Kayla: Vindication
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 Fourty-Five)
Concept by Lurking Dragon
Kayla and story by Professor Bob
More Kayla Stuff!: www.Professor-Bob.net

At dawn, Kayla slept with a dream. It had enveloped her consciousness with clarity and reality. Mercifully, it was a world where nothing was wrong and Jacob was close at her side. The fox took a deep breath, ruffling her fur as her head shifted on her pillow. It was a deeper breath, long and extended - lustful. Her legs crossed, and her small furry fox toes curled in what was surely an intimate dream. Warm, moist breath crossed her neck and shoulder in this imaginary world, feeling sharp, yet somehow comfortably smooth teeth touch her skin. Her bed-mate nipped ever so gently at her neck, causing no pain in that happy, false world. The nerves in the side of her neck tingled in reality from the phantom boy. Sliding her orange muzzle against the pillow again, her breath shook. There was a whisper in her ear. A touch to her chest, trailing over her left nipple to take a near weightless hold of a breast she no longer had. It coincided with the feeling of her racing heart, which her body did feel in reality, and the stiff tenderness of adolescent arousal.

Not all good things last. Near drooling onto her pillow in her heavy sleep, she had nuzzled it too deeply to breathe clearly, and subsequently woke herself. Eyes opening slowly, Kayla was in a post-dream daze; mind sorting reality from fantasy. Though the dream had ended, bits of scrambled and hazy memories warmed her heart while coming to. But then came a sinking sense of reality. Jacob wasn't there, and it was not a happy time.

Nightgown forgotten at her bedside, Kayla had laid atop her sheets and fallen asleep. In nothing but her bare fur, Kayla sat up slightly on her back - legs parted lazily. With drowsy eyes she peered down to her groin, finding a bit of pink clitoris erect from between her furred lips. Kayla covered her swollen and aroused groin with both paws, sighing embarrassedly as her head lowered back down onto the pillow. Staring up at the ceiling, it glowed a dull blue from the reflected light of another grey wintry day.

It had been a long time since she had a dream she could remember, and even longer since having a sexual dream. They weren't things she ever had. Kayla attributed it to how much she thought of Jacob the night before, laying down to ponder what to do for him, only to fall asleep without a pair of underwear on. The adolescent mind, even that of a rejuve, was in a constant state of development. Random arousal from even inactive, immature personal places was a part of being a kid and growing up. It was just uncomfortable to have been graced by it's presence in such a tough time, and to feel such a way without her own paw's caress causing it. It was just another thing someone her age had lacking control over.

Even then, the dream was vivid. She remembered bits and pieces of what she did, and what Jacob had done. It was so romantic. Her mind got Jacob's personality spot on, she thought with a contented sigh of sorts. Her paws gripped her groin slightly, folding bits of immature flesh - making the tip of her tail quiver. Such impulses came so rarely due to her age, even if she was an adult trapped in the body and mind of a much younger form of herself. They had their uses, but beneath the red blush of her cheeks and muzzle and stare upwards, her mind stirred poorer memories. Sexuality was a type of physical freedom a penitatas didn't have, and when she was free, others often claimed her freedom as their own. Those feelings were once forced, paid for, and someone's property. It took a long while to become comfortable with her own body, and the idea of a loving, consensual relationship like everyone else got to have. She's had about thirty-seven years to come to such terms.

Working to ignore her body's behaviors her mind didn't ask for, Kayla climbed out of bed to start the day. Sifting through her clothing drawers, she picked underwear for herself; thick cotton ones to cover herself well. Lastly, a blue t-shirt. It wouldn't be long until her feminine parts would calm and her heart would settle. It was a wonder the sorts of reactions the brain caused, when it was filled with such thought, worry, and emotion.

Stepping to her window, she looked out into the cold day. The trees rustled with the sudden rush of air, slowing down to a stop. Brown leaves fell to the ground, making all sorts of movement and life in what looked like a dead and dismal scene. A solitary snowflake caught her eye; the piece of ice fluttering down to land without fanfare. The quiet was at least very relaxing. It took a lot of effort to clear her head, trying to think of so much at once. How Jacob was doing. If he hurt. What to do to clear his name, and to rescue him from a life that was not his. A hero should never be treated as a criminal. Those emotions had ravaged her yesterday, being spared by sleep, only to stew and boil in her unconscious mind.

Emily did her best to comfort her daughter. In the end, the caring parent had to let Kayla be alone for a while to sort her feelings. The Aspatrian worked past the ones her vivid dream had created, and settled into other thoughts. Kayla had never had a partner such as Jacob. Admitably, staring out that window, she knew she loved him. If the fox had learned anything about such feelings of care, and family during her time as a penitatas, she knew what love was now. The words they shared were more than just friends, catching the other's eye gazing a bit more deeply during those moments to themselves. It was the crush two seven year olds could have, but having been around much longer than that, her older side told her there was more. Thinking of Jacob in her own shoes, without hope, choked her up. Kayla didn't doubt he loved her back, just as he would say with his bashful, yet strong smile. She had to fight for him. She had to fight for her special person.

"But how?", Kayla growled aloud, breaking the silence. Clenching her eyes, she huffed with ache in her chest, smacking her windowsill with an open paw before turning around and storming away a mere two steps. The feelings of anger and frustration crept up her throat, scratching it. She held her head with a single paw - headfur messily between her fingers.

Kayla stood there for some moments, trying hard to calm down and revert to her usual maturity. She needed to be a sly, slick fox to come up with ideas. She sighed once. Twice. Quelling her feelings, she wandered from the spot which she stood to sit at her desk. Slipping into the seat, the fox leaned forward, looking into the synthetic wood surface of the flat desk. Black ear-tips reaching for the sky once more, Kayla scrunched her eyes and went to work. Her adolescent arousal had disappeared without effort, or even awareness; just as it had came, being a natural, untamable function.

Down stairs, her mother was also in a state of thought, even if the topics varied. Kayla needed ways to gather information and evidence. Emily was considering her options as a penitatas parent. Seated at the end of the stairs at the family computer console desk, she leaned back idly - jasmine green tea in a white mug in her hand. It was not standard procedure to meddle in the affairs of another penitatas caretaker, as everyone carried the same license and proved themselves the same way. The sort of torment her daughter and friend were going through was extreme, observing such a struggle for what each of them firmly thought was the truth. Penitatas were not considered the gatekeepers of truth, seeing as rotten adults make rotten rejuvenated children. Emily did feel that Jacob was an exception, offering enough doubt to make a re-trial and examination of the evidence a required and immediate priority. She was a believer of the justice system, and giving everyone a fair chance. A court record that did not contain physical evidence meant nothing.

Sipping her herbal, sweetened tea, the warmth of the liquid was relaxing but not as much as she needed it to be. To attempt to interject while not being Jacob's caregiver meant going to the Corrections Council - an action that would be difficult to arrange. Her request would need to be accepted, and passed through the legal channels to Starfleet, whom she presumed could still say no. Unknown individuals held all the cards. There was no giving up though, not when it came to someone's life and freedom. Eventually she had to place such ponderings on hold, placing the present and her own penitatas at the forefront of her priority. The morning ticked away, yet she hadn't seen Kayla even leave her bedroom to use the bathroom, much less eat. Careful to not rush in and startle, the mother halted at the door and pressed the button to open it, remaining where she stood. It slid out of the way, to find her girl sitting at her desk. Kayla turned her head, forcing a small smile and nod of greeting over her shoulder.

"Good morning mom.", Kayla said lightly. She didn't look herself, but her eyes weren't dim. There hadn't been any tears at least, thank goodness, Emily felt. So that wasn't what was keeping her daughter.

"I haven't seen you all morning. Are you doing okay?", she was sure to move right in to check and affirm, placing a hand on the doorway. The fox's nod of response was prompt.

"Yes. I'm just thinking.", her voice explained smoothly, still only over her shoulder. Emily caught a light smile from her girl's messy fur atop her head, almost covering what bit she could see of Kayla's eyes. As long as she wasn't in the throws of depression, this alone time was something she could allow.

"Be sure to wash up soon. You'll feel better.", Emily directed in a casual tone to her girl, turning her head a bit to walk away. She thought of another important point, turning it back before leaving.

"Come down for lunch soon. Okay?", she also found it important to instruct, needing to make sure Kayla was well fed and taken care of.

"Sure thing ma'.", Kayla said with an added pep to her voice, that sounded soothed. Confident her daughter was alright, Emily turned from the doorway, tapping the button to close it as she stepped away. Kayla sighed out of relief and restless energy, looking down between herself and the desk. Lifting her left leg off the chair, the pulled from beneath it and her underwear Jacob's Starfleet com-badge. When her mother opened the door, the sly fox was quick to hide it under her leg, out of view, even if it meant she couldn't move. Holding the item between her fingers, she moved it from finger to finger, staring at it closely. In front of her nose, the Starfleet insignia was a physical bond with Jacob. It embodied his pride, and was an token of his life before the accident that changed everything. A Starfleet artifact such as this could not be legal for a penitatas to possess, much less one that worked. Smiling nicely for her worried mother kept it secret, and her parent calm.

She hadn't even gotten to show Jacob it was functional. It's dull, scarred metal and warped, melted pieces felt rough and chalky to the skin of her fingers as it passed through her fur. If only this witness of the reactor leak could talk. It could tell of Jacob's innocence, and bravery.

Kayla's muzzle curled, as if she'd take to the growling she normally avoided.

It wasn't actually an angry look, as it was a very serious one. Her eyes, fixed and focused, looked on at the device. It could talk. Not in the same sense, but it could. Jacob's com-badge was a link to a realm unexplored, that they should not have had access to. There was so little Kayla could do to control how the plan worked, but slowly, she was making one - tail limp, and still, without a single idle wag.

The obstacle, Kayla believed, was Starfleet. The channels that had control over Jacob's trial were hidden from them, and outside of their access. She needed information and evidence. Such information and evidence had to exist somewhere, and the first place to start would be their source. The U.S.S. Apollo. There had to be one person that didn't believe the charges, for the same reason she didn't. Jacob had feelings for her, before he had them for Kayla, but that life was gone. Feeling, and memories, didn't just end and fade away like that. Some where out there, out in the stars, was another person she needed to talk to.

