The weathered arena was empty and cold of any passion that once flowed through the hallowed walls.
25 years had passed since the Kelvin's star player George Kirk had been killed in a hockey game by Nero and Ayel of the Romulan Enforcers and that was the day that hockey died in Riverside.
George had been the star player and temporary Captain of the team when the regular Captain, Richard Robau, had been hospitalized with an unknown illness that had eventually stopped his heart. George's wife had listened to the game by radio from the hospital where she had been giving birth to their youngest and his last words had been naming their newborn son James Tiberius Kirk.
The murder of such a prominent hockey player had caused an outrage in Riverside; the league had banned the Romulan Enforcers from ever setting foot in Riverside again, they had compensated Winona Kirk and her two sons for the death, and had sold the rink to an out of towner who remained anonymous, but had a growing interest in possibly using the arena for something else someday.
However, the arena had remained untouched for twenty five years and was now falling into such severe disrepair that the council was considering tearing it down and sending a check to the unknown owner to cover any outrage over destruction of the building. It was only a matter of time before they acted.
Unknown to the council, however, the arena's owner was sitting in the nearby Riverside Diner with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. Jonathan Archer wasn't what one would exactly call young, but he wasn't too old to come out to a small town and check on his sole piece of property.
"That coffee's going to kill you one day, Jon," a voice commented dryly. "Why are you out here?"
Jonathan looked up and smiled as he saw Christopher Pike, his friend and master hockey recruiter from San Francisco's Starfleet University and Hockey Academy, standing there in a jumpsuit that emblazoned the Academy's logo in every tasteful place, "Chris, what are you doing here?" he asked pleasantly.
"I've been doing some worldwide recruiting for the Academy and I've got a plane load of recruits to take back to San Francisco tomorrow," Chris explained, taking a seat in the booth. "They're all at the Townhouse Inn and have a curfew of 11 p.m. since the plane leaves at eight tomorrow morning."
Jonathan nodded, "I came out to check on that arena I bought after George died," he commented, frowning as he suddenly heard the revving of a motorbike engine outside. "What in the world?"
Chris frowned as the revving stopped and a few moments later, a blonde haired, extremely skinny young man came into the diner with faded jeans, boots, a t-shirt, and jacket covering his body. He strolled up to the counter and tapped on it with bruised fingers. Almost immediately, an elderly man appeared.
"Rodney, do you have my daily meals ready for me?" the young man asked in a quiet tone.
The elderly man nodded, "I just need to bag them up, Jimmy," he replied gently. "Have a seat."
Chris's eyes narrowed as Jimmy sat on a barstool and rested his arms on the counter, "You still living in that old building?" Rodney asked casually, unaware that Chris was listening. "Winter's coming fast."
"If I die from hypothermia, just bury me in some drift somewhere," Jim replied softly. "You think anyone cares if I live or die? Winona's off on another tour, Sam's AWOL, and Frank's shut up in prison."
Rodney nodded as he bagged several small items, "People would miss you," he replied patiently.
Jim shrugged and turned his attention to the napkin holder, "Whatever," he replied softly.
"Here's your food, Jimmy," Rodney said in an understanding voice, offering Jim a paper sack.
Jim nodded and took the sack, "Thanks, Rodney," he replied softly. "Hopefully this lasts a while."
"Take care of yourself, Jimmy," Rodney spoke, sighing as Jim silently left the safety of the diner.
Suddenly feeling very uneasy, Chris slid out of the booth and walked over to the counter, "Excuse me, I was wondering who that young man was?" he asked, thinking that the young man looked familiar.
"Oh, that was young James Kirk," Rodney replied calmly. "He comes in here every week or so when he earns enough from collecting bottles and gets himself a little something to eat. See, I'm one of the cheaper places in Riverside and he's kinda shy around people. At least the kid gets out and about."
Chris nodded, "Could you tell me where James lives, by chance?" he asked in a concerned voice.
Rodney gave Chris a suspicious look, but didn't say anything, "I used to play hockey in San Francisco with James's father when we were younger," Chris explained, recalling the many concussions that had eventually forced him to stop just as he had finished high school. "I'm now coaching out there."
"James lives in the old Kelvin arena," Rodney replied softly, suddenly ducking under the counter and coming up with a framed newspaper article in his worn hands. "See, a few years after George Kirk died, Jimmy's stepfather put a lot of money into putting a team together to try and repair the past, but he was a dictator more than a coach. They got a chance to get some glory back in a big game that would come with an athletics grant for the town if we won, but it all came down to Jimmy's penalty shot…"
Chris's eyes narrowed as he skimmed the article that featured a picture of a young boy kneeling on the ice clad in hockey gear with a saddened expression on his young face, "Nobody talks about it anymore because Frank almost killed Jimmy after the game that day," Rodney explained, unaware that Jonathan was now listening and horrified by what he was hearing. "Frank got life in the state penitentiary."
