Notes: So, first thing first, I should warn that this story will probably have quite a few dark themes throughout, including torture, murder, and possible sexual assault. I'll try to warn for individual chapters.
Secondly, this is a reboot of the mirror 'verse. I realise that to begin with, characters aren't yet their cruel, cold selves we see in TOS 'Mirror Mirror'. The point of this was that I wanted to look at some of the ways they might get there.
Thirdly, reviews and responses are always appreciated. Enjoy.
Jim Kirk hurtled through the undergrowth, desperately trying to make as little noise as possible and maintain the breakneck pace. Already his side blazed with pain and his lungs dragged uselessly at the frigid air. His feet kept missing their mark, sliding in the dirt so that he almost fell headlong into damp bracken. Branches whipped past his face, leaving fresh scratches to add to the black eye and split lip he already sported.
He hadn't been running for long, but already he knew he wasn't going to make it much further. There was a thicket of trees ahead, and it took almost his last reserves of energy to stumble towards them. He fell against one and sank to his knees behind it, holding his forearm up over his mouth to muffle the rasp of his laboured breathing in the icy morning silence. Black spots danced in his vision, and for a moment he was terrified of losing consciousness. Ears straining for sounds of pursuit, he slid the stolen knife from his boot and clutched it ready.
He was fifteen and starving and half-feral.
A good ten minutes passed before he dared move again. His breathing slowly returned to normal and the threat of passing out receded, but the agonising empty clench of his stomach was going nowhere. He let himself fall back onto his ass in the dirt, curling forward to rest his head against his knees.
That had been too close, too big a group. Too much of a risk that they could have caught and killed him for the precious parcel he'd stolen out from under them. But he hadn't eaten anything in going on three days now, and he thought he might have given up and died soon anyway if he hadn't risked it all.
He scrambled for the cloth-wrapped parcel tucked into his shirt, laying it out on the ground and peeling back the dirty fabric. It contained a single strip of salted, dried meat, a withered piece of unidentified fruit and a chunk of stale bread old enough to have been baked before the crop-rot spread planet wide.
It felt like a feast.
There were tears in his eyes as he tore into the hardened bread, but he swiped them away angrily and concentrated on chewing instead. It was tough enough to make his jaw ache, but he relished the sensation. The fruit was bitter and unpleasant, but as far as he could tell hadn't been infected and that made it more than good enough. He hacked the meat in half with his knife and stuffed one piece into his mouth, swallowing too fast and nearly choking himself.
When he was done, a third of the bread, the fruit core, and half the meat remained. His stomach cramped demandingly as he regarded what was left, but he knew better than to try and eat it all at once. He'd seen others, usually the younger ones, cram down too much too fast only for their shrunken stomachs to reject it all. He couldn't afford to waste a mouthful, given that he had no idea when he'd come across so good a haul again. Reluctantly, he re-wrapped the parcel and stuffed it back down his shirt-front. Then he rose stiffly to his feet, listening again for movement. There was nothing. Even the sounds of birds and insects had finally ceased at some point during the last week.
Tarsus was dying, the entire colony with it.
He started walking, not particularly caring in which direction as long as he kept away from the main colony site to the east. It would have been safer to get further from it, deeper into the forest where there were fewer patrols and groups of fellow scavengers. But that also meant even less access to food with no one to steal from, and no way of knowing when - if - the Imperial relief ships ever arrived. So for three weeks now he'd circled round and round, stalking and sneaking his way from hiding place to hiding place.
It had been the Orion refugees' doing. That had been the popular theory back at the colony before he'd left. Some virulent xeno disease they'd brought with them which spread like wildfire, infecting every bit of vegetation like a plague. There'd been rioting, calls for quarantine and deportation, but it had already been too late by then. The crops were dead, the livestock starving, and not nearly enough food reserves left to support the whole population. The first wave of executions had taken place without warning. He could still remember the burned meat smell of phaser fire, the screaming as Kodos' militia stormed through the colony, the panic as people tried to run in every direction at once.
George Kirk had been among the first to die, targeted as a potential figure of authority who might pose a threat to the self-proclaimed new governor. Some Kodos loyalist lucky enough to pass the genetics test had come into their home and shot him point-blank in the head. Jim had been hiding in the back room at the time, unnoticed.
He shied from the memory, shaking his head to clear it. Now was not the time.
