Kayla: To Live and Grow
In the 28th century, the technology of rejuvenation allows for immortality. While this device is used for sentencing criminals to start a highly strict and disciplined life anew, being paroled; a Completatas; was like starting anew again.
(Story Sixty-One)
Concept by Lurking Dragon
Kayla and story by Professor Bob

On the far edge of Calleet’s Penitatas district, evening sunlight dimmed through the branches and leaves of the largest and oldest tree in the entire punitive suburb. The diffused orange rays cast a calming light into a dim, white-walled bedroom; a wide window facing the backyard’s all-encompassing canopy of green, with a young inmate’s desk resting beneath it to make a special place for someone who would otherwise have so little else to look at. As one would expect of a tiny engineer, sheets of white paper were strewn about it in piles, separating schematics and diagrams from that of a young boy’s actual artwork; a happy Drakonian boy sketched sprinting, legs in mid-stride with a pencil left draped across his proper, graphite-formed anatomy. While the shadows of leaves danced upon the walls, the room was silent and empty without the six year old that could sit and draw for hours, or run about it playing pretend as vibrantly and shamelessly as a Kindern; imagination so unbridled, even an old shawl meant for a teenage drake could turn into a cape, emulating Earth cartoon heroes to find fun with so little.

That young boy was out in the spacious open-concept living room of the single-story house; short hallways on either side, housing their two bedrooms and Patrick’s little workshop. Kitchen and dining room blending into the back of the open space with dark wood tones, windows sprawled the entire back of the house, letting the dance of the tree twinkle sunlight throughout their home. Chipper and occupied, and with a rear none too sore, Zachary sat upon the Rah`mar family sofa in nothing but the different shades of fur he was born with, working with an electrical engineering spanner in piecing a project together. It was the start of October and just over a month had passed since he discovered he wasn’t the only Aspatrian in Calleet, settling into his new incarcerated life. While he did not protest wearing clothing in public, respecting that this wasn’t Aspatria, he did confess he’d really rather not wear anything in private – his fathers granting him that, so long as they didn’t have any family company, if home was to feel like home for the furred boy. Patrick had even come to share spare parts and tools with him to tinker with, though he was rather selective with what Zach could have, and the hobby having very strict rules of its own; just as Kayla had to face as a Penitatas when it came to using computers. He could only dabble in his old adult hobby supervised, and never should he touch a single engineering tool without permission – ever, or else. Being that Zach was an agreeable boy, and one that was always deathly afraid of punishment, he complied without the slightest bit of sneakiness to risk the fur and skin he cherished.

As Patrick and Thomas got to know their often rough-and-tumble son who seemed like he could wiggle himself into and out of anything, so wiry and full of an athletic sort of energy, they did come to find what a sweet and sensitive boy that engineer made as a six year old. Though he could be rude at times, Zachary never seemed to mean his slips in malice. In fact, the boy didn’t seem to have an aggressive, mean bone in his body; a trait so deeply contrasting with his criminal charges, it was almost no wonder the man eventually broke down to put an end to it all, at the risk of his own life. While often times he still didn’t share much of his own, tucking his own thoughts and experiences away, Zach always asked his fathers how their days were and what he missed while he was away at school, having started that Monday at Calleet Rejuve Elementary. He cared about their opinions and the general happenings of their lives, getting to know them as well as they did he; like a friend that also happened to be their son, the way Zachary conducted himself. The fox with a black stripe down his back made a place for himself in the family, and made it clear that he intended to stay out of trouble… even if it was sometimes hard for him. He wanted to be good, happier to be a disciplined child than an adult he despised. At the end of the day, this was his choice, and he’d try and be a decent Penitatas even if he was a coward; making the best out of atoning, these years to come.

Clutching that spanner in his right paw, short vulpine fingers cradling its thick shape meant for an adult Drakonian claw, Zachary leaned forward with his small sheath hanging from the edge of his seat without care, smiling in excitement in his focus to finish his work before the family needed to leave for the evening. The blue light of the tool skimmed the open crease of a metallic sphere, eyeing down at a diagram he had drawn from time to time to check his expected measurements. Beside his tail upon the sofa, brushing to and fro, his pillow, some clothes, and Mitsy, the ever-kind plush Aspatrian boy had already been collected as Patrick requested of him. Being a Saturday and having no worries over school or work, Thomas managed to get he and his husband last-minute tickets to a festival a few cities over where the bubbly drake’s favorite singer would be performing. That translated to an unexpected stay at Kayla’s house for Zach to be babysat, and overnight for the first time, considering the wee hours of the morning they figured they would be back in town by.

So while the pair of young men bustled about; Thomas seemingly unable to figure out what to wear, as if he needed to personally impress his pop-idol; it all at least gave Zachary some time to finish the device upon the coffee table before he dressed himself, not wanting to dawdle on his fathers when it was time to go and have that spanner in his paw replaced by the hot slap of a wooden kitchen spatula. Patrick wasn’t a ruler sort, and the alternative scorched something fierce. Once the hover-impulse unit nestled into the core of the sphere flickered, lighting up with a whir of spinning blue that eased the weight the ball off the table, Zach made a single celebratory ‘hah!’ of success before reaching into the crevice around the unit’s center to cut its power. Now that he was a child and didn’t have much to play with as a new Penitatas, most of the creative ideas that he sketched at his desk were toys; this one being his very first working model, and one he’d love to share with others. He was in a hurry to get it working before he had to leave, just so he could bring it with the rest of his things.

Zach, please do as you’re told. I know your other father is dragging his claws, but please don’t follow that example.”, Patrick came to usher the fox along as he stepped past the back of the sofa, using one of his ‘warning’ tones that got Zachary moving right along, plopping the metal ball on top of his pillow beside him.

Oh – I’m all finished, doing it right now!”, he shot quickly from his muzzle in his young voice, having just been thinking about avoiding getting that spatula to the pad of his vulpine palm, and feeling glad he didn’t have that spanner between his fingers any longer when his fatherly disciplinarian walked by. No reminders needed – no sir.

While Zachary didn’t have much say in the sorts of clothes he could wear, and unable to choose them for himself, Thomas did at least get him a few things he liked. Being the sort to enjoy looking cute from time to time; rugged little fox or not; some of his boy’s briefs were more than plain white for casual outings, and the pair he came to snatch off the couch was a playful peach color. Jumping right into them to be compliant, one foxy footpaw after the other, he bent over to grab the garment and tug them up his legs, throwing his tail up in a toss; a reflex of his, ever so casual and animated with his Aspatrian brush of fur. Being bare around his home did cause his fathers to need to chide him occasionally to keep the base of his tail to himself and not be rude; Thomas often suggesting he be more “lady-like” with it, which wasn’t actually all that far off. Aspatrian boys did tend to toss their tails around more and just not care, but in a fleeting moment he was modestly covered in his cotton briefs to be followed by a loose pair of charcoal lounge shorts with a yellow t-shirt, dressed comfortably for a young rejuve’s sleepover.

He hardly had time to begin tidying up the family coffee table before Thomas erupted from the pair of drake’s bedroom singing like a flamboyant diva without so much as holding back, dressed in bright, flashy colors with a modern, in-vogue collar around the mid-section of his long neck. Patrick just loved seeing him so happy, even if he was a bit too reserved himself to join in so readily. He’d sing along at the festival concert, when his voice could blend into the crowd. Garnering liberal compliments from Zach for looking as snazzy as he did, reminding him of the friendlier club patrons out in the outer colonies, the eccentric, lithe man in his swept saurian frame wondered why the heck they weren’t in the car yet – as if his husband and Penitatas son hadn’t been waiting on him.

Stuffing his home-engineered toy into his pillowcase along with Mitsy for easy carrying, Zachary’s tail streamed out the front door with his parents for what would be an enjoyable evening in the company of a friend, catching a break from being a Penitatas for a few social hours of just being a six year old. Buckled into his safety booster seat for the short ride across the district, he watched the car lift away from the reaching canopy of their backyard tree while papa Patrick gave him a brief, light lecture on how to conduct himself away from home, and to be on his best behavior for Emily if he wanted to have fun. Just like school, if he misbehaved away from his parents, he would see an additional punishment once he returned, plus extra. Such things were no-brainers to a seasoned ‘penny, knowing how strict and severe the disciplinary corrections could come, but Zachary was still new and he wanted to ensure he understood just how sore a fox he could really be, and how much trouble a hard time Penitatas could put themselves in on top of the rigid rearing they were already getting. His “unearned” spankings his punishment-dodging behaviors could not avoid, unknowingly scheduled as they were, had tapered down to about two to three a week at various levels of severity, and it would be on his continued good behavior that those would taper down further. Considering Kayla was down to two a month at the time of her parole, he still had a fair ways to go if he wanted to offset the weight of his own crimes – paying his punitive dues until deemed worthy of such reductions by the justice department.

So many fatherly words later, the descent of their hover-car changed to well wishes; Zachary hoping the pair of drakes had a blast, and to tell him all about it when they got back. The party-fox within him wanted to hear about the beer and wine especially, but he decided not to say that out loud. All on his own was he allowed to release his seat’s lap-bar and disembark for Kayla’s front step, only to be met by a call before he could reach the button for the front door. Clutching his pillow with a turn of his head, Zach caught the wave of a green scaled claw beckoning him over across the yard above a welcoming face and a kickball tucked under his other arm. Well acquainted with the Karrian that was always at Kayla’s side and what sort of relationship the pair held, the boy’s tail was tossed into an excited little wag for his age, waving goodbye to his fathers to join Jacob. The two drakes were expecting to be waving to Emily, but the word of the ex-Starfleet Medicalos they learned about was good enough for them when the young reptile gave a polite tip of his snout and pointed toward the backyard; essentially playing a game of charades to explain that he was to fetch Zachary when he heard the hover-car swing by. Through the windshield of their car, Patrick nodded and Thomas provided a playful salute off his eye-ridge for the old officer; boys joining together as the sportier hover-car of the drake’s lifted off the ground for the highways of the sky.

Jacob! Hiya sir!”, Zachary shared some of that social flair in his greeting, treading coarse, dry fall grass beneath the pads of his paws.

It’s just Jacob. Come on, I don’t think you even call your own dads sir.”, the older scaled boy tried to rib a little as he began walking back along the side of the house. Less reserved and more comfortable these days, especially within his own circle of Penitatas companionship, Jacob found it easy to be relaxed around the typically informal, logically-minded Aspatrian boy. It was nice to have another guy to hang out with, and the fox carried a personality that was easy for him to jive with; outgoing, but friendly and sensitive enough to be a calmer, thoughtful sort beneath a few nervous inclinations.

Oh – just trying to be a good boy so Kayla’s mom doesn’t whip my ass again.”, Zach tried to play off as a joke with the pitch of his young voice, making note of the lesson that was spanked into him with a wooden spoon the last time he visited Kayla.

While in this case he simply liked Jacob and wished to be liked back, an afternoon of continually forgetting to use respectful language when addressed by Emily did put him over her lap as a reminder to say ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ when speaking to his guardians and disciplinarians. Zachary wasn’t too familiar with those overly submissive panglish titles at first, but that certainly put them in his vocabulary. He found the human woman to be a very “by the book” sort of strict in ways his inexperienced fathers couldn’t quite exemplify, and it did urge him to be more careful and courteous as a boy that wanted to keep his backside in one piece.

She does prefer a degree of, ah… proper ‘penny politeness, from you guys.”, that astute way Jacob could speak came out with a crooked, almost sheepish grin in response, knowing quite well what the stickler Emily was for a Penitatas’ language. It wasn’t long ago that Kayla had to be the utmost respectful, and it was one of the subjects her mother was the strictest over – a very easy way for her to get at least a brief, harsh stinger of a swatting, even if she wasn’t intending to be curt. Emily paid close mind to what came out of the muzzles around her.

Rounding the back corner of the house’s white exterior, the Targate family’s backyard was simple and clear aside from a couple of short, lanky scrub oaks that thankfully didn’t make the best of switches during Kayla’s incarceration; although that didn’t stop her mother from plucking a twig or two when she was younger. The grass a mixture of pale greens and browns as the cold evenings tended to make it, the ground was left patchy with moist dirt between the encompass of a synth-wood privacy fence. There wasn’t much else to it other than a tiny porch that came off the back door, leading into one corner of the dining room, and a small picnic table just in front of it. Kayla’s parents never made much use of it, leaving it to be used just for their Penitatas’ outdoor activities as she was growing up under their care.

Hope you don’t mind playing with me for a little bit. Kayla’s doing some coding work at the moment and she likes to be alone to focus, so I’ve been in the backyard by myself. Told her mom I’d drag you back here when you showed up so we could keep it quiet for her. She’s a bit agitated... Starfleet keeps making requests of her on Saturdays, and that’s sort of our day to relax after a week of school.”, the young doctor ended up sounding disappointed as well as he explained his companion’s discomfort with the abrupt job needs of her current contract, bringing that rubbery red kickball into both his claws as the pair walked.

I was spending the night here with her too, and they messed up our plans a little. Actually glad you needed to come over, I wasn’t in the mood to play… ‘kickball solitaire’, I guess it could be called.”, he went on to top off with a loose, almost faintly shy chuckle at the end in suggesting he was rather looking forward to Zachary’s brand of company; the fox making the last steps to the picnic table with a bounce to set his pillow down upon it, trying to keep it clean and its contents safe. Jacob was feeling up to being seven for a while, and it was a fair dampener at his age to have that abruptly taken away; Ackart Enterprises coming before their desire to act their ages, especially with the Planetary Defense Platform Network left in wake of Kayla’s previous battlefield.

So long as you don’t mind some rowdy kit like me. I’d have fun beating up a ball for a while. Gets me away from my pencils and paper.”, Zach affirmed with the hope his six year old self wouldn’t be too much of a potential annoyance for an almost eight year old Medicalos; happy, easygoing smile all the while, even with his deficit of self-confidence. He knew the Karrian to be one to like quiet time to himself; heck, so did he; but getting out and letting off some steam was just in a boy’s blood growing up, and there was no better way than physical fun under an open sky to sate that urge for nature’s horseplay.

Having his invitation accepted without Zach so much as asking what they were to play, apparently game for anything, Jacob permitted his tail to flick in his gratefulness and relief the fox was an eager, easy fellow.

If only I could pull Kayla from holovision and computer screens so easily. I need to, at times.”, he spoke half as a fellow child, and half as a physician in wanting his technology enthusiast of a mate to join him in getting proper exercise more often. Treating the ball in his claws to a bounce off the dirt below, it came back up with an airy pang of a sound.

Maybe we can try kicking it against the back wall here, and the other tries to send it back without letting it roll back to the fence?”, Jacob pitched with a tip of his head to the wall, then over his shoulder to the fencing behind them; the backyard ultimately not that big, as closely as some of the houses in their suburbia were tucked. It was a way he was familiar with playing, and a safe one to suggest a Penitatas playmate considering the lack of nearby windows or anything breakable in general. The past year living in this district taught him to be mindful, as protective of fellow tails as he could be.

Sure thing ‘doc!”, Zach’s paws came together with a clap, leaving the edge of the house’s back porch slab. A quick jog of a few steps got his bare black furred paws through the dirt and grass, separating himself from Jacob and the textured exterior wall to where he figured he could try and intercept the ball when it returned their way; tail animated and swishing from the seat of his shorts. It felt incredibly liberating to get out and feel less like a ‘penny for a while, starved for such active play when he so badly wanted to enjoy that lovely tree that covered his backyard like a rustling umbrella. He was used to monkeying around a starship, after all – he wasn’t at all a desk-fox, no matter how much he liked to sketch and scheme. Mister Weiler was a strong-pawed man with a gentle touch when his tail was a longer, more rugged sort of bushy, those mere moons ago.

Why is Kayla doing all this work anyhow? It’s not penal labor because she got out of being a Penitatas or something, is it?”, that chipper little kit decided to question with the backs of his paws against the waist of his shorts, wondering why a girl like her would be working so much at her age on an advanced planet like Earth; far from the cesspool Aspatria was. Not the sort to outright laugh if Zachary was worried about being made to pay off his debts through menial child labor once he was done paying them in tears, Jacob just let his smile remain a tad awkward as he set the red, bouncy ball down with a light drop.