Kayla stood from her chair, showing the tips of a few teeth. Eyes and ears scanning the door, she wanted to be sure she was alone. Holding the com-badge close to her chest, the fox walked hurriedly to the window, opening her paws to look down at the small device. It was big in her young paws, which reminded her at the same time her place in the world as a penitatas. What she was looking to do was dangerous, and the hesitation placed butterflies in her stomach. Mind racing, crashing loudly, it urged her to just do it. Do it and don't turn back. It was for Jacob, and using a com-badge didn't leave messy trails of evidence like hacking did. This could work, maybe, as long as the other was willing to speak with her. If not, the Aspatrian was playing with fire.

"Let this work.", she whispered desperately, closing her eyes and holding the badge tighter. It was a wish. For once, if she couldn't use a skill of her's to be in total control, she would gamble with fate. Opening her eyes and paws, the badge sat against her paw-pads. With a simple tap of the claw on her right thumb against the center of the unit, it chirped, acknowledging her aloud. It awaited her request.

"Jacob Vasse to Cameron Richardson.", she stated nervously but authoritatively, even if her adolescent female voice didn't at all match what an older Jacob sounded like. There was a second of pause, then a double, low toned chirp from the badge. Kayla really did growl that time, flooding with frustration.

"You worked the other day! Don't do this to me!", Kayla screamed at the unit, sounding forceful; shaking the badge desperately.

"Starfleet Test Station One, acknowledge!", the fox snapped, not even aware anymore of the dire risk she placed herself in of being heard downstairs. This time, her angry, curled canine stare was met with a voice.

"Acknowledged.", came the feminine voice of a Starfleet computer system. It was a shock to Kayla's chest, like the butterflies in her stomach took off for higher ground. Her face eased fairly quickly, maw open just a bit. It was a confused stance she held for several moments, before it was broken by the thump of her forehead defeatedly against her window. It seemed her gamble would yield no victor. It made sense with thought.

The badge didn't work, yet also not work. Starfleet Test Station One, the location she heard Jacob try to contact, was a communications test station on Earth. The U.S.S Apollo, was not on Earth. The difference was distance. The badge's rage was compromised.

Opening her weary eyes once more, Kayla could see their reflection in the window. This would be Jacob's best chance, but time wasn't on her side. After losing contact with him, she didn't know what he was going through. After imagining tender romance, though it wasn't her conscious mind's decision, thinking of him instead in pain was not a thing she could do easily. Working her mind back to thinking straight, the fox tapped the badge once again. It took a moment for her to think of something to say, but as she thought of it, she hoped it would do something. Anything.

"Starfleet Test Station One.", she spoke quieter, head against the window. She didn't know what it would do if not asked to reply.

"Please state your request.", the facility asked, emotionlessly and concisely. Kayla took her forehead from the window, staring down at the badge again. This communication facility wasn't damaged like the badge was. Perhaps she could use that, but she wasn't sure what to ask of the test station.

"Relay... connection?", she tried, raising a paw out of confusion. The station was also confused.

"Please re-state your request.", the computer asked. Kayla huffed, thinking of all the things a communication test site would be able to do for it's users.

"How about... buffer? Buffer my connection?", the fox tried next, talking to the site computer like a person in her desperation. She figured it might buffer signals for debugging purposes, acting as a local transmitter and receiver like she wanted in order to do so. The request was again met with a double chirp of failure from the badge, but a voice chimed in with it before Kayla's frustration could flare.

"Unable to complete request. Signal strength too low to establish a direct link-up with station.", it did reply, still emotionless as it delivered bad news. Kayla didn't take it as bad news though. The fox's eyes shined and opened wide, and a smile that wasn't fake and forced crept down her muzzle.

"Thank you!", she called to the Starfleet badge in her paws, jumping about with a bit of ecstatic vigor. The denial meant it could work, if she could figure out how. For this, so close to the solution, the girl moved towards speaking out loud and talking to herself.

"I can talk to it, but can't form a bridge for routing. This means I must be on the edge of the badge's operating range now." Kayla deduced in her fast paced walking, tapping the back of the badge against her nose. Her heart was racing, but finally, the fox kept her wits. She felt herself, with her hope. Kayla made another circle, walking towards the window before turning again.

"I need to get closer to the station!", she exclaimed, taking the badge from her nose and wagging it in gesture to persons not there. It was an intense subject for such a young mind to work through. Standing right where she stopped, her breathing was quick and shallow. Answer, answer, need an answer! Then it was like everything stopped. Her mind was graced with soothing angelic wings. It was a divine clarity that relieved her.

"The park.", Kayla whispered to the empty room, reeling from the revelation. The park she and Ninne were taken to was a ways from home, in a different district on the other side of town. That portion of Calleet was closer to the nearby Starfleet facilities, where this test station had to be located. If she could talk to it, but not connect to it, the badge's operating range was so small it was the only possible location. Giving the badge another stare, the fox had to part with it, slipping it back into the drawer of her desk.

Her mother could not know. Not something like this. Lying and playing the role of sly fox no longer sat well with Kayla anymore, but this was different. She wasn't being some conniving criminal. This was saving a life. There wasn't anything she could do that would mean more. It was Jacob. It mattered, and he mattered! Turning on her right footpaw, the fox ran for her door to head down the hall and wash up as she had been told.

Splashing water in her face, she gave happy looks to the mirror. Kayla was proud of herself, and all she had to do was ask to go to the park, convincingly. There was a certain nagging thought though, that scratched at her notions, no matter how good they were. The last time she was this deceitful, was when she reverted to certain portions of her old ways, making an elaborate plan to gain access to Calleet Elementary's computer network. It was a thrill; something she later paid for, and was guilt ridden by. When it came to doing such things in the name of good, the line between good and evil dulled. Right and wrong became a matter of opinion. It was Jacob that never wished to see her in harm's way. As long as he would forgive her actions, no other opinion would matter... unless of course Emily pressed her point with Kayla's paddle.

Such a thought made Kayla slow down the brushing of her fur, and look a bit more deeply into the mirror. Releasing that doubt in a sigh, she shook her head and continued her preening. Kayla believed she could do it, and held on to it.

Once working her way downstairs in the basic Saturday attire she put on earlier, the fox removed the air of confident cheer. To trick properly, she would still have to be in the throws of emotional scarring, not having thought of a way to help Jacob yet. Not even needing to find her mother, Emily found her, stepping to the bottom of the stairs with her morning cup of tea still in hand.

"It was noisy up there some moments ago. Were you yelling?", the parent asked with a note of confusion. That one required a moment of thought from the Aspatrian, who's ears flicked - placing a faux embarrassed and somber look on her face.

"I stubbed my toe on the chair.", Kayla said with a lightly sheepish voice, to make it sound as if she felt silly for hurting herself. Much to her surprise, Emily's look became that of a scold.

"Were those swear words you were yelling then?", the penitatas parent was sure to confront, as often as the soap came out in their household. Just saying the word 'swear' made the fox taste it flowing around her muzzle, getting between her teeth.

"No mom, not at all!", Kayla assured, keeping to the tone of somber worry. She wasn't sure how convincing that one was, since she didn't really swear about anything in the first place. There was normally the encouraging factor your offense caused that assisted in lying. Emily hummed thoughtfully with a look on her face, very obviously examining her. A penitatas parent that wasn't sure of the truth, sometimes had to take to playing it safe. As part of being a penitatas, receiving a swatting 'just in case' you committed an offense was not heard of. After Kayla escaped a swatting yesterday for her brash behavior, Emily was forced to be such a judge.

"Alright. Hold still.", the mother spoke in a near casual sense, making her mind. Kayla's head drooped a little as her parent knelt down onto her knees, setting her mug on the floor. At least when it was done like this, the punishment was brief. Acting in a sort of casual sense herself, both being very familiar with this, Kayla acceptingly raised her tail up out of the way, bracing against Emily's left shoulder so she wouldn't jump around. Lifting the back of Kayla's shirt a bit more, the Aspatrian's un-tenderized backside was ready in just a few seconds since she gave the order to 'hold still'.

Right down to business, Emily's right hand slapped beneath her furry daughter's tail. The force of the blows were crisp, making a swatting sound despite the fox's thin fur of her bottom and her cotton underwear. Kayla's paws balled into tight fists - her face scrunching into a continued wince. Each smack hurt, but, it could have been much worse. A basic dozen from her mother's hand was a speedy punishment that could be done in such a whim for lighter things, or such reminders. At the last spank, the fox's tail curled from the sting, and the harshness coaxed a pained sound from Kayla's throat.

"Ah.. Ow.", Kayla whined quietly, just above a whisper due to the tearier nature of how it sounded. The fox preferred to be tough for such short, simple things, and in reality she was. Her mother spanked with her hand much harder than a parent would swat a kindern child, and faster. With her sound of repentance, Emily released her girl's shirt, brushing her bushy tail back down as a way to say it was done. Kayla took a step back; back of her footpaws touching the last step of the stairs, just to give her mother room to get up, and her an opportunity to give her eyes a quick wipe. They burned gently with the feeling of tears, but they had only moistened. The fur of her silver, filled in 'P's absorbed the two tear drops that never got large enough to leave her eyes. Well that stung a bit.

"You did a lot of yelling. I don't know what was said, but try to take such mistakes with grace - the way you just did here.", Emily spoke lightly again, keeping with a positive parental tone despite having laid down a little negative reinforcement. It was normal and common, and the welts her hand could leave would be gone in an hour, tops. Kayla nodded her head, placing her paws together, at belly height. Her eyes looked down, as you would expect any rejuve to do after feeling a bit of discipline. That part wasn't so much an act, and her mother's saying she took the quick swatting with grace was a soothing kind of compliment. She was guilty to some degree - at least of lying.

"Sorry mom.", Kayla added to her acknowledging nod, certain to answer respectfully before raising her head to look at her mom. With that interruption, she wasn't as sure how she'd play the heart strings to go to the park. Being swatted generally meant things would be taken away, not granted. The shy-like timid laugh the fox made then was quite real, using her real feelings then to her advantage, looking over towards the front door.

