Blessed by the light of a new day and a fresh sense of peace, Kayla sat alone in a large, plush room along the front sprawling windows of Starfleet Headquarters. A suite normally reserved for dignitaries, it overlooked the courtyard below as shuttles and hover-cars once again ruled the blue sky. It was a time for relaxation and reflection, finally left to herself, as uncommon as that was. Still trying to handle the events of the prior day in her own stoic way, feeling as if she could still hear loud, horrible sounds in the silence of the room, the young fox sat without much of any outward expression. An elbow rested against the room's dining table, paw propping up her head as she stared down at a gray Starfleet issue data-pad, contemplatively reading to ease her weary nerves with the assistance of something very special. While most took it for granted, able to comfort themselves at any whim they so chose, being a Penitatas complicated even the most basic of luxuries and turned them into things forbidden. Slowly enjoyed, sitting with it's wrapper half torn open, was a simple bar of chocolate; a treat the Aspatrian had long since been permitted to partake in, with sweets completely barred from the world's rejuvenated criminals. In this moment, alone without a lick of supervision and a gift given to her by a thankful person, the girl got to forget she was a Penitatas. That she sat at a table, resting and doing as she pleased without direction; the feeling of being free.
Once in bed early that morning, shared with her mother considering it's massive and luxurious size, her mind indulged in Commander Santorae's words. Within them she felt sympathy, as the man wanted to help her in any way he could for what she had done. Before those terrible chain of events unraveled, Kayla paid the notion that she'd get something in return for her assistance no thought, having no clue her unanticipated trip to DeltaStar would turn into so much more. It made her yearn for something to happen, and everything to finally be okay. To be forgiven, and be released from her imprisonment. She didn't know what she really deserved, but in her young age, her imagination stirred all sorts of wonderful thoughts. With an idea of what she wanted to do as a citizen of this planet and a productive member of society, impatience and focus on her goal made her want to get started right away. The silver, solid 'P' on the backs of both her paws stood in her way; a reminder that those things were restricted from her grasp, punished for the many things she did against the people of this world and scores of others. Like anyone, even in her remorse for her actions, wished she could just move past the decades of things she had done, remembering her years of mistakes and follies.
Beyond her many thoughts, the world was in a commotion as they shared their own. The window at Kayla's side that went along the entire length of the suite overlooked the sprawling walkways and shimmering reflection pool below. Between the three buildings that made up the landmark, people were steadily gathering into clustered congregations. A podium was being erected in front of the Command building, where a representative of the Federation and Starfleet was expected to speak and deliver the full account of what occurred to a currently speculating and shaken populous. To her knowledge there would be a brief memorial service for the officers that perished at the hands of Velius, and much to her surprise and personal discomfort, she had been asked to speak as well. Kayla was to be recognized for her efforts, as public word that Packet-Storm saved uncountable lives and stopped the worst hacking spree in known history spread like a wildfire through the communication forums on the galactic-net. Starfleet officers dropped off gifts and tokens of their thanks, leaving her large room to be filled with many baskets of treats. Some had spoken with her personally, offering her any toy she pleased if it would help her enjoy her forced, punitive childhood. It had all felt like so much, hearing the word 'heroine' thrown about. Now she understood how Jacob felt, and why he tried to escape such a glaring spotlight. What she did appreciate, was that her name was becoming associated with something aside from 'evil'. Now people had a better reason to say the name Packet-Storm, across their dinner tables and over a cup of coffee.
As the infrastructure of Earth was steadily restored, the only news first available was the flurry of postings onto forums and over public media. Once satellites returned to their normal function, people found their hover-cars mysteriously worked again and their devices could connect out into the galactic-net. Cities reappeared as power came back, flickering back into existence as the dense points of activity they were known for. As it stood, they knew they had almost been slaughtered by a rain of lethal ordinance from space, and it was the work of one man alone. The idea that one person could cripple and kidnap a planet brought public outrage, demanding accountability and security when their world was supposed to be a virtual utopia; defenses and starship fleet the envy of their neighbors. That one person could gain control of their entire lives brought unrest, and shook their civilization to it's core. Some suggested a slew of horrible penalties and the return of all seven Penitatas special punishment days, to which Kayla balked, offended someone would even think of punishing each and every criminal for the acts of one. Many others called for Velius' execution; capitol punishment long since abolished and banned for it's atrocities, thought to be culturally unthinkable upon Earth. It stood as proof that Velius caused lasting damage beyond what he originally set out to do; poisoning the utopian peace they took for granted.
In many places, the artificial panic and fear that Velius created by plunging cities into the depths of darkness brought crime and brash reactions. In a time where a power outage wasn't even a known event, never having occurred during most people's lives, being cut off from all technology apparently signified the "end times". As a few individuals flew off the handle and expected the worst, sporadic riots and thefts exploded in dozens of communities across the globe; Calleet no exception to this. The glow over the downtown district of Calleet witnessed by her family and friends was a similar outpour of fear-mongering, where a group of people who had been seeded with foul ideas and theories of conspiracy turned against the city, setting fires and trashing the downtown district if they were to fend for themselves. Foolish people did foolish things under the black of night, and now there would be a surge of new Penitatas flooding into the system after the largest string of arrests in the planet's recent recollection. The events showed some people's true colors, but the one who brought them out was the first to see a judge as the world began sweeping up the pieces. It was one of the things Kayla read about on her data-pad, coming to learn what befell their invisible assailant while she slept.
Just as the sun turned the sky orange over San Francisco, rising along with the first vehicles, a court assembled in secrecy before the populous became wise to what had occurred that night. With a streamlined judicial process and the belief that criminals should be set to trial promptly, the court's judge and prosecution wasted no time when they were roused from their beds for an emergency session. Outside of the public eye, the U.S.S Redona and Excalibur returned home with their high-profile prisoner in tow, sending Velius down to the surface to be held accountable for his atrocities against the Earth. Being a resident of Gerias, he was subject to galactic law, causing him to face the judicial system of the planet he committed a crime upon. Their intent was for him to face justice and grant the people of the Alpha Quadrant peace of mind, coming to know the consequences he faced at the same time they came to learn of what he had done.
While the lobbies of the courthouse remained dark and vacant, the gray furred Roferian was escorted by armed Starfleet officers past the empty desks and kiosks in restraints. Hands on his shoulders, arms, and back ushered him along; his face wearing a scowl, emerald eyes squinting in both anger and defeat. Upon his medical treatment, the man's bloodied clothing had been discarded for a plain black jumpsuit worn by those sent to the Excalibur's brig. Patched up enough to stand trial, just like Kayla's paw, the fur where he had been shot was all but vaporized, leaving behind a thick, burned red scar messily across the right side of his chest, hidden from sight. The remains of cuts could vaguely be seen across his muzzle and neck, with the wires of his implants sullied and marred from his combat with Redona's tactical team; the connector jack of his cortex-computer cable missing entirely. A shell of a former person so full of arrogance, he now walked in irritated silence, contained by the people he so effectively oppressed. The only outward emotions Velius portrayed spoke of his hostility and cruelty, or amusement at the plights of others, but deep down it was easy to see he had been hurt by being caught; that he may have been starting to feel the sadness and fear boiling away in his seclusion, thinking of what he faced.
Filled with the few local journalists that heard of what happened by that point, the Roferian was seated within the central courtroom among a sea of Starfleet officers and justice department personnel. The shiny, lacquered synthetic wood that made up the grand room and it's bench spoke of order, but the noise in the room spoke of chaos. The sight of the one they knew as Velius brought forth hatred, settling only with the bellowing order of the presiding judge. White hair long against his back as an older, wiser man, Judge Ulera stood as a being that had been born before the invention of rejuvenators. A long standing justice of the peace, he had been one of the most qualified individuals to handle such a pivotal trial in such a short notice. He stood with his fists closed against his bench, tall over the courtroom as he looked it over to ensure everyone knew by his glare that the racket and comments were done, and to hold their tongues. Seated behind his table, Velius peered up wearily at such a face, slouched over in his chair with his cuffed claws tucked into his lap.
Called into session, the prosecution was pressed to make their case and prove the man before them had committed the heinous acts he was accused. Evidence was wide and strong, having collected the contents of his underground home concealed beneath the natural sensor barrier of a power facility. His remaining computer records and devices were presented, straight up to the biological proof that it was his own fingers that commanded their controls. Velius was immediately identified by a witness, one of the few that had laid eyes on the man; Lieutenant-Commander Aldridge, the only officer present from the Redona. Technology so advanced, even a conclusive voice analysis had been conducted in the time it took for the two Federation starships to return to Earth, confirming that cruel voice that echoed through the corridors of DeltaStar to match the creature they had in their custody. Retaking the banking facility provided them with the last pivotal pieces of proof they needed in order to strike the man with the largest charges against him, being the theft of an entire bank and the destruction of a Federation vessel. The murders of seven hundred and fifty-eight people, including Ensign Bastaire in cold blood. Charges piled up in a list, further detailed into assault, kidnapping, illicit weapons and implants, dozens of hacking counts, attempted murder, and attempted genocide. The atmosphere was heavy, blurred with the emotions a modern court never typically saw with the implications of their trial so great. Fingers were thrown and voices were raised; each press by the judge bringing forth an answer and piece of physical evidence.
Once satisfied with what he had been shown, Judge Ulera leaned against his bench, joining his hands together as his fingers intertwined. Looking over the large, intricate wooden representation of the Great Seal of the United Federation of Planets on the front of his bench, their symbol of peace and prosperity, the elderly man laid his eyes upon the Roferian seated at the defense's table. Known for being loud, as he had heard from the audio recordings, the man known only by his alias sat in quiet contempt. His teeth were visibly gritting, staring back at the old human with his piercing, emerald green eyes. It was as if anger literally emanated from the young man, who could barely be thirty years old. Deranged and entirely unsatisfied with what he had accomplished, showing no remorse on his face even as they proved he slaughtered the crew of the U.S.S Capitol though they were retreating, as indicated by DeltaStar's sensor logs.
"I will not speak an alias within a court of law. Please identify yourself for the court.", Ulera spoke with a low, deep voice as he stared down the Roferian below him, coming time for his defendant to speak on his behalf. Unrattled by the creature's glare, he sat motionless; allowing Velius' extra sense to feel the confidence within the signature that defined him. The gray furred man flared his nostrils, turning his muzzle up to face the judge that addressed him. At first, he only continued his glare. Then, he came to find he was getting the same thing right back from the white haired human, getting nowhere in his silence as the seconds ticked by.
"Richter Saccard.", the Roferian answered suddenly, voice filled with a strong, snide note. Being the first he had spoken since stepping into the courtroom, Judge Ulera took a slow, deep breath as he too recognized the voice to be the one from the recordings. Having done his duty for so long, the long haired man remained professional even as those in the gallery gawked at the defendant's attitude towards a judge when it was his own future on the line. His tone came off as mocking, even when saying his own name. Undeterred, the judge plugged the man's name and species into the small computer built into his bench. Muffled beeps filled the room, up it's grand pillars and through the audience that looked on. As his hands again met, Ulera looked down at his screen and spoke to the point.
"From Ventasa, the Roferian home-world. You are twenty-nine years old, with no known rejuvenation record. That is all the database contains, from the Outer Colonial Security Forces.", the judge read aloud what little there was, identifying Richter as being an individual living in the shadows by the lack of a written criminal record. His whole life must have been one filled with crime, to lead him to such an outcome with a body full of implants and an arsenal of weapons and computers at his disposal. A hacker that desired more, and went down different paths to obtain what he wished.
"So young, but you sit here accused of premeditated crimes. What befell the Earth was something long since in the making, and you felt you had covered every base to ensure your success. DeltaStar at your personal disposal and the Earth at your feet, you were poised to not only have infinite wealth, but to also sway governments any which way you chose through the means which you engineered their plights.", Ulera announced his initial observations down to his defendant and the courtroom, whom listened without a word. The Roferian, which they could now name, seemed to stifle a snicker; with it coming to sound like a tiny cough. Richter certainly did not disagree, it seemed. However, Judge Ulera wasn't about to accept the young man's demeanor as actual testimony, looking down no differently as he had been before.
"Mister Saccard, I am granting you the ability to speak in your own defense. You have the right to contest these charges, and rebuttal.", the white haired man announced, shifting officially from the prosecution's presentation to the defense's turn to speak. Just like before, the Roferian turned his muzzle up at the judge and glared, choosing not to speak. Silence fell over the large courtroom, but Judge Ulera was no longer in any sort of staring contest. He granted the Roferian man time to speak, and after many unused moments, the white haired human shook his head and crossed his arms against his black robe.
"Last chance, Mister Saccard. What do you plead? Do you have anything at all to say?", the elderly man appeared to openly and honestly invite, encouraging the defendant to participate in his own trial and answer to what he has been accused. The ends of Richter's muzzle curled as the Roferian sneered, giving the man at the bench above him the dirtiest of looks, all the while his claws tensed and trembled in the hidden confines of his lap. He was never supposed to have lost, and should have died anyway in the event that he did. Contempt was all his heart held for this proceeding, and he showed it through his expression, body, and his language.
"What the hell good would that do?", the spiteful hacker questioned his judge, feeling as if there was no way out. Even if there was, it would have been so unlike him to play by someone else's rules.
"Act your age and talk with respect!", an elderly woman called out from a gallery row just behind Richter, standing up with a disquieted look across her wrinkled face. The Roferian scoffed, turning over his shoulder with a less than amused expression, glaring back at her in a snap.
"Act your age and die!", Richter spat, retaliating through her status as an older woman. Promptly, one Starfleet officer at his side grabbed his shoulder and turned him back around with a harsh smack against the edge of his table, inciting a wince as the gallery broke into a commotion. In lieu of a gavel, the older judge slammed his closed fist against his bench, causing a rolling vibration to resound through the entire length of the stand. As before, the clambering voices resided and the officers settled down. The woman whom snapped at Richter got red in the face, again taking her seat with an inner rage burning at the tips of her fingers. Judge Ulera shot his gaze back down upon his Roferian defendant, looking much less courteous as he did before as they stared in cold silence. Richter squinted harder than he did before, teeth bared to those who sought to suppress him.
"Your lack of a defense, nor a plea, leaves the court to interpret a plea of 'no contest'. Since these are your own wishes, I will move straight on to judgment.", came from the judge's mouth with a stronger note and ferocity he was known for, moving straight ahead as necessary. He was ready to lay down the law, and that was what the world wanted to see. Richter, or Velius, needed to pay for his crimes, and he would make sure they fit. Ulera rose to his feet with a press of his hands against his bench, looking down over his defendant with a fire burning in his chest.
"The contempt shown to this court, along with the lack of any remorse, makes it easy to condemn you without so much as a second thought, Mister Saccard. I pronounce you guilty on all charges, up to, and including, the attempted genocide of the human race and all others that preside here on Earth.", Ulera decreed, outstretching an arm and making a gesture to the world beyond their walls. All that did was make Richter scowl that much harder, and his fingers quiver between his legs. Standing tall, white hair hanging all the way down to his waist against his black robe, the judge's face was like stone. His brown eyes bared down on his defendant as his fate was decided and sealed. The moment was long, and silent, as Ulera prepared his words.
"Richter Saccard, I hereby sentence you to two hundred and fifty-five years inside of the Penitatas Justice System, using a cycle of age five to age eight. As the Roferian race holds no gender distinction in terms of strength, you will remain male, trapped as a mirror of your former, current self.", Ulera began, widening the eyes of those in the gallery, including the officers at Richter's side. The length of the sentence, essentially '5-8x85' as defined in writing by the justice system, was the longest any of them had ever heard. But, your average criminal did not massacre hundreds of people and hold the Earth at siege. Richter tightened up, flinching visibly as he became less able to physically hide his inner fears upon hearing his punishment.
"The rank of black 'P' is reserved for the Earth's most heinous of acts, being that of murder and rape. However, for your actions, it hardly seems appropriate. In light of the fact there is no more severe classification, I declare you a black 'P', but with additional stipulations into your sentence.", the judge further condemned, hinting to punishments worse than the norm. As those in the gallery leaned forward onto the edge of their seats, looking on in shock, Richter swallowed with difficulty as he continued to try and sneer up at his judgment-bearer. The white haired man's voice raised, turning straight to what sounded like forceful, exceptionally firm commands.
"It is decreed that your parents are to be rotated frequently, only within the most experienced and qualified hands. As required for your needs, you are to be assigned a personal therapist to ensure your well being, especially in light of the discipline you are to face.", he called out as his first stipulations, but began again right away, still not yet done. Richter began to sink into his seat, spined tail tight against his chair; light twitch coming through as he looked on, trepidation bleeding through his silenced rage.
"You are barred, by law, from ever touching a computer or associated device during the length of your sentence. Even your Roferian empathic sense is to be stripped from you, pharmaceutically suppressed with an added agent to reduce nanite efficiency and make the commonly used judicial product, nano-lotion, completely useless in healing your disciplinary ailments!", the stipulations began to grow more severe, to the point Richter nearly jumped if it wasn't for a firm hold on both of his shoulders. The Roferian's maw opened in shock, his eyes wide to stare as his angry expression melted away; his fate continuing to worsen. His empathic sense? They'd go so far? Justice was being shouted aloud in the courtroom as Judge Ulera laid out his punishment in it's entirety. It's harsh nature left no whispers in the gallery, with lumps in all of the witnesses' throats.
"And, your sentence will serve to honor the memory of those you killed. It is also declared, by the authority vested in me by the Penitatas Justice Department, to add an additional special punishment day to your year. Along with your birthday, and Christmas, as every black 'P' Penitatas endures for the penance of their crimes, you will also suffer on July first; the date on the Earth calendar that you destroyed the U.S.S Capitol, so that you may never forget what you have done! You will awake to a thrashing that challenges your limits, spending your entire day in a corner with reprieve only for the bathroom, and water!", Judge Ulera continued to test the threshold of Richter's silence, with his future crumbling by the second. The Roferian's jaw trembled at the growing shock until it was too much, squeezing his eyelids shut tightly as the skin beneath his fur became flushed.
"Stop! Damn you, stop!", Richter tried to pull away from the officers holding him as he shouted, shooting open his eyes to lash out desperately. He was thrust back into his seat by the hands gripping his upper arms, slamming his back into the chair hard enough to make it's feet clatter noisily against the floor. His teeth snapped back together, bared to the judge as his eyes stared up in disbelief; a much different expression from his quiet, stewing anger. He was rattled and shaken, faced with such consequence he could have never expected. If there was someone with a voice more powerful than his own, it had to be this human, standing with a cold, steadfast expression above him as he brought down one of the most severe Penitatas sentences on record. As the Roferian's chest heaved, emerald eyes loosely looking upward, he finally looked more like prey than he did predator. It made Ulera halt, staring down as damning silence fell over the courtroom in those following moments. The grand space was motionless; the convicted so filled with dread.
"Seeing that your birthday will be July second, and you will be nanite suppressed, those two special punishment days will meld into a single, arduous trial that I can safely say you deserve, Richter Saccard. You have a long time to learn the concept of remorse, and your lessons begin today.", Ulera lowered his voice, bringing it back to his typical deeper tone, if not softer than that. He spoke as if he took pity, unable to find any shred of good within a man that was comparatively just a child to his many, many years of life. It was such a waste. Richter understood what was ahead for him, he could see in his eyes, breaking down in his nervousness to relent his hatred just enough to cope. The thought of pain and correction for so many years and lifetimes made his skin crawl with fright, being imprisoned to a young boy's body and never allowed to grow up beyond it. Ulera knew well the sort of horrible discipline this man would receive alongside the help and guidance he so dearly needed, bringing the older man to rest his hands against his bench and sigh.
"Take him to the rejuvenation wing.", he ordered, breaking the uncomfortable air and ending the proceedings as they were. Noise and commotion broke back into the courtroom, people talking and calling out as Richter was pulled to his feet and lead towards a door at the side of the grand court. The whole way the man gnashed his teeth, head down without a further word to say; distant and overwhelmed, thrust from his throne as Velius, the god.
Kayla was admitably pleased to hear how the trial turned out, knowing now that Velius would be forced to atone for all the things he did to her and scores of others. The length and severity of his sentence made her stomach flutter uneasily, being a Penitatas herself, but when she thought of all the extinguished lifetimes that would never be, she couldn't help but agree with it's ethics. It wasn't hard to forget how this man earned his punishment, and how long it may take to rehabilitate him to any extent.
Thinking back to when the trial must have taken place, the fox tried to imagine where the new Penitatas may have been taken since then. Surely he was arriving in a new home somewhere by now, facing the first of his trials with his new family; his welcome spanking. The number of implements in their household would make it a difficult time for him, already weary and exhausted within a new frame. Certain to be long and severe, it would be the first step towards at least taming that five year old beast. Kayla did not envy his parents, having finally seen a picture of Richter's intimidating Roferian exterior. If anything, his new-found existence as a Penitatas made her at ease, now able to move on without fear of retribution.
Staring down with tired blue eyes, Kayla gently slid the data-pad away with the touch of her fingertips. In it's place she rested both elbows upon the table, empty candy bar wrapper at her side, to look around the suite with so many things on her mind. While there was good all around, being alive and having small baskets and kind gifts dotted about the room, there were still far too many things weighing her thoughts in a more somber direction. Things she would have to answer for, and how this ordeal would all affect the her and her loved one. Surrounded by intricate architecture with a wispy trim, and a light, synth-wood floor an inch below her dangling footpaws, it was at least a calming place to think such things. Light filling the room from it's long, sprawling window, she sat alone in the same black shirt and pink cotton underwear from the day before, until the sound of life came to her Aspatrian ears. Across the divide of the room, over a plush white sofa, the faint beep of the door's controls came through the wall enough for her to hear before the single-panel doorway slid open gracefully. Jacob stepped out of the hallway, looking around with a light smile across his muzzle as he came to see all of the baskets and things scattered about for the first time.
"Jacob!", Kayla called out joyfully from her seat at the suite's table, lifting her head as her paws placed themselves flat against it's surface. Happy to be in her companion's company for the first time since they parted ways for bed, the young fox's face lit up, seeing the Karrian boy fully dressed as if he had already been active that morning. The collar of his navy-blue shirt fully buttoned, tucked neatly into a pair of khaki slacks with his old Starfleet badge and rank pin tacked, the reptile made a few quiet gestures around the room as the door closed behind him.
"Good morning! Is Emily around?", Jacob promptly greeted with a casual note of cheer to see her as well, head turning with care to see if they were truly alone or not. As it stood, he spent the night by his lonesome in an adjacent suite, coming to find his arrangements were specifically requested by Kayla's parent. Already, as he feared, actions were being taken to make sure he was a reasonable distance away from the Penitatas he slowly grew attached to. Seeing the middle-aged human woman was notably absent from Kayla's side, he wanted to make sure of it if he was to feel at all comfortable and able to speak freely.
"She went out a while ago to get me some clothes for the ceremony. Where have you been all morning?", the Aspatrian replied, throwing in a question as Jacob approached her and the table. Looking at least rested, there was a gentle energy to her voice; ears erect and attentive. If she was unaware of why he spent the night in another room instead of on their sofa, Jacob decided he wouldn't make mention of it. Truth was, he got lonely and began the day early, leaving his suite to find something better to do.
"That building down there - Starfleet Medical.", Jacob was quick to point down towards, out the window to the structure at the left side of the courtyard; reaching Kayla's side.
"I overheard they were doing an ocular implantation surgery this morning, so I went to see if I could observe. They're not common, but the officer who got them avoided a stint as a Medicalos.", he explained, glowing a fondness for his trade. Sort of abruptly, but still in line with his casual demeanor, the Karrian boy let out a single chuckle that brought Kayla's eyes back from the window.
"Only being seven years old at the moment, I needed to ask nicely and make sure my 'M's were visible.", his fingers toyed with one another, eluding to how he got to witness a surgery in his currently inactive state.
As it had been, Jacob ended up bearing witness to the restoration of Ensign Stein's sight; a man whom he had never met, but had apparently been blinded on Gerias several hours ago. Observing the procedure with him were cadets, as well as individuals he came to find were the young human man's fellow officers. Watching through a pane of glass, a Cardassian man stood throughout the whole thing with his arms crossed, wearing a long face. Seated at his side was a human woman in civilian clothing, whom appeared ill and distracted; only bearing a Lieutenant's pin to distinguish herself as a member of Starfleet. While answering questions for the cadets, medical students as they were, Jacob had to be cautious with his words when he came to see that the two officers of the Redona were listening to him in order to gauge if their friend would be okay. Aside from the implant's retinas appearing unnatural, they worked and behaved just like real eyes would; a medical marvel, and a successful surgery.
"I'm glad they let you stay. I know that's your idea of relaxing.", Kayla leaned back in her chair and stretched, keeping her paws flat upon the table as a loose, playful grin slipped upon her muzzle. Her right paw still looking no better, furless and perhaps just barely swollen in places, Jacob placed his hands down on the table beside her own.
"How about your paws? They still hurt at all?", he wondered, leaning forward to look down and inspect her digits. After two separate hacking expeditions last night, trying to suppress the muscle pain and joint inflammation was all he could do in such short time. Settling back forward, Kayla shook her head.
"A little. I've had spankings much worse, if that's anything.", she tried to add for a humorous twist, despite it's truthfulness. To it, Jacob made something of a face, twisting the ends of his mouth as he remembered the sort of inner ache a ruler to the hands could cause.
"Now that I know what that feels like, I can at least relate.", the boy said in a lower, more candid manner as he referred back to his brief time as an unjustly sentenced Penitatas. It became something they could share, once Jacob was introduced to the sort of corrective discipline his significant other ran the risk of facing on a daily basis. Sympathetically, as the caring sort he was, he reached out and placed his right, green scaled hand over the Aspatrian's left paw, rubbing over her knuckles to create a soothing warmth.