He needed to find a place secure enough to spend the night. He'd passed through this area of forest before, maybe a week ago, and he thought he could remember a rock outcrop up ahead that might provide enough shelter from the elements and a decent hiding spot. He changed direction a little, moving purposefully now. But he'd gone no more than a few steps when he heard it.
A twig snapped in the bushes to his left. Instantly, the knife was in his hand again, and he whirled around to face the source of the sound.
The girl looked like an apparition, caught frozen stepping from the foliage. The dress she'd been wearing was shredded. Dark eyes were wide and scared in her face, darting between Jim and the knife he held out in threat before him. Her breath came in short, sharp puffs of mist and her dirt-smudged cheeks made her look ghostly.
Jim clenched his jaw, furious with himself for letting someone walk right up without noticing. While she didn't exactly look much of a threat, a couple of inches taller than him but frail and waifish, it could just as easily have been one of Kodos' militia hunters.
He flashed a grin. "Well this is awkward. Tell you what, you keep walking, I keep walking, pretend we never saw a thing. Sound good?" Friendly though his tone was, he kept the knife held steadily between them.
The girl didn't respond for long seconds, staring at him. At last she blinked listlessly. "Do... Do you have food?"
"No," he lied. "No one does these days. You might have noticed."
"Oh." She looked at the ground for a while, then at the sky, then back to Jim. "Can I stay with you?"
He frowned, taken aback. "Uhm. I don't think that's a good idea. Sorry." He'd tried partnering up when things had first started going to hell, thinking it safer to have someone watching his back out here in the wilderness. The fucker had taken Jim's share of the food while he slept and ran. "Look, I've got to go -"
He tried to circle round her, but her eyes instantly flew wide in alarm and she darted forward. "No wait, don't leave!"
He hissed frantically. "Shut up! Keep your voice down!"
Her hands fluttered up to her mouth. "I'm sorry. Please don't leave. I need food. Do you have any?"
"I said no." He backed up, concerned by the feverish shine of her eyes. This was a mistake. He should have turned and fled without a word the moment he saw her.
"I won't be any trouble. I'll keep quiet, I promise."
"Not gonna happen, sorry." He sidestepped a few more paces, scanning the area for his escape route. Running was definitely the better part of valour here. He was just making ready to bolt when a sound that chilled his blood drifted through the air.
Murmuring voices and rustling vegetation behind him, getting closer.
"Fuck." He hadn't actually lost them, then.
The girl's attention had drifted away from him and towards the approaching voices. "Is that... people? Do you think they have food?"
"They won't take you in, trust me," Jim warned, already starting to creep quickly away.
She took a few clumsy steps after him, then stopped. "They might. Are they after you?"
"Yes, and they will kill us both if they find us. You need to run." He turned a last harried glance over his shoulder to make sure she got the message, just in time to see her open her mouth and start screaming.
"HE'S HERE! HE'S RIGHT HERE, I FOUND HIM!"
For a crucial second, Jim could only stare, struck dumb by a sense of unreasonable betrayal. Then he was flying towards her, enraged. "Shut the fuck up, what the fuck are you doing?!"
She pushed him away and continued to scream. "HE'S HERE! I GOT HIM, I FOUND HIM!" Then, whispering, "I'm so sorry. But they'll give me food."
He wasn't sure how it happened, afterwards, only that he'd needed to make her be quiet, needed to stop her following him, and then suddenly he was pressed up against her and she was gasping in his ear and the knife was in her stomach. She blinked in that awful listless way, and coughed. Blood splattered across his face and gushed out over his hand.
He stepped back. She crumpled into the dirt without much of a sound at all. The voices were louder now, almost upon him, spreading out like hunting predators.
Jim turned and resumed his desperate flight for survival.
Juvenile Care Facility space station.
Spock folded the last of his clothing and placed it carefully inside the standard issue bag they had given him that morning. It now contained a shuttle ticket viable for the next two weeks, a PADD outdated by several years, Terran style black slacks and a white shirt. Everything else he owned in the world he currently wore on his back. Zipping the bag closed, he settled the strap securely over his shoulder and cast one last observation around the room where he had resided for the first twenty one years of his life.
A single round window of triple-strength plastite showed a view of empty space and little else. Three beds occupied most of the available floor space. His was the one at the end, where he could sleep with his back to the wall. All three had been made up with military precision, and there was neither mess nor decoration to indicate this was this living space of a trio of testosterone-fuelled males. He imagined it was an arrangement his Vulcan father might have approved of, had he ever had cause to inspect the place.
