Kayla: Destiny's Meeting
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 Thirty-Seven)
Concept by Lurking Dragon
Kayla and story by Professor Bob

Stars glimmering outside the window beside his desk, a middle-aged Starfleet doctor sat in his chair, one leg over the other, reclined as he skimmed over research reports. Sol shined its brilliant orange rays against the thick transparent titanium window panel that separated him from the vacuum of space, shining off the edge of the hull as the occasional starship passed within viewing range; the dark silhouette of an Earth defense platform a speck in the distance. The man's green reptilian scale, soft and smooth, was a step apart from those with skin you typically found in a Federation command position, orbiting Earth in a medical vessel. He was no human, and often never noticed much of a functional difference, fitting in fairly normally with such a humanoid stature – aside from the reptilian muzzle and long dragon-like tail, of course. His species was not the most common on Earth, but not too rare that it was impossible to see a member of his kind; the Karrian. Often compared to Drakonians for their non-mammalian sentience, they tended to be considered the more physically advanced of the two races, even if either people would have called that a prejudiced statement. Even so, the doctor couldn't much wear shoes either, with large white claws off each of his strong digitigrade toes. Solid black hair came off his head, partly covering the patch of gold colored plates on the back of his neck that ceased once they reached his back.

The claw upon his thumb grazed the silver data-pad's frame as he used the appendage to interact with the screen, scrolling through report after report with his other claw loosely open beneath his snout. Staring at the data with his thoughtful brown eyes, the atmosphere of his office was quiet; something he liked; aside from how dull it had been. The poor Karrian physician could feel his tail growing stiff behind his chair, tingling like a foot that fell asleep. It's not like the reports were all that useful, as active as he was on board his vessel to already know what was going on. The man, holding the rank of Commander within Starfleet, was the second officer on board his vessel, overseeing research and medicine with a deck all of his own. Filled with laboratories and physicians of varying skill and experience, ranging from seasoned surgeons to cadets from Starfleet Medical Academy, it was the place he called home when off the ship’s bridge. Each day he had to ship the results of tests down to the Starfleet Medical complex in San Francisco, seated upon on the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters. With he himself being a particularly experienced doctor and researcher at his advanced age, sitting behind a desk wasn't his idea of getting a whole lot of work done, and not every day felt as fulfilling as the last; long since away from the front lines of medicine as he once was, before becoming an educator and leader.

Pulling his attention away from the nothingness he was inevitably busy with, the old gentleman's door sounded a request for entry. Slipping his data-pad back onto the desk, the thin device went into its idle display mode, showing their vessel designation – the U.S.S Apollo, with the Hippocratic oath sprawled neatly below the ship's title in orange text.

"Enter. By all means, please.", the doctor responded as if relieved, a smile coming across his snout as he sat up in his desk chair and corrected his posture to something more professional. The interruption was appreciated, showing a couple of his sharper looking pearly white teeth as he tugged upon his uniform with his claws to make sure the red, command-designating shoulders of his top had no creases from his private lounging.

It was in vain however, as when the door split and slid out of the way, it wasn't anyone he had to be massively professional with. Instead, he took his claws from the light gray-metallic colored collar of his uniform and picked up the datapad from his desk, giving it a bit of a wave in the air to his long time colleague as she stepped toward his desk.

"I do hope you're not delivering another one of these.", he was forced to joke, considering she knew his personal disdain for all this pointless desk work, and it looked like she had more of it swaying in her hand. The female human cracked a smirk of sorts, finding it sad in a more pathetic way how long he had been in here working on logs and reports. Even so, it was still unwise to simply tell her superior he would have an easier time if he finished his work faster, even if she had known him for many years and could get away with such a thing.

"You never did like doing paperwork, even in the academy Jacob. It was a wonder that you could even study, since it meant putting your tubes and microscopes down.", she did however tease, long blonde ponytail lightly bouncing as she stepped up to his desk and placed a much larger datapad upon it. This one's sizable display showed the reaction of a Gamma quadrant fungus on a simulated human body, to test for possible dangers out in the vast black sea in which they explored.

Looking down, the dragon-like doctor sighed out a hum, giving the pad a mere glance before looking back up. It seemed the simulated patient in question had a runny nose; not exactly the find of the century. The look across his face and snout was almost desperate, if not amusing, as the two were used to in their banter. They really had known each other since Starfleet Medical Academy. Jacob, sporting even a human name, joined on his second trip through life, and still a Voluntarus at the age of eighteen. He had lived a successful life as a doctor, deciding to reach for the stars literally the second time around by applying with Starfleet after his schooling and growing back up again. The two were nearly best friends throughout their education as she learned the ropes for the first time, and Jacob learned more then he did previously. As the years went by and they filled their assignments and posts, Jacob's experience and knowledge as a healer provided him his rank, along with his strong stances when working with others. The woman knew better however, knowing that deep inside there were some parts of that promotion the Karrian did not like. The look across his face wasn't one he had when he tutored her through the academy all those years ago, full of pep and vigor to be a teacher and have a study partner.

"Come on Commander, you're expected in pathogen research lab three anyhow. Doctor's orders, before your fingers cramp or you contract a disease that makes you hate your job.", the woman snickered at the end, trying to think way back when you wouldn't have caught the reptile sulking in boredom behind data-pads. Was it… twenty nine years now? It wasn't like he had anyone else. She always felt it necessary to be there for him. Even as his subordinate, she couldn't stop being his only casual friend when that coot of a Karrian was so selective with whom he opened up to. For someone who hated being behind a desk, he still loved being in a lab, as long as it was quiet and he was typically by himself.

Raising up from his seat, Jacob slipped his tail from the hole in the back of his chair so he wouldn't get caught on it, flicking the prehensile appendage to his side before placing it back behind himself and walking around his desk. He didn't need to be told twice – important experiments were a solid reason to skimp out on his administrative desk duties.

"Without you Cameron, I would have a need for a scheduler and a calendar. Glad one of us isn't getting senile yet – a hundred and eighty two years will do that, you know.", the man spoke with some of that lightly humorous, if not sarcastic vigor.

Stepping past the woman as if he couldn’t flee the data-pads fast enough, the two filed out of his office and into the corridor of deck twelve – the research deck that Jacob specifically commanded as his rank and role, leading the way rather than conducting the lab work himself at this stage of his life. Cameron turned her head as they walked, looking up at the extra two inches of height her commanding officer had on her; an adult Karrian being a tad larger by default, regardless of her own size.

"Hopefully I’ll keep my brain cells functional until I am a hundred and thirty. I'll be rejuvenating long before then anyway. Maybe a hundred and ten, to keep up the girlish figure.", she replied once they were on their way to the laboratory they needed to be at. It seemed like Jacob needed a good hypospray of lighthearted banter, as starved for social interaction as he seemed. Getting bored and lonely wasn’t solved by sitting by himself, and he never seemed to learn that even as he got older. Without moving his head much, Jacob just looked to his right with his eyes, sort of tilting his head to one side to do that.

"Never thought of you as being vain. That dress you wear while on shore leave doesn't exactly scream vain.", Jacob said plainly, even though there was a hint of a smile towards his cheeks. Cameron shook her head and took the jab as normal, thinking of a retort as one of the academy cadets stepped past; the deck filled with blue-hued Starfleet shoulders.

"I never really thought of you as a fashion expert either. Learn something new every day – like you paying attention to what I wear.", she shot back plainly, though she couldn't hide her amusement in it as the pair approached the door to the lab they were expected in. That time the reptile actually turned his head, giving a look from his eyes that silently said 'thanks', appreciating her being there for him like that.

It was a calm, soft moment for them both as they took those last few steps.

But, they would be their last.

Cameron's boots left the ground as well as Jacob's footclaws, swept off their feet by a heavy force; both sight and sound going momentarily deaf and blind. Going from so light and loose in demeanor to having their hearts falter, both felt a jolt of tense fear flow into them as if in slow motion as they fell. Cameron struck the floor first, landing safely on her forearms, while Jacob landed with a smack of his muzzle against the wall beside him as a blast rippled through the U.S.S Apollo's hull. As suddenly as it occurred, the reptilian doctor shifted his tail first against the floor, lifting his body up with his arms right away as he got his bearings. Like being shot back into reality, the light in the corridor faded to dark, with an alarm klaxon sounding and the telltale ripple of red moving past him from the lights going down the side of the wall. The ‘red alert’ call throwing the Commander back into his senses, he clambered back onto his feet using the wall for support, while Cameron attempted to do the same at his side. Eyes focusing, Jacob looked down the hall, seeing a singed door open with people running out of it; smoke billowing with a fire-like glow seeping into the corridor. Clearly they didn't want to be in there…

A bolt of realization rippled a sensation down his back and tail, getting enough wits back about himself to realize exactly what room that was; reality stealing his focus back from the shell-shock. As if going right back into his command training, his right claw smacked his communications badge upon the left side of his chest, baring his teeth as he sounded his first order – voice serious, if not even dire.

