A/N: This tournament takes place sometime later in the sequel to Lucky No. 13. I am not 100% sure if I am doing this story yet, but I simply wanted to get this first round of the main tourney out so it would stop bugging me. Read and review please!
"Players!" the man announced on the grand stage in front of close to a hundred pool tables, each with their own set of men and women, paying attention to the announcement. "Welcome to the first annual San Maria County 8-Ball Tournament!"
The audience exploded into cheers and applause at the beginning of the festivities. John smirked as he saw his team on the sidelines of Scott, Donald and Adam outside of the sea of tables. Adam was excited, with his camera at the ready to take any pictures he might need for the college newspaper. Donald, stern as always, looked over the two younger boys and looked to John with a brotherly smile and Scott looked as though he was going to kill someone, but still managed to look somewhat happy. John diverted his attention back to the man on stage, seeing in the corner of his eye a young man, not much older than himself, glaring at him before doing the same.
"The rules I am sure you all are aware of, however, the brackets that which you will playing in are double-elimination. That is, losing once doesn't mean you're out, but rather that you will be in a completely new bracket, testing your skills against the other eliminated players. The player from the end of the Winner's bracket will play against the player at the end of the Loser's bracket for the final match. Take this as a note that your line of the tourney is not over for one loss. Winner reports the final score at the end of the game. Let the first match begin!"
The man walked off the stage after tipping his hats to the players and soon the whole hall of tables buzzed with referees and officials racking the balls and making sure each table had chalk and other necessary supplies. John looked to his table's personal referee only to be met with the glare of the man from before, outstretching his hand towards him.
"Kiki Gutierrez." He stated with his voice friendly yet somewhat sharp. Taking a quick glance at him, John noticed that he was nowhere near the same appearance of him and his fellow Sharks back at Jay's. His hair was neatly combed back, a touch of gel to spike his short black hair. His sharp gray eyes seem to hold something that could only be described as intense determination. His outfit seemed fairly plain, with a mere graphic tee and some dark-colored jeans with standard high-top sneakers. However, two things that stood out were a fairly long piece of cloth hanging from his back pocket and a small, black object hanging from his front jean pocket. Noticing his outfit, John couldn't help to feel the Shark insignia on his leather jacket mixed in with the grease in his hair burn against such a polar opposite opponent.
"Jonathan Ray." He answered back, shaking Kiki's hand before gripping his cue in his hand and turning back to his team for a second. Kiki snickered behind him.
"Stingray, eh?" Kiki asked, noticing the design on the back of John's jacket. "Very cute. Where are you from?" John turned around quickly, that comment sounding just as sharp as a certain someone he knew long ago.
"Downtown San Maria, Jay's Pool Hall." John answered, "You?"
"I come from the Mira Vista area. No affiliation with… a pool hall." Kiki replied, a slight chuckle to the pool hall comment. John stayed silent as the referee called their attention at the head of the table.
"Alright boys, have you ever done a lag shot before?" the referee asked, rolling the cue ball and the ten down the table.
"Of course," Kiki answered promptly, holding his two-piece cue in his hand, a black and white diamond design around the grip.
"Uh… no." John admitted, hearing another low snicker from his opponent. The referee quickly went to an explanation as player began to break and start their games every which way.
"Okay, the object of a lag is to bank off the head rail and get as close to the foot rail without touching it. In the event that both players touch the foot, then the winner is whoever is closest to the foot rail after the bank. Got it?"
"Yeah, okay." John said, taking his ready stance in front of the ten-ball, feeling slightly awkward to hit a ball that wasn't usually the cue ball.
"Good luck, Stingray." Kiki said with a special emphasis on John's nickname from his Sharks at the Hall. John ignored him and focused on the ball, but at the same time, he wasn't sure what he was actually supposed to do. After practicing a few strokes, John taps the ten-ball and it rolls towards the head-rail with enough force that it comes back and banks off the foot as well. Kiki's shot banks gracefully off of the head-rail and lands almost perfectly, inches away from the foot-rail. Pushing John aside, he slides the ten-ball to the rack as the referee sets it up and get ready to break.
John slides to the side of the table and picks up the cube to chalk his cue stick, slightly put off by the fact that the chalk is blue for the green, tourney-length tables instead of the red from the Tide, the table back at Jay's. However, focusing his attention on the second cube of chalk on the table, John hears a small noise as though someone had chalked their cue quickly. Holding one cube in his hand and the other on the table, John looked only to see Kiki preparing to break with a white and yellow cue different from the one that he had seen before. Looking back at Kiki's bag where he was sitting between matches, the black and white cue stood out of his case.
"Two cues?" John thought only to have his train of thought derailed by the crack of the break, the balls on the table scattering every which way with five balls, two stripes and three solids pocket on the break. John stood frozen on the side as he watched Kiki go back to his case. Watching closely, he noticed him pull out the cloth from his back pocket to wipe down the shaft of the yellow and white cue before placing it in the case, still in one piece and wipe down the shaft of the black cue before replacing the cloth.
John seemed absolutely puzzled at these mannerisms with nothing more than what felt like a house cue in his hands which was actually his Dad's famed Balavuska. Not paying attention, the noise returned for a second as Kiki readied his shot, taking slow, controlled strokes before shooting. John looked up from his thoughts only to watch Kiki pocket the seven with a sharp cut and have it land in proper placing for the three. The immense skill of the shot was overpowering as he had made the ball stop almost perfectly in line for the next shot. Looking up this time, John saw that Kiki grabbed something from his pocket and quickly brought it to the top of his cue before replacing it and readying his next shot.
A quick shot to the three was easy pickings for the one in the corner. Kiki walked around the table, analyzing every last detail before readying his stance and taking his shot. Short draw on the one for another easy shot on the five in the side, Kiki moved around the table, bringing the black object to the tip of his cue before every shot.
"He has… his own chalk?" John thought as the five easily went down with absolute perfect placing on the eight for the win. Kiki smiled at the shot, the skilled determination burning in his eyes.
"Eight in the corner, Stingray," Kiki called before sinking the eight in the called pocket, ending his perfect break and run. John almost loss hold of his cue as he realized that he had not even left his chair for the whole game. Scott, Donald and Adam from the sidelines watched from a far, only to see the same exact realization. John stood from his chair, almost frozen from the shock of being eliminated by a single game at the beginning.
"The break is key, Stingray." Kiki advised, outstretching his hand to his defeated opponent. "Without it, your opponent can easily destroy you."
John hesitantly shook his hand, while looking face-to-face with the only person to best him without him even getting a shot at the table. His mind raced at the thought of more players like Kiki and soon created a massive amount of thoughts about what he was doing here in the first place.
Leaving the table, Kiki made sure to report his win to the central table while John, cue in hand, slumped over to his team, leaving the open table behind with all stripes that weren't pocketed still in play.
Reaching the end of the sea of tables, John had only one thing to say.
"If you thought Miss Thirteen was good… these players are ten times better."