Kayla: Wings of Fate
In the 28th century, the technology of rejuvenation allows for immortality. This device is also used for sentencing as well. A penitatas; a criminal that is sent back to childhood to live a highly strict and disciplined life to start anew.
(Story Fifty-Eight)
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Concept by Lurking Dragon
Kayla and story by Professor Bob



It seemed no matter how many times Kayla came to walk upon it’s marble tiles, the sudden rush of formal activity reverberating off of it’s carved, ornate wood panel walls would instill intimidation when she crossed the threshold of the Calleet Courthouse’s wide automatic doors. It was where she was when her life completely changed, learning how to use the limbs and vocal cords of a new six year old body to greet the human couple she came to call her mother and father, and it was destined to be the place it would all come to an end someday. Surrounded by suits and dulled, earthen colors of government authority, the tightness around her heart only crushed deeper within as she walked between Emily and Alex, eyes forward with a serious, rough look beneath a pair of faintly curled Aspatrian brows. Expression that of defiance and inner will, the hurried bustle of the morning to get her to the courthouse urged the adult side of her mind forward, taking on a look as if she was still sitting behind her old computer console waiting for unseen war. Feeling like she could make no misstep or mistake out of need for self-preservation, she understood that her coming years – her very life – would be decided by the parole hearing she was granted, to which she was not promised any favorable ruling.


A parole hearing was something all of Calleet’s Penitatas would come to experience when their current cycle came to an end on it’s last birthday, stepping in front of a Justice of the Penitatas Court. If their sentence was incomplete and still had further assigned cycles, facing a return to the rejuvenator to serve more years of their sentence, the hearing was to determine their coming fate; continued hard time, the blessing of a reduction down to soft time, or their early parole – the designation of Completatas. The only guaranteed ‘out’ from being a Penitatas was to finish all of their cycles, meaning they could be a hard timer the entire way through if their debts to society were not deemed paid, and their merits not warranting. The judgment having such an impact, it was not a comfortable experience to be in Penitatas Court even if you weren’t answering to new charges and judicial paddling; examined for every misbehavior at home and demerit received in school. It had the potential to be the brightest day of that Penitatas’ sentence, or make them cry the most regretful of frustrations, hoping for their discipline to be eased when it may never – reprieve from punishment needing to be earned, and not coming easy.


In Kayla’s case, the cards she held were worse. So far from turning twelve and ending her first cycle of two, there was even the chance she could be sent home with absolutely nothing – no changes to her sentence or classification. A permanent end to her desperate wish to see something good come from all she did with Starfleet, and live the life she yearned to grasp for herself, in the form of someone setting a grand stage to simply tell her no.


The only time she had to prepare her mind for the hearing was a long hover-car ride home, sitting on a copious sheet of furiously stinging switch welts that only came to feel more like tiny scrapes and cuts as time went by. So rough and imperfect compared to the straight clean lines of a cane, it was an organic, natural sort of pain; that maple tree’s lasting imprint upon her. It and her mother’s corrective lash gave her plenty to think about, mulling through her young and hopeful mind that she needed to be her absolute best if she were to avoid experiencing the same sort of aches as the one sunken into the car’s seat, and regain the freedom she was so steadfastly committed to. The dream of being able to spread her wings with purpose, and with someone she cherished, was what kept her heart alive through the recent ups and downs. Thankfully, as the hurry of the morning raced on her behalf, she was warmed and humbled by the surprising fact that she was not alone on that journey she was embarking upon.


As soon as the Targate family landed in their driveway, Emily gave her the pass-code for the medicine cabinet in her bathroom with the open invitation to apply nano-lotion as broadly as she needed in her preparation to shower. Kayla had never had free access to nano-lotion before, much less something as specific as the code to obtain it at will. Even if the spanking she had gotten was well earned, it seemed Emily had no intention of letting her keep it’s remnants when her focus and ability to be herself was on the line. Able to comfort and finish getting ready with independence, it was easier to let her childish fetters go from the earlier event of being disciplined like an errant rejuve, to stepping up for the bigger things rejuves had the capacity to do. With nothing left but the occasional itch from the nanites; more noticeable at the base of her tail, because obviously; her clean fur was met with the most mature and non-feminine attire her father could find in her dresser, knowing how she’d want to present herself in front of a judge with that helping hand of what would look best. Alex knew business-casual well, after all.


It left the fox’s dressier shoes to make a firmer clack against the marble floor than more leisure days prior, dressed in black trousers with a white, tucked in long-sleeve button-down shirt that went well with her natural fur colors, looking like a miniaturized adult. Though she walked with a heavy air about her, muzzle as silent as a mouse, a part of her spirit remained at ease from the support and care she had along the way; something that Jacob so sorrily lacked and wished for. As it were, Kayla didn’t know about what happened between him and Lory, only getting to see Jacob one last moment before she was ushered into their hover-car. Melissa, cradled protectively in his hands as if she was a little living thing, was given back to her in passing without so much as a word. The look across the green of his snout was so sad, and he turned it away from her so fast, as if not wanting to bother her with it, or to simply run away from having it questioned. It was difficult to think about, wondering if he was okay, trying to keep her mind as clear as she could while it still managed to rattle with noisy, intrusive thoughts.


Above her as they walked, Alex and Emily looked at one another across the divide of Kayla’s ear-tips, sharing a look of gentle concern as they summoned and so stepped onto the turbo-lift they’d all used before. It took them up to the third floor where the Penitatas courtrooms were in it’s inertial-dampened leap, setting the family on their final stretch; so lead by the stiff one with a tail, forcing her legs forward in silence. But, from the look her parents had shared, Emily stepped a little faster on her feet, reaching out with a careful hand; dressed in a dark women’s skirt and blazer, still sporting her new ponytail.


Kayla, you haven’t said a word since we left the house. Would you like to talk before we go in?”, she asked with a tender, hushed tone for privacy and to comfort, using the tips of her fingers against Kayla’s shoulder to slow her walk; marble tile turning to a red carpet with gold inlaid patterns as she stepped into the same hallway Ashley Ellin came to be judicially paddled so long ago. The young girl lifted her head to address with both her muzzle and eyes, willing and happy to talk, though the tightness of her face and overall body language didn’t change much, so on edge and serious in the way it outwardly radiated.


I’m just scared. That’s all. I’m counting on me, and I never know if I can be counted on.”, Kayla spoke up with a ring of coy uneasiness, experiencing one of the many self-depreciating thoughts she could typically have; fur brushed as nicely atop her head and she and her mother could muster. Her success was riding on herself, and that was a lot of pressure, not knowing how good she’d be. The last time she was “on trial” it didn’t go very well, too frightened to speak as she cried, and she was marching toward one willingly this time. To her admission of how she felt though, Emily made sure her fox could see her smile. A vote of confidence on her part.


I’m only worried for that look on your face. You have less of a filter when you’re feeling this way.”, Emily wanted to reassure, speaking helpfully from her perspective as a mother and knowing how Kayla could be. Kayla would have to be very mindful of her fangs in court, needing to not bare them as she sometimes could. Though, thinking of those more fox-like expressions her daughter could make just made the mother stifle a reminiscent laugh – Kayla’s right ear pivoting curiously, wondering what that was about while they were walking through the courthouse.


But I’m going to treat you like you’re grown. I know you’ve been spanked every time you have come here so far, during or after, but nothing you say or do here will be held against you by me. Think only of your hearing, and nothing else today. I’m very proud of you to have made it here.”, Emily spoke with a cheerful notion, raising a hand to her chest to tell her furry daughter something from her heart, promising that there would be no other worries and to just do her best. While it sounded nothing but caring, if not outright loving, Kayla’s keener sense of hearing and ability to read human expression caught something that made her serious look break with a slight, awkward smile wanting to creep onto the ends of her muzzle, not knowing how else to handle it.


“… Why do you look like you’re going to cry on me?”, she felt the need to ask as she eyed up at Emily as they walked, catching the odd emotion from her mother. Emily’s mouth curled into a big smile that contrasted and betrayed some of what she felt, looking almost like she wanted to laugh again; hiding the parole hearing’s bittersweet lining, and just how big of a day she hoped this would be for the Penitatas she cared for. So caught in a moment of her own beside Kayla, the older woman turned to face back forward, watching where she walked.


The entry checkpoint for Penitatas Courtroom Two was coming up on their left – a niche of curved ornate wall melding into a pinch-point of security machines, officers, and doors beyond. It was where Kayla needed to be taken, just barely in time for her abruptly scheduled parole hearing. It felt strange… happy, yet still so anxious.


Sorry. I’m just nervous to let you go.”, Emily said more airily, being honest with what she was feeling inside as well as she too stepped up to meet destiny. That curious ear of Kayla’s turned back forward with a sharper curl of orange brow, tipping her head up and back with a puzzled, if not even outwardly bothered look across her muzzle. Absorbing the words, the girl’s legs came to a stop in the hallway in front of the checkpoint and the people manning it.


What? I’m not going with you?”, Kayla questioned more directly, voice and tone better matching how serious she felt and how worried the thought of being split up made her. Emily fell silent for a moment as she too stopped walking, turning on her heels to address the concern with the best motherly intent she could possibly muster. Not seeming to be able to keep her positive smile, holding worries similar to Kayla’s own, she wanted to be honest and assuring above all else.


You’ll be relinquished to the custody of the court from here. You’re going to be strip-searched by security… please don’t get mad at them. A clerk will bring you inside, and instruct you. Your father and I have to go through normal security, and we’ll be seated right behind you.”, that hand balled into a fist above her heart, unable to let it down as she explained how this was going to work, and essentially why. As if Kayla was the defendant in Penitatas Court, she was going to be subject to the same extended security they knew Ashley went through when they came to see her trial, while Alex and Emily would be subject to the usual. There would be hands in places Kayla would very much not appreciate, she knew from doctor’s visits, and this was the first point to which her daughter would need to be at the utmost best without her at her side.


She was partly on her own from here, until the court made it’s decision.


I know you can do anything.”, a quiet male voice spoke behind the shaken little fox.


Interrupting the atmosphere of worry that fell over the pair, Alex interjected with his own words, kneeling down to reach Kayla’s height. As soon as Kayla turned around her shoulders were met by a pair of firm hands, and the grace of a calm, fatherly smile. Knowing that their family dynamic was shifting going into this hearing, especially for Emily, he wanted to do his best to make things feel right. If there was anyone he believed in though, it was certainly the little fox he met in this very same building.


Be brave. Be you.”, Alex wished at the level of a whisper for Kayla’s sensitive ears, looking into her blue eyes. The words though, so simple, were paired with a peck of a kiss to the top of Kayla’s muzzle, just behind her nose.


Go see this through.”, he encouraged in a way that sounded like a directive – a dad’s more than as a Penitatas’ guardian, taking an active role in nudging her in the right direction. Simple and affectionate, it got her maw to crack a smile, especially at that little kiss. How could she not? The way he said it though, looking over her shoulder at something, got Kayla’s ears to turn along with her head.


Mister and Misses Targate?”, a fairly well-to-do looking woman asked questioningly as if she was waiting, having come forward through the security checkpoint with a male officer in black at her side. Long hair and holding a fairly large data-pad, she stood with a stare, making it well apparent that it was time for Kayla to come along.


“… Let’s do this.”, Kayla spoke up on her own before her parents could have a moment to worry about her any further, raising her head up high with the last notes of confidence her family could give her. With a stoic step and almost authoritative swing of her tail, she stepped forward to be lead by the woman, feeling as ready to do this as she ever would be. They could search her all they’d like, and she had a whole body of freshly preened fur to show them – wanting to remember how comfortable she used to be with that, and to not fret. She wanted this opportunity for freedom too badly to not be willing to fight for it, and she was certainly a fighter – for better or worse.


Kayla’s neat ensemble of white and black was taken rather quickly away from them, passing through the usual security checkpoint without stopping as the officer followed behind as “prisoner escort.” She was such a strong woman inside that little body, and it was at least her own boost of self-confidence that made Emily feel a little better.


You were more helpful than I was.”, Emily quipped to her husband with a light voice as Kayla disappeared into a doorway off to the side, thinking of how nice it must have been to hear a few kind words and not just reassuring explanations.


She’s already in the right frame of mind. You’re just worrying, it’ll be okay.”, he thought to remind as he placed his hands on his knees and worked to stand back up, feeling as if Kayla’s willful and steadfast nature was doing her a service on a day like this. They had bonded so closely it was hard to not want to be protective of her, and the intimidating air of the courthouse affected even the adults. His tie shifting against the buttons of his shirt, Alex gave it a few tugs to correct it’s tuck as Emily turned her eyes to the hallway beyond him, noticing a trio that took up more of it than the others.


Ah! Where’s Kayla, did I miss her already? How the heck did she get-… ”, came as an excited spurt of words from a young Drakonian maw; Ninne hurrying herself across the courthouse carpeting with an ever so faint popping of sharp claw-tips inadvertently breaking the occasional carpet strand in stride. Ever so diligent and on cue, the much larger of the brown scaled creatures snapped to her young’s side with a raptor-like swing of her neck, getting her snout as close to the smaller one’s as possible.


Ninne!”, Ki`rene spat, hushed by her own teeth, eyes squinting into a harsh glare; the quick snap making Ninne flinch and stumble slightly away on her footclaws.


What – is the courthouse?”, the mother’s deeper, authoritative tone of voice rolled out as a question with a hinted warning beneath, trying to keep the exchange subtle as she clutched the data-pad she carried in her claws somewhat tightly. Going from loud and beaming to a bit shrunken and meek, wearing one of her nicer casual outfits across the bulk of her saurian frame, Ninne kept her neck low and her claws together, fidgeting her fingers.


A… quiet house?”, Ninne answered much more softly, understanding the answer she was supposed to give.


[Don’t get us in trouble. Please.]”, Anne followed up on her own in passing, having known well enough not to follow Ninne too closely and get caught up in that, sounding blunt in the way she growled each guttural Drakonian sound from her throat. Ninne waved her right claw dismissively, and rather briskly.


I get it.”, Ninne clarified with a sprinkle of annoyance, keeping her voice down that time.


From her large figure’s high perch, Ki`rene corrected her back and neck with a mild sigh, breaking that snout of hers into a small, thoughtful though potentially stressed smile of greeting. Unlike her daughter, the elder drake had chosen some of her fancier clothing, opting to wear an all black outfit with white cuffs for her wrists and the ankles of her tailor-made trousers. It was a stone’s throw from a human’s tuxedo, minus the accessories. Considering Anne was with them for their camping trip, she didn’t have any time to pass her back to her parents either, letting her be privy to Kayla’s hearing even if it meant having to accompany two Penitatas through such a place on her own; one with clothing, and the other with nothing more than a blue and red scarf wrapped around her neck for the special occasion.


I dropped the kid’s tracking bracelets off for us at the magistrate’s office downstairs and got myself added to Kayla’s docket as a secondary parental authority. I’ve written things on her and taken care of her so many times, it just makes sense for me to join in with you. I’m hoping I can be of help to her.”, Ki`rene wanted to share with Emily as soon as she could take her eyes off Ninne and Anne for a moment, coming to speak of the role they were to take during Kayla’s parole hearing as her guardians and those familiar with her the most. It wasn’t something that made sense to the young drakes, hinting to the things that went on in the background of the time they served – the weekly reports they wrote, and the sort of record keeping the Penitatas Justice Department did under all their names.


As it was, Emily would need to testify on the behalf of Kayla’s character as her guardian, and Ki`rene volunteered to join in on that as her babysitter and sort of auxiliary parent. Reminded of the duty she would need to perform beside Kayla made Emily make an unsettled face, sighing a puff of air from her nose.


I’m glad I won’t be in it alone. I don’t know how Kayla would take that part of her hearing, and I wasn’t looking forward to it.”, she was quick to admit, ponytail slumping against her upper back as her arms crossed in quiet discomfort. There were to be reasons why it would be unpalatable at times, and Ki`rene tried to give an understanding nod of her head; snout tipping up and down gently.


But… getting to do parole day early is awesome, isn’t it?”, Ninne cautiously questioned beside the women, craning her neck a little higher with a small tone of bewilderment. She didn’t want to get scolded any further, her tail was still fairly sore from yesterday evening’s lakeside gnawing.