Twenty one whole years wasted in this room, locked in with Terran adolescents whose dislike and distrust were entirely mutual, until the long awaited day he was no longer considered a minor by Vulcan standards. He felt the old familiar anger rise up in him at that thought, his fist gripping the bag strap too tightly. Had he been born fully Terran, he would have been released three years ago at a minimum. But then, had he been born fully Terran, he would not have been relegated to this refuge of the unwanted in the first place.
Spock had been ten the year Romulan rebels finally won a victory in repelling Starfleet forces from their system. It had been all over the news broadcasts for months, alien faces glaring from plasma screens like the personification of heathen evil. With their pointed ears and upswept brows, they'd looked Vulcan.
Spock had been aware of his own xenobiological differences before then, but the incident had seemed to trigger a conscious realisation in his Terran peers. They'd actively withdrawn from him, become hostile and cruel. For weeks it had escalated beyond all reason, until violence had broken out when one of the children had pulled the point of his ear.
In turn, Spock had broken one boy's arm and fractured the orbital socket of another.
He'd nearly lost his place at the facility, his alien nature deemed too volatile, too vicious to be permitted around vulnerable Terran youths. Ultimately, however, he had been permitted to stay under the condition he undertake strict Vulcan practices of self-control. Instructional holo-vids on meditation, emotional repression and Vulcan physiology had become integral cornerstones of his schooling - and while their rate of success was open to debate, the incident had never been repeated.
For the most part, Spock had learned to endure torment without response. It was the simplest course of action.
Releasing emotion on an exhale, just as the self-aid holovids had instructed him, he lifted his head and turned to exit the room.
Another boy barred the doorway.
Spock's shoulders lifted defensively before he could control the reaction. His first instinct was to drop his bag and free his hands, but he was loathe, on this last occasion, to admit to the weakness of fear. So instead he raised his chin and tried to calculate how best to extract himself from the situation.
The Terran boy, known as Smiles among their peers, lived up to the moniker by grinning nastily. "So Halfbreed, finally getting out of here, huh?"
Spock ignored the comment with an ease born of practice. His gaze flickered past Smiles' shoulder, but he could see none of the other's usual companions.
"All Vulcans need to be coddled so long, or just you?"
"I have only today become a legal adult -"
"There's something not fair about that," the Terran insisted, suddenly striding into Spock's room. "We get kicked out of here when we're barely old enough to pick our own noses, but you get the special treatment, you get to keep enjoying the free hospitality until you're practically old and grey. What the fuck is that about?"
In a manner specifically designed to infuriate, Spock quirked an eyebrow. "Evidently, we have differing definitions of 'hospitality'."
Smiles' face instantly crumpled into a grimace of rage, and with no more warning than that he was looming forward. His fist struck Spock's cheekbone hard enough to send him stumbling backwards. Though only seventeen, he was taller than the Vulcan and fully accustomed to emerging victor from any encounter between them. But this was not the five-on-one beating which usually took place. Spock had no idea why the Terran boy had come alone this time, but he was gratified.
He let his bag slide from his shoulder and raised his fists. Smiles ducked towards him, aiming for a low blow, so Spock reached out and grabbed him as he came, pulling him closer and slamming his knee up into the other boy's stomach. He stepped back then, channelling calm, hoping that would be an end to the matter.
Smiles retched for a few seconds, bent double at the waist. He groaned and staggered until he could brace himself against one of the bedside tables, and Spock began to wonder if he'd inadvertently ruptured something. Then the Terran boy's hand closed over the round glowlight on the table and he was up and hurling it at Spock's head.
Spock ducked away, flinching. It was enough of a distraction to let Smiles crash into him unobstructed, slamming the Vulcan back against the wall. His forearm jammed up under Spock's jaw to keep him in place while his other hand pummelled the Vulcan's unprotected midriff, each blow punctuated by hissing vitriol.
"You alien - fucking - freak! Should have - died at - birth, Halfbreed! Should have -"
Spock surged away from the wall with all his strength - which happened to be considerably superior to that of a human, halfbreed though he may be. His head snapped forward, crashing into the other boy's mouth and bloodying his lips. One foot shot between his attacker's legs and the heel of his palm connected hard with Smile's breastbone. The Terran tripped backwards, arms pin-wheeling uselessly as he fell.
Spock was on him before he'd even hit the floor.