"Deck twelve, evacuate immediately! Evacuate!", the Karrian shouted hard, finding step in his feet again to bolt for the door his eyes were locked upon, until another sound caught his attention that made him stop and turn his head back around.

Across his muzzle was a look Cameron had never seen before; the red from the alert lights flowing down the corridor past the green scaled man to illuminate its shape. His teeth showed almost angrily in the heat of the moment, and Jacob had never looked this authoritative – filled with steadfast desperation. She was still on her hands and knees trying to get up, trapped in a daze from the explosion. She tried to call out, but it ended up just a garbled breath. The room ahead of Jacob that appeared to be the source of the blast… and she knew just as much what that room was used for as he did – and that it was very much the wrong way to run.

"Commander!", she shot out of her mouth on her second try, getting back onto her feet – needing to get the both of them off the deck immediately. She’d be given no time to plea, as a clawed finger came right up in her direction with a swing of a tail.

"Lieutenant, assist with the evacuation of the deck! Notify the Captain and clear decks eleven and thirteen, and get a team to monitor the bio-filters! You are in command!", was his second, firm string of orders, given to whom he considered to be second in charge of his deck. It was a painful order to hear. She is in command? Evacuate, as in leave the deck? But what about… !

"That is a direct order!", Jacob was very quick to remind, snapping the woman out of her shock as the reptile turned with a leap off his toes and ran down the corridor, sprinting straight into the haze… leaving someone else in command, as if he wasn’t going to be able to give orders any longer. Ponytail slumped over her shoulder, orders be dammed in that moment – Cameron went wide-eyed, throwing a hand out despite her poor balance.

"Jacob!", Cameron cried out, even as she averted her eyes and ran the opposite direction to get everyone off the deck as she was told; pain filling her chest. She couldn't even call him by his rank after what he just did, caring for him too strongly. The thought of what he was doing made her sick to her stomach, hoping for the well being of everyone in that particular laboratory, and especially her friend and mentor.

'That foolish lizard!', she yelled in her mind as her hand touched her com-badge to notify the Captain, as Jacob had leaped into the fray to hopefully save whom he could.

Claw smacking against the doorway to stop himself, the man's maw came slightly open as he looked inside to investigate the damage to the laboratory; his other claw shielding his nostrils from the noxious smoke and vapors. The lab was the largest on this deck, and even occupied a portion of deck thirteen as a second floor for some of the controls and mechanics needed for the research lab. 'Radiology One' read a plaque beside the damaged doorway – the primary lab on the ship for doing research on different types of radiation encountered throughout the universe. The device in the center of the room, circular and surrounded by panels with a cylinder headed up into the ceiling, had been split down its side and showered sparks and a green, plasma-like wisp that glowed eerily; bleeding raw radiation in massive amounts. To make matters worse, a support beam from deck thirteen had fallen and gone through the bulkhead on the left side of the room, splitting two control consoles in half with a spreading fire, while a bright, flickering blue flame toward the top of the room spelled out another deadly story. A plasma conduit ruptured on the way back towards the warp core for the ship, flooding the room full of heat and additional radiation. The radiation-generating reactor in the middle of the room, used in research… something must have happened to make it blow out as it did, and created a surge back through the ship that blew out even the protected plasma conduits. How could this happen? There were fail-safes!

Jacob's deck was flooding itself with powerful radiation, no matter what happened to actually cause it all to blow. Different frequencies and intensities of unseen wavelengths were intermingling, and the room had quickly gotten very hot. It was like being in a furnace in the room's doorway. None of the units had gone offline as they should have, placing the ship at risk for a much worse disaster. Radiation would quickly degrade the containment fields for all the experiments on the deck, releasing viruses, pathogens, bacteria… and, eventually, the shields trying to contain the radiation away from the rest of the ship and its crew. As soon as Jacob saw where the blast was, he knew the danger. So did all the ones running away.

Anyone here after the blast, would die. Quickly.

In a rush of courage and confidence, the Karrian took a deep breath and sprung into the room towards certain radiation poisoning. His arms promptly covered his face and snout with a grunt from the heat flowing around the room, running past the reactor to a control panel in the rear of the room. Tiny sparks skittered off the metal of his com-badge, reminding him just how much radiation his body was being blasted with. He already felt something not right in himself as he went through the large room, knocking over a specimen cart and scattering it's tubes and trays across the floor in a sickened stumble and weak flail of his tail. Alarms ringing loudly through his mind, he placed his claws on the console and quickly tried to get everything deactivated in an adrenaline-fueled flurry of smacking fingertips. Systems – power – emergency release, the reptile quickly attempted to select as his shaking claws tapped at the console. In a flash, the display panel turned dark and came back with red flashing text and a solid orange boarder, chirping in error. 'Unable to Comply. Relays locked.', the computer replied without a sense of sympathy for the Karrian's situation. His open claws smacked the console, to get a bout of dizziness travel up his arms to bite at his brain.

He was in agony. It was getting hard to see straight already, body being literally torn apart internally; weeping cellular fluid from between his scales, to be followed by blood. The radiation leak was getting to him as quickly as it was getting to the systems in the area, burning out circuitry and apparently melting relays, as the computer had informed. The copious bombardment of particles made unseen holes, disintegrating everything in their wake.

"Warning, radiation exceeding lethal levels and rising.", announced she ship computer in it's deep feminine voice; sensors in the area clearly still online.

"Fuck off!", Jacob looked up and spat at the computerized voice, shoving himself off the console which began to flicker from losing power. Swearing wasn't much his forte, and never usually would, but his mind was far elsewhere – in more pain than he would have imagined possible.

Even though he was staggering and clutching his abdomen, looking as flushed as a green reptile could, he fought to make it to a table nearby which he nearly fell onto. He was gasping for air, claws barely able to function as he scrambled through medications, knocking many of them carelessly off the table in his panicked and pained state. The radiation was burning his scale clear off his body, slowly but surely, with the rays destroying his insides just as quickly. Barazine, Barazine, there had to be some here! As soon as the Karrian located the hypospray he was searching for, he flung it to his neck and injected it into himself, before throwing it over his shoulder to thump against the floor while he slumped against the table. That would buy him a few more moments of radiation resistance, even as his vision began to change colors from his intentional over-dose. The hypospray worked within seconds, leaving the man shuffling and staggering for another set of consoles at the other side of the room, looking frantic. There were kids all through this ship, young and never rejuvenated, learning to save the lives of others. If he failed, it could cost many of them their lives.

"Warning, radiation has far exceeded lethal levels.", the ship's computer again announced, with the same serious air as it did the first time; reminding that he had already absorbed too much to survive, no matter how much he might fight.

"Shut up – please!", the draconic reptile shouted upwards again, clutching his claw up higher and higher upon his body, reaching his chest instead of his abdomen. His heart began to beat erratically and rapidly – the doctor getting signs and feelings from his body that suggested his organs were failing, and his time was short. The radiation was likely destroying every little strand of DNA in his body, melting the nuclei of every life-giving cell until his insides began to liquefy back into the organic goo his body was based upon.

"Your patient's ability to overcome illness is also a psychological battle. You keep their confidence up, computer.", Jacob scolded the computer with a quiet, slurred sort of voice. He hummed and huffed out his nostrils once at the console, holding his head with a claw, as blood tainted sweat dripped down his lowered snout. His own hair fell onto the damaged console controls, and the pain in his body was debilitating. The only thing keeping him up and alive being that overdose of Barazine; granting him consciousness without screaming. His blurred eyes could see his claws, looking red and black, and feeling hard. Almost crispy from the bloody, fleshy burns. He felt them throughout his body, inside and out. He didn't know if it what he said to the computer was himself trying to find that last drop of determination, or himself growing delirious; his central nervous system giving up the ghost.