"And where are Winona and Sam?" Chris asked, wondering why Jim wasn't living with family.
Rodney shrugged, "Just so you know, Jimmy will probably stop at the bar on his way back to the arena cause that old building can get plenty cold at night and alcohol keeps him warm," he replied, turning away from Chris. "I don't like that he drinks and lives so horribly, but what can I do for him?"
Nodding, Chris silently wandered back to the booth, "Jon, why don't you go to one of those new-fangled fast food places near the newer part of town and pick up some burgers?" he asked as he took the keys to his car out of his pocket. "I'm going to drive by the Inn and the bar. Meet me out at the arena."
Even though Jon knew Chris wanted to check up on James, he nodded silently and sighed as Chris left the bar without a word. Jon was certainly not happy to hear that someone was living in the run-down property that he owned and planned to do away with, but he didn't know what to do about it.
Even though it was still early in the evening, the Riverside Bar was starting to fill up with Academy recruits who were bored sitting around the pool at the Townhouse Inn. James, who had brought his motorcycle to the bar after stashing the food in the small trunk on the back, was settled in at a corner table with a large mug of beer in hand. He was silently watching a young girl who had dark hair and lovely dark skin at the bar as she showed off the Academy recruit uniform she had gotten that day.
The woman's eyes, meanwhile, were on the many articles behind the counter that featured both George Kirk's team and the failure of the team that Frank tried to make several years later, "Those articles won't tell you anything interesting," James commented dryly, the beer from the mug spilling on the floor as he approached the woman from behind. "If you want to know about me, you should ask me myself."
"I'm not interested," the woman replied coolly as she turned and faced James. "Who are you?"
James grinned, beer accidentally spilling on the woman's pants and he unsteadily leaned forward to shake her hand in a cordial manner, "James Kirk," he replied, a slur to his voice. "And you are?"
"My name's Uhura and I'm a recruit for the Academy hockey team," Uhura replied calmly.
James frowned, "Hockey's such a waste of time since people's heads just get bashed in and blood ends up all over the ice while people make idiotic animal noises," he replied in a slurred voice, unaware that several larger recruits had overheard his comments and were now gathering behind him.
Uhura gasped as James was suddenly grabbed off his chair by one of the bigger recruits by his jacket collar, causing him to drop his beer mug on the floor, "Hendorff, cool it!" she shouted anxiously.
After ensuring that the car he had rented was securely in the parking space, Chris turned off the engine, removed the keys, and got out of the car. He was about to go inside when the doors flew open and three heavyset recruits tossed what looked like a battered person out on to the ground far below.
Almost immediately, the person crawled over to the bike and slowly hauled himself up on to the bike without so much as a whimper. As the bike revved up and took off down the road, Chris got back in his car and quickly started it, not hesitating to follow the bike down the road towards the old arena.
It didn't take long for Chris to arrive and by the time the car was in park and off, James and his bike had already disappeared inside the arena. Quickly getting the first aid kit and blanket he had put in the trunk after renting the car, Chris silently entered the old Kelvin arena through the busted open front door.
An eerie silence greeted Chris and followed him through the front area into the rink. In the rink, he saw one of the saddest things he had ever seen in his career; a makeshift home containing an old cot with mangy blankets and old pillows, a torn up couch, a busted TV, and a bag in the corner of the room.
"Who let you in here?" a suspicious, familiar voice suddenly asked as footsteps approached.
Chris turned and saw James standing there with blood covering his face and clothes and a wet rag in one hand while the bag of food was in the other, "I let myself in," he replied calmly. "Are you all right?"
"Dumb hockey jocks didn't like what I was saying," James replied drunkenly. "All I was doing was getting a little beer to warm my insides so I don't freeze in my sleep and they wanted to be muscle men."
Chris nodded and held up the first aid kit, "Mind if I clean some of that blood off your face?" he asked softly, wondering what he would find under the blood. "You could get an infection if I don't."
Shrugging, Jim walked into the rink area and sat on the torn up couch, casually setting the bag of food on the floor as Chris followed after him, "How'd you end up being thrown out of the bar, anyway?" Chris asked, sitting down on the couch next to Jim so he could open the kit and start cleaning Jim's face.
"I was having a drink and I met this girl named Uhura who was in some sort of spiffy looking uniform," Jim replied softly, the alcohol suddenly making him nauseous. "We talked and she mentioned that she was going to a hockey academy, so I told her that I think hockey's a joke and a nasty bloodsport."
Chris frowned, but didn't say anything, "Anyway, this guy named Hendorff grabbed me by the collar and he invited some guy named Finnegan to help beat some sense into me," Jim explained, wincing as he suddenly threw up all over the bag of food he had just bought. "I guess I can't handle much alcohol."
