Joanna McCoy was just a child, and as a child, people tended to overlook her. She was too little to cause trouble, too young to bother checking what they said around her.
Joanna McCoy was seven years old, and she did feel too young and too small and too scared. At least at first.
Now, when everything was quiet, she wasn't so scared any more.
She'd learned how to be a lady from her mommy, and how to be smart from her daddy.
And she'd learned how to be sneaky from her Uncle Jim. She'd learned a lot of things from her Uncle Jim.
Things she was fairly sure her daddy wouldn't approve of.
She knew her mommy wouldn't. Her mommy was perfect and beautiful and a proper lady. She didn't swear, she didn't raise her voice – unless she was talking to daddy, but apparently that was a grown up thing – and she never, never, ever lost her calm. Even when the men had come and taken them away, she'd been calm. She'd held Joanna's hand and told them very softly that if they so much as looked in Jo's direction, they'd never live to regret it. She'd never really thought of her mommy as brave before, but she was. Maybe even braver than nana who'd broken her favorite skillet over one of the men's heads.
Daddy…well she figured there would have been a lot more shouting if daddy had been there. Daddy shouted a lot, though never at her. Another grown up thing her nana said. He shouted at Uncle Jim the most, but for some reason Uncle Jim just found that funny.
If Uncle Jim were there… less shouting, less calm, and a whole lot more dead people.
She understood what death was. She'd seen it on Cerberus and she knew Uncle Jim had seen lots of it too.
They'd talked a lot, her and Uncle Jim. After Cerberus, when she was scared every time she closed her eyes and the walls felt like they were closing in on her when she was alone. She'd crawled into his bed more than once and he'd always been surprised to see her, but he'd never turned her away. He had bad dreams too, really bad. She'd heard him cry when he was sleeping and that was why she went to him first instead of daddy. Uncle Jim knew, he understood, and if he could have bad dreams and still be okay, maybe she could too. He'd let her crawl under his arm and cry, and he'd sing to her in strange words she didn't understand.
Uncle Jim was not a good singer, not even good enough to be polite about, but he was soothing anyway.
They'd been together all the time after the bad man had taken him away and hurt him. He'd not really looked like himself, he'd been pale and very thin, but he laughed the same and he smiled the same, and he did both more when she was sitting next to him, so she made sure to do just that.
That was when they talked. About lots of things, silly things, boring things, and serious adult things she knew she was probably too young to talk about, but had to, because.
They'd talked about what happened on Cerberus, and he told her about a place called Tarsus IV. She wasn't stupid and she knew he didn't tell her far more than he did. He'd said that bad people hurt him when he was only a little older than she was, and that if bad people had hurt her, she could tell him.
They hadn't, and she'd been happy that he'd been happy.
He wasn't going to be happy now. She wondered if the men who'd taken them away knew how bad that was going to be for them.
Joanna McCoy was too small, and too young, but her uncle was Captain James Tiberius Kirk, and nobody messed with him.
"What the hell are you smiling at, shrimp?" Mommy tightened her hand on Joanna's when one of the men looked up and caught her thinking. She and mommy and nana were sat on hard boxes behind an old fashioned barred cage, like the kind they had in detective stories from the Wild West. It was cold and she was hungry and she was only a little bit scared now.
"You're going to die very badly." She told him honestly. Both mommy and daddy said to always be honest. Uncle Jim hadn't answered the question when she'd asked him about it.
"Is that so?" There were five of them, all big and strong and tall, but not very smart she thought.
The biggest one stood and walked closer to the bars.
"Joanna," Nana hissed. She looked tired and worried, which upset Jo the most. Her nana was old and old people needed warm houses and soft things. Jo could sit on the floor all day and not be bothered, but nana and mommy both were fidgeting and groaning when they thought she wasn't looking.
"Let the brat talk, bitch." He said offhandedly in a very rude way that should have been followed through with soap and a scrubbing brush. "How're we gonna die? You gonna kill us? Or wait…let me guess. Uncle Jim's gonna swoop in and save the day? Did you not see him get sliced open like a pig on live broadcast?"
Jo had to swallow hard. She'd not see, but she'd heard, and she'd seen her daddy's friends crying. She knew Uncle Jim was supposed to be dead. She knew that, and she'd cried because he hadn't been there when he'd promised he'd not go away.
But she didn't believe he was gone. Not really. Not even when daddy told her so.
"He's not dead." Jo said firmly.
"Says who?" The man sneered.
"Why are we here if he's dead?" Jo asked him. "You don't want credits. You want something, and daddy hasn't upset that many people."
They all gaped at her and she smiled sweetly, just like Uncle Jim had taught her to. She might not have much, he'd said, but she had eyes and she had ears and she had a good brain in there under all those ribbons. He'd laughed when he said that, and she'd believed she could do anything because he believed it too.
"Little bit's got a point." Jo wasn't the only one who looked surprised at the new voice. She hadn't heard a woman with the men and she'd not seen this one before. She was younger than mommy with bright red lipstick and very pale blue eyes.
"Who the fuck is she?" Bog man said, asking one of the other men, the one that held the lady's arm as he dragged her into the room. "Who the fuck are you?"
