Captain James "Jim" Tiberius Kirk, saviour of civilizations, Captain of the good ship Enterprise, out-witter of Romulans and hero of Starfleet, sat slumped at a crusty little bar somewhere in Perth, Australia. Uhura, Spock and the others had long since returned to the ship, claiming that what they searched for was futile in their attempt to seek justice, but Jim's fingers were still wrapped around his dusty glass bottle, his piercing blue eyes still fixed on the amber liquid within.
The bar was small, almost invisible, being tucked away behind a few alleys, away from the busier Perth streets and into a darker, dirtier world. On the outside, Perth was a glimmering mirage of justice. However, the underworld told a different story. Inequality was rife in the poverty-stricken areas of Perth, white men dominating the scene. Barely-coherent drug addicts, some hardly older than seventeen staggered along the alleys, moaning and babbling, their gaping mouths flecked with spittle. Bones had tried to help them as much as he could, taking to carrying around anti-fever drugs, but to little avail.
Jim frowned into his bottle. He didn't like ignoring the problems the Australian people faced, not at all, but they were here for a reason, and that reason was paramount.
The outside of the bar wasn't impressive, with most of the windows either broken or caked with filth, the large wooden door barely on its hinges. The inside wasn't much better, not much but a pool table and a few crude pictures of naked women, twisted into grotesque shapes with their smiles painfully fake, placed in the bar to furnish it. Jim sat atop a splintery bar stool, and laced his fingers together.
There were a few guys- blokes, Jim thought amusedly- who sat in the tables at the back, speaking quietly except for when any of the scantily-clad waitresses ventured near them, where they made loud, crude comments, each trying to impress their friends. Playing the who's the biggest misogynistic pig? game, the Starfleet Captain supposed. As the minutes ticked by, they got louder and louder, voices climbing over each other in a desperate, testosterone-fuelled attempt to better each other.
Jim kind of wished he was back in the main city. To be honest, he liked Perth. He liked the people (although he'd been woefully disappointed upon arriving in Australia, his visions of tanned, grinning larrikins perched on noble steeds soon wiped away by the glamour of Australia's perfect city), who seemed to be a little more laid-back than the average American or Londoner, more friendly and each with an aura of… dependability about them. From the twelve-year-old who'd given him directions to the nearest sandwich stop, to the tiny old lady who'd asked him if he was single (she had a granddaughter around his age), everyone just seemed… nice.
Well, apart from the criminals. They were a bunch of bastards, if you asked him. Misogynistic, racist douchebags.
The Underhill Bar wasn't as swanky as most of the bars in Perth, but it was quiet, and the person he was looking for was said to be a frequent visitor.
The person in question being a nineteen year old girl, a full year younger than Chekov, for God's sake. And she was already a name to be feared. There'd been only a few pictures, all grainy and containing a flash of choppy, chin-length blonde hair and a taunting smirk, but the owner of those attributes had been seen, several times, standing close to or with one John Harrison. It was possible, although not much, that she knew the whereabouts of the murderous bastard. Jim had flashed a few of the photos around in the, ah, less savoury areas of Perth and hadn't gotten much more than a few grunts of recognition and all-round tight lips that couldn't even be loosened with some cash. The others had said it was a lost lead, the girl could be dead or at least long-gone by now, but the Captain of the Enterprise was determined to chase up anything that could lead to John Harrison until he had stone-cold proof it was a dead end.
So he'd asked around some more, walking up and down the lonely alleys of Perth, confronting criminals left and right until,finally, an hour before and eight days after they'd landed in Australia, a buxom woman working in a (very illegal) brothel had nodded at him. "Yeah, I've seen that'un," she'd said, taking the photo from Jim and squinting at it. "Jennifer Swift, she's well known. Not many people know what she looks like, but."
"And how do you know?"
"She used to work here, when she was just a little'un. Not as a hooker," the woman had said hurriedly at Jim's expression, "just a waitress. Used to make me call her Swift, and when she disappeared and I started hearin' about what she does, I put two an' two together."
"What does she do?" He'd asked, propping his elbows on the table they spoke over and allowing a charming smile to curl at his lips. He figured it couldn't hurt to probe a few more details out of her.
The woman had seemed eager enough to betray any information about this Jennifer Swift character. "She's a thief. I'd say petty, but she doesn't seem to want any of the stuff she takes."
At this, Jim had quirked an eyebrow curiously, egging her on.
"She doesn't charge. She can't be hired. She goes in, does what she wants, an' gets out again, disappears for a while, an' then she comes back. Never in the same place."
"Do you know where she's been?" he asked, thoroughly intrigued.