It’s great honey. Kayla is a lucky one. But, we have our parts to play as well.”, the mother drake curled her head a little downward to speak down to Ninne politely, smiling reassuringly that all was well while her ending words were intentionally vague as to why they held a timid note or two of their own. Ninne nor Anne had gotten to their own first hearings yet, so this would be an excellent way to show them how it would be before they had to experience it themselves.


That was when a familiar short figure of green scale stepped up to them so silently he was hardly noticed until Ki’rene tipped her snout in his direction with a questioning curl of her neck, finding the sort of serious and quieted expression across his face to be out of place for how he ought to have been feeling. A sunny yellow polo shirt tucked into a black pair of pants with a brown belt, the young Medicalos’ hands were stuffed in his pockets as his long haired mother stepped tepidly behind him, clearly feeling on the spot and awkward for some reason with so many eyes coming upon her. A hand lifted behind Jacob’s back to hover, not touching his shoulder, the human woman never really stopped moving her legs, slowing for a moment as if only passing by.


“… I’ll head down and have you re-filed back into the system. You’ll be okay with your friends.”, Lory Rich spoke in a very quieted, defeated sort of sullenness that still managed to ring with an old note of motherly tenderness as she dismissed herself from everyone’s presences. He had a place to be, and if he was to be here she would take the opportunity to fulfill the request he made of her at the same time. It was the last thing she could do to right any wrongs she may have done, and in the end, she still wanted Jacob’s happiness to matter – soon to have an emptier house to think about where she had gone wrong all these months. Black hair raining down her back, her head turned away and she continued down the hallway, opting for a different turbo-lift than to face any of the other parents she had come to meet for another second in her embarrassment and shame.


It left an odd air behind, as heavy as the words sounded from such a hushed mouth; all turning to Jacob with soft faces and sorry sorts of eyes. There was no questioning what being refiled meant, in the context it was provided. Knowing what he had walked himself into, the quiet Karrian hooked the right side of his maw downward, tightening his arms against his body.


So that’s what was going on this morning.”, Alex mumbled out in comment, being the only person to know for sure at least one thing that happened between he and Lory that morning, seeing that belt and the wounded look on the woman’s face. Ki`rene sighed sadly through her nostrils, lowering her head apologetically while Emily’s hands went to her chest.


I… I’m sorry Jacob, but… good for you. You did the right thing.”, Emily had trouble finding her words at first, but knew in her heart that it was something done for the best and wanted to help reinforce that he wasn’t making some childish mistake. She and Jacob had quite the talk when they first got to the preserve, and she knew Lory was being too suffocating from her own arguments with the woman on Jacob’s behalf. But, to see Jacob’s disquieted face did still hurt, even if she wanted him to have a house he loved.


[You’re not leaving, right?]”, Anne lifted a claw to her neck, claws against the scarf she came to adorn her scales with. That question was enough to get Jacob to shake his head, and finally open his muzzle.


I won’t allow it. I’ll figure something out.”, Jacob said with a stiff breath of air through his mouth, sounding a little lost. But, despite, he still lifted his head.


I had to come for Kayla. I wouldn’t miss this, even if I had to walk here alone.”, he added on a totally different note, put forward with a calm passion that served to say exactly why he was here – getting along with his parent be damned. Finding out his partner had finally gotten the recognition she deserved and a chance at getting what she wanted made him the happiest man on Earth, even if everything else going on around him hurt his heart and dulled his smile. Not being allowed to share a relationship with Kayla made him no less loyal, and no less ready to accept her into his heart; a young, happy love that wasn’t so easily squelched, enjoying the company of his best friend in no matter what form. It felt like just as big of a day as it must have been for her, and wanting her to have the world gave him more purpose than wallowing in self-pity over the loss of his home and own support structure.


Though, to that direct sort of statement, Ki`rene still had to make something of a sheepish smile as she stared at the screen of her data-pad, hitting a few keys on it’s display with it’s sound muted. Lifting both her pad and opposite claw, she pointed down at the corner of it’s screen.


We could miss it actually, if we don’t get through security kind of, ah, now-ish.”, Ki`rene spoke with a dash of awkwardness, looking at the time beyond the shiny black of her Drakonian index finger’s claw. Emily ended up being the first to move with a waving gesture of her hand for the pace to be picked up.


Alright, lets get in there. Girls, get in front so your pat-down wraps up by the time the rest of us are through. Jacob, you’re with us.”, the woman snapped into parent mode, taking up the slack to provide Ki`rene some support with the two Penitatas; the mother drake using her data-pad like a baton, joining her peer in direction.


Like a well oiled, or at least well paddled machine, Ninne and Anne’s saurian movements had them zip to the front of their line as told by their secondary parental figure as everyone else bunched up behind them as efficiently as they could manage. Passing through security was a breeze aside from Alex, having more articles from his pockets to empty along with Ki`rene’s data-pad she had been working with, getting their business out of the way while the drakes were pat down off to the side – typical for Penitatas, even if Anne didn’t have much of a place to hide anything without clothes. Being a Medicalos, Jacob wasn’t given more than a half-hearted sweep of a scanner to be let through, keeping close to both Ki`rene and Emily as he followed behind. But, in his quiet distraction, eyeing the open wooden doorways that seemed so big at his age and the sprawl of courtroom beyond, a gentle nudge to his right shoulder by something cold managed to startle him. He was met with a young caring face; snout having given him a light nuzzle; ahead of a soft looking scarf as she stepped to his side.


[I’m really sorry. I hope you feel better.]”, Anne wanted to wish as a friend, sounding as if she was trying to make the natural reptilian snarls and rolls of her language seem less harsh as quietly as she let them from her maw. It was really only hours ago that they were having a ton of fun together in the lake, after he finally joined in with them as part of the group. Jacob had to put a half-smile on his face, even if it was to just seem thankful for the kindness. He wanted to chuckle and say, “Me too”, but the words didn’t seem to go to his vocal cords as he stepped forward with the moving families into the courtroom’s entryway, instead finding himself in a moment of silence to which he imagined had to seem a little gloomy. His brown eyes went back to his side, thinking.


You found something you actually wanted to wear.”, his voice came out quieter and more off-sounding than he would have liked while striking conversation, wanting to pay recognition to the colorful scarf the traditional drake was wearing. It wasn’t exactly clothing, but it still wasn’t naked scale either. To it, Anne took on a lighthearted and thankful look, touching the fabric with both her claws.


[It’s Ninne’s mom’s. She offered to put it on – said it would let me feel less left out with everyone dressing up. I like it, it’s different.]”, the spitting words came with a sprinkling of young enthusiasm, warmed by the thoughtfulness that came with getting to show off something pretty and unique; a compromise to her clothing-less traditionalism.


The group having made their way into Penitatas Courtroom Two, walking straight down it’s center aisle, it came to surround them with more of the courthouse’s carved-looking wood adorning it’s trim and lower walls below textured gray, opening up to be taller toward it’s back side like a small auditorium. In the very center of the back wall was an ornate emblem emblazoned into an etched disc of synthetic wood above the judge’s stand, looking that of a balanced scale of justice in front of a darkened, almost burned-in looking letter ‘P’ to denote the court’s purpose as part of the Penitatas Justice System. In the space beyond the judge’s bench were two wide podiums with controls and screens just front of where everyone else sat, both having their own seating benches behind them for further individuals in front of the dividing wall to the gallery behind. Most of the room was empty, save for a few people that seemed to be busy and passing through, but that didn’t stop it from looking stifling from it’s punitive power and regality. There was a hellish looking paddle or two somewhere just out of sight, all had to figure, even if they’d never come to see it on this day.


Passing by the rows of glossy, cherry wooden benches lining the left and right side of the gallery, the group had made their way forward up until Ki`rene caught their attention and made a motion for the rejuves to take a seat in the first row on the right side of the room, and to follow Alex. Emily and the Ki`rene however continued forward, going beyond the dividing wall’s short gate to take their own seats behind what was to be Kayla’s place in the room, leaving them all together with only a short degree of separation. The room’s left side; podium and bench; would remain empty – no prosecution or evidence to be presented in criminal trial. It would just be them and the judge, today.


Without a wait and while they were still getting comfortable against the smooth synthetic wood they all sat upon, a side door came open with Kayla and the well-to-do woman’s return. The fox looked no worse for wear, still slipping her paws in and out of the waist of her trousers to tuck her button-down shirt in right after having to take all of it off in her security screening. At least she didn’t struggle with the buttons, and the people that had to poke and prod her were at least helpful. Getting to see her family, as well as Jacob, got Kayla to give them a bashful look of ‘well, here I am!’ in front of them all in greeting as she followed the woman and her clipboard sized data-pad. She was shown her place at the right side of the wide podium where a bumped-out wooden step gave her a place to stand taller at her age; a clear need in a Penitatas Courtroom, for reasons of it’s defendant’s heights; giving her a solid place to be seen and address the court, with use of the rest of the podium. Movements of her body seeming a bit nervous, bushy Aspatrian tail straight down along her black pants as if being overly mindful of it, she turned over her shoulder and still managed to give a friendly, if not painfully awkward toothy thumbs up at her waist to be discreet with it, shot back primarily to Jacob. She was quite happy, if not outright relieved to see him, so out of the loop with what was going on with him this morning. It was more than enough to amuse the old Karrian, leaning forward in his seat to pop a thumbs up of support back – even if it was brief, as silly as it made him feel. It at least made him smile, and actually mean it.


Kayla, I don’t think you could dress more like a boy if you tried.”, Ninne stretched her neck out, getting it closer to the dividing wall and the sides of Ki`rene and Emily’s heads to comment rather off-the-cuff as she was known for. At least she said it very quietly. While sort of true, Jacob felt the dress shirt and black pants really suited her, and made her look actually kind of awesome. That white collar around her neck and pant leg’s modest trim, she looked like she was an authority figure in her own right; lovely, sophisticated, and confident – the strong traits of hers he endeared the most, alongside that open mind.


I like this!’, Kayla shot back with an amused, chipper look across her muzzle at the ribbing, motioning down her body with both paws open, mouthing the words quite clearly without having to make a sound.


Right?”, Alex chimed in at whisper’s level at Kayla’s reply, lifting his hands to agree that there was much to be enjoyed from a simple business-casual outfit. He was the one who picked it, so of course he liked it too.


We’re going to begin.”, the voice of the well-to-do woman interrupted their banter after she had stepped away, headed more toward the front side of the judge’s stand; a door in the far side of the room opening behind her shoulder, signaling her need to bring the courtroom to order. Kayla turned back around still holding the smile she made for herself, settling her paws down on the podium’s lower rim to watch and finish steeling her mind and heart. It was socially intimidating, but as if she could taste the idea of getting something to make her life better, she was ready to grasp whatever carrot they dangled.


Every spanking – every tear – every second in a corner – and every grueling, harsh and painful thing she was ever forced to endure, came down to this.


From the doorway that opened came the soft step of a tall, old Jalaxian man dressed in a black judge’s robe that went down to his feet, tail sticking out the back along the floor in it’s fluffy length. The fur of his cheeks parting with his age, dusted with strands of gray and white, he was already a strong looking gentlemen from the broad nature of his short feline muzzle and slant of his forehead into a short mess of elder’s fur; color varied and atypical of your normal Jalaxian. Rather than the usual blue hue to his fur, he looked more like one of Earth’s Russian blue’s, holding to a dark gray with a subtle blue undertone where his aging fur did not part and splay into lighter patches, especially the fainter gray along his whiskers. Feline ears tall, his very appearance held an air of justice, so much calmer and refined than that of Jalaxian stereotype. Though, as he closed the door and walked along the back of the room to his overseeing bench, Kayla’s expression changed. That optimism she held faded, and that confidence wavered with a stare and loosening of her jaw. Muzzle faintly parting and face going slack, the tip of her tail curled into her ankles and visibly trembled. Struck with what had to be some sort of fear, she looked like her fur would soak with sweat. Not lost on Jacob, his brows curled in bewilderment of what had gotten into her.


Penitatas Court docket number forty-eight six twenty-one serving Kayla Sophia Ackart. Executive-initiated high-priority parole hearing; honorable Judge Kharsen presiding.”, the woman that had spoken before called aloud from the data-pad she held in her right hand, beginning the hearing and bringing the court into official session as the court’s clerk.


A faint thumping of boots to synthetic wood rang through the mostly empty expanse of the courtroom as the man went up his ramp and into the middle section that would be his own podium and desk. Stepping in front of his large black executive chair decorated with leather and silver metal studs, he placed his scruffy old paws upon where he was to be and looked over the podium to his left without sitting; reddish gold eyes slit like a cat’s. He paused for a moment, and the silence was deafening against Kayla’s physical reaction.


Seeing as this hearing was set up on an emergency basis overnight, I was asked to take it. I can imagine their reasons, but I will stress that I am a circuit court justice and not a judge of the Penitatas Court. This is incredibly unorthodox, and while it’s not my place to offer legal advice, I will say this – I urge you to object at this time, should you not accept this.”, the voice of the feline ran loud and deep, slow, and thoughtfully wise. Kayla came to slowly shake her head without much delay, seeming to take a breath to loosen her chest; tail continuing to betray her, hugging her legs for comfort. She had come too far to not push forward now, too afraid of losing this chance in her young mind should she put an end to this hearing.


I have no objection Judge Kharsen.”, Kayla answered wearily, sounding as if she was trying to come to terms. Above all of them, the old man curled his whiskers with a faint movement of his mouth, coming to lower himself into his chair with the assistance of his paws.


That’s already much more than you said last time. That’s good. We finally get to talk today.”, he commented more heartily in reply, making it more readily clear that the two had already met in the past – and somewhat obvious as to the how. Kayla had admitted bits and pieces of how her arrest and trial came to pass, but she never did discuss the ‘who’ when it came down to the person she thought took pity on her; the person who made her a Penitatas on the day she became a child again.


You look a lot smaller than the last time I saw you, but I can see the resemblance to the woman who was too choked up and frightened to even answer to her own charges. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone apologize to me that profusely in all my years.”, the older sort of man mused aloud with the rough vocal range of an aging cat. Kayla huffed out of her nose, curling her furred fingers on the screen of her podium with a hint of shameful discomfort, having a hard time looking straight at the man.


If only I knew the words, to tell you how much I meant it, even then.”, Kayla decided to reply on her own behalf, thinking she should answer to at least some of what the judge had to hear from her those two years ago. They were somber words, insistent on it’s authenticity.


Well, one thing I can say is that there were an awful lot of people that did seem to know the words. That’s why we’re all here today, and the powers-to-be put us into this situation without notice.”, the judge continued on, having such an open and elderly mannerism to the way he formulated his speech, pausing faintly and never speaking too quickly. Those feline pupils of his went downward as he looked to his bench; the sound of a few keystrokes beeping across the court.


For being a Penitatas just two years, you have quite the file, my vertically-challenged little Packet-Storm. Normally that would be a terrible thing, but for you, you wouldn’t believe the sorts of commendations and letters you’ve gotten on your behalf. I’ve been in my chambers for the past few hours just trying to read as many as I could. People you’ve helped, or just been affected by the things you recently did; Starfleet taking up a lot of that.”, he spoke with an odd, bemused-old-man allure to how he went through the different documents he flipped through on his screen, shedding light on the various straws that came to break the camel’s back to have someone ask him to preside over a Penitatas Courtroom.


Most notable one here is from a Commander Santorae. He wrote a long letter detailing every last bit of what you did when Earth was attacked by the hacker Veli-… er, Richter Saccard – it’s easier for me to pronounce. And, when the news of you being rewarded did not reach his ears, he started pestering them directly, straight up to the National Corrections Counsel! Admirals got in on the whole thing – I think every person you were on that stage with lit a fire under somebody.”, he went on with a bit of an airy laugh, speaking of the day Kayla was on planet-wide holo-vision when she was permitted to speak in the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters. Getting to hear all of that did help ease much of Kayla’s tension, curling her tail more to her side as she smiled, closing her eyes to remember Commander Santorae’s face and how kind he was to her. To know he made good on his word and did everything he could think of for her was all too humbling.


