There was a loud roar from the back of the bar. In anger, a middle aged civilian flicked his credits across the table before retreating quickly out of his seat. Although, no one bothered to listen to the man, they all had a pretty good idea what he was mumbling under his breath, "Jim Kirk is a cheat".
In a small town, with a population a little over one-thousand, Jim Kirk had gained the reputation within Riverside, Iowa, as a troublemaker. He was notorious for getting in fights, destroying private property, and hustling. The only people that ever bothered him these days, were travelers off the interstate, who didn't want to bother with the bars in the local college town. Those were the people that really wished they hadn't met Jim Kirk.
The young twenty-two year old, took a last swing of his beer. Once he slammed the glass bottle down on the table, he swooped up his winning credits.
"So gentleman, who'll it be next," Jim asked.
His hands were already eagerly shuffling the deck of cards in front of him. No one stepped up to the plate. He was patient however. His eyes looking over the crowd that had gathered during the game. Everyone avoided eye contact.
"How 'bout you, Gil? Up for a game?"
"Fuck you, Kirk."
No one took the bait. Although he tried waiting for a challenger, he knew when to cut his losses.
"Whatever," he muttered. Jim's chair scraped against the ground, "I'm getting a drink. Figure out a game when I get back."
The place wasn't his favorite bar, but it wasn't exactly his least favorite either. What the bar had, was variety. If anything, the bar was split into three different parts, the quiet area, the games area, and the dancing area.
The quiet area was located at the far corner of the building. It was popular for those who wanted to have quiet conversations or simply wanted to drink in peace. Tonight, that area wasn't nearly as busy as he had seen it other nights. Only about four people sat there. A man and woman, who shared a booth, and two others who had their own tables.
The two at the booth sipped on their beers silently. The woman, who was around Kirk's age, sat hunched over a padd. She unconsciously twirled a strange of her blonde hair around her finger as she read. The man across from her, had his focus directed onto his comm. Both were in uniform. Both belonged to Starfleet.
As Kirk moved from the gaming area to the dance area, he couldn't help but realized exactly how many other people from Starfleet there were. It wasn't uncommon to see Starfleet personal all about Riverside, but generally it ranged between engineers and technicians. The people at the bar, well they didn't fit into any of those two groups. The majority of them were young, all dressed in slick red uniforms. Many were either huddled around in tables, practically screaming over the latest radio hit, in order to hear one another. The other half, leaned against the main bar, eagerly ordering their drinks in full.
Ordering another beer as quickly as he could, Kirk took his beer and headed back to his spot. He made sure to flash a wink an any woman who glanced his way. Most just smiled and went on with their conversations.
When he got back to his table the boys had started another game. Poker, from what he guessed. Jim took a seat, stretching his arms over his head. His eyes wondered back to the two in the booth.
The blonde had finally stopped reading although, she didn't seem too happy about it. She shot a dirty look to Jim's table, not realizing she was in fact being watch. When their eyes met across the room, Jim flashed her, his signature smile. She didn't even react. Instead, she snapped her padd closed, pushing it across the table.
Even though they were a good distance away, Jim could still make out the girl saying, "Need another drink when I'm at the bar?"
The man across from her shook his head.
There was another small exchange between the two but nothing too interesting that made Jim want to eavesdrop. When the blonde disappeared back to the bar Jim went back to eyeing the game in front of him. Nothing significant was even happening.
"You know this card game is for a bunch of kids, right?"
"Oh, you think so, hu?"
"Oh yeah. I wouldn't even waste my time with it."
Many of the guys around the table rolled their eyes. Yet, even though they knew this was just one of many lines Jim Kirk used to play a game more in his favor, none of them said a thing.
The only one who didn't seem to get that memo, was the one who continued to talk. He was just one of the few who was actually participating in the poker game. From the way the bets were handed out, he was clearly in the winning seat.
The man snared his teeth.
"Who the hell is asking you, punk?"
"No one," Jim clarified, as he dropped his elbows on the table, "It's just, on Beta Antares IV they play a real game, a man's game. But, whatever, it's probably a bit beyond you any. It requires intelligence."
That comment, got the reaction Jim was looking for. The man slammed his cards against the table. His face began to shift to a bright red. For a moment Jim wondered if the guy he had just pissed off was part Klingon, he took the personally attack way too seriously.
The man gathered back all the cards and begin shuffling.
"I can play anything, you can figure out," the man hissed, "take the cards, big man. Show us how it's played."
As instructed, Kirk took the cards into his possession. He made sure to give the deck an extra shuffle just for good measure. Any of those who didn't want to be part of the game, left their seats. For the most part, the table was empty.
"Well, of course the cards on Beta Antares IV are a bit different, but not too differ—"
It wasn't as though he tried to stop talking but once all the others glanced over, his eyes followed suit. The blonde was back with her beer, but rather than heading to her booth silently she stopped at the end of their table. Her drink was gripped firmly with both hand and practically hugged her chest.
"Is there room for another," the blonde asked.