"All over, love. She was in London once," she said, referring to the photos Jim had shown her, "then Tasmania, then back here. I heard," she'd lowered her voice dramatically, leaning closer to Jim and giving him an eyeful of cleavage, "that she spent ayear infiltratin' some company, stole their computer program and just… ruined 'em."
"What do you mean, ma'am? By ruined?"
"Ran their business to the ground, messed around with their stocks, took no money for herself. She just… wanted to watch them go down." The woman's voice had taken on an ominous note, and she frowned, readjusting her posture to her normal stance. "No reason, none that I heard on the street. It's almost-" she broke off.
"Almost as if she gets… bored. And when she gets bored, she ruins things."
A girl with the power to destroy people's lives when she feels like it.
A small, unsettling sense of discomfort had settled at the pit of Jim's stomach at this. Motive, he could deal with. People who were driven by revenge. People who were driven by anger. They were somewhat predictable, somewhat negotiable. But a nineteen-year-old girl who like to watch whole companies burn for fun, with no gain of her own? That was something he had never encountered.
Yet, when the woman (Lydia, her name had been as he'd found out) told him she'd seen the same girl entering the Underhill Bar at least three times a week, he'd gone without hesitation.
And now, he waited.
The idiots in the back started up again, clearly harassing another waitress. When Jim turned round, all he could see was a slender figure wearing the regulation waitress uniform (i.e., not much), with a dark jacket over the top, her hood pulled up. He turned back to face his drink, patting the comforting weight of his gun under his coat. If things got out of hand, he could always shoot one of them.
They soon got louder, but this time there was an angry undercurrent to their slurred words as they tried to string two words together in order to form barely-coherent 'insults'. Jim smirked as he heard the girl's quiet, calm voice slicing through their babble in the background. He couldn't hear exactly what she was saying over the ruckus, but she hoped she was giving as good as she got.
The bartender, a fat, sweaty-faced man peered curiously at him while 'cleaning' the glasses with a filthy cloth. Jim supposed he didn't get many Americans down his neck of the woods. Giving the man a half-smile, a mere shadow of his former smirk, he downed the rest of his drink and set the bottle down on the oak bar top. "Hey," he said to the bartender, "can I ask you something?"
The other man grunted in reply and hoisted himself into a standing position. Jim pulled the pictures of Swift out of his pocked and slid them across the bar top. "You seen this girl?"
The bartender perused the photos for a moment, taking in the images. "Nah, mate. Can't help you there. Sorry." He slid them back over.
Jim knew he was lying, obviously, but didn't press the matter. He just smiled slightly, and put the photos back in his pocket.
"You finished there, mate?" said a feminine voice from behind him. The waitress, or another one. The idiots were still yelling so he assumed it was the latter.
"Yeah, thanks." He said, not turning around.
He watched as slim, tan fingers wrapped around he bottle's neck. It disappeared, and then there was a moment where the idiot's clamouring reached a crescendo and then, suddenly, ceased. It was soon followed by the sound of glass smashing and a girl's voice shrieking "how's that, asshole?!"
Jim whirled round to see her, Jennifer Swift, standing in a circle of the idiots and brandishing a broken bottle over her blonde head like a sword, smirking triumphantly down at one of the idiots who was currently out cold, having been thoroughlythwacked by the glass bottle. Shards of glass littered the floor at her feet, crunching under her shoes as she thrust out her chin defiantly at her harassers. She was smaller than he'd expected, and wearing combat boots instead of the heels the other girls who worked at the bar wore. She had dark eyes, light blonde hair and looked as if she'd had to fight her way through almost every day. Jim knew the type, the runaways. Hell, he'd have been one himself if his Mom hadn't dragged his ass back every time he'd made a break for it. They all had that same look- fierce, outwardly joking and confident, but the bags under their eyes and protruding ribs told a different story.
Dimly, he heard the bartender sigh, mutter something that sounded like "again?", and the other waitresses rush into the backroom.
One of the bigger idiots, with greasy black hair tied back with string, lurched forward, arms outstretched. Instead of jerking backwards, as Jim would have expected her to do so, Swift ducked and then pushed up, smacking her forehead into Big Idiot's face. He staggered backwards, blood spurting from his nose and running down his chin in thick rivulets, only to double over when the tiny girl's knee slammed into his balls. The other idiots stood, slack jawed, watching what was probably their toughest guy- mate- being bested by a girl who was probably a quarter of his weight. However, Jim reckoned that most of that weight was muscle, honed and built for speed, judging by the way she moved and how he could see her calf muscles ripple under her skin as she did so.