Some of their Medicalos sent letters to the justice department too. I have one here from a Za`kira that simply says ‘Be nice to her dammit’, and there was also this one from a doctor named Jacob. His name comes up a lot in your file, and boy did it read like a really sweet symposium on the human gallbladder.”, Judge Kharsen seemed to outright joke, skimming back over the length of the letter of commendation Jacob himself sent in without telling anyone that came off as both beamingly positive and as long as a doctorate-level essay. The Karrian scoffed out of embarrassment, crossing his arms.


I’m not a writer.”, he commented quietly to the crane of Ninne and Anne’s necks in his direction.


And speaking of Richter, there’s actually a letter from him in your file too, I was delighted to come across. It seemed like his parents made him write an apology letter that also went on to thank you for stopping his string of murders before he made it worse. It was long enough though that he managed to slip, ‘I hope you choke on this’ and a lil’ profanity afterward in the middle of it without his guardians noticing.”, the man continued though, raising one of Kayla’s brows at the message he stuck in there for her – not having heard ill will from the man since he was trying to slaughter her on DeltaStar. But, the old feline raised his left hand, pearly claws in the air in the direction of his clerk on the other side of his bench; heels in the dark gray carpet of the courtroom as she worked on her pad.


So I had the clerk proofread it for spelling and grammar and send it back. We like being helpful in the Justice Department.”, he said with both a note of seriousness and of sly creativity, wanting to make sure the tiny Roferian’s parents noticed that extra sentence he added this time around. Kayla’s muzzle curled into a surprised, awkward smirk. For such a staunch seeming old Jalaxian with a deep voice, he seemed to be eccentric underneath it all. The feline’s paws going back to his desk in front of himself, the judge leaned forward and looked down over Kayla; eye to eye.


But, those are only the means of our meeting today. What comes of it will be determined by a broader scope. As a parole hearing outside of your cycle’s end, there are several options available to the court to grant you. So, let me ask you, miss Ackart – what is it that you seek today?”, Justice Kharsen slid his tones away from the humorous to explain and ask, sitting back in his chair to wonder what it was Kayla truly sought herself, away from what all the letters he had been reading variously clambered for. Not having been expecting such a question, thinking the judge would determine her fate solely on his own, Kayla’s ears weren’t sure if they wanted to stay entirely erect at the thought of saying what it was she desired. Paws curling into loose fists against the smooth, cold screen of her podium, the well dressed fox looked up and swallowed her butterflies to give this moment her best shot – confidence creeping back across her cheeks and muzzle.


I would like to ask for my freedom. Sir.”, Kayla answered from the depths of the dream she cherished since combating Velius, thinking of how life would be if she simply could be allowed to grow up, no longer chained down by the silver ‘P’s she wore. She did so with a strong voice, and an air of conviction.


But, above and beyond her, came a low, purring sort of hum. Then, a pause, as the old man began looking up more toward the ceiling. The strange silence rattled Kayla’s tail, making it leave her legs with a thrashing swing to remove the faeries that tickled it’s length.


That’s a lot to ask for, my little woman.”, he rolled off his tongue slowly, and thoughtfully. It made Kayla want to swallow again, feeling like she said something wrong.


Where we stand right now, you’ve served only one third of your first cycle, and a sixth of your total sentence – which, mind you, was very lenient to begin with. Do you not feel like you should atone for the crimes you committed as Packet-Storm?”, Judge Kharsen questioned a bit differently than he had been, taking a tone and using words that painted the notion Kayla requested as being arrogant and selfish. And, all that aside, the question itself struck the fox as being loaded; ears beginning a muscle tremor as they folded back a few degrees, tightening up to try and remain looking as composed and on top of this as she could.


It may not seem it, but a little over two years is a long time. I promise I’ve come a long way.”, Kayla raised one of those clutched paws to the buttons of her dress shirt.


“… And have been punished quite a fair bit.”, she lowered her muzzle, and her voice, to shyly say – admitting that she had experienced the aches and pains of becoming a Penitatas, and what sort of life that was; parented strictly, starting anew.


But, again, a silent pause. They began to make the fox’s chest tense. Judge Kharsen’s paws raised up from his bench, propped on his elbows with his fingers intertwining, eyeing down over his defendant’s podium.


Kayla, I’m going to tell you a story.”, he announced on a quieter, deeper old breath.


I believe in right from wrong, and I believe in the matters of discipline beyond that of the courtroom, and into the warmth of home. So many a moon ago, when my son was just a Kindern, he snuck out of his bedroom window in the dead of night to join in some mischief with some older kids. I took him to the store the very next morning to help me pick out his own paddle, and I spanked him with it before we so much as left that hover-car parking field. It may have been terrible to hear him cry, but I was proud. It made me happy to find him in his bed every night, safe and sound.”, Justice Kharsen spoke like a strict, yet calm father, but once he told the tale he still came to shake his head, seeming to think of something.


If I was an empath, or some other psychic race and I could feel in my heart that he was truly sorry when he apologized, asking me not to do it, swearing up and down that he’d never do it again – able to see into the very future and know he wouldn’t – I would still have paddled him. Every time.”, the Jalaxian’s whiskers flared with his words, sounding more impassioned beyond just his eccentric demeanor; paws coming free of each other with a flicking, harsh wave of his right index finger for emphasis.


Because, my little Kayla, I believe in penance. Punishment is to teach, but it does more than just teach. Punishment is a consequence. When you are given one of your scheduled spankings from the P.J.D, they don’t want you to learn anything – they want you to cry. They want it to hurt, and you to slink away knowing that you did something foolish enough to bring it upon yourself.”, that voice of his sped up past it’s usual slowness, raising it’s volume until it became a strong, elderly scold that made Kayla flinch, drawing her arms closer to herself. Then, once it paused again and the feline shifted positions in his seat, leaning back forward, Kayla eyed up at his gray-blue fur wearily.


And if I’d paddle my own son, just for the sake of punishing him… Where do you think that leaves you with me, and your own penance?”, came low, and slow, with a cutting sort of tepid question trailing from his thought.


Experiencing the sudden turnabout of the court in real-time, Kayla’s once confident standing position wavered under the pressure that suddenly blanketed her podium. The fox’s back teeth clenching uneasily, she felt her breathing change as uncertainty wormed it’s intrusive way into her mind. Once seemingly playful, if not a little goofy, the judge she finally came to speak with turned out to be wise… too wise. It was going to take more than kindly spoken pleas for leniency to sway the man, as deeply entrenched in his belief and structure as he was, finding his mouth to elicit such damming, uncomfortable questions that seemed so loaded – unable to answer them in any way that wouldn’t appear bad in another. This time, it was Kayla who was forced into a silent pause; her family behind her, looking and listening on with their own awkward lumps in their throats.


I’m… hoping that I could convince you that I’ve made good on my penance. I know I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life, but I-… ”, Kayla tried to speak out to Judge Kharsen, but even as she wanted to explain herself her ears were picking up the faint pips and beeps of messy-furred fingers tapping at his bench’s console. In the middle of her pitch, Kayla’s own podium screen turned on with a chirp, displaying a long set of numbers and information beside the image of a mining platform. Her paws lifted off the screen to make sure she didn’t interact with anything she shouldn’t by accident, skimming over the colorful screen without being able to identify what she was examining.


If you want to talk about the bad things you’ve done and how it compares to your penance, I think it’s fitting that we go back to the beginning.”, Kharsen announced with an odd tone to his naturally low voice, lifting his paw to make an upward, presenting gesture with his fingers.


Earth date February twenty-third, twenty-eight sixty-two. An asteroid miner in the Kuiper Belt region of the Sol system stopped responding to remote commands and fell off the owning consortium’s network. Engineers had to be sent to locate and recover the drone and it’s cargo, finding that it’s access codes had been rotated by someone who gained unauthorized entry. It was the first time the name Packet-Storm appeared in history, found in a note left behind in it’s stored memory, inviting it’s readers to, quote, go fuck themselves, if I were to phrase you correctly.”, he read aloud with some force to his syllables, adding in his faint pauses wherever they seemed necessary. Getting to the end made Kayla fold her ears back, wanting to look over her shoulder at her mother out of instinct, even if the swearing was decades ago. It was difficult to even remember.


If it was when I was getting my feet first wet, I would have only been twelve at the time… I didn’t know any better.”, Kayla tipped her muzzle down and off to the side, sounding far more on the spot in trying to defend herself. Having no parents and growing up an incredibly angry jerk of a teenager, learning her “trade” and finding vulnerabilities across the Galactic-Net became her life after she gradually learned to piece together computer parts and formulate the coding that made them dance… so becoming her only life.


I’m sure you saw my house. Not well kept, and not much to be kept – parts, junk, and a lot of nothing. I’m sure someone had to dig up the poor man my stupid five year old self buried in the back yard, coming from a nightmare of a planet where I thought that was just normal. I was a lost little monster. I had no one, and there was a whole mess of reasons why I’d grow up to be an awful kid.”, Kayla slid her paws off to the sides of the screen to have some place to grip and clench her paws, deciding to lift her muzzle back up to Judge Kharsen to describe just how pathetic she thought herself – making this a two way affair if she so needed. It made Emily crook her mouth with worry though, catching hints of her daughter’s anger, knowing well what that muzzle could do if made too riled.


I would suppose. But… ”, the old feline mused, lifting his right paw high enough to be seen when it fell – smacking his console with a dull thump and a single beep.


Below Kayla’s face, the light emitted by the screen of her podium grew brighter as it shifted to a list with rows of white text, further breaking down into more and more columns as it slid horizontally across it’s surface, then vertically once it could show enough items. So many little lines, speeding by to reflect off Kayla’s blue eyes. Then, off the very tips of her fangs. Even at the speed the screen was moving, as quick as her parsing of information naturally was, she could quite easily gauge what she was being made to see.


That was the first time we saw ‘Packet-Storm’ appear as a calling card. Here’s every single other one, up until the day you came to see me.”, Justice Kharsen sounded more accusing and damming with the way he spoke than he had before; calculated and meticulous in making his points.


All twelve thousand, three-hundred and forty-four evidence entries into the Department of Investigations. They grow in sophistication and damage as time goes on.”, he spoke the final tally aloud with an unseen motion of his tail behind the judge’s bench. Jacob squinted, resting his snout in his hands while Kayla’s guardians all looked on in discomfort. Ninne and Anne both looked at one another. It was hard to think of their sunny fox that way, but…


I’m not trying to downplay what I did! It was… what, twenty-seven years worth of me basically being a cyber terrorist? Breaking the biggest of everyone’s toys so I could laugh, see them try to fix it, and knock it down again when their attempt to patch the vulnerability failed to work?”, Kayla thrust one open palm into the middle of the scrolling screen in front of her, leaning forward to admit her guilt – that voice of hers still edging on her more defiant, strengthened tones.


I was a horrible person, but the older I got, the more I wanted it to end. I didn’t want to do it anymore – I wasn’t angry, and it wasn’t fun any longer. I might have loved it when I was younger, but when I came to you all misty-eyed and pathetic the day I was arrested, I meant it when I said I was sorry!”, her paws came to lift up and open, gesturing to her chest to show how much she meant it.


But, as she looked up over the judge’s bench and the large wooden emblem set into the wall behind, her ears picked up another chirp and the light below changed. As soon as she looked down, Kayla stifled a desperate squeal, slapping her paws on top of the image that appeared with a squint of her eyes. She was getting rattled enough that her eyes wanted to sting; this old feline being just as quick and smart as she was, and knowing of how to press her buttons. With just a flick of his wrist he pulled up an old security photograph from the courthouse’s main judicial courtroom on the second floor, meant for adults, set back to that fateful May of twenty-eight eighty-nine, two years ago. An Aspatrian woman slumped forward with her muzzle in her right paw, seeming to wipe her eyes in an old, worn pair of very light blue jeans and a dark, stained looking muscle shirt. Her tail was long, and grown, and her chest as flat as she so often assured in private.


I was wearing clothes I pulled from the scrapyard I got my parts – this isn’t how I want my family to see me!”, she scrunched up her figure and pleaded in sudden outburst, swinging her tail like she didn’t know what to do with it as she tried to cover up the old image of herself; thin, sad, and even a little ratty at almost forty years old. Though, as soon as she looked up and protested, the image disappeared to black with a prompt chirp of reply. Those around her still likely saw, she had to figure, and Jacob to be feeling a bit of pain in his heart for how she must have just looked.


You brought up being misty-eyed and pathetic that day. I thought you might want some imagery to go with your ‘I don’t mean what I did anymore’ argument.”, Justice Kharsen lifted his paw again in another lighthearted looking gesture, speaking as if he used the display of the old picture as a means of dismissing her self-defense. As that paw of his came down, he brought up another display. Along the top half of the screen was a tabulation of numbers, and the bottom, a sum.


That is the estimated cost of all the events you now regret, as calculated by a United Federation of Planets’ panel of economists. It attempts to include physical damages, repair costs, software engineering costs in trying to fix every hole you found or made, loss of revenue, loss of time, and loss of gross product – all those fun little terms the people who count galactic credits tend to use when sorting their beans.”, the Jalaxian man’s voice eased back to it’s more typical low, slow mannerisms in wake of the face Kayla made before; sprinkling some of his eccentricity when speaking of matters outside that of justice. The number made Kayla stare downward at it with a degree of ignorance, while those behind her that could see the sprawl of digits either went wide-eyed or looked like they could drop dead. Ki`rene sighed out of her nostrils, and her two drake charges left their maws aghast.


You see, I’ve never had money. Not a single credit in my whole life. When I got older, I ate what ever slop I could get my salvaged replicator to make from any raw material I scrounged. I’m afraid I don’t know how much this is, without having a frame of reference.”, Kayla spoke down toward the podium screen, sounding more subdued and quiet than she did before. She couldn’t imagine admitting such ignorance was a good thing, but she couldn’t pretend to know how many credits meant what. It at least made Judge Kharsen chortle raspily for an old feline – uncertain if that was a good thing.


Of course the hacker that could take down banks and never stolen a single thing wouldn’t know the value of a dollar, as the old Earth adage used to go.”, the old man quipped with a wave of his hand.


I never understood money, no, except that people did things to get it. And – if it wasn’t mine, I didn’t want it.”, Kayla began almost growling through her teeth, raising her head back up to make sure the words were heard loud and clear if he was going to find amusement in her ignorance. She was a breaker, not a taker.


Hate to break it to you, but that number is a pretty big number. You took their money alright, regardless if you weren’t pocketing it. This is the part of Packet-Storm’s story that apologizing doesn’t actually fix.”, the old man came to explain with his vocal mannerisms as to why he so harshly stopped Kayla’s prior line of defense, knowing well the cost of what she did came to, even if she didn’t hold any endearment for those old victories of hers. Those paws of his came to intertwine their fingers again, using them to support the old fur of his chin.


I don’t think most people will earn this much during a hundred year span of their life, miss Ackart.”, he spoke the lowest and slowest he had yet, taking care to note the seriousness and gravity of the sum she was shown if she could not understand it herself. It rang with a sound of sympathy, on top.


More like two hundred.”, Kayla’s ears pivoted backward to catch Ninne whisper harshly from the gallery, shrinking a little where she stood with an odd curl of her muzzle’s lip and grit of her teeth. The fox looked like a Kindern that had just wet the bed.


Now… how do you think you can make that right, my regretful hacker?”, Kharsen tipped his broad feline nose to her from it’s perch atop his own fingers and claws; tone once again hinting that the question was not meant to be tread upon lightly. The fox’s ears still back, nudged into a corner and given a sprawling number to fear that she could do nothing about, Kayla had to collect some of her wits and thoughts to so much as get her jaw to move freely.


I have no money Judge Kharsen, at least now… B-but this does tie in with my request for release. I want to start my own business, so I can try to help-… ”, Kayla again lifted her muzzle to the man to try and answer his inquiry as gently as she could, finding it harder the more stiffened her diaphragm's muscles became.


Try?”, he probed aloud, interrupting Kayla’s thought. The well dressed Aspatrian shook her head with a quick breath, and nary a pause.


I’ll pay them back – I’ll do what ever I have to. I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and I can’t ignore what I did in my own conscience either. I also know that second chances don’t come without a cost.”, the furred girl began with a plea to be understood and believed, wanting it to be well known that she’d pay reparations even just for the sake of her own morals and ethics. And, in regard to ‘second chances’, she already had to submit to the paddle to be given her first one. She’d submit to more, if life deemed so necessary.