It’s nothing like that, no.”, he did at least assure with a token of amusement to sound lighthearted about it, before reeling his right footclaw back to give the kickball a hearty blow; gray sweatpants gripping his ankle through the stroke. Needing to curl his toes so his draconic claws would tip down and away from the ball, careful not to puncture it, the kickball made its trademark sound of impact, sailing through the air to deflect low off the house’s back wall and head back toward Zach’s side in the startup of their simple game.

Kayla started her business voluntarily, to step out into the world. Be a bigger person, give something back, chase a dream – that sort of thing. It isn’t common for a rejuve like us to work; it’s more reserved for experts of a field, taking consultations. Like me – I couldn’t walk into a clinic and ask for a job to practice medicine, but I could be asked for help if I had some special knowledge they needed.”, Jacob figured he would converse in the loose manner Zach seemed to like, slow and relaxed even as the ball ‘pang!’ed aloud from a swift kick from a spry, black-socked Aspatrian leg. Even in the midst of speaking, Jacob just hopped a few steps with his tail balancing his movements to kick it back, thinking of all the specialist doctors and rejuvenation pioneers who’s skills were still relied upon when they were rejuvenated teenagers; irreplaceable masters of their trades.

Guess I don’t have to worry about that.”, the young fox said of his particular engineering talents as if to be funny, in a way you could imagine a much older man saying of their knowledge as he launched Jacob’s ball back the way it came, a fair tad harder as they found a rhythm.

I did see that you started school this week. How are you liking Newstat?”, Jacob thought to ask about Calleet Rejuve Elementary by the actual name it was generally called by teachers, having caught glimpse of Zachary one morning that week getting off the hover-bus that served his side of the Penitatas district. The question did bring Zach some pause as a duller expression came to hook the ends of the boy’s maw. He waited for the ball to dart back his way from the wall, following it along the ground with a brisk run before kicking the thing hard for a boy his age; paw cutting straight up through the air. Six or not, Jacob was aware of how agile Aspatrians were, and that Zach would make a competitive playmate.

The class’ first impression of me, was me being made to stand and tell them who I was and what awful crap I did to get arrested. Oh, I was a pirate. Yeah, illegal weapons charges – totally normal. I thought that sucked, but then came some ‘welcome spanking’ I missed out on during the first day of school. I’m the class crybaby, they decided.”, the wiry fox summarized his intimidating first day with a sprinkling of both disdain and a saddened sort of shame he tried to disguise behind gruffer annoyance – not wanting to seem so sensitive to a boy he thought of as respectable and strong.

I guess that’s what happens when you make a grown wuss a six year old. Sure makes impressing Penitatas and making friends hard.”, he couldn’t help but gripe on a lower note, wishing that Misses Rembrant’s hand didn’t sting like a fleshy paddle as his foot kept up its own paddling of their kickball. His parents were Drakonians and couldn’t really use their claws to spank with, leaving him unaware how much a woman like her could make twenty Penitatas-strength whacks of her hand hurt; his water-works defining him, even if having his shorts pulled down in front of the class of mostly six and seven year old humans did nothing to embarrass the boy that morning.

You just don’t like pain and stress, from what you’ve told me. Everyone handles it differently. You’re a perfectly normal kid, and besides, your pirate-busting story… ”, Jacob couldn’t help but take sympathy and be gentle with his response, even as he needed to pause to try harder to catch the ball before it zipped by him in a blur, as hard as Zachary nailed a perfect launch off the center of the wall.

That was high-tier ballsy. Nobody can pretend they could do what you did. Just don’t be afraid to talk and share, and they’ll know you better soon.”, he shot out of his muzzle in a firmer, more confident way after giving his kickball the same sort of heavy treatment as Zach did – a physical retort to the boy’s self-demeaning attitude to his own personality. A sissy wimp doesn’t work in claustrophobic spaces getting cut and battered beside conduits that could kill him, and most certainly doesn’t mutiny against an entire crew of armed pirates with only a slim chance of survival. That was the act of a leader, no matter how much that leader would want to inebriate and flee from certain feelings.

Coming from someone he honestly looked up to, seeing Jacob as the figure of a man he wished he could have been; or perhaps still be; Zachary wasn’t the sort to turn his ebony nose up, thrash his tail, and argue with words like that. He appreciated them with a little hope in his heart that he could make Jacob’s suggestion work. If he would cry without the composure of some others, just experiencing those swats differently and in his own way of coping with them, he’d just have to show he had other merits if he couldn’t be the stoic cool-kid. The encouragement such a nice thing for the Karrian to have said, and something the boy Zachary was would have defined as “sweet”, it made Zach quiet for a moment in a good way, cracking a contented little smile back onto his muzzle; black ears tall, following the ball where ever he had to hunt it.

There’s at least one person that I’ve been chatting with this week. Stepped into that class to see I wasn’t the only person with fur. Turns out there’s another Aspatrian in town besides Kayla and I.”, that boyish muzzle compared to his other Aspatrian peers did think to pay note to, when four vulpine ears twitched erect with surprise when he walked into Misses Rembrant’s class that Monday morning. While his pitch was high, denoting it to be a pleasant thing to so suddenly find, Jacob groaned in the back of his head with a tightening of his chest – a thing surely not needed as much as Zachary was making him hustle.

Had to ask her what having her letter colored black meant. Apparently she used to be a he – didn’t know they did that sort of thing here. Did some dark ‘Aspatria stuff’ that sure sounded like one of our planet’s typical fuck-wads, but she didn’t seem proud enough to talk about what all she did with that dick they took from her. Used to be an administrator at our school, she said.”, that limber fox explained calmly as he ran about, changing his volume when he’d reel back and give that kickball a solid punt. While he already did have a very laid back and affront way of talking, the use of a phrase like “fuck-wads” did force a goofier look across Jacob’s snout, wondering if Zach had been brushing up on his panglish insults – hopefully far from parental ears.

But, as much as Jacob enjoyed hearing that particular fox spoken of so colorfully, Zachary’s tone suggested he was out of the loop on an important piece of information regarding Calleet’s other female fox; being that none of them particularly liked her, and the why.

Her name is Stephanie. I take it she didn’t mention who she violated then?”, the older of the two boys decided it was best to acknowledge the existence of Miss Galmar, and inquire as to how forthcoming the other Aspatrian had been. While Jacob’s reptilian tail lifted and swung nimbly as their fast paced game forced him to recall some of the tricks he used to be quicker on his feet in Starfleet Academy, pivoting and counterbalancing in ways difficult to achieve when he wasn’t a fit, grown Karrian, the odd, biting tone to his words pulled Zachary’s dark blue eyes from the ball with a questioning tip of his muzzle.

“… No?”, slid off his tongue with a tepid hint of cautious curiosity, knowing Jacob wouldn’t ask such a thing unless the ‘whom’ was relevant; footpaws sullying to look a grimier shade of black in their constant beat against the ground. The red ball with its rubbery latticed square pattern got more airborne in an upward bounce off the wall, bringing Zach to scamper backwards to smack the ball out of the air with his paw, so his feet could return to sender.

I’m hesitant to mention it without Kayla’s consent, but it’s sort of common knowledge around Calleet that-… ”, Jacob’s muzzle stiffened once he actually began to speak of it, as uncomfortable and close as the subject of his mate’s assault was; surely not wanting to overstep; but needing to chase the kickball down to deflect it away from the fence caused him to stop midway – leaving a sharp mind and a pair of tall black ears to twitch.

Kayla? She hurt – Kayla?”, Zachary asked with a cutting, harsh tone of questioning disgust in his small voice, almost speaking like a permanently college-aged man in his mannerisms despite his vocal pitch being far from it. The way he paused and emphasized his fellow fox’s name made Jacob feel a bit bad, knowing that he and Kayla were rather friendly – the poor guy having no clue this other girl he met had done something that would have hit closer to home than he would have imagined. Zach either smiled like a little kid or drooped like a scolded adult most of the time, and it was the first time Jacob even saw a faint hint of the boy’s front fangs; so gentle and without anger, unlike certain occasional tempers he knew of.

I’m sorry to drop it on you like that, but you should know. She was your age, just starting school. Happened at Newstat well before she and I met. Nearly killed her.”, the Karrian thought the least he could do was apologize for having to be that particular messenger, especially once the fox delivered the red ball darting his way a sweeping kick as if shooting the final goal of a soccer game; potentially feeling duped. Of course he would have mentioned to Stephanie that he had met Kayla – she had all the opportunity in the world to be honest. For that one, Jacob had to leap with his arms up to deflect the ball back down, and it actually stung his palms a little.

In a safe place, even after escaping it on Aspatria… ”, he came to hear Zach say in a quieter, sorry sort of way once the loud ‘ping!’ of the kickball stopped ringing in the slits of his reptilian ears; feet smacking the ground with a splash of dirt across his claws.

Volmare’, you poor thing. It must have felt like everyone wanted to hurt you… ”, Zachary whispered words only to himself since Kayla wasn’t here to catch them with her sensitive ears.

The solemn words did at least quell the fire in his right leg, keeping the game going without tiring himself out by kicking so hard; tail flailing as the pair continued trying to converse even while they darted about together. Being able to talk while hurriedly beating upon that kickball was becoming part of the game itself – neither boy wanting to be the one to fumble their words, much less the ball.

I guess I’m glad we didn’t exactly hit it off as friends then, even if it was nice to have someone that I could talk in Aspatrian with. As much as Aspatria looks down on girls, it’s a good experience for him to actually be one.”, Zachary couldn’t help but find some solace in, as this new upbringing forced Stephanie to be the thing he viewed as some sort of inferior object. The ex-male vice principal was a year older than he was, and while one of the better behaved of the class, she was still somewhat bitchy; just not really his kind of person, as stuffy as an authoritarian turned ‘penny like she could be. He’d still have to get along with her, realistically, for his own tail, but Zach could at least put the idea of an Aspatrian trio out of his mind.

Kayla forgave the man, but I know her better than that. It’s just easier for her to cope and move on that way, hurt as badly as she was. That fox got shoved out of her mind, just for all the old scars to linger and resurface later. We’ve hashed out a few of those lasting feelings and wounds lately. She’s a fighter, and a good one.”, Jacob was at least happy to say of his special fox in wake of Steven Galmar’s outright evil act, and Kayla’s ability to overcome; even if it was so hard, and those wounds revealed themselves in the most private, pained of ways.

It was after they had first met, when Kayla was visiting him a lot and bringing him into her life of what being a Penitatas was all about, that they first spoke of the fox with a black ‘P’ upon her paws. Jacob had already missed several big events in the fox’s life since becoming a Penitatas, but that nightmare came with a flavor different from the others. Her second week of school as an optimistic little girl who hardly knew anything of the world she lived upon, Kayla was summoned to the vice principal’s office to be immediately, and brutally raped. The offices of the school soundproof for the copious spankings the administrators provided errant Penitatas, that man tortured Jacob’s ray of sunshine; the sex not enough, and her anguish a part of his desire. While he likely held the idea that he could do as he pleased and heal Kayla up, hiding the whole ordeal, the absolute animal…

Jacob’s jaw stiffened at words Kayla used back then, pulling a Zachary in showing his kickball a taste of his tension. Fortunately his claws didn’t pierce its rubbery hide, but that was the first real deflection off the wall to really make Zach bolt to save, diving with a clumsy slide across the ground to catch the ball across the top-side of his footpaw; rather surprised, but all too happy to take that sort of tumble.

Kayla too had paused those many months ago with this strange, distant and weak look across her face; the pair in one of their private talks, walking through Miss Lory’s vegetable garden. When her muzzle’s lips parted, she weakly uttered, “He broke his toy.”

It was hard to imagine all of what Kayla suppressed from that day, not even treated like a living thing, but Jacob gave his head a shake. He didn’t want to be angry and upset about it again, when he had already acted upon those feelings. Composing himself and his mind, the older of the boys figured it was a good story to tell while he waited for the kickball to return to his footclaw.

It wasn’t something I’d normally ever do, but those black letter Penitatas have one more Special Punishment Day versus everyone else – a pretty nasty birthday tradition. Stephanie’s just came and went, and I attended her little punishment party for the first time as Kayla’s guest. I’d never spanked someone before in all my years, picking up paddles around here just to look at them. I made an exception, for her.”, Jacob’s brows lowered as he revealed those memories had been made fresh again by its anniversary passing, catching a look and pivot of ears from his vulpine playmate.

Stephanie’s first birthday arriving since becoming the cherished partner at Kayla Ackart’s side, Jacob surprised his fox by saying yes to the offer to attend the party with her. He had never been the most comfortable with seeing his many Penitatas friends and close companion punished as harshly as they were, and never once even humored the idea of joining in any of the spanking and discipline, despite his place as a Medicalos granting him some privileges with their punitive parents. Jacob just wasn’t that sort of man. But, when confronted with the opportunity to be his mate’s advocate and harbinger of personal justice, there was no reason to hesitate. That old assertive Commander inside of him would have loved to step from the sidelines to have a “discussion” with the “young lady” Kayla supposedly shoved on her tail at his welcoming party, what felt like so long ago.

I personally brought a hot pink bow for the occasion and tied it to the base of her tail when I introduced myself to her. Told her that I had a pain in my heart that I planned to share, on behalf of someone I love.”, his voice did so elaborate, getting a tad somber despite his breathing picking up from the physical strain of remaining as quick with the ball as Zachary could be as an Aspatrian. That bow was an idea all of his own, knowing that the man within that girlish frame wouldn’t exactly enjoy being made a frilly spectacle of at their own hellish party; diligent scaled fingers tying the ribbon into an ornate figure against a part of her bare tail he knew damn well was sensitive, dangling from her CornerStool that afternoon. Nose in the darkness of her corner to hear those hushed words from behind imparted a dread into Stephanie that made it all the more worrisome when he declared it was for someone he loved.

That was at least where the somber note in his voice eased, and a hint of a grin was allowed to creep back over Jacob’s muzzle; feeling deeply warmed under his sweat-clothes he wore to protect his scales from the cool evening, as much exercise as he was getting.

Came to find that their lashes came in sets like the ‘birthday spankings’ of old Earth cultural history, and I got two turns for being a Medicalos. Kayla got three as her victim, and she donated all three of them to me, including the ability to pick my own spanking instrument.”, a premeditated plan began to take shape as the Karrian clearly got with Kayla before the day of the birthday party to examine what he might be able to do with the guidelines and traditions the day set forth for them. Seeing as Stephanie was turning seven years old that day, and those sets of swats carried the old principle of adding “one to grow on”, getting five whole turns equated to a solid forty strokes.

And what did you know – I happened to have brought Kayla’s hellacious paddle with the holes in it.”, he actually sounded proud in the way he spoke of their calculated maneuver, knowing quite well Zach was familiar with the blistering paddle Kayla had hung above her massive computer console. The small fox’s exact words were “holy fuck” when he first saw the thing, and it wasn’t meant to be a pun. Still in the heat of their game, Jacob’s sharp footclaws cut through grass roots and dirt with a slide, tail snapped around himself to kick the ball with a bit of a spin to his body; weight of the lizard-like appendage giving him inertia like a top.

A Special Punishment Day lifted some age-related severity restrictions and permitted their parents to use full force swings of their arm, green lighting Kayla’s big girl paddle to grace a seven year old fox who deserved it far more. Jacob still didn’t like that it ever touched Kayla, and to him, for what he did to make that happen, getting to use it on Stephanie felt all the more just. The thought of that six-holed monstrosity of a wooden club spanking that snooty, stuck-up girl he met made Zachary outright snicker, even in the middle of needing to save another well-bounced shot from making it to the fence.

You were the life of the scary party I take! Kayla didn’t want a crack at her though, after all that?”, the party-fox thought of the pain-laden gathering and the spotlight Jacob must have had, quite obviously not bothered that Jacob wanted to lay down some law upon a Penitatas. He understood they were here to be disciplined in hard time; no hard feelings there. That girl deserved it anyway, which prompted his question as to why Kayla didn’t join in.

Kayla had a crack at her alright – straight up her middle one, once she was patched up and met the new ‘penny. She was happy for me to teach my own lesson this time… she knew I was hurting, after something that happened.”, Jacob joked of a much younger Kayla taking a cane between Stephanie’s legs when there wasn’t any supervision to stop her from demonstrating what such a pain would feel like. He didn’t want to elaborate at least, protecting that twist of vengeance as a secret for Kayla’s sake, knowing it to be a thing she wouldn’t have been permitted to do.