Jennifer Swift moved quickly, efficiently, with the practised grace and steely look in her eyes that came with learning to fight from experience, rather than lessons. She elbowed the guy between the shoulder blades, clapped her hands over his ears, and then kicked him, solidly, on the pressure point on his thigh, just above his knee.
Big Idiot toppled to the ground to join the first, groaning pathetically.
"Get out, boys. You're done here. I don't owe you chicken bastards shit. Unless you want another try?" she spat at the others, glaring fiercely enough to make a battle-hardened Klingon wet himself.
For a moment, it looked as if she was going to have to fight off the three angry-looking men herself, and Jim tensed, ready to leap to her assistance if needed. But, after a beat, the men turned and walked out, knowing that even if they managed to take the girl down, they'd suffer hell for it. The two felled men were dragged out by their collars, still unconscious.
As they went, Swift scoffed and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "damn straight," and turned back towards the bar.
"Cheers. For the bottle," she said to him, smiling a little and brushing her hair back from her face. She appeared friendly, but her eyes were cold, staring straight at him fiercely, as if daring him to drop his gaze to her low-cut shirt and tiny shorts that did nothing to cover her tanned, peppered-with-bruises legs.
She had an odd face, he decided, all sharp edges and knowledge beyond years that was embedded in every line, every curve. A straight, upturned nose that could've been cute had it not been framed by those cold eyes and the downturned mouth, which always seemed somewhat wary even when she smiled. A small spattering of freckles spanned across the bridge of her nose and the unmarked skin of her cheeks, and a thin white scar curved round the edge of her forehead. Her hair looked as if it had been hacked off with a knife, but it suited her in a weird sort of way; brushing the nape of her neck at the back and hanging to her chin at the front in thick blonde locks. She held herself in a way Jim recognised- relaxed and confident, but he could see by the way she held her arms that she was ready to throw a quick punch to his gut- or worse- if needed.
She had no weapons visible on her, but Jim would bet the Enterprise that there was some kind of blade hidden in her boots, easily accessible for self-defence. He wondered if this kind of vulnerability was unusual for her, whether she covered herself with jeans and knives or if she used her body as a weapon, a tool to destroy.
The thought made him ill, and he pushed the thought from his mind. He could barely fight the rising need to give her his coat, knowing she wouldn't take it.
When she wasn't cursing or threatening, her voice was much softer, more hospitable. The change was a little unnerving, and Jim didn't doubt she used this charisma to fool her victims. He could still hear the harsh edge to it, most likely fashioned from years of not knowing when your next meal was and hanging around criminals. Something in his gut twisted. She had potential, he could see that. Hell, the glimmerings of wondering how good of a recruit she'd made had started when Lydia told him about the thieving. Sure, the girl had a twisted sense of morality and a very big dark streak, but she was smart, resourceful, and would do a hell of a lot better putting her skills to good use than making businesses crumble whenever she got bored.
"No problem." As he peered closer at her, he saw a dark bruise beginning to bloom over her jaw line, telling him she hadn't gotten out of the fight fully unscathed. "How's the jaw?"
"Didn't know you were watchin' that, mate. How's the crew?" she countered, nodding at the badge he'd allowed to slip from the confines of his dark coat in his shock at the fight. She was quick, recognising a Starfleet Crew badge from a student at the academy.
Jim let a laugh loose from his lips, allowing a full-blown grin unfurl and tilted his head to the side, giving her a look, one that had seduced many a strong woman before her. "It's good. I'm Captain."
"Captain…?" she asked, acknowledging his attempt to charm her with an upward flick of her dark eyes.
"Captain James T. Kirk, of the Enterprise. And you are?"
"Impressive title, Jim." She retorted, smirking at his little jolt of surprise. "What, you think you can just go round flashin' pictures of me to every second bloke and not be noticed?"
"I got you here, didn't I?"
She raised an eyebrow, her smile growing a little. Her eyes, which he realised were an oddly intense dark green, were less uninviting and more amused. "Optimism. That's cute."
"I'm very cute."
Swift scoffed, flicking her eyes towards the ceiling again. "Not that cute. I suppose Lydia told you about my illustrious criminal career?"
"That bitch. So there's not much point in denying it, then."
"Nah, not really. And I am cute. And charming."
She sighed. "Not my type, Jim."
He laughed. "You're a little young for me, Swift."
She paused, momentarily faltering. Her calm, mature expression fell for the briefest of seconds, revealing a younger, purer innocence. "Swift?" she said, softly.
Jim wouldn't have noticed had he not spent years carefully crafting façades similar to hers in his adolescence.
"Your last name? Right?"