I know we’re here because a lot of important people came to help me, but I really want the sorts of things they were asking for too. It’s not only just that being a hard time ‘penny is harsh – no one wants to be spanked that often or hard – but that I have found new things to live and strive for that I can’t explore because of my shackles. I’m not just some shut-in hermit hiding in a house anymore… I found dreams, and things I want too much to let go. I’ve done a lot of good things in the time since you last saw me, and I swear I’m a model Penitatas – I’ve been told so, a lot.”, Kayla painted an image of what was going through her heart, calming her voice in an attempt to persuade; thinking of all that freedom, and what it would mean for the relationship she wanted to continue kindling.


To it, Judge Kharsen simply nodded his head in his fingers, not returning any wit or scathing retort. Taking a moment of his seemingly typical pauses in silence, he leisurely corrected his posture and began tapping at his console again. The screen beneath Kayla’s paws flicked back to being lit with another of it’s auditory affirmations, showing another list, but at least in a single rowed column this time. It’s borders were blue, and atop of the array of colors and items were the words ‘Compliments and Accomplishments’ beside the seal of the Penitatas Justice Department. While each entry itself wasn’t summarized any further than it’s topic or date, she could recognize many of the names associated with each passing line.


You’re right. You get called a model Penitatas quite a bit in your records. I reviewed much of it earlier while skimming those commendation letters. These would be the reports from your teachers and guardians primarily, exemplifying your behavior and attitude to the P.J.D. You’re very well monitored, but that doesn’t always serve to be a bad thing, when you get caught doing good things.”, the judge touched upon with positive notions in his voice, continuing Kayla’s thought as to her own worthiness.


Some of the things noted in your file are rather glowing, at least depending on when it was submitted. You’re described and being kind and subordinate. Accepting of negative reinforcement, and quick to apologize for mistakes. Tries hard… Good role model… Stands up for others.”, Kharsen came to look back down at his stand’s console screen, catching some of it’s light to shine off his feline eyes; opening up some of the articles toward the end, jumping from one to another to note the nice things they said about the Penitatas they parented, disciplined, or even simply observed for a while.


And of course there are your bigger feats in here. The report of your earliest act of heroism, when that group of dirt-bags decided to try and rob a cache of valuables stored away in the Calleet Mall – you breaking the modifications they made to the door locking system to allow police to rescue hostages and secure the area. The P.J.D was well aware of the award you were given. Another fair bit of similar items came from a Blaine Brayden in Starfleet, listed in your file as Starfleet’s appointed expert on you – as apparently you’re a good one to work with.”, the review continued on a nice note for the tense butterflies the fox had been holding onto, listening to the old judge not attempt to pick her apart for a moment. Though she was too worried and focused for it to appear on her muzzle, thinking of Blaine did feel good.


Though, I must say, needing to have your very own ‘expert’ with the military is not flattering.”, Kharsen mulled publicly, sort of sighing as he finished going through the list items he wanted to visit. Kayla didn’t really know what to say to that, knowing well it was due to her notoriety – the negative kind, and the incidents she became involved in. Her expression and tail drooped slightly, trying to be patient. And, to her relief, the Jalaxian sat up taller in her chair and seemed to lighten the look he had across his face; parted old fur wrinkling with his expressions less.


But, I will digress for you. You’ve done some incredible things, especially all of what you did last month. It was selfless, and more than worthy of reward – I’m not going to argue that with you. In fact, I will take this moment to thank you for your service, and the clear good you can do. You are – an extraordinary person. And as I just so displayed, a nice one too. Your feats and accomplishments speak for themselves, and are not deserving of my fine toothed comb in discussion.”, Justice Kharsen openly declared in his softer and kinder sort of allure, wanting to make it wholly apparent that he knew very well of her deeds and the things that made so many people send letters and commendations, cheering and pleading for her to be given reprieve for the things she had done. That there was a strong person before him, who was shown adoration and love by the lives she came to touch.


Spoken so eloquently and like an incredibly blunt compliment, Kayla corrected some of the rigidity in her vulpine ears. It took a lot of weight off her to hear the old man at least agree that she did enough things to warrant this hearing and some sort of relief from her sentence, and that her contributions weren’t lost on his ideals of justice.


“… I’d rather discuss this, though.”, that once almost friendly, position-relinquishing voice said as if it brought him a note of annoyance; the faint movement of his arm above coinciding with a change in Kayla’s podium display once more, and a darkening of Kayla’s complexion as the light scattering off the tips of her orange fur strands were changed to a redder hue.


Beneath her gaze was a similar screen to the last with it’s Penitatas Justice Department logo, but with it’s interface colored in red with the words ‘Faults and Demerits’ prominently across the top. Just as before, Kayla could recognize names for the entries – her mother, school officials. Some of them she wasn’t even sure about. The list went on, just the same as her list of positives on file. The concept of having so many mistakes and punishments known about her made the fox bare a few of her teeth in frustration at the display, nervously correcting the left cuff of her dress shirt.


Like Santa Claus, the overseers of your punishment and rehabilitation have a list, and they know whom is naughty or nice.”, Judge Kharsen explained with a colorful analogy and flip of his right paw.


Not everyone always had a compliment to give you, my furry little Penitatas. There were times you were described as being arrogant – a fair few, actually. Your behavior didn’t always match your words, and every once in a while someone would catch you with an attitude, it seems.”, he announced his earlier findings from when he went over her records this morning, trying to get a feel for where his parole subject’s moral compass and behavior pointed. Thinking of those who knew her best perhaps writing those things, Kayla huffed roughly, partly crossing her arms against herself with her paws uncomfortably disquieted against the smooth surface of her podium.


I’m not perfect.”, Kayla wanted to reply in admission, though it came out more like a harsh retort.


“… And a temper.”, Kharsen added after the fact with another flick of his feline claws, hearing the more agitated tones being so thinly veiled by her maw.


So you see, justice is a scale. Your merits must balance with your misdeeds, and your penance must be paid. The wrongs you have performed during your time as a Penitatas serve as a window into the other half of your character. These are the things that show if you’ve been rehabilitated, and perhaps how much you value the debts you are paying to society. If you are to see anything positive come of this hearing, we need to discuss your failures beside your obvious achievements.”, the circuit court judge explained as his reasoning and why he was probing into these other less enjoyable subjects, rather than simply allow the fox before him to blindly plead for forgiveness. There was more to proving her worthiness than just good deeds. Kayla had no grounds to object to his basis for making his ultimate decision in this hearing, and it shut her mouth closed – frozen stiff without any idea of a worthy reply. Again, he made her pause in silence as he so loved doing himself.


In the midst of her renewed fetters against the sprawled red color of her podium, Kayla’s ears were treated to another series of sounds and the opening of an entry that she had no trouble recognizing. It had her school principal’s name included in it, as well as that of other people she didn’t recognize that appeared to be officials of some kind by their titles. Knowing where this one was about to go, the poor fox flinched.


Your attempts to be helpful weren’t always just. You had the egregious notion to attempt hacking into your school’s computer system – normally a crime, mind you – so you had best understand how close you came to being paddled by some Penitatas Court Justice in this very same room. Apparently it was helpful in catching someone in a crime that directly hurt another, but that was always going to come back to bite you on this day.”, Kharsen admonished despite not being an actual Penitatas Court Justice himself, having too understood the gravity of a convicted hacker violating an institution's computer system during her time as a Penitatas. The notion made Ninne, as well as Ki`rene, sink with a pang of guilt – that incident having served to help them, at Kayla’s own punishment.


You followed no channel that would have been appropriate, and acted on your own accord. Heck, you even beat this girl up after the whole thing was said and done.”, that right paw of his came to flitter about, waving his claws around. Stiff and uneasy, Kayla adjusted her stance on her wooden pedestal as if she was scuffing the pad of her vulpine footpaw against the carpet at home.


“… I used to be more brash, as I was getting used to things. I was trying.”, Kayla explained more softly, sounding guilty despite wanting the man to know she still held pure intentions beneath all of that. She knew what she did was wrong – she just wanted to help her friends, and didn’t grasp just how wrong her behaviors really were at the time. As Emily so recently chastised her for, the sly fox did tend to act like things she didn’t get caught for were okay, and she didn’t want to deny the truth in that.


There was also the issue of your kidnapping. The second breach and subsequent robbery of DeltaStar. You upset quite a lot of the upper folks with the P.J.D, making them think you’d never learn how to use your skills constructively, or point your moral compass in any direction other than whatever you willed it to be at the time.”, the feline man painted the picture of how that terrible Christmas just before she met Jacob went in the background – something Kayla had always wondered, seeing how badly they forced Emily to whip upon her paws. That one did get her teeth to gnash a bit, having never agreed with their line of thought when her life was on the line.


The decision to do that to DeltaStar wasn’t mine, and it’s not fair to judge me for it. I never wanted to steal from or hurt anyone. If anything, I’ve proven that I can use my skills for good at this point! It’s why we’re even talking about this – there’s all the things I hope to grow up and do!”, Kayla turned the subject back around to the reason she wanted to be released, speaking again of her dream of a business and greater things. She had to quell those loose bits of her anger to speak more properly, but she found it easier to let go of her agitation in simply admitting that she indeed had faults, and not every fault was hers to own either.


I know I can be bad. I’m sorry for the mistakes I’ve made, and I’ve tried to be as good for everyone as I could.”, the fox held to her fetters as a sort of encouragement, letting that feeling in her gut urge her to be her acceptant, repentant self – ears folding back a tad, speaking up over to the judge’s bench as honestly as she could. She earned her spankings – she knew that – but so did all Penitatas. Judge Kharsen’s reddish-yellow eyes seemed to shift from her eyes to those over her shoulder, seated on the bench behind the outreach of her Aspatrian tail.


Then I think it’s time I speak to those you were to be good for, whom know you far better than even the catalog of the department’s record keeping.”, the old cat shifted gears on the fox again, seeming poised to continue his probing of her character’s merit versus the crimes of her past. For it, the judge rose to his feet, standing tall against the backdrop of the courtroom’s lacquered crest. His attention appeared to be over Emily and Ki`rene, whom looked up without a word.


Parents. I’m going to remind you the expectations of the court, considering the outpour of support young miss Ackart has received. While you may feel the need to advocate on her behalf as well, the law on this matter is very concise. You are required to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth. Opinions impartial, and with solid basis. At this time you are considered adjunct entities of the Penitatas Justice Department, and serve it, solely.”, Judge Kharsen provided as the rules and regulations, essentially swearing Emily and Ki`rene in to perform a duty to the office which their licenses served under – no longer parents or guardians in this setting, but witnesses and analysts. The words sounding so legally sharp and with bite, Kayla turned over her shoulder to share a weary, though concerned look with the two women that had reared her these past two years. While Emily’s eyes met with hers, the look across her face said nothing. And, knowing body language, the odd silence tucked Kayla’s tail to her black pant-legs.


Emily Targate. Please take the podium.”, Kharsen tipped his head, calling Kayla’s own mother first, before lowering himself to sit again.


With a deep breath, Emily got up from her bench with a look of support from Ki`rene, having turned to her fellow for something to help her feel better with. Not seeming pleased, or even comfortable, she reached back and flicked her ponytail into place as her heels made dull thumps against the dark carpeting of the courtroom, coming to stop at the left section of Kayla’s podium, at her side. In the spot meant for an adult, Emily folded her hands against the edge of the podium’s wood, looking up at the judge as Kayla’s eyes looked up at her, wondering if she’d so much as make eye contact. Muzzle a little loose, she wasn’t sure what to make of it, but could feel in her heart that something was off. Behind them, Alex crossed his arms and looked on.


Emily, you have an active Penitatas Parenting License and are described in Kayla’s court docket to be her primary disciplinarian. Her punishments, right up to the rules she follows are under your direct control. So, tell me – when was the last time you had to correct her?”, Kharsen decided to ask first, delving directly into matters of Penitatas affairs. Kayla winced, at least on the inside, tapping a shiny, ebony claw against the podium.


U-hm… A few hours ago, your honor.”, she admitted openly, though seeming just as bashful about it as Kayla seemed to look herself. The fox wanted to smack her own face – it was an incredibly bad day to get her backside treated to a stick, after having what she would call a light month. It seemed even Kharsen wasn’t expecting something so recent, understanding Kayla’s common behavior to be better than that, as so told by his lifted right brow.


That’s not flattering. But, seeing as much of what I read this morning was provided by your written insight into Kayla’s behavior and progress, I did have some things I wanted to ask you. You’ve always been particularly kind in your reports from what I can gather, speaking highly of Kayla’s accomplishments and her more accepting, remorseful behaviors. So, when I see things that are critical, I feel like I should question them for depth.”, the judge began musing aloud, rolling into his thoughts the same way he was doing with Kayla. The idea of ‘critical’ things being said made Kayla look puzzled, as if wondering what she could have done. It certainly made her mother look no more comfortable.


You wouldn’t describe her as outwardly disobedient, would you?”, he asked, seeming curious to Kayla’s ability to follow rules and her direction. To it, Emily hummed faintly.


Not inherently, no. Sometimes.”, the human woman answered quickly, putting a lump in Kayla’s throat. Sometimes? Don’t say that – come on!


Far better than most Penitatas. Lets put it that way.”, Emily herself even seemed to try to correct, keeping honest but sounding better. For some reason the clarification in her response got Kharsen to chuckle softly, making more airy, raspy sounds.


I’m not sure most Penitatas go on to do the things I’m thinking were happening in the background. A report of yours from not long ago made mention of needing to stop Kayla from engaging in a relationship she wasn’t permitted to have during her sentence. One of the P.J.D’s cardinal rules – or their guidelines – if you will.”, Judge Kharsen attempted to probe with one of those lifts of his right claw as he trailed off in description.


Kayla’s blood ran cold. She forced her ears to stay put as to not betray her and scream aloud her guilt, but her claws scraped the screen of her podium as trepidation and an ache to her stomach set in. Cautious, unnerved to the point of being afraid, Kayla eyed up at her side to her mother. It all rushed into her mind so fast, suddenly hearing the voice of Alex on the day he delivered her last “scheduled” spanking as punishment for not keeping her bathroom properly clean.


The reports. Those damn weekly reports Emily wrote. Of course she’d be honest on them, even if she was vague – she lead by example!


So, I’ll ask – did you find Kayla to indeed have a boyfriend, or girlfriend? What came of that little mention?”, the observant Jalaxian decided to pick apart like the twigs Kayla so recently plucked from her own switch, knowing when and where his sharp talents had found something worth questioning. Tense to the point it hurt, wanting to whimper, Kayla tipped her head subtly toward her mother, looking up with scared, pleading eyes. For a moment Emily looked over with just a glance, but darted that eye away with an uncomfortable hesitation.


“… Kayla was found to have a boyfriend. It was the Medicalos listed in my other reports, Jacob Vasse.”, Emily responded with a low, soft tone, spoken without joy or error in it’s accuracy.


Kayla’s muzzle curled, squeezing her paws as they slid slightly across the podium’s display, having to hold back from slamming the smooth, glass-like surface in sadness and anger; head tipping, and eyes breaking from her mother. Her tail wanted to tuck between her legs like she was six, and about to get the worst whipping of her life. That wasn’t something she could have afforded coming to light in this hearing, and in the gallery behind, even Jacob’s tail began to quiver, so unsettled. The rest of her friends and family just sort of blinked, having all understood in some shape or form that the pair’s friendship was special.


Well that explains his commendation sounding like a love letter.”, Kharsen groaned like an old man, getting Jacob to growl in annoyance, scales of his snout wanting to turn red.


Seems your Penitatas was a bit deceptive then, no? Was it as severe as if she – you know.”, the judge lifted his right paw, spinning it in gesture before giving a dismissive grunt and a swing of it.


Oh I’ll just be blunt – did our rejuvenated individuals engage in sexual misconduct?”, he came to correct his wording and just be direct, with just enough time for Kayla and Jacob’s pupils to contract…


Yes.”, Emily uttered her admittance with an airy, pained roll of her tongue.


Emily!”, Kayla shrieked with a backward bolt of both her ears, flinging her head to her side with a shrill, tearfully wounded sound; eyes broken into the look of a scalded puppy, while her maw laid partially agape in both terror and shock. Her entire figure recoiled where it stood, shrinking and taking a wobbly step away on her wooden pedestal; tail thrown. Emily turned her face away, looking off into the empty side of the courtroom.