No, that birthday trip was for him… a bandage for his heart, for the day he said he loved his sunny fox and went to show her that affection, only for her to tighten up and flatten her ears like she was scared when he touched her. That sharp, shrill gasp she had made; Kayla becoming tense as a rock beneath his claw, and against a part of himself even she wanted to feel, in bracing for horrific, unworldly pain. They both were able to move past it on that wonderful rainy day, but it came to be a sight, sound, and feeling Jacob would never be able to forget. With her, and against her, a part of her torment and pain became his, feeling what those who hurt Kayla had done to her.

His heart felt the anguish of rape.

That day, he responded with his understanding and love; pressing on, and holding Kayla as she wished to be held – both physically, and in stature, as the lovely woman known as ma’am. On the day of Stephanie’s anniversary of what she did, he responded with his scorn.

So I formally paddled her, with an audience. I helped give her a very bad birthday, at least. Managed to raise a couple blisters on top of what her mother had already smacked into her that morning, and apparently that means I did a pretty good job for a guy that isn’t even eight yet.”, Jacob could speak of the event as having been a success, drilling those forty swats of Kayla’s paddle with the tenacity of the fire within him.

Two-clawing the big paddle sure helped make up for his young age, reeling the thing around his back before swinging it one arduous swat at a time. Propped over an arm of Jenny’s sofa, Stephanie’s mother held the fox down for Jacob’s sound paddling to her bare fur, tail restraint keeping the base of her tail exposed as her pink bow danced with the blows and her own wiggles. Well knowledged of the things Kayla found the most painful, and even so encouraged by her, Jacob ensured the top edge of the paddle’s flat face smacked the exposed tuck of the girl’s tail from that restraint’s taut pull; tailhole treated to an everlasting fire that left Stephanie howling and sobbing in pained hysterics. None of those blisters that cropped up beneath her fur broke from what he could tell, seeing no moisture, but the doctor imagined that might not have lasted the evening when she had one more big session of birthday spanks from her far stronger parents before bed. The good man would settle for nothing less than one sorry kit, for what she did. A younger him had joined Starfleet to be a researcher and interplanetary physician for a similar reason, unafraid of protecting those he sheltered should he need to raise his claw.

I’m not the pain inflicting sort at all, but I felt better, having been a part. Kayla meant too much to me, to not. She gave Stephanie her own share of the cake and ice cream she was supposed to miss out on though, when it was all over. Said it was tradition at this point, and she’d rather eat pie at home anyway.”, the tale of punitive vengeance eased into what you would more expect a birthday party to be like, alongside Kayla’s kind sense of forgiveness and parenting. She held the motherly view that one good thing should happen on any day intentionally made to be so bad, and wasn’t comfortable with the idea that Stephanie would get nothing the whole day; hoping a bit of a treat while stuck in her corner would give her mind and body a break.

Gave me an excuse to feed her a spoonful or two from my own plate. I did enjoy that.”, he added in a more relaxed way beside his light panting, finding it fun to slip a spoon playfully into her muzzle once his duty was all done and over with.

Even got an apology from ol’ Steven before we all left. I’m sure the pain of the day encouraged that, but still. I know I was hard, but I think I was fair for what he did – and to who.”, Jacob twisted Stephanie’s gender back around to speak of the man she used to be, ball coming to him with an awkward bounce that slowed it down and made it easier to kick.

She seemed fine in class this week, all healed up with that itchy slop I don’t get enough of, I’d bet. If it wasn’t what they wanted her to get, they wouldn’t invite her victim’s angry boyfriend to beat her ass. Does sound pretty awful though, I mean… blisters and all.”, Zachary spoke in a way that suggested he still had a degree of empathy, not having known that blisters were a thing you could get from a hard, fast paddling. That sounded really painful! The girl didn’t seem any worse for wear though when he met her, leading him to figure she was supposed to get nano-lotion after a day like that; something he experienced the day he met Kayla, when his prior fur-brushing was spanked into a red-hot, harsh fire before bed that evening with his paddle. He cried himself to sleep that night after a pair of hugs, lotion or not, and it was a heck of a way to get acquainted with Mitsy and what being a hard time Penitatas could be like.

I’m entirely sure it is. Should be thankful too – a long time ago you would have experienced it too, when that party was a thing every Penitatas had. Five days like that a year, in fact.”, Jacob educated in a matter-of-fact sort of casual way, speaking of what pre-reform Penitatas went through during their hard time sentences; his speech all but back to normal, young mind lost in their rambunctious bout of sporty play with still no score against the fence, no matter how hard the other seemed to try and catch their fellow off guard. The idea of being made to face such incredible consequences made Zach balk, surely not wanting to feel what they were putting murderers and rapists through this day and age.

Oh hell no, what I have right now is bad enough, thanks. Who thought everyone needed that?”, he questioningly quipped with a flowing wag of his vulpine brush of a tail, lifting his right paw to point his preened claws toward the orange, dimming sky.

Society as a whole, until their minds were changed. There was a reform of the Penitatas Justice System over a hundred years ago, stemming from that. The ‘old guard’ was a harsh bunch, and it made being a ‘penny a lot harder. My adoptive mother and I were alive back then, and we’ve been talking about the subject recently. Especially today – its been on my mind.”, Jacob eluded to a bygone era that Zachary fortunately missed out on.

Both boys breathing heavier than they had been, though Zach still bouncy as a vulpine boy without fail, a pause in their conversation came from a well practiced kick from the furred boy; the mind of an engineer trying to come up with a good arc and pattern for the ball to elude Jacob with. It resulted in a ball that stayed out of the air when it bounced from the back wall of the house, zipping weightlessly across the ground to be stopped by the catching stamp of a pearly clawed foot. And, with a bit of a bounce of his own, Jacob’s tail became an enhancer of his force again for a powerful kick to get the ball going again, almost lost too far off to the side if not for another slide and kick from Zach – dirt kicked up all across Zachary’s side, needing to scramble to get back up.

The system looked a lot different back then, with the ritualism and mentalities involved. Penitatas didn’t have as much individuality, having to take on their parent’s surname, and everything possible was made to be a punishment – even getting sick, or hurt, with the view that hard time should be that way. Some of it was unfair by design because of that, just to make it sting more over things the ‘penny couldn’t help. Parents were chosen because they liked spanking enough to keep up with the ‘penny’s discipline as frequently as they could. Experts with motivation, who could film what they did if they wanted. Made some of them feel used, or objectified.”, that conversation and history lesson was able to continue unhindered, thinking of what the Penitatas Justice System used to look like in order to explain it, as bad as the whole thing tended to sound when phrased in such ways. He was tripping up Zach in their game more than he was him, but goodness did the fox made him work for it – a rougher sort of play he’d never get Kayla into, preferring relaxing games of catch.

Parenting was sometimes an afterthought.”, Jacob summarized more lightly of the behaviors and purely punitive hard time of the past, denoting a sentiment Ki`rene had shared with him in their talks of that time. It was easier to open up to the old boy about such things, treating him like another parent or adult she could confide in now that the secret was out between them. Jacob would surely not utter her ancient history to others either, trusted to not spread her status as an ex-Penitatas of the pre-reform era beyond their family. Speaking of the parenting being far different made Zachary appreciate Patrick and Thomas welcoming him into their home so kindly, though painfully. They were good guys… thinking of being a Penitatas without that support beneath him made him wonder how hard it would hurt to fall; he and Mitsy, all alone.

Makes me glad my dads are so nice to me. That’s the stuff I respect them for. I haven’t heard about any of this yet… if it was so bad, why didn’t everyone say, hey – quit that?”, Zach fumbled part way through speaking to force his legs forward an extra step, sweeping that ball into another trick of physics and geometry, wanting to ensure the ball would bounce off the wall the way he wanted this time around.

From it, the vulpine boy’s pert ears could have sworn he heard Jacob of all people swear under his breath as he stumbled and took a dive his own, landing clear atop the ball in a tackle when it came clear he’d never reach it in time; arms barely grappling the red thing, so close to losing it. Not missing a beat, the old boy let a hearty ‘hoo!’ of physical exertion and relief out of his maw, standing and turning to make Zach stifle an exceptionally silly smirk and snicker – a perfectly round circle of dirt kissing the very end of Jacob’s muzzle between his reptilian nostrils, with bits of dark earth slapped across his entire front. The ball having stopped for that one, clutched in Jacob’s claws, he puffed a little air to clear his nose and dropped the ball right into a fresh kick to resume where they were.

Ah – It was hard during that era! Penitatas were assumed to be untrustworthy, worse than now, and having an opinion meant you weren’t perfectly submissive as they demanded. Anything but what your parents or officials wanted would have gotten you punished, right? And they had these nano-web structures weaved through their brains to make them act more their physical age on top of it, impacting their emotions and will. It took a lot to fight it, or be resistant to it. Those who did fight, made a lot of sacrifices.”, came to make Jacob’s heart and voice a little heavier in the midst of such enjoyable roughhousing, finding the life Ki`rene lived through as a Penitatas one he wouldn’t wish on anyone but the worst – but alas, that was the point back then, to make sure no one ever did anything foolhardy enough to be arrested again. Those nano-webs Penitatas were given suppressed the adult sides of their minds, like the ones Kayla and Jacob had relied upon during times of crisis, weakening the criminal to weep more easily and obey when faced with such incredible bouts of corporal punishment. Hard time was to be hard, but sometimes being unblinkingly harsh allowed apathy and normalcy of things unconscionable, or disguised the bad eggs that would spoil the system behind a cloak of duty; bad things, done by bad people.

A ‘penny that used to be a lawyer, Richard McDaft, called for changes and tried to say something was wrong in his home – abnormal even for the time. That Penitatas lacked rights that should have been inalienable, and that some of their treatment was amoral. He was a charismatic man even as a kid, and actually managed to organize a ‘penny protest with a positive message. His parents didn’t like that, and how he kept defying them… and he passed away from injuries they gave him before everyone took his word about them for truth. A supposedly ‘bad penny’ was proven honest, when all he wanted was to serve his time still feeling like he mattered. His efforts made his dream come true, and the system reformed to one he felt everyone would feel safe and cared about in.”, the long lived Karrian put the prowess of his intellectual speech to work as a spark of his own heart was added to his historical recount; at least two of those panglish words escaping Zachary to make him have to assume their exact meanings, still learning as he went. Richard had been the subject of the morning between he and Ki`rene, making it easy to tell his story both happily and with some passion, as close to home as that young Irish boy’s legacy hit; the ball becoming slower to bounce as Zach’s ears followed only Jacob.

Today is his Kindern birthday. We got together and lit a candle for him this morning. Found out my mother did it every year, in memory.”, Jacob spoke with more of that airy weight and sympathy, warmed by what they got to do when they awoke; the sky similarly orange as it was now, for the birth of dawn. October 5th, Ki`rene carried the tradition across a century, even when she lived alone. When the call for reform was gaining traction and Richard’s efforts were making unspoken subjects reach national and global news outlets, there were adult ex-Penitatas that stood up and spoke out as well.

Ki`rene was one of them.

You’ll learn all about him in school during his memorial week in January, when he died, but my mom prefers to remember him on his day of life. She wonders if anyone remembers his birthday to celebrate it anymore, so she still does for him… he would have been a hundred and forty eight today.”, Jacob seemed to get lost in his thoughts and the emotions surrounding the meaning of the day. Richard was but a baby in the grand cosmic scheme of immortality, life stolen from him because he dared wish for better for more than just himself. All because the things he suggested happening around him sounded “normal” for the time, though his home was far from it; the actions of his parents exposed far too late to save what was a good man, despite his mistakes. Thinking that even the revered Penitatas’ birthday might have been forgotten to the sands of time stung Jacob when he sat down with his mother, and she talked to the candle with a sweet smile, like saying hello to an old friend.

She said her thanks for the life she and her Penitatas got to live, because of him. I joined her, and gave my own thank you – for all my friends, and my partner.”, his voice couldn’t help but sound different, with his leg weakening along with his tone.

Truth be told, Kayla’s dragon had to try to not cry during their well wishes, and he wasn’t about to just admit that; needing a moment tucked up against Ki`rene. So many things changed as a result of Richard’s life and death, and it made the system that governed his mate’s sentence for those years she wore her silver ‘P’s. Hearing Ki`rene thanking him, someone who wouldn’t have even qualified to be a parent without the reform he pioneered, reminded him of how much he owed Richard for he and Kayla’s happiness, and the opportunity she had. She might not be where she was today if not for the parents she gained, and the quality of life she led while beneath a paddle’s scorn.

“… We’ll give him the love he didn’t get. Don’t even want to imagine Kayla having a nano-web, much less treated like that. None of you.”, the sentimental boy affirmed with a far firmer note, eternally grateful for the life Kayla and those he cared about were spared; serving their times with a brighter light at the end of the tunnel, and enough good to offset all of the bad to make a balanced, fair chance. He saved Kayla long before Jacob could, and it wasn’t fair for him to not be here to see it.

What on Earth would his dear fox have been like as willful and strong as she was, teased as a little girl that existed only to be spanked to the fullest extent her parents were willing to keep her? Would she have simply become more spiteful beneath the veil of her nano-web, feeling just as much an object as she already thought of herself back then? With the network of nanites reinforcing her young emotions, she would have surely cracked into a fit of tears in the final counterattack on Velius as well – robbed of the things that made her… her. Hell, she likely wouldn’t have even survived DeltaStar, and none of them would have, if that was the case.

My personality is off limits. I don’t like myself a lot, but that isn’t a cure.”, Zachary added in his own lighter sort of way in regard to that nano-web; his mind his only being. Even a really good finger-cake would wear off and give him his clarity back eventually, and he would have had it no other way. He felt awfully glad the justice system he surrendered himself to wasn’t that way any longer, realizing his dads wouldn’t have fit the what they would have considered to be qualifying either if they wanted spank-happy sorts.

Well, Thomas didn’t seem like he’d enjoy being domineered by a dragon-paddle by Patrick in private, but hey, who knew – Zach sure wasn’t about to knock it.

I wrote a dissertation as a post-graduate back then, detailing the need for pain to never be included in medicine willfully… ”, Jacob began to shift gears in his conversation as some of his energy came back to him, pausing for a moment to come forward and focus on sending his kickball on yet another trip; the pings and pangs of the ball one of the only sounds in the quiet Penitatas neighborhood at that hour.

They were using dulled needles on Penitatas instead of hyposprays! Those vaccinations you got before you started school would have hurt like hell; maybe for days!”, the scaled boy drifted into sounding more comfortably casual as long as the pair had been shooting the breeze, and sharing as much of what was on his mind as he had; even playing in ways Jacob normally wouldn’t, much less be able. The more Zachary heard of the “good ol’ days”, the more his muzzle just twisted at hearing some of it. That was a great way to exemplify how much last Saturday would have been terrible, getting that booster hypo from the family practice doctor his dads took him to.

You didn’t do that as a doctor back then, did you?”, Zach’s ears gave a backward flick with a bit of a tone to it, if Jacob was a practicing physician at that time. Right on cue the Medicalos let off a scoff, turning half way around with that look of “are you kidding me right now?”.

Of… course not!”, he rightfully assured, letting ‘of’ out of his maw a tad loud as he ran for the kickball, kicking it away more tiredly. Not only was that something he’d never do, he also never lived in a Penitatas-centric town, the way their districts were made up before of “like minded” spanking enthusiasts. You didn’t exactly move to one of those unless you rather enjoyed giving or taking those paddlings… or, you know, just rather celebrated plenty of sightings of bare bottoms. Not that Jacob didn’t like bare bottoms, since he certainly did; he just didn’t need them as red as others, and happened to prefer them to have tails, apparently.

The two boys steadily tiring, the battered kickball wasn’t calling out across the sides of the houses and fences as loud as it was before. There was surely going to be no score until they were exhausted, and neither exactly wanted to beat themselves up to that degree; both sullied clear up their ankles and where ever they landed in their defensive dives, and Zach clammy against the bases of his strands of fur in places, cold air or not. It was hardly noticeable to them while they talked together that their game had been steadily melting into the kickball equivalent of catch over time; a distinct calm coming over them in a good, lengthy pause of just more quiet play together.

You know what’s really the most fucked, out of all you just told me about?”, that quiet seemed to give the thoughtful man within Zachary’s mind something to muse, asking in such an offhanded manner those steps from Jacob’s side. The Karrian hummed curiously, catching the kickball with the sole of his right footclaw; the ball making its trademark sound so quiet and dull, before kicked away.