"I'll see if I can keep the treatments up. You've regenerated so much tissue, things like your fur follicles are lagging behind. Metabolism will allow further regenerative attempts, but you'll need to sleep well, and eat well. Candy for breakfast isn't going to help you a lot.", the old doctor seemed to sigh aloud, quieting his tone as he used the tip of his snout to gesture over to the empty chocolate bar wrapper at her side. Clear in his voice was the fact he felt bad for her, emphasizing the fox's need to take care of herself. Tilting her head downward, Kayla eased her grin into more of an apologetic, loving sort of smile; peering over into Jacob's brown eyes.
"Trust me, I stuffed my face when I woke up. I'm locked out of the replicator at home, so I took the liberty of choosing my own food since I could. I didn't eat at all yesterday.", she tried to reassure, ears staying erect to note her honesty. With parental controls enabled back at her house, preventing the family Penitatas from eating what ever she pleased, an unrestricted replicator was too good to pass up. The chocolate was merely a treat for a weary mind. Eased by the warm touch of her partner comforting her taxed joints, Kayla's eyes closed slightly, smiling down at Jacob's hand rubbing from one paw to the other.
"Didn't much get to talk to you either. I could have used it, with so many staring at me or breathing down my neck. Or when I ended up alone on DeltaStar, scared out of my wits.", the girl's words turned more somber, airy sounding as a couple of her thoughts came to the surface. She appreciated the attention and care, and it reminded her of how much she missed it. Yesterday morning, miserable and ailing from an unknown illness, her Karrian friend swooped in upon request to cure her and raise her spirits. The pair shared a kiss and a short moment before their very lives changed; Starfleet arriving. Finally alone for the first time since then, she was able to vocalize how difficult it had been to get through the day with so many things getting between them, when she needed support the most. Seeing that sort of longing in her face made Jacob want to frown a little, sorry he couldn't have always been there, especially when DeltaStar locked down. Instead, the boy tried to keep his best gentle face for his girl's benefit; slipping his hands from her paws. A few steps with his bare footclaws positioned him behind Kayla's chair, soft and silent in his movement, until his arms wrapped around the small back of the modern chair and hugged her against it. His Karrian muzzle ended up over her left shoulder, hands open flat against her black shirt; the touch upon her chest calm, and firm in his embrace. Alone in such a cozy room, sunlight warming fur and scale, the quiet brought them time to think.
"You had every right to be scared. I'm sorry all this ended up happening, but you know... I'm really proud of you. We made it out together, and you fought for all those people out there.", Jacob's speech softened significantly in tone and volume, so close to his Aspatrian fellow's black tipped ear. The vibrations from his neck were felt against Kayla's shoulder; his eyes staring off and down as his muzzle rested so tightly against her shirt and fur. Her arms up enough to be out of the way, paws remaining on the table, being held and spoken to so sweetly broke a few of her lingering discomforts. A light tilt of her head pressed the side of her muzzle against Jacob's own, shifting her bushy tail to place it against his right leg, where he had curled his own. His young hands cupped her chest with care, even if it was flat.
"I just did what I was supposed to do. But, at Christmas, doing what I was supposed to do earned me a sucky weekend.", Kayla commented fairly lightly, expressing in a way her disdain of having so many people constantly judging her; sometimes unfairly, tainted by distrust and their own misunderstanding of who she was. When she followed the directions of her captors those six months ago, as you were supposed to do, it earned her two days of very harsh punishments and spankings, despite being able to save her own life as one would have hoped. Her paws were so terribly whipped upon to the extent she could barely move her fingers, all in the name of reminding her, simply, that she was a Penitatas. Fears that she was seeding her own bad habits prompted preemptive correction from people who knew so little about her, unable to see her heart and intentions beyond their limited scope. Aware of the tale of what occurred just prior to their meeting, Jacob's expression faded, knowing his friend could at least not see it with her muzzle atop his own.
"And you still did what was right, even after all that.", Jacob softly pointed out, showing that she had again done the right thing despite not being at all rewarded the last time. To him, it was just another token in her favor, proving without a doubt that Kayla was trying her best to reform and be a different person. That she was cooperative, and cared enough to fight on for others when there were potential risks to herself to be considered. Through the tips of his fingers, milky white claws resting against the black fabric of Kayla's shirt, he felt her warmth and heartbeat. He felt a love for her - this veritable "bad girl" he came to know since the disaster that brought him into his new life. Adamant and headstrong, able to hold her own while still having a sweet side.
"You know I'm right.", the elder Karrian added, trying to look over at the muzzle against his own, using just his eyes. Kayla's breath became momentarily shaky, felt through the boy's hands. While her body did not tense up, content in his embrace, the main worry upon her mind reared it's head. Made to reflect on the good she had done, there was also the bad on the other side of that coin.
"If only I didn't have to explain... us.", Kayla acknowledged her dread, spoken just above a whisper to let her partner know she worried about the outcome of the day. With the Earth no longer threatened, her mother would be able to shift her focus back to parental duties and act upon her discovery - that her Penitatas was engaged in a forbidden relationship, further worsened by their intimacy. The poor girl had no idea what would occur, but based on matters as they were and how he slept alone, Jacob's eyes dulled as he predicted that outcome. Like a child unwilling to let go, the troublesome thought made his hold on Kayla tighter, adding a light, stroking sort of caress to a breast that wasn't there. The seconds ticked in silence as he refused to say aloud how he pictured Emily's ruling would turn out, choosing to comfort only with his touch. Soon enough, the heavier air that wafted in came to slowly pass with an exhale from Kayla's lungs; a smile trying to stay situated upon her young muzzle.
"I know I've said this before, but you know I'm a bit small when I'm older.", the fox tried to return to the spirit of humor, speaking softly as she referred to the hands on her chest. Kayla was by no means a busty adult, even if she liked Jacob's attention to a part of herself she was forced to leave behind when she was rejuvenated. Allowing his companion to remain optimistic, Jacob at least wanted her to forget her troubles to some degree. Kayla deserved the peace, after all the things she had done.
Lifting his muzzle from her shoulder to get a better view of her face, the Karrian slid his right hand along Kayla's shirt, straight down her belly. Touch light enough to be almost ticklish, it trailed down to her pelvis where a simple lift of her shirt lead his claws to the waistband of her pink cotton underpants; all the while wearing a subtle, loving expression. Such a sudden touch appeared to catch the Aspatrian off guard, pressed to her seat as the tips of Jacob's well-kept reptilian claws slipped beneath the elastic that held her garment to her hips. Stopping right where they were, pinned to her pelvis by the elastic waistband, the tips of his fingers parted and kneaded gently at her orange fur. Kayla cracked a wise, light smirk; seeming bashful as Jacob figured she would. Affectionate, consensual touch was still a brand new concept, leaving him to halt and ensure her approval before he'd move on with anything else deemed intimate. The look in her eye, blue and shy, made his advance entirely worth it.
"What are you up to?", Kayla nearly snickered, seeming to keep her voice down as the heat of an unseen blush radiated from the sides of her muzzle. Only wanting to comfort her, his touch was just there to make her smile.
"You spent all that time taking care of other people, somebody should take care of you for a change - and I don't mean like your parent's brand of care. What I'd really like to do is toss you on the bed and let you feel special, even if just for a while.", the young doctor dipped his muzzle towards her as he softly spoke, trying to explain how he felt. Fingers just barely moving, rubbing against Kayla's pelvic skin as an idle motion, his eyes trailed off towards the side when a thought came over him.
"Not that I'm very good.", he commented about himself, knowing well that he was inexperienced and timid, despite his fairly high total age. The times the two had shared, Kayla was generally the one to initiate, and focused her efforts for his own benefit; an acquired behavior he understood, from sexual relations becoming an early survival technique in her youngest years. It was hard for him to pull her away from that, being that her familiarity is what allowed her to attempt intimacy in the first place, in wake of rape and torment without any identity to call her own. While they had fun and put on their best confident, playful faces in their young rejuve years, the two were both shy and uncertain of themselves. After three lifetimes of never acting upon his feelings, having come to already lose so much, Jacob's notion that he would soon lose his partner urged him to do something and provide a bit of the love he and her had come to deserve.
"You take things slow for me. That's all I could ask for.", Kayla appeared to mull over his words for a moment before responding, taking care not to spoil the mood. She thought Jacob's attentions were gentle and nurturing the night they spent together after he became an Innocentatas, sweeping that new-found classification under the rug as if it was an insult to the fact he nearly died earning his Medicalos 'M's. It was something she needed, if she was to ever be comfortable with sharing such affections.
Jacob heard a light tone in her voice, sounding agreeable enough for him to go on. Slow and sweet, the Karrian's fingertips dragged themselves through Kayla's fur until his digits were within her panties themselves, free of the waistband's press. Rubbing as he went, allowing the calm air of the room to grace his partner's mind with something besides her fears, he did his part as her significant other - seeking to soothe and please, instead of the other way around. Scale finding a changing texture, his eyes closed a little as he began to stroke his fingertips against skin of a silkier, furless nature, hidden away from the light of the morning; tucked high up towards the peak of her adolescent vagina, where the vulval crease just began. Minding his claws, knowing how much of a painful interruption a jab from their tips would cause, the reptilian lad placed his focus on his tactile touch to ensure there would be no mistakes. The efforts brought about a deep, drawn out breath through Kayla's ebony nose as she placed her right paw atop the hand that held her chest so dearly.
"Like... No matter how much I've done, I can't say anyone has ever done something like that to me before. Not in a way that didn't hurt.", she tried to explain as her breathing continued to change a bit, sounding as if parts of her were relaxing while others tensed. The largest compliment she could offer was that heavy truth, to let Jacob know being so sweet and gentle with her meant a lot, and served to let her feel loved; the only person to allow her to experience such a thing. In the end, they had both been rather reclusive people, either by need or by nature, making such shared experiences profound and possible only through their mutual trust. Holding the hand against her bosom, lowering her muzzle with a slight forward dip of her body, Kayla attempted to timidly smile and enjoy Jacob's first attempt at calm, loving clitoral stimulation. Her heart beat quickly against his hand, caught in the sudden, unexpected nature of the moment.
"No one will ever abuse you again.", Jacob thought to assure, as he nuzzled into the fur of Kayla's neck and the base of her shoulder, eyes closing entirely. The breath released from his reptilian nostrils blew against her fur, stirring the soft orange strands before they ended up in a gentle grip within the Karrian's teeth. Coming to learn the sorts of things Kayla found intimate, discovered by her own self-exploration, Jacob kept the muscles of his face and maw loose, not even smiling like a bashful boy as he lightly nibbled against the base of her neck. With barely a press, purely sensual, the sharp sensations from his clean teeth shot an impulse straight down her spine, as told to him by the sudden harder press of Kayla's tail against his own and an audible huff from her open muzzle. Below, the fox's toes curled and clenched; the two footpaws holding one another in the midst of their private moment.
"You're too good to me... ", Jacob heard whispered so near his ear, holding onto the skin of her neck with his Karrian teeth. Thankful - was how it sounded, basking in such faithfulness when she needed it most. A couple of fingers massaging regions of fur, his warm scale circled her silky nub between the zenith of her two lips. From the thin strip of skin that protected it, to the feminine spot itself, it brought strong sexual impulses to a young mind already growing aroused simply from the care she was being shown; teeth exciting her nerves. Looking towards the future, perhaps brighter with the emergence of goals and plans, this was something she wanted included in all of that. So long forced to sort her feelings out alone, being held and pleasured in this, an act of love, further solidified the fact she wanted her freedom. Freedom to live, and express. To share her life, in ways she never thought she'd be able to.
"I at least try.", the doctor tried to chuckle quietly beneath his breath as his teeth left the base of Kayla's neck; trailing up it with the tip of his snout. Romance was not his forte, usually so reserved, but he wasn't going to allow it to stay that way for another lifetime. He didn't think he was the best, nervous his finger's gliding motions were repetitive or sloppy, but to his partner that didn't at all matter. Labial flesh lightly painted in natural moisture beneath the ever moving front of her pink underwear, her heart pounded in a calm joy. Kayla's blue eyes opened to relaxed slits while the muscles in her cheeks flexed, looking out over the room and table with the nuzzle sliding just below her left ear.
"I've never been treated like this before. You... actually appreciate... ", Kayla attempted to whisper out with a shaky air about her voice, coming to lose her train of pleasant thought as her eyes again closed under the overwhelming comfort surging through her body. Jacob had reached his muzzle up as far as it could go, providing one of his passionate nips to the base of her sensitive Aspatrian ear; enough to intensify her more feminine muscle quivers. She had never before been treated as if she was unique, having always been an object for use and discarding. Jacob helped her feel like 'somebody', showing her respect and admiration past the surface. A lick across her neck made her shiver with restrained glee, legs spread enough to lightly straddle herself against the seat of her chair.
"I love you.", she contentedly expressed her endearment after a time of their quiet, intimate company. It took a lot to move beyond the terrible things done to her in the past, and Jacob's care was a significant help to break free of their lasting scars. They had never been the most open of people, but together, they filled the right gaps to create a pair; a young couple. In troubled times a crush had formed between them, blossoming over the months to be something more. It was both their wish, that they could continue this relationship as they grew up again, to flesh it out and see where it would take them. That is, if it would be permitted to live on - threatened by the chains that held Kayla.
Reaching up with her left paw, removing it from the edge of the table, she stroked the opposite side of Jacob's muzzle in wake of her words. Soothed by them, the Karrian boy did not come to right away speak as he nuzzled against her so delightedly in pride that he was able to still be somebody's man, even in his young, medically induced age. Above the stroke of his snout against her fur and flesh, massaging against the muscles in her neck, Kayla's Aspatrian ears shifted just slightly, making a twitch off to her side. Faint, dulled by her pleasantly clouded mind, a sound came through to disrupt and strike her heart. With a sudden peak of her ears, the girl snapped her eyes open and squealed in panic; an act that startled the hell out of Jacob, as his muzzle came free of her neck with a swift motion of her body.
"Emily!", Kayla cried out, barely keeping her voice down as her ears heard another muffled beep through the wall across the room, from the door's controls. Jacob's reflexes pulled his hands back to himself as the fox leaped from her seat in a frantic bolt, coming free of her panties with a little snap of her elastic waistband to her fur. Fingertips still warm, the frightened doctor only had enough time to take a quick step back before Kayla was on her feet, giving him an ungraceful shove towards the door some several paces behind him.
"Bathroom!", she snapped in fear for both their hides, with Jacob using the force of her shove to get a head start on his feet. Pulling his tail close to prevent it from streaming haphazardly behind him, the Karrian ran for the doorway and smacked it's controls hard once he cleared it, bringing the single door to a quick close; Kayla taking her own unassuming position with haste, to stand next to the window at her side as if she had been looking down over the courtyard. Breathing heavy and labored, heart racing much worse from the scare, she was given no time to think about how to act before the room's door slid open with a final beep.
Looking over her shoulder, pretending to have been there the whole time, Kayla shifted her hips to make sure her shirt was all the way down. The lingering sensations between her legs made her feel embarrassed, now put on the spot and forced to forget the private relaxation she was just engaging in. Standing out in the hallway with arms full, Emily stepped in with something of a confused grumble as she looked to mind her feet and not trip with so many things in her grasp. Brows curled, seeming full of energy, at least her parent didn't look too entirely upset about anything as she carried the bundle of clothing she acquired. If anything she seemed humbled, wearing a new item of her own; a fancy, black and white woman's blazer.
"Can anyone tell me why the doors around here all have five buttons, instead of one?", Emily asked across the room with something of a look on her face, sounding at least a little sarcastic after becoming dumbfounded by her own room's door. In most residences an automated door was a mere one button; but here, for the suite's use, it had additional controls for the lock and voice systems. Having nearly been walked in on, Kayla was particularly glad her mother wasn't the most technically adept individual in the world. She would be getting ready to howl if it wasn't for two incorrect keystrokes to tip off her keen hearing. Though tense and working to ease her breaths, Kayla tried to put on her best face, knowing her fur at least hid the fact she was flushed.
"Hey mom.", the young rejuve greeted her parent with a single, stiff little laugh. Keeping in line with her idea of looking preoccupied with the window, Kayla placed her furless right paw against the reinforced glass and slowly turned to take a couple steps and meet her mother half way. Catching sight of a chipper sort of smile, Emily was quick to reach out and offer the contents of her arms to her; a fresh, new pair of shoes on top of a complete set of clothing. When her parent had left the room to get something "presentable" for a major public venue, Kayla expected her to return with not only a skirt, but enough additional clothing to make her look like a tiny business woman. While the colors were certainly simple and dignified, the girl was mystified by what she was accepting into her waiting paws.
"You didn't... ", Kayla first began to question with a note of curiosity, but turned her head up and stopped short. She was going to ask why there was no skirt, or dress, or anything excessively feminine in the clothes she had been given, but decided to not look a gift horse in the mouth.
"I'm not going to make you walk out in front of so many people wearing something you hate. The conference isn't a punishment, so it's all the better to just be yourself.", Emily was too aware to not know what her daughter had began asking about, making something of a motherly smirk. The fox eyed over what she had been given as she set the neat pile down upon the table beside her, separating each piece. Black, full-length capri pants, a light-gray button collar shirt, and a matching pair of casual black shoes, all seemingly tailored for her Aspatrian physical needs. There was even a charcoal colored pair of underwear included, so that she could finally ditch the pink pair she wish she changed out of before leaving home.
"When I went to get you some clothes, a young Starfleet woman jumped at the idea of getting to program the replicator to make you something nice. This didn't cost me a single credit, and neither did this.", Emily added on a more candid note than she did usually, giving her new blazer a tug. She wasn't used to the attention and generosity, as underscored by her looks to all of the baskets lining parts of the suite. Things had not been at all simple, nor perfect, but the human appeared to be expressing a happiness and pride on behalf of her daughter. Idly examining her clothing, Kayla's attention broke from it slowly as she watched her mother step towards the window where she had been standing moments ago, to look down quietly over the crowd. This looked just as foreign to her mom as it did to her, and Emily had been given plenty of experience with having a high-profile Penitatas. Taking a hasty swallow, the young Aspatrian figured she'd move ahead, keeping her tail well down out of nervousness; trying to hide all that she and Jacob had been doing.
"By the way, Jacob's here. He's just in the bathroom.", Kayla tried to say in a manner that sounded purely informative, nonchalant as if her mother was to think nothing of it. Listening from his place behind the bathroom door, on the floor with his back against it, Jacob tilted his head; damn near panting. He felt fortunate his partner was more adept of acting than he was, but in the darkness of the bathroom, he wasn't able to see that Kayla's innocent statement caused Emily to turn on her heels and change her facial expression greatly. The Penitatas parent wasted no time letting her daughter know she was displeased with a harsh, scolding sort of look, which quickly made Kayla's ears fold back half way at the sight. She didn't expect such a scowl.
"You have a guest over, and you didn't even go put some pants on?", Emily griped with an underlying note of discomfort and irritation, after a moment of her staring without a word. At least now Kayla knew why she was being looked at like that, timidly toying with the fabric of her new black pants between her right paw's fingers. Some distance away, out of sight, Jacob shook his head to himself. He had seen Kayla take a bath before and it wasn't an issue, but now that Emily was aware of their relationship, even the status of the girl's clothing had become a scolding point. On his end, it made him think Emily wasn't happy he had come by - a notion that made the old doctor hang his head a little, as the three of them were now faced with the discomfort of having to deal with their exposed personal life.
"He just got here, before you did. I didn't think to run off and do it yet. I'm sorry.", Kayla attempted to apologize, sounding sheepish and unknowing that she had done something wrong in not fetching her dirty jeans. It wasn't an act either. To Kayla's innocent and worried face, in light of all she had done, Emily sighed a bit and loosened her parental scowl. There was a certain weariness to Emily's eyes, looking back at her daughter in that special, brightly lit room. It was a brief, quiet moment of slight awkwardness for the mother and rejuvenated child; Jacob waiting anxiously, hoping Kayla would not get in trouble.
"It's alright Kayla. Just quickly change your underwear and get dressed before he gets out, okay?", Emily appeared to relent for the sake of being fair and consistent, able to see that her girl was caught completely off guard by her questioning. Having not forgotten the mistake she made yesterday, taking the brush to her daughter without proper warrant, that baffled and sorry look cut through her fairly easily.
"Yes ma'am.", the fox accepted her directions right away with a light tip of her head, shaken on the inside from fearing she had been caught. Her tail pressed to the backs of her bare legs defensively from the scare, working with her new garments while Emily looked back out the window to clear her head.
Jacob sighed in the pitch black of the bathroom, filled with relief at what he heard and the silence that immediately followed. Kayla had right to be apprehensive and careful, having come to see for himself how strict Emily could be when overwhelmed. Slumped against a door, hand to his face, he tried to imagine if perhaps a shoulder rub could have been just as sensual. At least Kayla liked his company and efforts to make her happy, although he wished he didn't have to take such risks to do that for someone he cared about. Timid and new to relationships in general, the added fears surely cut into things. Taking deep breaths, Jacob forced his body to relax, climbing to his feet with the help of a hand upon the wall.
Not far, Kayla had hastily pulled her pink underwear from her legs while her mother wasn't looking - just in case, using a toss from her right foot to send the light cotton garment across the room to join her jeans. Fresh, unworn panties against her fur was soon followed by her new pants, hurrying along as necessary. Privacy came at a premium for a Penitatas, especially when she needed it most. The hiss of a toilet-unit caught her attention enough to slow her down while she finished dressing; Jacob following along with his own half of the farce they created for her mother's benefit. Making it seem like he just stepped in to use the bathroom, the Karrian opened the door and turned off the light after a few moments of waiting.
"Hey, good morning ma'am.", Jacob tried to smile normally while he stepped from the quiet confines of their bathroom, being as polite as his mind would allow. It wasn't easy pretending to be nonchalant, knowing well that Emily had begun to regard him differently; all behind his back, as far as the human woman thought. Emily gave him a little wave from her spot beside the window, turning to lean against it and listen - apparently opting to not say anything, once Jacob's eyes became noticeably focused upon Kayla.
"Wow. Looking good, it suits you.", he was fairly quick to comment on her behalf, cutting in before anybody else could say anything - eager to prevent any tensions from coming forward. Kayla was just buttoning the last hole on her collar, with her shirt tucked neatly into her capri pants and her new shoes pressed to her Aspatrian feet's pink paw-pads.
"You say that because I look like you.", Kayla thought out loud in a playful manner, holding on to the prior peaceful thoughts he provided her in order to remain affectionate. As long as they watched their words, they would look no different than they normally did, and that was something her mother ought to realize. Neat and casual, the young Penitatas still managed to look professional, dressed in a way that did strike Jacob as something of a feminine version of his own attire. Dark colors against orange fur, tail bushy and slowly swaying in tiny motions, she even looked slightly older.
"It's a good thing, since I have to stand in front of all those people down there. I sat down to write something to say, but the data-pad is still blank.", she used a tip of her muzzle to gesture downstairs, fingers finishing their work against her neck. Those words sounded more uneasy, noting the trouble she had with this whole concept of saying something to the world. There would be a lot of eyes on her today, and Kayla tried to psyche herself up for it by convincing herself it was a responsibility. Stopping in front of her, Jacob hummed and lifted his arms to cross them. They were both a little stiffened by Emily's listening ears, but Jacob wasn't about to clam up again just because the heat was beneath his tail. He was in trouble no matter what with their relationship out of the bag, leaving him to press on and try his best - for Kayla's sake.
"Well, just say what comes to mind. It doesn't have to be a speech. I think you'll do great; you deserve some attention after yesterday.", he encouraged, reminding in his own way that it was a reward to receive such special acknowledgment. It would be a conference, mostly ceremonial, just to commemorate their fallen and give respects where due; with Kayla being one of those, now given the opportunity to be recognized for what she did for the world. No expectations - she could just say 'hello', if she chose. It was her right as a hero, and something that went far beyond her generally restrictive Penitatas classification. Paws falling from her collar, Kayla held them in front of her, flat against the front of her pants as a mildly nervous bodily expression once she was done with her dressing.
"My best experience with a crowd is being paddled in front of our class. I'll say something, but... ", the young Aspatrian began to stumble as her confidence waned, not exactly knowing what would happen when this was all over. Before Jacob could pick up where his partner had trailed off, a voice behind him cut off his attempt - catching his brown eyes as well as Kayla's gentle blue.
"Jacob, you ought to get ready for the conference as well.", Emily spoke aloud, being in charge of the rejuve boy's well being while he was in her care.
"I'm sure there must be something you need to do.", the human woman added with a slightly different tone, bringing about a tension to Jacob's muzzle the Karrian fought to hold back. Softly spoken, it came off to him as a "hint", being wiser to Emily's discontent than the woman apparently realized. Her first sentence was a little more vague, but her addition was loud and clear that she was trying to scoot him off for the time being. It was upsetting, looking up at the face of a parent he admired to see a stone wall; unsure of how she felt beneath that facade. He meant to cause her no disrespect in his affections towards her daughter these past few months. Behind that face, the look of quiet parenting, he didn't know if she wanted to slap him across the muzzle for what he had done, or embrace him with sympathy, seeing all he and Kayla shared during these tough times. Maybe she didn't know either. The room was quiet for only a moment, as Jacob held his smile and tried to act as if he didn't know what was going on.
"I suppose I do.", Jacob replied to her words with difficulty, stiffer than he was before. The tension he wanted to avoid struck him hard, but he turned back to Kayla for one last moment. Burdened with such worry, he did not want to leave her feeling alone.
"You'll do great. I'll wave; just look for the green.", Jacob eased a little as he pointed to his own scales, saying inconspicuously that he'd be there for her. He just couldn't phrase it that way in front of Emily, with her staring and intent upon splitting him off from her Penitatas. Under his light expression, the knowledge of what was potentially happening was breaking his heart; seeing Kayla crack a smile back over her muzzle at his reassurance. She didn't know what her mom was doing behind her back, and the optimism that everything would be okay was getting her through the day. In the end, their fate was Emily's decision alone, and Jacob was powerless but to try and support his companion while he still could. With his words, he turned with a light swing of his tail and made a walk for the room's door, carrying a cloud of anxiety behind him.
