poor, and you're betting high to intimidate them. It is a complex interplay between the players to *win*. Poker is a little like life, reduced to numbers."

Mike Matthews laughs as he takes a sip of his drink and says, "I've never been thrown out of a gambling establishment for counting anything in it, but I will take your word for it that this isn't a good thin and will try to refrain from counting the cards." Yeah, he doesn't quite get what that means, but he seems willing enough not to learn it for the sake of the scotch. "We also have games that some control with their minds, and yes, likely that utilize technology that isn't present here." He pauses and considers and then he nods, "Much of that is familiar, yes. And I've seen most of those sports on television." He works in bars, so sports are something that he's become fairly familiar with. Then he says, "We have some card-like games which are more based on skill against other players. I've never been particularly good at them, but I've tried a few different ones."

"Counting cards is a way to predict the chances of a card that will help you get near 21— or hurt you busting— with some degree of accuracy. Gambling establishments consider it cheating, though a brilliant mind— that I am not— needs only pay attention to do it. Establishments that are not, strictly speaking, legal…react to cheating… poorly." But to that, Johnny laughs softly, "Not that I think this would be any threat to you at all." He can withstand the flame, after all. But he nods on the discussion of similarl games, "I'm surpirsed." he adds with a sip of his scotch as his eyes settle on Mon-El more fully, "You look and seem to me to be a man adept at reading people. Poker is won and lost not in the cards but in the mind: in the reading, and understanding, of your opponents. Of reading them. Knowing the signs— we call them 'tells'— when they are excited because of the strength of their hand, or when they are being inordinately aggressive. I thought this something you'd naturally be good at, honestly, though I am, sadly, not an expert on Mon-El."

"I see," he says with a nod as it starts to make a bit more sense. He doesn't have an equivalent to compare it to but there's a little more confidence in his understanding with the further explanation. "Well, still, for the sake of the scotch." He grins, then, a broad and easy grin. Leaning back comfortably and looking out around the room a bit before he turns his attention back to Johnny, he takes up his glass, and takes another sip from it before he balances it on his knee. There's a little curve of his lips at Johnny's observations, "When you have to do a lot of that while sitting in during negotiations, treaties, and trade agreements — it's not quite as much fun in one's off time. My entertainments on Daxam involved indulgences that took much of the edge off, rendering less skill based pursuits a little more desireable." He laughs easily enough, "You're not wrong. I'm certain I could do well at poker if I learned it." There's a little sparkle in his eyes when he says, "Well, wouldn't want you to be an expert too quickly. You might lose interest, and that would be disappointing."

"I suppose I can understand that." agrees Johnny easily enough, giving a nod and a wave of his scotch to allow for royal duties and their requirements not being a realm he's quite used to. "I enjoy risk. I enjoy a challenge: and not one against the randomness of fate but my skill measured against something that would deny me. I've gone mountain climbing before— the 'challenge' is the terrain of hte mountain itself. I'm decent at it, but not great, but I love it anywys. In the challenge I know I am alive. Its not the *only* way I know I'm alive— I'm into risk without being an addict— but I do enjoy it." He grins, "BUt my day job… I don't even have one. Oh, I have jobs, but they're all hobbies I've managed to con someone into paying me to do." That makes him laugh, a full, rich sound. The laugh ends with a grin, "I am, if anything, never disappointing. If that should ever happen I demand as your dearest earthling friend you give me a chance to correct such a dire misdeed as being disappointing."

"We'd often go offworld to see various other planets, and there was always an element of risk in our pursuits. I've enjoyed cave delving quite a bit and have done that on a couple of planets. Ice racing in these.." Mon-El gestures with his hands a bit, making an elongated shape not unlike a crew boat, perhaps. "They had blades on the bottom and sails, and we would race them across the great ice lake." He considers, "A lot of exploring, diving the great inland sea on this one planet that was almost entirely land, but had some fantastically deep lakes." He chuckles, "Oddly, I don't think I've ever climbed anything. Perhaps I will have to try that sometime." He grins at Johnny's laughter. It seems to be something he enjoys — getting Johnny to laugh. "I suppose, as my dearest alien friend, that I could give you a chance to correct the travesty in the unlikely event that such a thing happen."

"Although I've gone skiing, I've never delved any caves— I'm intrigued. I think the word here is 'spelunking'." Johnny finishes off his scotch and rises in a languid motion, "This ice-racing seems an innovation worth importing to my dear planet; if it needs any tech that Reed can't figure out, I'll buy you as many drinks as you can think of, and I lay this bet confidently." He chuckles at this, but gestures, "BUt I think we should find a mountain to climb, if you've never done it. Its serious business: its both steady, careful, hard, and deeply fucking satisfying. Yeah I can fly up all I need to fly, but that doesn't diminish the satisfacation of conquering a mountain and being one of the few who have also done so. I don't care how powerful you are, a planet is an awesome thing to set yourself against. On this planet, climbing is one of the greatest ways to set yourself against your world and say, with confidence, I am master here." But then, Johnny cocks his head and gestures to a side door, "I will remember your words, your offer. But for now I'll spot you a hundred dollars and let's see what you remember of Blackjack."

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