"So much for asking you if we could go to the park.", Kayla chuckled, keeping her eyes away. She sniffed, though very tiny-like, due to a bit of moisture in her nose from the swatting. It was there even if she didn't cry, in some amount.

"The park?", her mother asked curiously, before bending over to collect her white mug from the carpet. The question was music to Kayla's tall canid ears. Her head tilted back to facing forward, looking up at her mother. Her paws remained at her belly, looking as if she was huddling them to herself. Something to portray inner discomfort, or at least her kind cuteness. Even a good person knew how to play that game. Having a much less than good past and criminal inclination made her good at it.

"I could use a quiet walk, and some fresh air.", Kayla spoke, as if she was feeling down. Her ears drooped a bit for effect. This was only half an act - she had a lot on her mind. There were plenty of sullen feelings to dredge to the surface. The fox raised her ears back up a bit, with the black tips standing erect, giving a hopeful look.

"Please?", the young girl asked softly, turning her loose statement into a request. Thankfully, Emily smiled a bit. The kind of smile she made when she felt pity. The mother placed her right hand against Kayla's check, giving her muzzle a gentle stroke from her thumb. It was one of the touches that seemed to comfort Kayla at times, as she looked down into the fox's happy, yet weak expression.

"I think that would be a healthy idea. We can stop for lunch before coming back.", she granted the privilege, making her own parental schedule as to how she thought the day would go. Kayla was grinning on the inside that this was working.

"Go throw your pants and shoes on. Grab a jacket.", Emily directed with a chipper, encouraging air to her voice as she removed her hand from Kayla's cheek. The fox nodded her head, turning for the stairs.

"Thanks ma'!", Kayla was sure to add as her bare footpaws bounded up the stairs. Such an act stung her fresh swatting, but it was something she could idly tolerate for a while. Her mind was much busier than that, imagining how her plan would go, and the sort of information she could learn from an individual more privy to Starfleet's knowledge. Her jeans and black jacket were on right away, with those same footpaws thumping down the carpeted stairs - sure to stay within the acceptable speed she had learned the hard way over her time as a penitatas. Secure in her right denim pocket, Jacob's com-badge rested snugly through her young energy.

On the ride to the park, Emily's motherly instinct made her want to badger her daughter about her thoughts, and how she felt Jacob was doing. Admitably, she was worried about the boy. Her other instincts told her to be quiet and not pry into what was perhaps too difficult to discuss. Watching the hover-car's automatic controls, her eyes would glance over to Kayla in the other seat, seeing her paws in her jacket trying to keep warm on such a cold day.

"You'll be okay, right honey?", Emily decided to just ask, out of the blue. Kayla had to smile at least a little. The concern was appreciated, even if it made it harder to lie.

"Don't see why not. I have high hopes.", she answered, even if it had additional meaning the older human wasn't aware of. Emily wanted to tell the little fox that she was on her side, but couldn't be sure of how to word it appropriately.

"Me too.", she settled on as a reply, quiet, and direct, in a lighthearted way.

Landing the hover-car in the lot of the park, the pair of mother and daughter walked together down a sidewalk they were familiar with. It lead to the playground Kayla and Ninne frequented, back before their friendship reached rough waters. It had been much too long since Emily took Kayla here, the penitatas parent figured. Even young repenting children needed a park, at least when they were well behaved. During Emily's time of being too strict, and too unforgiving, she felt herself being guilty for the park falling out of their routine. Leaving the fox to her boredom and small, sad frustrations was a punishment tool she regretted. Kayla dealt with too much to have things held over her head for long periods. While Kayla hid her excitement over her idea coming to fruition, Emily hid her shame of the past few months. So many things happened to Kayla on her watch.

"Stay close by.", Emily asked of her girl as they approached the playground. It wasn't Kayla's reason to be here, but it was where the mother's usual bench was. Force of habit. The fox followed a few more steps, before branching off with a more cheerful, 'okay!'. Not needing to act as much, Kayla ran into the soft sand of the playground, nonchalant. Being such a chilly kind of day, the park was mostly empty, and the playground deserted. To the delicate ebony pads on her paws, the metal on the play sets were icy, touching them and biding her time while her mother settled in. There was a lot of trust. It had been earned, yet it was still so imperative for Kayla to lie. She huffed, releasing a cloud of vapor from her wet nose.

It looked as if Emily was getting pre-occupied, pulling a data-pad from her pocket. It was Jacob's court records again, though the fox imagined it to be just the daily news chip. Looking through the openings of the colorful rungs and ladders of the play area, Kayla's happy appearance slipped back into the same serious one she had before. Taking a single step back, she turned slowly, walking a few short paces till her shoes were no longer trudging through sand. Standing behind a tall, thin tree next to a thicker shrub that decorated the playground's edge, Kayla reached into her pocket and pulled the com-badge back out. Holding it at nose height, she examined it as she always did. This was for Jacob. His life and memories. And her love.

Not wasting any time, Kayla held the Starfleet com-badge and looked down, tapping it with her claw to again activate it - leaving her mother on the other side of the play sets, many paces away. Out of sight, out of audible range, out of mind. This was a serious as being caught hacking.

"Starfleet Test Station One.", the fox again requested, sighing in the middle of her command. Saying such words made her nervous, in such a consequential undertaking.

"Please state your request.", a familiar computer voice asked, the same way it had done before. Kayla lifted the dull, now dark golden badge a few inches as it sat in her right paw.

"Buffer all further communications.", Kayla spoke clearly, though keeping her voice down. That had to be the kind of command it wanted. It was quiet for a half second as it was previously, but no chirp arose.

"Affirmative. All further communications will be buffered through Starfleet Test Station One.", it spoke in a tone it hadn't yet. It actually said yes to something. Kayla smiled ear to ear, twitching them excitedly. She could do it now; the impossible! At last, the Aspatrian could do something to help. Feeling a sort of power surging through her arm from the com-badge, Kayla had to tilt her head down and make sure she wasn't running on simply the thrill. No, she was terrified. Powerful, but not without fault. It was good to feel a new motive. Raising her head, her eyes fixed on the badge, giving it another tap. No backing out now!

"Jacob Vasse to Cameron Richardson.", Kayla committed, making her relay connection through the station. There was no response for a moment. A long moment.

"That is a cruel joke.", a woman spoke with such seriousness; low, and labored, when she heard the name and voice of the person trying to contact her badge. Kayla sulked where she stood. The woman had pain in her voice, and it seemed hearing that name did not help.

"It's not like that. Are you alone?", the fox tried to assure, making a gesture with her left paw. She looked and spoke to the com-badge as if Cameron was really there, taking a small step back further behind the tree. This also merited a moment of silence.

"I'm in my quarters. Who is this?", Cameron answered with a note of irritation, swinging into her second sentence with authoritative anger. All the while, her voice had also adopted Kayla's low, quiet speaking. It was no mistake the voice of this 'Jacob Vasse' was that of a very young girl. The fact she contacted her that way was very intriguing. Kayla didn't know if saying her identity was the best of ideas, but it would have been hard to win the trust of Jacob's second in command without honesty.

"I'm his friend, Kayla Ackart. Jacob entrusted me to repair his badge, before his arrest.", the fox was quick to explain, trying to get it out as smoothly as she could. It didn't mean anything to say who she was, if she didn't also explain her relation to Jacob.

"Jacob mentioned you in a letter he wrote a month ago. I knew you lived in the same district; I caught your name while searching for a home for him. He spoke fondly of you - would he really be happy you're putting yourself at such risk by using de-commissioned Starfleet equipment?", Cameron spoke closer to she normally would, at least these days. Jacob was the one that held her cheer, as they would tease and joke with one another. The fate of her commanding officer and long time friend left her in a long, somber state. Instead of energetic and cheerful, her voice had a tender, calm ring to it, once she got over the initial reaction and knew what was going on. Kayla nodded to the badge slowly, even if the other listener could not see it.

"He spoke of you fondly too Cameron, as well as the whole ship. The Apollo was his family.", she felt it was prudent to say, as her mind wandered to think of the small, frightened, lonely Karrian. Cameron sighed gruffly, highlighting the difficulty and sadness behind hearing such things.

"It still is.", the older human almost whispered. There was a lot behind those three words. Kayla being so well with human body language, imagined Cameron's face. It was an honor to speak with someone who knew Jacob for so many years. The fox even felt jealous. It caused her to pause awkwardly. They both spoke as if Jacob wasn't even around anymore, trapped in his world of crime and punishment.

"I was hoping you'd be able to give me some information, or data pertaining to the accident on board the U.S.S Apollo. He's hurting right now.", Kayla spoke even quieter. Cameron needed to know it was her intention to do something, and help. The Starfleet officer hummed.

"I know. We've all heard, and very few believe he's guilty up here. There has been little I could do though to fix that sham of a trial. They covered up so much.", Cameron began to get upset in an angry way again. It seemed she knew a lot.

"I'm going to do the best I can. His mother won't fight for him, and Starfleet is dodging the prospect of a re-trial.", the fox said with a stone in her chest, more desperately.

"It's why I've done what I did. It's for Jacob. We're cut off from everything.", Kayla was forced to explain, noting her motives and need. She was making it obvious she cared for him a lot. Cameron could not see the urgent body language of the girl on the other end, staring out the window of her quarters at Earth below, but felt where she was coming from. The blue of Earth filled the room with it's only source of light.

"You're bold, Packet-Storm. A big-name penitatas being Jacob's best friend. I never would have seen it coming, as reserved as Jacob is, but now I have an idea.", Cameron started with a small chuckle. It warmed Kayla, like receiving her blessing.

"Knowing your ability, it's no doubt you're capable of a lot. Crappy truth be told, there is no evidence or anything left here on the Apollo.", she went on, sounding more like the Cameron Jacob would have known. Down to business, Kayla growled quietly, responding right away with her left paw to her head.

"You said 'they'...", Kayla said curiously, leaning her right shoulder against the tree, and huddling her tail closer to the backs of her legs for warmth.

"Some upper Starfleet brass and their staff. All of them were associated with Starfleet defense operations in some way. They took jurisdiction of the incident shortly after the investigation began. When that happened, the investigation stopped, and everything about the accident was taken.", she explained, ending in a hateful growl. Both girls loathed the injustice they had seen.