Trying to concentrate, he began slowly tapping at the keys on the flat glass panel, barely able to keep his head up to look at the display and work. Jacob tasted blood, and was too far from reality to realize blood had been dribbling off his jaw and covering the chest of his uniform. His tail hung limply, trailing blood down it as it burned, clattering its last tiny bone to the floor, unheard. The computer screen fluttered through power and control systems as the Karrian went through each as quick as he could, trying to shut down anything that may respond; reaching out further to find relays he could close to kill power to his area, if nothing else worked.

Down on deck fourteen, Cameron chewed on her right index finger nervously; a habit she had never been able to kick. She was leaning over a colorful Federation console, watching in quiet horror at the work Jacob was attempting to perform. There were no control pathways left, all destroyed by the radiation leak. She could only see portions of what Jacob was doing, unable to even help and access the same systems. The ship's captain had force-fields brought up around deck twelve to shield everyone from the massive radiation, but they would only hold out so long. Up on deck one, his finger was hovering over the proverbial button. The order to jettison the warp core was a possibility, waiting until the last moment because of the danger doing so would cause to the people of Earth. If the warp core fell into the atmosphere… his order could kill so many. Chances were the ship would be abandoned. Cameron knew this and stared blankly at the data, while behind her, the team monitoring the bio-filters were busy at work. They were able to keep everything contained on deck twelve aside from a strand of fungus spores on deck eleven that was causing some to have a runny nose. Cameron's screen stayed watching only the power relays Jacob was trying so hard to cut to save them all, when no one else would even be able to get close to them any longer.

Then, in an instant, the screen went dark. The woman stepped back, unsure of what that meant in regards to Jacob, nor his efforts; hands lifting to her face.

"Shut-down of primary EPS conduits on deck twelve! ‘Radiology One’ appears to have gone offline – radiation levels are falling!", one of the officers behind Cameron had called aloud, making her snap her head back around with a look of shock on her face, ponytail swinging. Jacob managed to terminate a relay further up the line where the rest of them could not reach.

He did it! That idiot!… He… !

Cameron trembled, throwing her hands back down with a deep, rough breath. Jacob’s success meant he was alive, and fear urged her feet to ensure he stayed that way.

"Keep working on recovering the power system, I'm going to deck twelve!", Cameron ordered as soon as her feet sent her toward the turbo-lift, hearing confused stammering behind herself.

"But ma`am, the radiation is still too high!", the young man from Starfleet Medical Academy was quick to remind his superior. The woman simply pulled out a hypospray of Barazine she prepared if this all failed, injecting it into her neck as she stepped into the turbo-lift and announced 'Deck twelve' without hesitation. Jacob’s recklessness would have to be met by another reckless act.

She slipped the hypo back into her pocket and rushed right away onto deck twelve, running as quickly as she could down the dark and smoke filled corridor. The deck was dim now, being lit by only the red-alert lights moving down the corridor as she ran. The smell of burned and ionized components grew stronger until she was at the open doorway to ‘Radiology One’, heart full of dread and sickness. Not even stopping, she ran right into the room, gagging on the burning odors and heat. There he was though, right in front of her, just off to her right in plain sight.

On his knees, slumped against the now black and deactivated console in the dark room, his head laid against the edge of its panel, body motionless. Flinging herself toward him in a sprint, Cameron ripped the medical tricorder off her hip and began scanning Jacob; nearly hitting the floor with a slide of her own. Massive blood loss, internal trauma, potentially thousands of rads of radiation – there was almost nothing left of him! The smell of seared flesh was strong; a smear of thick fluids above, across the darkened glass panel. The flashing lights of Cameron’s tricorder had the same lack of optimism as the ship’s computer before; prognosis non-existent.

His heart was no longer generating the electrical impulse needed to beat. Commander Vasse, unconscious, breathed a single, lifeless and soundless gasp; the agonal throes of death.

"No!", the woman cried out, boots scraping the floor paneling to rush to a medical cabinet a few meters away.

Throwing its door open to bang against the wall, bouncing with a clatter, she pulled a large device that looked like a bulky rifle from the locker; an emitter at its tip. Silver and elliptical, and seemingly heavy, Cameron lifted it with a toss into her hands – a portable emergency rejuvenator, installed in every hazardous laboratory on the entire ship. Cradling it, she hastily activated the unit with clumsily flailing fingers, nearly whimpering at her own rapid breaths in trying to save her friend; his voice haunting her conscience. Evacuate. You are in command.

What about you, Jacob?!

The machine lit up to make the surrounding area glow, and with a motion of a finger; trigger going back; the rejuvenator spooled up to a high pitched whine with a green, sparking flicker falling off its emitter, pointed right at the Karrian’s back. And, with a loud clap, the green ceased and nothing further happened; the view-screen of the unit turning red. Squealing in a panic, Cameron fumbled with the unit’s silver, rear chamber, smacking open its right side to have bits and pieces of green crystal fall and clatter like glass upon the floor; shards scattering, and crumbling.

That silver chamber may have been shielded, but it was so close to the epicenter of the blast, the crystal did not survive the radiation. Without it, the rejuvenator was useless.

Hoping for nothing short a miracle, Cameron slammed the rejuvenator to the floor and grabbed the lifeless body of her friend and commander, lifting it as best she could in her adrenaline and desperation, showing strength she didn't even have as she tried to get him out of the room quickly. Jacob's tail drug against the ground, leaving a trail of blood and scale as she rushed him into the hazy hallway, moving toward the exterior of the ship. A medical ship had plenty of full-size rejuvenator booths, and there were several on the deck used for research applications.

Heaving in hard breaths, pushing through into the corridor as her legs and arms screamed to stop, she ushered Jacob’s body as quickly as she could, before he was too far gone to bring back. The doors to ‘Rejuvenation Four’ down the hall opened automatically, signifying it had functional power, and the room lit up brightly upon entry. Body under such pain and strain, even in her chemical induced strength, Cameron dragged Jacob to the clear booth of the rejuvenator and threw his body in with a thrust of her arms, with the limp form landing in a bloody thump. Nudging the man’s remaining tail inside with her right boot, Cameron slammed the door shut, running to the control panel a few steps away, striking keys even as her jaw shook.

Watery eyes and teary voice, she whispered 'please work!', quickly, and repeatedly; an endless prayer from her heart. The entire deck was bathed in so much radiation, even this idea might fail – and there would be no time left to find another working rejuvenator before it was too late. As long as the chamber had at least one crystal! One of the eight had to still be there!

With a slam of her palm and one woman’s wish, the clear booth erupted in a dazzle of green rays.

* * * * * * *

Overcome with a numbing sensation, Jacob didn't know what was going on. With the last memories in his mind being searing heat and his legs giving out; a loud crushing noise generated by his own failing mind; he could only assume this was some sort of final out of body experience. The doctor deduced in a stupor, barely even awake, that his brain had been deprived of oxygen and his death was imminent. He wondered if he really did save everyone, as he had hoped, feeling strange sensations in what sort of felt like his body. It was a combination of exhaustion and weakness, and a state of half consciousness. He felt, but could not see, and could not do. It was honestly frightening to the doctor to think he was quietly disappearing, all alone. Then, unexpectedly, there was light. Was there really light, just as the old sayings had gone? He couldn't move towards it, it seemed to not move. So blinding; his thoughts didn't know what to make of it, unable to process the visual signal. What would Cameron say in this situation?

Ah, Cameron. She had a great career ahead of herself, as long as she could go on without his help. Feeling as if he was a formless version of himself, he gave his final, best wishes. That light shining brighter for a moment, it coincided with a jolt of tactile sensation, sort of like… his eye-lid? Finding strength, reality began to sink back, though slow.

Jacob had opened his eyes, seeing the light gray, ribbed walls of his office – sideways it seemed, as the wall sconce behind his desk was turned horizontally rather than vertically. The room was dark, with most of the light coming from his window, being reflected off of Earth’s atmosphere; a cozy blue-white glow. He felt very tired, as if he was ready to sleep. In fact, it felt like he could barely wake up – perhaps already having been slumbering, in some state of lower consciousness. Sharp tingles of confused signals went up his legs, making his tail shift; green scales stroking the marble-like surface of what he knew to be his desk, from familiarity. His throat let off a small sound, meant to be an airy chuckle, thinking he had been asleep on top of his desk. What a silly thing to do.