The question was directed toward the whole group but her eyes were specifically on Jim. He wet his lips unconsciously. He hadn't expected her to approach him first, let alone try and gamble with him
"Do you have credits?"
She pulled a handful of credits out of her pocket and placed them down on the table. Jim hummed. He grabbed the empty seat at his right and pulled it out. She smiled. He tried not to stare as she walked around his chair to her seat. Even though Jim didn't look, he was still acutely aware of her movements and how her finger tips brushed against the collar of his jacket as she walked around.
When she finally took her seat beside him, she crossed her legs and pulled all her hair to one shoulder. It was a purposeful distraction, but it sure as hell worked.
Jim cleared his throat. He concentrated on the man sitting across from him.
"The name of the game is Fizzbin," Jim explained, passing out cards around the table, "It's not too difficult. Each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealers right, who gets seven. That's you, sweetheart."
"The deck sits fanned out at the center of the table. So we take turns picking two cards at random. Alright buddy, pick two cards. Oh, but remember, the second card is turn up, except on Tuesdays."
"Yeah…well shit, look at that," Jim exclaimed. The guy glanced down at his hand. "you've got two Jacks. You've got a half fizzbin already."
"I need another Jack!"
"No, no. If you got another Jack, why, you've had a sralk."
"Oh yeah. You'd be disqualified. You need a king and a deuce, except at night of course, when you'd need a queen and a four."
"Except at night."
Even though the guy smiled, he had no idea what was happening. It wasn't expected for anyone to understand what was happening to begin with. From the moment the game had started, Jim had made up the rules. Even he, wasn't trying to keep track of what he was saying. All Jim wanted to do was see how much he could get away with. He had already beaten all of these guys with real games so a fake game like "fizzbin" didn't seem like a bad way to hustle some more money.
Jim kept up the act. He flipped up two more additional cards.
"Oh look at that. You've got another Jack. How lucky you are! How wonderful for you. If you didn't get another Jack, if you'd gotten a king, why then you'd get another card, except when it's dark, you'd give it back."
"If it were dark on Tuesday."
"Yes, but what you're after is a royal fizzbin, but the odds in getting a royal fizzbin are astronomical."
"Unless it's midday on the third Thursday of the month, right?"
The voice had come from the blonde. Jim's head snapped so quickly he though he got whiplash. The blonde had responded so nonchalantly, he almost couldn't believe she had even said anything in the first place. She took a long swing from her drink, acting as though she hadn't even said anything to begin with.
All Jim wanted to do was call her out. This was his game, she wasn't allowed to make up rule too! He must have stared too hard because before he knew it he was receiving a solid kick from under the table.
He had to give her credit, she kept on talking as though the obvious kick never happened.
"When that happens there's a one million, seven hundred seventy one thousand, five hundred sixty one chance of getting a fizzbin, that is if I'm doing the math correctly."
"Uh, yeah," Jim's voice cracked, "You see, she gets it."
"Fine, Fine, just get me another card."
"No no, your next turn is skipped."
"The hell do you mean!"
The blonde rolled her eyes and learned in closer to the center of the table, "Aren't you paying attention? You didn't draw a deuce, so you lose your turn."
"Don't worry bout it, it happens," Jim played along, "What you can still do however, is place a bet. If we lose the round, we have to give you triple the amount you bet, but if you lose you have to give us the square root of whatever you bet."
"The square root?"
"Yeah. Put your credits down."
The game carried on for some time. Although it had first started out with Jim making up the rules to specifically screwing over the guy across from him, by the time the game was at its end, both blonde's were making up rules so grand they were surprised the guy was still playing.
But all things had to come to an end. Eventually, their opponent finally gave up and just like all the others who had challenged Jim, he threw his share of credits across the table and stormed away from the table.
That seemed to be the last straw. Whatever group that had gathered around that table earlier, had now disappeared. Many of it's members making it public that, "You're going to get your ass kicked one of these days, Kirk."
Jim simply smiled in return. From all the distractions by the guys leaving, Jim almost missed the blonde slip away from the table. She stood, stuffing her winning credits back into her pocket.
"You're leaving," Jim stated the obvious.
"So soon? I really thought we made a connection when I bullshitted the rules and you played along. You don't want to stick around?"
"Not really. I honestly only came over here because I couldn't read over you guys hollering."
"Harsh. Don't you at least want my name before you leave?"
"I don't know, do I?"
Jim stood. He nudged closer into her personal space. She didn't pull back.
"I'm Jim," he introduced
He towered over her, but then again, he tended to be taller than most people. Still, that didn't draw her away.
She eventually sighed.
"Arden. Nice to meet you."
"Arden? That totally sounds like a fake name."
"Maybe it is."
"Okay Arden-is-my-fake-name. I need my credits back before you leave."
The smile dropped from her face.
"Those things you're putting in your pocket. They're my credits. You wouldn't have won if I didn't let you."
"True. Well John-"
"Sucks to suck. I'm still taking them."