Before Chris could reply, his cell-phone vibrated and he fished it out of his pocket without hesitation, quickly pressing the TALK button as he lifted it to his ear. He was immediately hit with the angry voice of who he assumed was the bar owner upset about the fight and demanding that something be done.
"I assure you that I will personally deal with those involved in the fight and will ensure that damages are paid for," Chris promised sincerely, frowning as Jim slouched. "Send all cadets back to the Townhouse."
There was silence and then a click, "How long before the cops get here?" Jim asked unsteadily.
"I didn't call any cops," Chris replied, calmly getting out some alcohol wipes and gently, but firmly cleaning the blood off of Jim's battered face. "I'm not a doctor, Jim, but you might need stitches."
Jim sighed, but didn't argue, "Chris?" a voice suddenly filled the arena. "Chris, where are you?"
Jim's eyes widened with fear, "Don't worry, Jim, that's just a friend of mine," Chris stated, recognizing that Jim was getting ready to bolt and hide. "Jon, I'm in here with Jim and he's a little banged up."
Within seconds, Jonathan had come into the rink, "A little banged up, Chris?" he asked in an annoyed voice, horrified at the mess that was Jim Kirk's face. "Hello Jim, I'm Jonathan Archer."
"Y-You're the owner of the arena," Jim replied nervously, gazing up at Jon. "Am I in trouble?"
Jonathan shook his head and held up the bag he brought, "I brought you some supper," he replied, wincing as he saw the vomit on the floor. "You look like you need a doctor more, though."
"Doctors cost money," Jim replied in a tired voice. "Anyway, it's starting to get cold out there."
Chris sighed, "Jim, you're wasting your life and potential in this place with nobody to build you up," he replied, realizing how disgusted George would be if he saw what Jim was living in. "You could always come to the Academy in San Francisco and get a new start far away from all of this poverty."
"What, and get body-checked to death by psychotic enforcers?" Jim scoffed. "Thanks, but no."
Jonathan looked amused, but he merely passed the bag to Chris, "I can't force you to get medical attention, but I did bring along my mentor and personal physician to make sure I didn't get into any scrapes while I was out here," he commented gently. "He runs the Academy clinic in San Francisco."
"You brought Phlox with you?" Chris asked in a shocked voice. "I thought he didn't travel."
Jonathan shrugged, "I would offer to come, but I have to go over to the Townhouse and rip on a couple of recruits named Hendorff and Finnegan for instigating the fight," Chris replied in an irritated voice. "I also have to talk to the other recruits about proper behavior when it comes to public interactions."
"Or you could go with Jim and I could talk to the recruits since I do own the Academy and want to make sure that they know what we expect," Jonathan replied firmly, eager to rip into the supposed bullies and bust them down to size verbally before sending them to his precious Academy. "Chris, I insist on it."
Chris was silent for a moment and nodded before offering Jim a hand and closing the first aid kit, "I happen to have a room at the Townhouse Inn and it's room 345," Jonathan commented, watching as Chris carefully helped Jim off the couch. "Be sure to get his personal stuff before you leave here."
Before Chris or Jim, who was getting tired, could reply, Jonathan turned and silently left the arena.
Nearly half an hour later, James found himself sitting on the guest bed in Jonathan's room with Chris sitting at the nearby desk, silently watching him. Phlox, an elderly man who wanted to practice medicine until the day he died because it was his passion, also sat on the bed and hummed softly as he stitched and bandaged up the bad cut on James's forehead and bandaged the smaller cuts after cleaning them.
Despite prodding from both Chris and Phlox, however, Jim had refused to change his clothes or let his personal bag out of his hands, "I don't know why there's a school purely dedicated to playing hockey when there's a billion other careers out there," Jim muttered, sighing tiredly as Phlox wrapped an ace bandage around his forehead. "Why would anyone want to spend their life getting beaten up?"
"The Academy is a career training institution and students have the option of playing hockey and either taking it into the professional leagues or choosing another career," Chris replied calmly. "Academic degrees and opportunities to have tryouts with the top teams across the nation are offered there."
Jim shrugged and sighed, "Look, I need to go make sure Mister Archer isn't killing those recruits who beat you up," Chris continued, seeing that Jim was ready to sleep. "If you change your mind, the bus will be leaving the Inn at eight tomorrow morning for the airport. You're welcome to come as you are."
Before Jim could reply, Chris stood and walked over to him with the blanket from the trunk of his rental car, "Just get some rest tonight and maybe your mind will be clearer tomorrow," he replied calmly, carefully draping the blanket over the young man's thin shoulders. "Phlox, can I have a word?"
Jim quickly found himself alone and lying on the bed with the blanket around his shoulders and he noticed a small picture on the bedside table; it was of a younger Phlox standing with a team that included Jonathan Archer, Chris, and his father and they all looked incredibly happy to be there.
Thoughts of a making a better future for himself drifted through Jim's mind as he drifted off to sleep.
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