"Are you back with me now, Jacob?", came a familiar voice, even though it did not sound happy. It was piercingly neutral, spoken slow and low. The Karrian felt a smile creep upon his muzzle, even as he laid there weak and still, taking a moment to reply to the voice behind himself.

"Didn't know I had gone anywhere. It a crime to sleep? Not sure if I am on duty or not, so maybe it… ", Jacob began to speak happily even if his voice lacked energy. Another thing it lacked was his size, coming in at a childishly higher pitch, which made him stop dead in mid sentence. He grunted, which came out more like a child-like whine, closing his eyes and rubbing his muzzle with his right claw. Sensations still dull, there was no denying his claws felt tiny, along with his fingers and snout in general.

So that's how it was?

"How long have I been out, Lieutenant?", Jacob asked with a sigh, speaking slower and deeper than he normally would, as if trying to offset how different his voice had become; a stark realization falling over him as he became more aware. His office so dimly lit, as if to let him rest, its atmosphere was far more dreary seeming versus the welcoming comfort he normally gave it.

"About an hour. Trying to save your life was a feat, more on your body then anything else.", Cameron's voice returned, flat and solemn in reply.

The Karrian knew she wasn't directly sad, but she was not happy. This was a solution that didn't fit into either one category. His ear-slits picked up disappointment, shot nerves, and a painful dose of reality as he fell back into it. Rolling over onto his other side to face her, he could feel the claws on his feet scraping against his desk, and a small blanket covering most of his body from below his arms to down his ankles. Everything else was bare, making that blanket a kind boost to the reptile's modesty. With a deep breath and a quiet stare, Jacob looked into Cameron’s face, laying there as he was; gathering his thoughts.

The look the older woman saw upon the small Karrian's face felt so familiar, it made her want to choke up right then and there. It was so similar to the look he gave her only earlier today, not even two hours ago, sitting behind this very desk with a data-pad of medical information clasped loosely in his claw. Eyes of strong confidence were now small and innocent in appearance, while the mind of her long time friend and superior resided within this new, small frame. This was a man whom was always a little taller, quiet and sarcastic, and always wise. From when he was eighteen, to now, twenty-nine years later, that was his position. That, had come to an end.

Fighting with his body, Jacob pressed his two claws into his desk and lifted himself up with a push. Directing his blue blanket to come with him, the Karrian sat up onto the bare base of his tail, tucking the soft fabric of the blanket into his lap. He couldn't seem to look up too well in his weakness, eyes gazing off toward his side, staring into the floor and corner of his office. The woman standing only feet from him was silent, giving him time to lift one of his claws into view, and see its fulled healed, yet small and young appearance. He was quite young indeed; even his tail felt abnormally short. Jacob was a child far younger than a Voluntarus would rejuvenate to – a mere hatchling in his own eyes. But… if he was emergency rejuvenated, why was he not female? Those machines worked with only one rejuvenation crystal, lacking the fine control to execute any special programs, such as age-precision and gender.

"What's the status report?", Jacob finally asked, lifting his head with a messy droop of his black hair, looking to be slightly thinner then it used to be. The human woman could see a different sort of worry come across his face, reminding her of any sort of young child that was feeling nervous or scared; new emotions entering his mind. His body was so exhausted, and Jacob didn't even seem all that coherent when he awoke initially. Seeing him like this, so small…

"You have been rejuvenated twice for medical reasons, due to damage caused by lethal radiation poisoning and burns. Time of final rejuvenation was logged by Doctor Cameron Richardson at thirteen hundred hours, December twenty-seventh relative Earth time, while in orbital status.", she had replied, taking an air of professionalism as even Jacob had taught her, to relay the most appropriate and to the letter information when requested. While detailed, hearing it that way made the Karrian uncomfortable, knowing he was a patient, and not a doctor at all right now. His eyes averted her own for a moment, while his breathing changed through his little reptilian nostrils.

"Just tell me what happened.", the small Karrian boy asked, sounding as if he was trying very hard to speak deeply and seriously, without making any breaks in his voice due to being upset. They were emotions he didn't like dealing with, and didn't want to sound weak. Feet dangling from the edge of his desk, Jacob wrung his claws slowly, and softly; suddenly thrust into an unknown position, and not even knowing where he stood. Cameron corrected her ponytail and took a few breaths, just to find her words. This was something she had requested to do alone, and even then it was still difficult to lay this on someone so close, especially when his eyes just seemed to plead with her.

"The emergency rejuvenator in 'Radiology One' failed when I tried to use it. I pulled you from the room and down to one of the rejuvenation labs that still had power instead. You were biologically alive but in full cardiopulmonary arrest, and my last-ditch attempt at quickly running a rejuvenation cycle worked. But, when I went and checked on you, there was still malignant cellular mitosis from the radiation exposure. I had to rejuvenate you a second time to repair the damage, it was so extensive. You should see my uniform, Jacob… ", Carmen spoke with clear distress, still in an after-rush from what had happened; in a fresh uniform, as hastily as she needed to stop seeing the one she had been wearing. Jacob's mind was cloudy, but he was having an after-rush of his own, thinking back to what he had done as his comrade spoke. The burning pain, choking for air, trying to shut everything off. He heard her voice grow shaky as she went on, till the end, when she needed to stop a moment, placing a hand on her chest to try and relieve some tension.

Seeing her stand that way, looking so torn, Jacob slowly shook his head, modestly clutching his blanket with his claws in his lap, and his tail still.

"Cheer up lieutenant. That’s an order.", the young Jacob, even in his position, tried to still be supportive, not wishing to hear her sound that way. Maybe it was his new child-like needs, but he didn't like seeing her upset. Never really did. The look he was shot back for his words was not what he expected, appearing cross, and stern; the brilliance of Earth reflected off of Cameron’s eyes.

"You don't have the command authority.", she again spoke in that shaken, almost teary sort of voice, looking stiff.

His office filled with nothing more than reality, and honesty, Jacob’s head slumped into his right claw; now fully aware of all he had missed while his exhausted body slept. Cameron was clearly upset, and had right to be… Jacob's career had ended, prematurely. So quickly was he decommissioned from Starfleet, and something Cameron likely had to do by her own hands as she was handling his medical and rejuvenation paperwork. It was her own signature that signed away his command, and his life. There were no children in Starfleet, and the Karrian had to take his leave. Taking that small claw from his face, he opened one eye and turned it around, finding the telltale silver colored 'M' on the back of it. As a doctor, he made avoided making people Medicalos, seeking to save patients without resorting to a rejuvenation that would disrupt and damage their lives. Families could be torn apart as kids were forced to care for their younger parent, and prosperous careers could end with no way to return. Being a child when you didn't wish to be, with no plans for it, or even consent. Why did this have to happen when he didn't do it to others? Why did he deserve this?

"When I first rejuvenated you Jacob, you were eleven by what the computer systems reported. But, during the second rejuvenation, the radiation on the deck fouled one of the eight rejuvenator crystals. You should have been dropped down to eight as your age, with the three year minimum age gap… but after the crystal failed, I could not control your age as accurately. My physical examination scans say you’re seven years old.", Cameron had to explain so that the man who could no longer be a Commander knew where he stood in life now, noting her difficulties in rejuvenating him to even be properly alive and not full of cancer.

With her own arms did she hold the child to her blood stained chest, once she had lifted him from the remains of his clothes in that cold rejuvenator. Leaving the tattered, bloody garments behind, she had carried him with an arm around his back and a hand cradling his tail, to take care of matters and get things set right for him – the least she could do. She filed her papers as he slept, body and mind exhausted to a deep sleep due to a twin rejuvenation. Passing off data-pads to her command, their Captain ended the Karrian's career with silent, grateful dignity. She gave Jacob his designation herself right after, running those two little claws through a cellular-recoder to turn the green pigment in his scales to silver, and make the letter that told the world what he was – and, perhaps, what he did.

Without a word, the young Karrian slid himself carefully from his desk, flinging the blanket around himself to cover his tail back up; the cloth wrapped around his short figure. Stepping over to his window like times past, his arms hugged the blanket to his body, dragging corners of it along his floor. It was a painful sight, seeing this young boy stop at a window he was so familiar with being his own, looking up, knowing he would likely never see it again.