"Kayla, I wanted to help Jacob too. I tried to take the ship's internal sensor logs, and the data we collected while the accident was occurring. Every piece of it had been deleted, leaving a hole in our computer's memory. Some law office that was selected has copies of the sensor logs and all the physical evidence of the accident. Took it all and destroyed what was left recorded on the Apollo.", Cameron went further into, showing how deep the problems went. It was like a conspiracy. Hell, it could have been a conspiracy. It made no sense to make the whole accident classified, and place even the crew of the victim ship in the dark. It made Kayla seethe.

"Without evidence, Jacob will be a penitatas for a long time. Things have been so hard on him, and his mother is of no help. She's a cruel bat that is taking all the shit Starfleet feeds her and calling it ice cream.", Kayla also had the duty to report, feeling tense enough to be ill. Cameron sighed, guiltily.

"And to think I chose that home for him specifically. I wanted him to be in a place he'd be loved and respected, just as he got up here.", she spoke sadly, regretting it all.

"He's so reserved, he tried to take his emergency rejuvenation as nothing. You could see the kind of fright in a seven year old's eyes, even if the person on the inside was a proud man.", Cameron highlighted, placing her own memories on the table. She saved Jacob's life, and for that, Kayla was forever grateful. Perhaps she needed to do this for everyone who had ever loved Jacob, too.

"I can't believe I am asking this...", Kayla spoke slowly, muffled by her own paw as her eyes clenched. She swallowed hard enough to be heard over the com-badge.

"Where is this law office? How the evidence is secured?", she felt the need to know. It meant things she wasn't prepared to do, but the least she could do was ask and know what was going on. Her focus on the badge in her paw was great; a bit of wind rustling the leaves above, and the fur of her bushy tail. Cameron hesitated at answering, knowing well whom she was talking to.

"Jacob would have never allowed someone to suffer because of him.", she answered, adding a serious tone to her voice. She sounded so sure, and Kayla wasn't about to argue the point. Cameron expected her commander would have wished for her to say that, if he was not there.

"It's the only place. I need to at least know.", Kayla pleaded, trying to reason with Cameron to release what she knew. The fox placed the badge close to her heart, feeling desperate. She needed to hold something, getting colder from not moving as she leaned against the tree. Cameron tapped her fingers on the glass-like table aside from her quarter's window.

"This law firm was hand picked to be the prosecution in Jacob's trial. They hold the evidence and information, likely just to keep it out of Starfleet archives. It was said the help of an outside civilian group familiar with law was required to build an effective case against Jacob. That's not normal, but, it's why they were there. From the information I've been able to gather, they had a hand in Admiral Palmer's selection as arbiter in Jacob's trial, and presented the case elaborately enough to call it a conviction.", the woman explained first the finer detail, crossing her arms and staring down at North America as it came into view in the U.S.S Apollo's orbit path. There was Calleet, she thought, looking into a generalized spot below. There, her old friend suffered.

"The files are, I at least guess, being stored on a file server meant for remote access. They have to be important in some way to be classified, yet hidden away from the maximum security of our headquarters facility in Los Angeles. Even you can't get in there.", Cameron explained the technical points, adding her own bit of commentary. Kayla groaned.

"Rub it in.", she complained with a smirk. It did suck to be reminded.

"Difference is, upper ranking members of Starfleet can. I think that's why this law firm is being allowed to be a contractor like that, not because it's better than our system. I'd have to think the security would be the same for most law offices, considering the sensitive data they often contain. You're more familiar with the concept than I would be. The outfit is in the galactic-net registry for the Los Angeles area; Dembler Associates.", came the meat of the answer. Kayla nodded to the badge, not sure of what to do with the information. Hacking was too dangerous. At least she knew.

"I guess that's all I can do. I'll have to see how I can use all this information to help Jacob.", the fox spoke a bit more lightly from the weight of it all.

"Ignore the investigation photos and what video we had from the accident.", Cameron chimed back in suddenly. The fox didn't at all understand, giving a sound of bewilderment.

"You don't want to see them. It was bad enough dragging him across the hall to an emergency rejuvenator. Radiation can do a lot to flesh. Understand?", the Starfleet officer spoke firmly, as if giving a painful order. Kayla's body tensed up against the tree, biting her lip and going quiet. This woman saw that sweet man dying. The blood and imagery would horrify her for a time to come.

"Kayla?", the older woman on the other end tried, seeking to make a request. There was heart behind it.

"Yes?", Kayla asked; gentle and curious in her quiet, somber tone.

"Take care of Jacob.", she requested. It was a personal sort of favor. The Aspatrian personally accepted.

"I will. You'll hear from him soon.", the fox promised, speaking just above a whisper. It was hard. On the other end, Cameron held her hand open above her sparkling, clean golden badge. It shined in the glorious light of Earth. With a tap, both their badges chirped. The connection closed.

Kayla placed the side of her head against the tree, taking a breath and lowering the com-badge. That had been more emotional than she expected. Cameron was another Starfleet officer that didn't seem run-of-the-mill. Perhaps it was a trait those with Starfleet Medical shared. Prejudice from her past, she more expected Starfleet officers to be jaded, such as their adversaries hiding information. The fox's ears twitched. Now that she was starting to pay attention, her tail and ears were getting fairly cold, fur or no fur.

"Kayla.", spoke a stern, solid voice behind herself. Stumbling off of the tree, Kayla scrambled away from the sound of her voice, shoes snapping dry loose twigs broken free by the weather. Coming close to falling on her backside, she caught her footing to find herself face to face with her mother. Emily stood behind where Kayla had been beside the tree, staring on. It was a look of disbelief, and consequence; the fox holding the evidence of her crime right in her little paw. Kayla's chest and belly filled with terror. The wind chilled the empty park again, sitting in the middle of what was an intense silence.

Caught. Committing what was sure to be a crime. The kind that would worsen her life for many years to come.

"Get in the car.", Emily commanded, forcefully, but quieter. It was such a different tone, Kayla's ears didn't know what to make of it. Disappointment? Her eyes watered in fright, quickly moving as told. The young penitatas marched a difficult march, back onto the sidewalk and towards the car. It was in haste, with her mother right behind. To her chest, she held Jacob's badge. She had a promise to Jacob, and now Cameron, that she would make a difference. Now, she would likely fall under the worst discipline allowed in the justice system. As an adult in a tiny frame and mind, it was too easy to feel small under the weight of the world. One mistake could be your last.

Unlike the usual parental routine, Kayla climbed into the hover-car and strapped herself in on her own. Emily beside her still did not speak, smacking at the controls haphazardly instead of pressing them calmly. The display made Kayla cringe, watery eyes bringing forth a solitary sob. Her head turned to her mother bravely, jaw quivering to make the first move in speaking.

"How long were you there?", she asked with a shaky voice; meek. Emily didn't move, sitting arms crossed to watch the hover-car lift off the ground, engine whirring to reach cruising altitude. Not even a glance, much less a word. Though it was not the proper way to sit, Kayla pulled her legs up onto the seat; knees to her chest before she began to cry. Her muzzle sunk between her knees, curling up into a mess of despair.

She envisioned the inside of the Calleet Courthouse, being lead along in handcuffs. Stripped naked, searched, and placed in front of a penitatas court judge to lay down the maximum penalties of the law. Committing a crime was one thing, but doing it while already a penitatas was much more serious. It meant you were a criminal-minded individual, whom needed to be broken harder to reform. By the hand of that judge, she would receive a judicial paddling, which did not take into account age regulations. Everything below her tail would be beaten blistered, skin scraped and damaged. And that was only after she would be found guilty, and sentenced to a much longer term as a penitatas. Many years, not simply her two cycles.

Her friends would become completatas, grow up, and move on. All of that pain, and for nothing. Jacob was no better off. Near howling in the passenger seat of the hover-car, she trembled in fear and remorse, crying her little eyes out. Like the person she was trying to help, Kayla had lost everything, for the crimes of tampering with decommissioned Starfleet property, possessing illicit Starfleet property, and using it.

"Mom, how much did you hear?!", the fox cried out, lifting her head to show her tear filled eyes. She was desperate, unable to sit still under the crushing weight of what was to come. Again, silence. At least for a time. Kayla's head fell, crying more strongly with her ears folded flat.

"All of it.", Emily said with a firm, off tone. It sounded so abnormal, there was so little meaning behind it, other than the penitatas parent was feeling strongly over the matter. The fox's head lifted a little, only to settle back down and sob out her own sorrows. With that answered, it was safe to say her fate was sealed.

The younger of the pair was left to bemoan her woes the last portion of their brief ride in such a quick vehicle. No sooner than they left the cold park did they arrive on their cold street. The grey skies and ominous winter winds followed them where ever they went. Without being told, the terrified penitatas, worked her seatbelt with her shaking paws to bolt from the car straight into the front door. Sobbing the whole way, Kayla ran up the stairs into her room, closing the door. With the difficulty of panic in the way, it took time to remove her jacket, which ended up on the floor with a toss. She kicked her shoes off, thumping them against the baseboard of the wall.

Stress being too much, Kayla collapsed into her desk chair, burying her face in her paws. Her chest heaved from forceful bawling. There was a strong fixation on the things they would do to her, and the consequences of playing the sly fox again. Good intentions would not save her in court, sure to be paddled close to drawing blood.

'I am so sorry Jacob!', she screamed throughout the fiber of her being. The failure would bring him more suffering, and add another person whom was hurt because of him. Minutes passed of her tears and self-pity, with no appearance of her mother. Contacting the authorities? Fetching the Calleet police to take her away? The fox's footpaws kicked back at the legs of her chair as a nervous reaction, making the Starfleet com-badge fall from her right jeans pocket to rest on the soft carpet with a gentle sound. Eyeing over her tear soaked arm, down to the carpet, it reminded her so strongly of how she let Jacob down. Her heart broke.

Across the room, her door opened again, sliding into the wall. Kayla closed her eyes upon hearing the slow approaching footsteps, hanging her head and trying to stifle her cries to listen to the horrors she earned.

