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Deliver Me

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John Hart seriously couldn't get over 21st Century Earth, and was more than willing to admit that he was wrong. His initial assessment of it had been cold, dark, wet and boring, but he had quickly discovered that that depended on where he went. Australia had been excellent, although he had found himself caught up in the first heavy falls in several years, but the rest of the trip there had been great.

Japan had been fascinating, as had the Middle East and various parts of Europe. Mexico had been a blast, and Hawaii... well, that had been a little dull. He really couldn't see what these people saw in the place. Lounging around on a towel beside an ocean sucking on cocktails got old really quickly.

But here, sitting in a casino in Las Vegas America with a girl on each arm and a huge stack of chips in front of him, he was finally content. So far the dealer had been too stupid to realise he was counting cards, but John had learnt long ago that the way to beat any sort of gambling establishment was to lose just enough to keep their suspicions away.

That's how people so often were found out – they gave themselves away by having huge winning streaks and attracting attention. The real way to do it was to build it up, losing some but winning more back. Kept eyes away, and it was a talent he had perfected.

He removed one arm from around one giggling girl to finish his drink, gesturing for another and tipping the waitress that served him, winning a smile. He made sure to lose the round to chase away anyone who had started to take an interest in his winning streak, then doubled his next bet and won back twice what he had lost.

He glanced up as a casino floor man approached, John frowning and wondering if somehow they had worked out that he was cheating, only to have the man hold out something.

"A gentleman over at the bar asked me to deliver this, Sir."

John nodded his thanks, tipping the man and taking the card. He frowned as he studied the blank side, flipping it over and straightening sharply. A familiar half blade-half cross with a broken blood-red circle greeted him, causing his stomach to twist as he read the words arranged neatly below.

'Atonement is coming.'