That lawyer’s parents got to benefit from the changes they didn’t want, when I’m sure you all dumped them into being Penitatas.”, the vulpine of the pair spoke of Richard’s sad story and the reform of the justice system, imagining that his mom and dad got to experience first hand the disappearance of their Special Punishment Days and more; the fairness of Richard’s justice doing so much for those who killed him, punishing a boy to silence his impudent mouth.

“… That they became kids of some other spank-happy parents that weren’t garbage, and treated them right.”, Zachary too imagined, seeing them going into the care of another set of spankophile parents before the system changed – ones that didn’t do the evil that they did, and showed them exactly how the guardians of a Penitatas should act.

As well as how they viewed what a Penitatas’ butt-cheeks should look like, he too at least hoped.

I’d call it a fitting end.”, popped from Jacob’s muzzle with ease.

Richard had the last word.”, the old Commander championed the man’s lasting memory; will being greater than his parent’s, even in death. He made and showed them the life he wanted and there was nothing they could do about it, forever reminded by the passing of holidays they were no longer blistered upon, or their own comfort when they fell ill.

As their game winded down, the pair shared another spell of quiet until Zachary caught the kickball with a light stamp of his paw-pads and vulpine toes. Making a bit of a sigh, he knelt down and picked up the ball into his arms before giving Jacob his full attention.

Aside from being thankful for all that stuff, I figure I should say – ah… thanks for being okay with hanging out with some tiny pirate.”, Zach spoke of himself and the things he did to become a Penitatas in a larger shift of conversation matters, when he knew quite well that the Medicalos lived a vastly different life that would have been opposed to his own. It was timid and uneasy sounding despite the boy’s attempts to keep smiling, and it was met with a light nod of Jacob’s head and what seemed to be a thoughtful break of eye contact.

“… What you did was a lot worse than what I’m used to, and it did… bother me some, when we met. You ended up being a pretty okay guy though, and like I said, you were a special kind of brave to end it all the way you did. I don’t know anyone else who became a Penitatas so purposely either.”, Jacob lifted his right claw to express, not having to chase the ball around while he spoke; a little quieter, and honest about how he felt. It hurt to know Zachary played a key role in the maiming of others, but he also couldn’t ignore that it hurt Zach too; just as bothered, and obviously remorseful. He showed it again too, folding his ears back to nod his head in the way an Aspatrian expressed their apologies.

You guys have a phrase in panglish. I sold my soul to leave Aspatria.”, Zach’s black ears weakened even as he hugged that rubbery ball, speaking of his reasons for doing things he never would have accepted; a talented engineer that wrapped himself up in a blanket of substance abuse and willful ignorance to cope with it all.

I want it back.”, he could say of the choices he so recently made, in trying to make things right. It wasn’t too late to find a better life, and he knew what he wanted from it. While he wasn’t accustomed to speaking his inner feelings in tongues aside from Aspatrian, such a phrase carried a lot of understandable weight behind it.

“… I’m fortunate Kayla was such a young Kindern when she escaped your world. She remembers so little. Just the worst of the trauma.”, Jacob was left to comment in its wake, knowing from prior talks with Kayla just how much of a nightmare Aspatria was. Being desperate to leave was a rational act of self-preservation. A thought that jumped into Zach’s head made the boy ‘tch!’ loosely from his muzzle, looking past the spherical horizon of Jacob’s ball in his arms as if to give the ground itself a bit of a disquieted glare.

I wish I could describe how I felt when I saw that indoor pool at school, remembering how thirsty I used to be. There may be no words, in any language.”, came as one of the boy’s gruffer, older sounding statements, being that he had to survive under a red sky for so long only to find the rest of the nearby universe had so much water they could fill gigantic basins literally for the fun of it.

Without enough time for his ears to pivot nor flick, Zach barely caught the sound of a door before he downright flinched, jumping where he stood hard enough to make some of his fur stand on end.

Zachary Wei-… !”, the loud and ever-commanding voice of Emily only got as far as snapping from the backdoor of the porch before she abruptly stopped, hand upon the doorknob from her prior place of looking out the small square windows that dotted the door’s upper half. The rear doors to houses not usually automated, it left her head sticking out, ponytail dangling over her shoulder, only to look further over than what she could see initially to lay eyes on Jacob.

Jacob, you too?!”, Emily elicited from her mouth just as shrill, but far less authoritative as it took a note of surprise and confusion. It was one thing to look out the window and see Zach a dirty mess, but she wasn’t expecting to see the normally docile Karrian looking just as much like he had been rolling in the dirt; his sweatshirt and sweatpants slathered from his face-first dive to save the ball, versus how Zachary’s limber saves merely kicked dirt all up his sides and legs. Both of the boys sort of shrank hearing their names called they way they were, but Jacob’s expression became a tad more bashful as he rather quickly gauged why she’d be looking at them in such a way.

I, uh – picked a game for us to play. We had fun.”, Jacob laughed a little in order for the situation to appear nothing more than “boys being boys”, as much as he didn’t think about the cleanliness side of the game he had chosen. It was important to him to point out that the decision making was his own, and absolve his Penitatas playmate of any potential responsibility if he could. Considering how fast Emily appeared to calm herself, perhaps just not used to having boys around to make such disasters of themselves, Zach followed Jacob’s suit in trying to smile and look as if they had themselves a good, innocent time.

Hello by the way ma’am!”, Zachary flicked his ebony furred ears, letting his tail wag casually, not knowing just how much that showed the copious dirt flecked all through the white upon the tip of his tail. Emily nudged the back door further open, making a wide and accommodating doorway with the dimmed shape of the dinner table behind her.

That’s fine guys, just come wipe those feet and come inside. You can use the shower in my room Jacob, and you Zachary are going to be getting a bath.”, the mother requested of the two, wanting the pair to come in before it started getting too dark if she was to keep the Penitatas under her care on some semblance of a stricter leash.

And thank you for saying ma’am, Zachary. I did notice!”, Emily rolled right into a happier sounding compliment, giving the boy’s use of proper words toward an adult authority figure a nod. For such an enthusiastic crier, he seemed to learn his lessons well; obviously looking to demonstrate the behavior for her approval.

Jacob’s kickball came to rest on the porch as the two boys did as they were asked, scuffing their feet on the mat just outside the door before coming inside for the evening. Zachary was the sort to worry about the cleanliness of his paws when it came time to snatch his pillow, but he at least had Emily to notice his dilemma and carry his sack of belongings; door closing behind all of them to be in the cozy confines of the Targate home’s walls and smells. Alex getting some passing greetings, the trio made their way upstairs to find the bedroom door at its summit was open, bleeding light into the hallway. Hearing steps as easily as she could, Kayla came to step into its open frame dressed as she naturally would be on a Saturday, sporting denim shorts and a black t-shirt. Likely so much calmer than she was only shortly ago, the fox merely looked accomplished as she eased her mind back out of hiding and coding.

Considering the needs of Ackart Enterprise’s contract with Starfleet were coming through Blaine as their personal liaison to Kayla, she “may” have crossed her arms when he called and asked the man what day of the week it was, and what an eight year old was likely doing with it, as predictable as these Saturday excursions were becoming. They were both on the same page as easily as the furl of the fox’s brows showed her disdain for having to ditch Jacob, but duty simply called. Kayla gave no further complaint and sank into her work as she always did; proud at least to have another milestone under her belt, seeing as the defense platforms could be functionally brought back online if needed at any point now. They were shut down voluntarily now that repairs were completed to their operating structures and the one they had to assault, seeing as there was still the matter of securing them from further technological abuse. Using their consultant to piecemeal sections of it, Starfleet kept her as deeply in the dark as they could to keep the actual command functions classified – as they should, Kayla did agree as the security analyst she was becoming.

But, with all that behind her; quite literally, considering the code of the day was still up on her central display panel as it transmitted to Starfleet Central Information; Kayla could return her attentions to her day off, and those who would grace her home.

All done Kayla?”, Emily asked once she was far enough up the stairs, against the thumps of the small footfalls behind her.

At least for one more Saturday.”, the mother’s own Aspatrian did so relievedly declare, glad to be back, with the gentle hint of her old 1980’s music still playing quietly within her room. If she didn’t take such lengths to focus on her work, it would be a lot harder to pull her head away from being a perky eight year old, as much as she enjoyed life as a Completatas. Smiling with energy, Kayla came to notice the tips of two ebony ears trailing behind Jacob.

Va’sk Zach.”, Kayla came to add for her fellow fox in a tongue she knew he still liked to hear, not at all minding that he’d be staying with her and Jacob overnight so suddenly. It had helped her dislike the Aspatrian language less, slipping it in so casually for him from time to time.

Va’sk!”, Zach poked his muzzle over Jacob’s shoulder to give his chipper ‘hi’ in return. He still rather appreciated she became his friend so readily, as good as it had been to get to know her; full of advice and knowledge of things regarding his new life as a Penitatas, as well as tons of stories. From computer systems to what he could explain of engineering and life on the stars, right down to the hardships they both had faced growing up, it always seemed like they had a lot they could talk about. A girl like her was such a rarity to him when you’d not find a such strong woman, or so much as a tomboy on Aspatria; such willful behaviors from females unaccepted by their general culture.

You two weren’t beating each other up out there, were you? You were more in the mood to play outside than I thought, and it wasn’t even raining.”, she questioned Jacob bemusedly once her blue eyes caught the black dirt rubbed into his gray clothing and clear through Zachary’s fur as the pair came off the last step and into her doorway’s light. Jacob let off one of his single laughs as everyone came to stop in a circle, Emily keeping hold of Zachary’s pillow; fingers poking at a weird, hard round object through its white cotton case that didn’t quite go with the rest of the soft items in there.

We beat each other up in a sense, at least. Made for a short game.”, he was able to say of their little kickball competition and the lengths they went to not look foolish in front of their other male companion, even if that was somewhat unspoken as to the reason. They at least tried very hard, making fatigue settle in rather fast.

It’s a good thing Zachary already needed a bath this evening.”, Emily eyed down upon the vulpine boy and a spot of dirt on his cheek he likely placed there unknowingly with his paw, tightening her mouth expressively. She hadn’t learned yet just how wiry and active Zachary could be, though his fathers sure did; quite the change of pace for Jacob, she had to bet, in calmly hanging out with all his female companions. The loose comment was meant to simply be a humorous, parental sort of comment, but it made Kayla light up in a more unexpected sort of way.

Oh hey, why don’t I do his bath? I should be able to take care of that for you ma’. Gives us a good excuse to catch up!”, the Completatas turned to Zachary at the end, figuring it would be a nice way to get to talk for a while. A responsible fox had been learning a few new things in anticipation for the future, and it was the first time she had since sought to assume a “guardian” role – though as simple as giving a small rejuvenated adult a bath really was. The subject of babysitting and parenting had been abound recently, adding a little more adaptive education to her plate beside Ackart Enterprises and school.

Though Emily offered to babysit for Zachary initially as a subtle attempt to see if she could ease Kayla into the idea of nurturing the motherly sense that was so sweet with that pair of Kindern girls that day, unsure if she’d be okay with the idea of being an experienced Completatas babysitter to the district when being strict was something of a requirement, she came to be pleasantly shocked to have Kayla outright volunteer out of her own interest when asked about it. Enthusiastically, even. Kayla came right out and admitted that she hoped to attain a Penitatas Parenting License someday, putting her declaration of wanting to start a family in court to a whole new light Emily didn’t expect. Just like her lesson of the value of a credit at the mall, the budding fox was proving herself to be a self-motivated student that could study independently, and as it stood, apparently figured a bath to be something she could do safely and without error, all so Emily wouldn’t have to.

The human woman with her ponytail returned her face to Zach with a smile, happy for her daughter in trying out something new. While only eight and a half, Kayla’s maturity and good sense let her feel like this would be a good opportunity, and an excellent introduction to taking the lead as someone’s guardian figure; perhaps a wing of Kayla’s very own just beginning to show itself in wanting to be that sort of mentor to Zachary.

I know you don’t exactly care about being seen in your fur, but is that okay with you Zachary?”, Emily figured she should at least ask the Penitatas for his own consent, wanting to make sure he wouldn’t be uncomfortable with the idea of being supervised and assisted by someone he considered a friend; not to mention any cultural issues, knowing Aspatrians viewed gender fairly strangely versus Earth’s values. Such things weren’t a worry when it came to the open minded boy, not exactly falling in line with what his planet would have considered perfectly normal either, giving quite the acceptant nod of his head.

Yup! Ma’am.”, he blurted affirmingly from his muzzle, only to be followed abruptly by that word Emily liked – just in case it would have been bad of him not to use it at that particular time, still learning the nuances of panglish formality.

Good again.”, Emily let off with a little more amusement, pointing a finger with a flick of her wrist, sensing in his tone he wasn’t sure about that one.

Lets do this then! Head on into my bathroom and ditch the dirty clothes for me.”, Kayla got to provide as her first instruction as a practicing future parental figure, cheerful to be given a chance by both Emily and Zachary himself.

The circle came to break with everyone going their own ways; Jacob headed to Emily and Alex’s bedroom so the Karrian could borrow the master bathroom, far too reserved to share a bathtub like a young Penitatas, while Emily herself stepped into Kayla’s bedroom to drop off Zach’s pillow of things. Zachary was used to using Kayla’s bathroom during his visits, stepping into the next open doorway down the hall with a smack of the light controls out of memory; vulpine toe-pads cooled by the white tile below. The girl’s personal bathroom lit up in its mostly white colors, fairly plain without having gotten the same decorating touch from Kayla that she gave her bedroom when she was paroled. Zach did need to remind himself that a Penitatas was raised here sometimes, even if he never saw that period of Kayla’s life. Relieved to get clean and spend some time with the person he confided his Penitatas affairs in, comforted by her friendly nature and positivity over matters that could hurt, Zach began working his shirt off in his idle stride toward the tub’s side.

Say, have either of your dads mentioned when you might be able to shower on your own? I had to wait until I was eight ‘cause my mom was too worried about my paw-pads slipping on everything.”, Kayla spoke up behind him for his ears to catch through the rustling side of his shirt, black ears flicking free of the yellow cotton. Zach looked over his shoulder, starting to make a small pile of clothing against the room’s white baseboard while Kayla looked for something in the cabinet beneath her sink.

Just once I’m old enough, and can wash up on my own better. Being so little has its drawbacks.”, Zachary could at least speak of the matter concisely since it had come up at home before. A trial test found the fox’s paws to be too clumsy and small for the six year old to shower effectively alone, so he’d be getting baths for now regardless of the size of his footpaws. He didn’t mind the baths at all, and just felt silly that he had to waste Patrick or Thomas’ time like that; not your typical mindset for a Penitatas, much less such a young rejuvenated person to hold in general, thinking of his adult figures first. As those short, rather small vulpine fingers of his started pulling at the easy-release tail-straps of his lounge shorts and briefs, Kayla’s ears gave a flick as she stood back up with a small box in her paw, seeming excited to be able to do his bath all on her own.

That’s lucky since it sounds like you’ll be able to shower before I could, but hey, you got me to help you out for now.”, she spoke of the opportunity as one good for them both, nudging the cabinet closed with her tail as she stepped by it.

As the last of Zachary’s white and black furs were exposed to the open air and the boy bent over to get both garments off his ankles and footpaws, that ever-casual upward toss of his tail was met with the catch of Kayla’s right paw on her way by to be petted back downward. She didn’t bother saying anything, but boy did she make a face to that sudden point of tail-base back at her; the act of nudging that puff of orange and white back down being her only response to that shamelessness, finding it to be silly more than anything. Zach lifted his muzzle from looking down at his sullied feet to catch a few fingers tapping at the controls on the edge of the tub near the wall, pulling the unit’s settings from her typical shower to that of a nice, warm bath. Underwear and shorts kicked aside, a chirp of a keystroke filled the bathroom with the low roar of water as Zach stood back up with a stretch, finding it to feel good to be back in his own fur after all that brisk play outside.

Check it out! I didn’t even know this stuff existed, being a Penitatas and all.”, his eyes were drawn to Kayla’s crouch over the side of the tub, finding her gently pouring a powder from the box she carried into the coarse column of water rushing from the spigot, turning the colorful dust into a fine white bubbly foam. Old fashioned bubble bath for her guest to play in! Kayla saw the box at the store and figured that could be an awesome excuse to take a bath again sometime.