Emily stepped to her daughter's side, opening the top drawer of her desk. The fox's eyes opened to teary slits, trying to see what her mother was doing in her depressive lethargy. In only a moment, Kayla's blank, defeated expression was met with a clatter against her desk. From the drawer, her mother had reached in and firmly placed her old container of blue data-chips beside her. The chips stood tall in their box, tops coated in a thin layer of dust from their disuse, having been barred from them by the Corrections Council. The Aspatrian's eyes opened a bit wider, not yet seeing it. Although, as Emily turned and began to step out without a word, Kayla had an epiphany as to what it meant.

Growling out a kind of panicked squeal, Kayla turned from the desk to grasp it's edge and her chair. Her eyes squinted, tilting her head down with a grave stare. They were red from her sobbing; wet and tired.

"You can't be serious...", she spoke coldly, sobbing forced from her voice to be replaced by a rasp. The shock brought on a dire demeanor.

Emily stopped walking, only two paces from the door. The mother looked wearily to one side, but turned around the other way, to meet her own steadfast look with her daughter's. Unsure of what to say, it remained a stare in that moment, speaking without words. Kayla's paws gripped the desk and chair, causing them to tremble. A sputter escaped back into her maw, muffled by her will.

"You can't ask that of me.", she lowered her head further to say with further potency, eyes gazing upwards. Her voice dropped, shaking as her paws did.

"I'm not asking anything of you. I'm giving you the means.", Emily said with a stiff voice, relenting her beliefs into her actions. It was not the easiest of decisions, but she had heard all that Jacob's subordinate, Cameron, had to offer. Someone had to be that poor man's angel. If Kayla had to do it by force with her own two paws, so be it. The fox, already a penitatas for almost two years, found it unimaginable that her own guardian would tell her such a thing. To break the law, again, and violate what it was she was trying not to be. It brought such divisive struggle inside of herself, crying aloud again in a sharp, teary growl.

"But!.. All you've seen, and heard! You're an accessory!", Kayla pressed. She was scared. Emily turned, facing the open doorway to take a deep breath. This was hard for her to do, as her daughter seemed to realize.

"Lory can sleep at night doing what she is, turning a blind eye on right and wrong. I can't.", the mother's voice fell once more into a serious kind of anger.

"If you can do it, it's the right thing to do. You have a better grasp on right and wrong now, and what is a constructive use of your ability. You're frightened - not feeling a rush. Maybe that's the key.", she said with light force, easing into a calming, encouraging tone. Ignoring the fact it had disrespect in it, Kayla scoffed.

"To be scared out of my wits?", she asked sarcastically, not getting what her mother meant. Emily crossed her arms, just taking it as it came.

"Hacking was your way of life. You were comfortable with it as most are about breathing air. I think you respect it now, seeing what good you're capable of, and the consequences that come from it's misuse. You're a little scared of it, as you should be.", she explained, providing her insight and parental guardianship as a young, maturing penitatas needed. Unable to look such a sad and confused Kayla in the face, she looked down at the floor, and hoped her words would help. This would be the cornerstone of the Aspatrian's rehabilitation to society - coming to terms with herself, and what it meant to do the right thing. With what she said out in the open, the mother took her leave, stepping from the room in it's tense silence.

Left to her trembles, Kayla turned back to her desk and thrust her forehead into her balled-up paws. Growling and crying, she had been left to her thoughts and to make a decision. For a strong, solid-to-the-letter penitatas parent such as her mother to place such trust in her, it had to have been earned in some way. After all she had done, she couldn't understand why. Memories of the roughest rulering to her paws came back, tingling her knuckles with ache. She was spanked and disciplined so harshly for her crimes as a hacker, even as recently as the past Christmas. Kidnappers even demonstrated her power as a weapon, and for it, she received the unjust wrath of her best friend. The skills she possessed brought her nothing but pain, regret, and loss.

"I'll never escape it!", Kayla howled to herself, the next sob being growl-like and canid, rumbling from her neck. The tears sapped her energy, tiring her over-stressed mind. Her hacking would never leave her, and she would never escape it's use. Packet-Storm had defined who she was. Again she was forced to rely on a power she was punished and arrested for. It continued to haunt her like a curse.

But, Jacob. This was about Jacob.

Her tears slowed, eyes looking back up to peer out the window to her left. Just as grey as she left it, with the Karrian out there somewhere. No hope, no love, and suffering. Lory could not have been kind to him. Helping him was without a doubt the right thing to do. But the means?

'I think you respect it now.'

If only. She did know the good she had done during her time as a penitatas, but had a lot more experience with the consequences her mother had mentioned. There was a lot of time spent though, teaching Kayla what would be right and what would be wrong. Jacob being arrested and tried without a proper trial was wrong, and even if she had to break the law, Kayla was being told it was right. There was no other way, with Lory shutting down and Starfleet backing away. Still, she didn't wish to break the law, even if she wanted to do it and save the person she cared about most. There, at her desk, Kayla thought for quite some time.

A feeling bottled deep away, flowed forward. Her eyes opened slowly, dripping a fresh pair of quieter tears. It was a soothing feeling, full of confidence. Her mother's words suddenly made a lot more sense. Kayla did not wish to do wrong and break the law. That was the difference between her past life, and the present. Her ability felt less like a sin, and more like just a tool.

Through her sniffles, the fox was able to smile just a little. Emily took such good care of her. It was a blessing she had a mind of her own, and wasn't as steadfast towards one answer as Lory. There would be no penitatas court hearing today. Collecting Jacob's com-badge back up off the floor, she set it on the desk as she stepped out, blue data-chips in paw. She worked her way downstairs, meeting her mother by the family computer console with a mug of tea in her hand as she did this morning. The fox was clear of her tears, having wiped them clear long ago. Her mother had been a patient woman, sure Kayla would find her courage at some point. She looked herself, standing at the end of the stairs with her old chips.

"You sure you want to stay and see this?", Kayla asked, resuming her last steps to the computer console, passing around the desk.

"I'm in a bad way if you get caught as it is.", Emily chuckled awkwardly, turning her eyes away slightly as her girl sat down and thumbed through her blue chips. It was tough to see Kayla about to use her abilities, but she was using them for good. That's what mattered, and it was why she was a parent. After a few moments, her head turned more towards her daughter, leaning back against the wall beside the front door. Kayla had an aura of strength and confidence; something her old ways provided her. Working in front of a computer console made her focus, and place her mind at ease. It was nice to see again, though Emily wasn't sure if the privilege could be reinstated. That needed some sleeping on.

"This going to be easy for you?", she asked with a note of uneasy cumbrance. Wasn't the thing she normally would have imagined asking Kayla. The fox felt similarly, needing to stop what she was doing to answer.

"... Yes.", Kayla admitted with a bit of motion in her tail, looking down at the console's touch-keys.

"Please don't hold this against me. I don't want to be spanked the moment I finish. I don't want you to feel like I keep destroying your trust.", the fox asked forgiveness for, before even starting.

"This is proving to me all my trust was in the right place. You're going to help a lot of people someday.", Emily smiled with parental pride. Kayla absorbed it and had to smile as well, even if it was sheepish. But, turning back to the screen of the console, she returned to her focused state. Chip by chip she loaded bits of programs she had made since becoming a penitatas; the only ones at her disposal. She had not made any programs directly used for hacking, but together and modified, she still had an arsenal at her disposal. Those fun evenings with her mother at her side, the fox knew she worked too quickly and coded things too complex for Emily to understand what it was she was doing. Back then when she was six, she used such deceit casually. She had come a long ways, being a good person in her actions, and not only her personality.

Before even starting, it was such a sight to Emily. She was familiar with the fox's skill and speed, but had never seen the hacker portion that made her daughter so infamous. The focused, blank sort of look as Kayla worked and prepared had an air of coldness about it. It took so much to do what she did, and she used to do it with such lack of prejudice. The screen began becoming cluttered with so many screens and programs - some scrolling all sorts of information, and others sitting idle and ready to spring to life.

"I'm used to using more screens. I did start small like this though, so it'll be all right. Hungry, poor children don't start with hacking-grade machines.", Kayla said in conversation, eyes never leaving the screen. It sounded so cozy and casual. Jacob would have been hard pressed to find a better girlfriend. The scene left Emily just watching, caught up in the moment. With her preparation complete, the fox's speedy fingers tapped at their typical lightning speed, making her jumps and routing points. Her connection bounced and scattered across the entire Earth satellite network, making the security of other stations and facilities work for her. More than enough time to sever the chain of logs once she was done, in several locations. Just like being at home. Her old home, anyway.

"There's no being detected, or else anyone would know whom stole Starfleet's accident evidence. No one will ever know I was there.", she spoke aloud again as she worked. There was a certain pride in showing her loved one what she could do, when it was for a good cause. Her tapping stopped, ceasing the flurry of beeps the key-pads made. She glanced over at her mother once, just to say she was ready to begin.

In an explosion of speed and ferocity, Kayla bolted to work. Dembler Associates she found in the system registry of the galactic-net, picking up her attack location while under the cover of stealth for added security. With that information, she was at the proverbial front door of the law office's digital entrance. Numbers set almost as soon as she began, the hacking was underway. Utilizing spoofing programs and stealth utilities of her own creation, coupled with the agility of her own operating system running on the family's computer console, there was less need for forced entry. With masterful accuracy at data entry and interpretation, working faster than most could follow, she could treat computer systems as if she was their owner.

The once idle screens sprung to life, acting as Kayla had always known. Information flung at her at a computer's pace, spiraling down the windows with flashes and inaudible warnings. Her traffic and requests were disguised and masked, quietly compromising their intrusion countermeasures. Floods of erroneous commands and jamming traffic, while scanners and sniffers read into the direct operation of the system. There was so much to do at once, Emily could not follow. It was amazing. So much filled the screen, with all of it changing in a fraction of a second. In moments, the file storage server let her in on it's own foolish accord; now a puppet under the master's whim. Manipulated by fake instructions and retarded by non-aggressive flood attacks, Kayla made the system her own. With a simple computer and few tools to assist, it was all experience and skill. She could see every passing internal command and action by her adversary, which, in the end, despite incredible speed, operated on rules and it's own programming. With no mind of it's own, Kayla could hack such systems to do as she pleased. Honestly, law firm computers were child's play. Literally. She was fairly young when this became easy.