As Ninne and Anne came to curl their necks in his direction, scales wrinkling with their squints along with a turn of Alex’s head at his other side, the sudden accusing stare of eyes forced Jacob to lean forward and lay his face in his hands, slumping in the most embarrassment and shame he had ever felt in all his years. The relationship wasn’t new, but no one knew of that – and he still had no idea how Emily did. He groaned out a pained whine, curling up as if everyone would trounce him for doing something to their friend and family member – no less culpable in this than his partner was.


Their most private of acts laid bare, it flayed their emotions out of the cruel blue. It came to be that their most affectionate of times together, the eve of Jacob’s innocence, may have gone from that of a loving memory, to that of their biggest mistake – their young rejuve sentiment getting the best of them that night, when it was really the worst thing they could have ever done to themselves. Passion melted into guilt, and Kayla’s first consensual experience became a public mockery. Worse, might have been the fox’s tongue itself, letting slip the hint of such follies to begin with, the evening of her first blistering. Both feeling to blame, that horrible moment made the pair feel very small, and very stupid; left with it’s ruin.


The pain and reality of the single word sank in quickly, with Kayla’s eyes that stared at the side of her mother’s face and dangling ponytail blurring with tears. The look of being stabbed in the stomach wavered with a quiver, not even able to look the human that had cared for her in the eye, as if being ignored in the dark, empty silence that fell. Maimed and heartbroken, Kayla tipped her head down to her podium, propped her white-sleeved elbows on the shiny glass, and slid her fingers through the mess of orange bangs of her forehead. A high pitched intake of air followed it – a tiny, muzzle parting sob, followed by a quiet series of more. In the ball he rolled himself into in his seat on the bench, the sad sound killed Jacob on the inside, making even the old reptile’s eyes water. So unlike the sounds she made when she was subject to punishment, trying to be stoic and strong, it sounded betrayed, forlorn, and tortured, at just how soft and alone it rang out; clenched teeth angrily bared from a frowning face, closed eyes, and half hidden by the shadow of her paw’s clutch.


From his seat above, Judge Kharsen reached behind his right ear, rubbing almost sheepishly while the rest of his furred expression remained understanding of the facts he managed to bring to light.


“… I see.”, Kharsen’s deep voice gingerly interrupted the lament that suddenly fell upon his courtroom, being gentle with the way he rolled those words of comprehension out. It was something rather significant for him to learn, and left a significant mark on the Penitatas he was examining as a result.


I even learned whom Jacob was, from that display.”, the old man commented with his calmer, more elderly sounding musings, knowing well that the Karrian who buried his face in the gallery of his courtroom alongside of Kayla must have been her partner in all that. His broad nose tipped forward, and some of his more haggard fur part and split as she shook his head, lifting that feline gaze of his back to Emily once he had collected his thoughts back to where they were.


It’s interesting that your report didn’t specify any of that. That’s a really big deal.”, Judge Kharsen mused, sounding questioning of her motives. Emily took a deep, shaking breath.


I rectified the issue. They remain… best friends.”, the mother spoke with difficulty, noting that the issue was no longer relevant, and why the boy she spoke of in her reports remained in Kayla’s life without further mentioning of rule breaking.


The strange air in her mother’s voice made Kayla’s muzzle tip her way from it’s sad and agitated prop in her palms; fur between her fingers; opening her seeping blue eyes to try again to see the face that had just done that to her, and the one real secret in her life she held sacred. What she saw loosened the muscles beneath her lower eyelids, and the grasp of her fingers to her own fur. Her mother, still looking away, showed enough of her jaw for the fox to catch a faint tremor – suppressing it, as if struggling to not cry.


Kayla?”, Judge Kharsen called the fox’s name, seeming to question if she could provide her attention to him.


Swallowing, the little adult in Kayla’s heart forced her head to lift despite all she felt, fingers sliding from the fur atop her head in the motion. They came to rest with a partial curl against the top side of her vulpine muzzle, looking over them with such sad, wet and wounded eyes – seeming to hiccup with nary a sound, wanting so badly to howl herself to tears on the inside. She found the long slits of the old Jalaxian’s eyes staring down upon her, straight into her own with a firm look across his face.


Those are things you are not permitted to do as a Penitatas, and is considered to be a very grave trespass. Do you take ownership of that which you have been accused?”, Kharsen made the allegations sound particularly bad for her as he explained it’s severity, seeking to see if the woman he met those two years ago would own up to the truth that he dug up.


It hurt Kayla in so many ways, from her spirit, to her chest and stomach.


“… I’m guilty.”, she permitted her own voice to admit with a slow, soft, tear-stricken pitch; a drip forced from her eyelids into her fur, jaw and lower lip hardly wanting to move. It was true, and no way to deny it wasn’t.


She didn’t know if she’d be leaving this courtroom with anything, any longer, and that feeling of loss cut her to the very hope she put her best foot forward with today. Everything about the day had gone to hell in an instant, brought on by a sharp eye and a mouth that told no lies. Kharsen sighed in reply, leaning forward in his large black chair to lean on the desk of his bench.


Then, just as you said, you are surely not perfect. All things considered, I do feel like I’m getting a good picture of you – things your record doesn’t say on its own.”, he commented with some of his calmer, slower tones as he did toward the start of Kayla’s hearing. Thoughtful, and preoccupied, from the way his eyes looked off against the wood of his own bench beyond the console screen he used.


All Kayla could do was try to stand back up straight, correcting her shoe’s spread upon the wooden step that gave her height. Like someone who knew how to do it with some experience, the fox stiffened her face to try and keep her muzzle from quivering, fighting those tears with a drag of her wrist across her eyes. A sniffle, light and feminine, came from a dampened nose. Ears drooping in a loose, sad sort of vulpine fold, the young Aspatrian’s tail came to sway in a half stiffened, waving wag – like an injured cat that purred to comfort itself. In the stifling air that was left over the court, Justice Kharsen raised a paw to his muzzle as his attention returned to the human woman before him.


I believe that is all I will need to ask of you, Misses Targate. You are dismissed, and may step down.”, Kharsen lowered his head with an idle stroke of the fur along his feline chin, letting that paw slide free in an open gesture for Emily to take her seat. Not at all being what she expected, and not having even cross examined Kayla’s other behaviors as she was used to from prior experience, the mother seemed to flinch.


But I-… ”, Emily tried to lift her hands and speak, obviously wanting to be able to say at least one nice thing after being made to so completely wound and tarnish her daughter – but, as if expecting it, the paw of Kharsen’s that had gestured flipped up into an open palm, waving with a lowering of his brows and head. The look on his face said those words would not be necessary, nor apparently warranted.


Emily’s hands froze where they were; glossy preened fingernails motionless in that moment. Same as when she first rose, she took a deep, uncomfortable breath as she turned away from the podium and Judge Kharsen with a feeling of defeat, pivoting to her left as to keep from having to face Kayla after what she had said. With several steps, ponytail hanging as her daughter’s actual one would in such a situation, she returned to the cherry wood bench she came from to share a glance with Ki`rene; the large Drakonian woman having been idly, yet firmly seemingly working the display of the data-pad she had been carrying in silence, though her expression spoke volumes to where her attention really was. Without a word between them, Emily slid her skirt back upon the cherry bench beside her and slouched in her seat, feeling too deep in thought or shame to look even her own friend in the eye for long.


Lets continue on. I shouldn’t need much more for my final consideration.”, Judge Kharsen announced as his intentions for the court, leaning on those more subdued words of his as he appeared to tap at his bench’s console; a faint series of spaced beeps and chirps heard in the distance in front of them.


Miss… Ki`rene Dal`krest. Please take the podium, if you would.”, he spoke as he read from Kayla’s court docket, only lifting his nose from the information once Ki`rene rose to her bare, strong raptor-like footclaws.


With the only sound being that of her own weight’s footfalls at her size, the eight foot drake flipped her data-pad and slid it into a pocket inside the suit she wore upon her chest as she came forward. Paws settled upon the podium’s display as she attempted to compose and calm herself, one on top of the other, Kayla looked up at the tall mother’s face the same as she did her own to find a squinting, sunny yellow eye looking down upon her. Though Ki`rene was best known for her motherly tones and a generous, liberal smile, the look across her face was serious and stern – reminding the fox of the sort of face she’d make if she caught Ninne badly misbehaving. It made Kayla want to whimper out a tiny whine from her muzzle, if only just to say she was sorry, but a raise of Ki`rene’s right claw toward her sensitive ear made her tighten up; shoulders raising in a flinch. But, rather than a punitive pull or slap; something all knew her ears couldn’t stand; she was met with a light touch, and a scratch behind it. Not using her sharp claws, Ki`rene rubbed the first knuckle of her claw’s index finger against it, petting her comfortingly despite that harsh expression across her face. Though her muzzle couldn’t break it’s frown, Kayla’s eyes looking up beside her came to feel… that expression wasn’t meant for her.


I see you’re almost as old as I am – I still beat you by a good thirty years though. Two-hundred and twelve is still a well-aged number. You too have an active Penitatas Parenting License on record with the justice department, and are a single parent in your household. Seems you operate as a freelance accountant from home to make that work while you… ”, Judge Kharsen read into the information they had for Ki`rene, beginning to tap at his display to light up the podium’s below. It spring back to life and color with an overview page of sorts, cataloging information beside Ninne’s full name and picture, combined with a small blue column on the top right, and a red one beneath it, showing only the most recent entries.


“… Take care of one Ninne Sak`kral, a Penitatas with the same two cycle sentence of ages six to twelve as I gave young Miss Ackart. Arrested for burglary, and grand theft.”, he continued delving, getting Ninne to scoot forward on her own bench seat to get as good of a look at the podium screen as she could from her vantage point behind. Her snout crooked at both it’s ends, baring some of her sharper, broader dragon-like teeth. It was terribly unnerving to see your own red column, versus that one someone else, she quickly discovered.


In two years, someone is going to look at that and go, wow, that girl was an asshole and a crappy friend.”, Ninne whispered in her own frustration to Anne, leaning her neck to be as close to the side of her head as she could, imagining just how bad some of the things she had done would come to look and return to bite her – most namely the period she went through after Kayla was kidnapped. Getting to see this process was certainly a way to reflect on herself, sounding bothered by that of her own actions. Anne just purred out a knowing, rolling reptilian sound of acknowledgment.


You also have another chi-… ”, Kharsen continued tapping below the gaze of his eyes until he paused, stopping short. Abrupt for sure, but it passed with a quick shake of his head. It caught a few brows in the gallery, and a deeper furl of Ki`rene’s own.


I’m going to cut in with a statement of my own. I do hope that a passing fling between two of the rejuves we care for will not ruin Kayla’s hopes here today.”, Ki`rene broke her silence as to not simply speak when spoken to, sliding her grown claws across the podium display to take a strong stance where she stood in her formal clothing. Her words were firm, and darkened away from her typical loving cheer, and it struck Kayla’s worn eyes as to the meaning of the expression she wore across her snout, and how damming her reptilian eyes seemed to glare across the courtroom.


She was under the woman’s motherly wing, as the young ones around her always were.


The fact I did not stop the hearing and pass my ruling speaks for itself, I think.”, the old feline she stood against mused with something that could have been a smirk as his attention came free of the information he was reading prior, giving better care to analyze the Drakonian woman whom added herself to Kayla’s parole hearing docket voluntarily. He had no time to look her up before the hearing began, considering she came into this session under no real prior notice. However, he was at least aware of all the times the name Ki`rene came up in Kayla’s own records and reports, and just what sorts of things she was involved in when it came down to the fox’s potential misadventures.


But, as I’m sure you can tell, I have… certain concerns, that my judgment today is riding upon.”, that right paw of his came up as it had in times passed, tipping the tips of his Jalaxian claws skyward with the old bend of his finger’s joints.


And? What concern is that?”, Ki`rene challenged with her own inquiry, trying to make the harsh tone of her voice simply seem curious; arms coming up from the podium to cross against the large raptor’s breastbone. Emily grit her teeth behind her, out of their sight. That directness and over-willingness to discuss seemed to curl Judge Kharsen’s mouth, shifting his whiskers about in a smile – of sorts.


My authoritative lady, I do believe I’m going to keep those cards face-down upon the table, for now. What I do have are some questions for you, if you’d like to satisfy that hand.”, he spoke with curious amusement in the way his elderly sort of speech tended to mull his wise thoughts aloud, speaking of the odd game of judicial poker they had suddenly came to play. There was an investigation afoot, and he couldn’t afford to let the other players see what he was up to just yet.


From you, I’d like to hear more about Kayla’s inclinations to do things she knows are wrong, be it illegal or amoral. For that, I want us to discuss that period in your life that I mentioned to Kayla earlier… ”, he came to announce his coming intent, before tipping his head to operate his display.


A chirp came from the podium followed by a second in succession, going straight across it to garner Kayla’s attention as well as Ki`rene’s with so much sprawling and colorful data sprawled out in front of them. Most notably were the pictures of two Penitatas they were well aware of, that being of the human Ashley, and Ninne’s mother Dianne, all presented via their overview pages of their file within the Penitatas Justice Department. Their recent blue column entries were brief with few entries, and there was an obvious scroll-bar for both girl’s red sections.


As it came to criminal fruition, Dianne Sak`kral enlisted the support of your child Ninne’s classmate to get a memory-chip filled with a malicious program onto your school’s computer system, to illegally alter her grades as a method of revenge upon yourself and her own biological daughter. While unfortunately successful, Miss Ackart did discover this had occurred by violating the memory-chip Ninne had gotten from school.”, the old cat of justice explained the story to his own knowledge and technical ability, lacking the entire insight Kayla had over the realm of how she determined the grades stored on the memory-chip to have been fraudulent.


While that came to be more of a positive passing in both Emily’s reporting as well as your own, it gave me another subject to pry into that seemed like a strange hole in Kayla’s record. Did you, that day, permit Kayla to use one of your own computational devices and gain unauthorized access to the chip’s underlying encoding?”, he asked as if he was assuming the answer to come, seeming to probe the idea of Kayla potentially being deceitful again. Ki`rene didn’t bat an eye, keeping her arms crossed.


I did not.”, the mother drake answered plainly, without any additional shakes of her head. Kayla had hardly gotten to experience the sting of hearing it, before her ears snapped back to attention.


She didn’t need it, as far as I’m concerned.”, Ki`rene added as a matter of fact, taking Kayla’s side of things without question. Right away, the comment shifted how Judge Kharsen looked upon her.


Really now? You hold no regard to Kayla hiding her follies from you, dabbling in practices that would surely get her hurt in the long run, Miss Dal`krest? She went on to break into Calleet Rejuve Elementary’s network after that, there’s no way you can feel so strongly when you know well what came of that.”, Kharsen adopted some of her own underlying tone, paws coming up, fingers intertwined in retort.


Kayla has made mistakes, but not mistakes that have hurt my trust and regard for her. I’m sure the incident reads badly, but she stopped me from severely punishing my daughter for grades she did not get – need I remind you how bad ‘severe’ can get upon a Penitatas. I felt like a horrible person after that, so I’m more than pleased that Kayla would lend her assistance and abilities without being asked, or even expecting something in return.”, Ki`rene was happy to explain as to her own position, prepared to speak her mind and be a motherly shield.


She was brash, as she admitted, but in the end her moral compass pointed correctly. I’d much rather tell you about all the times she’s helped any one of us, or even just been a good influence.”, she spoke a little more softly, rolling it off her forked Drakonian tongue with a note of inner warmth at getting to think of all the good Kayla had done in the time she had known her. At her side, still so lost from having something as jarring as her own sexuality thrown at her, getting to hear something so nice at least calmed Kayla’s heart.


Miss.”, Kharsen spoke with a harsh hiss off his voice, taking a harder stance than he had at any point previous – unlike his slow, tepid mannerisms. His Jalaxian eyes stared, with one of his thoughtful pauses.


I’m far more worried about if Kayla has done more behind your backs than you might have realized. Are you aware of any times she used a computer console without permission? Done something with one inappropriately?”, he tried to make his line of questioning more clear, splitting his paws apart to gesture firmly with his right. Kayla counted her blessings that he didn’t ask Emily that, considering she knew of her hacking into that attorney’s office to exonerate Jacob, and she’d really rather not be arrested for trying to do good things.