I like being able to share my video games and things my friends can’t have at home, even if it’s limited, you know? Slipping in my little Completatas perks is just something I can do. Just remember that this is my own bathroom, and there are house rules about me keeping it clean – so no splashing or mess, alright? I doubt I’d get belted over it anymore, but Emily would totally give me baths for a week just to make a poi-… ”, Kayla had been speaking down to the running water and flow of bubble-bath mountains filling the tub, muzzle over the white edge and lit controls before a second sound made her ears twitch and pivot rearward. Realizing it was a trickle other than from the tub and how… “familiar” it sounded, Kayla’s cheeks tightened with a lift of the box in her paw and an inquisitive turn of her head.

Surely enough, right behind where she was crouched and rather close to her muzzle once her body pivoted, her light blue eyes were met with a stream of yellow as Zachary let his bladder go into her toilet-unit without a second thought. His right paw cradling the small shape of his white furred sheath, Zach’s thumb stayed atop the red pointed vulpine penile-tip that slipped from its opening, guiding his pee where he needed as a boy with little more than an idle downward stare into the bowl to keep on target.

Zach!”, Kayla barked out of both surprise and scold, and while it caught both Zachary’s eyes and ears right away, the boy didn’t flinch to the sound of his name like he could with Emily. In fact, once he saw the girl’s face, Zach lifted his right brow and started looking around. He made sure he was making it into the bowl fine, going as far as to lean faintly to one side and lift his right footpaw and just make sure he wasn’t standing on some of her tail fur – much less peeing on it, or something to that effect.

“… What?”, he came to snap back after a moment of silence as if confused, not finding anything obviously wrong. Could this girl not know men urinated standing? Jacob had some teaching to do, if-…

What the hell, it’s not like being at home with your fathers. You should really say something before poking that thing out to pee out of nowhere. Ask if it’s alright, to be polite.”, Kayla did at least cut off his thoughts to more directly chide in her present position as temporary babysitter, putting her words together to try and not sound angry, though her initial shock made that hard. She knew there were plenty of things new to Zachary when he was so accustomed to Aspatria and the ruffians he terrorized interstellar space with, and just wanted to teach. Better understanding why Kayla made that face and defensively slipped her tail away from the side of the toilet-unit to shield it from any potential splash-back made Zach tip his muzzle away – something actually managing to make the boy bashful, slipping into timid mannerisms.

Oh – ah’mm… I’ll be done in a sec’. Didn’t think you’d mind.”, that stream was already starting to weaken to a stop as he spoke, grasping that Patrick and Thomas’ rule of him needing to pee before getting into the bathtub was more of a house rule, and not everyone would stay in the room the same as his own parents would. It wasn’t too difficult to imagine Kayla needing to do such things in front of her own parents, but not in front of others.

It’s okay, I can deal with it. Your average other person on Earth might not though. You never lived here, and I hid under a rock growing up, so I know what it’s like to not entirely… “get” this planet sometimes.”, Kayla explained of her own stance in the calm and accommodating way she always seemed to as that red point’s trickle eased to a drip in Zach’s fingers. He gave his sheath and the hint of its contents sticking from its end a shake, and that vulpine tip effortlessly slid back where it came.

Its been a pretty nice planet though. Even got myself a free trip to a rejuvenator.”, that bout of shyness over his behavior came to be eased by his own attempt at humor, reaching over to flush the unit; a fairly quick and quiet process, nearly silent against the filling of the bath tub.

Allowing Zachary’s faux-pas to pass without making him feel bad over the misunderstanding of social norms, Kayla released her tail from the protection of her paws and waited a few more moments before shutting down the water flowing into her tub. Feeling like the sea of fine white bubbles were riding a water level appropriate for a six year old, she got up and offered a paw of assistance for Zach to climb in one footpaw at a time – nice and safe, since she was far from the age she could just lift whomever she was taking care of. More than used to Penitatas being bare, the male fox’s immodest slide over the edge of the tub didn’t bring Kayla to so much as blink, letting Zachary ease himself through the bubbles to take a seat and settle in. She could tell from his face that she picked a good temperature for a fellow furred Aspatrian, enjoying warmer temperatures when they weren’t used to having air and fluid so close to their skin normally, insulated as they were, and just as much liked the bubble bath. Before either of them started thinking about actual bathing, both needed to swipe a paw through the bubbly froth at least once; Zach staring at the weightless fluff in his palm, while Kayla merely wiped her paw off on Zach’s dirty cheek once she had analyzed it with a little smack into his fur. Taking charge or not, she still wanted to play some, of course.

You sit and enjoy, and I’m going to start with your head. You’ll smell like a girl’s fur-soap, but something tells me you wouldn’t care, just hanging out with Jacob and I.”, that growing young woman in a small frame did come to grin in her playful way, reaching over to the other end of the tub where she kept her bottles of fur products.

Vo’k.”, Zach popped calmly from his maw, holding a relaxed nature to the chipper attitude he had been carrying in simply saying ‘nope’ in Aspatrian slang. The pair of fox kits returned to being eye to eye; Zachary watching Kayla pour some of her thick white fur-soap to the pad of her right palm, before needing to close his eyes for the touch of her pre-lathered paws to the top of his head. A petting stroke turned to a gentle scrub as all of Kayla’s feminine, talented fingers massaged the soap through his fur, becoming quite the treat to the boy’s ears as soft and calming as the girl was with them.

How have you been? Things nice on your end?”, Zachary decided to quietly ask while he sat idly, letting her paws dance about in little slides across his skin and through his fur, steadily making their way back forward toward his cheeks and muzzle; needing to keep it and his eyes closed for that part. It was similar to his conversations with his fathers, more interested in them than just rattling off about his own life. In the back of his head he always figured his affairs were predictable anyway, even now as a six year old Penitatas.

Aside from Starfleet testing my work ethic, pretty great!”, that jovial, sunny girl almost giggled as she spoke with such an amused twist to her voice.

I’ve been learning all sorts of ‘penny-raising things from my mom. Really thankful she went and asked me if I’d want to be taught, since she and her books got me through being grounded from my Completatas privileges without being so bored, after we met. I’ve kept myself out of trouble though… well, except for getting my paw slapped by my teacher’s ruler a few – ah – rather hard times.”, she had recalled positively, having used her two week punishment period constructively when she wasn’t playing with her new hover-car, until she realized the statement wasn’t entirely true while she gently scratched her claws through Zachary’s fur, doing the boy’s neck and chin like a tiny mom herself. Melting in relaxation where he sat, eyes closed, mentioning that she actually managed to get smacked for something made him lift his right brow curiously – if not confusedly. It was always so hard to even fathom Kayla doing something wrong.

I was feeling silly earlier this week, and submitted my math assignment answers in hexadecimal as a programming joke. Thought it would be okay, not being a ‘penny and all, but boy did she storm over to my desk quick. Didn’t even do it in the hallway; it was right in front of everybody, like the old days.”, her voice grew steadily sheepish in recount, feeling a phantom sting in her right paw from how harshly her palm’s pink pad was slapped by Miss Chester’s ruler.

Jacob and I go for walks when the class switches to Ethics and Morals, and he had to explain to me that what I did would have been considered very rude – like showing off, or being a smart-mouth. I apologized and was just honest about being… stupid, thinking doing that would be okay. We made up.”, Kayla felt it was important to tell the whole story, especially the part where she acknowledged her misunderstanding, so Zach would have a good example to follow. Miss Chester was thankfully understanding once she managed to explain her actions as being an ignorant accident, and decided to give her credit for the assignment. The answers were correct, after all, and the fox didn’t mean to be… well, mean.

Go on, give your head a dip.”, those paws of Kayla’s withdrew with a light smile, giving Zachary a moment to plug his vulpine ears and rinse his head. An actual rejuve and not a Kindern, the boy dunked his head and folded his blackened ears flat, staying under a few moments to rub his paws all around to free his fur of soap; extremely futile when his entire head came to be covered in bubble-bath suds when he emerged with a splashing, dripping rush of water. Dark blue eyes turning upwards, looking like a wet rat of a fox, he took a moment to shape the bubbles on his ears to make them look a little taller.

Ethics and Morals class sucks, by the way. I’m terrible at writing in panglish, and they want me to write these lines as punishment like everyone else. It’s like the law-department people made the actual lessons boring on purpose, too.”, Zach lightly grumped and griped as he played with the sheet of bubbles upon his head, hearing tiny crackles and foamy puffs resonating through his ears as he referred to the justice department in his unfamiliar way.

That’s because they did – the whole class is a punishment, not just the line writing. Just pretend the line assignments are writing practice.”, Kayla flicked her right paw through the air in suggestion, feeling like it was better to not think of the lines they made them all write as being penance. She eventually began thinking of it as “quiet time” as a Penitatas, being the part of the day she could focus on a monotonous task she didn’t have to think very hard for. It was usually an assignment of lines to write, followed by some other dull lesson to follow on their computer consoles. Jacob used to watch her while she did them, usually one paw on her cheek propping her head up with a faint smile, going about her day with the optimism she was known for.

I will obey the law so I don’t become a Penitatas again – fifty fucking times.”, the boy recited yesterday’s harsher than usual assignment with quite the mocking tone to his voice, still that far older boy even as his eyes crossed and he began making a tower of bubbles upon the top-side of his own nose, glued to his muzzle like a six year old. Leaning against the side of the tub, Kayla let off a heavy ‘pfft!’ and outright couldn’t help but laugh.

So I don’t become a Penitatas again? Are you serious – they made you guys write that?”, the experienced ex-Penitatas declared of the brazen absurdity, as if someone from the justice department slipped that in to be funny in a low-key sort of way. What the heck, she got her paw slapped with a ruler for that sort of thing! She eased the deep amusement from her voice, stifling her own need to snicker with a few breaths.

But Zach, come on, please stop swearing so much. I’m supposed to be taking care of you right now, it’s not good for me to ignore that sort of thing and let you be so comfortable with it. I’ve been warning you about that a lot.”, that friendly face dulled her tone down to be more serious, even if it was still rather light in the way it could scold; no squints or commanding hints of anything. It was akin to being reminded to behave by a big sister, it felt like – one that didn’t suck, anyway, in simply looking out for him. Zachary hooked the ends of his maw downward, tipping his muzzle with a soft dip of his ears to make a wordless apology, letting that expression turn to a simple nod of his head.

You really want to be on the other side of being a Penitatas, huh? It’s kind of surprising… you just got out of being one, and you know what it’s like.”, Zachary tried to think of all his panglish words to try and say in the way he meant, finding it hard to exemplify the thoughts and feelings he held as he removed the tuft of white from his nose. Kayla had stood up from her crouch to fetch one of her washcloths from the hanger at the tub’s end, returning to dip it into the bath water.

Getting to be a really good mom to someone is one of my dreams. I think I could make a nice ‘penny parent, and give somebody the same chance I had. I’m not looking forward to snapping a switch from a tree to use on someone else, as much as I hated them myself, if that’s what you mean.”, Kayla surely at least didn’t take offense to the way the question was phrased, getting the gist of what Zachary meant to be asking; thinking of the punishment aspect of being that sort of parent first, and not all the other parts of what makes a parent good. Coming to put some of her fur-soap into the cloth, the happy young girl rubbed the small terry towel together to lather it up.

Toss one of your feet up here, and I’ll make sure to get the dirt out of your leg fur.”, she came to offer with a thumping pat to the tub’s edge. The younger boy slid back on his bottom, curling his tail through the water to prop his footpaw up against the inner side of the tub, ensuring his fur would drip into it and not over the flat lip to make a mess.

Speaking of me hating getting the switch, do you have a spanking implement you hate most yet?”, Kayla thought to ask as she resumed her work, wanting to at least personally address his dirtiest areas of fur to make sure they got clean. She still intended to be Zachary’s “fellow Penitatas” companion he could rely on, even if some of her duties and needs would make her say and do other things alongside of it. Leaning back and playing with the bubble-bath lather in his paws, forming an oblong ball, Zach blew a puff of air to break the mound apart over his short vulpine fingers; the free popcorn-like bits of bubbles scattering with one getting enough air-time to land on Kayla’s muzzle.

Patrick has this strap with a handle, made from real leather from another planet. Said it was from an animal called a targ, I think? The thing hurts so bad. Stings like a whip, but it’s hard enough to really… I don’t know. It’s awful.”, he tried to explain casually, but as horribly painful as he found the thing, he didn’t know how to even describe it with any justice without resorting to speaking Aspatrian; something Kayla wouldn’t have understood, much less appreciated with the sort of language he would have chosen. As his fellow fox got through scrubbing over his one ankle and calf, paying note to his toe-claws, Zach lifted his other leg without Kayla needing to ask for it, just to be helpful. Watching her focusing on her task with this diligent smile as if she was overjoyed to be allowed to take the reins like this, gave the boy a moment to mull over some of his thoughts from earlier, and his chit-chat with Jacob.

“… I’ve been thinking to ask you. What was the worst punishment you ever got as a Penitatas? I just heard from Jacob that paddles can cause blisters, and I’m not really looking forward to that.”, Zachary came to sound quieter and worried when he questioned the subject, wondering just how bad things could potentially get upon him when what he was getting now already frightened him as it did. Still going about her helpful washing, Kayla let off an airy, loose ‘heh’ of a sound – not exactly sounding amused despite what was usually a laugh, self-introspecting to what she knew of her life as a Penitatas.

You don’t need to worry about that. No one is allowed to cause you blisters until you’re eight years old, and even then you have to do something real bad. Blisters are only for the dumb-dumbs who earn it.”, the answer did take a shot at her own blistering, violating the justice department’s guidelines for her behavior in fooling around with a boyfriend she wasn’t permitted to have. There were regulations that protected the boy’s backside, and it was possible this day and age to never experience a single blister, granted those with silver letters behaved themselves once they got older. Christmas lifted restrictions to make such things possible, but the switches they were assigned didn’t blister – their sting and cross-hatching welts were unique, and the day a different flavor of “nightmare” in comparison.

I was paddled by the big girl I made with the holes once. I had to do something very bad, knowingly, to get it – and it was my worst.”, Kayla could at least answer honestly, holding to the reassurance that it was consequence for something significant.

Got a ton of blisters from the whole thing, and I was in agony for more than a week. Accidentally tore one of them open too, and it kicked me back into crying for a good while. Couldn’t properly sit for a week, and even after I still didn’t want to, most of that month I couldn’t see Jacob… if saying that gives away the ‘why’ my mom felt she needed to do that. That’s all a secret, by the way. I don’t tell him how bad it actually was because he blames himself for it… no boyfriends, remember? So, ‘penny-promise it stays between us, okay?”, Kayla came to stop the idle scrubbing of Zachary’s ebony fur along his footpaw and calf to explain, sounding more thoughtful and calming; rather motherly, even while trying to describe something so painful that happened to her, as if to simply urge him to be good and never earn such a thing.

At first she had told Jacob she handled the paddling she got when they returned from San Francisco like an expert Penitatas and that she was “fit and fine” at the preserve, only to elude later to the fact the blisters and deep, bloody-looking marks all across her bottom and tops of her thighs were indeed the worst she ever felt. She just didn’t tell him how bad that “worst” really was, or that carrying those blisters and bruises to heal naturally was an incredibly severe punishment all on its own. The torn blister was from sliding on her hip to get out of bed the next morning, already so sad and in such pain, only to have the friction peel a blister entirely back to scrape wet, stinging skin across her own sheets from a spot of white she didn’t realize was so far from the center of her vulpine haunches. Actual truth be told, she relied on Melissa the same as Zachary did Mitsy to get through it all; the plush fox needing to be cleaned of tear-stains when it was all over with, and an absolute blessing when she became a recluse away from her family, hiding in her room in wake of the Velius incident’s deep wounds and the constant stare of her own silver ‘P’s back at her. The strong woman in that girlish frame, never cried so hard in all her life.

Promise.”, Zach replied softly, being the sort to be tender under all that rugged fur. He’d never tarnish trust over such a subject, thinking it to be sweet of her to keep that kind Karrian from worrying over a long-gone past. Same as she treated all matters of discipline, the event healed, and she tried not to dwell.

But, that’s only half an answer really. That was my worst spanking, not my worst punishment.”, Kayla declared with a relaxed crossing of her arms, settling down onto her knees to rest her chin on her arms, propped against the side of the tub; rag going into the water with a drop, just to rest and talk a moment. As bad as the girl’s blistering sounded, Zach sank his leg back underwater to sit up and listen curiously if that wasn’t the girl’s darkest day, filled with sympathy. Kayla experienced so many hardships he couldn’t bring himself to think she ever deserved, the way she was now.