Her paws danced as the data moved. If the Dembler system moved, the fox countered. Each of it's attempts were nullified, being told something different in return. Jacob's case files located under a subdirectory titled ':APOLLO' began transferring, simply copying the information as it was directly scanned and read, without calling upon the other system's file transfer protocols. The data sleazed it's way out, just as the puppet master sleazed it's way in, as transient bits of noise.

By the time Kayla was done, the Dembler Associates' computer system didn't know what hit it. It never would, not knowing something did. It didn't even get to log the incident, as no countermeasures were permitted to fire. It was like putting the pin back in a grenade. It sat no different than it did before. Satellites and jump locations received similar treatment, breaking the chain with forced revisions to their use logs. It was like the job never existed.

Done, body flowing with a sense of calm after using all her energy, Kayla's paws slowed, and soon stopped. The screen had a few windows left, sitting with idle bits of information, which all disappeared with a single command. She pulled a fresh blue data-chip from the console, leaning back and holding it between her right middle and index finger.

"And that is why you punish me every Christmas.", the sly fox grinned, making a lighthearted joke. It sounded so confident, and tough, but still so young. To focus and work her tiny muscles in such a degree trashed them. It would take time to recover from exhaustion.

"With good reason.", Emily spoke ever so quietly, frozen by awe. It was intense and frightening to watch. A crime she couldn't follow or understand, and one where Kayla couldn't even be detected. Her Aspatrian daughter she loved so much had skill and knowledge she had only barely began to fathom. The infamy was well earned. It was no wonder Delta-Star fell at her paws. The paws she spanked, washed, and touched, as her mother. Small, orange furry things; capable of so much, even if they were as defenseless as any other's. They were still a little girl's. It was no wonder she dreaded the ruler to such a degree, almost as much as the bane of her disciplinary existence; the switch.

It was a time of quiet, but not tense and sterile as it had been over the course of the past day. Emily's empty tea mug hung limply from her fingers, and Kayla rested in the chair to catch her breath. Both had a light smile, and were at peace with each other.

"Are you going to be able to analyze what you took?", Emily asked in a casual manner, still taken back. Kayla lifted her head a little, making a more unconfident face for a moment.

"I'm not sure. Not being an engineer or familiar with Starfleet technology, I'm going to be running on the concepts I do know. It could take time.", the fox had to admit, moving the chip about between her fingers. Her heart was still pounding, with lethargy flowing about her body. Emily stepped to Kayla's side and patted her on the back, just to say 'good job'.

"Take my datapad and head up to your room. Rest, and I'll bring you lunch.", Emily said as she returned to her parental direction, wanting her girl to relax and get some nourishment. Kayla was happy to oblige, taking the chip and her mother's pad she had once also been forbidden to touch back up stairs with her. She took her pants off and set her jacket back, not intending to leave it on the floor.

Soon she was on her back, thumbing through files and information. Her bed soothed her aching muscles and strained eyes, cradling her comfortably. Finally she had eaten, drank, and used the bathroom - things she had skipped all morning. It was growing late into the afternoon, and there was little to report in terms of news. There were many logs, but making sense of them was difficult. Every sensor and pertaining piece of data was stored on record, leaving the Aspatrian looking for the recorded information coming from the Apollo's power systems and the failed relay itself. All the while, she passed up video logs and investigation photographs as she had been told, but curiosity was sneaking up on her. Perhaps, just one.

Tapping one of the image files with the tip of her right index finger's claw, it opened up to reveal a vivid, morbid scene as she was assured. Across a charred plate on the side of the reactor in the middle of the room, it read 'Radiology Lab One'. The only bits of the consoles that were still lit along the perimeter of the wall were smeared in blood. Along the floor, thick trails littered it as if someone had died. Closing her eyes with an apologetic whimper, she was duly reminded the sacrifice Jacob had made. Seeing his blood and bits of unrecognizable flesh scattered about, Kayla thought it wasn't her place to view such a thing. On the other hand, the fear and anxiety brought on by seeing the event she heard stories of made her want to see the recording of what transpired. Backing out of the image, she decided she would watch just a little, and see the older version of Jacob.

It began playing with absolute clarity, looking down over the radiation laboratory she had been told about. Seemed so normal, without anything appearing out of the ordinary. Making her flinch was the initial explosion, starting right after the video file began; loud with a bright flash, and a rush of super heated plasma from the ship power systems. Afterward, power and plasma continued to rush, not being suppressed or stopped by the ship computer systems. Young cadets from Starfleet Medical ran, waving for others to follow as they nearly tripped over one another. Soon after, like the rush of a hero, an older Karrian ran into view. Kayla couldn't smile, but Jacob was a handsome man she thought. Strong. But he was covering his muzzle and shielding himself from the heat, running to the back of the room at the computer console she saw covered in blood in the picture she saw. The radiation burned at his scale, dropping sparks off of anything metal. The fox cringed, jaw shaking before she clenched her eyes shut and smacked the datapad to turn off the video.

Such a sight left her breathing heavily. That was her Jacob. Working so hard to save his crew - his family. There was no mistaking the pain he was repressing, even in those early moments. Such prolonged exposure to the radiation very clearly explained Cameron's warning. They loved Jacob, and watching him die was not something they could stomach. The Starfleet human already had too many memories, seeing the end of the Karrian's tail seared off to the bone. Needing a moment to recompose herself, Kayla dropped the datapad at her side and covered her face. Someone was merciless in their cruelty towards what was a hero, that didn't even want to be called a hero.

But daylight began to fall, dimming the room and leaving Kayla to work by the light coming into her room from the doorway, and the datapad's screen. She had found useful records and logs, but interpreting them was a different story. She would watch the information from the power system in real-time, seeing a sudden surge of power at the moment of the explosion. She would focus on the milliseconds prior to the accident, seeing the state of the miscellaneous components. Having worked for hours, now sitting on the edge of her bed, her mind was only getting weaker.

"A power drop occurs across the primary power relay for the reactor for two seconds prior to the failure. The flow of plasma and electrical current fluctuates, changing it's frequency and field harmonics. Now what does that mean?", Kayla mumbles to herself in thought, replaying the data for the accident over and over. Each time she reads the state of each device and sensor, correlating all of them against each other. Not being an engineer, most of what she read was nonsense, but she was bright and not about to give up on Jacob. Especially after seeing what it was he had done.

On her screen, she played the power relay status image with sensor overlays, giving her a visual representation and a numerical one for each area. Power and plasma flowed in from many ports, being converted and sent to other areas in a crucial way that would be able to allow such a reactor to be used. It isolated the systems from the EPS and warp conduit, protecting the system from fault, and making it so if one area had an issue, it could not cascade to other areas. As large as it was, it was a vital component to all of deck twelve, having such a powerful reactor for research. It was what Kayla understood, eyes glimmering from the changing light of the datapad. Took a lot of study to get that far, and to put together a complete record of the accident as it occurred.

Kayla's right eye-lid twitched. Her maw opened a little, while her fingers replayed the file again. Then again, and again. Each time, she noticed something new, and much more significant. Tapping at the screen of the pad, she slowed down the playback of the power relay's information. Right before the explosion, many of the numbers shifted. Some shifted to negative numbers, and that part did not seem right. Using her visual representation of the inside of the relay, full of blue, flowing graphics, it did not look right either. There was a problem, and it was becoming glaringly obvious. The kind a real investigator would have noticed a lot faster than a novice.

Succumbing to an overwhelming feeling in her gut Kayla's fox ears began to tremble and slowly fall. She played the recording again and again, watching a particular quadrant in the relay. For a millisecond, the power junction fell out of spec, showing numbers it should not have been giving. Immediately after, and more obviously, there was a back-surge of plasma. Where it came into the relay, it tried to flow back in, as well as directly into the controlled power environment the relay was supposed to provide to deck twelve. Almost like a domino effect, there was a cascade like the unit was intended to prevent. Sudden, and with little cause. Then, on queue with the fault, the numbers garble right away, signifying the explosion that rocked the U.S.S Apollo. The more the analyzed the anomaly she found, the more intense her scowl and shock became. She understood. A ripple-like shockwave of explosive energy shot through the power system, crippling other systems and fail safes while what was once a relay became a flood of plasma and unregulated power flow.

"How could you..", Kayla growled roughly at the pad, watching the information once more. Right there in front of her, was the answer. She knew the cause of the failure, and it wasn't Jacob. It was far more heartless.


The next morning, Jacob was taken from his home, summoned for a second hearing by the Secretary of Officer Affairs. Blank look of anger and distrust across his young green muzzle, Jacob obeyed with weary amounts of trust. He didn't know what Kayla had done, or that Emily had quietly delivered information to the Secretary's office - just that there was no evidence in his case. Mentioning him while Emily was listening on the vid-phone the other afternoon was key, forcing Starfleet's hand by bringing in a person that would be there for Jacob's benefit and make a re-trial whether individuals such as Admiral Palmer wanted him to have one or not.

The Karrian was as quiet and reserved as he normally was, being driven in a hover-car sent to his home from Starfleet; operated by tribunal court clerks. His mother Lory was not with him, headed to the court house separately. Jacob had to spend Saturday under the painful lash of her hand while his friends worked to rescue him. Violating her beliefs and her assurance that the discipline was done and over with, she decided to punish him for talking back to her. A long, arduous punishment. Listening to the hum of the hover-car's resonating engine, his tired eyes looked out the window, crouched over in his own thoughts.

"Do it. I don't care any more. You have your fun.", Jacob had spat, standing bare with his arms crossed in his room that day. There was nothing he could do to escape the pain, and the wrath of a confused, vile woman. Like a naked prisoner, he was spanked and disciplined like any penitatas that had committed a grave violation, experiencing what Kayla sought to save him from. While his body could not scar, it left an impression on his mind; a sadness he would have to work to remove. His mother certainly did do as she pleased, and Jacob cried as quietly as he could, desperately growling out shrill whimpers and whines. He had clutched his bed, holding on, and staying with his happy thoughts. Lory would not break him. Seven year old or not, he was a wise man, stiff in his ways and pride.