Following the boy's lead, Cameron stepped up slowly behind him, kneeling down as this all must have been sinking in. She could see his brown eyes reflected off the window panel, as bright as they ever were in the diffused light of Earth, glistening and showing his fear and uncertainty. With a quiet act of love and appreciation, for so many years of friendship and taking good care of her, Cameron wrapped her arms around the young Karrian boy and pulled his back to her chest. She knew the thoughts that went through someone's mind when they were rejuvenated; that rush of new feelings and nerve impulses as their brains began rewiring themselves to their new form. It had to be harder, faced with such consequences of his heroic actions.

The two stayed that way for some time, the young boy sniffling, though comfortable, thanks to the support he desperately needed. Naturally his more adult half was ashamed, silent, and embarrassed, but he knew he didn't have the power to handle everything alone anymore. Not like Cameron would care if he cried as he stared out into the stars, and thought about what he managed to amount to before it ended. Earth looked so big and unforgiving again.

"Cammie`, what am I going to do?", Jacob asked with a tiny initial quiver in his lower jaw, speaking in a sad, almost whisper level volume, while keeping his eyes locked on Earth's oceans and land. It had been a very long time since he called his friend by that name. Only a couple of times back at the academy, and he had usually been talked into knocking back a few synth-ales.

"I don't have family here. It wasn't my time yet, there's no one here for me.", he had to admit, sounding so quiet and shaken, reaching out with his left claw to gesture at Earth while keeping his blanket-granted modesty. Cameron responded first with a squeeze from her arms, wishing there was more she could do. A rejuvenated seven year old, ex-Starfleet Commander or not, could not live aboard the U.S.S Apollo.

"I'd do it if I could, but you know that isn't possible. Seeing you clutch that blanket makes me think you wouldn't be so comfortable with me parenting you anyhow.", Cameron spoke a little lighter, pulling out a bit of their familiar humor. The older Jacob would do the same for her, if she was in this situation. The Karrian remained quiet, obviously thinking, but there was at least not a sniffle. She didn't want to leave him hanging, standing there staring off as if by himself. He needed some sort of direction if he was to feel any better, or quell his worries.

"We need to find you parents. I can locate a fine couple in the registry of volunteer parents that have signed up for a Medicalos, if you can give me other parameters to search for. You are a Medicalos after all, you have a say.", she spoke softly, head near the little reptile's right ear-slit, with his black hair up against her cheek. Playing 'mom' was strange, but for Jacob, it was alright. Jacob thought hard about it, looking away from the window to find his response.

"Back in the academy, I told you that I hated being a Voluntarus. Other kids had the ability to be fairly cruel, or at least loud and bothersome.", he had hummed after some moments, still speaking somberly. Cameron did remember that, come to think of it. Even the young Jacob had a quiet professional side. Must be hard to dislike kids when you yourself were one, though.

"So find me a nice Penitatas neighborhood.", was his request; spoken so plainly and normally, despite being anything but.

"Penitatas neighborhood? What, why?", Cameron had to ask, sounding a bit more confused then soft at that point. The way she worded it and sounded made the reptile grin, thinking this was how she usually acted, and he knocked her back into feeling more herself. It was oddly comforting. Jacob turned his head, looking back over his shoulder to answer.

"That's easy. It will be quiet. No one screaming and causing a racket, because each of them would be in serious trouble if they did. They would all be kept in check, and wouldn't act like fools. Maybe that way, I would be left be.", he replied with an air of confidence about his decision, trying to think of the bright side of things. Cameron had to assume some rejuves or Kindern must have treated him badly due to his species, or perhaps due to the fact he was never very competitive. Racism was rare, but so was his race, leaving that possibility to not be discounted. If that was his idea of enjoyable and relaxing, to have a street of quiet front-yards, then she would make sure he got it.

"Understood. I'll go see what I can do.", Cameron was quick to assure, giving the boy's form one last snug to her chest before standing back up and starting for the door. Jacob turned a bit on his footclaws, still holding the blanket around himself as he watched her go, keeping still and quiet. Though, as his colleague opened the door to his office, she slowed down with a turn of her head.

"By the way, I spent the last of your replicator rations before I decommissioned you. Go look on your chair.", were the words she spoke until the two sliding doors closed with the sound of the pneumatics that operated them.

Then he was alone, back in the quiet of his office.

Stepping behind his desk, Jacob find himself quite short compared to it; dropping his modesty-blanket to the floor once he saw what was left. He wouldn't need it any longer. Cameron had thought ahead it seemed, and had the replicator make him some clothes that would actually fit. Kindly, she even make the clothing plain colors, so he wouldn't have to march around his vessel in demeaning attire. Minding the claws upon his feet, he stepped into a pair of white cotton briefs, slipping them over his fleshy sheath and tight bits for a snug fit. Embarrassingly enough, it seemed like Cameron took measurements before making these… no wonder she left before mentioning them. Jacob sighed out from his dragon-like muzzle, shaking his head at the thought of having to get used to being such a young age again as he slipped his legs into a pair of black slacks, before securing both above his reptilian tail. Topping it off with a sized down version of his favorite dark tan, black-trimmed design shirt, buttons all the way down to his waist, he could at least keep his dignity.

Touching his desk, he mentally gave it a goodbye speech. His office – these scents and sights, were no longer his. The data-pads on his desk from less then only two hours ago would sit and await their new owner.

* * * * * * *

Carrying a case full of Jacob's belongings, Cameron walked down the corridor of deck twelve, with Jacob walking slowly at her side. He didn't look sad, but she knew he could walk faster, despite his recent rejuvenation. She had found him a home as she promised, but he seemed so reluctant to leave his present home. Appreciative and honored Starfleet Medical cadets nodded their heads at him and provided their thanks and praise as they walked by, stopping any duties they were performing to simply acknowledge his presence. All Jacob would do was smile and give a nod back, trying to seem strong when he was merely a fraction of their size. The older human could only hope he wouldn't hurt himself by trying to be this way. His life was destroyed and changed all in an instant – he had reason to be upset or quiet. It took some time of silent walking with neither speaking until they reached their destination, up on deck nine. She took the long way, just for Jacob.

"We should part our ways here.", Cameron spoke up suddenly, stopping before the door to transporter room one, with a sad sort of air to her voice. The boy tagging along beside her looked up, almost upset and confused in the way his young face contorted.

"Why? Don't you want to see me off?", he asked, looking as if he felt neglected by his longtime friend wanting to bolt so suddenly before he was even gone. The ponytailed woman had to stifle a laugh, finding that to be a fairly “not Jacob” thing to say. She guessed since he was younger now, and her being one of the only close friends he had, his child mind didn't wish to let her go. She was confident she found him the perfect place to live, easing some of the pain of her goodbye, so now she had to make sure it wasn't too painful for Jacob either. Kneeling down onto one knee, she gave the Karrian a kiss on the end of his snout, right between his reptilian nostrils. Jacob blinked a few times, seeming surprised.

"You'll see why once you step in there. I'll miss you, Jacob Vasse. Don't worry about deck twelve, I'll keep the new researchers in line. Take care of yourself.", Jacob received as he stood quietly, smiling lightly as Cameron knelt in front of him with a kind demeanor and smile. But with that, she stood up, without another word or even a hug. Despite his age, she didn't rub his cheek or stroke his hair. She knew Jacob well enough that he loved being dignified, and giving him something he could misconstrue as 'cutesy' would be something he wouldn't like. Granting the boy his maturity, she handed him his case of belongings which he took in both claws. He stared up with a smile, feeling so small in needing to look up at her, but appreciated she stuck with him to the end.

"Please write, okay? I didn't help you through the academy so you could disappear into the ranks of Starfleet. Keep me informed, and keep your abilities sharp!", he was quick to request in his smaller voice. Speaking at his normal volume, without faking any tones, he did sound like a small version of the Jacob she had known since she was young. Did end up being a cute kid, even if quiet and calm for someone his age. Cameron took his last sentence as 'beware the desk work', and gave her acknowledgment.

"As long as you write me back. I know how much you hate sitting down and thumbing over a data-pad.", she grinned as she said, turning on her right boot and starting down the hall with a strong step for her old friend.

Once Jacob saw her head turn, it did not turn back around again. Seeing her walk away, seeming so slow, it made Jacob want to break down and sob; his claws really did want to clutch her for comfort and not let go. That was his life – his very memories – walking away. Even so, his quivering smile remained solid, thankful for twenty nine years of knowing her. If only he had more time. Maybe he would have been able to make it a relationship, if he wasn't so professional and shy.