I’ve told you about my being kidnapped before. I missed Christmas, our special day, and the Corrections Counsel made me make up for it with a two day affair they cruelly cooked up, as if DeltaStar’s robbery was all my fault. First day I was battered and bruised, including my paws, to the point the swelling kept me from moving my fingers right. Spankings I can take… it was day number two, I decided after I was paroled, to be the worst day I ever had.”, the fox went on, looking fine as she spoke, though losing her smile in detailing something so closely painful to her.

That day I was to spend in the corner for the whole thing, breaks only to eat and go to the bathroom. After being so scared, shot and left for dead by the people who took me, all I wanted was to be with my parents and rest. I was healing from surgery, on medicine, and I had no energy… and I had to stand, most of the day. It hurt, and I wobbled, trying so hard to obey. Cried without anyone even laying a hand on me, it hurt so bad to force myself. Not a moment alone to sneak a rub of my spanking or my legs, and I was trapped in the dark corners I was sent to with only the voice of my own mind to occupy my boredom and imagination. I lost my best friend and was feeling so hated by the world, I directed all of it at myself. Told myself all day long how much I hated being me, and some… really, really unhealthy things. Self-harming things. Nothing will ever top being in a corner from the moment I woke, to the moment I was put to bed, in such a dark place. Almost thirteen hours, when all I wanted was to be bedridden – not even play.”, Kayla’s voice so greatly dropped, so soft and light, as if perhaps to hide it all from her family and Jacob once more; her misery so incredible, and the things she thought so terrible, she’d never describe them in full detail to anyone what torture it was for an injured, already well-spanked seven year old to endure painful nothingness for an entire day. It was hard for Zachary to imagine, coming to sigh out of his soft, black little nose such a sorry sound; ears giving away how he felt over it all.

I got to sit for some of it, but that was the first time I got a few lil’ blisters. Sitting wasn’t restful. The first day was treated like a Special Punishment Day and they made my mom use every implement she had in the house, so I got all my paddles and my brush as hard as she could swing. Stuff folks don’t normally feel unless they have a black letter.”, the vulpine girl rolled her story into something more informative, unaware that Zach had come to learn of the birthday punishment day for murderers and rapists with Jacob earlier.

I met Jacob two days later, all on edge, and… I got to be happy again. We played so quietly, and talked our heads off for weeks.”, that smile she had before erupted clear across Kayla’s muzzle in memory of their first game of chess, able to find common ground with such a different person, from a different walk of life; their differences only making the part of them that resonated that much stronger, forming a union of equal opposites that drifted from friendship to an inseparable pair. Meeting eyes through an open doorway, neither expecting to see another person, put them on a destined path to both overcome the things they were going through.

He’s a very sweet guy.”, Zach sure didn’t mind complimenting of her special person, as thoughtful as the old medical officer was.

We ended up talking about Stephanie. I met her, and she didn’t have the fucking decency to tell me her “relationship” to you when I talked about knowing you.”, he came to spat with irritation, only for his expression to soften; dark blue eyes to a pair of lighter ones in a brief silence that came afterward. Knowing why Kayla would be staring, coming to make a bit of a face toward him, the boy tipped his muzzle down and away with one of his older “scolded” looking expressions.

See, you’re catching your swears, just not until after you’ve already said them.”, came that “big sister” tone of hers again, chin leaving her forearms to sit back up.

I used to be real bad with it too. People find it rude and unkind when you say stuff like that so much, and you’re too smart to be so crass. Have your dads talked about using soap for that, yet?”, Kayla outright asked inside of her mild little lecture, getting a low hum from Zach’s throat, seated in all his warm water and tickly bits of bubbles.

“… Patrick has threatened it, but I usually just get a spatula to my paw for slipping things around them. I don’t think to not around you. Jacob didn’t seem to mind.”, his tone dipped into his rougher sorts when he got defensive, crossing his arms lightly under the water. Adding Jacob to his excuse just made Kayla’s muzzle tighten.

Jacob isn’t obligated to scold you. I am, especially when I’m the one taking care of you. You’ve gotten so many warnings.”, she lectured with more earnest, removing some of the “lightness” from her tone to be a little more authoritative in the face of Zachary’s shields raising. She learned how to watch her mouth eventually, and she was technically worse than he was, taking almost two years to finally get out of the habit of spewing the first rude word that came to her tongue; that bar of soap Emily bought for her post-parole still having not a single teeth mark upon it, entirely unused for a month and a half now.

Once I have you out of the tub, I’m going to give your maw its first scrubbing then, and you’ll learn how bad the stuff can taste.”, the Completatas decided to give as her first official punitive action, being one she had done before and was sure to do right, incredibly experienced at being on the other end of it. Being told by Kayla of all people that he was going to be punished made Zachary whine, letting a vulpine whimper from his muzzle as he quickly scooted forward on his bottom and fur, darting his ears back.

What – Kayla, no! Oh please, come on, don’t do that, we’re friends!”, Zach pleaded right off the bat, knowing quite well from the fox’s expression and tone that she meant what she said; taking that role she had been practicing to assume very seriously, and that she did in fact have the authority to do such things. He took being her friend for granted, not having imagined she’d actually try to punish him in any way. Mentioning their friendship like that did dull the firm look Kayla was giving, cutting her eyes into something more sympathetic.

I’m sorry, okay?”, his black-sleeved paws and forearms raised from the water, covered in bubble-bath suds to clasp his fingers together; his expression and ears, along with his voice, making it very clear his apology was not lip service. He meant nothing, and didn’t mean to be rude. From Kayla’s weakened face, kneeling where she was, Zachary waited a moment in the quiet of the bathroom.

Volmare’?”, his muzzle quietly asked in Aspatrian, using the form of apology as a means of requesting forgiveness for his mistake.

Obviously meaning every word, Kayla held back from sighing or otherwise relenting her position. From Emily’s own guidance, as well as one of the very opening chapters of her Penitatas Parenting License prep-book, a Penitatas’ guardian was meant to be an unflappable person who means what they say, and does as they say. Being wishy-washy only served to hurt a hard timer’s best interests, not being the harsh parental figures they needed during their sentence. As Zachary’s friend, she did want to say that it was okay and he could have another chance, but after already saying it was time to pay up and take a lesson, it would be wrong for her to backtrack on that – losing her place as a disciplinarian and reinforcing a behavior she wanted Zach to stop. At the end of the day, a ‘penny parent’s word had to be law. The Penitatas always knew to obey it, and that there would be consequences if violated. Anything less and the relationship broke down; the ‘penny never knowing what words to trust, and authority having little meaning.

It hurt to look at those sad, dark eyes, but Kayla forced her muzzle back into its light smile for Zachary. It was better for him this way in the long run, taking a new position in his life to be helpful in a different way. She reached down into the tub with a drag of her fingertips through the water, collecting some of the playful lather.

It’s me Zach, you know I’ll be very easy with it. It’s your first time, so just a little.”, Kayla assured instead of giving him the reprieve he wanted, deciding it was better to give a tiny punishment than nothing at all; firmly believing in the good she could do, and the lesson that could be learned. It made Zach frown, even as the big pawful of tiny clustered bubbles was placed atop his head between his vulpine ears.

Getting in trouble isn’t the end of the world, right?”, she reminded of her prior advice as an ex-’penny herself, wanting the younger boy to remember that these things happen and come to pass.

“… Yeah. I won’t fight you.”, Zach spoke fairly softly, endearing his fellow Aspatrian too much to fathom disobeying her order. She wasn’t Patrick, but he knew what happened when you disobeyed – it wasn’t pleasant at all, and not something he’d do to any of the people that took care of him so kindly. For his words, he was surprised to get a quick nuzzle; Kayla’s nose and whiskers brushing by his own. Eyes opening bigger from his prior sulk, Zachary wasn’t sure if she was just feeling affectionate as a guardian, or if Aspatrian instinct told her that was the right thing to do for a kit feeling vulnerable under her wing. She’d already shown him in the mall that she knew to go for his ears when he was sad, how did she know all this naturally?

Alright then, I’ll prep that. You finish up what’s left and scrub your tail out under the water, and do your boy-junk. I don’t mean to ditch you in that regard like I’m shy, but you guys seem kind of… tender down there, and I’m afraid of being too rough.”, Kayla stood up with a push of her paws off the edge of the tub, taking a few stiff steps as her legs woke back up toward her bathroom sink, coming to walk backwards at the end to shrug in noting her bit of courteous caution in not wanting to jab Zachary’s sheath, or worse. She’d whacked Jacob in the crotch once by accident while they were hanging out, not actually knowing how debilitating that could be for a male until he laid there curled up on his side trying to laugh about it for a few minutes. If anything, Zach appreciated she’d not try to help in ways she wasn’t sure about; the older fox a responsible sort like that.

You just don’t want to press too hard is all. Go slow.”, Zach didn’t want to clam up and just stop talking on her like he was mad, figuring the least he could do was provide some guidance on the subject while he looked down and gave himself a quick scrub-down with his paws and pads in the sudsy water.

While he worked on some of his own bathing, his eyes peered back upward once the sway of Kayla’s tail was pointed back his way in order to watch what she was up to. Getting up onto the tips of her toes to make it easier, Kayla covered the vertical number-pad for her medicine cabinet with one paw to obscure the code she entered, adding a couple of faint beeps to the room until she popped the thin door against the wall open. Recognizing a bottle of nano-lotion on the lowest shelf as being the container for his dad’s “itchy slop”, he sat in awe for a moment that his fellow had it as paw’s reach like that, only for his eyes to get pulled to something she picked up; cabinet closing behind it. A glass-looking tube with a ribbed black cap, imbued with a silver ‘P’ like the backs of his own paws. He might not have been familiar with it, but Kayla sure eyeballed the thing with familiarity – one of the few vials of disciplinary type-two soap she didn’t throw away. With a stroke of a paw-pad the tub began to empty, followed by a brief flurry of other taps as Kayla returned the unit’s controls back to her typical shower preferences; still a thing to make Zach squint, as bizarre as the girl’s speed was with every key-panel she touched.

Despite the mood having shifted, Kayla still seemed her typical brand of cheer and care in helping Zach while the water level fell in the tub. Starting right from the top, the elder fox threw one of her towels over his head and began a gentle rub to get his fur dry, the same as she would upon herself, but with greater care for the boy’s ears. Wanting to keep him warm and comfortable, she moved quickly from spot to spot as she could, steadily down his chest and belly, to his back and then his tail – advice taken in moving past Zachary’s groin with soft, easy strokes of the cloth. Leaning down to get the fur of his legs ended up being the more ergonomically uncomfortable of the challenges for Kayla, but she toughed it out so her bathroom tiles wouldn’t be made a wet mess.

Here, let’s wrap you up. Step over the edge, and have a seat on it for me.”, Kayla came to ask of him in the sort of demeanor it seemed she would be carrying in lighter parental situations, keeping to soothing touch and tone as she threw the towel around Zachary’s back for his paws to grab like a cloak. Despite her own ability to be steadfast like that, Zach had fallen back into that “scolded adult” look he tended to take, tipping his head down with a grumpy engineer sort of sullen droop. Though his black paws took the towel as she wished, and his footpaw came forward to leave the tub without pause, the timid dip of his ears spoke of a more inner hesitation.

“… I can’t talk you out this? This sounds gross.”, he did permit himself to complain for the sake of his maw, nervous as he settled down upon both the towel and the edge of the tub, damp tail curling around his side.

Nothing to be scared of. I could always knead your ears, if you preferred something more traditional.”, Kayla sought to be reassuring, though she coupled it with a “reminding” sort of secondary option that made Zachary’s muzzle wrinkle, pulling the towel around himself more protectively with a rearward snap of his ears.

No – absolutely not. How do you even know about that?”, the younger fox’s nervous eyes grew dumbstruck, deducing that Kayla meant the common form of corporal punishment for kits back on Aspatria. It was referred to as ‘bara’kit’, and surely something Zachary experienced, seeing as a woman was not allowed to strike a boy – not even their own mother. That, though, was a cultural workaround, and a highly effective one for their kind. Kayla was an orphan though, and only five, so how could she recall such a thing without even a person to discipline her? Taking a dry blue terrycloth from her counter, Kayla ran it under her sink to wet its center while her Penitatas charge watched from his seat.

Because it was the final straw that made me run off crying for that cargo ship. I don’t remember why… I think I asked some lady for something, and she got mad. Shoved me to the ground and bloodied my nose. Grabbed my ears from behind and gnashed them in her paws as hard as she could, for like… ever.”, Kayla’s expression curled in noting just why a five year old would have etched such a thing into their memories, even if the finer details were long lost to the flow of time. Normally a little fox would be set in a person’s lap and their ears kneaded firmly, squeezed with harsh drags of the adult’s thumbs, but the street woman was high on goodness knows what to respond with such anger and assault her so blindly.

Though she’d never remember the cause now, all the urchin had asked of the woman was if she had any food she didn’t want, starving enough to not care if it was spoiled. It was a day she had already been taken advantage of, used as a disposable rag without compensation, leaving the tiny thing to charity if she could not trade coin.

I just remember how bad it hurt, and that I needed to run away. So I did.”, she noted of that last act of unkindness and malice when she reached out with her paws for help only to find hatred, unscrewing the cap to the soap vial to add a minute dollop of the clear, viscus goo to the wet part of her terrycloth. Kayla always kept that memory to herself, not needing Emily to learn of any other way to discipline her ears; attentions returning to the other punitive affair at hand, and the soap her nose did oh-so hate to smell.

I got this stuff more times than anyone could count, to the point it was almost a running joke at my own parole hearing. Mom used to make me swallow it too, something I won’t make you. Just a taste, so you have more reason to be careful with how you talk, okay? It only gets worse if you’re a dumb-dumb, like me, and not stop.”, she stepped back over slowly, folding the cloth to rub it in her paws a tad clumsy at first, not used to doing the lathering part with the thicker substance. For it, she got a wordless reply – a low groan of acceptance, if you’d call it “acceptance.”

Muzzle wide, and keep it open. Seriously, don’t bite me.”, the eight year old rolled her directive words into something of a cautionary warning, going as far as to squint a little when her child-like imagination gave her the vision of Zach snapping his fangs into her paw the moment she touched his tongue; rag frothy with a copious, creamy sort of lather that seemed to stick to the coarse strands of the terrycloth.

Tucking his paws into his lap, bunching the towel up against his sheath, Zachary took a deep, anxious breath and opened his maw wide as Kayla commanded. His tongue curled instinctively without the practice Kayla had in getting her muzzle scrubbed, squinting oddly in trying to flatten the shiny red appendage surrounded by sharp white vulpine teeth. Maw as fox-like as could be, lower lip of his muzzle black and fangs raising higher than all his other teeth, Kayla could see the ribbed top palate of his mouth and into the darkness of the back, toward his throat. So small at being six years of age, the older fox could finally see just how vulnerable she must have looked in this position to her own disciplinarian figures; something that didn’t make this easier, continuing to take such empathy with a boy she was so friendly with, and did like. Kayla’s left paw took Zachary by his lower jaw and cheek, bracing him to give herself some leverage without making him sit there all tense with his maw agape for no reason. She’d be the big girl and make this better when she was done.

With a few of her nimble fingers tucked into the damp terrycloth to use it like a tiny glove of sorts, Kayla reached it right into Zach’s maw and eased it down upon his tongue. Zachary flinched, jumping slightly with an abrupt tensing of his face, curling his cheeks, but it eased with quite the sound elicited from his throat; that expression of surprise turning fairly quickly to a grimace as soon as Kayla brushed the rag toward her. The sound of sloppily wet cloth left a streak of tacky white cream in its wake, accented with a few larger bubbles and the watery mixture of tainted saliva pooling around the fox’s small front teeth. The boy’s tongue wriggled and curled with Kayla rubbing at it, chasing and massaging the appendage in her cloth-bound fingers before switching over to his lower set of teeth, buffing and polishing them as another means of filling his maw with the suds. So pungent and powerful in flavor; bitter, burning and horrible like the industrial cleaner Kayla always described it to be; Zachary began fidgeting almost right away in his seat.

Eh’ayla!”, Zachary nearly closed his mouth around the soapy terrycloth in his attempt to speak, feeling the fur of Kayla’s wrist upon his vulpine lips. Trying to say the girl’s name made his tongue lick against the cloth in his maw, striking him with more of the disgusting texture and taste he was trying to protest as his whole body knotted against it.