Despite his mental constitution, letting go of the fear and accepting the undeserved pain, it didn't remove the physical pain that tormented him. From the crease at the base of his tail straight down to his feet, he was caned. The crease flexed with his tail, making it a very severe place to lash. Then his rear, base of his rear, thighs, knee hollows, and calves. Straight down the backs of legs in a harsh punishment. It was slow, taking whip by whip from Lory's nursery cane. The soft seat of the hover-car was no reprieve at all, from something that cruel. He wouldn't even speak with the woman he once called 'mom', avoiding her and enjoying his solitary groundation to his room. There, he could rub his legs to his content.

All of the intensely hurtful welts covered by his slacks, he hid the pain by remaining steadfast. The previous time in front of a Starfleet court-martial those days back, he fought for his rights. Proving his innocence was the only meaning to his existence, willing to accept such pain as that upon his legs to prove it. Even as Emily had him writing lines and spanking his claws, he refused to say he was guilty, even if it meant something more severe would come. Jacob never let go of who he was.

Lead into the court house through an area meant for the accused, Jacob was quiet and stoic. His eyes rarely moved and he made no complaint as he was searched, cooperating to the fullest. Alongside the poor memories of his brief time as a penitatas, these were other pressing thoughts on his mind. Primarily, why was he there. The small hallways and white walls of the holding area was a place he hoped he'd never see again. Placed in the same holding cell he was thrown in the first time, it was at least done quietly and calmly this time, with no handcuffs. Jacob walked in at his own accord, being assured the hearing would be started shortly before the door hissed closed with a locking clang.

By himself, Jacob shredded a portion of his tough facade to lower his head and bare his teeth while an intake of air. With a slow limp to the bunk protruding from the back wall of the tiny solitary room, he laid down on his side to rub the backs of his knees, seething through his teeth. Lory had spanked him in key, almost unorthodox places that made walking a chore. So long as no one knew the distraction plaguing him, he was happy to rub the thick red welts along his green scale until this was settled.

"Why am I here?", the Karrian grumbled to himself, looking over his hip to pull his slacks back over his ankles. He saw a hint of a welt across his lower right calf, covering it back up while his bare claws stretched over the somewhat hard bunk. Fear and lack of guidance made him reach down for his more adult yearnings, being shy about showing such things in public. There was no way he'd appear weak in this court house.

"Saying they have new evidence can be a good thing, or a bad thing.", he continued to speak to himself, just so he wasn't being tortured by the unloving silence of an empty room. Jacob would have given a lot to see Kayla again, or to be in the quiet dignity of his Starfleet uniform. A cadet's smile as they stepped past their commander felt more important than it used to. He wished he had been more vocal like Cameron had suggested, but it just wasn't his way. Life wasn't always so easy, and keeping to himself was a comforting thing. Friends like Cameron made it possible, and now he had Kayla. It wasn't too much to ask for his life back. Learning to loosen up, it was a good life.

Startled by a familiar clang only five minutes after being placed in the holding room to wait, Jacob removed his claws from the backs of his knees, sitting up as the door slid open. Without the overzealous roughness of Starfleet officers the previous time, the clerk at the door acted with only a hand gesture to say Jacob could step out. The reptile nodded his head, getting to his feet without scraping his secret cane welts. Like in de'ja'vou, he was lead down the hall through open double doors, and into a turbo lift. Claws behind his back like a dignified boy, the young Jacob was soon in the court house itself, walking into the room that injustice transpired.

Small, and white, it was the same room, but with the addition of a person. Jacob stepped behind the defense's table by the instruction of the Starfleet security officer beside the door. It was the same one from last time, so Jacob scowled at the older human as he stepped by. Claws on top of one another on the table, his toes flexed; the Karrian trying to stand as tall as possible in defiance.

It was time to fight again. Expression strong and stoic, he let go of his painful memories. Freedom and those he cared about would fuel his adult mind.

In the arbiter's seat sat the Secretary of Officer Affairs; a middle aged human. His face was not intimidating, looking more like a to-the-point office man. Likely quiet and reserved unless necessary, Jacob figured the Secretary was his kind of man. Beside him was Admiral Palmer, looking much less than pleased. Jacob locked stares to rattle the man's cage. There was an angry sort of nervous discomfort about the admiral.

Turning his head, Jacob fired an equally bitter look at the two prosecutors from last time - those law firm men. Once again they looked, but ignored. Jacob turned away and scoffed, showing his draconic teeth for a moment. To them, he did not seem to be a person.

"We are ready to begin this hearing. I'm re-opening this case on Commander Jacob Vasse's behalf in light of new evidence provided.", the Secretary spoke aloud, with his voice booming through such a small room. Jacob lowered his head, looking up through a pair of serious eyes. What did that mean, damn it? Rustling on the high desk with a few data pads, the man lifted one into his hand.

"My office received sensor records of the incident on the U.S.S Apollo in which Commander Vasse was accused of sabotage and attempted murder. We are obligated to review the new information under the law.", he explained and advised professionally, continuing to read from his datapad. Both the prosecution and defense were taken back. The two humans from the law group looked at one another, whispering heavy words, while Jacob sneered out of worry.

"New evidence?", Jacob asked aloud, sounding surprised and tense. One of the prosecutors tapped a finger against his table, addressing the Secretary right away.

"Where did these records come from? They are classified under Starfleet protocol.", the man sought an answer for. The note of irritation in his voice was not well hidden. It wasn't like the smooth talking Jacob heard the first time they found him guilty without a real trial.

"The source of the records are unknown, but they are legitimate. As for their classified status, documents pertaining to a man's guilt or innocence must be presented. As of current, the court record does not have substantial physical evidence. The burden of proof is your's prosecutor.", the Secretary of Officer Affairs replied, making firm gestures with his grey datapad. It made Jacob grin. The lie machine was receiving a taste of their own foolishness. Speaking to each other for only a moment, the two prosecutors pressed a motion immediately.

"The court cannot trust evidence from an unknown source. We move that it should be stricken from the docket.", they requested, not wanting to present evidence they didn't want to. Their response was prompt.

"Denied. Starfleet officers are allowed to submit information to my office in anonymity. If another branch came to a different conclusion or had different information, we must view it.", the Secretary spoke firmly, raising the tension in the room. Jacob was not part of that, able to see how uncomfortable Admiral Palmer and the prosecution had become. With a motion of his hand, the Secretary had an officer pass each man a datapad containing the evidence and data for the hearing. Jacob activated it as soon as it was placed in his claw, anxious to see what it was. Beginning to play a file called 'Item One', the Karrian could see it was the power systems for deck twelve. An intricate, well displayed overlay of sensor data, coupled with the visual engineering display for the radiation reactor's power system. Blue flowing graphics were on the screen, but Jacob could still see the boxes and machinery beneath the security hatch in his mind. He could hear their particular hum, caused by the frequency of the warp core.

He stared at the file, allowing it to play and loop as it had been designed. Just like the person whom discovered the anomaly, Jacob gasped and turned it into a half silent growl. His muzzle curled, twitching with the tips of his reptilian teeth showing. This didn't look at all like sabotage. He was working through what it was he saw, taking into account the back-surge of plasma and sudden out of spec violations by the entire power junction.

"What the secretary has provided is a representation of the power relay system on the Apollo's twelfth deck. Prosecution, can you explain Jacob Vasse's involvement with this apparent problem?", Admiral Palmer finally spoke, acting as arbiter once more even if he was not in charge. The voice was similar, but weaker. Jacob barely listened, working on analyzing the information in front of him. Something did not look right. This cascade, all the sudden...

"I see.", the first of the law men spoke, holding the grey pad in one hand. The second cleared his throat, keeping the visual record close to his face as he began to speak. Jacob did not like it when they spoke. It sent a shiver down the top of his tail, as he watched the men with worry. It was their sham of lies that took away everything he held dear to him.

"We found Jacob Vasse guilty of sabotage. His DNA was on the access panel above this power junction, opened and operated by his command codes. There were no problems with this system, which you can see until the moment of the accident.", he spoke with confidence and clarity. For that, he did not have to lie. That was indeed what the sensor record showed, to an extent.

"So it is your position to move that the evidence is current with the judgment previously-...", the old arbiter spoke again, plainly, looking to end this quickly. He was interrupted by a sharp, much louder sound of Jacob's two claws slamming his desk. The datapad clapped limply down upon it, as his arms trembled in anger. Kayla asked in her head just as Jacob did - how could they?

"That's not entirely true! Frames one zero six, through one zero thirteen!", the young man shouted accusingly, throwing his tail to one side in a harsh lash. It stung the welt at it's base, but only served to keep him going. Taking his hard stance, Admiral Palmer stood from his chair.

"I will not have further interruption mister Vasse!", the man shouted, insisting on Jacob's silence. The Karrian swung his tail again, and an arm, growling aloud from the depths of his throat to show how quickly he was going to obey that.

This was over!

"The sensor data right before the accident shows a back-flow of plasma! It surged the wrong direction, and the relay cascaded out of all it's operating ranges! Look at the field resonance, it doesn't match the warp core's harmonics anymore! It blew itself to pieces and pulsed it's backwards frequency out to the rest of the deck - the opposite of what it should do in any circumstance!", Jacob worked to shout over Admiral Palmer, using the maximum extend of his furious body language; ending his explanation with another punch of his claw to the defense' desk.

The prosecution grit their teeth, flipping frame by frame to where Jacob specified in order to come up with a quick explanation and fabrication. The Secretary followed with confusion, and Admiral Palmer turned red from irritation. His trial was being turned around. He was losing control.

"I will hold you in contempt, Vasse! Wait until the prosecution has proved their-...!", the shaky arbiter continued to shout, which ended abruptly a lot louder than it needed to be. Jacob had stopped yelling, standing with a strong expression. Turning back to the prosecution, he was able to see the two men looked like a deer in the headlights. Flushed, and choked back. The arbiter sank into his seat, clenching his hands at the helpless look he was given. A small boy fooled him, letting him walk right into it. The prosecution didn't know what to say, staring on as if trying to come up with something, anything.

"I can answer for them. My deck's power relay failed!", Jacob began with a confident grin, changing it into a heavy shout. His head dipped down, smacking his desk with an open claw. Jacob shot his claw right back into the air, pointing right at Admiral Palmer. The tip of his claw straight between the stubborn man's eyes. The Karrian's teeth bared in that last moment, snapping his head to meet his finger.