"I'll hold you to that.", the doctor heard Kayla speak softly in his wake, sounding nervous but soothed. She looked out at the fine shifts of his Karrian tail and the bit of black hair upon his head, smiling loosely as her fingers gripped randomly at the front of her shirt and pants. As her daughter stared out, thankful and relieved to a degree, Emily tilted her head forward and glanced at the fox. Taking a deep breath, muffled to draw it in inconspicuously to Kayla's ears, the older human came off the window she came to lean against.
"See you downstairs. Stay safe.", Emily offered as a goodbye, wishing for his well being outside of the realm of her watchful eyes. Starfleet Headquarters was not unfamiliar territory to a person whom had spent so much time in the academy, and with so many willing to lend him a hand at times, she trusted he would be well taken care of and behaved while on his own. After all, the swatting she gave him yesterday was due to him showing off to his girlfriend and seeking to show her a fun time; suggesting his behavior would be just fine in Kayla's absence. Bare Karrian claws tapping faintly against the synthetic wood beneath his feet, both Emily and Kayla's last voices to him made it hard to keep his head up. Without turning and showing his possible frown, Jacob gave a wave over his shoulder prior to tapping the room's door controls and taking his leave.
Out in the hallway, back upon plush gray carpeting, Jacob slipped his hands into his pockets in discomfort. Like a lifetime before, he was off alone and on his own, surrounded by the quiet lack of people. Shunned as it were, this seclusion was no longer of his own choice. Chest tight and tail timidly betraying his inner thoughts, Jacob was trying to bottle up the fact he was saddened within his mildly helpless child's frame. The Earth may have remained intact as a whole, but he and Kayla's world had seen it's share of damage. Unfair as it was, considering the incredible good Kayla did, she was poised to lose on top of her potential gains. Her personal life and the things she held in sacred secrecy had been torn open - a fearful thing for a Penitatas, and a gut wrenching prospect for a girl of any age. Glum and weary, Jacob walked away from her suite's door to head back down the corridor from which he came.
As he continued along with his head moderately drooping, passing the same sort of intricate decorative pillars and architectural pieces that lined most of the building's hallways, the sound of a door at his side made him raise his head. It caught his attention with a curious and apprehensive raise of a brow, being that it was the door to his own smaller suite he spent the night in, just down the hall on the adjacent side. Hands in his pockets, he looked up perplexed by who almost ran into his side.
"Lieutenant, what are you doing?", Jacob openly questioned with a look on his face, trying to figure the business Blaine had in his room. He hadn't seen him since his earlier walk, when he found out his sleeping arrangements had been specially requested. Sheepish, having been caught stepping out of a room that wasn't his own, the older human in full Starfleet uniform chuckled awkwardly as he raised both hands open in his defense.
"Just looking for you sir. There was no answer, but I promised your mother I'd look around for you. She gave me an ear-full about putting you in danger; she is definitely the protective type.", Lieutenant Brayden reached up and rubbed his neck, shifting his yellow uniform collar. Joining his younger, higher ranking cohort, the doors to Jacob's room closed while the Karrian made a lackadaisical expression. He imagined his parent, Lory, using the same stern tone of voice with the Lieutenant he unfortunately came to know of himself.
"If only she could have always been that way. My few days as a Penitatas might not have been so... memorable.", Jacob griped loosely, still feeling gloomy, even if he was thankful to not have been left to his lonesome. Taking the lead, he began walking and motioned with a tip of his head for Blaine to follow.
"With all of her scolding, I would have been surprised. She's a bit distrustful of Starfleet these days, if she didn't make it obvious with her first hundred questions. In the end I had to assure her I'd find you, and let you know she was on her way.", the human spoke as he walked casually, sounding rather put on the spot. Jacob was at least pleased to hear his parent stopped being quite so passive as she had become since he was declared an Innocentatas and allowed to retain his Medicalos classification. It sounded much like she had been scared out of it, hearing of what befell him while under Starfleet's protection. She cared about him and started thinking for herself, but her sudden loss of apathy did not bode well when it came to being forced to explain his relationship with Kayla. Prickling sensations came over the nerves in his tail's scales, thinking of the sort of price he'd have to pay.
"By hover-car, it shouldn't take more than an hour. Plenty of time for the ceremony at least, before I have to deal with other things. You coming?", Jacob thought out loud, eluding to the inevitable talk he'd be forced to have with his parent without clarifying what he meant. Important at the moment, was at least having a familiar companion. Thankfully Blaine's debriefing had been completed, and with Lory's instructions carried out, he was free to attend.
"Well I'm sure not going to miss it. It'll be starting really soon.", he replied positively as the pair approached a turbo-lift at the end of the hall. With the chipper chime of an elevator, the lift's twin doors opened and a pair of female officers stepped by; clad in formal Starfleet attire. Once past, Blaine looked back and gestured with a hand as he and Jacob entered the lift.
"Speaking of which - those were an Admiral's attendants. They're likely here to fetch Kayla.", Blaine spoke lower as to not be heard by the woman, trying to be polite about pointing them out. Forgoing voice commands, Jacob hit the lift's controls for the first floor while the older man spoke. Hands coming from his pockets, the Karrian boy looked up and crossed his arms as the doors closed and the turbo-lift began it's downward decent.
"I'm glad she came out of this okay. I didn't peel her off the floor of a forest in the rain just so I could watch her die on a different day. She's grown since I first saw her.", Blaine seemed to sigh once in the privacy of the small confined space, still a bit visibly uncomfortable with the role he played in bringing Kayla into such a life or death struggle. The Lieutenant hoped to share that with someone who may have known the fox as he did, seeing her progress as an outside observer of sorts. Instead, Jacob's resulting hum was of a lower pitch than expected.
"I didn't know her back then, but at least she had a good head on her shoulders. Just wish she always did, and didn't have to become a Penitatas to be that way.", the younger of the two expressed a sentiment of his own, knowing the pain and troubles she had been through for her crimes. Being strong willed and smart didn't used to be a good thing for her, that Aspatrian he had come to love. The look he saw on Kayla's face as she stared into her computer console's main display screen, devoid of anything but cold focus, had given him a window into the person she was over two years ago. Bitter, calculated, and alone.
"She certainly laid into me, or at least tried to, back at her house before this all started. Kayla's had to overcome a lot. You know she's learned a great deal from her time as a Penitatas. She... needs it.", Blaine attempted to follow Jacob's line of thinking, just as the turbo-lift's doors split open to reveal the lobby of the Command building; wide, and a clean white. He tried to be soft spoken, finding it hard to discuss their brave friend's punishment. Making their way through the grand space, surrounded by many people, pillars, and grand staircases, Jacob settled his hands behind his back as the boy began to think. He remembered the sound of a paddle, the taste of soap, and the sting of a cane. Kayla's blue eyes lightly bloodshot, moistened by tears of penance in the dim light of her room. It left Jacob quiet for a few moments as they walked towards the main entrance ahead, stepping by other officers in the bustling environment.
"I know she does. Becoming a Penitatas was the best thing in the world for her. Kayla always talks of the second chance at life it gave her, and I can see the effects of her discipline every day. I can see her think before she acts, figuring out her right from her wrong when she never had anyone to teach it to her before. Every time she has to accept punishment, she is forced to look at her mistake and correct it. If we simply dumped her in a prison, she'd be angrier now than she ever was.", the Karrian came to try and explain his open opinion, openly coming to admit Kayla's status as a Penitatas to be a good thing for her. While he wanted her to be as free as he was, seeing her strong efforts and honest, desperate attempts to reform, he was aware her discipline played a big role in bringing her to this point in such a short period. With good parents and strict boundaries, she was corrected and taught while she was punished so severely. Time served was not time wasted.
"And we never would have met her.", Blaine added to Jacob's statement, thinking of the hell they'd be in now if it wasn't for Kayla's exemplary behavior and will to assist. He too wouldn't have been displeased if Kayla had been cut a break for all that she had done for them. She had earned it, in every good conscience.
"If you believe in her discipline, you should play a role in it Commander. She likes you; she'll listen.", he then went on to suggest, which prompted Jacob to start shaking his head even before the human had finished talking. Kayla had enough people to answer to, and he did not want to be one of them.
"I'd never raise my hand to her. Kayla needs at least someone in her life that absolutely refuses, and I can help her without it.", Jacob lifted his muzzle a little, looking off to his side with his eyes as he spoke firmly; crossing the threshold of the building's automated front doorway to be struck by a rush of warm, fresh air. It was hard to hide that he was insulted at the idea of taking part in hurting Kayla, even if it was for her own good. He was compassionate, knowing first hand how bitter his partner's medicine was. There was no way he'd even think of spanking a friend, scarred by the memories of his time under a paddle's scorn. Now out in the light of the sun, bare claws warmed by the colorful tan stone beneath him, the tone of his voice clearly conveyed his disdain at the mere notion of Blaine's suggestion - easily caught by the older man's ears.
"Sorry. You're something of a staunch person; I thought you might have wanted a role like that.", Lieutenant Brayden apologized, looking out over the sea of people congregating ahead of them. The young doctor had been known for his clean, professional outward conduct. After all, even now, his hands were casually behind his back as if he was walking through a corridor of his old ship. Blaine simply did not know Jacob's feelings when it came to causing others harm, and the affections he shared with Kayla. Believing in her discipline was one thing - seeing it happen, or wanting it to, was a totally different matter.
The two officer's banter aside, they had to postpone it for a moment in order to navigate the obstacles and persons in the path they needed to take. Directly ahead was the back of the raised stage and glass podium, covered with technicians and organizers ensuring it would be ready and functioning. Light glared off of small video cameras in the crowd ahead of the stage, while Jacob and Blaine had to move around all of it to get into a quieter spot to watch. Security was tight in light of the scare the Earth received; with armed officers paroling the garden and courtyard that made up the space between Starfleet Headquarters' three grand buildings. Above, small Starfleet vessels mingled with the hover-vehicles taking aerial footage of the ceremony and commotion, making other sounds beyond that of the voices the pair were surrounded by.
Away from the front of the Command building where the ceremony itself was about to take place, they made it to the other side of the stage and off into a small portion of garden off towards the right side of the stage, only a short ways from it. Off from the main part of the media and crowd growing around the reflecting pool in the center of the courtyard, Jacob was able to take a seat on the edge of a planter; bare feet dangling against it's stone side, as Blaine sat down at his side. The military grounds were known for it's lush green and well cared for gardens, from flowers to trees, giving the pair a place to sit in the shade, surrounded by sweet smells and colors. Voices sounded more muffled over the few bits of garden separating them from the courtyard, with little behind them to reflect the sounds back at them. There were more pathways and quiet places beyond them; ideal for a stressed student at Starfleet Medical, or a commanding officer to go and contemplate ethical matters while feeding the ducks. Some jogged, and many studied. For the two men of Starfleet, these grounds were the only places in their memory that were entirely peaceful, standing as symbols of their service.
Back together and much more able to talk, Jacob first sat quietly, having had time to think and mull over what the Lieutenant said. He held onto his dignity dearly, wanting to conduct himself and dress well as he felt a man should, but he didn't think he still came off as "staunch". Not any longer at least, with Kayla's loving help towards transitioning him out of his old life and into something new. Maybe some of his behaviors couldn't be helped, being the sort of person he was.
"She deserves more slack, Lieutenant. Kayla didn't earn any new disciplinarians today. After all that hard work?", Jacob settled his palms against the warm planter bricks at his sides, turning his head to speak a little lower now that he didn't have to try and talk over a crowd. This time he made certain his tone was more empathetic, and his face looser, to quell those thoughts that he was a stiff old coot inside of a child's body. White hands tucked into the black of his lap, Blaine slowly exhaled through his nose; hesitating it seemed like.
"Slack is fine, but... Earth is her planet too. We would all want to save it if we had to, right?", Lieutenant Brayden contemplated aloud, bordering on starting a discussion on the ethics of lightening a Penitatas' sentence. Right from the way his question sounded, Blaine was entirely uncertain beyond wanting something good to befall Kayla for being he and his family's heroine. The question was - what? He feared the young Aspatrian making another error, landing her in hot water for a second time, all because they were too hasty in showing her the love and respect she came to earn.
"I don't know what's best for Miss Ackart.", he was forced to relent the underlying message of what he was trying to say, thinking back to the Aspatrian's own words about how she "enjoyed" causing her particular harms during the reign of Packet-Storm. Trailing his sight off towards the shaded plants and varieties of flowers, Jacob tried to gather his wisdom as best his seven year old mind would permit. Squinting, the sun came out from around a cloud to make his Command pin shimmer against his collar.
"You have to understand something about her, and really think about what it means. Not everyone has the courage to perform a duty just at any sort of whim. Those of us in Starfleet; we think about our homes, our loyalties, our families. Unselfish acts still have motivators.", the young Karrian tried to explain, deepening his voice a little as if it was natural - thinking so deeply into the realms of his prior adult lives. Looking out over the gardens in front of them, a wave of dimmer light swept through as the sun again melted away behind a summer cloud.
"She grew up without a family, hiding away on Earth as an illegal alien. Before that, if she wasn't hungry and ignored, she was dealing with rape. Her empty little house was all she had. No job, no credits, no life; no knowledge of anything outside of that niche.", Jacob outlined, before turning his head up to Blaine at his side. He opened his left, green scaled hand and gestured it out into the world.
"Blaine, do you get what that means? Kayla has never gone shopping to buy something nice for herself. She has never visited family and friends, or had a single co-worker come by for a drink. A night on the town? Any sort of leisure fun, at all? She has never even been to a restaurant! Not one!", he came to lift his right arm, making a hard downward gesture with his hand; strongly emphasizing the end of his last sentence.
"She hasn't experienced any of the pleasures and good things this world has to offer. Kayla has no prior sense of duty to this planet, or something about it she'd want to save. If anything, she distrusts it for making her feel so invisible and insignificant while growing up. The only things Kayla knows of, are people. Those of us she met since becoming a Penitatas.", the boy grew passionate, moving his tail slightly against the planter bed to rustle a few fallen leaves. Looking up at his human fellow, he pressed the core of his belief - what he saw in his companion.
"No, she didn't do a damn thing for the planet. She did it for you.", Jacob pointed up at Blaine with his right index finger, before turning his head back forwards to point towards the courtyard.
"She did it for all these people.", his voice sharply, and passionately explained. His right hand returned to his side, settling against the warm stone to grip lightly at it's edge.
"Motivated by people, and life itself... is about as unselfish they come.", the wise doctor cracked open a portion of his heart, to show the sort of things that were inside behind his supposedly "staunch" exterior. While reserved and dignified, the Karrian had lived so many years and held so many beliefs - right down to the love he kept tucked away, out of sight. So profound and well spoken for a young rejuve, his feelings on the matter left Blaine without an immediate response. The human sat there with him in the garden, while a bird came to tweet up in the tree just adjacent to them; granting a peace in which to calmly ponder life, and morality. After a time, the Lieutenant, imagining his wife and daughter's joy at his return home; thanks to Kayla; took a labored breath and looked down towards the stone that made up the walkway at the foot of the planter bed.
"I know you're an older person, Commander Vasse. You were alive during Kayla's entire reign as a hacker, seeing her feats on the news. You forgive her?", the man seemed to want to know, asking curiously on a philosophical level, as he assumed they both believed in justice when it came to being Starfleet officers. Blaine figured a younger Jacob once read the first spoils of Packet-Storm, seeing first hand the sort of damage or market destabilization caused by their now ally. That little fox of theirs was infamous for a reason. To his question, Jacob spoke quietly, and a little airier, without much of any delay.
"I forgave her a long time ago.", Jacob decreed, opening to Blaine another belief he had held hidden away. Accepting Kayla's crimes and forgiving her for them was one of the things he had to do before the pair's relationship got off the ground. She had been so friendly and kind to him, it was her undying efforts that helped fuel his initial crush on her. Her heart was in the right place, and that earned his trust; unable to condemn such a person for things they no longer were.
If anything, his prompt and honest response gave Lieutenant Brayden a lot to think about when it came to the idea of cutting a Penitatas a break. While the pair watched the technicians hurriedly complete their work upon the stage set up in front of the Command building - a simple, black cloth covered platform - the man contemplated without much of a sound. Blaine recalled his last time as an Ensign, seven months ago when Kayla had been kidnapped. The horrors that poor Aspatrian faced, only to be treated with such distrust and the initial notions she had returned to her life of crime. It had been a rough time for everyone, but even after all of it, Kayla remained at his side to help the same entity that sent her into the life of a disciplined child. She deserved, at least, to be given the appropriate 'thanks' for what she had done.
Soon, with the sun dipping behind further passing clouds to create rolling waves of shade, it re-emerged into an open sea of blue and hover-cars as the ceremony platform cleared. The bright sunlight glistened off of the glass-like podium in the center of the stage, all aside from one solitary curved spot in the center of it's top where an array of tiny, wireless microphones were arranged within a black dome. From their vantage point, most of the stage was easily visible between two short, thin trees, with a few scattered people ahead in the courtyard away from the gardens. Left in their moderate solitude, the two leaned forward to listen closely as individuals in formal Starfleet attire walked the steps onto the platform, followed by others in official clothing, as part of the United Federation of Planets. Inevitably only one man stepped to the podium, while the others lined up formally along the rear of the platform as the crowd of onlookers and media grew quiet.
Hands against the podium, the man stood tall; with a woman taking a stance at his side, a pace back. The type of uniforms they wore identified them as high ranking Admirals without needing to see their ranking pins, obscured by distance and light. Extravagantly embroidered, it was something used for business as dignitaries and representatives of the military, and not so much something one would wear outside on a warm summer's day. Settled into their places, motion ceased upon the platform and the male Admiral looked out over the very large number of gathered people without a hint of a nervous twitch. Cameras focused upon him, the man's image appeared in households across the world, as the press-conference began.
Solid and prepared, the Admiral's voice came out through the air with authoritative ease - clear and clean through the array of long, complex speakers built into structures throughout the courtyard and garden, hidden between slits of brick or stone.
"Undoubtedly... many of you have heard a great many things, as to what transpired yesterday on and around our fair planet.", the older man spoke aloud, pausing after his first word to give people a chance to listen and pay attention, as a speaking tool. Thin brown hair and a strong face, his voice was very easy for Jacob to recognize, being one of the voices that came over the central computer room's open communications line during the counter-assault against Velius. Adjacent to him, the long haired blonde woman of middle age, was likely that of the female Admiral they heard then too, directing the fleet vessels. Blaine may have seen them plenty working in the temporary command center, but this had been Jacob's first time seeing the pair that orchestrated the military behind Kayla's hacking efforts.
"For the sake of progress, discussion, and transparency, I intend to tell these truths, so that you can be made aware of the full story in which you are entitled.", came off over the air as somber and apologetic, to set the mood in a slow spoken manner. The Admiral paused, taking a glance around the grand courtyard prior to briefing the world and many listening ears. Representing Starfleet, the force of the Earth in formal dress, there would be no turning from this point.
"Yesterday, in a crisis similar to December, the interstellar banking hub known as DeltaStar was assaulted by a hacker and taken offline. Shielded from the public, Starfleet enlisted the assistance of a high-class hacker to act as a subject matter expert and sought to return the station to function and capture those responsible without risking fiscal panic. On behalf of Starfleet, we regret not being forthcoming, but the events that were to follow disrupted our good intentions when the station did not return to interplanetary trade as desired.", the gentlemen gave in his best speaker's voice, firm and concise, as it must have been practiced. Across holo-screens around the globe, the truth came out, as told directly by the planet's peace keepers; standing nameless and to the point before them.
"Due to an ethical failure by the president of DeltaStar, Martin Peretti, the hacker that originally shut the station down took complete control of it, and initiated a lock-down that gravely endangered the lives of those on board the platform. The Federation vessel dispatched to the station, the U.S.S Capitol, was destroyed by the bank's weapons, inevitably ending the lives of it's entire crew of seven-hundred and twenty-seven officers - lead by Starfleet Captain Martin Ti`Krex. DeltaStar president Peretti was arrested by Starfleet personnel, but was acquitted this morning when he was found to not have officially committed any crimes.", he explained to the crowd and those in their homes, offices, and other places across even that of space itself. Hearing that Peretti had been released made Jacob shake his head, and out of sight near the platform, Kayla sigh as well; now present with her mother, awaiting her nerve-wracking moment in the spotlight. That man caused so much trouble, but as it stood, being a selfish miser wasn't enough to become a Penitatas. Looking over to his younger colleague, Blaine at least tried to grin - having something extra to add.
"It's okay Commander. DeltaStar's Board of Directors already fired him; they're just not going to tarnish the bank over a broadcast for billions of people.", the human man tried to quickly explain, needing to cut his last word off somewhat abruptly when the Admiral started talking again. It was almost instinctive with the man being an Admiral and himself only a Lieutenant, even though the broad-voiced gentlemen was a decent distance away.
"Our team of officers and their outside expert were barely able to escape with their lives, and when they did, the hacker then known to us as Velius, turned his attention towards the Earth as he held DeltaStar in his control. With technological capabilities allowing him to act as many machines and persons at once, Velius swept through the Earth satellites and attacked infrastructure in a systematic manner to prevent recovery and manifest artificial chaos and panic - following a personal notion that his victory would be found in stripping away the Earth's technology, to leave it naked, and vulnerable. It's people without electricity, communications, or vehicles. He broke into the Planetary Defense Network, the grid of weapon platforms in orbit which have served to protect our Earth for centuries, in an attempt to turn them against us; kidnapped and held at gun-point by the technology we hold dear.", he steadily moved through the motions, sounding more comfortable and smooth speaking the further he got through the story. It came from getting used to saying things people would hate, and not so much from the message itself; embarrassing as it was, to Starfleet and the things he represented. While there was pride in his heart, it had to take a back seat for what he had to say. People had to know, and with a mild delay, he let it out.
"Last night, far above us on Earth's North American continent and everywhere around the globe, I am forced to inform you the hacker was successful in commanding the defense platforms to come to bear on the Earth. At the moment, their weapons remain pointed at us, and one has been destroyed by a fleet-wide assault that caused casualties; taking another thirty-six lives. Their control systems are corrupted and can no longer be operated, requiring physical repairs to all platforms to fix what the hacker had done before he was stopped. The platforms came approximately one minute to a firing angle on the Earth, and we came close to seeing widespread destruction and genocide.", was the piece most difficult to admit, telling a public, and a whole galaxy, that their planet's defenses were not only dead in the water, but were also pointed at the Earth. Without being able to fire their thrusters to place them back at a correct angle, they remained in orbit upside-down, weapons arrays pointed the wrong way. Parents came to hear their Kindern almost perished, and that they could have died in their sleep by the invisible force that was meant to protect them. Hands went over mouths, and fragile people broke down on the inside, feeling for the first time frightened at the sort of technology they had far out in space. They wondered how vulnerable their technology was, and the things they took for granted as being unalienable.
But with his last few words, the female Admiral stepped forward. Hands behind her back and standing perfectly straight, the woman turned to the podium to join her colleague and fellow leader. Not needing to take his place, she began speaking to be prompt and not leave what he said so open-ended; sounding just as Jacob thought she would have.
"For the time being, the Planetary Defense Network is to be offline indefinitely until repairs are made and their entire command structure is re-written and designed with security in mind for this new age - where the weaknesses in technology are being exploited to turn them against their owners. I have ordered the fleet to assume defensive orbit around the Earth, and have already commissioned three new Patriarch-Class cruisers to be constructed. The Earth does not, and will not accept a second best when it comes to it's safety.", the woman announced, as her role as Fleet Commander demanded. Rigid and to the point, her words were powerful yet plain - a promise, and nothing more. With so many officers killed, a ship in pieces, and others being salvaged and repaired in orbit, the fact she was irate on the inside allowed her to be so professional during a time it was most needed. She'd grieve on her own time, and work hard to make sure issues were taken care of. Though, with that behind, the male Admiral focused back on his own role while his fellow took a single backwards step.
"Velius, now known to us as Richter Saccard, a Roferian male, was located and captured on a moon called Gerias. He has been convicted, and held accountable for his atrocities. This was not achieved before one final officer perished in the line of duty, and others were badly wounded. For the families of the seven-hundred and fifty-eight Starfleet officers who lost their lives in the line of duty... I want to say that I am proud of them, and recognize their sacrifice. In this time of peace, they were still quick on their feet, like those who came before us. The names of these officers are to be formally released, and added to a memorial to be constructed here, on Starfleet grounds, honoring them and the U.S.S Capitol.", he ended his particular line of speech on a quieter, lighter note than he had been speaking. Pausing to separate ideas, his silence highlighted the quiet, serene nature over the gathered crowd, aside from the hover engines above. Even Jacob and Blaine, who already knew what happened, were solemn in their respectful silence, remembering the fates of those who died yesterday. Ti`Krex, who they both met, and Jacob, who disobeyed him and abused his good will to show Kayla a place of his ship she was not allowed. He hoped he paid enough of a price, having acted against someone who was no longer around to scold him himself.
"However, a particular credit is due to an unexpected person. Our outside expert; the high-class hacker that worked with Starfleet from start to finish, is to be recognized for her valiant efforts on our behalf. She is Kayla Ackart, better known to the Alpha Quadrant as Packet-Storm.", the Admiral's looser voice continued, shifting suddenly to a positive note that caught Jacob's attention away from his personal discomforts. Hearing them, Kayla shrank timidly against the side of the stage, and her mother. There were a lot of people out there from what the fox could see over the platform's steps, and hearing the utterance of her name gave her significant stage-fright.