I won’t do this for long. Sit still.”, Kayla at least came to promise, trying to hold Zachary steady so her right paw could do its soapy deed.

A gentle scrub made a fine, smooth lather, and not too much of it either, looking like the sort of introduction Kayla wished to impart. The first time using any of these disciplinary soaps wasn’t meant to be too harsh in order to try them out, being something she was mindful of in her reading while grounded from her privileges. Zachary’s endless grimace went to show the stuff was at least something he couldn’t stand either, squeezing his towel into the shove of his lap so hard in order to keep his maw open and remain still. She could feel the warmth of Zach’s muzzle and the slick slide of his own saliva through her touch and bare fur, being careful and easy as she pinched his lower right canine tooth and rubbed up and down it, quite purposely scrubbing at anything her fingers could in her act of oral correction.

On the boy’s end though, the punishment soap tasted more than bad – it was nauseatingly gross on so many levels. It tightened his throat and turned his stomach harshly, making him feel outright ill from how assaulting the flavor was, crawling fumes clear up his nose. His footpaws curled out of sight, gnashing his toes to pet against one another as a stiff vulpine whimper of desperate discomfort came out around Kayla’s busy paw.

G’ah… ah!”, Zach made more saddened and perturbed sounds of distaste as the seconds ticked by, treated to more brisk rubs of the terrycloth soaking his maw in a white, foul slurry; little bubbles left everywhere, sticking to anything they could in ways that weren’t easy diluted by his own spit. The excess ran from his lower lip to dampen his jaw, making a drop upon the end of his chin that grew more weighty with the harsh cream.

Kayla could hear the airy clicks of Zachary trying to swallow, reacting to what he must have felt against the back of his throat. That part she felt distinctly bad for, not feeling like any of what she was doing should have been pooling back there that badly. His muzzle was tipped downward for the most part, not back. She didn’t want him to have to eat the lather like she did. But, that wasn’t exactly the reason she heard the sound. While she figured she’d stop in about another half a minute once she had buffed his upper teeth to being a brighter white; a pleasant side-effect she figured a boy that liked his claws well-preened would enjoy once she let him rinse out; the older fox’s attention broke sharply as the punitive act came back to bite her.

The orange of Zachary’s muzzle stretched and wrinkled taut in such a tight clench of a grimace, the boy suddenly jerked without a single squeal, whimper or sound, and before Kayla knew it a powerful blow came to nail her right in the groin through her denim shorts; the boy kicking her incredibly hard for his age, shoving her away in what was an absolutely instinctive reflex of primal panic. Kayla shot out a squeak of a yelp, knocked back from her slight crouch to almost double over in needing to grab where she was struck by the strong jab, but her focus shifted quickly from herself when that muzzle bolted away from her paw, knocking the terrycloth from her fingers in the forward toss of his entire body. Towel falling from his grasp, Zach lunged clear through Kayla and to his right, paws smacking the seat of the toilet-unit to hunch over and wretch. Fairly loud, it snapped Kayla’s ears back with incredible guilt and her own immediate panic; the smaller boy throwing up into the toilet he thankfully left the lid up on, coughing and straining with such sickened sounds. The painful kick having barely missed Kayla’s internal feminine organs, she stood up gripping the lap of her shorts to find Zach’s reaction not to be faked or overstated, strands of spittle and bile dripping copiously from his maw and chin, looking to be in pain. Kayla whimpered to herself in trying to collect her thoughts, butterflies wracking her with worry. It was hard to be eight and still maintain clarity and control, caught up in the urgency of the moment stemming from an act her own paws caused.

Mom! Need you!”, she called out into the hallway with a hastened dart over to her counter, tail thrown quickly behind herself in rushing her shaking paws to grab the cup she’d normally use while brushing her teeth. In so suddenly over her head with something so routine going so unexpectedly wrong, she’d not waste time hesitating in summoning the help she needed.

Filling the cup with water, Kayla smacked the handle to her sink and hurried her footpaws back to Zachary’s side, crouching down to offer the offer the water as soon as he could look up and take it into his paws. The strain of having thrown up had milked some fairly loose tears from his eyes, likely along with the nausea itself; eyes bloodshot, and the fur beneath a fair hint darker than usual. The black stripe unique to Zach’s spine heaved with quick breaths, stomach urging the poor boy to ‘urp!’ and cough. Finding he wasn’t able to take the water to rinse his maw out just yet, Kayla frowned so deeply, slipping her sink cup into her left paw so she could rub the six year old’s back.

I’m so sorry Zach-y.”, the Completatas that once thought she was doing a good job ended up apologizing right on top of Zachary, when the boy too tried to blurt a tiny apology of his own; the pair ending up talking over one another at the very end, tripping. Before Kayla could even shake her head and assure the fox had nothing to be sorry for, knowing his quivering jaw trying to settle his belly was referring to suddenly shoving her with that kick, the elder Aspatrian’s right ear panned over her shoulder, thankful for the expedient footfalls she heard.

Oh no.”, Emily let slip from her mouth as soon as she cleared the doorway, having known that something was wrong just from Kayla’s voice. It had its own sprinkling of parental urgency, but was at least far calmer than Kayla was, so new at any of this. The vial of disciplinary type-two on the counter and the soapy rag slopped across the white tile gave her a very strong clue as to what must have happened to put Zach in the position he was, and Kayla looking so worried and sorry; thinking she had violated rules that governed a Penitatas’ care in making Zachary throw up, and wanting so badly to help him feel better and ensure he was alright.

How much did you use?”, the human mother promptly asked, and a little firmly in gathering the information she needed, stepping quickly with a thrust off the ball of her foot to join the pair of young foxes.

Very little. It was his first time.”, Kayla couldn’t help but sound like she felt awful, though she tried to swallow and disguise it better to help Zachary calm down. She still needed to take care of him, and had to focus on maintaining her maturity to be that secondary guardian beside Emily. Her mother ended up letting off a fairly gentle sigh from the reply, sharing a brief meeting of eyes with her daughter to see just how honest that face of the fox’s was.

It’s okay – both of you. No one is in trouble, and everything will be fine.”, Emily came to extend a second wing in understanding Kayla was only eight, and trying to be so much bigger than she really was; needing some reassurance and calm beside Zachary. One hand on Kayla’s back and the other going to Zach’s shoulder, the human woman gave both rejuvenated children a quick rub while the boy merely caught his breath, reining in the knots of his stomach to pull it back down out of his throat.

Zachary, no one would ever make you sick on purpose. Kayla didn’t know that would happen. That was an accident, and everyone is sorry – including me.”, she added even her own apology to the mix as a parent, wanting him to know that it was an unforeseeable thing that they’d never fathom causing him; an incident that left the realm of teaching and punishment, entering a place they were sworn to protect him from. That open, panting muzzle weakly wobbled with the boy’s nod.

I didn’t mean to kick you like that.”, Zachary was finally able to speak, keeping his volume to a whisper to avoid turning his insides any more sour. Peering his dark eyes away from the tainted waters of Kayla’s toilet bowl, he spit some of the nastier fluids from his lip and took the cup from his fellow fox’s paw to try rinsing his maw out.

I’m fine – I’m worried for you.”, Kayla said as he tipped the cup back, giving the water a swish and a spit; another long, thick strand wanting to stick with his chin. She wasn’t being entirely honest, feeling quite the odd ache into her Aspatrian version of an ovary, but she’d not concern herself with that at the moment.

Are you starting to feel better? Did the soap itself do that to you?”, Emily came to question, keeping her focus on the boy until she had this all figured out. Not eluding to why she was asking that question was quite intentional, with something of a meaning and motive behind it; something Kayla too was wondering.

I think I am… but, yeah. Please, no more of that stuff.”, Zachary sounded stuffed up from his nose, tired and distressed from having made himself so sick, slumped as he was. It was all Emily needed to hear, and had too much supporting evidence to dispute. Hearing nothing that would suggest Kayla did anything wrong, she nodded her head and turned back to her daughter in addressing the other person rattled in this equation.

Alright Kayla, we just had something bad happen that isn’t allowed – not one you caused either. Just like if we were to accidentally cause bleeding, what is the first thing we do?”, she allowed more time for Zach to get his bearings by rolling this big accident into a good teaching experience for her daughter.

We stop.”, Kayla flicked her ears back erect, announcing firmly with her young voice a proper textbook answer.

Right. So no Zachary, no more of that stuff. Whatever you said is forgiven – no questions.”, Emily got to speak for both her foxes, hopefully relieving Zach of any lingering worries he had.

Kayla and I will be doing something to make sure this never happens to you again, and everybody knows soap is off limits. If anyone ever tries, you disobey and get another adult, right away.”, that assurance grew to something far bigger, and while it sounded normal and comforting to the boy who was trying to get that last bit of spittle off his lip, Kayla went a little wide-eyed in the tip of her muzzle toward her mother. That was something they had the power to do?

Happy to know he had the right to protect his gut from escaping his throat surely let Zachary breathe easier, finding an empowering sort of comfort in being told that there were situations he was permitted to disobey another adult’s order. Perhaps that was another nod he owed Richard, gradually getting more of an understanding that there was a machine behind all of his punitive care that he wasn’t seeing; that same engineer’s logic that made him predict that Penitatas and their parents were paired intentionally. It was certainly easy to feel safe, as much as they all cared about his well being.

“… Thank you ma’am.”, he managed to sound a little more like his normal self, though a tad wet and sniffly from strain. It made Emily smile, but shake her head – that “ma’am” not one she would have expected or needed.

With the water Kayla gave him ridding his senses of the foul remnants of disciplinary type-two, Zach’s stomach was able to quickly return to its rightful place in his belly; a little sore, but still fine with the sickness all but gone. It didn’t stop his fellow fox from massaging his ears and petting his tail for a good several moments, obviously just wanting him to feel better. Just as Emily said, she never made another word of his swear, letting the entire slip pass as paid for, despite not getting as much as a single minute of maw-scrubbing in. His muzzle properly wiped and the bathroom cleaned up of the lost rag and vial of soap, the trio encountered something of a snag in the aftermath of the boy’s bath in discovering he didn’t have any other clothes in that pillow of his to wear when they asked him about getting changed for the evening. Explaining that he didn’t wear anything at home, they realized Thomas might have been too excited to leave for his festival when he picked out his outfit, not realizing that he’d be putting on what he pulled out – not bagging it. Seeing as his underwear was fresh and not dirtied by the backyard soil, Kayla pitched that he could throw those on and check out the bags of clothing she had on the far right of her closet. She had bagged up her old six year old clothing to be donated, seeing as there was no risk of her being sent back to that age again, wearing silver ‘C’s.

By the time they left the bathroom Zachary was more back to being himself, chipper but holding to a bashfulness over the whole ordeal, as if his getting sick was just another wimpy act to burden everyone with. Walking in his peach colored boy’s briefs and all his natural fur colors, tail idly wagging to comfort his head, he ended up feeling polished Aspatrian claws against his ear, gently scratching in those few paces down the hallway.

Check out those bags, and I’ll be back soon. Just don’t touch my baby.”, Kayla did have to remind about her personal computer console, seeing as her work for Starfleet was still pulled up and she didn’t want the source code she had on her end be altered without her knowledge, or worse. It was something she had to tell Ninne and Anne too as much as they liked to tease and gawk over the thing, painting a picture for them of how much trouble she’d get into if one of her old automated assault routines were to be activated on some poor unsuspecting target by mistake. It would be Starfleet Central Information again, knowing her luck, though she hoped Commander Santorae would call and question her before sending rifles into her living room a second time.

Not a beep out of me.”, Zachary quietly assured his finger-pads would steer clear of her life’s work, slipping off into Kayla’s room after that whole debacle. Once he couldn’t see, Kayla’s muzzle did break a bit from its smile, curling into more of a sorry, guilty frown that weakened her ears. It hurt to put a wing over someone, only to let them down – accident or not.

Instead of joining him she followed Emily downstairs, trailing two steps behind until they were out of Aspatrian earshot around the corner on the first floor. Kayla held her paws together against the lap of her shorts like the old days, walking like a Penitatas that had done something bad, the way she felt. She still half expected some sort of scolding, but Emily didn’t stop to abruptly to turn around, passing the sofa to fetch her datapad from the end table she had left it on.

This isn’t something that most people get to learn by actually doing, so it’ll be a really good thing for you to see, if there is one positive side to all this.”, the ponytail sporting woman did end up speaking, sounding her everyday self without any of the firmness Kayla was worried about hearing. Sitting down on the end of the sofa, Kayla hopped up with the usual toss of her bushy tail to join her, using her paws to scoot herself into place.

Now, first off, you did make one mistake. You started Zachary off correctly for a soap trial by only using a little, but we don’t start with type two. You didn’t violate any rules exactly, but that was bad practice.”, the words Kayla just thought weren’t coming did end up smacking her ears, even if they didn’t sound mad in any way; the pair delving into that mechanical and textbook underbelly that ran a parent’s permitted actions, and those that protected Penitatas. Her mother and teacher correcting her choices, the fox apologetically nodded her head.

I figured I did something. Sorry.”, she admitted truthfully, feeling as if that could have gone better if done differently. Kayla was too much a pragmatist and perfectionist to not see that for what it was.

I was pretty sure type-two was nastier than usual, but thought it would be okay, being only one step up from normal.”, the young fox admitted further, explaining her reasoning so they could work through their issue. Surprisingly, Emily made a face to that thought, tapping the pad in her other palm.

We hadn’t gone over the different soap types yet. That isn’t true. The scale starts at type-zero. Type two is, ah… the harshest one I would say is appropriate for a silver letter Penitatas, seeing as type-three intentionally causes lasting stomach upset.”, the once secretive “by the book” mother began spewing the contents of the book’s pages, garnering a rearward flick of Kayla’s ears and a slacking of the fox’s jaw.

Gee, thanks.”, the girl sarcastically commented of her mother getting her the worst punishment soap she could during her time as a Penitatas. That sure put the jackass “lucky girl” comment into perspective, the day she learned the soap’s name. Emily smiled rather awkwardly, going as far as to shrug.

Not much else I could have done. How did Ki`rene put it? Pilot of a-… ”, she began making casual jest of Packet-Storm’s liberally swearing muzzle before Kayla merely squinted.

Garbage freighter. Yes.”, the fox did so finish the sentence, affirming that she was well aware how hard it was to stop her. Fine, point taken. Emily stifled her need to snicker with her daughter as she lowered the datapad to more Kayla’s visual height, ready to happily teach her girl the parental ropes as she had been.

You at least exposed a problem that type-zero might not have. Since that was really the only advice I had for your attempt to correct his mouth, let’s work on making this right for Zachary.”, she declared, tapping an icon on the datapad’s main screen that looked exactly like the wooden emblem on the wall of Penitatas Courtroom Two, ‘P’ included.

Alright, so first thing we need to do is log ourselves into PACS.”, she began guiding with the pace Miss Ackart’s quick mind could follow intently, bringing the fox into the regulatory aspect of Penitatas parenting that she would need to be familiar with to write reports as a Completatas babysitter for others.

Spoken aloud between parents and officials as an acronym, like “packs”, it stood for the Penitatas Administrative Care System, and was where they interfaced with the justice department’s database. It was the place her mother wrote those weekly reports about her behavior and care, and was also the place a guardian could pull up information on anyone in the Penitatas Justice System – prisoner or license holder. The system was the invisible backbone to the department, acting as a lifeline that linked all parents and caregivers with everything they needed, bridging their duties back to the courts in keeping tabs on all of their tiny criminal inmates. A colorful, official looking splash screen turned to a login page, which caused Emily to pause only momentarily with an all-knowing sort of sigh.

I’m not going to bother turning the screen away.”, she commented with something of a roll of her eyes before tapping at the keypad right in full view of her daughter, knowing very well that there was no way of shielding her username and password from the brilliant yet uncannily sly fox when her perception absorbed everything without so much as thinking about it, she so recently came to learn. Kayla’s muzzle curled into a stupid, toothy grin, grasping what her mother meant. She at least never came to gain access to PACS as a ‘penny, seeing as Emily never once pulled it up when she was around. It was a rule not to, in fact. The pair shared a fleeting glance when Kayla faintly snorted at Emily’s password choice; the main screen of the PACS interface appearing as a regal array of buttons, giving off the same intimidating vibe as the Calleet Courthouse itself.

