President Clinton was in a fine mood. He always was, painted on the wall behind the rear booth of the bar, big face grinning fit to split. Why shouldn't he grin? He'd been dead for over two centuries, his troubles were over. The old rascal was pinching fannies up in Heaven right now. Billy, owner of the place, claimed kinship to Clinton through one of the President's many mistresses. Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn't, but the belief had inspired the bar's 1990's décor. Faded Starbucks Coffee signs, a life-size statue of an obese yellow man whom Billy called Homer for some reason, the aforementioned Clinton mural, plus lots of other junk whose significance was lost on everybody but Billy. Tacky as all get out, in other words, but the place was quite popular with the cadets at Starfleet Academy. Nostalgia never went out of style, and the cheap drinks and cute servers didn't hurt, either.
James T. Kirk sat in the bar booth, head bent over his sixth Budweiser Classic. His glum expression was a sad contrast to the dead president beaming just behind him. At Jim's left elbow, the plate of free nachos Mandy the waitress had brought over slowly congealed into a greasy mass. His fingers twitched slightly to the song blaring from the antique jukebox.
I can't stand it, I know you planned it
I'm a set it straight, this Watergate
I can't stand rockin' when I'm in here
'Cause your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear
So, while you sit back and wonder why
I got this fucking thorn in my side
Oh my God, it's a mirage
I'm tellin' y'all it's sabotage
So, so, so, so listen up 'cause you can't say nothin'
You shut me down with a push of your button
But yo, I'm out and I'm gone
I'll tell you now I keep it on and on
The raucous music cut off mid-guitar solo. Jim's chin jerked up. Mandy sashayed over, crucifixes jingling. Her black-polished nails caressed the flushed skin at the nape of his neck.
"Sorry, baby. But that was five replays. The other customers were starting to complain."
Jim's bleary blue eyes took a minute to focus. They stared at the name tag pinned over the waitress' shapely left breast. "Your outfit's all wrong, Madonna. You're dressed like the cover of the Like A Virgin album from 1984. This is supposed to be a 1990's bar."
Mandy played nervously with the dozens of bracelets circling her left forearm. "I had to go to this historical costume shop in L.A.—"
"Ever hear of Wikipedia—lazy man's research engine that's been in business for 200 years? 1990's Madonna did not wear crucifixes." Jim took a dismissive slug of beer. "Look. It. Up."
"You want something authentic?" Mandy spat. "How's this?" She stalked off, giving him a one-fingered gesture that, if not 1990s, was definitely of historic origin.
Leonard McCoy took a moment to appreciate the sway of her hips under her lace skirt. Then he turned to his companion. "No more free nachos for us."
"This place is such a scam," Jim said, picking at the label on his beer bottle.
"Yep. The drinks are watered—" Len grimaced down at his Jack Daniels—"and Madonna's not much of a waitress, though she was bestirring herself for your benefit since you went home with her last week. We only come here because you like the music."
Jim's eyes rolled up at the speaker overhead. "I don't like this music."
Hit me Baby one more time, the speaker cooed back at him.
"As my Grandma McCoy would say, ain't you a barrel of monkeys tonight."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means you're being a moody pain in the ass. Just like last night and the night before. Are you still brooding about that damn test?" Seeing his companion's jaw tighten: "It was three days ago, Jim. Get the fuck past it."
"It was unfair," Jim's full bottom lip poked out, making him look more like a spoiled toddler than a fourth-year Starfleet Academy cadet of brilliant if unsteady reputation.
"It's supposed to be unfair," Leonard explained for the dozenth time. "You can't win the Kobayashi Maru. Nobody wins the Kobayashi Maru. Winning is not the point."
"Winning is always the point," Jim said. "And I would have, if the computer hadn't cheated." He leaned forward in the booth, eyes intent beneath the surface glaze of alcohol. "I did some research in the library yesterday. According to our best intelligence, do you know how many Klingon birds of prey are currently commissioned?"
"No, but I have the feeling you're going to—"
"One hundred sixty-five. That's 65 in B'rel class and 100 K'vort class."
"So I destroyed 202 Klingon starships in the simulation. Get it? I blew up thirty-seven ships that do not exist, and I still lost."
"That would explain the state of the simulation platform. Dawkins in Maintenance told me they are going to have to shut down for ten days to rebuild. Totally frakked the room, and you also fried their mainframe, Jimbo. Doesn't that count for anything?"
"I did," Jim replied. "I fried it, but they won't admit I beat it. The program is a fraud, and I'm taking it down." He smiled at Leonard, but lurking at the corners was the same predatory rage he'd radiated since he limped off the simulation platform on Monday.