"Joining officers voluntarily for a mission to DeltaStar, the young Penitatas, according to station sensor records, was nearly murdered on three separate occasions. It was she that liberated those trapped inside the banking platform, sustaining serious injuries in the process. Despite what happened to her, Kayla spearheaded a counter-hacking operation here on Earth, with Starfleet technicians and officers working parallel to her efforts against Velius. Toe to toe with Velius, it was her abilities and knowledge that stopped the Planetary Defense Network, acting as the last bastion against Earth's assailant. We owe our peace, and lives, to miss Ackart on this day. Without her, our officers would have perished in vain, as would have the residents of both Earth and Gerias.", the man spoke with care, highlighting Kayla's accomplishments in a way that made the Aspatrian even stiffer. Such elaborately spoken praise caused butterflies, and a burning, timid blush hidden down her muzzle. Sure, the world used to talk about her, but she wasn't typically within earshot. They certainly didn't say such glowing things either.
"It is now, that I welcome miss Ackart and offer her the opportunity to speak, in the wake of her heroism; serving the Earth in her moral line of duty.", the Admiral spoke to their grand audience, before turning his head and extending a hand towards the platform's stairs, where Kayla had been peeking over. Her ears stood out, making her easy to spot to someone standing above. Kayla swallowed hard, hearing the silent courtyard break out in a steady applause at the end of his speech, and her introduction. She hesitated, tail noticeably between her legs, but she made her first step with a pat of a hand on her back, as Emily encouraged her forward with a prideful smile on her face. As Kayla's new shoes made their way up the platform's steps onto the stage, her ears stood erect as she looked out in nervous awe; seeing so many smiles, and pleasantly happy faces. She hated having the spotlight on herself, and she'd never get a bigger one, standing beneath the July sun on so many holo-visions. She had been on the news before, just not as such an active participant.
Dressed well and trying to mind her manners, though stiff and personally scared, Kayla took to a steady stride upon the platform; with the two Admirals stepping back to make way for her, extending a lower portion of the glass podium to correct her height. The girl's eyes scanned the crowd below desperately, looking out over the sparkling sheen of the reflecting pool for any sign of Jacob; fighting against the urge to tremble desperately. One on one she could manage, still being so new to social affairs, but this? Her heart raced and her mouth went dry, tail quite stiff behind her as she intentionally kept it from going between her legs like some skittish little Kindern. Paws out front, held against the front of her black capris, the Aspatrian looked a bit lost until she stepped close enough to the podium to give the two Admirals a friendly smile. It at least took her eyes off the audience for a second. But, with a quick willful step, she was on the glass-like step the male Admiral pulled out for her, and she was dead-center to speak to this big, clapping sea of people. Visibly she was nervous, looking around, but that was when Jacob excitedly smirked and dove upon the moment.
With a rough slide off the seat of his slacks, the Karrian boy swung his legs up onto the side of the planter bed, loud enough to distract Blaine. Hastily Jacob clambered to his feet, standing up on the side of the planter bed to raise his arms. Thrust upward, his hands opened wide and he waved them slow, in a manner lacking flamboyance - typical of him. Out above the black platform he could see her squinting, scanning about her field of vision until she spotted his green scale and motions between those two small trees. Just barely, Jacob could see her smile a little, replying to him with a lift of her furred left paw, waving it just at the height of the podium. Dropping his arms, Jacob threw his right hand outward and pointed with two fingers outstretched - giving a physical encouragement of sorts, to tell her she could do this. If anything, this was his opportunity to tell her he was there for her... even if he was far away, as he may soon be. She'd be okay, even when he wasn't there anymore. Proud smile across his green muzzle, he wanted to see her say what ever she wanted; retaining a lump in his chest, wishing the best for her. Leaning against the podium, Kayla tried to hold onto her small smile, letting the applause drop down some before she attempted to speak, pulling courage from a glance or two at Jacob.
"Hello. I planned on... stepping up here with something written, but I'm not a writer. Instead, I am going to say what's on my mind.", the Penitatas tried to embrace the opportunity, coming off as nervous and uncomfortable with a stiffly shifting tempo of speech.
Jacob settled himself back down to his seat against the stone planter bed, getting an amused look of sorts from his cohort, Blaine. Not forthcoming with why he went and pointed himself out so promptly like that, Jacob shrugged his shoulders and tried to play the Lieutenant's "amused" angle, rather than making it look like anything else. He wasn't the kind to discuss his problems. His focus, like Kayla, was on her moment; up in front of so many people, in this time of modest glory.
"That something has been on my mind since yesterday. I met someone I affected two years ago, named Commander Santorae. There was something I wanted to say, but never could get myself to do it.", she continued trying to speak her mind, taking a deep breath. Kayla figured the Commander had to be somewhere within earshot. She licked the inside of her mouth, trying to moisten it. Against the podium's surface, her fingers trembled.
It was a hard thing to say.
"I wanted to say... that I'm sorry. To him, and to everyone. I'm trying my best to make up for the decades of problems I've caused, having come to see the people I acted against weren't bad people after all. I acknowledge my mistakes, and thank everyone who has helped me along.", Kayla's timid smile carried on by looking inward, taking her eyes off the crowd until she looked out across the black cloth to her mother at the end of the platform, to let her parent know who those last words were for. It was one of the only things she could have said that would have meant anything to her, honoring those who came to touch her life in positive ways. Her parents, her friends. It was good to not be alone; lifting her head to stare out at the green scaled figure in the near distance.
"I've spent the past two years as a Penitatas, trying to let the name Packet-Storm die... and I was never successful. Instead, I'm going to try and change my life and direction, to move ahead from here. In the future, when I am free, and... well, I'm allowed, I am going to remain a counter-hacker, and create my own cyber-security business. I want to stay the best, because I won't be the last we'll ever see. I feel like it's a way to atone, while following my calling.", Kayla tried to paint the picture of a future self, using somber language she was never very good at using. The Aspatrian was not a public speaker, but she wanted her voice to be heard. After what she did, she was allowed to stumble and pause, dammit. Thinking along those lines, growing used to seeing the sight in front of her, the young fox tried to think more confidently, so that maybe it would come out in her voice.
"Standing in front of you all, I want to say that not all Penitatas are exclusively bad. Some, yes, but not everyone deserves a cold shoulder. When Christmas comes around and you see a Penitatas with a long face, please don't... quietly ignore it. Something as simple as a smile, or a hello, can make all the difference while we pay the penalties for what we've done. You're not undermining our discipline by being friendly, you're just... reinforcing it, by setting an example.", the Aspatrian 'penny' instilled as food for thought, having trouble getting out such a request. She thought about her past two Christmases, as well as the day she was spanked right in the middle of the Calleet Mall during the last holiday season. Feeling alone was one of her bigger concerns at times, afraid of abandonment after a childhood like she lead.
"With rejuvenators, two hundred years from now that Penitatas could be your friend, living a few houses down. You'd want to know you set that good example, and affected them for the better.", Kayla sought fit to remind, never knowing who you'd meet, and what could make the most profound impact on an impressionable mind. Having said it without a stutter or stammer, the girl smiled with a bit of personal satisfaction, happy with how it came out.
"Thank you.", Kayla decided to end upon her words right then, imagining she got some sort of point across. As it was, the fox was already fairly surprised she managed to say as much as she did. She apologized to the world, her new colleague-in-arms Santorae; promised to grow up to be a good citizen, legally this time; and added a warm note of sentiment for her fellow Penitatas back at home. A light nod of her head, and she was done; receiving her own applause, much to her blushing muzzle's sheepish displeasure. At least when they were all quiet she could pretend they weren't there, but now she was busily rubbing the fur on the back of her head and slowly wagging her tail like the child she was.
To be standing here was a strange blessing in itself, but in the end, she was just pleased to have come out of all this alive, and having done what she thought was right. She got to give back to the world, and hey, she saw her first warp core. Blue eyes over the pedestal of glass, breeze shifting her orange fur, she felt fortunate - relieved of her guilt, and graced with future opportunities.
But, before she could step down from the block of pseudo-glass she was standing upon to correct her short stature, the male Admiral stepped forward. Joining the Aspatrian at her side, Kayla looked up bashfully, staying in her spot as his hand appeared on her shoulder to keep her from leaving just yet. Again, he too waited for the applause to die down, using his body language to show he wasn't quite done. Not expecting anything beyond her opportunity to speak, Kayla wasn't sure what he had in mind, and didn't expect being stopped. Ears loose, able to fold back if she so wanted, she kept her paws right in front of herself with the manners she had been punitively taught by her mother these past many months.
"Kayla Ackart - for your service to Starfleet, and as our heroine, I would like to award you... ", the Admiral began to announce to her and those present in a ceremonious manner, as his hand left Kayla's shoulder to reach into a pocket tucked inside the chest portion of his dress uniform. In that moment, the fox cocked her head slightly. Then, her eyes took the look of surprise, catching the golden hint of an object that appeared in the human's hand. It was small, but clutched in the man's fingers, it was a symbol she was now able to recognize.
"... With the honorary rank of Ensign; with our thanks.", he finished, as his two hands placed the Ensign's rank identification pin against the collar of the Aspatrian's shirt, as an official gesture of the Starfleet organization. Though honorary, it was the same design as a commissioned officer - a small, golden line, separated in the middle by a slit. The pin catching some sun for Jacob to see it, the good doctor chuckled, happy for her to get such deserved recognition as the crowd again came to applause, following Earthly custom. Though, as the human's fingers finished their job, the older Admiral did not come out of his bent position too quickly. Instead, Kayla's right ear perked high, hearing a whisper meant to elude the microphone array built into the podium.
"Is there any way I could talk you into joining Starfleet, miss Ackart?", she was quietly slipped, sounding almost funny to the fox to hear the man's deep voice whispered like that. Kayla made a toothy grin, snickering just once before it was stifled in her shy manner. It was nice to be asked, but her new-found goals and ideals lead her to a different, open road.
"Sorry sir.", Kayla inevitably whispered back, having had made up her mind about serving people, and her world, in her own way. The Admiral shook his head slightly with a smile, shading her face from the sun. After her speech and hearing her plans, it looked as if he expected the answer.
"Had to ask.", the older man admitted, clearly fond of what she'd bring to the table. In his eyes, she'd make a fine officer.
"Maybe we'll be one of your first customers. God speed to you.", he offered as a possibility while saying his goodbye, imagining the chances of Kayla being hired for military security contracting. Starfleet badly needed someone to work on fixing and re-coding the whole defense network's protocols, and rather wished he could have requested Kayla's continued service towards solving those critical problems.
In his shadow, the black, slightly scarred looking skin on the back of her furless paw was still crested with a solid, silver 'P' - the mark of a Penitatas, and someone whom he could not hire, or continue to pull away from her home. The Corrections Counsel would never allow it, even if they agreed to discipline her themselves. As if they could, anyway. To constantly spank someone who would be happily helping them, even if she was properly behaved... nobody would volunteer for that job. Kayla's day to shine would come again, but it would not be today; as she responded to his kind words with an innocent, tiny smile. There was nothing he or the military could do about that damned letter on the back of her paw, aside from putting in a good word and requesting leniency. She had a time to serve, long since earned before today.
Parting ways, Kayla left the stage respectfully, despite being rather excited and proud. She stepped down the stairs of the platform with a relieved look upon her face - clearly happy with herself as she pulled the collar of her shirt away from her neck and examined the insignia that had been tacked to the fabric. While the young Penitatas rejoined her mother and dropped out of Jacob's limited sight, causing the reptilian boy to sigh long and deep, the Fleet Admiral re-assumed his position at the glass podium. Technicians changing what speakers operated, shutting down all of them except for the ones surrounding the reflecting pool, the assortment of officials gathered on the platform prepared to take their own form of punishment, now forced to accept the media's questions, heavy scrutiny, and subsequent grilling before billions of upset and jarred people for what befell their planet.
Glad his partner got to say what she pleased, and made it through her little ceremony without a hitch, Jacob found himself just barely wearing a positive face. Air now quiet, his mood slowly sank into realms more somber, now that the only thing left tying them to San Francisco was over. Nothing stood in the way of Emily's parental duties any longer, and he'd have to quickly find Kayla if he was to spend any quality time with her before something happened. With a outward kick of his legs and a thrust off his hands, the Medicalos dropped down from his makeshift seat upon the edge of the planter bed to land on his feet.
"I'd better get moving, Lieutenant. There isn't much time to catch up with Kayla before my foster-parent shows up, and I'm going to have to say goodbye and all.", the Karrian tried to play off as casual, sliding his clawed thumbs into the pockets of his pants like Kayla occasionally would. Out in the gardens by themselves, with various sounds and voices in the background muffled by the trees and plants, Jacob looked up at his side at the face of the human that stuck with them through this whole ordeal, and graced him with an approving smile.
"I don't want you to think of me as too staunch, but I do appreciate everything you've done. You saved Kayla, and then played a part in giving her this opportunity.", Jacob wanted to let the younger sort of officer know what he felt of him, giving a gestural tip of his snout towards the black platform out a distance from them, where his partner just spoke. While a terrible experience, it started because he trusted her, and that support was difficult to forget. Leaning forward while sitting, Blaine rested his elbows on his legs to be casual and at a better height for Jacob's shorter status.
"I'll take credit for it if you guys aren't horribly angry with me for dragging you off to DeltaStar. You run along though, I don't want to hold you up sir. Have a safe trip home, Commander.", Lieutenant Brayden wished of his fellow, and his friend, having become attached to him as he had Kayla through these trials. Soon he'd be home with his wife and child, and all these long hours would pay off, coming home to tell them of all the people who made it possible for him to return. With a casual lift of his right hand, fingers limply spread, the old boy gave a light wave and turned with his first step to leave down the stone walkway. Eyes seeming to stare off, Jacob's bare Karrian claws made it three more slow, distracted steps before something on his mind made him stop entirely. Returning his right thumb to it's pocket, he turned with a shift of his tail and twist of his waist, looking back behind him at the comfortably sitting human. Brows slightly curled, the young reptile had a look on his face different from his usual.
"It's... really flattering you still call me Commander.", Jacob suddenly struck up, having noticed how often Blaine treated him with such respectful formalities. Hearing his rank, and such sentimentality, made him think of things Kayla had said, and perhaps what they meant to him. To his impromptu statement, the active officer grinned as if he thought little of it, staying propped on his elbows.
"Well you still are, aren't you? You being a Medicalos is just a minor setback - you'll be back in the saddle before you know it, brighter than ever. There is no need to disrespect you while you wait to grow up; you've already earned your title.", Blaine explained himself, thinking of ranks and accomplishments to be a bit more permanent than that. While quite kind, the idea Jacob was wrestling with wasn't actually along the same train of thought the Lieutenant answered to.
The boy's head moved off slightly, shifting the light that struck his dim, mildly tarnished Command pin upon his neck. It and his old communications badge were items he collected before they left for DeltaStar, in order to relive a portion of the life he had come to lose; taking pride in them no matter how badly the radiation and heat may have damaged them the day he ended up getting rejuvenated. He was no longer active, nor a commissioned officer, but as his actions on the Tillman showed, the old boy wasn't hesitant over giving Ensigns orders. Even without the authority, he still refused to completely give away his old life - the one he lived for three different lifetimes, doing it the same way because he was too scared, and likely too "staunch" to change. It was where his regrets came in, alive for so many years without telling that special someone he loved them. Kayla had been working him past all of that, and even now, the Aspatrian's voice echoed in his head.
"I'm going to change my direction, to move ahead from here. You remember that, from Kayla's speech?", Jacob decided to ask, turning a little on his right footclaw to share his thought and work through them. Curious, Blaine hummed and squinted slightly.
"I think she said something like that, yeah.", the human officer followed his fellow's lead, sounding perplexed, but still fairly casual about the matter. Jacob looked up towards the tree that had been to their backs, seeing the bit of blue sky far above. Without talking, the sweet nature of the sounds of life filled the Karrian's ear slits. It took some courage, some thought, and something of an open mind. On another level, he had to follow something else that he wanted. Kayla was already busily thinking of the future and what she could change to make it the best, and perhaps it was his turn to make a call - as much as Jacob did not want to make it, and put it off for so long, even after his time as a Penitatas.
"Call me Doctor, mister Brayden.", Jacob requested, volume and tone of voice going soft.
"I got to wear my badge one last time. I'm happy enough with that.", he tried to shrug his shoulders a little, as his decision came to light. Raising up off of his elbows, Blaine sat up and looked dumbfounded, struck with information he didn't know how to handle right off.
"You can't be serious! You... you're actually going to-... !", the human man began to exclaim his confusion and attitude at the matter, before Jacob fairly casually cut in, finding it easier to say than he thought it would.
"Quit. Yes Lieutenant. I'm going to hang up the towel on my career today.", came from Jacob's muzzle, sounding still a little uncomfortable, mostly due to the young-sounding nature of the boy's voice. Thumbs leaving their particular pockets, he began removing his old com-badge, tarnished and stained with his blood upon the back, while Blaine stammered awkwardly.
"Sir, are you sure about this? You have a long track record!", he tried to urge the Karrian lad to consider his options before 'throwing away a career' as the man saw. Jacob's badge finding it's way into a pocket, the reptile didn't reply as his fingers began removing a cherished object from his collar - his pin. It had seen many years of service and one tragedy. To Jacob, it had lived through it's purpose, and it was time to do that one thing he wasn't good at. Letting go.
"You were a second officer on a starship! You got the Starfleet Medal of Sacrifice, and then did all of this alongside of Kayla. They'll be throwing ships at you - you'll be a Captain for sure!", the Lieutenant continued his attempt to reason with his young colleague, using a lot of body language and hand motions to get his mind across. Jacob was everything he ever wanted to be, and it hurt on the inside to see the good man decide not to re-enlist when he grew up. Removing his Command insignia from his neck, Jacob, dropped his arms back down to his side and took in a raspy bit of air, seeming to toy with his ranking pin between his small fingers.
"Even at seven years of age, I am not tempted by shiny badges and ships; understood?", Jacob abruptly decided to firm up his tone of voice, to show that he was completely serious and not making a child's error. No, this is something he had months to think about. Seeing Blaine's face just sort of freeze at his scold of sorts, it stood as a solid example of one of the reasons he felt he needed to walk away from Starfleet.
"You are perfectly aware of what happened to me, reading all the reports you do. You seem to know plenty about me, so you ought to know why I had my snout bloodied, arrested, and turned to Penitatas status.", the Karrian reminded his junior officer, pointing out how easy it was for Starfleet officers to ignore such injustice when it doesn't directly affect them. That it was easier to forget that Starfleet was responsible, and continue on like it never happened. Riled on the inside, Blaine's hands moved about, patting his thighs as a nervous response.
"Tell me Lieutenant, what ever happened with the investigation I'm sure started after I was declared an Innocentatas? I'd bet you heard one was launched, and then never heard another thing about it. Correct?", Jacob went on to question, turning his body back around to face Blaine like a man, if he couldn't see why he would want to return to the life of a civilian. Unable to look Jacob completely in the eye, the human looked over his shoulder and thought for a brief moment. While not guilty of anything, he was the kind of officer that did feel guilt though association. Most people in Starfleet saw themselves and those around them as a powerful, benevolent force.
"You're correct... Doctor.", Lieutenant Brayden had to catch himself, nearly calling his young friend 'Commander' again, against his will. Jacob had it quite right, as he never did hear of the investigation coming to any conclusions, and merely disappeared to be forgotten. Shaking his head, the shorter of the two made a gesture over his shoulder back towards the Starfleet Command building.
"Admiral Palmer still has an office here, doesn't he? Not a thing happened?", Jacob pressed, to prove his point conclusively. To his knowledge, Blaine was forced to gently nod his head, that yes, Palmer still had an office and was still in active duty. There was no disciplinary action, despite the evidence that Commander Vasse had been framed to intentionally draw attention away from the fleet's faulty power relays. A Starfleet hero had been used as a scapegoat, punished for imaginary crimes without a trial, or any kind of justice, no matter how artificial it may have been, to cover up a blemish in others careers.
"Exactly. Starfleet does great things, and helps fine people, but you can take that Lieutenant as proof that corruption is brewing, and that not everyone has your best intentions at heart. Not only is it immoral to watch it happen, but it's the sort of thing you shouldn't find excusable.", Jacob closed his thought, using rhythmic pointing with his right hand's index finger to get his point hard across; while his other fingers clutched his rank pin. The fact Admiral Palmer could do as he pleased was a problem it itself.
"I took care of my cadets, and officers. Hated paperwork and silly things, was a little too quiet, but I was fair, and I liked to teach. I'm going to keep doing what I loved, and... I don't know - start my own practice! I can be a teaching doctor, and settle down.", he come up with and announced while he spoke, feeling his warm ideas sparking his imagination just as Kayla's own had been fired up. By "settle down", the old Karrian spoke it softly and longingly, thinking of remaining at Kayla's side. They could tackle a new life together and he could stop running around the galaxy being so prim and proper. After a quick pause, Jacob seemed to scoff and crack a sarcastic smile.
"Captain... who the hell would want to serve under me?", he commented of himself, as he stepped forward and opened his right hand against the edge of the planter bed Blaine was still seated upon. Left in his green scale's wake, his Command pin sat against the stone as he turned and started to step away. The human looked down at the dull golden insignia, still somehow shining light off it's surface despite all the things it had seen. It's round edges were pitted and discolored gray, and portions of it's intricate center looked burned. It had even seen it's wearer's death, technically, the day it became marred the way it was.
"Jacob, you're going to want to keep that. It's important.", Blaine felt he should at least encourage, knowing well what his past, honor, and dignity meant to the young doctor. The Apollo incident was permanently engrained on it, as a lasting impression of what he did on board his medical vessel that day. Slowing up his walk, Jacob turned half ways; tail dangling casually, if not somewhat limply. His face was light, and he clearly had a lot on his mind. There was much beyond all this that Blaine didn't know about, with the good natured Karrian wishing he could stop inevitable events from transpiring out of his control.
"Of course I'll miss it. A lot. But, you need it more than I do.", Jacob's voice sank back to a much more somber and labored level, as if he had been saddened by his own gesture. But, either way, the boy lifted his right arm and pointed square at the Lieutenant with a stern-like look on his face.
"Climb the ranks and take care of these kids in Starfleet, if I can't. Kindern and rejuves alike come to us to add a spark to their lives, and it's up to us to protect them until they can leave the nest - you got it Lieutenant? Wear that pin someday, and teach all those below you how they're supposed to act. Getting rid of the corruption is up to the next generation.", he highlighted and outlined his wishes, firmly speaking each thought to get it through until his pointing finger fell back to his side. His old pin that had seen so much, that he loved, would see service again if he could help it. Jacob was confident that Blaine would go places, as steadfast and loving of his career as he was.
"You consider me a senior officer still, you say. Think of it as my final order.", Jacob relented his firmer words for ones softer, looking up at the face of his fellow with his small, caring little brown eyes. It hurt some to let go of things he loved, sure, but he'd never find other things he loved if he didn't follow his partner's unintentional advice and move on. Standing there, while Blaine sat quiet and hesitant in thought, the older human man hung his head and nodded it.
"Aye sir. You can count on me.", Lieutenant Brayden acknowledged positively, though quietly, honestly upset over losing such a fellow officer he had just barely gotten to work with. While he himself didn't smile, Jacob did, hearing his response. With as turn on his claw, the green scaled boy pointed his muzzle away and gave another friendly wave over his shoulder, setting off on a walk down the flat, warm stone path. Nothing left to say, the Karrian skipped any additional pleasantries and left Blaine something to think about and remember. Scooping up the Commander's pin into his right hand, the Lieutenant settled the closed fist into his lap and cradled the cherished object of service and affection, while he looked out through the trees at the courtyard. Swallowing dryly, the quiet man mumbled something to himself.
"... I would have wanted to.", Blaine uttered in his solitude, correcting Jacob's improper notion that nobody would have wanted to serve beneath a Captain Vasse.
Traveling the garden pathway, surrounded by the flowers and greenery he first came to see well over a hundred years ago, Jacob absorbed the atmosphere as if it'd be the final time he'd come here to see it. Relinquishing his distinctive title of Commander was a hard thing to do, but now that it was done, he felt comforted in a way. His path to the future had shifted in a new direction, leaving his good memories intact, all the while leaving an institution that served to rob him of justice during what was already his darkest hour. Filled with thoughts and images from his child-like brain, he imaged standing before a large lecture hall, teaching all of the things he really enjoyed about medicine. He thought about walking down the hallway of a hospital, much as he was walking now, able to see the energetic faces of younger doctors as he passed by. If not most of all, leaving Starfleet behind to remain on Earth meant staying with Kayla, if fate was to allow. Patient and loyal, he could wait for her if he was forced from her side. He would have to entrust the next generation of officers to others, if he was to create a new life for himself.
All of this, he had Kayla to thank for. This trip allowed him to walk away from his old source of pride on his own terms, and not simply because a rejuvenator pulled him from it. She taught him it was okay to enjoy those younger urges - to sit and play, or partake in a toy. Even now, fatigued from the past day, Jacob wished he could go home to play with a few action figures... while he waited for a lab experiment to complete, of course. She taught him how to look at something bad, learn from it, and move on, all with her friendly attitude, and, sometimes, even her repentant, sad faces. As a reclusive, socially inexperienced person, she was enough like him to connect, but unique enough to show him completely differing ways of thinking; including how to let go. Unfortunately, nothing she could have said or done would have prepared him to let go of her, the one constant in his life since he became a Medicalos. His only "close" friend, as particular as he was, and his first romantic interest after being a staunch fool for too long.
Coming to near the edge of the garden area, still some short distance from the platform the officials and Starfleet representatives were being interrogated upon, Jacob came to squint in order to look ahead and remove the sun from his eyes, once he noticed a hint of orange. Kayla being an easy person to spot, essentially the only Aspatrian around as well as one of the only rejuves, he was pleased to see her walking on the same path; as if she had gone looking for him as well. Though, as he made it steps closer, the relaxed sort of smile that had just came over his muzzle was quickly replaced by one much more neutral. Coming towards him, having already noticed his presence as the only short green-scaled individual - his own recognizable quality - was not only Kayla, but his own mother, Lory, at her side. Perhaps it was his parent that was looking for him, and Kayla got caught up for the ride. Knowing he would have no privacy at all was a sobering realization that brought about a rough, somewhat irritated sigh. This could be his last moment with Kayla, and it wouldn't even be their own! Forcing a weak smile onto his face, he lifted his right hand and gave a small wave, just to show he acknowledged the both of them as they rounded the last bit of a curve in the walkway to meet him beneath the shade of a tree.