He had been attacked before in his time, humiliated and tormented by almost every Terran boy looking to ascend the primitive social hierarchy which existed here. It was something he usually endeavoured simply to endure, imitating that distinct Vulcan stoicism which was supposed to be his heritage.
But he had almost been free.
He had almost walked out of this place free and clear, an adult no longer required to suffer the violence and indignities of this hellhole he'd landed in.
He snarled his frustration as he landed atop the Terran, his weight alone enough to wind him. Smiles reached a hand up into his face, and Spock almost broke his wrist when he grabbed it and twisted. The Terran shouted in protest, writhing beneath him in an attempt to relieve the pressure. He rolled onto his stomach, and Spock used the new leverage to force his arm up between his shoulder blades. With his free hand he grasped the boy's tussled hair. He slammed Smiles' smirking face into the floor once, twice, three times until he felt bone break under his hands and the Terran howled wetly. Spock bared his teeth in furious satisfaction at the sound.
Victorious, he rose up slowly, standing with his feet planted either side of the Terran, his head cocked as he regarded him. The teenager flopped over onto his back. Smiles' nose was broken, bright red human blood streaming into his mouth and across the floor. He was crying, whimpering, batting ineffectually at Spock's shins.
The Vulcan reared back, abruptly horrified by the sight. Disgust clenched his stomach. All the rage that had fuelled him drained so quickly he felt chill. There was a reason these Terran children despised him.
He stood for a moment with his back turned, listening to the bloody gurgling of his felled opponent. He breathed purposefully, trying to centre himself, trying desperately to forget the feelings of transferred hate and revulsion that had assaulted his mental barriers with every glancing contact between them. Then, straightening his clothing with a perfunctory tug at the hem, he moved to collect his discarded bag. He slung it over his shoulder and strode for the door without a backwards glance.
He'd almost made it over the threshold when Smiles crashed into him from behind with an incoherent roar. They tumbled out into the hallway together, Spock's forehead striking the door frame on the way. Pain blossomed behind his eyes, blinding. As they landed, he brought his elbow back hard and fast, relishing the dry heave as it connected with the other's solar plexus. Smiles rolled off him, bleeding and gasping, but that wasn't enough now. Green rage filled Spock's vision, and he had his hand round the Terran's throat before he was conscious of the decision.
All the years these weak, petty little humans had tormented him, subjugated him, trapped him in here like a freak in a cage for Smiles and his ilk to poke sticks at. It was as if a damn had burst, as if the maximum capacity of his tolerance had finally been reached and exceeded.
Spock bared his teeth as the Terran punched awkwardly at his ribs and stomach, ignoring the blows with little difficulty. Smiles' eyes bulged, his nails clawing at the Vulcan's sensitive hands, but still he refused to let go. Through the contact, he could feel the other's animal terror, his furious fight or flight instinct, his wordless rage. All of it growing dimmer with every breath Spock denied him.
At last, almost too late, the Vulcan released his hold. Smiles sobbed in relief, but it was short lived.
Acting almost entirely on instinct, Spock slapped his palm cross one side of the Terran's face. Smiles had just enough time to flinch, and then Spock was hurtling wildly into his mindspace. It was crude and clumsy telepathy, unpractised, but he neither wanted nor needed finesse for this task. He crashed through the natural mental barriers that attempted to obstruct him, ran rampant along the foreign human thought pathways, thrashed in the torrent of human emotions which threatened to drown him - and only when he thought he'd invaded deep enough did he let loose the mental scream of fury, hatred and pain which had been building inside him most of his life.
Gasping, he reeled back from the Terran, landing on the floor of the hallway. It took him a few seconds to orient himself, to gather himself safely back within his own mindspace.
When he did, he assessed the damage.
Smiles was still lying on his back, staring blankly at the ceiling. Every so often, he twitched spasmodically, but gave no further reaction when Spock peered into his face. The Vulcan looked around, but the halls were mercifully empty. He grasped the Terran under the arms and dragged him quickly back into the room.
He lay him out on the floor beside one of the beds, pausing long enough to lower his ear to the boy's chest and assure himself that breath sounds were normal and that his heart was still pounding steadily. When that was done, he rolled him over onto his side so that the blood from his nose wouldn't drown him.
Then he left, closing the door gently behind him.
Expression carefully neutral, he set off down the hallway. He kept his pace normal and unhurried, and even remembered to wipe most of the blood from his face before he encountered anyone. He was uncertain of the extent of the damage he had just inflicted, and did not intend to seek clarification.