"Goodbye!", he called, with a happy sort of tearful tone that he couldn't remove. The woman lifted her right hand over her blue uniform shoulders and waved, never turning. She couldn't make this harder on him with a reply of her own, trying to be mindful of his situation. It was hard, but she knew she made it easier on him. If she was a sap, she just would have made the both of them cry in the middle of the corridor – making that staunch old lizard squirm.

Jacob had to take a deep breath to calm himself, turning his head to look at the transporter room door. Tightening his grip on his case, he lifted it with both arms, waddling with a bit of difficulty toward the door, one footclaw shuffling in front of the other. He stopped as soon as it opened, getting a bolt of that embarrassment he was attempting to avoid, with the bottom of the case clanking against the floor of the ship. The walls of the transporter room were lined with officers, as his Captain stood in the center of the room and called them all to attention. In one fine military motion, all of them stood up straight with their hands behind their backs. Men, women, of all races. Medical officers from across the ship, and most every member of command, right down to Jacob's own subordinates and colleagues. A first year Starfleet Medical cadet took Jacob's case and carried it to the transporter pad, while the young Karrian stepped in as naturally as he possibly could, not wishing to be childish at this particular moment, surrounded by so many. This was their first time seeing him in this state, but as his brown eyes scanned the room, he saw no expression that spoke of a bad thought inside their minds.

Approaching the man that was his Captain, an older human wearing formal Starfleet attire and his command lapels, he gave Jacob his military commendations and the personal thanks from those down on Earth in Starfleet Medical. The boy was familiar with events and their formality, standing with his arms behind his back, despite his lack of a uniform as his Captain spoke of his heroism. Was hard to listen to such praise, not thinking he would get anything like this for what he had done.

Heck, he didn’t even think he’d live.

His green reptilian skin stayed colored and without a timid blush, he was thankful for, as he smiled and accepted the Starfleet Medal of Sacrifice; an honored award that signified he caused himself mortal harm in the line of duty and saved the lives of others. It was often seen as a sign of courage and leadership – taking charge, even if death was all but certain.

What meant more to him though was when his Captain knelt down to his new level, and asked him to extend his hand. Jacob placed out his right claw as requested, to have his old com-badge placed into it. It looked a bit blackened and charred in some places, with an obvious blood stain on the back. After being so irradiated, it no longer functioned, and could be a souvenir of his tenure in the military, and what he did for them all this day. Little things like that were often important to him, his superior knew, and he accepted it gladly. With the Captain's words spoken to his crew and his second officer, he bid Jacob farewell with Starfleet honors, and the love and thanks of the U.S.S Apollo crew. That his actions would not be forgotten.

Jacob was pleased to have been sent off in such a caring way, but everyone could have ignored him and he still likely would have been okay with it. All he wanted was for them to be happy and well; finding that one power relay he could still sever was all the reward he needed, completing his deed before he succumbed to perish. Sheepish smile upon his face, the boy took the two steps up onto the blue and black transporter platform, holding his old badge between his claws.

Best of wishes, everyone.”, was the boy's final words and valediction, just as a tingle shot across his green skin and his body dematerialized into a transporter matter stream.

With that, life as he knew it was gone – fading to a twinkle of blue, to never return.

Take care, Apollo. You too, Cameron.

* * * * * * *

Searing, burning heat. It was the only thing Jacob could remember, as he awoke the next morning, paw covering his face to get a grip on things.

The sun was shining in his new window, though with plenty of orange in its bright color, letting the boy know it was early morning without even looking at his clock. His thinner, stubbier dragon-like tail laid curled to his right side as he sat up in bed, taking deep, yet quiet breaths. Was taking time, but he was realizing the kind of pain and horrors he had gone through, now that it was within his hindsight. Blinded by adrenaline, and shortly after, a lethal dose of Barazine, he was able to push through the blinding pain to complete the task he wished. Phantom pain of his scales burning off remained engraved in his mind, something that made the young doctor grasp his tail within his paws and hug tight. One of his final memories before collapsing was the smell of his tail's meat and bone. Being a talented physician only made it that much more difficult, knowing what the radiation did to his body. What Cameron had to see… he felt lucky she didn't beat him once he woke up in his office, where she had placed him.

Looking up and out his new window, Jacob tried to calm himself down a little. It was a very nice room he thought, and not overly playful, as he had hoped. It apparently belonged to a Penitatas previously, leaving it without anything overly extravagant. His new parents, both humans, seemed to have also taken a quick warming to him. Well, his mother anyway; he hadn't yet met his father. Being that their previous rejuvenated child was a Penitatas, and they had registered for a Medicalos this time around, they had at least gotten a holo for the room, which sat across from his bed. Dresser to his left, closet to his right full of toys, and his desk beside the holo's stand. The walls were a clean white, and the carpeting a dark blue. Thinking of the color of their son’s scale, his new mother also gave him a green blanket to match, and even framed his medal. Not to mention it was a pretty big house, with his bedroom getting to be on the second floor. Never living anywhere besides an apartment-like living center for his first Voluntarus cycle, this was very comfortable. The only thing that was hard was getting used to a stranger being his guardian, and allowing his modesty to be surrendered. So soon after his rejuvenation, and not sure if he would be able to shower alone, Jacob had to tolerate a bath – washed and supervised by his new mother. For someone who was a Penitatas parent only a couple months back, tops, Jacob couldn't notice it, being that she was soft. She did give him a silent scolding look when he was initially refusing his bath, but he did himself and her a favor by undressing voluntarily. Long black hair down to her mid-back, and a stay at home gardener, she prepared seeds from things grown in the backyard for the local area as a side business and hobby. If the bath was any indication, the woman was calm and thoughtful; careful to not embarrass him. Cameron really did her research.

His father ended up being a Starfleet officer, likely another something that caught Cameron's eye, figuring he would be well taken care of. The man was apparently an officer at the nearby Starfleet Operations installation, though he was off-world on a deep space assignment for now. Installation eighty eight, was it? His mother's name was Lory Rich, which would have made his dad Lieutenant David Rich, from what she had told him. Was strange to think he had at least at one time outranked his new parent.

Getting out of bed, the Karrian boy did so with a slide against his tail to land on his footclaws. Going to his window to lean upon its sill with his forearms and elbows, he wore nothing more than the briefs Cameron had replicated for him. There seemed little reason to be tense as he looked out across the way, at the other houses and empty sprawl of quiet yards. This city, Calleet, was an okay area he figured. It wasn’t his idea to rejuvenate all the way back to seven years old out of the blue when he still had so much more to give Starfleet, but there was no choice in the matter. He needed a parent, and a home – a requirement of all children, especially one as young as he. His head turned, hearing a light knock on his door frame; running a claw through his hair to correct it, messy from a night of hard sleep. His body needed it.

"Good morning. Hungry dear?", Lory had asked from his door, already dressed for her day and sporting the softest and most parental voice he had ever heard. Normally it would be his brother from his home planet who would take care of him once he reached the age that he needed it, and he wasn't exactly a parent. Maybe that was why he was so independent, even as a rejuvenated child.

Trying to be polite, despite the butterflies in his belly, Jacob smiled and shook his head lightly – not turning around to show off his half-undressed front. The nudity thing was difficult for him, and even the bulge of his underwear was a source of embarrassment. Unfortunately for him, his mother living in a Penitatas neighborhood and being a Penitatas parent, was familiar with all the tricks. It made her laugh slightly, stepping into the room with her skirt making swaying motions with each placement of her bare foot into the carpet.

"You know you're going to have to get over that. Come on, turn around, get it over with.", she said with a note of playfulness in her soft, gentle, and quiet voice as she bent over near Jacob's side and placed her hands on her knees. Still facing the window, Jacob felt that familiar burn in his muzzle, mustering up some courage to do as asked. Really didn't want to, but he didn't want to stand with the seat of his briefs and tail facing her all day either. Getting dressed was the easier way out.

