Ace redid the velcro straps on her fingerless leather gloves, cracked
her knuckles and picked up the pack. She started shuffling.


"No way. Last time you accidentally sent half the cards into the
twenty-seventh dimension."

Death shrugged and started drumming his exceptionally thin fingers on
the table top, causing two of the humans to shudder. Tegan took a swig
of beer and looked around the table, sizing up the other players.
Death: contrary to popular myth, he was very easy to cheat. Far too
trusting and oddly able to reveal his hand through his body language
which was quite an impressive feat for a six foot skeleton. Braxiatel:
careful, steady, the kind of player who left the table when he'd got
what he wanted. Like a planetoid. Ace: mercenary, vicious, a great
winner but a poor loser. Adric: great at the theory, obviously, but no
grasp of the actual way things happened. Hard to cheat on though.

Tegan considered her chances of coming away with some winnings to be
decent. The only wildcard was the wildcat currently shuffling the

"Evening ladies."

A sixth player slung himself into the empty chair. Ace groaned. "OK.
Who invited him?"

Adric looked suitably embarrassed. "Well, he’s been moping about
ever since his author dumped him."

Spike glared at the Alzarian. "At least I still have a life Inside."



Tegan frowned at the vampire as he lit up a cigarette. "Aren’t
they Fitz's?"

"Won 'em last night. He’s a tragically bad gambler, you know.
Thinks he's James Bond. Owes me a fortune."

"I thought we were here to play poker?" Ace asked, pausing in the
shuffle and glaring at them. "Anyone got any serious objection to
blondie here playing? No? Right then. Game on."

She dealt the cards quickly, sliding them across the bar table with a
skilled flick of the wrist. Tegan mentally groaned when she looked at
her hand. Not good, not good at all. Looking about she saw that Death
was hunched over his cards whilst Brax had already neatly arranged his
and put them back on the table. Well, she'd put in the minimum this

Ace smiled, predatorily. "Ante up, gentlemen."

Five Galactic credits landed in the centre of the table. And one small
tabby kitten. Which then mewed.


"What? S'perfectly good bet where I come from."


Responding to the anthropomorphic personification's voice, the kitten
wandered over and rubbed on the sleeve of Death's robe.

"Yeah, well, obviously."

Tegan stared at the tiny cat. With its huge trusting eyes and minute
body. A quivering tail too young to do anything other than look like
an exclamation mark.


"Wait a minute," Tegan interjected, "Did you say you were gambling
with Fitz last night?"


"Here kitty-kitty. Here kitty. Uncle Fitzy has got some lovely meow
mix just for you. Come on, come over here. Who’s the cutest
wutest widdle cat in the whole wide world? Yes you are. Just come
here, will you? Uncle Fitzy has to give you to Uncle
Spikey-wikey...What am I *doing*?"