He was almost free.
There were already two other boys and a girl standing in reception when he arrived, lined up in front of the facility's director and a woman in a pilot's uniform. Spock quietly joined them, resting his hands in the small of his back to hide the fine tremor.
"Spock, S'chn T'gai," the director read from his PADD, fumbling the syllables. He appeared to tick off the name, then nodded decidedly. "All accounted for and ready to go, then."
The pilot was staring at him openly.
"Our resident Vulcan," the director explained when he noticed, sounding vaguely uncomfortable.
She looked surprised. "Vulcan? I thought this place was Terran-only."
No one seemed inclined to give further explanation, so Spock addressed her directly. "I am half-Terran, which has entitled me to residence here."
One of the boys couldn't seem to contain himself at that, snorting derisively. "I'd be careful how you throw that word 'entitled' around, Halfbreed."
"Yes. Well." The director cleared his throat pointedly, quelling them. "For the record, I need to confirm that you understand the following legalities. As you are now all come of age, you are no longer wards of the Terran Empire. Our responsibility to provide shelter, nourishment, education and legal protection is ended. We have provided access to transportation and a suitable amount of credits in order to ease the transition, but you will be expected to procure your own employment and residence once you arrive planetside. Is this understood?"
"Understood," Spock intoned with the others. He was still watching the pilot, who had yet to stop staring at him. On the front of her black uniform was pinned the Starfleet insignia, Earth shining in gold before an archaic sword. Terra Magnum Imperium. He had once been told it was designed to represent the formidable military strength which had always underpinned the Empire, but to Spock it looked almost as if the blade had been thrust into the planet's core.
"Excellent. If you will each place your right hands on the PADD as proof of that agreement, we can all be on our way."
Spock signed his contract with the others, then followed the pilot out to the shuttle which would finally take him to Earth.
Jim lounged against the bar, nursing his bottle of beer and watching the crowd. It was almost an exclusively human gathering, with the sole exceptions of an Orion girl undulating around a pole near the back of the room and the weirdly conspicuous Vulcan bartender who liked to frown at Jim with his stupid pointy eyebrows. Strobe lights painted vivid colours across anonymous faces and tech-tuned music thrummed through the floor, vibrating in his chest like a second heartbeat. Girls twisted their hips to the rhythm while men prowled around them, ever hopeful.
For perhaps the third time in an hour he checked the device stashed in his pocket, yet again fitting his hand round it to check he could easily press the button when needed.
Academy kids had descended on the place tonight, garish in their red cadet uniforms. They were loud and rowdy, ordering drinks en masse and roaring wordlessly when they shot them back. Jim rolled his eyes each time. He finished his beer and ordered another with a hand gesture, eyes still scanning the dancefloor. It wasn't long before he spotted what he'd been waiting for.
Nyota Uhura slipped through the crush of bodies with feline grace. Clad in ass-hugging leathers, heeled boots and a shirt cropped to her midriff, she was certainly something to behold, and Jim had to hide a grin in his drink as he watched. Most regulars knew not to bother her by now, but every Academy uniform in the place all but stopped dead. Heads turned, eyes narrowed, and the sudden rush of pheromones was almost detectable.
She circulated for a minute or so, artfully garnering attention, before moving towards the bar not far from where Jim sat. She beamed at the bartender despite the blank expression he returned, and ordered something neon and sparkling. Jim kept his attention on the uniforms. Three of them in particular seemed to be working up their nerve, leering at Nyota and downing their drinks like shots of liquid courage. Evidently reaching some unspoken consensus, they started forward.
Jim let them get just close enough for the first of them to open his mouth in introduction, before sliding smoothly in front of them. He braced his arm on the bar beside Nyota, leaning blatantly into her personal space.
She turned round, arching a brow at all four of them. "Boys."
Jim could feel three pissed off glares prickling the back of his neck, so he made a show of glancing dismissively over his shoulder and slurring like he was drunk. "Guys. Mind backing up a bit? You're kind of crowding us here."
The biggest of the uniforms sneered like Jim was something he'd wipe off his shoe. His eyes flicked to Nyota. "This hick bothering you?"
She gave a soft scornful little laugh. "This hick is always bothering me. Don't worry, I can handle him."
Jim winked in the most obnoxious manner he could manage. "You could handle me. That's an invitation."