Arden continued to stuff the last credits into her pockets. Jim wasn't sure if he was supposed to stand there in shock or amazement. Oddly, he found himself a bit turned on. He clicked his tongue, letting his brain slowly catch up to him.
"What do you think Starfleet will do, if they hear one of their Cadets stole money from a civilian?"
"Right, cause hustling is a very honorable way of making money."
"Hey, I worked hard to hustle those guys."
A genuine laugh escaped her lips. Arden laughed so hard, a hand covered her mouth. Whatever walls she had up earlier were down. Jim swooped in and made his move. Wrapping his hand around the small of her back, he brought her in even closer, making sure their hips knocked together. If his fingers just happened to creep underneath the fabric of her uniform, who could blame him.
"Let me buy you a drink," he whispered into her ear.
The "no" was more than implied as Arden snatched his wrist and bent it back in a painful and unnatural position.
Jim moaned,"You Starfleet girls are so cold hearted," once he got his wrist back.
"Maybe you're just too soft."
"Oh, believe me, the last thing I am right now, is soft."
It didn't even matter, for she walked away even before he got the words out. Even when it was obvious that the conversation was more than done with and she had returned back to her original booth, Jim watched her from across the room. When she had settled down and started to chat silently with the man across from her, he cut his losses.
Realistically, he could have tried again to persuade her to get a drink but the night was still pretty young and there were plenty of other Starfleet cadets in the bar he could always try and hook up with. Without another word, Jim left eager to find a girl who would give him the time of day.
That's not to say Arden didn't notice his absence. She watched the back of his leather jacket disappear through the crowds of people. Disappointment, settled deep down in her gut. If only he had tried a bit more, she would have said yes.
From across the booth, her companion asked, "Had fun?
She glanced over, participially forgetting about the man who sat across from her. She brushed off the shock with a shrug.
"Yeah, that's what I just said, daddy."
Her father shook his head. He was used to her sarcastic remarks and no longer bothered to react to it by scolding. He just moved past it and allowed her to open her padd up once again to keep on reading.
Nearly a half hour passed before there were any other interruptions. When it did happen, a thin bodied cadet rushed over to their table.
"Excuse me, Sir. Captain Pike," the cadet gulped, "there's a fight. A few of the other cadets are—"
Even before he managed to finish, Captain Pike rose from his seat. The table shook from the movement which knocked Arden out of her own activity.
"What happened," she asked
No one responded. Her father was already making his way to the main part of the bar. She shot a look toward the cadet, still standing uselessly at the side of the table. His mouth hung open, yet he didn't reply. If it weren't from the screaming, she would have brushed it off as nothing but the curiosity was too much to handle. Arden dropped her things and rushed toward the commotion.
Although she hadn't seen everything, she arrived to the scene long enough to witness at least four cadets beating a civilian across a table. With an ear piercing whistle, the bar stilled. The sea of Cadets looked up, all freezing when they realized who had tried to get their attention.
Arden didn't have to be in the front to know exactly what expression her father had across his face. She was pretty sure she was wearing the exactly same one, judging from their expressions.
The command, "Outside, all of you, now," was barked quickly.
Everyone moved. The Cadets shuffled out in a semi orderly fashion, right out of the bar. Arden was ready to move and grab her things before following orders however, when she heard, "You can whistle really loud, you know that," she stopped.
That voice was too familiar.
It couldn't be, she thought.
Arden stepped to her fathers side. Slung across the table and knocked out unconscious was Jim. There was blood and glass everywhere around him. The bar looked as though it had gone through hell and back and Jim, well he looked even worse than that.
"Shit," she breathed, "is he even okay?"
Her feet moved unconsciously across the ground, glass crunching with every step she took. She made it to his side. The only thing that indicated he was even alive was the way his chest moved up and down slowly.
"We should get him some water."
She didn't have to say it twice. Captain Pike stepped up to the bar getting the water for her. Arden did her best to maneuver Jim off the table and into a seat. As she splashed the water across Jim's face to try and wake him up, she vaguely made out the small conversation her dad was having with the bartender. Of course, it was expected that he apologized for the incident. What she didn't expect was what the bartender said in response.
"Well, it's not like it's the first time Jim Kirk's destroyed my bar."
"Kirk you said?"
"Oh yeah," the bartender hummed, pulling out a broom to sweep the glass, "Can't exactly expect much out of George Kirk's son."
George Kirk? Why does that found familiar?
The table rattled suddenly. Jim's eyes blinked open even though he was still quite disoriented. It didn't even matter if he had the shit beat out of him, Jim's blue eyes met hers and he give her a goofy grin.
"Are we getting that drink-"
"Yeah. Here. Drink."
She shoved the glass of water into his hands. He gulped it down in one he slammed the glass down on the table, the bartender and Captain Pike stopped talking. They glanced over at the two blondes as though they had just done something wrong.
"Arden," her father called, "go join the others outside."
Jim clicked his tongue.
"And that's what you call a cockblock."
Her laugh echoed through the bar, long after she left.