"Jacob, you look okay!", Lory, the once Penitatas parent exclaimed with a sharp tone of relief; with her feet making haste the last few steps to quickly kneel down and hug her son. Sudden as it was, and not the most outwardly emotional of people, Jacob's brows went up and his eyes widened with an awkward smile beneath them, as his head came to rest against his mother's right shoulder. His footclaws cooled by the shaded, red hued stone path, the Karrian child hugged his parental figure back, if not a little weakly, due to still being intimidated by her touch. The hands against his back once caused him a great deal of pain, but if she wasn't the "good Starfleet wife" any longer, he at least knew she had changed her behaviors to a significant degree.
"I feel okay too. Just decided I'm not going to rejoin Starfleet. I'll stay here, on Earth.", Jacob was able to reply to her sentimentality with, getting to state aloud his new position on life while his eyes trained straight on Kayla, to let her know that message was very much for her. Behind Lory, paws in her pockets and tail lightly swaying in the breeze, hearing such a thing got the girl to lift her head and make a toothy smile. Fairly expressive, even without words, Jacob could see hearing that made her very happy - if not giddy. The old boy never paid it much thought, but seeing that face made him realize that Kayla might have feared him returning to Starfleet when he got older. She would have hoped he'd stay, of course. Now that he said it, he felt sorry she had to wait this long for his indecisiveness to cure itself.
"I'm going to start pestering your father to come home too. Exploding power relays, fake trials, and now all this? I've had about enough.", Lory came to end her words with a drawn out rumble from her throat, with the hem of her dress coming to touch the ground and the tips of Jacob's toes with an additional rocking motion she added to her hug. Held in such a way, the younger boy gave a single, loose chuckle sound.
"At least you know it was fake, now.", Jacob tried to present in a humorous way, considering just how much it took to convince her that the tribunal he took part in was a farce, and how badly he was punished back then for calling it fake himself. Such tensions did sort of remain between them because of what Lory did, but the woman in this case paused before saying anything else.
"I'm sorry I've been so... passive. I should be reminding you more often that I was wrong.", the once worried parent relented, looking into the black hair down towards the upper back of Jacob's neck. Being that she rarely said anything about his few days as a Penitatas, hearing her be open about her guilt was a surprising thing for the Karrian to hear. Though, to her words, he could see Kayla make a face and nod her head in a, 'you damn well ought to know you were wrong' sort of way. In secret, she had to really put her tail on the line, as a result of Lory's lack of willingness to accept potential problems and seek help. At least the woman cared, Jacob had to admit, knowing she advocated for his well-being when she heard of the hells they faced on board DeltaStar.
"It's... you know. It's okay. We're past that. I don't like remembering it.", Jacob's younger mind accepted, focusing on cheerful things and pancake breakfasts. Lory was the doting sort, but when it came to disciplinary matters, she showed her "love" in a whole different way. As long as she thinks it's for your own good, she'd be more than happy to lash a rejuve she cared for. Quite the breed of parent.
"Why don't I get you home, Jacob? Get you a good meal, a shower, and all that good stuff?", the human mother released her step-son from her hug in order to offer, face to face, kneeling with her hands lightly cupped against his upper arms. Long hair flowing down her back, speaking in a much more open way than she had been since the travesty that came between them, she looked like what Jacob used to remember her as being. While the care and attention was appreciated, rejuves needing their parents and their approval as instinctively necessary, it could not have come at a worse time. Scared straight, she would flip her lid when she found out the sort of things he had been doing beneath her lax radar.
"Sure, but... ", Jacob agreed with an opening stipulation, tail moving with his more timid thoughts.
"Could I just say goodbye to Kayla real quick? Before we go?", he asked, tilting his muzzle off to his left side to give a gesture towards his friend, all while using a lighter, and intentionally friendly tone. Like a child of any age, rejuves still took that particular tone while asking for permission from their parents to do anything, hoping that the answer won't be 'no'. Stilling his tail, only it's reptilian tip continued to betray him and display a glimpse of the unsteady nature of the emotions he hid inside. Thankfully his request was not a burden, and there wasn't much of a chance he'd be denied something so simple.
"Of course dear.", the older Lory sounded almost amused that she had been asked, finding it cute that he wanted a moment with his good friend. In the end it was her that hooked the two of them up, by creating the get-together at her home to gather the local Penitatas and try to find some companions for her new son. Shy as he was, he only found the one - but at least it was a good one.
With a pat to his left arm, the woman rose to her feet and gravity naturally straightened her dark blue dress. Once their eyes were no longer linked, Jacob was sure to watch and see how much distance she'd give. It ended up being only a few meters, as the botanically inclined parent simply began examining the plants and flowers in the planter bed just across the stone walkway from he and Kayla. Lowering his head slightly, Jacob figured that was about as good as it would get; taking a single step forward while watching his mother to join Kayla as close as he could. The fox's expression was enthused yet light, trying to take it easy as best she could, it looked like.
"So you're going to stay here with me, huh? Making me wait; you're so terrible.", Kayla playfully teased in a sarcastic manner, grinning and a stone's throw from snickering softly in the shade of their particular tree. While not unexpected, the whole idea that he was going to be "staying" with her thrust the butterflies in is stomach clear up his throat. Haunted by nervous tickling sensations inside of his Karrian maw, Jacob opened his muzzle slightly to take a slow, unhindered breath.
"I'm sorry about that, but... that's at least my hope, if they don't separate us.", Jacob turned his brown eyes away from his parent, locking them in on Kayla's blue as he whispered; speaking quietly enough to make sure his mother couldn't hear anything that would tip her off that matters were amiss. It wasn't meant to upset or stir anything, believing that this could be his last moment with her before things changed, but what he said brought about an almost angry look on Kayla's face; seeing wrinkles appear at the base of her muzzle.
"Come on, don't say things like that! We'll get through this - my mom is handling this fine.", Kayla snapped at a whisper's volume, nearly scolding him at the mere thought that they'd be split apart, now that her adolescent mind had settled into the good things that occurred during the day. Sensitive to the subject and particularly scared of it, the poor fox didn't want much to do with any nay-saying. It wasn't what Jacob meant to convey but it still made him feel guilty, seeing her remaining ignorant to what had been going on unbeknownst to her. She had done such a powerful deed to the world and still had so much to worry about, having already told him not long ago, in the sweet privacy they had shared in her suite, that she loved and needed his support. Hesitating out of solemn guilt, Jacob came to slowly nod his head in acknowledgment to his partner's understandable scold.
"Getting my own room wasn't special treatment. I'm pretty sure your mom isn't comfortable with me being around. I don't mean to upset, but... I don't want to pretend we didn't get caught.", came as words that were hard to say, understanding their implications. He spent enough time during his past lives ignoring relationship potentials, and he wasn't about to start ignoring this one. Jacob held too many prior regrets to not take the situation for what it was; to prepare for the worst in ways beyond simply hoping for the best. Distinctly uncomfortable by all of it, knowing well that her personal life was no longer personal, Kayla's left paw cupped her right; thumb stroking her bared Penitatas classification letter.
"I'm finally happy with things. I don't want to lose it. Not now.", Kayla uttered lightly, voice trembling with uncertainty and displeasure.
So, somebody placed Jacob in a different room to separate her from him? Her mother? She didn't know such things might have been going on, so distracted by the swirling mess of thoughts and fears in her head. Velius may have been taken care of, but things were still unsettled when it came to Emily. Neither of them knew if the lives they were living yesterday would continue as they were. Only mere steps away, Jacob's mother sat down on the edge of the planter bed and started looking up at the various short trees, distracting Jacob's nervous eyes for only a moment.
"Somebody will do something. I won't be a Penitatas anymore, maybe! After all this... hell. They couldn't do anything against us; it just wouldn't be right.", the Aspatrian girl seemed to try and convince herself in order to cheer up her confidence, faced with the information her partner discreetly provided without elaborating into it much. Throughout every fiber of her being, Kayla did pray she had proven herself, and perhaps made up for the things she had done. Eager to move on and start a life to call her own, now blessed with some direction to take, being a Penitatas felt like a weight. A burden too painful and heavy to bear, and even more so alone. It wasn't long ago that Jacob was soothing her tired, frayed nerves with a loving sort of sensuality no one has ever shown her before. That shiny new Ensign's insignia upon her collar, she wanted to go home and breathe - not lose everything she ever worked for.
"I'll still be here for you, no matter what happens. I'll handle my own parent, but this is up to you and Emily, if she'll forgive us.", Jacob left his voice at a lower tone, assuring he wouldn't be going anywhere in spirit, at least. Their fate would be between mother and daughter, and the rules that define how a Penitatas must behave in the invisible bondage of their incarceration. Under her strict roof, there were simply rules to be followed - and they both screwed up, no matter how right it felt.
Kayla stood holding her paws, head tilted down towards her side to shield her face from Lory's vision. Emily promised yesterday while washing the blood from her fur, kneeling over her while she sat in that tiny tiled basin, that they would have a "long talk" about the relationship she and Jacob shared. This wouldn't be over until she answered for her violation, and she had to accept that she was scared about what could happen. The punishment she faced alone could have been absolutely terrible, and even Jacob believed he would not escape this unscathed. Being the Penitatas girlfriend, Kayla felt at fault. Maybe this wouldn't have happened if she did what she was supposed to, and didn't expect such a good man to lie for her benefit. Holding back that she was upset and worried, feeling perhaps alone in what she faced, Jacob licked his muzzle's rim uneasily.
Hidden behind him, the boy's tail clung to his leg stiffly as a sign of the things he too considered. Unwilling to just part ways and leave her feeling "on the hook" for actions that were both of theirs, Jacob thought of something, and what it would mean, with his own mother sitting just a few meters away. With a slight turn of his head, he peered off to his side, looking at the human woman as he made a decision. If his tail was already going to be in hot water, there was little reason to delay it. Rather than working his partner into a sad panic with more words, the doctor lifted his right hand. It found it's place against Kayla's left cheek, bringing her face and eyes back to him. Before anyone could say anything, willing to bite the bullet for their benefit as a pair, the reptilian Medicalos closed his eyes to tiny, relaxed slits and leaned in for a kiss, right upon the end of Kayla's muzzle. Turning his head slightly to lock into it, his green scaled hand held her cheek - catching the fox so off guard her eyes popped open wide, shocked that Jacob would do that right in front of Lory, whom fairly immediately stumbled her words.
"Jacob! What do you-... !", the two of them heard the woman snap, sounding as if she couldn't get up from her seat quickly enough. Respecting Kayla's Penitatas status and not interfering with her discipline was Jacob's primary rule to follow, and he announced that he had disobeyed it, through his actions instead of his words; so that Kayla wouldn't have to leave feeling alone. The fox blinked a few times, kissing her partner back as best as her stiff Aspatrian muzzle would allow, until Jacob slowly parted himself from her. Opening his eyes, Kayla looked into the little spots of brown, seeing him staring right into her, ignoring his mother completely. Fingers stroking through her fur, their tips trailing towards her muzzle, she stared into his face dumbstruck.
"Just in case... I never get to do that again.", Jacob spoke softly, letting his words come out on gentle wisps of air. Hearing such a thing made Kayla's heart jump; fingers curling as the gravity of what she faced struck her.
"Ja-... cob?", she said his name, voice small and sharp, broken in two by the shock of what such a sentiment meant. A goodbye, in case he didn't see her again? That's what he was trying to do? She stared so listlessly, paws gripping one another tighter.
"Jacob Vasse, you-... !", Lory nearly shrieked at his behavior, stepping forward with a purpose. To it, Jacob promptly snapped his head to the side.
"Misses Lory, please!", the young Karrian shot at her, using a harsh, firm tone that insisted the woman hold off for just a few seconds. Halting the human woman dead in her tracks only steps away, his eyes quickly turned back to Kayla. His chest heaved, breathing faster in the heat of the moment, having startled even himself through the gesture he performed. With both hands, prompt in sudden motion, Jacob held both of Kayla's cheeks and tilted his muzzle towards her own, until the pair was nearly nose to snout.
"I'll see you again.", was the last thing he assured, finishing his words with a quick, caring little smile. His deed done, Kayla's jaw started to quiver at the prospect of what Jacob may have been thinking. It really was possible this was their last moment. Barred from each other, to the extent they make him change classes at school. Then, like a jab to her chest, she saw his eyes blink one last time, and then their quiet brown pools disappear; as Jacob turned quickly on his footclaw and began walking, not bothering to look up at his parent. Perhaps it was his older side trying to take control of a situation, or his younger side unable to look Lory in the eye, as she stammering woman looked at he and Kayla both before following Jacob.
"What - was - that?", Misses Lory demanded to know, coming up alongside her foster Medicalos son. She wore the sort of scowl Jacob had expected, and her tone of voice stiffened his body nervously to the core. This is how she would have sounded if he came clean with the truth... at least now he could say he helped, rather than trying to save his tail and leaving Kayla to fend for herself. There was no need to wait for Emily to break the news to Lory.
"We have things to talk about misses Lory.", Jacob groaned to her strict sounding tone, walking with his head hung and his hands behind his back as they headed down the stone garden path, away from Kayla. Face forward, focused on all that he'd have to explain and answer to, he was at least happy to have said goodbye. Never turning back, pretending to be strong for his partner, the reptilian boy's eyes stung in wake of it all.
Left behind, as their figures and Lory's squabbling sort of voice began to shrink away, the Kayla stood there in a pain-stricken daze. Her paws raised to the level of her chest, nestled against her shirt while her fingers shook like leaves watching Jacob leave; fixated onto the back of his shirt, and his hanging tail. Clinging to memories and times since past, her insides begged for him not to go - for all of this to not be true, and that she too wouldn't have to face such a situation with her own mother. Though, as the poor girl stood there, jaw quivering and eyes beginning to water, Jacob's image soon left her sight, and even their voices from her keen ears. In the bright and sunny summer hour, surrounded by serene trees and calming flowers, the well-dressed rejuvenated child stood by herself; assaulted by the reality of it all.
Of all the people she had come to know, Jacob was the only friend that never said or did anything bad to her. He was loyal to the core, supportive, and the only sort of lover she could have possibly felt comfortable sharing her body with. In the end, she had been the same thing for him, as the terrible events that occurred upon him gave her things to fight for, and reasons to explore her affection. Now that he had moved on from the Apollo and his close encounter with death, and she found reason to live beyond simply existing, there was so much more they could explore, growing up together; both experiencing some sort of "second chance" at life. From a child's crush to young love, they made it to this point together in these last few months. Surviving a harrowing ordeal, Kayla even went on to save the planet she lived on, to be dubbed a heroine, surrounded by glowing words and generous sentiment, right down to the honorary pin shining in the sunlight upon her collar.
Yet here she was, standing alone in the middle of a garden pathway, breaking down into tiny sputtering sobs. For all the good she had done, it was just her and the silver letters that reminded her of the terrible being she once was. The things she worked on in private, overcoming being shy and the rape that haunted her, had been shattered when things should have been at their best. She did not gain, without suffering a great, painful loss.
"It's - not - fair!", Kayla lifted her head, turning in a snap with a limp flail of her tail as she cried out weakly to the plants and stone surrounding her. Tears breaking free of her eyelids, the upset, angry, and saddened Aspatrian looked around as if to damn some unseen group of individuals.
"I'm sick of this give and take... What more can I do?", she spoke in a fairly broken manner, unable to un-stiffen her lower jaw and much open her maw. Teeth bared from the curl of skin on her muzzle, her shaky paws came up to grip her canid face, overcome by what came over her. She had done so much, and she knew she had finally done all the right things. There was no turmoil over her actions, and she thought she had come up with a plan for the future. Goals to work for! But even that, wasn't enough to stop her from facing the sour fruit of her forbidden relationship. A Penitatas wasn't supposed to have a boyfriend, much less explore the things she ended up exploring. She did, however, believe she earned a little happiness.
Sobbing out into the open air alone, claws digging into the flesh of her orange muzzle, Kayla's ears flattened until their black furred tips touched her head. Frustrated and hurt, repeating Jacob's last words in her head like a broken record, she let out a childish, highly shrill canine growl and threw her paws from her face. Her feet began an angry stride, hugging her torso while walking along with her head down - wanting to at least go for a walk, rather than stand there like a fool. All she could do was what Jacob said; to do her best, and hope it'd be enough for her mother to forgive them. Having been spanked for things she didn't always agree with, straight up to having her paws badly bruised by order of the Corrections Counsel at Christmas, Kayla didn't trust that her good deeds earned her anything at all - and that struck a nerve. Young, vulnerable, and torn, the already weary girl who had witnessed death and fear itself at first hand had a lot to get out, and the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters came as an unlikely place to shed those tears.
All around her, with every step and rounding bend in the warm stone pathway, colors and sounds greeted her moist, squinting eyes. Her tense arms soon came to simply cross themselves, passing under the shades of various little trees as she sniffled and lamented; softly crying as her frayed emotions urged. The sounds of the press conference and assorted drones were faint but present in her folded ears, but when her tearful sounds eased up for a moment when she whimpered to herself, wiping at her eyes, Kayla could have sworn a fresh sob came through her ears. Finding that to be strange, she slowed her walking and removed the back of her furred left paw from her face, to try and look around and make sure she wasn't hearing a reflection. Ears coming back up, obscured by her sniffs every few moments, she became distinctly aware she wasn't alone, and the source wasn't difficult to spot.
Out to her right, along a sudden break in the planter beds on a wide curve in the stone path, where sparkling blue water drew her eyes, she was able to catch the figure of a young drake seated at the artificial pond's edge. Surrounded by a gravel path and a ring of short trees; infrequent lights dotting the outer edge amidst the plants; a small group of ducks floated seamlessly on the surface of the water, slowly moving about without concern to the drake's calm crying. Seated in traditional Earth clothing, the seemingly female reptile sat with her head hung, and her thick tail outstretched behind her while her legs reached out towards the edge of the water; lapping at the soles of her reptilian claws. Just past a small assortment of bushes and flowers at the edge of her stone path, Kayla turned her head curiously from her place at the entrance to the pond, feet from the fairly small looking drake. Apparently catching a muffled sniffle in her own ears, the Drakonian lifted her dinosaur-like neck and turned it over her shoulder, showing the moist, worn eyes of someone who had been at this for a while. Though, once the drake saw Kayla's face, a hint of a smile came across her smooth brown snout, breaking a tiny sputter of sorts with an awkward, subdued laugh. Not sure how to take it, and not hesitating in response, Kayla's brows curled, arms remaining crossed.
"What's so funny?... ", the fox wondered of the younger girl, able to see by comparison that she was much younger than usual. Surely there were no Kindern around, but this drake was smaller than she had ever seen Ninne, and looked younger than even perhaps Dianne.
"You look no better off than I do.", the drakeling commented, lifting a limp claw out of her lap to point up at Kayla's face. Her voice sounded tired and sniffly, but was spoken well enough for a girl her age when her eyes were watery and red - at least indicating she was a rejuve, even if Kayla didn't get a good enough look at her classification letter. Such a reply at least got Kayla to crack a half-smile at the ends of her muzzle, dulling her own sniffles. She stood for a moment, before letting her arms down and approaching the drake's side; curious if anything, and unwilling to just walk away from another girl having a bad day.
"And that's saying something.", Kayla tried to follow the same line the drake chose, in order to counter with her own form of lightheartedness. Shoes meeting gravel, the different shades of black and brown pebbles shifted and crunched beneath her as she joined her fellow at the water's edge, sitting down into a cross-legged position carefully with her silver 'P's hidden in her lap. Returning to Emily with dirty black pants, or a tear, would have been a bad idea.
But, settled in next to the other girl, tail draped around her side against the gravel, she stayed quiet for a moment while the drake toyed with a pebble between her small fingers. Looking down at it, she came to raise her head as she chucked the tiny thing, aiming for the water near one of the pond's ducks. The tiny pebble didn't even make a sound, but the occasionally quacking bird started floating away from the spot at a snail's pace. Watching the girl sigh roughly, settling her claw back into her lap, Kayla couldn't help but find throwing pebbles into the water to be a bit immature. She had to give the drake credit though, seeing how young she was, and how new this age must have been to her. The letter on the back of her claw she could now see, was that of a silver 'M', and it's appearance was something to cry about indeed. Right away it made her imagine Jacob and what he went through, and the day they met. Seeing the drake's drooping face, keeping her lamentations private out here by her lonesome, Kayla felt sorry, and sympathetic.
"It gets better.", Kayla looked out over the water and ducks for a moment, turning her muzzle back towards the younger drake at her side to point at the claws she kept tucked between her raptor-like legs. The girl lifted her head a little, seeing where Kayla had pointed, but the message didn't break the small frown the drake had since she threw the little pebble, to entertain her mind and release her frustrations.
"Am I going to forget seeing my partially vaporized insides sprayed all over Gerias?", the girl raised her reptilian eye-ridges in a fairly human-esque expression, sounding sarcastic in the friendly manner in which she asked. Coming off as mildly humorous in the way she said it, it didn't take a lot to assume the drake was handling the situation as best she could. There wasn't many that could shrug off a near-death experience, much less embrace the sudden lack of a career or direction. In a way, she had been imprisoned to her body, just as Kayla had been as a Penitatas. If she almost died on Gerias, it gave Kayla some insight to who she might have been.
"I think I might have heard your name over the open communications line earlier... ", the fox thought out loud, squinting a little as she reached up to wipe her nose; trying to keep her own sniffles out of casual conversation.
"Za`kira? Is that right?", Kayla tried to ask in the most social manner she could muster, making sure she didn't step on any toes and make the day any worse for the once officer. Looking off to her side, she watched the drake tilt her head curiously, moving her neck to peer over into Kayla's lap. After a moment the drake gave a single laugh, followed by a hearty sniff, to clear her nostrils and make sure she could speak clearly without feeling like some four year old Kindern.
"And you must be Packet-Storm!", the apparent Za`kira greeted in her small young voice, cracking only slightly on certain syllables; barely noticeable. As an Earth-drake, it was hard to get her Drakonian vocal cords to fully cooperate so soon after rejuvenation, and some practice at speaking would be needed to re-train her new set to Panglish. It was nice to see a little bit of light come back to her face, having been off at this pond all by herself. Rubbing her paws together in her lap, Kayla cracked a little grin over her own weary face.
"I'm the only Aspatrian around - you could have figured that out without seeing I was a Penitatas.", the young fox found it suitable to poke her for, knowing exactly why the drake looked into her lap. To that, Za`kira made something of a face, and dismissed it without thinking of herself as being too unobservant. With a quick reach of her left arm, the drake gave a passing stroke by Kayla's Ensign's pin, as if to congratulate her for it.
"I'm still here because of you. That 'P' over there doesn't mean a thing to me.", Za`kira offered as words of non-aggression, giving a backward motion with her claw to throw out any possible notion her impromptu company had anything to worry about. There was no way she was going to hold any kind of judgment, or treat her in a way she wouldn't treat a friend. Stepping on a stage was one thing, but for Kayla, meeting someone she helped gave her butterflies of a more pleasant nature.
"I'm glad, 'cause they're driving me nuts.", Kayla came to comment on her own Penitatas classification letters, lifting her paws out of her lap to make a small gesture with her paws. Being a Penitatas was at the root of why she was so upset in the first place, and why she was having the sort of trouble she was fretting.
"But... how are you holding up? Last I heard your name, they were getting a portable rejuvenator. I'm glad you made it.", the Aspatrian girl was prompt to cut back in though, making sure the subject didn't get changed. Serving on Gerias, and apparently gutted the way she described it, Kayla placed the smaller drake's issues well above her own on the severity scale. Voice soft, she came to lean forward while she left her head turned, happy to have any sort of conversation. It was an opportunity to breathe.
"At least now that I am a girl again, all is to be as poor as expected, but better than they were.", Za`kira lightly griped, turning her head away to look out over the reflections shining off the water. The very first thing she asked for when the Excalibur returned to Earth, was for a chance to visit a rejuvenation chamber in Starfleet Medical. She may have been reduced to only four years of age from her prior seven, but at least she wasn't male any longer.
"Before I rejuvenated again, for real, I had to pee while on the ride back from Gerias. Even sitting down I still managed to make a mess. Wasn't cut out to be male.", she came to rest her head upon her open right claw, looking fairly embarrassed and dreary while thinking back; using a wide eyed expression for a moment to add emphasis to the word 'mess'. There was nothing like finding you had no idea how to properly urinate, wiping up the floor in an upset panic before someone came to check in on you.
"But, you know, now that it's over, I can't stop reliving getting shot. I was there to help - it was our hour to shine! Keep trying to figure out if I was careless, or just unlucky my spine ended up down the hallway.", the little Za`kira seemed to try and uphold her level of nonchalant quips over the matter, but the way she said 'spine' suggested she may have been just upsetting herself. Looking around, moving her head and unable to keep her claws still, the drake made a hissing sort of reptilian growl.
"My friend was never supposed to have to try and pick me up, and I feel very guilty he went through what he had to, trying to bring me back. I was going to take over as head of the tactical team soon - my promotion to Lieutenant-Commander was right over my head, and I blew it. I've gone and abandoned everyone.", she turned towards being much more critical, bringing forth some of the thoughts that left her in tears next to this pond in the first place. The shakier nature of her words made Kayla lower her head and eyes slightly. They were so familiar, knowing how torn up inside Jacob was thinking about those who counted on him being left behind. Though, before Kayla could think of something helpful to say, the silence was broken by a tearful, stronger Drakonian growl, sounding half like a childish cry.
