Marcus enjoyed gambling. In the days before the arrival of the Affini there were plenty of ways to gamble your money, or if you were really in the hole, you could offer yourself up in a number of ways. All of that was gone now, blown away when a polite ask or an order to a compiler would get you whatever you wanted. There was no more risk to bet anymore. Well, there was one thing Marcus knew was worth betting in the Compact, one thing he could wager that would actually catch someone's attention, his independence.
Of course, that wasn’t something he was going to risk lightly. Marcus enjoyed gambling but he wouldn’t have lasted this long unless he had taken some insurances. He was a cheat, a con. He’d play to enjoy himself when the stakes were low but only a fool would risk it all on chance. Luckily the Affini seemed to wholeheartedly believe in truth, which just meant they weren’t ready for his lies. For this first run he decided to start simple. Two coins, T for terran on one side and A for Affini on the other except one coin had T on both sides. Scouting around, he found his mark. While he wouldn’t claim to understand all of it he did know that first bloom meant the Affini was one of the youngest and therefore a much easier trick than someone much much older. Floradis Vivectus, First Bloom was the name the Affini went by though it was often shortened to just Flora. After observing her for a few days, he approached her with the bet. If the coin landed on T he stayed independent and if it was A he’d become her floret. She looked a little confused and seemed to wonder why he would bother with the games instead of just admitting he wanted domestication. Never let it be said that an Affini wouldn’t humor a cute sophont their little harmless games.
Once all was explained, he triple checked that he held the double-sided coin, and that the normal kind was tucked away. Safe not to be used but close that a quick sleight of hand would get it out if the Affini asked for a closer look at the coin. Flipping the coin in the air, it sailed a bit before landing between them. As it landed, he didn’t bother to look, already ready to start his mocking speech when suddenly Flora had lifted him up saying some nonsense about how cute he would be with a collar. What!? Confused, he looked down quickly from his spot tangled in Flora’s vines and saw the unmistakable A on the coin.
NO NO NO. There was no way. Marcus struggled for a few seconds before realizing that was fruitless against Affini vines. A long sigh and some smothered pride later he asked politely to be let down for a moment. Despite how quickly he had been snatched up it somehow took several minutes and multitudes of hair ruffling to get back to the ground. Reaching down for the coin, still with the A clearly on it, he snatched it up and flipped it over to the T that could only be on the other side. How he wasn’t sure, but he must have used the wrong coin. Ignoring the continued pets as he stood there, he barely pulled the other coin out to check but it was one A and one T. He had only made the two coins, there was no way both could be correct. Sliding the regular coin back away discreetly, he turned over the coin he had flipped, the one that had clearly landed on A, and saw another T. Flipping it back and forth a few times, it was clearly the double-sided coin that had also clearly landed on an A that was no longer there. Ok, reality could shatter after he had his freedom. Not knowing how much time he had before she just drugged him and everything was done, he racked his brain for a plan. Not his best, but given the lack of time he would forgive himself later. Turning to Flora, he asked for a best two out of three. She seemed intrigued by the idea, though as she had won the first bet and insisted they go back to her, she insisted their, hab to continue any more games. While he had been able to ask, beg really, that no xenodrugs be used until the new match had been decided that didn’t stop Flora’s vines from roaming. By the time they got to the hab, he wasn’t sure even a square millimeter of his body had been spared her touch. Okay, calm down, breathe, think.
Alright, if he couldn’t trust the letters to stay the same as he had compiled them then he would have to change the game a bit. Ten flips and all of them had to land on A, and just to be safe he would use the regular coin since the double sided one had proven traitorous. Flora seemed happy to agree, saying these little bets could be such a fun thing between her and her floret. By the fifth A he was worried, but by the 9th he was resigned. The 10th and final A hadn’t even so much as shocked him even a little. He was going to have to get more creative and fast. While she seemed to think it fun and cute, who knew how long Flora would agree to more and more bets before she called it quits and just snatched him up. If it ended with him a floret, then Marcus was sure the Affini bureaucracy would uphold his bets as though they were as legally binding as a domestication contract filled out in triplicate. Flora agreed to three out of five on the condition that she got to feed him first, and to his surprise she had meant to feed him quite literally rather than just simply making him a meal. Fine, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, and the food was spectacular he would admit but it wasn’t going to change his mind. Let's see how the coin did landing on its side. No, too simple for a coin that had proven as tricky as this had. Landing on its side with both letters upright ten, no twenty times in a row.
Okay, four out of seven it was. He had needed to make another concession with Flora and was now wearing a collar, but he would overturn that soon enough. Fine, what if the bet was just impossible from a physics standpoint. The coin had to land with the A side up and at a sixty five degree angle from the ground. Even if it did, he would just claim that it had to be measured from the other direction and would be one hundred and fifteen degrees from the ground. One way or another he had this. He had actually expected Flora to disagree given the ridiculousness of the bet, but she seemed just as excited for this as all the others. He had compiled three separate protractors now, and all of them said sixty-five. Every. Single. Time. Which way he measured, how he approached it, nothing mattered. It was sixty-five. Others would have given up after this level of physics and reality fuckery but not Marcus. He was a winner and that wasn’t going to change. Following Flora’s agreement of best five out of nine, he had been changed into floret pajamas, Flora’s colors obviously marked on them in intricate patterns. He had almost given up on the coin, but one more shot just to finish it completely.
After the flip it would split into 5 unequal parts, and each part would stop 5 inches off the ground, separate from each other and all of them would have a full letter A on them. He knew it was coming but seeing reality so clearly telling him to give up had made him cry a little. Flora had been sweet and comforting, followed by insisting they get a good night's rest together before starting on the best six out of eleven. Come morning he felt a little refreshed and ready to win his freedom, though obviously coins were out of the question. Taking a cue from the lotto he had one thousand non sequentially numbered balls compiled and placed in a rotating drum before asking Flora to write down the order all one thousand would come out in. He hadn’t even let her see what numbers had been on the balls.
He wasn’t going to give up. Reality, physics, and Affini luck be damned he would not be beat. Best one hundred and twenty-seven out of two hundred and fifty-three. He was ashamed to admit it had taken this long but he finally figured out the underlying rule, how it all had worked against him. The Affini always wins. Keeping it simple, he pulled out a piece of paper and drew a tic tac toe board on it before challenging Flora to the wager. He bet that Flora would win. If she won the game then she lost the bet and to win the bet then she had to lose the game. Not that the second option mattered since he planned to throw the game as much as he could. She went second so six turns in she was set to win and therefore lose. As her pencil approached the paper to give Marcus his first victory the hab suddenly chimed in that the firebreak system had been activated. Wasn’t that for firearms and shutting down feralist ships? Did individual habs even have firebreaks? What could it even be targe… The paper and the pencils suddenly vanished into hyperspace. Fuck it, maybe it was time to give up.