The ends of Ki`rene’s maw curled slightly upon her snout, and with a closing of her eyes, the woman laughed a little – a hearty, reptilian ‘Ha!’ fluttering about the courtroom.


Not particularly aware, but I’m sure it’s happened plenty!”, she answered to her own parental sort of amusement and honesty, suddenly making Kayla’s face look worried again, ears folding with questioning eyes up at the brown scaled woman. Ki`rene’s right claw came up and waved through the air, dismissing the entire thing.


As your record shows, our little hacker is crafty. But, do I think she did something illegal behind my back, is the better question your honor.”, the large drake grinned across her snout at her own thought, and correction. And, with it, a shake of her head; neck craning faintly to and fro.


That, would be a no.”, she affirmed with confidence, and a wag of her right index finger’s claw right back at the robed feline.


Penitatas do things behind their guardian’s back all the time. It would be terribly weird if Kayla didn’t hijack our data-pads and computers to have herself some fun from time to time. Penitatas have no freedom, but you have to understand they aren’t robots or machines either. It’s their only time to truly be themselves, doing something without fear of punishment or being frowned upon. It hurts to be judged all the time, even if the judgment is coming from people that tell you that you’re doing well, or being good.”, Ki`rene tried to explain from her experience and heart, having always been the sort to sympathize and be lenient when she could. With a lift of her claw again, she gestured it to Kayla at her side, open.


It’s just like Kayla and her best friend. They’re not trying to misbehave, they’re just trying to be who they want to be. They do it behind our backs because it’s supposed to be private, and they’d get in trouble – not because Kayla is trying to be a liar. Same goes for her helping me and Ninne, she wanted to do her best and just didn’t know how without bending rules further than they could go.”, she let forth as her own wisdom, reaching her response further beyond what Judge Kharsen was attempting to probe, getting a feeling for the hidden reasoning behind what he was working to pick apart. Once she had finished speaking and Kharsen felt out the silence to see if she was done, the man sighed roughly from his old maw.


You’re getting into the territory of me feeling as if you do not have solid basis for the claims you’re making. You aren’t in a place to be psycho-analyzing Miss Ackart.”, his brows tipped, looking more serious than he had been – if at least perhaps more… irritated. It was hard to tell considering how rough his old gray-blue fur was, as no one could see the twitches of his long tail behind him, tucked half under the drape of his judicial robe.


Yes, I’m trying to figure out how deeply Kayla’s deceptions and penchant for lying ran, and I would suspect the chances for those things happening to be higher when she’s away from her own guardian. I would appreciate your assistance in that, if you would lend me your honesty. I shouldn’t need to remind you a second time that you are required to, by law.”, that elder voice of the judge’s spoke more harshly as he revealed a few of those cards he held onto earlier, taking a much more noticeable note of distaste to being blocked from the information he desired, should it exist as his keen mind and eye suggested from reading into their parenting reports.


The nudge, combined with the lightly threatening sort of reminder from the normally calm feline’s mouth, got Ki`rene to huff through her nostrils and tip her snout. She was going to be listened to, whether he liked it or not – she cherished the fox too much to not do her best.


An honest mention? Sure. Kayla has told lies. She also knows how to swear like the pilot of a garbage freighter, and everyone who has taken care of her has soaped that little muzzle of hers more times than they’d like to count.”, she uttered as a truth that no one anywhere close to Kayla could deny, causing the fox at her side to make a face and want to blush further across that same muzzle Ki`rene spoke of.


But she’s going to grow up to be a fine woman. I regard her like another Penitatas parent, at this point, if you want more honesty from me – I rely on her for the example she leads with, to help teach my own daughter. She carries an outlook and optimism that is contagious to others, and promotes good behavior in every other rejuve she is around. She forgives people for things that shouldn’t be easily forgiven, and even gave my daughter a second chance at being her friend that… well, even I wasn’t sure she would deserve.”, Ki`rene was not shy over getting to speak on Kayla’s behalf with the truths she held, though Emily’s hands balled into frightened fist behind her at the continued defiance in her voice. Ninne lowered her head without a sound, thinking back to how mean she had been – she couldn’t really argue with her mother, despite the words coming to sting her.


Ki`rene though, took a deep breath and looked over the podium with her brilliant yellow eyes, uttering words that lit a loving fire in the heart of the wounded fox beside her.


That’s why I’m going to say, outright, what my friend Emily did not get to say when she was dismissed so quickly. Kayla is a good person, alongside of being a good Penitatas, and has earned her right to parole.”, Ki`rene called out with a steadfast emotion, wanting nothing less for the Penitatas she cared for. Kayla widened her eyes with a faint parting of her lips, paws moving against the podium, while Emily came to snap from behind.


Ki`rene, don’t!”, the human mother demanded, sounding almost angry – and, quite potentially, desperate.


The entire scene was ceased by the slamming of a haggard old paw against glass and wood, flat with a hard slap.


That is – not – for you to decide!”, the Judge bellowed, breaking ‘not’ into it’s own heavy word, sharp and cutting with the baring of feline teeth in it’s extreme weight. Once lost in her young wonder of having heard those she loved outright say she should be released, the powerful and uncharacteristic explosion from the Jalaxian startled the fox into a wince, looking as if she took a slap she wasn’t expecting against the seat of her pants.


Yes, Kayla has earned your affections and loyalty – that is clear and apparent without you attempting to lecture me like I’m one of your charges, Miss Dal`krest!”, the paw he smacked against his bench came to raise his body from his chair, leaning forward to shout down upon the floor of the Penitatas courtroom, making everyone sink in their seats with a skipping of their hearts; his eyes piercing, and more obviously angry than his platitudes and mannerisms had veiled up until that point.


Ki`rene huffed through her nostrils again, but shakily, seeming to have taken at least some sort of wound to her courage from the judge’s reaction to her heartfelt words. She did feel a little like she was trying to make a point to Ninne, as his retort suggested, and in a moment of wisdom against wisdom, she wondered if her approach wasn’t perhaps the best to have taken, given it’s lack of positive effect. Wanting to stand strong, the mother was forced to swallow, reevaluating where she truly stood as someone with far more authority than she glared at her in ways that felt too frighteningly familiar to a deep down part of her mind. She was subject to one of Kharsen’s long pauses, still propped half standing on the strong press of his one paw against the display of his bench.


“… You think you’re being helpful, but your peer knew better. I could pull your Penitatas Parenting License and suspend it this very second!”, the elder justice spat with a glance past Emily, bringing it back to Ki`rene to remind exactly as to why her other parental figure did not attempt to subvert the hearing he was running. Everyone flinched, including Ki`rene, whom drooped a little at the pressure and thought of having screwed up that badly.


Mom, shut up!”, Ninne came to snap from the gallery upon hearing that, knowing she could lose her parent and home over a single word further at this point – acting her age, and how desperate she could get; Anne trying to grab her arm and stop her from making any stupid statements she’d come to regret as well. Kayla, too, suffered a blow to her chest and a worried, slow fold of her Aspatrian ears; tail curling awkwardly against herself.


No, no, no, no – Ki`rene, stop. Just stop.”, Kayla looked over and pleaded with a hushed and hurt voice, sounding surprised and horrified at how each ‘no’ and following word stammered out., turning part way on the step she stood upon to raise her paws up.


Adult claws sliding open palmed across the podium and Dianne’s information that remained upon her side of the long display, Ki`rene hung her head from it’s high perch, pointing her snout as low as it would go without actually touching the end of it to the glass she held herself up against. The courtroom having falling quiet, her eyes closed, knowing how many were staring at her as she felt awfully small for her large saurian size. Having wanted to leap in and be a savior; to at least help; floundering in her own failure felt all too much like days gone by, long ago. Words and actions not sounding the way she needed them, Ki`rene was left with her own fears and not knowing what to do – losing Ninne being too dire of a risk, if she was foolish enough to press her luck any further. Being a Penitatas parent was her drive – her purpose in life, since welcoming Ninne home with the teeth of her own maw. Just as Kayla fought for her own drives; Jacob, the future; there were things she always wished she could do, like being there for others when they needed someone most.


But, cracking her eyes open, she peered to her side without turning or lifting her head. Kayla staring at her, just at eye level with her sullen slump, as the fox seemed to stay frozen with such pleading fright. As if she wasn’t worth it, or something else stoic or selfless like she usually would say. Turn around and walk away, no one would blame you.


Ridiculous, sweet little fox… don’t forget, who’s wing was above who’s.


I’m done, you’re dismi-… ”, Kharsen hardly got to tip his feline nose and bark aloud, before being stopped.


Tell me about that other child of mine.”, Ki`rene requested with a quieter voice, opening her eyes to peer upward without lifting her head; face taking a submissive role, versus what she had been conducting herself with in her motherly confidence. Kayla tensed up since the drake spoke again, but along with her own bewilderment, she saw something else that caught her deeply off guard.


Judge Kharsen’s ears betrayed him, drooping in a way the fox’s would, to give away what suddenly came over him; still propped on his one arm, from the harsh stance he took prior.


I – ah… t-that was a mistake, I didn’t mean-… ”, the old justice actually stammered in his fluster, coming to sound disarmed as Ki`rene did in light of what he was asked. It sounded bashful, embarrassed, and bothered at what had surely been an error on his part. Surely it was, Ninne thought, having known herself to be her mother’s first and only Penitatas thus far, unless there was another rejuve in her past she didn’t know about.


Ki`rene lifted her right claw off the podium, raising it high above her head with an upward, waved sort of gesture – conducting an unseen chorus to just sing and get it over with already.


Looking beside himself, Judge Kharsen came from the perch upon his arm to fall back into his seat with a weakened slump from what he seemed to be urged to do. Acting like he had done something wrong and didn’t want to continue down that same path, the old feline quietly tapped a few keys on his bench console as he was so directed. Having gone from angry and attempting to regain the reins of his courtroom, to that of an apologetic, scolded rejuve, Kayla couldn’t help but cock her head to the side and squint in confusion, while Ki`rene beside her just closed her eyes, and waited.


This was my mistake, it violates your rights in… ”, Kharsen appeared to plead, attempting to take responsibility for his slip of the tongue, only to be met with another more hurried wave of Ki`rene’s arm. The old man sighed, looking down at his display with nary a happy look upon his face; no further curious, inquisitive flutter of his whiskers. As he spoke when getting Ki`rene started upon her time at the podium, noting Ninne, he continued with a note of bitter taste in his mouth.


The other child was also a Penitatas, serving a sentence of six cycles of ages five to ten, upgraded to an adult term in twenty-six ninety-six after two years as a Juvenalas Penitatas. Originally arrested for arson and vandalism, but went on to have three counts of destruction of government property added, with a judicial paddling carried out in twenty-six ninety-nine with an additional four cycles added. Good lord. Completatas classification granted twenty-seven forty-six after two cycles of soft time after all the hard ones… fifty years?”, Judge Kharsen couldn’t help but add his own commentary, sounding surprised and sympathetic.


But I… don’t have a sibling?”, Ninne called out, tense and confused, not grasping the dates that were read aloud.


You do have a mother, though.”, the old feline reminded gently, stroking a single button on his bench display to make Ki`rene and Kayla’s podium chirp with another P.J.D record overview. Kayla’s stomach knotted, fingers curling as her right paw went over her muzzle. Ki`rene’s eyes opened slightly, stroking her cool brown scales beneath an old, familiar picture of a young drake looking into the camera with a quiet face, trying to smile. There was no mistaking those sharp yellow eyes, no matter the child’s age. All the information, sprawl of dates; even red ones to notate the judicial paddling; right up to the columns of red and blue and their final entries.


Everyone stiffened up, words choked back and eyes caught in their shock.


“… That would be the record for one, Ki`rene Dal`krest. I wasn’t supposed to see that. I saw there was another record attached to your household and… it was an accident.”, Judge Kharsen tried to explain of himself, but those of his gallery had already come to stumbling over what they were realizing…


My ma’ was a Penitatas?”, Ninne questioned with a hushed voice, sounding shaken in her young bewilderment as Anne beside her raced to try and count on her shaking claws.


[S-she… the dates, they’re too early. Oh, no - no they’re… ]”, Anne’s awkward snarls edged on hurried, trembling pitches, doing the math in her head to realize Ki`rene’s long life had all of this happen well before the shift in culture and regulation of the Penitatas Justice System. The long sentences, hard parents, difficult life – and oh so many special punishment days. Even Emily was frozen in her seat, rendered silent by butterflies. Penitatas be damned; their mother drake was a pre-reform Penitatas, of all things.


Not a soul knew, until that moment. The harsh reality of the news, and to whom it belonged, was a lot to take in as a surprise. It was a horrible thing to know someone went through, but it felt like the truth was right in front of them the entire time.


Emily rested her head in an open hand. No wonder Ki`rene was so soft and loving, but still had the knowledge of how to be the harshest between them.


Ninne squirmed in her seat, thinking of what her mother had dealt with for such a long time. No wonder she always seemed to know what she was going through, and hated the punishments for Drakonians on Christmas alongside of her.


Even Jacob had to give an extra quiver in the ball he remained curled up in, face hidden between his knees and under his hands. That nice woman… no wonder she reminded him of Kayla, meeting her just yesterday, and seemed all too in tune with the girl’s group dynamic.


And, Kayla at Ki`rene’s side, got to look over the podium’s colorful display with her own two eyes; not even sure how to breathe, as her compassion tightened her chest up with such a sympathy pain. It was no wonder the woman was such a good parent, and marched to the beat of her own drum with such conviction. If Emily lead by example, Ki`rene surely lead by experience. Seeing the name ‘Ki`rene Dal`krest’ etched in white, and even catching the glimpse of a faint solid, filled in ‘P’ on the back of her claw in the picture from what had to be two hundred years ago, struck Kayla with a harsh feeling that made even what had been said aloud about her private follies fall slightly out of her mind. Ki`rene just took a far bigger bullet to herself, uttering things she never dared say aloud on her own accord.


The hope to save someone had not left Ki`rene. She wouldn’t let her moment to shine be as lost as the last one, when she had to submit to a judicial-grade dragon paddle. The angelic wing that covered the fox at her side trembled, but did not falter. She’d do this right, today!


You forcing my claw was a blessing – not an accident.”, Ki`rene whispered to the sight of her own picture and name, picking some strength from the past that only Kayla’s ears could hear. Lifting her head slightly, the mother drake’s neck returned to a more comfortable bend.


Now that everyone I care about knows my dirty laundry, I’m going to allow it to work for me.”, Ki`rene declared aloud, using a calmer tone in light of the tension throughout her body from everyone looking at her and knowing the earliest events of her life. Some of that fire and conviction returned to the luster of her yellow eyes, squinting them in putting forward her reason for having the judge “finish his sentence” he left hanging earlier.


I would like to be recognized by the court as an expert on Penitatas, and Penitatas affairs.”, the woman brought her right claw to her chest, closed, and affirmed as her own legal declaration – knowing her way around a Penitatas court and having been through too many of these parole hearings of her own. If Kharsen wanted her claims to be substantiated, so be it! Seeming to have sunk in his own chair, Judge Kharsen gave a weak shake of his head along with a long pause.


“… The court would not dare to contest. You did not have to do that, Miss Dal`krest.”, the old Jalaxian seemed to speak airily, making note of his regret for being made to speak the things he did, even if he more than grasped her reasoning. He wanted to make no mistake in showing that he felt guilty, and that he would do no harm to that gesture and display. It was brilliant. Touche.


The benefit of the classification of Completatas leaving your life is to never have to hear those things again.”, he added with a more somber gesture of his right claw, knocked from the mental pedestal that he was doing all of his prior mulling and musing with to share those words and moment with what appeared to be another wise individual. Ki`rene raised her neck back to it’s proper angle, allowing herself to try and do this over again.


If I can be given a second chance at doing this for Kayla, it’s worth it to me for everyone to know. Please excuse my mouth, now that you understand where it came from.”, Ki`rene began with an apology, seeking to reform her confidence and beliefs into something that hopefully sounded less like getting berated. There was an old, rowdy and assertive Penitatas somewhere deep down inside her after all, and the voice she used to scold with did come from learning how to use her words more constructively.


To it, Kharsen gave her a silent gesture to her, as if handing the floor back to her. She wasted no time taking a breath, and letting her mind come back out.