"I did everything right, I wasn't supposed to just... die! I could carry all of our weapons on my back, but look at me now; so damn scrawny!", the girl worked herself up, faced with past accomplishments turning to the wind. Pawing at her shirt in an upset manner, expressing how small she had become; useless in her eyes; she came to show just how distraught she had become, in wake of losing everything, including nearly her life. Kayla yanked her new shirt from her pants, reaching out with her right paw to steady Za`kira's head as the drakeling began to sob from the torment of it all. If there was anything worse than becoming a Penitatas, it was the sudden blast of emotions Medicalos had to deal with.
"Hey, hey! Come on, it'll be alright.", Kayla tried to quickly interject, stopping the unwarranted self-hating thoughts from coming any further out. Left paw dug into her shirt, the fox lifted it and sought to wipe at Za`kira's snout, to try and at least dry her tears from her cool, brown scale. Clearly a strong woman, if not something of a military girl, but during a time like this, she needed someone to calm her or else she'd take her frustrations out on herself unfairly. Paw under the girl's jaw, Kayla gently, but briskly wiped at the drake's snout. Sniffling and trying to hold back her fresh bit of sobbing, it took a few moments before Za`kira could speak again.
"You don't have to do that... ", Za`kira uttered softly, followed by a strong sniff through her reptilian nostrils. While just eight years old herself, Kayla was still twice Za`kira's age and felt some sense of responsibility in her role.
"No reason for you to be sitting here, dealing with it alone. You're not the first Starfleet Medicalos I've come to cheer up.", Kayla tried to say without any kind of negative, or sad tone to her voice. Somewhere down inside, as she came to learn while soaping Dianne's maw last year, she had something of a motherly instinct she didn't at all mind using. At least getting Za`kira's snout dry, having stopped her tears and self-loathing short, Kayla came to settle her shirt back down around her orange belly, correcting the fabric with her paws. Exhaling deeply, the drake tried to keep her head clear and calm; a challenging task.
"I just don't know what to do now. Everything is screwed up.", Za`kira made a more acceptable assessment of her situation, softly spoken and tired. Air going quiet, a duck's quack bouncing off the surface of the water, the scaled of the two girls shook her head slightly.
"It'll be fine, I'm sure. I just have... things to get over.", the Drakonian rejuve relented, settling her claws back into her lap while lifting her neck; placing her head back at a normal sort of level. While her eyes looked worn, it at least seemed like getting to talk, and cry a little, helped her cope with the horror of having a hole blasted through her dinosaur-like torso. Taking a quick sniff, she picked up another pebble, rolling it around in her fingers.
"So what abo't you?", she tried to ask her furred companion casually, accidentally breaking the word 'about' fairly badly. Coming off a little dry in her mouth, the misspeak made the little drakeling lick the inside of her maw - making something of an odd expression. Rejuvenation wasn't the most natural of processes it seemed like sometimes, still getting used to her own body. Coming out of her cross-legged stance, Kayla uprighted her knees and pulled them closer to herself while her shoes settled into damper gravel.
"Just some boyfriend trouble.", Kayla said with something of a groan, sighing out the rest, while looking down at her pants and shoes. Craning her head around, Za`kira stretched the scale at the end of her maw to make something of a face.
"I thought Penitatas weren't allowed to have boyfriends?", she came to question with something of a tone, feeling certain she understood that particular regulation correctly. Corrections Counsel bylaws and expectations were a part of one of her academy courses. To the question, Kayla looked to the drake with her eyes, while keeping her head still.
"Exactly. That's the trouble.", Kayla found herself adopting to Za`kira's form of lighthearted humor rather well, finding it really did help her feel better at least in the short term. Calmer, if anything.
"Understandable.", Za`kira replied with a loose snicker-like sound, as if to say "it figures" in a way her fresh Drakonian vocal cords would allow at the moment. The two girls, stuck in their own troubles, sat there in quiet company for a few restful moments; as Za`kira tossed her pebble out into the water and Kayla joined, skipping the tiny rock a few times. The only sounds were that of the gravel, the water, and the sparse life around them.
"He's that other Medicalos I mentioned. Commander Vasse, starship Apollo.", Kayla decided to out and say, taking any opportunity she could get to not have to hold her secrets bottled up inside. Sun warming her fur, she leaned on one knee as the drake beside her made a confused, if not perhaps surprised expression. It took a few moments, but she recognized the name.
"That poor sap from the medical ship?", Za`kira exclaimed out of surprise, craning her neck around with a look in her eyes. Not exactly well spoken, Kayla tilted her head and squinted, to make sure the drake knew not to say anything inappropriate about Jacob when she was feeling so upset. Catching it, Za`kira lifted her left claw and pulled her head back slightly.
"No disrespect. I'm four - cut me some slack.", the sheepish moment made her sort of laugh, feeling a little uncertain when it came to her language and words. Not even the tone it was hours ago when she was flinging a portable photon torpedo launcher around, it was easy to get insecure or slip up. Having come to find how much of a good woman Za`kira was, Kayla didn't much mind granting that slack with a loose smile of sorts.
"Yes, that's him. Our relationship got found out, and I might have some Penitatas-style explaining to do. Could even lose him.", Kayla opened up, figuring it was appropriate since Za`kira shared her troubles with her. The younger Za`kira hummed low, showing her sympathy. Like many may, she didn't like the thought of anything unpleasant coming down on someone they relied so deeply upon. The drake looked up towards the sky, catching a passing Starfleet hover-vessel paroling the local airways.
"When I was in the academy, I was on the swim team. Typical of a Drakonian, naturally. I'm competitive, and I do like winning.", Za`kira again expressively raised a brow, coming to let a loose grin appear on her snout. In water, Drakonians were like greased lightning. Turning her head back down, she looked in Kayla's direction to tell her story.
"There was this Vulcan on my team; something of a prude, or at least I thought. He tried to claim 'logic', saying the only reason I joined was because I had stubby Drakonian arms and couldn't do much anything else.", she explained, moving her arms a little at the mentioning of her raptor-like physiology. Kayla's head tilted a bit further, not exactly liking that someone else, even off in Starfleet encountered racism like she, Ninne, and Anne ran into at times back in Calleet. Though, to be noted, Za`kira's grin did not fade.
"We were at our first competition. When it was his turn to hit the water against his first opponent, I may have also broken a few... dozen rules. You see, once the gun was fired and they were off, I made a mad dash for the pool and took a nose-dive. I'm like a bullet.", she began to snicker in her own way, eyes looking much more dry. Reaching out with an arm, she used her claw to describe what happened.
"Once I hit the water, I was under him in a second. Snapped, and went straight up. I flung him into the air like a dolphin, right in the middle of his match!", she ended with a sharp upward motion with her claw, fingers outstretched; all the while Kayla assumed a sharp smirk, coming to a bit of a stifled adolescent giggle from the sound of it. Paw over her mouth, she was just trying not to interrupt, imagining a payback as sweet as that must have been. Straight in the eyes, Za`kira made a few gestures for her snout.
"I don't care what anybody said - that blank look on his face was an emotion!", the drakeling openly joked, seeming to take the same degree of comfort from her past that Jacob did during rough times. Settling her neck back into a normal position, she took a quick breath and resumed with a smile.
"For what I did, I was banned from the swim team. Still am, as far as I know! But you know what, it made a good memory, and I'm okay with that.", Za`kira offered as her own insight, speaking more plainly now that her four year old mind had been given a nice distraction, and happier things to ponder.
"As long as you made nice memories you wouldn't trade away, you should face the piper with some courage.", the once large, proud Drakonian woman smacked her chest with. In a way, it signified what she overcame, now alive without a hole in that very spot. Now calmed, having someone to talk to gave Kayla a new resolve. Face Emily she would, and she'd do her best. She was sorry, but she did love Jacob. She'd take the situation as it came! Giving a weak, tiny few timid chuckles, the Aspatrian girl slowly nodded her head approvingly. There were people cheering for her in their own way, and that meant quite a bit. This meeting was one of the first times she heard "Packet-Storm!" exclaimed so cheerfully, and damn did it feel... nice.
"And you... go make new memories!", Kayla first began, but not as quick on her feet, she had to stop for a second before thinking of her own pseudo-profound thing to add. If she didn't know what to do next, it was the most useful thing the Aspatrian could suggest. As playful as they had become, considering they first met with damp eyes, it was easy for the fox to imagine Za`kira being one hell of a playmate. Loose and contented, there would rarely be a time this rejuve's toy chest would be closed, so long as she didn't go flinging anymore people around in the pool. Returning to matters at hand, the drake took a moment in their good time to have a look around; peering over each shoulder as best as she could.
"Say though, you're by yourself. Do you have to report back to your parents?", Za`kira came to tilt her snout, asking out of curious concern for her conversational companion's well being. Taking hold of the scruff of her neck in her claw, she held the thick, armor-like sheet of scale to use it as a prop; surprisingly delicate and thin looking at the mere age of four.
"I don't want anyone to turn your hide to leather.", she noted for her sake, using her own scales as an example of what a leathery something felt like. Expression light, she wanted to be very careful in ensuring no unnecessary hardship came to Kayla - though not to say a four year old was the best at staying out of trouble either. Pointed ears shifted backward slightly, as Kayla thought about it and took a bit of a toothy look towards the back of her muzzle. She had no idea how long she had been without Lory's escort, and hoped Emily would not know that either. Starting with a flick of her tail, knocking a piece of gravel loose, the girl worked to her feet, quickly brushing the dusty gravel grit from her pants to hide the fact she had been off sitting somewhere.
"You're actually pretty right! Hopefully I'll have enough time to come up with a decent fib.", Kayla came to say, thankful for being broken from her distraction.
"Though I don't know if I could ever help the leather part.", the fox came to say hastily, smacking the fabric of her capris with an awkward smile at admitting how often Penitatas such as herself were met with the sterner sort of correction. Staying seated just where Kayla had found her, Za`kira lifted another pebble, watching the orange furred hacker at her side rush in her preparation to split before she got into any worse trouble. The visit was one she appreciated very much, having been split from her friends, and the people she thought of as "family".
"Then somebody else better!", the Starfleet drake called in Kayla's favor, too believing in leniency. While Kayla stumbled with her paws, fighting to tuck the bottom of her shirt back into her pants, Za`kira grinned and raised the claw she was holding the pebble within.
"Run, you!", she called, tossing the pebble to pelt Kayla lightly in the leg, with the small thing coming to fall and bounce off the tip of her shoe. With a funny look and an awkward hop, the fox turned and made haste, trying to finish tucking in her shirt as she went. Holding onto her smile, she turned slightly, almost running sideways. Calling back to Za`kira, paws and legs both working, she did her best to not fall.
"By the way, think about living in a Penitatas neighborhood!", Kayla decided to throw out there as a suggestion, following Jacob's particular line of thinking when it came to living among Penitatas.
"We make quiet neighbors!", she yelled out playfully as she turned around, slipping her paws from the waist of her pants to make a dash through the gardens for the side of the stage. She had left her mother there when Lory came by and asked for Kayla's assistance in finding her son. Back on the stone garden path, headed past planter bed after another, breezing beneath sprawling, broken shadows cast by leaves, the fast, dexterous Aspatrian was soon gone from Za`kira's side and sight. Rather than returning to her sulking, the drake merely started trying to skip pebbles, much as she saw Kayla do, with her short, supposedly stubby Drakonian arm.
With the sort of agility known to a young Aspatrian, tail streaming behind, Kayla eyed up at the Command building to keep her bearings. Turned to hindsight by Za`kira's helpful company, the suggestion she provided made her think of all the good that happened, and how much it meant to her. From here out, she vowed to face what she had coming. Her illicit relationship brought her comfort and taught her what love and companionship could be like, and though many things she did were distinctly barred from Penitatas, she made grand memories that brought her here - to the place she once attacked as Packet-Storm, to announce a life anew. Harrowing and painful, to caring and heart wrenching, it had surely been a ride these past two years. She had grown, and it was time to show it.
Darting out of the gardens and back into the Command side of the courtyard, the fox's shoes struck the ground softer and less steadily until her run was broken back into a quick walk. With one last check that her shirt was tucked back in and her capri pants weren't sullied by dust from the pond's gravel, Kayla made the short distance back to the side of the stage and gathered people. Carrying on just the same as she left, a different official stood before the glass-like podium, flooded by questions from those standing directly in front of the black platform. More easily heard, it seemed as if the man was being roasted. Once the young Penitatas caught sight of the adoptive parent whom held a law-like authority over her, she took a deep breath through her black canine nose and began listening as she softly approached - as if nothing was wrong, and she hadn't been crying over Jacob out amidst the plants.
"I understand, and I'm very sorry, but Kayla isn't allowed to have this sort of thing.", Kayla's tall ears caught in the breeze, spoken by her mother at a lower sort of volume. It looked as if she was speaking with an aide of some kind, who had come to deliver a present for their counter-hacker on behalf of a higher Starfleet or Federation official. The younger woman, a lighter shade of blonde than Emily's dark, was holding a thin object tucked into a large, decorative gift bag. She looked crushed, or at least pressured, having been ordered to bring the token down but not given additional orders in the event the gift was not accepted. Peering from the top of the bag was something that made Kayla's child-like mind race with glee, seeing the top edge of a thin, decently sized personal holo-vision - meant for a younger rejuve's bedroom. Stepping forward with a quick wag of her bushy tail, her idea of coaxing the pair into letting her keep it was dashed.
"Go ahead and donate it for her, if you would.", Emily added after a thought and a pause, raising her right hand to not only reject a forbidden item, but give it away before her daughter could see it. Far into the past, and out into the future, no child will enjoy having their things given away. Dead in the water, Kayla's tail stopped and she sighed sadly, feeling a little hurt by seeing the sort of small things she still didn't "deserve", according to the rules that govern how she was to be raised. If her mother would send away a free holo, how easy would it be for her to do the same thing to Jacob? Knowing the sort of hardship that laid ahead, the fox shook her head and stepped forward behind her parent, giving a small wave to the woman who had brought down, and now had to withdraw her gift.
"To a hospital, if it has to be done.", Kayla made sure to sound distinctly disappointed, while still throwing enough of a two cents in to make it slightly alright. Her partner on her mind, sending it off to a hospital felt like a sentiment in his honor. Kayla's voice brought her mother to turn, looking as if she had been caught doing something she wished her daughter did not have to hear, nor see.
"Yes madam, we're sorry. I'll take care of it.", the female aide said to both Emily and Kayla, feeling terribly in the middle of what was likely the first time she had ever run into such a situation with a Penitatas. Things like that just never came up. Clutching the bag in both her arms, the assistant made haste to get out of Emily's way as politely as she could; hopefully not feeling too bad over the matter. As Kayla stopped beside her mother, she came to lift her arms and cross them as an uncomfortable bodily reaction. She looked up, giving Emily an eye. While sympathetic, Emily's tone did take a stern note.
"Don't give me that look. You know you're not allowed to have something like that in your room, and... ", Emily started explaining as to why she wasn't permitted to accept such a gift, and that donating it would be the best she could do with it. It was admitably difficult, not wanting to do such things in front of Kayla's face as it was. However, she didn't get very far before getting distracted, stopping short.
"Actually, you're by yourself - how long have you been alone?", the human mother squinted slightly, either out of suspicion or confusion, but even Kayla's acute ability to read facial expressions was lost on the half-hearted nature of her question. It was too obvious that she didn't want Kayla alone in such a big outdoor area, and the girl was not about to outright admit she took a detour.
"Jacob's mom split, so I walked back here. They're headed back home.", Kayla leaned on the truth to reply as best as she could, considering that's exactly what happened as long as she ignored the fact she dawdled. During the fox's explanation, Emily came to roll her eyes and grumble under her breath. She already wasn't the largest fan of Lory after the incident those months back.
"At least you came back on your own. That was very good of you.", she crossed her arms much like Kayla, taking the moment to thank and compliment her daughter for showing such good behavior and maturity when she didn't have enough eyes or arms to keep track of everything they were being bombarded with. Now she couldn't reward that behavior with holo-visions and such things, but the least she could do was safely store the treats and candy left for her girl in all those gift baskets they had been given; to ration as a privilege.
"I'm anxious to get home to your father. I called him this morning, and he told me he spent the night watching over Ki`rene and Ninne. We should start packing and head home, now that I have some transport ready for us.", Emily sounded more like herself, making a motion with her hand for Kayla to follow, as she started for the front of the Command building to pay their suite one final visit. Young and naive to many concepts still, the fox's initial impression was that they'd be taking a transporter home, due to what her mother said; though that wasn't a common method used in daily travel.
"One of the people in those fancier Starfleet uniforms offered to have a shuttle brought here for us. They're taking us back to Calleet.", the human continued to clarify while walking, as Kayla met up at her side with her paws behind her back. At least now it made better sense, but in her head, the girl did feel silly for thinking she'd have to be flung around in another sparkling matter stream. She got used to transporters, but had seen too many yesterday, and was absolutely tired of them. With matters cleared up in San Francisco, the pair could finally go back to their life as it was - though Kayla hoped dearly for a change in what "normal" would be for her.
Picking up her clothing and few new belongings, they were soon met by a small team of officers and aides to assist with gathering and moving everything downstairs. Again the suite was a place where Kayla could feel a lot less like a Penitatas, having others look at her, and speak to her with such admiration and care. It was one of the first times she felt like a guest, shown such hospitality she actually wished she could have kept. All the more humbling, was when she found out they were all passers by, and did not have any specific orders to come and help her and Emily. Holding one full basket, complete with a stuffed bear tucked beneath it's woven handle, there were others to carry the rest when it came time for her to leave that comfortable room for the last time; leaving her data-pad and candy wrapper from the morning sitting upon the table as her last mark left in that room, while her baby; her other half; sat in a dry, conditioned room safely protecting it's displays far below, adjacent to Commander Santorae's office.
Out in the noon sun, bright as could be, Kayla said goodbye to a fair city and the wonderful faces she came to meet. Piled into a personal aircraft powered by more complicated anti-gravity units, the silver, long shuttle took off from the rear of the sprawling complex to give the fox a view from above. She noted the platform she stood upon, and the gardens she ran through, thinking of the day, and the things she came to do. Though, in mere moments, the shuttle launched forward, straight over the bay, and the red San Francisco Bridge across the way from Starfleet Headquarters. Settled into a comfortable blue seat beside her mother, ground getting further away as they took off for the clear skies of the reserved military altitude, Kayla came to nestle herself into her parent's side. Warm and soft, the girl rested her head and eyes, soon falling into a light sleep in wake of her busy morning and secretly frayed nerves. Scarred, even physically when it came to her right paw, leaving Starfleet behind meant the closure of a tough chapter in her life.
Hesitant and thinking of other matters less comfortable, Emily stared down at her Penitatas daughter with a deeply somber look on her face. She came to slowly lift her right arm, placing it over her sleeping child's shoulder, to cup her side and hold her, even if her expression was not lit up with any particular glee now that she had enough time to observe her resting girl, and consider matters beyond her grand deeds and exemplary actions. She heard the Aspatrian's tiny breaths and watched the tip of her tail twitch randomly, as the top end of her muzzle snugged in beneath her breast; ear bent against her side. Adorable, and an easy reminder of how much of a blessing Kayla's continued presence under her wing could be; but there were so many rules for the young girl to follow, and so many hard lessons for her to learn. Jacob and what was to come loomed over Emily's head, just as it did her daughter's - loving the both of them.
Soaring through the North American skies at exceptional speeds, the bulk of the flight lasted a mere thirty minutes before they reached Calleet, and the tiny strip of landing street to which the pair called home. Eased down, the last bump upon the ground roused Kayla from her sleep. Looking out the window to see Ninne's house, dim under a cloudy sky, she rubbed her muzzle and smiled, pleased to be home and able to see her room and all the things that didn't explode or try to maim her. A hatch on the side of the passenger section opened towards their own home, and stepping off behind her mother, the fox was elated to find the kind face of her father, Alex, standing there waiting for her. Shoes clanking down the final two steps, Kayla came to playfully squeal as she ran, tail swinging, to give her less-disciplinary parent a prompt hug, squeezing the man around his waist with her cheek pressed to his belly.
"Oh man is it good to see you!", Kayla nearly laughed out of the relief, face plastered to one of her dad's colorful button-down shirts. He was a symbol of home, out there in their driveway next to the family hover-car. One hand on her upper back and the other behind her head, Alex returned her sentiment with a smile that lessened slightly as his wife walked by, and the two shared a knowing look between each other in passing. She carried the condensed pile of boxes in her arms that the officers broke their baskets down into, too finally able to see her home and enjoy being on the ground; purse strung over her shoulder, with the handle of Kayla's fur brush again sticking out of it's flap, never fitting quite right.
"After hearing what happened, I'm sure glad to see you too.", Alex chuckled fairly loosely, having received a scare that his daughter had been nearly killed on more than one occasion. It was too hard for him to joke about the situation, finding himself at a stronger loss for words than he was used to, as outgoing as he generally was. Kayla was such a soft soul, despite the things she was known for. To slaughter her was an unthinkable act of cruelty, and he was tired of seeing such terrible harm coming to someone who just wanted to pay her dues and be on with her life.
"I saw your paw. Tell me that doesn't hurt, or I am going to get some serious sympathy pains honey.", his voice dropped to a much more somber tone than usual, echoing deeply against Kayla's ear pressed to his belly. Sliding her arms out from around him, the young fox came to lift her paw to chest level, to hold it as she looked up into the face of her father.
"It doesn't hurt for the reasons you see, at least.", Kayla replied with an expressive wiggle of all her fingers, feeling a tad stiff still from pounding her fingertips against the surface of her console. She did, however, want her fur to grow back real fast. Alex ruffled the fur atop her head and sighed, just as the shuttle's anti-gravity engines activated and lifted the craft off the ground without much generated wind or dust.
"Well, you did good. Saved our butts - you're quite the lady there, Kayla.", he complimented, reaching down to tweak the young girl's nose in a semi-playful manner. She'd always been impressive since the moment he found out just who she was, on the day they became a family-in-discipline. For all the things she had done, good or bad, he felt fortunate to be her fatherly figure. As it stood, he only spanked her when she really deserved it, and spent so much of his time working that he had come to feel like an absent parent. While Kayla particularly liked him as the "less strict" guardian, and one she could confide in, he still wanted to be home to play a bigger role, and to at least be available.
"I am going to try and work from home more often, so I can be there for you. You ought to have a dad that's a little more reliable.", he promised, having had a long time in the dark to think about the times she had been swatted and he hadn't be around to play any sort of role in neither her discipline, or cheering her up. Almost having lost her, as well as his wife, and perhaps even his own life, Alex had come to shift his focus towards his family, and trying to be a better husband and parent. He knew he could do it if he clung to his strengths, and learned how to tell his office "no" once in a while. But, as the parent finished his heartfelt words to his girl, his eyes seemed to wander away from her face. Distracted, Kayla could see him peering over her head, squinting and trying to see something.
"Uh, hey honey, turn around.", the older man came to say somewhat strangely, as if he was still trying to figure what was going on. With a flick of her right ear, Kayla turned her head, then her body, coming to see the silhouette of Ninne in the wide front window across the street - the person Alex had been trying to interpret, through her motions and body language, like a game of charades.
Her fellow Penitatas and long time friend, as well as casual adversary for a time, was waving briskly with her open claw, smiling toothily trying to get Kayla's attention. The sky looking various shades of dark blue and gray, quietly looming the potential for rain over their city, it's lack of blazing sunlight left the brown figure visible through the pane of glass. Once Ninne had their audience, seeing them looking her way, the drake looked down, reaching for an object, to which she plastered up against the window with the press of a claw. A sheet of paper, eagerly pointed at by the reptilian girl's free claw, had the word 'Thanks!' written out in black marker; accompanied by a thumbs up to show her approval.
"You're welcome.", Kayla came to quickly snicker, pointing loosely at the sign as she replied to the open air; not as if Ninne would actually hear her in any way. Ninne's sheet of paper was taken off the window, and with a quick fish for another one, the faint shadowy image of the brown drake placed another up against the glass - and Kayla read it aloud.
"I would tell you... ", the fox began to read, placing her furless right paw beneath her muzzle, while her father scratched his head. Across the way, the reptile kept her awkward smile, changing her sheet of paper again.
"This in person... ", came off the next sheet, before the last one smacked lightly against the glass to replace it.
"But I'm grounded.", Kayla read from the black, written words, with an underline highlighting 'grounded' - all of which made her scoff immediately. Lifting her right arm away from her face to gesture out towards the window, she looked back over her shoulder towards Alex with a sharp gripe.
"It figures! I'm home and I don't have anyone to hang out and play with!", the Aspatrian came to openly complain with a rough swish of her bushy tail, while the upset gesture in Ninne's direction made her shrug her shoulders apologetically, as she just sort of assumed what Kayla's body language meant. Coming to hum low and raspy behind his daughter, Alex looked up towards the wet sky with a guilty look on his face.
"That might be my fault. Sorry about that.", the parent came to comment, having been the one to scold Ninne for the last time on a few different matters while he stayed the night at her house. In the uneasy atmosphere that had been created by Velius' efforts, Ninne ended up getting too on-edge for her own good, and just would not stay put or play quietly as she had been told after being unable to sleep initially. Eventually Alex and Ki`rene played as a tag-team, where Alex paddled Ninne briefly and Ki`rene sent her back to the couch to sleep, with the promise of groundation. From it all, the man had been reminded that not all Penitatas listen as well as his own daughter. Through the window, Kayla saw Ninne wince slightly, looking out over her shoulder. With a soft, subdued wave, Ninne said goodbye with a single claw, then left the window as she had likely been instructed - unwilling to make the same mistake twice in one day.