"It's a design flaw!", he yelled, full of emphasis, rage, and spirit. There was no sabotage, not even a mistake by his crew. The unit was a silent death trap that dropped out of spec on a whim, leading to a catastrophic event with the amount of plasma and raw power it funneled from the warp core.

Silence fell upon the room. The prosecution could not understand how such a piece of evidence escaped them, thinking they had the only copies. The Secretary remained glued to his datapad with a look of shock.

As he breathed to calm down, something new impeded his mind. A motive. Jacob's fingers jerked in a tremble as they balled into fists, closing his eyes and wishing such a thing was not true. He was made a penitatas for nothing. This was not an accident, or else there would not have been such work to ensure he could not be re-tried like this. It was a great sadness and terror, thinking of the organization he dedicated nearly two hundred years to doing such a horrible thing. Starfleet was losing it's way.

Growling in a shaky way, piercing Admiral Palmer with his look, Jacob shot his claw out again. This time, to point and accuse.

"You!", the Karrian snapped, voice trembling in anger. He struck his desk again, sliding on his feet to bolt around his desk. The Starfleet officer behind him next to the door clasped him behind the neck and shoved him down onto the table with a clatter. All the while, Jacob's fully bare teeth threatened the man before him.

"I get what this is about! That relay!", he shouted as he was pinned to the desk. Arbiter admiral Palmer rose to his feet again, knocking his chair over backwards.

"This court finds in favor of Jacob Vasse.", the older man tried to speak over the younger Karrian below, voice uncertain and hasty. Despite the victory, Jacob seethed. His eyes stung, wanting to water even in front of all these people. The struggling his legs and tail did meant nothing to the larger human restraining him, whom hit Jacob's gut against the edge of the table in his restraint. It made the reptile wince and cough, screaming aloud his words.

"The relay! It's on nearly every Starfleet vessel in commission! You didn't want anyone to know there was a fatal flaw on all our ships!", he dammed, scraping his claws against the synthetic wood surface of the defense desk. Admiral Palmer turned away, speaking quieter despite the cutthroat tension of the court room Jacob took over.

"This is to be stricken from Commander Vasse's record. Make him an innocentatas. Dismissed.", he spoke quickly and defeatedly. As if in a hurry, being watched by the Secretary, the man made his way out the rear door of the court room; Jacob growling and shouting all the way.

"You bastard! I'm not a pawn!", the young recovered hero howled, eyes watering from the intensity of how he felt. He lost so much, all for nothing. Just so there wouldn't be a mass repair of Starfleet ships, appearing weak to other worlds. He would have been a penitatas for ninety years for a design flaw. The Secretary of Officer Affairs stood from his chair, hands on the arbiter's podium. His expression was excessively cross.

"Everyone but Commander Vasse, get out!", he ordered, to the displeasure of the prosecution. The trial ended so abruptly, once Jacob discovered the truth. They thought they hid it so well. The officers and the two law men left through the main door of the little room, leaving Jacob and the Secretary alone.

Jacob fell to his claws and knees, half under the defense' table. There were finger marks on the back of his neck, from how he needed to be restrained. Upset, yet grateful tears wet his eyes. In the empty calm of the room, he was free. It was over.

He won.

Stepping down from the back of the arbiter's seat, the Secretary was slow and quiet about approaching Jacob. This was a Starfleet officer, recovering from the blow of his lifetime. An honorable man, given the most dishonorable of punishments. The middle-aged human stood beside Jacob, looking down at his back.

"There is a saying, from long ago. A penitatas owes a debt to society, but society owes a debt to an innocentatas.", he spoke lightly. It was hard to speak to what remained of a man that saved so many lives. Jacob lifted his head once he had wiped his eyes, turning his gaze to see the cellular re-scanner in his hand.

"I don't want anyone to owe me a debt. I want to live my life in peace. I'm tired of being treated differently, one extreme or the other.", Jacob answered, low and tired. He breathed between words, as his tight chest let some air in. The Secretary wasn't sure of what to say.

"You'd be one of the only innocentatas on earth, Jacob. There is no shame in it.", the man tried to add, receiving only a shake of Jacob's head as he stood up. The Karrian placed his claws on the table, looking up with a firm look to ensure he was serious. His silver, filled in 'P's taunted him for the final time.

"I don't want to be reminded of this. I'd like to be re-designated back to my medicalos status. My crew and the Apollo was not a fabrication. This trial was. I should wear the designation that reflects something that was real.", he spoke firm, and true. Vindicated. The Secretary of Officer Affairs was not about to refuse such a request, from a Starfleet hero. With the cellular re-scanner, the mark of penance was erased from the backs of his claws, and replaced with his silver 'M's. He was officially a free man once more.

"I'm back.", he whispered to himself with a light smile.

His papers personally re-filed as a medicalos, despite the court's decision for him to be an innocentatas, he left the court room on his own accord. With fewer things on his mind, his legs began to hurt worse. Repeated spankings to the welts were fought by Jacob being distracted. Now that comfort was returning to his mind, his smile had weight on it. He'd have to spend time with his medical tricorder again to fix what his mother had done.

"Speak of the devil...", Jacob huffed to himself, seeing his mother round the corner down the fancy hallway. Lory had a smile, seeming so oblivious. The lack of empathy made Jacob turn his head, lowering it away from his parent in shame.

"Jacob! It wasn't true. I knew it!", came a very familiar, loving voice as Lory knelt down at his side, wrapping her arms around him as if to hug. Jacob huffed, shoving himself off and breaking free of her arms. The look on his face was heavy. A sneer if there ever was one.

"How can you say that after what you've done?". the Karrian snapped at her, pulling his right pant-leg up enough to show the harsh lashes upon his tender, meaty lower calf. They hurt terribly, even now, a day later. Lory's expression tried to stay cheerful, but it gained a sort of masked embarrassment.

"I was just doing my job. It's okay now honey, it's over. I know you're innocent.", the ebony haired woman tried to reassure, reaching out to stroke the side of Jacob's muzzle. The Karrian again stepped away.

"A person who knew I was innocent would have fought to protect me. All you wanted to do was hate me, because you were afraid of being wrong!", Jacob growled at her again, taking a step back forward to be stern. Lory had to choke back her urges to be harsh, having been able to do that the past few days.

"It's not nice to talk about your parent like that. You know I love you. Don't you forgive me?", she asked, seeking to touch the boy's heart strings by speaking so softly. Jacob closed his eyes and sighed gruffly.

"Now that you know you're wrong, and did wrong, you just want to pretend it never happened. You want everything to be the way it was, without you having to share consequence.", Jacob scowled. Lory's upset nature broke her ability to remain as calm, looking straight into Jacob's face.

"I did what was right for the time. I broke no rules or laws.", Lory said firmly, smacking the back of one hand into the other to make emphasis. Jacob lowered his head, shaking it. Her point was as dull as the refresher courses back at Starfleet Medical.

"There is no such thing as 'right for the time'. You are either right, or wrong. You were wrong, whether you broke no rules or laws. Don't you get it?", Jacob spoke much more calmly, knowing now he was speaking to a brick wall. He loved his mom so much. Why did she have to do this to him, and taint it all.

"What do you want me to say? Starfleet is terrible? Crooks and criminals? I don't know how to be one hundred percent loyal to you, at well as my obligations as a wife. I'm sorry Jacob. I lost it, I was stupid, and I'm sorry. I'm a penitatas parent first and foremost, and I didn't know what to think, so I just did my duty.", Lory broke down, trying to explain and sort of beg without getting too upset. Her Jacob was innocent, and she punished him to such a degree in a brief period. She took a moment to breathe, covering her forehead with her right hand. It was hard to remind her old medicalos child she was the same person, when she had showed him her other side.

"Look. Before I cry, let me say this. I'll make it up to you. If you want to be given a new parent, I'll help you get one. Give me one more chance though? It won't happen again.", she said once she removed her hand, being honestly gentle. Lory looked sad, and lost. Jacob growled idly to himself, eyes on the ground. That was a tough thing to ask of him.

What part of Lory was the 'real' part? Her love, as well as her scorn, both felt real. As the human looked on, she noticed a hint of shine beneath Jacob's eyes. Instinctively, she reached out and pulled Jacob into a light hug, holding him to her chest. His head rested on her shoulder. It was a feeling he wanted and needed for so long. A rejuve needs a parent.

No, he didn't forgive her. Not yet. But Lory knew that. Second chance? Maybe.

"I can sleep on it miss Lory. Let's see how it goes.", he spoke over her shoulder, light and tired in the quiet of the back hallway of the court house. This time, his arms squeezed her back, burying his muzzle against her.

"Don't abandon me like that again...", he whispered, sadly. It cut Lory, whom choked back a sob. She believed in a respectful child. Jacob by far was that, when he wasn't forced to stand up for what we right. She was a fool.

"I learned my lesson.", she assured, just as quiet. Even as she swatted and punished, she still had her son at her side, and did not wish to lose him. Those were a good three months. They held one another for another several restful moments, before standing, and leaving. Not claw in hand; she left Jacob to his own accord on that. But, back in the car, she buckled him in to be helpful, and took off for home as the morning sun shined off the polymer glass of the hover-car.

"I'll fix up your room back to how it was. You can live your life of quiet peace as you wish, and I'll guide you as best I can. I'll even get Kayla over to spend the night. First, I'll rub nano-lotion from your tail to your calves.", Lory promised, sounding happy to have Jacob back. Jacob had his life, and his parent back. Normality was returning. He smiled at the world below, no longer in fear of what they thought of him. There was no pain to fear, or injustice. The spirit that was crushed and quelled would come back, happy and vibrant as he had time to heal, and see if Lory still had it in her. He hoped he could forgive sometime, or he'd never truly get over what occurred, even if he was already trying to forget it. In the end, Lory wanted the same thing he did; to move on. The horrors ended as quickly as they began.

Soon he would be able to see Kayla, and show her his silver 'M's. The two rejuves, penitatas and medicalos, would be alone. Finally he could rest, and hold her the way he wished. He'd even learn the role she played in saving his freedom.

Innocence was bliss.