"Yeah, but everyone just calls me Jenny." The mask slid back into place, and her features took on an almost blank quality, as if she'd sculpted them from wax. Superficially a perfect replica of human emotion, but if you dug too deep it would melt.
"Alright then. Jenny."
She frowned for a moment, almost too quickly for him to catch, then smiled again, bright and not-quite convincing. "So. What do you want?"
Jim reached inside his coat for the photos once more. "You've been seen, more than a few times, with one John Harrison."
She didn't bother denying it, taking the photos from his hand and rifling through them. "Yeah, I used to work with him around two years ago. What of it?"
"He recently committed an act if terrorism against Starfleet, killing one Captain Pike and maiming many others." His voice hitched at the mention of his mentor, but he pressed forward.
Jenny didn't miss the hesitation. "You knew this Pike, then?" At Jim's nod, she smiled grimly. "So it's personal. You want him dead?"
"Yes, I do."
"Hm. Honest, I like that. Too many people try to deny our drive for revenge." She sat down next to him at the bar, propping her elbows on the counter. "In that case, I'll help you. I have some bones to pick with him." Her fingers strayed absently to the scar on her face, tracing the spidery white line.
"How d'you know him?"
"Can't a lady have her secrets?" she grinned winningly at him, leaning over the counter, snagging a bottle of some kind of beer left on one of the shelves.
"No." Jim said shortly, watching as she whacked the lid on the corner of the counter, loosening the seal.
She raised an eyebrow and took a swig. "Fine. He wanted me to help him get some kind of records. Before you ask, he never told me who. He just needed me to hack into a system, and then let him do the rest."
"Why did you help him? Did he pay you?" Jim asked, already knowing the answer.
"I was bored. I'm not for hire."
"If you're not for hire, why did you help him?"
"Same reason I'm helpin' you, mate. He wanted revenge on someone who hurt his family."
"He killed innocent people-"
"Mm," Jenny interrupted, through a mouthful of alcohol. She swallowed, and continued, "How d'you know?"
"I… I know because Pike wouldn't have done anything to anyone's family that wasn't justified."
"What is justified?" she wondered aloud, tilting her head up to gaze at the ceiling of the bar.
Giving him a sidelong glance full of irritation, she said, "Relativism. Your justice is another's crime. And maybe it wasn't Pike he was after. Maybe Pike was just a casualty."
Jim looked down at his hands, still covered in little scratches and cuts from the shower of glass that had fallen on him during Harrison's attack. "What was he like?"
"Meaning?" Jenny questioned, frowning.
"What was he like to work with? Did you have much contact with him?"
She pursed her lips. "Serious. Didn't show a lot of emotion, but when he did it was… intense."
"Meaning?" Jim shot back at her, and she gave him a fleeting grin, revealing pearly white, albeit somewhat crooked, teeth. He vaguely wondered how she managed to keep them in such good condition.
"He could get angry, real quick. Slammed me into a wall, once, but I made it clear that if he tried anythin' again, it would be the end of our agreement."
"You didn't beat him up?"
She uttered a short bark of laughter, the sound harsher than her normal tones. "He's freakishly strong, mate. And quick. Those guys," she jerked a thumb behind her, towards where the Idiots had made their getaway, "only relied on brute force."
"What did they want?"
"What do men like that always want? A piece of ass." She gestured to herself, primarily her chest area. Jim diverted his eyes. "Anyway. Jo- Harrison," she corrected herself, "trained to fight his whole life, and was bigger than me. He had skill I'd never seen before."
"That's… worrying." Jim said, running his hands through his hair.
Jenny hummed in agreement, drumming the fingers of the hand that wasn't wrapped around her drink against the bar top. "Certainly is, Captain."
"How did you two meet?" Jim asked.
She laughed. "You make it sound as if we were a couple."
"Were you?" He retorted, before he could stop himself.
The look she gave him at the comment, all withering glare with a helping of bitchface, told him the answer was no. "He contacted me through a few, uh, influential persons," she cast another sidelong glance at him, "whose names I'm not mentionin'."
Jim frowned, but nodded.
She continued, "he asked me to meet him in some little bar, kinda like this, and he said he needed me to get into a computer system."
"Which computer system?"
She cast him a disgruntled look. "I'm gettin' there, Jesus," she muttered. "Patience, child."
"OK, OK. It was… Starfleet. That's all I know. I had to hack into the system, get up a few files on somethin' classified. J- Harrison, made it pretty clear he didn't want me lookin'."
"And you did as he said?" Jim queried, unconvinced.
"I wasn't interested, an' it was his business. Don't get me wrong," she held up a finger, shaking it a little, "if I was interested, I'd be in there like a shot. But…"
"You didn't care?"
