“Not interested.” Deuce was leaning against the bar at one of the sleazier places on the compound. This place made Joe’s look like the Ritz. Not that Deuce had ever been to the Ritz. The general probably had, though. Some fancy party or some such. Like a birthday. Maybe he was even there tonight, cutting some god-awfully sweet piece of over-priced dessert with one respectful candle on it. Wouldn’t want to embarass the hero by reminding him of his actual age. She grimaced and took a deep slug of the also sleazy whiskey in her glass.
“Hey, you haven’t even given me a chance. Come on. Just let me buy you one drink.”
“I said, not interested.” Her voice was low, almost a growl. The guy standing next to her laughed. He must have spent too much time in space without a helmet. Could he not take a hint?
He could not. He put a hand on her arm and turned her to face him. “Come on, honey, don’t be like that. I’m a nice guy. Just got paid, too, so I can afford that drink. What do you say?”
Deuce looked up at him. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, and he probably was a nice fellow. She just wasn’t in the mood for either not bad looking or nice. She smiled her sweetest smile.
And swung her fist straight into his not bad looking nose. From the blood that started gushing, she guessed it was going to be pretty bad looking for a few days.
“What the…?” Not Bad Looking wiped his hand across his nose and stared at the blood. “Tough girl, huh? Well, if that’s the way you want to play.” He swung back at her.
“Hey! Cut that out!” The bartender reached across the bar and grabbed Not Bad Looking by the arm, who just shook him off. Deuce ducked under the swung fist and stepped out to the side. Not Bad Looking turned, also. He swung again. She ducked again. Deuce wasn’t tall, but she’d learned to fight from guys trained to do just that. They’d not only taught her basic close combat, but how to use her size to her advantage. She reached up and grabbed the arm that cut the air above her head. Using it like a swing, she jumped back, pulling down hard on the elbow joint. Not Bad Looking howled as the joint cracked. He stared at her, really angry now. He reached out and grabbed at her. She let him get a hold on her arm and start to pull her in. She turned in his grip so her back was to him, and drove an elbow full force into his gut. She stepped back as he doubled over with an exhaled whoosh of air, and kicked him hard on the side of the head. He collapsed in a heap on the dirty floor. She looked up at the bartender.
“Sorry about that.” She jerked a thumb at the still form on the floor. “Not Bad Looking there just got paid. He bought my drink.” She turned and walked out of the bar.
“Heard he was too young to be daddy.” Joe set a glass of whiskey and an ice pack in front of Deuce. She looked around. Well, Joe’s wasn’t the worst place to end up. She looked down at the ice pack, and realized her left cheek hurt. She pulled her comm unit out, and used the reflective black screen to try and get a look. Hard to tell on the dark surface. Joe reappeared with a small hand mirror. She looked up at him.
“I got all sorts of useful stuff back here.” Deuce took the mirror and looked at her face. There was a nice bruise just beginning to purple around her left eye and cheek. And her ribs hurt. A couple of Not Bad Looking’s punches must have gotten lucky. “That’s gonna be a nice shiner for a few days.” Deuce made a face and plastered the ice on the cheek. And winced when she hit it just a bit too hard. She picked up the glass and drained it, then held it out to Joe.
“So, anyway, you know you do this every year. Today. Pick some poor young guy out to enjoy his evening, and beat the crap outta him. On daddy’s birthday. Now, why do you think that is?”
“What are you? My shrink?”
“Part of a good bartender’s job. So, about your daddy issues.”
“You know too much about me.”
“You spend too much time in here, drinking.”
“Because you give me too many free drinks.” She took a drink from the newly filled glass in front of her. “And, by the way, I told him before I hit him I wasn’t interested.”
Joe shrugged. “You’re a good looking girl. Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“But I can blame him for not listening. I don’t care if I’m the goddess of pulchritude, if I say get lost, you get lost. You don’t press the point.”
“I’ll give you that. Still, you’re going to scare off all the young guys around if you keep this up.”
“Can’t exactly go around beating up frail old men, though, can I?” She held out the empty glass.
Joe laughed and refilled the glass. The smile faded from his face as he looked down at her. “Just be careful, Deuce. You’re good but one of these days, you’re going to get yourself really hurt. That temper of yours is not your friend. I don’t want to lose my best customer.” Deuce gave a “Pffft” as he moved to the other end of the bar to take care of another customer.
She stared down into the glass of whiskey. Joe was right. She did tend to go off on the first guy she saw on this day. You’d think by now, she’d have gotten over her “daddy issues,” as Joe so delightfully put it. She hadn’t seen or spoken to the general in years. She didn’t owe him anything, nor did she want anything from him. So, what was the deal? She frowned at the whiskey in the glass which was being very uncooperative and not providing any answers. She drained the last of it, and pressed the ice pack harder to her cheek, letting the pain block any more uncomfortable thoughts.