"Hey," the cadet snapped. "You better mind your manners -"
"Oh relax, Cupcake. It was a joke." He squeezed the guy's shoulder with one hand.
Unnoticed, his other hand slipped the miniature scanner from his pocket, pressed it up close to the guy's shirt, and hit the go button. It beeped once, the noise lost in the music, to let him know it had successfully detected a credit storage device in near enough range. He pressed the button a second time, activating the illegally modded credit siphoning program he'd spent the last two months designing.
The cadet grabbed the front of Jim's jacket and pulled him up close - which was incidentally perfect, considering it kept them in tight enough proximity for the scanner to do its thing.
"Hey, farmboy. Maybe you can't count, but there are three of us and one of you."
"So get some more guys," Jim suggested, enjoying himself now. "Maybe it'll be a fair fight." And in a final act of provocation, he reached up and patted the guy condescendingly on the cheek.
He was fully expecting it by then, so he was ready when the cadet hauled back and punched him. Those gathered at the bar around them let out yelps of surprise. The adrenaline hit Jim before the pain, a spark of violent excitement racing through his veins. He grinned, and knew it to be an unsettling expression from the way 'Cupcake' hesitated.
Some rational part of his brain reminded him that he needed to keep close, at least for a few more seconds, so he grasped the cadet's shirt, pulled him flush, and brought his knee up into the other man's groin. Cupcake groaned and sunk against him, his weight effectively pinning Jim to the bar. People were backing away from them hurriedly, making space. All save Nyota, who was watching with narrowed, appraising eyes.
His scanner beeped a third and final time, task complete. He tucked it away.
Jim shoved off the bar with all his strength and Cupcake went lurching backwards, landing on his ass a few feet away. He would have laughed, but the next cadet was on him in an instant. Jim punched him twice in the face in vicious succession, then delivered a blow to the stomach hard enough to wind him. As the guy bent forward, Jim grabbed his shoulders and hauled, sending him careening towards Nyota.
He didn't get to see what happened. Arms came round him from behind and clenched, effectively trapping him. It would have been a perfect opportunity to set the scanner working a second time, but as it was he could only struggle to free himself as Cupcake loomed up in front of him. The cadet wore a look of incredible satisfaction as his fist ploughed into Jim's undefended ribs.
Jim grunted, body trying to curl forward. The guy behind him wasn't letting go, though, so he jumped instead, using the hold as leverage to bring both feet up and kick Cupcake square in the chest. The cadet pinning him collapsed under his weight, and suddenly Jim was rolling free across the sticky floor, high heeled feet scrambling away from him. He staggered upright, bouncing and eager. A table was right next to him and he grabbed a bottle, swinging it at the cadet who'd held him. It shattered against the side of his head in a magnificent explosion of glass, beer and blood.
A quick glance told him that the third cadet was still with Nyota. She was playing helpless, wrapped around him like she was scared of all this needless violence, but Jim saw her pocketing her own scanner and had to fight back a smile.
Satisfied that number three wasn't going to be a problem, he turned back to finish with the other two - and Cupcake's fist cracked into his face hard enough to make the world tilt.
He toppled backwards, landing spread-eagle across one of the tables. He was still gaping dazedly at the ceiling when Cupcake hauled him up by the front of his shirt and punched him again. Jim tasted blood. Another blow and his nose was bleeding. Another and another and Jim couldn't get his bearings enough to fight free.
A piercing whistle cut through the bar.
Immediately, Jim fell back onto the tabletop as the cadet released his shirt in order to snap a salute. He groaned as his spine protested. From his upside down vantage, he could just about see someone approaching, and squinted up at the face that peered into his own.
With his steel grey hair and distinctive eye-patch, Captain Christopher Pike was instantly recognisable. Jim had seen his face a thousand times on news broadcasts and Starfleet recruitment holovids. And the older man looked like recognition was dawning on him, too, if his growing frown was anything to judge by.
"So this is George Kirk's progeny. You look just like him."
Jim tried to lever himself up off the table, but it tilted under his weight and he rolled off, crashing onto the floor instead. He was pretty sure there wasn't a lifeform in the bar who wasn't standing there watching at this point, drinking in his humiliation like it was the new speciality on tap. Fuck it, then. He rose up on his knees, tilting his head back to offer up a bloodied grin.
"James T. Kirk, at your service."