"Why don't you go on inside? It's going to start raining soon, and we shouldn't tempt Ninne into getting into more trouble.", Alex looked down, placing an open hand against Kayla's right shoulder. The window had grown dark and motionless, with nothing near it any longer, and his Aspatrian girl had just been staring as if she was feeling sympathy. She had always felt that way for her friends, and he didn't blame her for wanting to have their company during such a time. It actually choked him up a little, keeping something hidden inside as he encouraged her to head for the house. Looking up over her shoulder, Kayla turned a little and nodded with acceptance; blue eyes reflecting shades of gray from the tall rain clouds looming above, and the diffused light that illuminated them.
"Sure thing dad. Are you coming?", Kayla said with a relaxed tone as she started walking up the driveway, passing the colored, sparkling paint of their hover-car. She walked trying to keep her eyes on him, seeing that Alex didn't much move after she had started off for the door. Giving her a smile, the man lifted a hand.
"I'll be in shortly.", he came to assure, lowering his hands to his sides, and inevitably into his pockets. As Kayla turned and made a jog for the front door to their home, bouncing along on her energetic young legs, Alex turned his head up to the sky and stared at the clouds, happy his daughter was at least home. Hearing the initial chirp from his front door, the man gave a single, slow blink.
Operated by the touch of a slender, furless finger, the home's automated front door split open from it's center to slide it's two halves into the front wall. The faint scent of home rushed past Kayla's ebony nose, feeling the cool, conditioned air breeze through her fur on it's way out through the doorway. Delighted and eager to return to her room and the sense of normality she left behind, the eight year old imagined seeing the plain, stale color of her bedroom and the stuffed orange Aspatrian seated beside her white pillow. Without a friend to celebrate with, it would be a day for rest, holding good old Melissa; her toy pal, and item of comfort when being alone or sad became too much to bear.
The lights within her home were off; with it's interior partially illuminated by the dull gray light seeping in through the blinds covering it's windows. In the low light, as soon as she hopped through the front door's frame, the closing of the automated door cut the light down further; shifting it enough to make light visibly shine off a wooden object across the room in that brief moment. With a slow few steps Kayla approached, wearing a light, broken sort of "knowing" smile.
Seated upon the family's sofa, nestled beside the stairs as the fox had always known, sat Emily, upright and facing the front door in wait. In her hands, tucked against her lap, was the dim image of the paddle Kayla helped to craft with her own two paws, still looking polished and brilliant in it's lack of use. Holes drilled through it's surface, it served to be a deterrent for bad behavior, and an implement of severe implications, used only when the most dire of infractions had occurred. Face to face, separated by only a short distance of carpet, the pair stared at each other for a brief time in uncomfortable, tense silence. Finally put on the spot, Kayla was more than aware of why she stood before her parent, staring down her blistering-capable paddle. It was hard to speak, glared at by her parent's eyes, but the lack of words or actions meant she would have to accept her butterflies, and answer to Emily.
"You don't waste any time.", Kayla spoke softly to the silent, poorly illuminated living room; sounding nervous and solemn in the way she said it. She didn't expect to walk directly into such a thing, so far outside of the situation being on her own terms. The human woman's hands gripped lightly at the edge of the paddle she held, giving a tiny shake of her head without first saying a word.
"I've had plenty enough time to think about it, and I'm not going to let it sit over us for another second.", Emily laid forth her will in a quiet, stern parental tone, turning away from her daughter's successes to delve into her faults, and moral failures - as demanded by her role, duty, and belief. Kayla took a rough breath through her nose, standing uneasily and shifting her weight, as her mother leaned forward on the sofa cushion slightly, to look her dead in the eyes.
"Kayla, all the rules you have to obey are perfectly clear. What on Earth do you think you're doing - choosing a boyfriend while you stand here, under my roof?", she demanded an answer to, firm and full of solid, strict resolve. Low gray light outlining her face and eyes, the sort of subdued, parental anger that flowed through her mind came through to be seen by Kayla's sharp senses. The way she spoke, slow and perfect, the fox suspected she had been waiting to confront her for quite some time, and was relieved in a way to finally be able to tell her just how she felt. Placing her paws in front of herself, fingers tense, Kayla swallowed and attempted to hold the polite behaviors she had shown through the day. At first the words did not come to her, looking around and hanging her head, but she had to meet her mother's eyes, and speak for the relationship she and Jacob held.
"Mom... If anything, I want you to know I'm sorry. So, so sorry.", the young Penitatas had to release her pride and accept her shame, to acknowledge the rules she broke, and the lack of malice she held in doing so. It was never her intent to bring such an issue before her parent, or to allow things to spiral out of control as they ended up. Deep in her voice, barely moving her lower jaw, she apologized gently, and truthfully.
"Can 'sorry' really make up for what has gone on?", Emily squinted, staying in her forward leaning position to ask as a question. Squeezing her paws, Kayla stepped about on her two shoes, seeming to contain a degree of inner frustration and discomfort.
"I don't know, but I still mean it.", her fingers gripped against one another, tipping her muzzle to press lightly in her favor. The president of DeltaStar didn't accept her apologies and it irked her, but she had already sworn back then that she'd offer a decent 'sorry' to anyone who deserved it from her.
As the glare from her mother threatened to burn a hole at the base of her muzzle, between her blue eyes, the gray, subdued light from outside erupted against the back of her shirt and lit up her Ensign's rank insignia as she turned. It was whisked away as quick as it came, followed by the slow, soft footfalls of her father. Looking up at his face for only a brief moment, she saw a light, faint smile, as his hand patted twice against her back in passing, headed for the stairs. She watched him, ears barely folding from their erect positions, as the quiet of the room was broken by clop after another of his shoes up the steps; with one hand on the railing, and not a word. Opening her muzzle to just a bare hint of her Aspatrian teeth, she came to the realization that this had been planned all along, coordinated between her mother, and father. Alex delayed her outside intentionally, so Emily could fetch her paddle and prepare to confront her this suddenly? So, even he knew now, about Jacob - and what that meant to his own duties. As the sound began to dull, fading up the stairs, her gaze broke from them and shifted back to her mother, reeling from discovering she had been trapped.
"Thinking about it, there was nothing that would do enough justice than this paddle.", Emily decreed, lifting it from her lap to hold it at the level of her chest, business-end and holes pointed outwards, as a testament to it's authority.
"The one you swore you'd never do anything so wrong to earn, but then broke one of the cardinal rules. Not even one of mine, but the Counsel's; intentionally disobeying and doing things you absolutely knew were forbidden to you.", the distraught Penitatas parent broke out in scold, gradually raising her voice until it was damming, and accusatory. Struck by her tone, Kayla was quick to wince half way through her mother's rant until the word 'intentional' was thrown in, and she stepped forward with a prompt raise of open, soft paws.
"Mom, mom!", Kayla held her paws up, loose and nearly shaking, to quell her mother's distaste for her actions so that she could stand up in her own defense. Her expression light, she wanted to set things straight, standing as a calm entity willing to see this through, as Za`kira and Jacob showed her the strength to do. As soon as her mother finished speaking, and her paws were in the air, she gently lowered them in the quiet of the dim house.
"I didn't wake up one morning with the idea I was going to go out and break some rules on you. There was nothing intentional about it. We became good friends, then after a while... it just sort of grew.", the timid, emotionally shaken fox tried to explain as best as her frayed young mind could allow. For a pair of rejuves, they saw it as exploring their own personal fruits; a taboo thing hidden behind closed doors. It was a child's way, to hold their secrets dear and try to live as they pleased.
"I like him, and he made me happy. I didn't want to tell myself I was wrong for it, and it was never supposed to come down to... this.", Kayla's paws separated as she gestured loosely out to her sides, to identify what 'this' was. It was to be her thing - her relationship - and her mother was to never be burdened by it's existence. Though, in response to her soft words and attempt to defend herself, Emily grew increasingly agitated. Like her daughter, she too looked distant and distracted, firmly pressing her own thoughts.
"So hiding it was supposed to make it all okay? What do you think you're doing - are you trying to talk your way out of getting paddled?", Emily came to inquire roughly, as if she was insulted by the fact her daughter was trying to stand up for such profoundly disobedient actions; not understanding yet what Kayla was trying to do. Kayla came to fling her paws down at her sides, jaw threatening to quiver under the duress of being under such a heavy squeeze. Staring down her mother, those fingers came quickly back up, and grasped her shirt at her neck. Hurriedly and with little finesse, claws fumbling clumsily at the fabric and buttons, the girl began unbuttoning the garment with lacking care - firmly wanting to put forward a gesture meaningful enough to set her intentions clear.
"No, I'm not! I'm going to do exactly what you tell me to do, and take what I have coming!", the cornered child lifted herself up from soft words, to ones stronger, as she worked to undress and prepare for the object Emily held in her hands; heavy and severe. She was fearful and intimidated, dearly not wanting to feel that paddle's wrath again, even if the first time was a mere taste of what it could do to her. Submissive, proving she was sorry and understood her wrongdoing, she still wanted dialogue, as she came to yank her shirt off roughly, dropping it to her side in the quick motions she was using.
"I want to talk! You deserve to hear all of it, and... ", Kayla continued to rant outwardly, ruffling the white tuft of fur on her chest as her paws bolted downward, and around her body. Pausing her speech, feeling the metal clasp of her new pants, she came to unsnap it without delay, to break it and the Velcro strap of her underwear free of her tail and waist. Clothing hanging loosely around her hips, she considered words she didn't know would be wise or not. Fur and skin at the base of her muzzle curling, she tilted her head and met her eyes dead on with Emily's own, choosing to stand up for the opportunity she felt she had come to earn.
"You know what, I deserve it too.", the Penitatas called on her behalf, walking the unsteady path of nearly talking back, or demanding things when the consequences may have been great. Kayla didn't think she was asking too much, only wanting to talk this out with her mother.
In light of what she said, message received loud and clear through her tone and actions both, Emily settled back into her sofa cushion, clutching the paddle in her lap. While her brows curled a little, the motherly figure relented; as Kayla came to step on the backs of her new shoes, slipping them off from their tied state. Not wasting time, the fox pulled her black pants and dark charcoal gray panties straight down her legs to be desperately thrown off her feet with a few wiggling kicks of a footpaw. Standing in her bare fur as she had many times before, as a last show of obedience and willingness, the eight year old Aspatrian bent her legs, and with the help of a paw upon the soft carpet, settled herself down to her knees. Sitting loosely on them with her legs only partially spread, her paws came into her lap modestly - as the growing girl was becoming slowly less appreciating of the old Aspatrian custom of not wearing clothing at her age, and much more aware of her body and yearning for privacy. Eyes gentle and weak, body tense but lacking all aggression, Kayla came to still her timid tail and look up.
"So lets talk, okay?", the girl offered as softly as she could in wake of her firmer words, not wanting to upset her mother more than she already had. It was all she could think of to do, submitting herself for discipline in hopes of walking away with more than that. Those feet away from her, Emily lifted her right hand from the paddle that bore her daughter's initials, and motioned upwards with it loosely - looking more open to the idea, and a little less riled than she had been before, thanks to Kayla taking the situation as gingerly as she could. Taking the gesture as a motion for her to go on and say what she wanted, the fox scrambled for her words beneath her partially limp canid ears.
"You have to understand, I was just looking for something private. We got along, and I wanted to do something with it. He makes me feel older - a little better about myself.", she tried to explain as best as her inexperienced tongue could allow, wanting to at least set it straight that she meant no harm, and had been "doing something for herself". At least in Kayla's mind, there was a difference between simply disobeying, and disobeying with a reason.
"And that is exactly what a Penitatas has taken away from them Kayla! No privacy, and you live as a child. You can have every friend in the world, but you cannot have some kind of love affair outside of the fact you're here to be punished!", Emily attempted to respond with firm reason, patting the paddle hard enough to make a wooden sound with each slap of her hand against it. To it, Kayla grit her teeth with a sort of inner pain, looking more desperate to fight for what she wanted. The girl extended her right arm, pointing it back behind herself and towards the front door.
"Haven't I earned at least the chance to be happy, with everything I've done? What more can I do to prove myself, and get to have the one thing I really care about? What Jacob and I share... is ours, not theirs!", Kayla came to raise her voice again, finding it becoming shaky as she faced losing her partner in the thick of this tug-of-war. People had showered her with praise, only to end up kneeling on her floor, begging for one thing - just one thing she wasn't allowed to have before! She didn't want to give up what she felt and held for the man she came to adore, respect, and outright admire, just because someone else didn't want her to have that sort of comfort! Coming to smack her paw against the ground, the fox leaned forward and thrust her muzzle upwards, squinting in her upset outburst.
"Tell me why I'm still here! What more can I do - why can't they let me go? I... I earned the chance!", she cried out, filled with the intensely warm and invigorating pictures of her freedom. If she was no longer a Penitatas, she could have the relationship she wanted, and move on to make the business she sought. She could continue as a counter-hacker, and work into her future for something else. Heart pounding, she came clean that she wanted to be let go, if the deeds she had done were truly that exemplary, and she was exactly what society expected of her. Much to her shock, and muscle clenching agony, her mother grabbed her paddle by it's handle and thrust it outward, pointing it's end straight towards her nose; sending her ears flat to her furred head.
"Then maybe you're right where you need to be!", Emily snapped sharply, face scrunching as she essentially slammed the door on her Penitatas daughter's face, and her dreams, if she was going to demand reprieve to excuse the misbehavior she hid beneath her good deeds.
Taken aback, the room fell silent as her mother's shouted words left the air. Flattened ears quivering, Kayla's jaw shook, staring forward in pain-stricken surprise to hear her mother say such a thing. She thought maybe she earned something - anything at all, but beneath her mother's parental scorn, she was still Kayla Ackart; her Penitatas. Slowly coming to hang her head, muzzle pointed at the carpet between her knees, a high pitched, suppressed choking sputter broke the silence. It was like being told her actions meant nothing at all, worthless no matter what she did.
Swallowing uneasily, the older human came to softly settle the paddle back into her side, still holding it's handle as she looked down upon her sulking, tearfully upset child. It wasn't her intention to make Kayla cry - certainly not in that way. Understanding she was upset, frustrated and hurt by all that went on behind her back, Emily came to take a deep breath and recline back into the sofa; feeling her eyes burn just slightly. It wasn't usual for her to say something she so immediately regretted, knowing it not to be true.
"A lot of things have happened, dear.", Emily suddenly spoke after a time, not wanting her daughter to disregard her own accomplishment, especially because she went and told the fox something foolish. Opening what she wanted to say, sounding soft and sorry, the sentiment brought the Aspatrian to sniffle brokenly, lifting her head only enough to look up with her watery blue eyes.
"People are going to be doing a lot of talking, and what you did isn't going to go away. The Counsel can sit on their hands behind red tape, but someone will have to say, or do something, in light of what you went through and did for us. I have no idea when that may ever happen, or if it will take the form you want it to, but you'll have to be patient, and wait for the world to pick it's pieces. You're on a lot of people's minds - you haven't been forgotten.", she went on to gently explain, deciding to put aside her differences with her daughter to be the comforting parent the poor girl needed, aside from the disciplinary issue at hand. After saying a terrible thing, Kayla needed to be granted calmer words, and reassurance, as she looked down into those dimly lit, wet lines of tears beneath both of the child's eyes. The room stayed quiet for a time, with Kayla merely watching, and listening, until Emily slowly leaned forward once more, and sought to set this straight for the last time.
"For now you're still a Penitatas, and you're still my child, and my responsibility. Under this roof, you cannot have a boyfriend. That's the way things have to be.", Emily offered as the easiest acknowledgment of the situation she could provide, to explain her intentions and what was to be in a calm manner. It sank dread into Kayla's sullied heart, sinking it into her belly. Teeth tightly clenched, the girl gave a tiny half-sob, cracking her muzzle to speak in a teary, tired voice - to vent her fear and frustration, at what her mother's words meant.
"So, what, you're telling me I can never see Jacob again?", Kayla questioned in a panic, settling her paws firm into her lap as she looked up and out; shaken, and looking as if she'd break down at the drop of a pin. She stared, wanting to have this clarified once and for all, instead of dancing around emotionally driven words. Like a leaf upon the floor, the Aspatrian girl curled her tail tight to her side and trembled, gripping at the carpet fabric between her legs out of desperation. Emily watched it blankly, coming to lean all the way forward to support her head with her left hand beneath her chin. It was a long moment, drawn out by thought, and regret.
To look into Kayla's eyes, it would take a blind fool to not see the sort of love burning inside her; unwilling to see Jacob leave her side without a fight. Time after time, Emily got to witness the sort of friendship and compassion the pair held between each other, and so it seemed, it blossomed into something more right beneath her nose. To be the person to end that, forced the mother to question what it meant to be a Penitatas parent, and what was allowed to transpire within the walls of her loving, but strict home. As Kayla glared deep inside of her, she imagined Jacob behind right there, standing over her shoulder, doing the same thing - if only to stand up for his partner, and companion. To end the silence, Emily dropped her head and begun to shake it.
"I don't have the heart.", the older human woman appeared to have trouble admitting, as if to say she had been thinking about it for a long time now - and she had. To split up Kayla and Jacob was her original goal, even if she didn't like it. But here and now, faced with the tearful face of her daughter and the memory of Jacob's loyalty, she could not bring herself to become that person; one she would have defined as callous and cold. The fox's face eased, tilting her head to the side as if she was frozen in surprise by her mother's reply. Eyes open wide, moist and motionless, she knelt in silence. She... would still have Jacob? Before she could become too elated, her mother went on, removing the hand from under her chin.
"I still don't know what went on behind my back, or to what extent you took things. If 'fooling around' was something you were even capable of after the things you've had done to you... ", Emily quietly thought aloud in conversation, speaking softly and carefully about the horrors Kayla had experienced in the form of rape.
"You're a bigger woman than I am.", she looked up and admitted for Kayla's sentiment, looking her girl straight in the eye to say. Struck by being told such a thing, Kayla's muzzle opened and she looked on, as if she met a part of her parent she had never seen before. Emily called her a woman, and a bigger one? Deep down inside, even her own mother felt something for her, and it eased back her prior fearful lament. Coming to reach up and wipe her eyes with her one furred paw, leaving one resting on the ground to cover her pelvis with her wrist, the fox took a deep breath and thought about those words.
"What's mine, is mine. I'm not going to let anyone else keep it from me - no matter how much of a monster they were, or how much they stole from me.", Kayla spoke steadily to the fact, sounding headstrong and very much believing in herself, despite the young, saddened tones in her voice. She looked ahead, announcing her victory over the atrocities committed upon her. It was a special thing to share; to which her mother sat up with a nod of her head, motioning slowly as she absorbed them.
"No one could ask any more of you.", she approved with a note of sympathy, though her hands tucked uncomfortably into her lap.
"But, you might not have realized... you just admitted your guilt, by responding to what I said in that way.", Emily felt it appropriate to point out, turning her gaze down to the paddle she held at her side, to stare at it with the lack of any kind of smile. Kayla's head snapped up, muzzle pointed clear up at her mother with wide, trembling eyes. Bit by bit, the kit's teeth bared with worry and disdain, squinting up angrily at her mother. She didn't come to see the volatility of her mother's sentiment until it was far too late. From the look on her mother's face not being one of absolute rage, it seemed the woman didn't come to see it until it had already been said either - not intending for her sentiment to be a trap.
"I really hope you didn't play on... 'those' feelings on purpose, or that'd be the dirtiest-... ", the shaken, teary-eyed Kayla came to say languidly and firm with a trembling voice, afraid her history of rape had been preyed upon as a weapon of espionage, before her mother lifted her head back up and laid the matter to rest.
"No. I meant what I said, but it's all the better I know the truth. The new rules for you two aren't going to be any different now that I know just how deeply your little secret ran.", Emily's tone of voice hinted to her irritation, while Kayla let out an embarrassed, worried whine; reaching up with a single paw to clutch her muzzle, clenching her eyes. Now, with everything out in the open, intimacy included, she really didn't have any privacy left to protect. Thrown to the wind, her personal life was as naked as her own fur - stripped from her fingers.
"I'm sorry... ", Kayla came to whisper, apologizing once more, now that the last thing she wanted to keep sacred was leaked away, along with her last hopes for freedom.
"Things will be different, starting right now, if Jacob is to stay in our life.", Emily worked past her daughter's sad face to begin, wanting to state her nonnegotiable conditions and rules promptly, now that she knew the pair were guilty of things beyond simply holding a relationship. This had undoubtedly been going on for quite some time, to her personal dismay. Raising the paddle to point and make her words firm, and memorable, the mother didn't utter a word until Kayla's eyes were brought back to her attention; staring at the end of the faintly shining wooden implement.
"Listen good, little girl. If Jacob is here, your door is open; with no exceptions. If he spends the night, he stays on the couch here. There will be no more of you going to his house, because I can't trust his mother to watch you two. If the two of you try anything - and either of you can't keep your hands to yourselves - you'll answer to this paddle.", the mother outlined for her daughter to follow, and obey, without question. Lifting the paddle even higher, like before, she pointed it's end right at the fox's nose; dropping her tone without raising her volume, to be as forceful situation demanded of her - refusing to let anything else occur under her roof.
"This is Jacob's paddle too, now. He has to agree to these terms, and if he disobeys them, he'll have to be punished just like you. Hands off, doors open - my only rules.", Emily cited for the sake of mercy, to at least show she wasn't asking for anything extraneous. It was just that she needed to hold her Karrian hero - the boy that lead her through DeltaStar's corridors and took care of her child - accountable for his actions, if he was to continue seeing Kayla. Making the rules wasn't enough, if she could not hold the two to the same consequence, and if Jacob could not agree to those terms, there wasn't any way she could trust him to be in her daughter's company. Fortunately, as harsh as the potential consequence was, and how firm she said it, Kayla was quick to nod her head wearily, to agree to her mother's new guidelines.
"We'll obey, I swear.", Kayla assured with a semi-teary promise, placing both her paws back against the carpet between her legs, to lean forward. Though she didn't sound giddy, there was enough desperation in her voice to say 'yes' to her parent's terms that she was clearly relieved. Dropping her head, staying in her forward leaning stance with her tail at her side, Kayla's ears stayed down as she nearly bowed in respect.
"Thank you.", her voice quivered, thick with honesty, knowing now that she would not lose her partner. She had already lost so much, on top of her gains. As she lifted her head and eyes, pointing her muzzle back at her mother, fingertips upon the floor, Kayla came to find the tip of the paddle was still nearly touching her muzzle. Down it's top edge, her mother glared.
"All of that I can handle, and parent, to set things right, no matter what the Counsel says. The reason I am going to paddle you, is because you lied to me.", Emily's voice sharpened, lifting the paddle to point it outwards in a quick thrust for emphasis - finally able to tell her daughter exactly why she had been so upset and terribly edgy over the matter. To disobey was one thing, but to disrespect and wrong a mother that loved you, despite the letters on the back of your hands, was something that struck home. Kayla's eyes closed slightly as her body loosened, deciding to accept her mother's entire scold, face to face, without drooping or sulking. Paddle returning to her lap, Emily laid down the law.
"Every single time you told me you two were friends, you were lying. Every time you told me one thing, then really did something else, you were lying - and all to my face, taking advantage of the fact I trusted the both of you. I trusted Jacob, and you know what Kayla, I trusted you too, because you earned it. Why do you think I let you have the privacy in the first place, and the time to yourself?", the skilled and offended parent laid upon Kayla's conscience, letting her know it was her trust that let this happen in the first place.
"The lies became so deeply rooted that you began living them, portraying a pair of friends, in a public act. I will never, ever let you walk away from something like this, learning the lesson that you can get away with anything you want, just so long as you hide it from everyone else. It's called being deceitful, disrespectful, and untrustworthy, and that's not at all how you have been raised.", Emily laid into the small fox, highlighting the other side of her actions that she didn't consider in her lovestruck dismissal of rules. Quickly it became hard for Kayla to keep her eyes on her mother's face, wanting to hang her head in shame. There was nothing she could argue with, knowing she willingly lied and mislead her family in order to do the things she did.
"You violated a cardinal rule, knowingly. You wouldn't haven hidden your relationship if you thought it was okay. For what you've done, you're going to have to earn back my trust and any semblance of privacy; until I find out all of this lying is a thing of the past. For even the whitest of lies, I will soap your muzzle - understood?", the woman finished with a stern request for acknowledgment, saying things she knew would cut deep into her girl and show her just how much wrong she had done, treating her family and loved ones in such a way. Her fooling around with Jacob was something that could have gotten even them, Alex and Emily, into trouble with the Justice Department. Tense and queasy with guilt, having been given an earful, Kayla took a breath before answering.
"Yes ma'am.", Kayla accepted, understanding why her mother would be so unhappy. She had really screwed up this time, no matter how good it felt earlier. As she learned a time ago, those memories were ones she would have to cherish; losing her partner's touch, if she was to save his scale from Emily's experienced hands.
It was then that the sofa creaked, as her mother rose to her feet with a push off the arm of the couch. Paddle held in her right hand, house growing dimmer from the thickening clouds, Emily looked down upon the repentant eyes of her Penitatas. The look across her face was a familiar one, filled with dread and apologies, as she waited for instructions. This time her misdeed was much more severe, and she would pay a hefty penalty for disregarding the will of her parents, as well as the people who govern her discipline as an incarcerated criminal.
"For what you did, I'm going to paddle you as harshly as I am allowed. I promise blisters, and not a drop of nano-lotion.", the blonde haired mother prescribed to her daughter, as the consequence for a Penitatas doing all the things she had done. She had quite a lesson to learn in honesty, and respecting rules she didn't like.
Knelt at her mother's feet, the fur on the back of Kayla's neck threatened to stand on end. Like a deer in the headlights, her eyes grew listless and her maw dropped, frightfully processing the sort of punishment she had been promised - now fully open to Emily, now that she was eight years old. On cue the fox's heart began to flutter as she threw her tail behind herself and leaned back, imagining it could take nearly two weeks to naturally heal all of the blisters and bruising her mother would cause. Stumbling, the young girl whimpered and whined, paws open in shock as if she was trying to think of something - anything to say.