Kayla is the most ideal Penitatas you could likely find. She’s sincere, and could likely figure out how to befriend a talking rock. I’m sure you have your own doubts, but know this – I mean it, and can support it, when I say that I don’t believe Kayla is a liar. She may do things under the radar, but doesn’t everyone? It’s just a little different when you’re a ‘penny. A liar wouldn’t admit to you openly when she does something wrong, when everyone very well knows what’s going to happen to her.”, Ki`rene managed to explain more calmly, using her claws in gesture along with a small shake of her head at the end. Again, her open claw went in Kayla’s direction with an expressive shrugging of her shoulders.


You just exposed her and her special somebody as swapping body fluids in front of everyone she cares about, and she admitted to it for crying out loud.”, she tried to point out even if it was crass, making Kayla blush furiously and everyone else cringe on the inside; Aspatrian claws tapping roughly against the glass of the podium she shared, muzzle tipped away.


What you did though, was show what Kayla cares about, and why she wants to do good here today. There’s a lot riding on it that she can’t have right now. A person she loves, and a work that she loves. She has a lot to push her forward toward being good, and most Penitatas can’t say that; their adult selves lacked the motivation to stay the course, or never had goals to begin with. The Packet-Storm of yesterday is gone, and we are left with Kayla Ackart.”, Ki`rene thought to exemplify, wanting to paint the picture of what was keeping her from lying, being a trickster, or otherwise bad – granting the fox a warm and fuzzy thought at being told Packet-Storm was gone.


Those last days of her adulthood… she really wanted to be called Kayla. She was glad Kayla was alive, now, and people knew she existed.


Kayla dear? Tell him about the future. Your business plan.”, Ki`rene broke that fleeting thought to her past, turning her head with a welcoming motion and her more usual gentle tones; that of motherly Ki`rene, Ninne’s endearing yet occasionally very harsh mom.


Kayla hadn’t spoken in a while, not since she had gotten choked up by her mother quite literally exposing her to everyone – even if she knew and understood the why now, as to her parent refusing to lie. At this point she was still reeling from Ki`rene’s own shocker, though the knowledge of sharing camaraderie with the big drake she loved made standing next to her and being so shielded by her even the more sweet. Usually she was giving other people courage, but with a little help, the fox turned fully forward and stood tall to muster her own back to where she needed it; tail coming free of it’s warm tuck against her, finding it’s vulpine luster behind her boyish dress attire. Raising her muzzle and looking on with her once shaken blue eyes, still a little bloodshot, Kayla tried to stand up from getting knocked down, just as Ki`rene did.


Ackart Enterprises is to be operated by myself as an independent contractor specializing in the cyber-security sector. I’ll be offering security consultation, vulnerability analysis and identification, and software engineered corrections to those problems up to, and including, formulating custom hardware level modifications of their services. Our mission statement is to live up to the expectations of a constantly changing Galactic-Net, countering hackers and data-skimmers in real time to… ”, Kayla cleared her voice up to sound business oriented, rolling through the spiel she came up with until Judge Kharsen stood up and seemed to lean over his desk awkwardly, squinting as he looked down over her. It was hard enough to speak such things the way she was feeling; nervous and torn in so many ways; having something other than his complete attention was too much at her age for her to handle before getting shy about it.


“… What?”, Kayla questioned, feeling weird about the odd, light look across the old feline’s face. In being called out upon it, Kharsen stood straight back up behind the console of his bench, raising a claw to his head with a scratch.


You’re not reading that off of anything? You memorized something like that, at eight?”, Justice Kharsen asked with amazement and an elderly man’s bewilderment, coming off as impressed underneath it all. Kayla ‘uhm’ed awkwardly, looking off to the side slightly.


Paddle blisters keep you up at night when they’re fresh, and sometimes you have to pass the time in bed… even though your parents expect you to sleep when told.”, Kayla explained with a timid note tucked in there, hinting that she wasn’t exactly supposed to be doing what she was when she came to originally write all of that.


But… learning it all made me happy. Gave me so much to look forward to.”, she spoke slow, cracking a young smile across that muzzle of hers, as tough as the day had been. It made her blue eyes peer upward with a renewed sense of desire, feeling that twinkle of freedom in her chest again that she didn’t want to let go – pushing her to speak, while she still could.


Please, I’ll dump my pride and plead with you – and my mom will tell you how hard that is for me. I’m begging you for a chance. I know you probably don’t want to give me anything at all anymore, but I’ll take anything to get closer to where I want to be. I worked hard, and I promise I’ll work even harder.”, Kayla’s paws grew restless in her trepidation, bringing the balls of disquieted fingers to the chest of her white dress shirt to make her own case, the same as Ki`rene stuck her neck out for. The tightness and desperation that bled upon her face and voice made it sound from the heart, but with another sigh, rasping and groaning like an elderly cat, Judge Kharsen crossed his arms and stood loosely where he was, seeming to mull only to himself within his own mind for a spell.


Will it be enough? Will those around you still have the heart to keep you on the right path, even if you’re not a Penitatas?”, he came to speak aloud, though with reservations; eyes over the podium as a whole, as if for both Kayla and Ki`rene’s ears. His voice had gotten so low and rough in it’s slow calm, the fox’s ears took a twitch, feeling as if his uncertainty was only pushing him further away.


I think Kayla knows, by now, that at least I don’t care about the letter on the back of her paws. A mother does, as she does.”, Ki`rene interjected as the perspective of herself and what she felt would be that of her parent’s, eyeing down at the girl beside her with a faint, comforting smile, even as she suggested keeping Kayla disciplined as per her personal parenting beliefs. Behind her, still leaned forward upon the cherry wooden bench she sat upon, Emily nodded her head with a tuck of her hands into her lap. Wanting what was best for Kayla didn’t mean writing her a blank check for free reign. Kayla herself, however, clutched those paws tighter to her chest; muzzle and eyes going between Ki`rene and the judge, not wanting to give up her fleeting opportunity to speak.


It’s not even just getting to be with someone, or founding a job I can actually be of help with. I want a good life, with good people – never an empty house again. No more hurting, no more hiding.”, she turned her focus back upward, making her voice more pleading and forceful as it sped up, seeming to take note of the things perhaps her adult self had wanted when referring to her old home, tucked away as a pariah; tail giving a swish through the air behind her. Her eyes tried to water on her again, forcing her to blink and take an awkward breath to free the muscles of her jaw.


I want to start a family.”, she stated slowly; words happy, underneath a slightly teary allure within her young voice. Her future plans and dreams together, forming a family under a warm roof was the final goal and end result of the work she wanted to put forth.


Kayla Ackart – dedicated counter-hacker, loyal partner, and at last, awesome mom.


Lowering his head to a haggard parting of old Jalaxian fur around his neck, his broad nose and strong face shifted back and forth as he lightly shook it. His eyes showed no delight, failing to uncross his arms, and he turned slightly away from her to stare down at the display of his bench console; lighting up half his ebony robe in it’s regal drape. Feeling like she was being shut down without so much as one of his witty retorts – those probing, loaded little questions from his wisdom – Kayla knew there was no hope for her if he decided he didn’t want to debate and converse about it any further. She had to stifle a whimper within herself, sliding forward on the wooden step until her shoes thumped the side of the podium below.


No – please, just think about it!”, poor Kayla begged, wanting so badly to sway him into even just tearing her apart again; those paws of her clutching together, as if praying and pleading. Her eyes rapidly began to burn too much for an eight year old rejuve to fight back, and a faint zip of a sound escaped her throat. Kharsen still looked away from her.


I know I sound like a stupid little Kindern with her silly dreams, but it’s all I have! Please, just-… !”, Kayla’s paws squeezed into a tight clutch, coming off her chest with expressive motions to emphasize ‘it’s all I have’ until Judge Kharsen threw his own right arm out, harshly waving his right paw.


Oh quit flailing you hands at me – put them down!”, he griped and ordered like a grumpy old house-cat.


Flustered and trying to stave off being tear-stricken again, working herself up at her age under such duress, Kayla promptly did as the man wanted with a dull smack of her paws to the podium’s display. Her expression half broken back into something sad, ears not wanting to cooperate, she tipped her head down to think, wanting to squirm where she stood. A faint motion of gray fur above coincided with a distant beep, and before her ears could so much as move, a dazzling sweep of blue light went across the surface of the podium before her from the top lip of the wooden stand. So immediate and quick on it’s way toward and over her paws and forearms, emitting a high pitched zip and the sensation of something tickly brushing by, the surprise spooked the fox into a yelp, jumping backwards on the heel of one of her nice shoes to dart from it. Sole sliding from the edge of the wooden step that had been her pedestal, Kayla slipped and fell backward to land on her tail and hip with a dull thump against the dark carpeting below, caught by the assistance of one of her paws to cushion the blow. Growling a little at the ache upon impact, flinching just as Ki`rene beside her and those all watching did when she smacked the floor un-majestically, she tried to sit up fairly quickly; teeth bared in an expression that just looked surprised and foolish, looking down across her own arms as Judge Kharsen reached up to rub behind one of his aged ears again.


“… I may have been a tad overzealous in trying to catch you before you moved again.”, the feline gentlemen seemed to apologize in a sense, knowing well that he just scared her half to death with his sole keystroke – setting the cellular re-scanner set into the podium to provide her his decision, this day.


As he spoke, Kayla looked over the skin and fur the sweep of bright blue light touched – eyes, mind, and soul, noticing something out of place. Propped on her hip in a crumple on the floor, one knee up, those around her all turned to her, the fox stared at the backs of both her paws with her muzzle petrified into being half-open. In the still, and the silence, tears came freely to her eyes along with a quiver. Pools forming against her bottom eyelids, Kayla looked up and over her own trembling ebony claws at the man standing above; hardly able to speak.


Why?”, she was forced to question in a teary, girlish voice at her age, after thinking she had been thoroughly thrashed during her parole hearing. She expected to be sent away with not a drop of reprieve for what she had been exposed for, and the mistakes she had made with her own two paws – all etched in stone once Kharsen lost his patience and the reins of the courtroom he presided upon. The man she so inquired of stood with his attention back to her, letting off a tired sounding puff of air from his broad, sloped nose.


In deciding what would be best for you, I came to this courtroom with specific issues for examination and consideration. First, I challenged you with something your remorse alone could not fix, to see how you’d respond. You showed me a desire to take responsibility.”, Kharsen spoke with confident resolve in his elderly voice, returning his tones and verbal mannerisms to that which he used before the hearing truly began as he took note of the result of his discussion with Kayla about her old crimes.


Then, as your motherly compatriot – clearly, your friend – so put, when I dug into the deepest parts of something you held secret, knowing well that it would have gotten you into terrible trouble and potentially demolished your chances today, you still admitted to it. I did notice that, on my own. I was worried about your honesty, and that too helped.”, he came to gesture to Ki`rene with an open hand, sharing the result of his examination of the strange hole in Emily’s reporting he dissected; voice seeming to suggest that her misbehavior itself wasn’t what he was interested in, but rather something else – that final card of his that he didn’t reveal to Ki`rene.


But, my true concern for you was only one thing, and something I had to probe deeply to figure out for myself. For your efforts to stop Richter Saccard, working so closely with good people to become the star atop them all, giving you something in return was only right – something society owed you, without question, for your faithful service to safeguard it. Your merits were outstanding, and everyone did have such positive things to say about you, so I didn’t need to hear of those or speak of them so much. What I had to be careful of, is hurting you with that willingness to give you something – doing you a disservice.”, he explained, flipping that final card on his own, to show what he was trying to discover from the very start of the hearing through his line of questioning and probing, being harsh enough to wash away the excitement of reward to see nothing but truth and bare soul beneath.


It was my fear of your relapse, Kayla, and my worry that you could go on to do further bad things if we did not complete your correction, escaping your wrongdoing without seeing the penance that would keep you away from it. I did not want to throw you to the wolves, my young fox. I think that would be the worst thing we could ever do to you, when we know all the potential you hold to reintegrate into society.”, he admitted, showing the purpose of his attempts to discover her trustworthiness and ability to do further wrongdoings in secret – to find assurance that Kayla would not return to illegal activity, or act amoral, if they were going to give her reprieve from the punishment and strict structure she was thriving within. It almost sounded like the strict father he spoke of earlier talking, not wanting to leave that store’s hover-car parking lot without paddling her and making certain she would be safe and sound. But, from his tall stance above his bench, paws upon it, the old feline cracked enough of a smile of sorts to shift his whiskers.


“… It’s true, you do seem to have much to keep you on the straight and narrow yourself, but, perhaps more importantly, I saw the strength of the structure that kept you well guided and cared for. Guardians that want the best for you, full of resolve, and were willing to take measures to ensure you were well off, as I purposely made matters uncomfortable to force the truth out into the open. A glimpse into what you hold dear, and how much you in turn are held dear. None of the individuals that you are with today would allow you to falter, and that includes the Medicalos you chose to have at your side.”, Kharsen went on to muse aloud in a positive light, making note of the turnabout Ki`rene’s attempts had made in convincing him, once they at least became more constructive; the woman’s insight gaining teeth when coupled with her surprise experience, and serving to show that structure of Kayla’s he was impressed with. Though, as he made mention of the Karrian he had noticed earlier, his gaze picked up away from Kayla’s seated sprawl and back into the gallery just behind her; mouth crooking at it’s ends, expressively.


He’s had his face buried since I discovered the extent of your relationship with him, obviously tearing himself apart thinking he played a role in ruining your chances, and your life, in turn. If he’s not at the pinnacle of your support structure, I-… ”, he was able to get a feel for how much the pair meant to one another through the boy’s open sadness and clear lament, not wanting to say with his words that he was fairly certain Jacob was left crying this entire time for the guilt he must have been feeling. But, getting tight in his throat, the old Jalaxian sighed gruffly, cutting himself short with a closing of his eyes for a moment.


Come now, Jacob boy. Look up – Kayla is fine.”, he tried lifting his right claw into one of it’s upward gestures, as if presenting evidence or one of his logical points again, louder as to project his vocal nuances unquestionably in Jacob’s direction.


“… You’re making me feel very bad.”, Judge Kharsen admitted with a sheepishly pained ring to his voice, reaching back up behind his ear again; looking away slightly from the shame of having done that to a Medicalos of all people, grumbling like a humbled old man.


Despite feeling eyes jabbing him in his sides, Jacob lifted his head from the protection of his young fingers and knees to the sight of wet, reddened brown eyes under the droop of his black hair. The judge wasn’t wrong, he felt like everything was going to end poorly, just like Kayla, and it ate him alive to think his eagerness to fraternize with his new cute friend as a fresh Medicalos was a good idea. But, looking over the dividing wall’s glossy wood, he could see orange muzzle and a solitary eye tipped back in his direction, leaking with her trembling right paw held limp in the air, back facing him. Though she wept with nary a sound, filled with emotion, that muzzle of hers was surely an elated smile of shock and awe – absorbing that which she could hardly contain.


The paw, fur brushed against the grain to expose it better, was etched with that of a silver ‘C’ - gone being the letter that looked like a little paddle.


The mark of a Completatas. She was free.


Miss Ackart, this court grants you parole. But, that is not to say that I don’t have stipulations for it.”, Judge Kharsen announced with authority, though that happier, calmer look across his face still remained as he noted further statements to come, all coupled with a quick, eccentric point of his right index finger. His ears making a solitary flick, he turned his eyes down to Emily upon the bench she remained upon, even as she stared down at her daughter in her own silent elation, hands over her mouth.


Emily Targate, I would like Kayla to remain in your care. You got her this far, so I would trust you to guide her toward adulthood – though never again will you have to answer to the Penitatas Justice Department. You can be the parent you see fit, if you are alright with having young Miss Ackart for a-… ”, he tried to speak to it’s entirety, but there was no way the human could keep her joy inside, hearing that.


Yes!”, the ponytailed woman dropped her hands from her mouth to spurt aloud, jumping at the opportunity to keep the girl she cherished. Alex beamed a chipper smile, taking one heck of a deep breath. He wasn’t a disciplinarian… now he could be a dad. Following his sillier mannerisms as an elder feline, Kharsen snapped his fingers in reply before turning that same finger to point at Kayla; claw catching the light above as it moved.