Pike regarded him stonily. Lifting his voice, he addressed the room at large. "Look closely, cadets. This is what failure looks like. Let it be a warning."
Jim flushed, unable to stop himself.
The older man cocked his head, wearing an expression like he was examining some distasteful curiosity. "You should be serving the Empire, Kirk. You of all people."
"Oh yeah? Why's that?"
Pike's good eye was glacial. "Reparations. Sins of the father."
Jim let out a bitter sound that might have been a laugh. "He's got another son for that. Think I'll stick to the bar room brawls and hedonism, if that's okay with you."
The other man's lip curled. "Your father abandoned eight hundred men and women of the Empire to die in space when the Kelvin went down. Nice to see you carrying on that legacy of disgrace, kid."
And with that, Pike turned on his heel as if dismissing him from existence, striding out of the bar with a stream of obedient cadets scuttling after him. Jim remained kneeling there, eyes fixed on the floor. His face was burning, embarrassment and anger nearly indistinguishable. Tension in the room finally broke and conversation bubbled up again, a few nervous laughs ringing out loud and startling. The sound made him flinch.
He was still furiously trying to claw back a sense of dignity when a pair of shiny black shoes appeared in front of him, and Jim blinked at them for a second before looking up. The Vulcan bartender stared blandly back at him.
"Do you require medical attention?"
Jim leaned forward, and very pointedly spat blood onto one of the immaculate shoes. "Back off, Pointy. M'fine."
Nyota got there then, preventing any reply from the bristling Vulcan. She crouched down next to Jim, sweeping an assessing gaze over him. "You okay?"
"Yeah." He climbed to his feet with a wince and followed her as she strode from the dancefloor to one of the darkened seating areas. Jim collapsed unceremoniously onto the cushions and let out a gusty breath. "That was a good fight, all things considered." He grabbed a napkin off the table and held it to his nose, which had started to drip blood down his shirt.
"That depends on how much we got," she muttered, taking out her own modified scanner from the little purse she wore and joining him on the sofa. "You did manage to get it working in between getting your face beat to a bloody pulp, right?"
"Well I don't know," he snapped back. "Give me a minute for the concussion to clear and I'll tell you."
"Oh get over it, I've seen you in worse states."
He glared at her, digging in his pocket for the scanner. "Yeah, remind me again why my role in this partnership of ours mostly involves letting violent douchebags kick the shit out of me?"
"Maybe because you enjoy it? And anyway, I do my share of work. Remember the guy I let grope me for ten minutes while you stole that stupid fucking bike he owned?"
Jim smirked. He loved that bike.
The palm-sized scanner wasn't the prettiest bit of engineering he'd ever done, consisting mostly of cannibalised PADD components and doctored credit chips. The first two prototypes had been utter disasters, and he hadn't been entirely sure that this one would do any better when it came to the crunch. So it was something of a pleasant surprise to see the tiny screen flicker to life displaying credit that certainly hadn't been in his possession at the start of the night.
He whistled, impressed. "Only managed to get one of them, but I think I got his shore-leave bonus and then some. How much did your guy have on him?"
Nyota was staring at her own device, slow smile spreading across her face. "Jim. This has got to be nearly six month's wages."
His eyebrows shot up. "What, seriously?" He leaned over to check, dripping blood across the upholstery. "Shit. That's... more than we've had in ages."
"I can buy new shoes again!"
"Fuck that, we can buy food."
Jim sunk back into the cushions, thinking happily of a meal that actually tasted of something for once instead of the insipid attempts his ancient replicator spat out at him. His whole face felt sore and swollen, and his pride had taken a fair beating as well - but all in all, it had been a decent night.
Nyota nudged him. "We should get out of here, on the off chance they check their credit accounts again tonight."
Jim nodded, reluctant to move from his aching sprawl. "Yeah, probably."
"You're absolutely sure they can't prove it was us? Even if they suspected?"
"Nah. Should show up on a credit statement as a load of randomised purchases. Well. Alright, mostly porn. So yeah, they'll know they've been had, but not how or who did it."
She stood up and held out her hand. "Come on, Kirk." She pulled him to his feet, then linked her arm through his as they left the bar. The night air was warm and pleasant, illuminated by the acidic blue glow of the Riverside ship yard. They made their way over to where Jim's bike was parked, and Nyota climbed on behind him.
She laughed as he started up the engine.
"What? What's funny?"
"I just realised that poor cadet is going to have to explain why he blew six month's wages on porn."