"Nah. I wasn't in the wreckin' mood."
Jim nodded, once. "What was your relationship with Harrison?" He hadn't missed the way she kept going to say 'John'.
Jenny bit her lip, chewing on the flesh before speaking. "I- it's- I don't see how that's relevant."
"I need to know how much of a help you could be, Jenny."
"You mean you need to know if you can use me as bait? Is that what you do, Captain? Dangle girls in front of men you want to kill? Because that won't fuckin' work. John won't care, not even if you slit my throat in front of him. Not anymore, you got that?" she snapped, the mask slipping once more to reveal a darker, more sinister side to the young girl. When she was angry, all her cracks and scars, all the shadows that stopped her smile from reaching her eyes were there for all to see.
It disappeared almost as soon as the mask had, replaced by cool calmness. She cleared her throat, but didn't apologise for the outburst, keeping her gaze locked on his.
"I meant, so that if you come with the Enterprise to find Harrison, he won't shoot us all on the spot as soon as he sees you." Jim amended, softly so that she knew he wasn't offended. "I get it, Jenny."
She scoffed. "Do you?"
"Yeah," he said, looking away from her and clasping his hands, "you think you're close to someone. Then you realise they didn't care. It hurts, right?"
Jenny looked down, nodded. "Like a bitch," she said.
Jim laughed. "Right," he added, "like a bitch."
"He- he was nice, at first. Treated me like I was smart, which doesn't happen very often. Like," she said, her tongue darting out to wet her chapped bottom lip, "a lot of the people in my line of work… they see what I do, but they don't… they think I'm stupid, as if it's just luck that gets me through. You know?"
He didn't, but he nodded anyway.
"And… John, he seemed to know what I was capable of straight away. He was respectful, knew when I needed to be taken care of and when I could handle myself. He didn't make me feel weak, but I always knew I was safe."
'And then he changed?" Jim asked, carefully.
"As soon as he had the files, he tried to- um," she tugged her shirt to the side a little, revealing a thick, twisting scar trailing down from her right collarbone, ugly and coarse against the tanned skin of her chest. Jim had seen enough scars in his life to know this one had been no quick slashing; Harrison had held this girl down, dragged a blade across her skin when she'd been- god- topless. He didn't want to think how they'd gotten in that position. Judging by her expression, neither did Jenny.
"Kill you?" Jim asked, shocked.
"Yeah. You see why I wanna get even?"
"So…" she said, suddenly bright and cheerful, as if she hadn't revealed exactly why she wanted to kill the man he was hunting, "I'm comin' with you?"
"Sure are, Jenny." He grinned at her, taking out his communicator to type a quick message to Scotty.
"What if I don't want to?" she asked, frowning at him, but with a glint in her eye that told him she was as excited as he was.
He slid off the barstool, facing Jenny fully as she took another long drag from her bottle.
"Jennifer Swift. You are under arrest for the assistance of murderous criminal, John Harrison,", he said, ignoring her undignified spluttering and small shriek, "and a number of other things I don't care to list right now, as we'll be here all night if I do. The reason you could evade capture eludes me. Come quietly, or I'll have to pinch your nose."
"You tricky bastard," Jenny said, scandalised, but didn't look entirely unamused.
"Sorry. Well, I lie, this is entertaining, and I'm not sorry at all."
She huffed. "Can I at least tell my boss I'm quittin'?"
"You actually work here?" Jim had thought it was a ruse, that she stole a uniform to keep an eye on him.
"I don't steal my money. I have to pay the bills somehow, mate."
He fumbled for a moment, considering, and then nodded.
Jenny grinned at him, then pounded on the bar top with her fist. "OI! Peter!"
The backroom door creaked open, and the bartender's round, sweaty face peered round it. "What? You done with those bastards?"
"Yeah, boss. I'm done here, too. I'm quittin'. Take care, now." The girl's voice softened a little at the last few words.
The bartender rolled his eyes, but gave her a kind smile. "Yeah, yeah. Drop in every now and then, would you?"
"I'll be comin' back for my pay, Peter."
The bartender scoffed loudly, waving her away and disappearing out the back again.
"Done?" Jim asked.
"Yeah. Cuff me, Jimmy. Take me away." She exclaimed theatrically, taking one last gulp of her beer before holding out her wrists to him.
As protocol demanded, he cuffed her.
By the time they out onto the busy Perth street, and Jim was calling the Enterprise to beam them out, the key in his pocket was gone and she was holding the handcuffs out to him, a smirk playing around the corners of her mouth.
This should be interesting, he thought, as Scotty beamed them up.