"Is there really any way you could claim to not deserve that?", Emily held the paddle down against her hip and thigh, asking plainly to prove her judgment. She was calm and headstrong in the face of her girl's dread, having given the consequences for her fox's lies much consideration. Jaw trembling, Kayla came to grit her teeth, shaking her head without a word; tense as a stone.
"And you accept you earned your paddling, right?", her parent drilled softly, making sure this was nothing but fully understood. The spanking would be severe, but it was based entirely on Kayla's misdeed and nothing more. It was wonderful to be home, and Kayla was still her furry blessing no matter what foolish thing she did. Now known as a good hacker, and the savior of many, the girl who was still learning came to nod her head faintly, nearly sniffling as it was.
"Yes.", Kayla admitted with a weak, soft voice.
"Your room.", the Penitatas was directed by a swift order, calmly spoken with the added gesture of a paddle for the stairs at their side. With her mother focused upon her duty as a parent, the young Aspatrian looked up with her tepid, sullen expression for only a moment longer before she gently came to stand.
Showing how she felt on the inside, Kayla stepped by Emily's side with her tail defensively tucked against her backside and thighs, with it's tip dipped between her legs. She feared the swatting to come, and her white tail-tip said 'I'm sorry'. Head turned, the motherly human came to watch her adopted, furred daughter lightly began her trek up the stairs as she had been told; stepping cautiously with her right paw on the wall's wooden rail. From her place next to the bottom step, Emily had one final thing to add - and it was something for Kayla's thoughts to consider, facing what she did.
"You should give yourself some credit though. You've come a long way.", Emily complimented of the fox out of the blue, reaching around her body to point upward loosely with her left index finger. Kayla halted her bare paw's steps, stopping to look down over her shoulder. Not sure where her mother was going with that, she squinted over the sudden uncertainty of what she could have meant.
"That wasn't a calm discussion, but you still managed to not say a single swear word.", she opened her left hand, pointing out that unforeseen feat. Swearing like a sailor was something had Kayla struggled with since the day she became a Penitatas, having trouble with even the most basic conversation etiquette - to the extent that her liquid soap became a common, if not frequent punishment. Too worried and distracted to be watching her mouth with all of her efforts, Emily found the fox to be doing it naturally - as if she finally found some control over her old grungy language. Up the carpeted steps, Kayla's brows eased loose, breaking her squint as her head turned halfway; facing the wall at her side as the realization struck.
"I didn't, did I?", the apprehensive fox's voice still seemed to quiver as she questioned with personal surprise; mumbling as she paused that moment. She had been getting better, but she'd never demonstrated such a thing before. As the paddle below gently ushered with an upward wave, she was distracted from thinking too much about it; sent back on her disciplinary march for the top of the stairs.
In the house's upper hallway, Kayla's bedroom was only a few steps away through an open automated door, bleeding a faint light into the dim corridor from her window. Cream colored walls and a gray-blue carpet greeted her yearning eyes to deliver peace, despite the room frequently being the site of her spankings and various punishments over the time she had been within these plain walls. It was her personal space and a place to feel at home, even on those nights she would stand sore and teary-eyed, staring up at the stars when a swatting before bed prevented her from resting comfortably. The room had been untouched since she departed for DeltaStar a day ago, with her closet open and her bed unmade as it had been left. A glance at the head of her bed at the pattern of strewn sheets left behind invoked mental ghosts, remembering the kiss she shared with Jacob that morning, recovering from falling ill. Right next to her white pillow, Melissa laid knocked on her side; teddy-bear-like arms and legs facing the wall, and tail half beneath the pillow.
Stepping in far enough into her room to place her paw on the end of her bed, she felt her sheets with bare skinned fingers. All white, entirely plain and simple, just like the drab walls and lack of any personality that surrounded her. This room of solitude was a place where her accomplishments disappeared from view, forced to tuck them into desk drawers, just as her Starfleet badge and Ensign's pin would end up. The sterile place was emphasized by the disciplinary implements stored in her closet, and by the tall wooden punishment stool that sat in the corner of her room next to her desk, to be seen as a constant reminder. While home, it was her place of penance; to receive what a Penitatas receives, and understand this was a time to be sorry.
Mind dulled on her longing for this room, relieved and comforted by seeing her things, place, and the little orange Melissa, Kayla didn't move her head once her ears heard her mother walk behind her. The window making few sounds as it was struck by infrequent drops of rain, her top closet shelf rustled as Emily pulled her child's old tail restraint from it's resting place. Tail hanging and expression stiff, facing out towards the running droplets of water, she had to be brought back into her moment of discipline by a pat on her left arm; to turn and find her mother taking her seat upon the side of her bed, facing the closet and it's opaque bins of clothing. Admitably hesitant, Kayla found her eyes wandering as she rounded the bed to inevitably crawl across her mother's legs; finding a painful irony that her toy chest was mere feet away, and she'd be spanked in front of it.
No longer needing additional directions in her older age, the young girl stepped to her mother's right side and climbed up with a knee on her bed. The room was quiet and serene, with only the light pitter-patter of rain to grace Kayla's ears as the front of her thighs pressed to the side of her mom's own, to be secured over her lap without being told. Laying down and submitting herself, elbows against her bed, Kayla's sullen face looked down into the wrinkled sheet she had left. She wanted to blubber childishly, knowing the sort of paddling she was about to endure, and what such continuing discipline meant to her goals - her dreams. Feeling the fur on her left side pull and rustle, she tried to look over her shoulder to see what her mother might have been trying to lean over and do. While she couldn't see all too well, the feeling of a strap around her ankles made her nervous; knowing well that her mother had fetched her tail restraint, and it wasn't generally used for alternative purposes.
"Ma'... ?", Kayla asked meekly, leaning against the bed helplessly as the firm grip of her tail restraint's collar lashed her ankles together. While brief, the moments of her mother's wordless work brought the fox to grip at her bedsheets, feeling a tugging against her bound feet.
"I'm making sure your legs stay down. Not stopping until we're done.", Emily came to answer once she got a deep enough breath, having been holding it to bend over far enough to work upon her daughter's Aspatrian ankles. The tail restraining portion of the harness had been secured to the head of Kayla's bed, essentially binding her legs together and tying them down - preventing any kind of kicking or squirming she might try. It was a very clear indicator of how harsh her mother meant to be, and that this spanking would shatter past any pain resistance Kayla may have had and go far, far beyond, until the point an adult would be a broken mess.
Taking a single gulp, the Penitatas faced her muzzle forward and placed it against the soft surface of her bed; hiding her curled lips and terribly shaking jaw in the low light of her room. Accepting her punishment made her no less apprehensive, understanding through experience that this would hurt more than anything else had before. All she could do was be sorry, howl, and endure, until her error was turned into blisters and allowed to melt away with time. Just as most times before, and now a very familiar sensation she expected, she felt smooth human skin grace the fur and bony appendage that was her fox tail; sliding down to near it's base to pull it towards her back and gain leverage. Such motions had an tenancy to pull on the rim of her anus, to the extent that the sensation was little embarrassing at this point, at least in the company of her mother. She did hold her tail much tighter than that of others, having been smacked by it before in the midst of her tail's flailing.
"Now that I have you over my lap, I don't feel so mad anymore.", the blank-faced, stiff fox kit heard spoken surprisingly softly above her; slow and exceptionally calm. Emily did not smile, looking down over her daughter's gray-blue illuminated fur to see the familiar crease of her bottom and the shape of her legs. In a way it was soothing to share something with her daughter they had done so many times before; bringing them back into a normal world, even if her tone hinted to a deep down sympathy. To be here meant they were alive, safe, and together - thanks to the rejuve across her lap, who fought on when she herself wept, or lashed out in fear. Emily had been able to say everything she felt she needed to, in order to let Kayla know what she did was wrong and hurtful on a critical level, but at the same time, that she was loved.
"Just be good for me, and... thanks for seeing that we'd come home.", the parent said without her stern nature, appreciating what Kayla had done for her and the world. Emily too held the fox to a high degree, and with her emotions quelled, she came to accept her daughter did not need any more parental tones. She'd do her duty, teach as they have always known, and be her child's guardian; to care for her. Tucked against the bed, Emily's gratitude struck a nerve and brought Kayla's teeth to clench as she began a silent cry. Eyes squeezed tight, a line of watery fluid seeped between her orange lids; staying stiff to hide her weakness.
Paddle in hand, heavier and longer in shape than the painted one of a year past, Emily thought it was time to deliver a consequence earned. The room cool and smelling of home, lit through the falling drips of rain running down the window, she moistened her lips and took a breath.
"Ready?", the human woman came to ask thoughtfully, not rushing a usually well-behaved Penitatas into a paddling to which she could never be prepared. Using the end of the paddle, Emily brushed the hanging strands of blonde hair on her right side over her shoulder as Kayla choked lightly.
"Ready.", young Ensign Ackart accepted after a tiny pause with a voice just above a whisper, and filled with her solemn, teary air. She didn't know how terribly cooperative she could be, but as always, Kayla would at least try. It was the least she could do, having woven such an intricate web of deceit, to protect a second life she could not have. This would be in honor of the memories she and Jacob came to share, and the love she learned to enjoy.
Kayla's eyes came to open slightly, staring over the blurry, illuminated hills of her bedsheets before she gave a single blink and closed them slowly; all above a clenched face of stretched muscle. She frowned in her quiet tears, quivering and fidgeting her fingers under the intense anticipation of the first swing of the paddle, until the motionless silence of the room was broken by a whistle of air that her ears effortlessly detected. Submissive and willing, even though this confrontation with her parent went much differently than she planned, the fox did little more than flinch in the fraction of a second before the face of her paddle met fur, flesh, and deep muscle with enough force to crack the sound of thunder alongside the gentle rush of rain. Meeting with the promise that she'd deliver the paddling with the greatest punitive force she was allowed, the strike of the paddle was excruciating with a mere solitary blow - creating a clap heard clear down the stairs, and through the kitchen. Muscles contracting violently, Kayla's shoulders pulled her arms close and balled her paws into fists, as she cried out a terribly pain-stricken squeal through a tightly shut maw.
Blazing, burning pain surged through her body to be multiplied by another swat of the powerful paddle, and another as Emily found her rhythm - aiming for precision and steady discipline. With only a brief pause between swats, just as intended for a Penitatas, the wooden instrument was utilized as if it's target was a much older child; if not an adult being paddled by a young teenager's paddle. Each strike of wood against fur caused an eruption of pain and reverberating sound, as the spanking itself made Kayla jerk and squirm with lacking control over her muscles' dire, protective tensions. Landing square against her bottom, striking from the base of her tail to the base of her backside, the ripping sort of sting and bruising sensations brought her bed to shake lightly; hit with the force of her ankles trying to kick, only to transfer their energy to the bed frame they were bound to - harness going taut. Arms scraping and thrashing against her unkempt sheets, Kayla's crushingly clenched eyes and teeth could only hold out so long before a heavy, punishing spank of her paddle against the lowest portions of her backside caused her jaw to shoot open with force. She screamed in personal agony, low and sharp, dripping a line of tears to be slowly absorbed into her orange fur; desperately grabbing hold of her sheets in her trembling paws to keep from reaching back to protect her beaten exterior.
"S-s-stop! That's-... !", the writing little Aspatrian tried to plead, having had no idea her paddle was capable of this much. The taste she first received was using normal Penitatas forces and stopped when two tiny blisters formed on each side of her bottom. Bound with no way to kick her legs and get away from such massive, pounding swings of the paddle, she felt surely they had already reached that particular point where blisters could start to form within only ten swats. Above, taking no pleasure, Emily's face hung loose. Seeing Kayla thrash her arms, pulling a wad of bed sheets close to her muzzle - sobbing and crying like she meant it - she tried to understand her daughter's panic. She wanted to assure it would all be okay, and despite the pain it would all heal, but in the thick of her parental duty, the mother's mouth remained closed.
Throbbing and searing like a fire, filled with sting and ache, Kayla's body accepted swat after swat with only half of her consent. Nothing before had ever hurt this badly, and with the speed her mother chose, the fox had been broken into shrill, panicked cries and words she could not finish - to try and say it was all too much, though it was meant to break her to the core. The paddle able to cut the air with so little resistance, thanks to it's holes, every spank went to bone to make a swatting that was hard to endure from the first fall of the heavy wooden plank. Tearing into skin with explosive force, time after time with shock-waves that rippled painfully down her thighs and up her tail, there wasn't much an eight year old could do even if she was accustomed to corporal punishment. Blinded by her own tears and the endless excruciation, the fox was promptly spanked to the point of howls - lifting her muzzle from the bed to curl her lips, frozen stiff, with a canine cry that filled the house, still filled with such tearful energy. Crying copious, punitive tears, a hard swing of her mother's arm struck her hard enough to bruise the front of her thighs and send two salty droplets twinkling through the air from her eyes.
Falling beneath the successive swats of the paddle, the fur on Kayla's backside was shifted and brushed every which way. The base of her tail thrust itself randomly to try and escape Emily's fingers, but she only came to pull tighter; making the wrinkle of flesh her thin, soft fur protected that much of an easier target for the brutal force of the paddle's wide swats. Tissues swollen and welted badly, struck repeatedly right down to the very tips of her thighs, blisters were being born to be further punished. Cells and tiny vessels leaking from the strength of Emily's spanking, the points that saw the brunt of the paddle's initial impacts were filling with tiny amounts of clear fluid found in the hardest of punishments - once the skin was damaged to that degree by something with enough speed and broad force. Hidden from sight, untouched by the low light, the girl's bottom was one unified, thickening welt, lined with rims of badly stinging skin. High or low, the paddle landed straight across with her legs having nothing to do to stop it; bruises turning into baseball-like sensations within her throbbing muscle. Worn and tenderized, the natural urge to clench her bottom was met by the damning fact she was losing the ability to solidify her muscle, leaving her backside soft and utterly defenseless as she howled, screamed, and cried with the greatest of lament.
And it went on. Swat after another, her folded ears heard the deafening impacts of the paddle, continuing to punish tissues that were gradually turning a terribly dark shade of crimson, with tiny spots of purple and the dreaded white; where each spank turned them into red-hot coals against her frayed nerves. It was all too much for her to handle, filled with so much desperation to escape such an intense agony, and the seemingly endless pounds she felt thrusting her body forward - pulling the fur of her ankles with the restraint that held them tightly together. Chest arduously tight and air at a premium, Kayla's teeth remained bared to the dim light and open air as a sign of massive, deep pain far beyond what she could accept quietly. It came to the point that all of her crying fell weak, sobbing so loosely and tearfully that the easiest way to tell she was feeling the paddle's searing bite was the canine-like sounds that melded into everything that came out of her maw. Normally ashamed by howling, now even her whimpers, whines, and loud sobbing was filled with a low, growling and sad howl-like rumble. She was in great pain, having blisters pounded upon until the kinetic forces that punished her made the wood of her paddle hot to the touch.
For what would be the last time, the hole-laden Penitatas disciplinary device struck her clear across the base of her rear; to deliver a sting and pair of tiny blisters to a point that would count the most. It's power made her legs jolt hard enough to fray a line into her tail restraint, cutting into nerves in her upper thighs that sent a swarming burn coursing through her legs; flowing into places that very much didn't like the scorn of any kind of spanking, from a girl's point of view. Then, like the wind, the room whistled sharply. One, two, three - she was struck in the same spot with an added increase to the paddle's downward velocity and tempo. The ache and agony so severe, Kayla's back arched and her muzzle pointed up high, propped up on weak paws.
Her muzzle curled intensely, teeth bare and maw open as if she was snarling without a sound. Light from the rain-coated window struck her eyes and lines of tears, contrasting her dry fur with the soaked patches beneath her eyes. Spittle coating her canid lips, free from further thunderous crashes of the paddle, the fox remained softly trembling as she took a tiny breath and let out a bloodcurdling Aspatrian cry. Crossed between a howl and a long, drawn out sob, Kayla had no ability to hold back her volume - screaming out her pain as her head slowly fell; muscles unclenching. With a sudden slump, the girl's head and muzzle smacked the bed and she began a steady, powerful bawl. Faced with the burn of her backside and the nails-on-a-chalkboard style of stabbing sting her blisters created between layers of skin, her bound footpaws rubbed against each other, and her right paw came to wearily dart for her bottom. Paddle at her side, all Emily had to do was gently take her offending paw by the wrist and hold it away; using as little strength as possible.
In the end, just inches from her trembling, desperate fingertips, her backside had been paddled outright raw. A set of eleven blisters coated her hard, badly punished skin and muscle. Four rose on each peak of her butt, radiating a punitive heat, with three falling even lower to include one tucked directly into the crease at the base of her rear - pinched by her own thigh. All intact and safe, they would fill with a small amount of clear fluid to cause great discomfort above her massive, soon to be black-and-blue bruises. Choking and sputtering, Kayla cried aloud like an eight year old infant.
Looking down over her daughter's backside and heavily swatted feminine curves, Emily came to take a shaky few breaths; coming to release Kayla's tail, which thrust itself over her rear and legs, and hardened protectively. Coming to feel it might have been a lesson in itself, the mother decided to loosen the grip she had on the fox's wrist, to let her have those few last inches - to feel the cluster of blisters she had, and that she had indeed not been ripped open. Sharing the touch with her own fingers, keeping her hand around Kayla's wrist, she came to analyze her paddling while letting her girl's fingertips follow along over the raised, dark red skin and lumps of blister. They felt soft and broken down, sending a shot of pain up her spine that brought Kayla to withdraw her paw with a hard pull that broke her wrist free from her mom's gentle guidance. It's sudden nature made Emily wince, but after such a paddling, she felt she couldn't say much about how her daughter handled it. No one could have, unless they were as hard as a stone.
"Just cry Kayla. Be still.", Emily turned to a soothing voice, placing her free, open hands against her daughter's back to rub it here and there. Appreciative that her Penitatas accepted her punishment and had already done so much good, her duty became separate from her urge to parent. Fingers stroking through soft, warm fur, she felt each choke and sob through Kayla's back as she massaged stiff muscles casually, to comfort as she wished outside the realm of required discipline. It was neigh impossible for a loving parent to perform such a punishment and not want to give their child the world when it was over.
"Penitatas or not, things will still be much different for you. Who would want to hurt you now?", the older mother came to talk softly, face looking as if she was feeling sullen along with her child. Her words looked in on how she felt, hoping she would never have to pick up a paddle and use it to that severity again as she watched Kayla cry in pain and sorrow. Upholding the rules and being responsible parents fell on her and Alex alone, if their daughter was to remain within these plain, cream colored walls. Hands becoming still against her girl's back, with her left hand cupping Kayla's right shoulder blade, she came to sigh lightly and uneasily in wake of her words, and there being no reply. Only cries, and streams of tears. There was little she could merely say to make all of the pain go away - paddling or otherwise.
Assuming a tight lipped frown with an unsteady jaw, Emily blinked to bat the discomfort in her eyes away as she leaned over towards her right, to undo the harness that bound Kayla's ankles and stopped her from squirming away. As soon as her fingers began working on the collar that lashed her legs together, the woman found muscles stiffer than she left, and fur that looked frayed from friction. Though, much to her shock and initial bewilderment, Kayla burst into motion as soon as the collar fell loose from around her young, bony ankles.
With a kick against the bed frame with her toes that made a hard knock against the wall, the tearful fox flung her footpaws to the ground and lunged forward - latching her arms firmly around her mom's torso, to bury her face and muzzle against the human's sternum. Crying like a baby, open mawed and drawn out, Kayla came to show exactly what she wanted in order to feel just a little better. Fingers barely moving, at such a loss, Emily came to close her eyes and grit her teeth; coming to embrace her child, and comfort her. That duty she sometimes neglected, which brought tears to her eyes in this moment, forced to listen to the deeply crushed sobs and whimpers of her adopted Aspatrian.
Mercifully, Emily came to place her left hand against Kayla's upper back, and her right hand behind her head, to keep her close and tight. Against the very bottom of her belly, felt faintly through the front of her pants and her blazer, she was aware Kayla's tail was tucked entirely between her legs, pressed up against the fox's front. Fur between her white, soft skinned fingers, the mother stroked comfortingly as she tried to console herself, as well as her child. It had been such a profoundly terrifying time, only to end this way - spanked and left in a dark room.
"There, there... ", Emily came to whisper with a mildly teary tone, which she swallowed hard upon hearing. Embarrassed and uncomfortable, she did not want to sound like that for Kayla.
"It's all okay now. We can stay here as long as you want.", she invited and soothed, shushing her rejuvenated daughter to help her quell the pain and tears that tormented her. Holding Kayla beneath her breast, allowing the young hacker to let out anything she needed, she came to imagine the fox's dream of moving on from this, and starting that business. Emily did not know what would happen from here, but with a shaky voice, there was something she wanted to share. Something that dulled the line between parent, and Penitatas parent.
"I'm sorry too, Kayla. Me too.", the seasoned mother could not hold back her tearful voice, holding Kayla as she would her own. With those words, as simple as they were, they made the fox squeal quietly, rolling it into a series of sobs that changed after they were gone, soaking her mother's clothing with her tears and contorted, pain-stricken face. A couple of rocks from Emily were followed by a kiss atop the child's head, playing the role she always should have - upset, angry, overwhelmed, or not.
It was like that, Emily and Kayla came to stay for a short time, while the rain relaxed their spirits. As the fox's tears began to dull enough for Emily to speak to her, rubbing against her back, she decided she'd have to say something at some point. Against her sides, the grip Kayla had was growing weak and loose - suggesting to how tired she had become, and how much of a toll all of her efforts played upon her small frame. Her affection and care could comfort so much, before time would have to take over and wash away the rest.
"I want you to crawl into bed. No stool; just lay down.", Emily tried to encourage and direct softly, forgoing a trip to Kayla's punishment stool she had considered earlier in the day. Kayla whimpered in a way that came out like a series of sobs, turning her head to slump against her parent's stomach; side of her muzzle plastered there while she cried.
"You're... punishing me?", Kayla sputtered out brokenly, still barely able to move her stiff, saddened jaw. Emily could only hold the fox a little tighter, trying not to get further upset herself. Her reply came with a hesitation, breathing a few times and seeming to make a sound, before stopping back to silence prior to answering.
"I... shouldn't mince my words. Yes, I'm confining you to your room. You need your rest - you have to stay here.", the older of the two women decided to be blunt and forthcoming, understanding her order did mean grounding her child. It would only be for the day, and was meant to be entirely beneficial to Kayla.
"I meant what I said. Not a drop.", Emily reminded about the paddling she prescribed and administered, wanting to make it perfectly clear why it would be a good idea to stay in bed and sleep for a while. To do so meant to add a parental tone, but she at least felt it was appropriate in guiding her young fox.
Limply and with a lacking eagerness, Kayla slid her paws and arms from her mother and crawled carefully onto the bed beside her; tail remaining between her legs. As she came to reveal her muzzle and Aspatrian face, Emily found her eyes were still mostly closed, and her tears still very fresh, even after the time they shared. Struck with guilt, Emily rose to her feet, uncertain of herself as her girl landed her head against her pillow. Mostly on her soft, creamy orange belly, Kayla laid with one knee over the other and her tail between them, holding onto her pillow as she lamented much more quietly than she had before, in her throws of pain and agony. With her Emily carried Kayla's paddle, holding onto it for now so that her Penitatas would not have to look at it.
"I'll call you down for dinner. It'll be a big one.", the human woman wanted to say on her way out, slowing her steps down as she headed for the door to look back and assure. Looking over the Aspatrian form lit up by the window, her child's legs nor tail moved, as she looked upon her sobbing back. She waited, hanging her head with the hope Kayla was just trying to find a few words, but alas - only her tears came. With nothing left but a deep breath, having many things to think about and come to terms with, Emily stepped out of Kayla's room with a gentle push of the door's operating button; closing the door to provide her child some deserved peace. All she had seen and done, now impacted by her Penitatas' understandable grief, she intended to partake in a little synthahol and find peace herself, with Alex at her side.
There was no denying the fact Kayla was right. If her Penitatas status had been lifted, she would not have been in this position, and all would be well. But, as it were, they would have to wait, and the fox would have to cope with remaining a Penitatas, despite the goals she came to adore with a child's gumption.
As soon as the door to her room closed and she was by herself, Kayla hastily and roughly grabbed her pillow, stuffing it over her head and Melissa both. Muzzle beside her long beloved toy and emotional companion, her eyes opened and quivered tensely in the dark; muffled from the light rain outside the walls that confined her. Right paw rubbing the edges of where she had been paddled, and all of the sensitive skin directly beneath the base of her fox-like tail, the poor girl was faced with all that she had lost, when she gained so much.
Paddling accepted and over, she was now left to nurse the massive ache it left behind, for days and days on end. She had to cope with never feeling the touch of her loving companion, Jacob, and losing every shred of privacy and personal dignity she might have ever had. Then, on top of all that, she had to let her very hopes and dreams slip through her fingers, as forbidden and unreachable items. She was still a Penitatas, and that meant no boyfriend, and no freedom. Instead of holding her partner's hand and diving for the future, starting a company and building a life, she would have to remain here, waiting for the day she could do all those things. Nothing at all was certain about where she would go from here, or if her mother was right, and that good things would come in time. Being pardoned had become too sweet a wish to just let go as if she never thought of it, having imagined a beautiful life. Like a child experiencing a loss, as if her favorite toy disappeared, Kayla released her sorrow and grieved.
Closing her eyes, the fox came to open her muzzle, crying beneath her pillow. Narrowing her canid lips and closing her jaw slightly, she let go of how she felt in private.
"Ar-rrrrooooooooo... ", Kayla howled out quietly, simply out of pure sadness. Jaw coming to quiver and tremble, she sobbed once and slowly began another quiet, solemn howl of a puppy's cry. There was only one thing she knew, mind so distraught in wake of all she had faced and the losses she came to incur, pulled from her love and dreams.
She was heartbroken.