School shootings are unknown in the sixth decade of the Twenty Third Century, but James T. Kirk had long been interested in all things two centuries ago. Leonard had a sudden vision of his friend atop the Academy bell tower with a high powered phaser, laughing like a lunatic, surrounded by limp bodies dripping multicolored blood into the plascrete. Jim's Psy-Chem profile made the scenario all too plausible. The man's testosterone and dopamine levels were off the charts. You might think this would be a roadblock for his career, but every cadet in the Command track had the same damn problem. Jim's was just more pronounced than the rest. Enough to make you wonder about the Federation's stated role as a peacekeeping body, when it consistently recruited hyper-hormonal latent spree killers to head its military branch.
Charles Whitman had been a Marine, along with Lee Harvey Oswald. Kenneth Bersksler and T's'ath-T's'ath had been in the Space Corps.
Leonard framed his next words carefully. "I know the test brings up a lot of issues for you." When Jim just blinked at him: "Your dad having to make the choice he did, leaving you and your mom—"
"Spare me the bullshit from two psych rotations. It's not about me, it's about what's right. Not just for me but for every cadet who's been victimized by the Kobayashi Maru." Jim's handsome face had taken on a glow that wasn't just cheap beer. This was a far more dangerous intoxicant: Self-Righteousness. One could almost see an old-fashioned American flag waving behind him, solemn music playing in the background, something musty and martial—"The Star-Speckled Banner," maybe. Cheeks flushing, Jim went on. "For every person who has ever suffered at the hands of a corrupt system, I will win the unwinnable, and history will vindicate my actions."
"Fine, you are Spartacus. I took history classes too. How do you plan to free the oppressed?"
"By taking down their oppressor."
"The mainframe's already in pieces."
"The computer is just a tool. I need the man behind the computer. The tool behind the tool." Jim snickered into his beer.
Leonard stared at him a full five seconds. "Spock? You're going after Commander Spock?" Then he laughed, loud enough to drown out the ancient pop screeching overhead.
"What's so funny?" Jim said, sounding hurt.
"Jimbo, buddy, Achebe Chang wetnursed you through Introduction to Command Systems. You barely got a "Satisfactory" mark out of your instructor—Spock. There's no way on God's green earth you're taking down anything he's programmed."
"But I burned out the simulation's mainfram—"
"Because it's within the parameters of the scenario he designed." Len shook his head. "Face it, kiddo. The Kobayashi is Spock's baby, and that misbegotten brat kicked your ass. You'd have a better chance challenging him to pistols at dawn."
"It can be done." Jim's brows had drawn together, forehead creasing with the vertical line which always meant trouble for somebody. "I've considered all this—I'm not a complete idiot about strategy. I've talked to Achebe, he says it wouldn't be too hard to introduce a subroutine into the program that would make it possible to beat it. Che says the original program has to be stored on Spock's own computer in his quarters. Assuming he doesn't have extra-special passcodes, I can slip a data solid programmed with new code into the computer and upload the altered program to the main system from there. Spock tweaks the Kobayashi program every so often, so the security protocols on the system wouldn't think there was anything strange going on."
The creases vanished and Jim smiled. "It's almost too easy."
"I thought Che told you never to speak to him again."
"Oh, I talked to him. I told him I didn't know Ashanti was his cousin when I—you know—"
"When I dated her," Jim said, giving Leonard a look. "I told him I didn't realize he thought the two of us were exclusive."
"A man will think that when he's spent two months sucking your cock."
"Che and Shanti are both okay with it now," Jim when on. "We're all supposed to go out next weekend." He took a pull on his beer, smirking at Leonard from around the neck of the bottle.
Leonard knew what that smirk meant. Twenty credits said Jim charmed them both into bed, incest taboo be damned. In this Year of Our Lord 2258, the fact that Jim Kirk was sexually ambidextrous should have raised no eyebrows. Not in San Francisco, at least. But the man's audacity had made him notorious.
Leonard didn't care if Jim fucked males, females, or pink tentacled creatures, he just wished he'd fuck fewer of them. Leonard was tired of the drama: ex-lovers skulking outside their rooms, the desperate calls at 3 AM. Len never could get used to the revolving cast of characters in the bathroom first thing in the morning. If Jim weren't his best friend, he would have sought other accommodations ages ago.
"Are you sure there isn't any Orion in your family tree? That's the only way I can explain why anybody of any gender falls for your bullshit."
"Do I look green to you?" Jim said. "My plan is foolproof. I just need access to Spock's rooms."
"There's no way. Students can't just waltz into the instructor flats. Forget disguising yourself like a maintenance worker or something else out of those old movies you like so much—it's all robots. The security cameras do body scans—you'd be caught as soon as you walked through the door. The only realistic way in is if Spock lets you. Why would he invite you over?"