Giving a light, childish spin on a footclaw; a casual note of his physical age bleeding out; he turned around and scratched his head bashfully with his left claw. Once turned, his mother tweaked the end of his snout as she was waiting to do, which got out a quick giggle of sorts. It made Jacob feel ridiculous, but it was also fun. Having little time to prepare, the mother didn't have any clothing meant for him, resorting to providing the boy his clothes from yesterday now that they had been washed. She never even seemed to notice his bare parts; something Jacob appreciated. He had to figure her Penitatas didn't wear clothes at all sometimes, leaving a lack of care. Being that he was a Medicalos, essentially guaranteed a lighthearted and enjoyable childhood, it didn't take long for the once proud doctor's childish side to come out, playing with his new mother and bonding with her as a part of natural behavior.

A soft bouncing ball that couldn't break anything was a toy Lory had sprung on the young reptile, bouncing it off the floor by his feet for the two to have a quick round of catch. She did want to get to know him, and it would take a cold heart to not feel for the experience he had endured. As part of the psychological side of parenting, a volunteer parent was given a report on just what happened to their new little charge. A detailed, and in Jacob Vasse’s case, a very gruesome report. It worried her that such things could happen to a Starfleet officer this day and age, with her husband in the military as well.

Fun and games aside, the pair went down for breakfast not long after. Lory found Jacob to be a quiet and reserved boy, actually fairly mature for even a rejuvenated seven year old. Playing with him was about the most energetic and loose she had seen him. At the dinner table, speaking with her as she cooked homemade french toast beside him, he sat still in his chair, holding a calm conversation. Never added too many details, and was concise. When asking about his past and what he did, he explained his duties and some of his medical background, but not as much as someone else would. There were no elaborate stories, or even the story of what happened to him yesterday. Right to the point, he had said there was an accident. Didn't even mention that he was the ship's hero. She didn't know if it was because she was used to Penitatas, but Jacob was not quite what she expected. Such a loner of sorts, but he was at least warming to her. Seemed very selective of his words, and his social circle. Once seated at the table with her new Karrian son, pile of french toast on the table and the boy eating as messily as she did at least expect, she wanted to take the time to get to know him a bit closer. His small green muzzle had brown sticky bits of syrup going across his maw; clearly not reserved over matters he didn’t notice, at least. He was certainly an amusing, if quiet child.

"Jacob honey, how would you like to meet some of the other rejuvenated children nearby? They are typically Penitatas, but they're not all horrible. You asked to live here for a reason, so you must know that as well.", Lory asked in her usual soft feminine voice, eating her breakfast slower then her child. It wasn't usually what she had, but she figured if she was going to make Jacob a treat, she might as well participate. The look on young Jacob's face spoke a sort of disinterest, or at least a shyness.

"No thanks. I… ", he went to start speaking as he swallowed a delicious lump of the french toast, accented with a dash of vanilla and syrup. He seemed to stop as he said something else however, ceasing his sentence with a hum and placing another bite of his food into his muzzle. Lory was quite surprised. She didn't think her new Medicalos would be so standoffish. Oh dear.

"No? Why not? I sort of already sent out invitations for a get-together, so you could meet the neighborhood.", the mother had to speak a bit softer then even usual, gulping as she spoke. And it wasn't for food reasons either. Her sentence didn't even get finished before Jacob froze in mid chew, eyes seeming sort of wide. He wasn't expecting to have to deal with anyone else, at least so suddenly and soon.

"I figured it would just be quiet, and I could be by myself. ", the little Karrian spoke in surprise, looking certainly sheepish. So that really was it then, huh? Her new boy was shy. Didn't even seem used to having a parent. Being as sweet and friendly as he was, that made little sense – the poor thing needed to lower his shields a tad, if he was going to enjoy being so young again.

"Sorry, I didn't know you were shy Jacob. We will have the gathering though, I think you need to make some friends around here so you can start feeling better and happier.", Lory had to admit, but also lay down at the same time. Medicalos or not, nurturing his social side was a necessity if she was to focus on his needs. The Cameron whom wrote his report was clearly his friend, so he wasn't a true loner. No, not this sweet little thing – not at all. Jacob sulked in his chair for some moments, eating much slower, even while some of the syrup from before began to dry and get stickier upon his maw.

A gathering? It sounded like the transporter room on the Apollo all over again. Something to be tense at – the center of attention. He could be teased for the first time, feeling it to be inevitable, and perhaps he’d meet the first person he wouldn't get along with, in this new phase of his life. Cameron became is friend because she was first his partner, not because he approached her or anything. His relationships came from the natural order of things. His mother had no trouble keeping her resolve at least, as when it came down to laying the law, she did so firmly. At least, she used to. Otherwise the boy at the other side of her table would have tasted the wooden spoon's sting for eating in a way that got syrup across his snout. But, he was just a shy little Medicalos, and certainly no hard time Penitatas – she’d be as ginger with Jacob as she could be, while making sure he had everything he needed.

"I don't know anyone here Miss Rich.", Jacob felt compelled to say after a minute of quiet, and seeing his mother's resolve was going to be stronger then his own on this matter. The woman shook her head lightly, reaching across the table to pat the boy's left claw. Her thumb rubbed his fingers; little claws included.

"That is the point dear. You're going to need friends to go with your family. Something bad happened to you, and I can't let you stew in the confines of your room. You're a playful young man, as tough and reserved as you act.", Lory replied with an explanation as to why she was doing what she was, taking a few moments to just talk to him and watch the boy eat.

Her words, especially about being playful, seemed to make Jacob ponderous and a tad uncomfortable. From there though, she could see he accepted it. Was a respectful young boy at least, and with a powerful intellect he seemed to hide. He needed some bright friends as well, so that maybe he could find someone to relate with. Maybe he did feel sort of lonely. Lory had a hard time pinpointing things, but she figured she was at least on the right track.

While cleaning up breakfast, she assured to him that she herself did care for him, and what she thought of him. It initially got a response of shyness, but Jacob could appreciate her being fair and forthright and seemed even warmer and more comfortable afterwards. There had to be a Penitatas in the area he could relate with. The poor thing… seeing him head out back to examine her plants. Sure he seemed happy to be alive and have that time, likely pondering the medicinal qualities of the different things she was growing, but he was out there on his little claws and knees, alone. And his only friend, that Cameron Richardson, isn't here anymore. For now though, she would head out back and keep him company herself, but every child needed a reprieve from their older guardians to spend time with those their own age.

* * * * * * *

Right paw held high, fingers squirming and writhing in aching pain, Kayla grit her teeth and kept her head down, scuffing her bare footpaws against her room's carpet; stamping her pads into the soft fibers. She slept in late from exhaustion, with her punishment weekend decreed by the Corrections Counsel finally over. Emily never bothered to wake her either, just letting the worn and frayed girl rest. All of yesterday, if she wasn't in the bathroom or eating, she was in the corner. Standing, sitting, punishment stool; she got it all, from the moment she woke to when she was put to bed. The fox's legs still hurt, and clearly, so did her rulered paws from the day prior, bruised to their very cores.

Her backside had already received a light massage of nano-lotion, and Emily was busy with her paws. However, with the swatting they received sending aching damage so deep into them, Emily's thumb had to rub the lotion firmly into the padded palms of the fox's two paws. It was painful and itchy at the same time, leaving the fox's eyes watering and a sharp whining and whimpering filling the room. Emily attempted to tolerate it as best she could, giving Kayla some degree of leniency.

"Kayla, that's enough. Tough it out.", the mother did decide to scold, opening up the girl's right paw again to rub it briskly with both of her hands to ensure the whole paw got a dose of lotion. It was a harsh thing to say, but she couldn't allow Kayla to overreact. Didn't know if she was… but if she was, she better quit it.

The fur atop Kayla's head was a mess from getting up so recently, and missing her bath yesterday. There was no time with so many hours of corner time prescribed. At least her parents placed her in different corners to alleviate some level of the insanity it caused. No boredom could have been worse, and the pain was enough to fool her into thinking she got spanked all day again. Her punishment stool kept the cane and switch welts on her rear swollen, and her legs eventually got so tired it made her cry from the ache. Her legs wobbled as she stood for some time, trying to keep up standing straight. It was horrible and horrific, and Emily noticed her daughter wasn't even looking up at her. Hadn't since she woke. Not even yesterday. Sure Kayla had been feeling guilty, but now she looked as if she was over-disciplined. Not a great combination, and Emily would slip that into her report for the Corrections Counsel. Even as Kayla stood still, whimpering more quietly with her head down, Emily spent a moment massaging the fingers and knuckles of her charge's left paw, to square it away. Her fur felt sticky and caked with the lotion, but she needed it.