And, as for you, this court expects you to make good on your responsibilities you’ve claimed. You are being ordered to pay reparations to the entities you attacked in the past, via the Calleet Courthouse. The cost being so incredible however, there will be no assigned time frame for this to be completed. As long as you try, and make any effort, the court will be satisfied.”, the man sentenced, but also outlined gently as to not cause unwarranted fear. There were far too many digits in that number to feasibly pay off – she just needed to make good of what she had done.


I will!”, Kayla promised in return in her teary sounding jubilation, rolling on her hip to climb back to her feet in a shaken hurry. Spinning around on her shoes, tail swung behind herself, Judge Kharsen simply clapped his paws together once, as if to seal a deal.


Then my concerns, too, are satisfied. I got to sentence you, as well as parole you. Have a good life this time around, and keep out of trouble.”, the old man seemed to be rather happy to say, no longer needing to be critical. Though, as it were, that finger of his went back up and shot quickly in Ki`rene’s direction.


You keep out of trouble as well! My goodness… ”, Judge Kharsen seemed to both joke and gripe like an old coot, half serious and half not. Ki`rene cleared her throat, bowing her back slightly.


Sorry again.”, she had to laugh awkwardly, though a bright, happy flame burned bright in her heart. She actually saved someone, this time. All without getting her wings clipped again, at that!


This court is adjourned. Please append Miss Ackart’s records accordingly, and… Miss Ackart, turn around and pay attention to your boyfriend already – now that you can, you know.”, Kharsen began his walk back down his bench’s ramp along the wall, breaking from his official speech as that of a justice of the court to that of an observant, if not somewhat teasing bystander, lifting his right claw to wave it through the air as he went back toward the chamber door with the clerk of the court finishing her own work upon her data-pad.


Kayla broke her eyes off the judge as he so suggested, looking behind herself to see Jacob standing against the dividing wall. His eyes looked like hell, but from that worn looking snout of his, he smiled from ear to ear; cheeks shimmering in the light of the courtroom. He was seven – he was allowed to cry, and no longer cared to hide it as he opened his arms welcomingly. A leap of a few steps thrust Kayla into that waiting embrace across the low height of the wooden wall between them, muzzles over their shoulders as the fox continued to half laugh, and half cry, sounding the most relieved and elated as any of them had ever heard.


I’m so happy for you. Still sorry – but so happy.”, Jacob spoke into her ear for loving support, thrilled to no end for her, even if he still wanted to apologize for the terrible thing that came out during the hearing between them. Even if it didn’t hurt her outcome in the end, she surely didn’t need to have such matters involving him be public knowledge, and wanted to share the guilt he still felt. Finishing those words though, Kayla pulled her muzzle from his shoulder and snatched him in a kiss across his lips with a grab of her paws, right at the end of his snout; making the emotional old man in that child’s body go wide-eyed and flinch with surprise.


That’s payback for the one you gave me in Starfleet’s garden. Don’t ever say goodbye to me like again!”, Kayla shut his guilty apology up with her actions before parting her muzzle with his own, lightly snapping with that ecstatic little smile; taking a moment to do something she wanted, now that she could. As Kharsen so pointed out, she could have a boyfriend now, couldn’t she? That awkward happy laugh was passed on, giving some of it to Jacob.


I won’t.”, he assured, sounding just as shaky, now that they could officially be together; tail close to himself, while Kayla’s own swayed in an imaginary vulpine breeze. That warmth and the scent of Kayla’s fur shampoo brought back happy memories from before things got complicated between them.


Two of you don’t waste any time.”, Emily quipped quietly from her seat on the bench just beside the pair, as the group of friends and family began to gather, slipping from their places with either a raptor-like trot or gentle step – mostly depending on their age.


Forgive me. I never would have told anyone, otherwise.”, she apologized right away, to both Kayla as well as Jacob, holding to a note of guilt and regret as that new ponytail of hers slid across her back with the shaking of her head. It was a painful thing to have done, outing their personal affairs in fear of being caught lying in court. She knew she had to betray someone else’s trust in order to perform that legal duty, and Kharsen having figured out so much on his own made it impossible to hide.


She didn’t even tell me.”, Alex chimed in, sounding as if he was still a bit agitated at the news. Considering he was behind Jacob at this point, the Karrian cautiously pulled his tail closer to himself, getting a strong “protective father” vibe that made it feel a phantom sting. He was still a Penitatas parent even if he abhorred the role at times, after all.


I don’t care – I know what you really wanted to say!”, their fox forgave without question, darting from the spot she stood to slap her paws onto Emily’s skirt-covered thigh and kiss her on the cheek – filled with such a gleeful childish energy. Because of what Ki`rene got to say, she got a glimpse of what even her own mother wanted her to get from this hearing, and that degree of trust made her feel more loved than anything else. If they could look at her and know without a doubt that Packet-Storm would never strike again, then every repentant lift of her tail, baring of her palms, or wide opening of her maw was worth it! Who knew having your nose in the corner would be such time well spent.


But… Right. She knew those things because of what Ki`rene did, and the sacrifice she made to do it.


Paws coming off her mother’s thigh, Kayla turned on her shoes with a curious look over her shoulder to go with the teary eyes and jubilation as another thought slipped into her mind. Big and tall, Ki`rene had left the podium along with her, looking a little worn and embarrassed despite the motherly smile she got to take on as she watched how happy Kayla had become – her own reward, seeing those eight year old paws bolt about with their new classification letters. One would have thought it was just Ki`rene being her loving self, but now that she knew better, she could also realize it was because Ki`rene understood what having those silver ‘C’s meant. Though her toothy, vulpine grins and expressions did not dull, Kayla’s ears still folded back apologetically when she met eyes with the yellow-eyed drake; the one she knew to have quite the adept tongue at lashing. Right away, just as Kayla’s muzzle began to move, Ki`rene lifted her right claw and wagged her right index finger.


I see those ears – don’t you say you’re sorry. I did, what I did.”, that claw went back to herself with an open palm, trying to reassure that Kayla played no part in what happened with her.


The nicely dressed Aspatrian stopped her attempt to speak, keeping her ears back with a wide curl of a smile before just running clear into the Drakonian woman’s chest. Her long white sleeves went against Ki`rene’s black suit top, hugged right into her with a tuck of her muzzle against it; slipping in a few more happy laughs, as she more obviously cried. What Ki`rene did was wonderful, and the fox felt she owed her the world, but there was still so much sympathy and guilt mixed loosely into her tears. A Penitatas of fifty years, whom had seen all the worst there was to offer, during a time when things were even more severe than they were now. Imagining that, with their kind mother drake, was a tough thing to put together.


Thank you.”, came out of Kayla’s mouth a tad broken, much more tear-stricken than it had been. She appreciated every last bit of support, and if she couldn’t apologize for Ki`rene’s own secret getting out, she at least wanted to let her know how much it meant – coming to be hugged tighter by a pair of adult, reptilian claws.


I’m still the same me I’ve always been. I just hope you don’t think any less of me, Ninne.”, Ki`rene decided it was a good time to speak up on the matter as she held the fox she lent a scale to, though her eyes went specifically for her own Penitatas daughter at the end. When this was all said and done she still needed to be Ninne’s mother, and knew her prickly cactus could be awfully judgmental of others. Destroying things and setting them on fire sounds pretty terrible when spoken aloud, she had to admit.


At least we share something in common. Maybe tell me some old stories, sometime?”, Ninne replied with her young dinosaur-like neck crossing the dividing wall between the gallery and the main section with Anne at her side, scarf ends dangling against the wood.


We’ll see.”, Ki`rene didn’t outright dismiss, though sounding uncomfortable under the smile and kinder voice she was using. It still wasn’t something she would have ever shared, so speaking of it sounded daunting.


[Oh, don’t dwell on all the bad stuff we learned today. There was a lot of it.]”, Anne had the wherewithal to remind, considering there were more things than just people’s dark secrets leaked in the courtroom today – like Kayla’s ‘kill count’, or that comical-yet-serious number they presented as her debt. The drake made a toothier expression, bringing her claws together with a playful hike of her spine toward her tail.


[It’s ‘C’ day!]”, she announced like a holiday declaration, congratulating Kayla as she gently parted from the hug she shared with her angelic guardian; those new classification letters coming to wipe at her eyes above a cheerful expression. Ninne huffed through her nostrils, trying to make a face.


Kayla’s the youngest and she has us beat by years. Not that I’m going to be paroled when I hit twelve… I’ll be lucky if I get soft time.”, Ninne offered as something of an introspection, knowing the misbehavior and ill things she’s done during her past few years, and what that was going to do to her when she reached this point of her life. It was a painful thing to realize, especially when she had no one else to blame but herself.


[You could probably thank Kayla for it not being worse, you know.]”, Anne rolled her reptilian sounds over her tongue, again having the thought to remind. Ninne reached up and rubbed the side of her neck, just behind her jaw.


Yeah. Congrats Kayla. I’m definitely jealous.”, Ninne perked her snout up into at least a small smile, offering her own sentiment for the fox’s big day. Alex picked up the conversation behind the sprawl of rejuves, giving Kayla his own words.


There so much we can do now too! How would you like to pick out some paint for your room, and we can work on it together – you and I?”, the happy man came to ask, with everyone knowing well how much she hated the naked beige walls of what had been her own ‘prison cell’. This was a point of her life where he could finally shine, setting the paddles aside to help teach her work and responsibility. Those ears of Kayla’s perked with an upward flip of glee, bringing her paws up as high as nearly her chin.


Paint?!”, she exclaimed, having been so lost in the obvious positive changes in her life to even notice the smaller, like those of the rules that governed her room. She was a normal rejuve now, subject to only normal household rules and parenting. There was even the chance she could do things on her own now, without needing to ask permission first for everything under the sun! That was going to be a lot to get used to. Freedom of choice seemed so huge, in that moment, beyond just her goals of companionship and business venture – and the clear benefit of having to not have to lift her tail… at least for more than a stroke or two, she hoped.


Life was going to be a lot different.


We should do something to celebrate before you start staining Kayla’s fur a different color. Why don’t we all go out to eat? She’s never gotten to go to a restaurant with us either.”, Emily lifted a hand to suggest, adding more sweet things to make Kayla’s tail stretch out in overjoyed enthusiasm. A restaurant too?!


I’d be more than happy to pay for all of us, if I actually had a parent with me to approve me accessing my account.”, Jacob spoke up, sounding more himself than he did when he was still overcome with the whole affair; refined, though with a boyish tone of his young age. Unlike the Penitatas he befriended, he wasn’t destitute or owing of anything when he was unexpectedly rejuvenated, so he still had his savings of credits. Rejuvenated individuals just didn’t have unrestricted access to it, knowing well that even rejuve children were as capable of impulse and poor decision as their Kindern counterparts. No one needed some hyperactive Voluntarus to clean out a toy store, along with their own bank account.


“… I’d approve of it.”, Ki`rene spurted with an oddly high note on the outside of their circle, as if offering; claws toying with one another before reaching into her suit for it’s pocket.


Granted Jacob doesn’t mind having a sister that tends to be loud when her tail is chewed.”, the notion which she was presenting came more obvious as the data-pad she had earlier returned to her grasp, flipping it’s slender and lightweight profile outward for it’s display to be seen.


The top corner having the seal of the Calleet Courthouse, same as the ornate crest above the judge’s bench, minus the Penitatas symbol, it was a form with all of it’s fields filled out – that of an adoption paper for a rejuvenated individual. The sly mother drake had worked on it quietly until it was her turn at the podium, having pulled it up the moment she heard the sad news of the kind Karrian losing his parent and home, at what sounded quite like his own decision. That had to be such a painful thing, and wanted no part of leaving him alone. Seeing his own name on the display, Jacob stared at the form and over the woman’s brown scaled wrist, up to her face, at a loss for words. Emily though, surely not lost on her fellow parent’s wording, made a bit of a face.


Ki`rene, you’re only one person! Jacob and Ninne both?”, she questioned out of concern, while Ninne too raised her neck, squinting awkwardly at the thought of having to share her mother and home. It would suck a lot worse to get stripped down and punished with a spectator always around! Though, to all the sentiment, Ki`rene laughed softly, letting the slightly reptilian sound from her throat with just a happy, motherly expression, taking a couple of steps closer to the dividing wall.


I think Jacob would be a help, not a hindrance.”, the tall drake dismissed the thought, willing to do a good job for both of them. She knew it was work, but it was the sort she lived for. Placing herself close enough to Jacob, she tipped her neck and lowered her head, holding the data-pad with both her claws like a kid wanting their parent to approve of their grades, or a picture they drew; letting the decision be entirely Jacob’s own, as if the privilege would be her own.


I know things had to have been very sour for you to ask to be refiled. I promise to be a good mom, and I’ll always use my words – and if I mess it up, you tell me! You can live right across the street from Kayla, and you can have her over any time you want. You’re a Medicalos – this is your time to enjoy being young. At your total age, I bet you’re getting as sick of replicated food as I was too. I cook – real food! I have a guest bedroom that could be all yours, if you’re okay with it.”, she pitched to the Starfleet doctor she had gotten to meet, offering a space for him within her home and at her side. He seemed so caring and mature, and was obviously Kayla’s most cherished person. The way she spoke, quick, and almost sort of anxious, she really was seeming to seek his approval.


“… You could be my son. I’ll make sure you get the care you deserve, this time.”, the thick end of her saurian tail seemed to wag like a happy rejuve, smiling so much.


Now Jacob had two great things to be happy about. That Drakonian woman had already seemed so warm with him at the preserve, and now here she was trying to make that permanent. The way she conducted herself, so wise and thoughtful – older than even he – felt like exactly the right thing for him. No more staunch military families to go with his rejection of Starfleet. Maybe… things would be okay, after all.


Go on – hit send!”, Ki`rene requested of him with her own sort of chipper excitement, seeing the sort of comforted happiness creep across his Karrian muzzle. Given the opportunity to make his own decision, same as his partner, Jacob lifted his right hand, and…


Chirp.


Welcome home.”, Ki`rene spoke more quietly, as if a whisper just to him, with the addition of a tap of the end of her snout to the end of his own. Not used to such affections, it made the old lizard snicker out of the silliness of it all – but boy did it make him feel so much better.


I’ll take the stress of getting you moved from here. Nothing left for you to worry about.”, she declared, assuming all the responsibility of getting his old room and life tucked into another – one he wouldn’t need to worry about leaving. With a parent’s care and a roof over his head, and a mate that would no longer see constant painful scorn and loss, the weight of the world was lifted off Jacob’s shoulders; left standing there such a happy man, and a contented child. Ki`rene got to use both of her wings, this day.


“… Just don’t make fun of my stupid tiny stool in the living room corner.”, Ninne grumped with a sigh, speaking of her punishment stool that was low enough to the ground to practically make even Kayla squat, and that was back when she was six. It appeared that life would be changing a lot for all of them, in it’s own little ways. Kayla couldn’t help but bounce on her shoes – it was unusual for life to feel so right.


Soon coming to make their way back to the double doors they entered from, leaving the old tensions of the courtroom behind, the group was left needing to part their separate ways due to those that continued to wear the mark of penance. While the restaurant invitation included Ki`rene, whom would have loved the opportunity to spend time with her new child, the fact of the matter was that Ninne and Anne could not go, and needed someone to bring them back to the Penitatas district they all lived within. She’d get to know the kind physician over her own food, and while Ninne was busy having mumbled conversation with her walls.


Though as Kayla, Jacob, Alex and Emily were leaving the courthouse that sunny summer’s afternoon, their once notorious fox was met by cameras – their local journalists having gotten word that Packet-Storm had been summoned for a prompt parole hearing, through public record. Unlike the other times she came to grace the morning news-chip, Kayla got to stand on the steps of the courthouse as a willing participant of her own photograph. She stood as tall as her eight year old figure would allow, ears up and tail at a voluptuous curl in an outfit she came to rather like. At the height of her lap, she placed her paws together, one on top of the other, so her new silver ‘C’ could easily be seen, though backward, and she gave her strongest, most confident smile.


The story of villainous Packet-Storm’s crimes evolved to that of heroine Kayla Ackart’s parole. It would be the last time her life would appear on the cover of the morning news.


Until she hit the business section, at least.









My Fox is Free

May 21st, 2889 – July 31st, 2891