Jim smirked at him.
Leonard stared back.
"Jesus Christ," he whispered. "You're going to seduce Spock."
"It makes sense, strategically."
"Why would Spock want to have sex with you?"
Jim lolled back in the booth. He gave Leonard the grin that had made so many panties, briefs, and stranger forms of alien underwear drop to the floor over the years. "Why wouldn't he?"
By the little blue-eyed baby Jesus, Leonard started to laugh. He laughed until his eyes watered and the tears ran out his nose. He laughed until he was gasping for air and mopping at his face with a cocktail napkin emblazoned with the retro Apple logo.
"What?" Jim snapped, shoulders tensing.
Len took a moment to pull himself together. "If Spock has sex, he kills his partners and disposes of the bodies. No one's had sex with Spock. No one knows if he can have sex, if Vulcans have sex. We know nothing about their sexuality. The bastards are mighty tight-lipped on the subject."
"Of course they fuck. Where else do little Vulcans come from?" Jim's hands described a baby Vulcan the size of an old-fashioned loaf of bread.
"Baby Vulcans are dropped off by the leathery-winged critter that passes for their stork."
"I can't picture Spock being delivered by a Pterodactyl."
"He wasn't. Him they designed in a lab, like a computer or a chemical weapon. You don't know what he's got down there. If he's got anything: Maybe those pointy-eared sadists at the Vulcan Science Academy left that part out. Too illogical. Maybe they gave him something that will rip your dick off and eat it. You don't know."
Jim turned his head and exchanged grins with Sexy Bill Clinton. "That's what makes it fun."
Before Leonard could reply to that, another waitress came tripping up. Her outfit was more period authentic, if the episodes Jim had made Leonard watch on Nostalgia Net were anything to go by. Tight knit top, tight short skirt, knee boots. A single crucifix hung around her neck. At her waist next to her order pad was a sharp stick of wood. Only her blue skin and the antennae poking out of her long, blonde, artificially sun-streaked hair ruined the illusion.
"Hi!" she chirped. "I'm Buffy. What can I get you?"
Jim looked up, zeroed in. "You must be new."
"Just started yesterday."
"Buffy," he said, lips lingering over the syllables. "I bet your real name is a lot prettier."
She blushed purple. "I'm not supposed to say." She gave him a look that suggested she would, however, dearly love to be asked.
Jim leaned closer, putting a hand on her wrist. "I won't tell. It will be our little—"
"Hey Jim," Leonard said. "Remember what I told you? Those Antarean Syphilis meds won't kick in for another 24 hours."
Buffy flinched back and scampered off at warp speed, forgetting to take their drink order.
Jim glared at him. Leonard shrugged. "You need to save your strength, Spartacus."
"I am doing this," Jim said. "But you're right. I don't know anything about Vulcan sexuality. I could use the help of a Xenobiologist."
"No. You're Spartacus. I'm not. I don't know how you hornswoggled Che into this."
"Spock dismissed him as his teaching assistant last term. Che's taking it personally."
"I like Spock. Icy bastards who look like the Devil in Grandma's Bible are my kind of people."
Jim's limpid blue eyes grew imploring. "I'll tell you everything."
"Since when do I care about the gory details of your whoring?"
"A Vulcan, Bones. As a Xenobiologist, aren't you just a little bit curious?"
The hell of the thing is that Leonard was. The Vulcans were notoriously silent about a subject most other species, however culturally conservative, were willing to discuss at least in general terms. It was almost insulting, the lack of information. No, it was definitely insulting. Like the rest of the Federation wasn't good enough to sit at the grownups' table. Typical green-blooded arrogance, he really couldn't stand that holier-than-thou attit—
Of course, Jim knew this.
"You're good," Leonard said to him. "Intelligence sure missed out when you chose Command."
"I don't have the Psy-Chem profile for Intelligence. Something about my dopamine levels." Jim shrugged. "This is my chance to be a spy."
"Not Spartacus, then. Mata Hari."
Jim waved this away. "Will you help?"
"I s'pose, though you don't stand a chance in Hell. But Mama told me failure builds character."
Jim lifted his chin, eyes glittering. "His ass is mine."
Leonard had seen this expression before. Often at the intramural rugby matches, sometimes at nightclubs, when Jim had sighted a target he was determined to smash into. If he had to break rules or bones to do it.
Maybe not Orion in his background, then. Maybe Viking. Or Klingon.
Leonard sighed wearily and called over to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
"Another Jack Daniels, sweetheart," he said. "Easy on the ice. And keep 'em coming."