"I'm sorry for how things have been since you got home. Want some time to be by yourself today?", the mother tried to slip in more pleasantly, not wanting to have to be harsh with Kayla after what she had gone through with the kidnapping and the resulting modified Christmas make-up punishment. Still not looking up very much, Kayla began to nod her head, opening her muzzle to speak right after. Her eyes glistened, showing her mom her whining was at least genuine when it came to the deep massage for her well beaten paws.

"You don't have to leave me alone. I'm just hurting, and yesterday was one of the worst days of my life.", Kayla's voice spoke, sounding depressed and meek. Hurt to hear her daughter like that. Emily didn't like the idea of spending that many hours in a corner either – an entire day of absolutely nothing but bodily aches and pains, strained further than anyone could go. But, at least she was able to lotion up everything she could now, even giving the backs of Kayla's calves a rub to see if the nanites could relieve a bit of the muscle ache her daughter had. Was hard to reply to such a thing, but the mother sure did try.

"Say, why don't I call Ninne? You haven't gotten to play for days now, I bet she misses you.", Emily warmly invited, believing her idea to be perfect and the thing her daughter needed. Oh – how more wrong her prescription could be.

Seeing Kayla fold her vulpine ears back was not the response she expected, with the fox's head staying low. The girl was so quiet, and it was hard for Kayla to even think about Ninne on top of the other things her mind was trying to process. Staying knelt in front of the seven year old Aspatrian fox, she lifted Kayla's muzzle up with her hand to get Kayla back to eye level. For a second Kayla looked like she was preparing for a swat, but her hand could feel her muscles loosen up after a moment of no pain coming to sting her. Why was she so forlorn? It was over, the punishment had come and gone. She toughed it out, and things between them would be okay, with all the words and understanding they had come to share.

"Sweetie, what's wrong? Talk to me. You're never this quiet.", she had to ask the teary, empty look Kayla was giving her. Her voice radiated with concern, placing her other hand on the girl's bare right shoulder. Looking into her mother's eyes like that, Kayla wasn't sure what to say, or where to begin. So much had occurred so quickly, and even in her best ability, her bright mind could not deal with it.

"I just want everything back to the way it was. Without everyone hating me.", Kayla spoke quietly enough to tip off Emily that she was trying not to cry. She was growing so accustomed to seeing her daughter's foxy jaw quiver, she figured even those muscles must be hurting by now.

"Who hates you? We don't.", the worried mother tried to probe. She wanted nothing to do with discipline today. This poor girl needed a lot of loving attention. Was Kayla like this before the kidnapping too? And she just never saw?

Kayla herself folded her ears back a little more, letting out a little girlish sniffle, running a decision through her mind. Should she tell? To 'rat out' another Penitatas was a taboo, but so was telling a Penitatas parent something that another Penitatas had told you in confidence. Ninne had violated that trust as much as she, right now, had the ability to. Thinking of her folder, and the personal secrets it had inside where she vented, it was never meant for anyone’s eyes but her own. No, Ninne would pay for this! Kayla swallowed hard, opening her mouth for a breath before answering.

"Ninne does, mom.", Kayla said with a stutter stuck inside of it, not sounding smooth due to her forcing the words out. She didn't want to speak of what happened, and she couldn't do it easily. Before her mother could get in a word after making a 'you're being silly' sort of look in response, Kayla simply continued.

"She came in the hospital room after you guys left. She told me how much she hated me, and that I let everyone down. That I wasn't her friend anymore.", she went on to say in a teary, meek tone still. Kayla looked and felt so vulnerable, trembling when there wasn't even the threat of spanking involved. Emily was gazing into the eyes of one tormented Penitatas, and what Kayla told her made her chipper attitude she was wearing to help the fox fade. Not getting a response immediately, Kayla went on further, speaking louder and faster in her childlike sort of grief.

"It's not fair, I didn't mean to hurt anyone as badly as I did! I know I'm stupid momma, and I'm sorry, but she was my friend! What is everyone else going to think? Everyone hates me – the planet, the Corrections Counsel, DeltaStar… ", she went on to sob, making a gesture upwards with her paw once she got to DeltaStar, to signify there were all sorts of people throughout the galaxy that would hate her. It wasn't right to see Kayla like this, and so out of the blue. The horrors the girl's mind must have raked through while she was in the corners of the house all day yesterday.

"Shh! Come on honey, calm – calm. The galaxy does not hate you. People get over things, and Ninne isn't right either. I will call Ki`rene right now and straighten this out.", Emily answered once she could break Kayla's teary words. Though, as soon as she began to stand, Kayla's arms grabbed her and held her while she made a shaky whimper.

"No, Emily don't! Ninne will hate me forever if you did that. I don’t want to hurt her – I’ve already hurt enough people. Please, don’t let me do anymore harm.", the fox begged sharply, till her voice dropped off significantly. She really meant what she was saying. Emily couldn't believe the fox was feeling this responsible and shaken. Life did change very quickly.

"Nothing will get better unless you address them Kayla.", was the response she got back in a higher pitched voice, just trying to reason and explain, with Emily kneeling back down to stay with her girl if that was what it took at the moment. Kayla's paw's grip didn't diminish, despite the pain throbbing beneath their discolored; almost bloody looking pads. The lotion would need more time to work all the way through her flesh, deep to where all the damage occurred.

"That's something I can handle momma, I promise. Please? Just you and me today?", Kayla asked with pleading enthusiasm, trying to make sure everything would be okay. Honestly, the idea of getting Ninne in trouble by her direct action scared her. She didn't need more anger her way; that drake could really hurt her, if she decided to do more than dig her knuckles into her, next time. Emily had to stare into the sad face of her daughter a little bit longer before sighing and relenting. She supposed Kayla could handle this her own way, since she wanted to do it as peacefully and kindly as possible. Was a valid thing to ask for, and a mature one. Kayla could have her chance.

"Alright, I won't call across the street.", her mother allowed, getting the hold the fox's paws had on her torso to loosen. She patted the fox's back, giving another parental advisement on top of it.

"But you're going to get a nice relaxing bath, right now. Go scoot into the bathroom and potty, then hop in the tub. I'll be in shortly.", she added with a wag of her right hand's index finger, then tapping the fox's ebony nose to get Kayla to step back from it and get moving. The fox didn't at all protest, heading out of her room for the bathroom now that she had the time – no longer imprisoned to corners like a well-punished Penitatas.

A bath did sound nice, considering her fur felt dirty and ratty. Yesterday did cause a lot of strain on her body, and likely some sweat on top of it. Once her bare furred daughter had left the room, Emily stepped over to the closet and thumbed through the clothing in the fox’s drawers. Finally Kayla would be wearing clothes again, so she needed to pick some out. Keeping Kayla occupied, yet off the computer would be the day's other chore, but it was one Kayla needed to deal with fast. There would be no compromises when it came to the justice department’s technology ban, unless she wanted her paws flat on that computer's desk getting a taste of the ruler again already. Trying to get Kayla feeling like her old self and rebuilding her life seemed like an uphill battle.

But in that bathroom next door to her was a Penitatas willing to learn; a trait she always managed to show, through thick and thin. As she picked out Kayla's new pair of jeans and a comfortable pair of white cotton panties to go with one of Kayla's white t-shirts, she thought of something she had seen earlier that morning.

Yes, that might work… it was exactly what Kayla needed. A chance to get out and reintegrate with her fellows.

An invitation arrived on the vid-phone for a get-together down the street for a new Medicalos who moved into the neighborhood, sent out to all the nearby families like a bulletin board shout-out. It was always good to see the other parents and share ideas, disciplinary or not, but Kayla needed something like that too. Her daughter would be lonely without her best friend, and after such a painful and harrowing ordeal, met by only another when she should have been celebrating being alive, she had so much bottled up that would hurt her not to cope with. After spanking and putting Kayla through so much, she did need someone who didn't do that to her to hear her out too, and play. And since Ninne and Ki`rene were bound to be there, that should work itself out.

Tucking the nearly eight year old Aspatrian's clothes under her right arm, she closed the closet door and started for the bathroom. Warm water and gentle hands would get her daughter feeling better. She'd play with her today, see what she could get off the fox's chest, and be that parent she failed to be before life took that orange bundle of life away – reminding her how special Kayla was, and the surreal privilege of being Packet-Storm’s mother.