"Wow, rude much. I'm a friend of Jim Kirk's. You uncle says hi." She turned to look at Joanna and winked. Jo saw nana's shoulders sag. She'd not believed like Jo had and she looked like she wanted to cry. Nana had a soft spot for Uncle Jim, just like daddy.
Joanna wanted to say 'I told you so', but she also remembered not to just trust a stranger blindly, even if she wanted to. "Uncle Jim doesn't have lady friends." She said. "He has floozies. That's what daddy says."
"Joanna, don't be rude!" Mommy scolded. Manners meant a lot to mommy, even when they were in a cage.
Jo shrugged at the lady innocently.
"Flo…floozies? Is that what he says?" The lady only looked a little bit upset. Mostly she smiled. "Okay fine, I'm one of Jim's floozies. God, I hate that asshole. Like I said, he says hi, love and kisses, yadda yadda, I'm paraphrasing here." She turned from Jo to the men surrounding her. "His message to you is a little less cute and cuddly and more along the lines of 'let them go before I rip out your spines and beat you with them like a piñata'. Again, paraphrasing, but knowing Jim, not so far from reality."
"You're threatening us, really?" One of the men laughed.
The lady frowned. "Yeah. Did that not come across? I thought that came across. Did it come across to you?" She asked Jo's nana, who stared at her blankly.
"So what's he gonna say when we send you back to him in pieces?" One man snarled.
"Well he'd probably thank you for it. I'm way further up his list of people to kill than you are, but, you know…keep at this and see if that changes."
"How the hell did she even get here?" Another man asked.
The lady rolled her eyes. "I followed you."
"You followed us to Qo-noS. To tell us Jim Kirk wants to kill us." The fifth man said.
"We're on Qo-noS?" Now mommy sounded scared and Jo looked up at her.
"Isn't that where the Klingons live?" Where the Klingons hurt her Uncle.
"Hush, Jo." Mommy said, pulling her in closer and not answering.
The lady laughed delightedly. "Well you are a smart little cupcake, aren't you? And adorable! Isn't she just the cutest thing?" She asked the men surrounding her.
"I say we kill her." One of the men said.
"I say you try." The lady smiled. "This is the part where small children should close their eyes and cover their ears."
Jo didn't have the chance before mommy was pulling her so tight it hurt, hands over Jo's ears and her face pressed into mommy's dress. Jo wriggled and squirmed, and when mommy let go and Jo turned back to look into the room, all the men were on the floor.
"Well, that was messy." The lady straightened her hair and pulled out a comm. "Hello handsome, you'll never guess what I found. Yes, you can call off your pet Vulcan, Christ, since when did you get so squeamish. Did I kill them? No, I didn't kill them. I don't think. Wait," she toed one of the men with her boots, "maybe one of them. Oops? Untwist your panties, princess, you want the little bit and her entourage safe and sound or not?" She began to pace. Over Jo's head, mommy and nana frowned at each other. "Fine. I'll bring them back the way we came. Yes. God. Just remember we had a deal. You die and screw me over I'll be pissed." The lady snapped her comm closed and sighed. "He is such a drama queen!"
"Are you going to let us out?" Nana asked quietly.
"I'm gonna do you one better!" The lady smiled. "One way trip back to Earth." She pulled a phaser and used it to open the lock on the cage. Mommy held Jo's arm tight as they quickly left and hurried over to the teleportation machine they'd been forced to use before.
"Come on, sweetheart." Nana said, holding out her hand for Jo to go first.
"Ah ah, are we really going to send sweet little Jo into a strange place all by her lonesome? Mommy first."
Mommy knelt next to Jo and stroked her hair. "I'll see you in a few minutes, okay darling?" She said, cupping Jo's cheek then kissing it. "You're so brave."
Jo sniffed and nodded. Mommy held on to the device, then vanished.
"Joanna next." Nana said firmly.
"Yeah, maybe not." Jo looked up in surprise when the lady grabbed a hold of her arm and dragged her closer. Nana moved forwards until the lady pointed the phaser at her. "I really don't care if I kill you or not." She sounded cold now, and scary. "So think about the little bit here. I don't kill children, unlike your precious Jimmy. If he co-operates, she'll be back home in time for supper."
"I'm not leaving my graddaughter with you." Nana said firmly.
"I strongly recommend you change your mind." The lady said, and something hard pressed against Jo's hair. "This is not calibrated for kids. You really want to see what happens when I fire it into little Jo's head?"
"Nana?" Jo asked, her voice wobbling. Friends of Uncle Jim weren't supposed to hurt her.
"It'll be okay, sweetheart. Your daddy and Uncle Jim are going to find you, alright? Just be brave, okay? I love you sweetheart, I love you so-" then nana disappeared as well, her tears vanishing with her.
The lady fired her phaser down at the machine and Jo jumped when it exploded.
"There now." The lady said, kneeling next to Jo and sounding sweet and kind again. "I meant what I said, Joanna. I don't want to hurt you, so please don't make me."
"What do you want?" Jo asked, brushing at her tears.
The lady smiled gently. "I want you to tell me everything you know about a man named Carter Winston."