While you had what we would call a ‘blameless incident’, it’s still an incident that impacted a Penitatas outside of the guidelines the department sets. Nobody is allowed to make Zachary sick. We still have to do an incident report, but we’re going to be doing something special in it.”, Emily embraced her inner “explainer”, including Kayla in her reasoning and thought process as she lifted her right hand and began showing the fox how to navigate.

We’re going to pull up Zachary… Weiler… ”, she mumbled the boy’s name once she chose to access the Penitatas record system, splitting it up slowly off her lips as her fingers typed upon the keypad that popped up.

Right on cue the pad darted new fields onto the screen, reminding Kayla of the Penitatas Justice Department overview screens she had seen on her parole day, sprawled across her podium from the claw of a Jalaxian man that could outwit her any day of the week. Text faded in and typed themselves out quickly, as if the information was being decrypted over the channel to the courthouse in real time; Zach’s picture presently one from his day of rejuvenation, caught of him likely moments after he stepped from the rejuvenator. Kayla made sure to read as much as she could in the event her mother ended up hitting another button, running her eyes over the younger fox’s criminal charges, cycles, address, parents, and what looked to be even general information related to his care as a child. That made her squint curiously, especially when she saw a term and numerical value she had heard about before as early as the day she met Patrick and Thomas.

“… Zach is a three on the pain-tolerance scale? I guess I believe it, but… huh. Poor little pirate.”, Kayla mumbled at a lower volume than the eight year old would normally conduct herself, wanting to be careful with her fellow fox’s keen ears. From her book-learning, she had found the scale had some actual inner meaning, and the number value was determined by specific factors regarding a Penitatas’ response to “negative reinforcement”, the textbook so grandly decided to call “getting your tail beat.”

It’s pretty low. Before you go pulling up all of your friends, I can save you the time and let you know you win – you’re listed as a seven, officially, and have the highest number. I call you a tough girl for a reason. Ninne is assigned a five… Jacob was a four, but he didn’t have any reason to tolerate what he went through. We don’t want to spank a score of two the same we would an eight, but it also helps us identify injuries and abuse. If we know someone has a high score and they’re totally beside themselves screaming, then something is wrong. It’s a handy safety tool.”, Emily jumped right in, making her smile that more obvious that she was enjoying getting to share all this; motherly role expanding, so that Kayla may grow her own.

We’ll hit this button over here to notate a report on him, and we’re going to select ‘incident’ as the red, scary looking option on the bottom… ”, the human woman’s voice danced about the last part she uttered to be amusing once her finger stroked a key beside Zach’s name, switching the screen to a list of choices. The ends of Kayla’s maw stretched, partly folding her ears.

Never had to hit that button before.”, Emily couldn’t help but say, making Kayla lower her head with a hum that she made today the day. The pad graced Emily with a screen she was more than accustomed to, as much as she used it. Looking almost like an e-mail form of olden times, several fields appeared with ‘Zachary Weiler’ sprawled across the top as the inmate in question. Right beneath was a line that automatically populated Emily’s credentials as the notating individual, with an empty bar just below it; something she tapped first.

I’ll add you as the secondary, serving under my license, since you were the main witness. Completatas are in here automatically, as often as they end up babysitting for someone at least once. Besides, you guys and girls were already in PACS for a different reason.”, Emily was familiar with her duties enough that this was all second nature, able to type on the screen and talk without being the most technically adept person. Keying Kayla’s name pulled up a profile just like her own to attach, adding the learning fox as a babysitter and adjunct caregiver – including a sprawl of digits beside her name that made the girl’s muzzle curl.

My prisoner number. How nice of them.”, Kayla grumbled and growled mildly, tightening the cross of her arms in seeing that she still had one footpaw in the Penitatas Justice System. Always would, until the ‘C’s were gone from her paws at twenty one.

The loose quip was quickly replaced by an inquisitive scoot tighter into Emily’s side in order to watch and read. Without adding any extra bits of educating fluff, she figured she’d just let Kayla watch and absorb how a report was written, calmly and comfortably tapping her fingers. Concise and very professional, she documented exactly what she stepped into her bathroom to find, and what transpired through the line of questions she asked both Kayla and Zach. And, shocking the fox at her side, a tap beside her prisoner number gave a whole new field to write in; datapad offered to her paws, in order to follow the example she was just shown. It was intimidating for absolute certain, giving the girl some painful butterflies to be writing such a thing as her very first report. At least able to type so many multitudes faster than Emily, she made sure to mention Zachary’s slip, her response, and exactly what she did… including using the type-two, though doing so scared her. She looked up at Emily nervously when she offered the thin device back, but her mom patted her shoulder.

You’re not in trouble. Honest.”, she reassured.

Now, here’s something you won’t see every day. We’re going to be assigning a flag to Zachary’s record that tells everyone they are not allowed to use soap, vinegar, or anything else that might make him throw up. Attach – flag – and… sensitive stomach. There.”, Emily directed Kayla along visually with her finger, hitting a little box to step through the process; quite the fast one, now that their supporting documentation was already done. ‘FLAG’ showed up in red, big bold letters just at the top of what the both of them typed up upon the screen, coupled with the shorthand code of ‘SS’. With that, Emily submitted the report with just one more tap; PACS as user-friendly as could be for a bureaucratic database. It returned them back to Zachary’s information profile, now displaying the flag Emily created beneath his name – big and commanding looking.

And that’s it? He’s just… exempt?”, Kayla lifted her muzzle’s point away from the datapad screen, feeling a fair bit jealous the boy’s swear-happy muzzle was never going to experience the same things she did during her hard time. Emily nodded, giving the flag symbol a tap to show Kayla the red instructions that would pop up, noting the acts and substances that were now phrased as “forbidden.”

It’s only ‘blameless’ the first time, when we didn’t know. With this flag, it’s now a safety violation for anyone to attempt using soap ever again. The justice department does review the flags we assign, but the report we made together justifies it pretty easily. It’s why I asked Zachary if it was the soap that made him sick, without giving away with my tone why I was asking. He had no idea his response would create this provision, and we got an honest answer because of it.”, she got to detail the subtle word-play and information gathering she was using up in the bathroom while she simultaneously played the role of caring mom; duty and parenting intermingling, when it came down to a Penitatas’ care.

Just as if blood was drawn, the guardian figure that violated the flag would be obligated to write an incident report, and would likely have points added to their license along with the punishment of a mandated safety class. Attempting to hide their folly would result in the revocation of their license, once discovered. Parents were held accountable for all their actions, just out of sight and earshot of those they cared for.

That isn’t to say Zachary’s muzzle can’t see consequence like a certain hacker’s did. Just means he’ll be starting on the P.J.D’s disciplinary hot sauce instead.”, Emily came to say a little more awkwardly, eluding to there being more things available than the punitive options Kayla was shown.

I thought he was getting lucky with all this. Guess not.”, the fox’s maw crooked with a lift of a brow. The provision only changed the ‘how’; that maw was still open for punitive business.

“… The store-bought stuff was bad enough.”, Kayla ended up sighing in her personal disdain of spicy fluids, realizing things could have been far worse when she was still a ‘penny if Emily had trialed more alternative options to have on hand. Emily was not as harsh as she could have been, despite what she thought before.

Oh, your technology ban you had for those six months? That was a ‘special condition’ flag, so you had one for a while too.”, that datapad was waved slightly, noting another way the flag system was utilized that Kayla would be able to relate with – the reason to always check PACS when caring for an unfamiliar Penitatas.

We’re not done making things right just yet, though. Little Zachary just had an unfair thing happen to him, so what should we do to be good parents and make up for this?”, Emily tapped the datapad in her other palm again, pulling Kayla back in to continue serving as a tiny parent at her side. Seeing as this wasn’t a textbook sort of question, Kayla leaned back and lounged into the sofa, still part way into her mother’s side.

I mean… I planned to let him play video games with Jacob and I. He should have a pretty fun night.”, she began mulling aloud to keep Emily in the loop of what she was thinking, not wanting to sit there looking so contemplative and serious, staring off across the living room.

Nothing else? You’re mom at the moment. What’s best for him is up to you.”, Emily nudged her fox gently, encouraging her young imagination to think a little more.

Up to me, huh… ”, Kayla nearly whispered. Her muzzle’s expression dulled, not quite reaching a frown as she thought about what she did, and what came of it.

“… I’d want to get him something nice to drink. Maybe stretch what is normally allowed and get him some chocolate milk? I wouldn’t get in trouble for that, would I?”, the growing Completatas turned her head, letting her guilt over making Zach throw up sound more obviously on her mind. If the call was going to be her own, she’d like to give him something special that tasted nice as a refreshment.

I wasn’t being bad when I let you keep the candy all those Starfleet officers left for you in those gift baskets back in San Francisco, rationing them out. Some things are flexible, so long as we maintain discipline. Like that mall cheeseburger you ended up liking? You were good, so I loosened things for you to have it – just like you saw things go away, when you weren’t. Balance, but… very strict.”, Emily tried to think of examples from Kayla’s own life in hard time, attempting to elude to her own particular ways she tried to be accommodating when it was her job at the end of the day to be very hard on her furry blessing; incarcerated, and summarily punished, no matter how good she may be. Kayla’s bushy tail lifted from the seat of the sofa with a flowing wag that tapped back down without a peep of a sound, getting a perkier feeling to fight those butterflies she had.

I’ll get him that drink and make sure he’s doing fine then!”, she got to happily announce as her intentions, shoving off her paws to land her bare vulpine feet back upon their carpet. Kayla Ackart may have been a fairly mature rejuvenated adult, able to use her young mind in such varied and amazing ways, but she still had a little heart that needed its own mending; rectifying her mistake the same as she imagined she’d be itching to do even if she was thirty years old. To be fair and loving was at the core of “awesome mom”, and she’d settle for no less.

Parting ways with her mother and feeling a little older from having actually filed her first piece of documentation as a practicing authority figure under the seal of the Penitatas Justice Department, Kayla rounded the corner to the kitchen and paid a visit to the replicator. One rapidly tapped access code and a few words later, Kayla was headed back upstairs with a chilled black mug in her right paw, smelling rich of chocolate. Strawberry might have been her undying favorite as a free and normal kid, but the fox that stepped out into the world did realize that most people enjoyed chugging chocolate more – her own special guy aside.

That particular fellow was the first person she saw as she came off the stairs and began stepping into her bedroom, standing at the end of her bed in his favorite loose-fitting pajamas. He seemed to be staring off toward her closet with this amused look across his draconic snout, which prompted a turn of Kayla’s head once she crossed the threshold of her doorway, followed by her own gigantic smile and a ‘pfft!’ once more; something Zachary’s humor and casual nature to everything he did seemed to elicit from her maw so regularly. With a petite partial pirouette on the pad of his right footpaw, the boy was busily and happily checking out how he could make the girl’s dress he had thrown on sway and twirl with his playful little motions. Kayla having a couple of them she was forced to wear occasionally back then, those old things were stuffed into those donation bags with vengeance… though that wasn’t exactly what she had meant for Zachary to grab when she invited him to rummage, thinking he’d find a pair of shorts or feminine jeans that he’d find “cute.”

Kayla, I look adorable!”, Zachary slapped his paws together at chest level and cheered for himself with a laugh, seeming extremely no worse for wear and right back to his old self. Apparently Kayla wasn’t the only fox that could embrace the good when things went bad, and it made her so happy to know he wasn’t bitter or angry with her; the girl’s orange, black-tipped ears going as pert as the boy’s black ones.

You look a lot better in that than I did! All your extra white and black fur rounds it out better.”, Kayla provided as her “feminine opinion”, as particularly jaded as that could be to things far more boyish than normal. Zach gave another something of a spin to try and see his own tail stream along with the dangling hem of the dress’ skirt, outright playing with the thing – so much like an actual Kindern in how he could appreciate being a child, embracing everything so comfortably and shamelessly. The dress itself was white, and mostly simple with only a few frills to it, looking very much like a modest six year old’s outfit.

I know of several bars around the Alpha Quadrant that might be right up your alley.”, Jacob quipped of his male companion being able to throw a child’s dress on without a care in the world, knowing there were plenty of others that liked that sort of thing too. Zachary’s following snicker rolled right into a laugh, lifting his right paw with a flick of his vulpine index finger.

I’ve likely drank too much in all of them!”, he could quip right back, having had quite the taste for such boy-loving establishments in all the different flavors they happened to come in, hopping from world to world across the known expanse of stars. The cross-dressing “waitresses” were nice, but the bottomless clubs in the raunchier outer colonies could be quite the trip. Pivoting on his hip like he was going to strike some sort of pose, he ended up lifting and curling his tail to point back toward the rear of the girl’s garment.

Why does it look like someone cut a hole in it for your tail?”, he paid question to the frayed edges of the slit he put his bushy vulpine tail through, which made Kayla’s smile all the more nostalgic.

Someone at the courthouse did that with some scissors probably. I met my parents in that dress, and came home from my rejuvenation in it. Thanks for being able to show it to Jacob, since I’d never fit into it again.”, Kayla thought to appreciate him for, lifting her paw with a glance over to Jacob. That was Packet-Storm’s first dress, and the thing that came off when Emily tanned her hide for the very first time; a lost little ‘penny, shy yet kind.

I can imagine Thomas and I playing pretend. You’re looking dashing today Mister Weiler!”, Zach spoke up with great amusement, trying to emulate his bubbly, sillier father’s charming and sometimes flamboyant mannerisms compared to Zachary and Patrick’s more masculine… well, when Zachary felt like it, apparently. Kayla shook her head, deciding to step forward and give the guy his chocolate milk already.

Take it home with you! That was the only dress I at all cared about anyway, so it’s all the better you get to keep it as a play dress if you want it for that. Also – chocolate milk to wash away the nasty, give it a try.”, she offered as per personal treat, showing the black replicator mug was not her own to sip upon. Zach took it with an analytical sniff, and tried it without so much as asking what chocolate even was.

Seeing Zachary’s fur puff with a warm smile, practically closing his eyes at his very first taste of something so decadent and cold, made the whole thing so worth it; that idea Emily encouraged her to find working out. That little mom within her squealed in delight. Her own paws even helped protect him from having anyone do such a thing to him again. Growing up was going to be so awesome… if only there could be more good excuses to give him such things more often, in this leg of his new life.

Settling in with her boys for a few, Kayla took the time to gather a nightgown and a pair of underwear for her shower; a plain white to go with a dark blue gown, figuring she’d be more comfortable with less things over her fur. She had been enjoying using one of her pairs of really baggy lounge shorts like a pair of boxer briefs for the later hours, exceptionally boyish and likely not the most modest without anything underneath, but imagined she shouldn’t while she had company beyond Jacob. The light coming in her bedroom window the dark red of a disappearing sun, she came to draw the curtain beside her desk while Zachary prepped for the night himself, making a makeshift bed on the floor with a spare blanket and sheet at the foot of her bed, same as Jacob did under the window. Kayla stuffed Melissa next to Zach’s pillow so she and Mitsy could hang out for a while as her own playful nod, glad to see him love his stuffed pal so much. She was stung by how many tear stains Mitsy had along his muzzle and cheeks, but she could help clean that off she thought, having some fellow ‘penny experience with that. The dress Zachary had worn came to be folded beside his belongings to take home with him once he decided to just ask Kayla and Jacob if they’d care if he hung out in his underwear. He wore nothing at home, so the call would be theirs to if they’d be comfortable – Kayla surely so, and Jacob just shrugging as if it wouldn’t bother him one way or the other, having nothing but Penitatas friends as it was.

Left leisurely in his peach briefs with a white trim to them, Zach was happily sitting in the middle of the makeshift bed on the floor he had made, toying with his invention when Kayla excused herself to go grab that shower before she settled in with them for the night – plenty of multiplayer dungeon exploring and platform gaming abound, or so she so gleefully cheered of the plans she looked forward to, arms thrust over her head when her tail disappeared from sight. Poking a claw into the open valley along the equator of the weighty silver sphere, he felt around until the crevice flashed a bright blue, whining the device back to life in his paws to ease it back to feeling no heavier than a normal ball. With a childish hop back to his feet, he turned to Jacob getting Kayla’s small holovision and game console on her desk ready for when she got back.

Hey, I have something I wanted to show off. I already know you can appreciate a good ball.”, Zachary announced, holding the glowing spherical device in both paws, clutched to the bare white fur of his chest. His tail flowing into a gentle sway of pride, he got to see Jacob’s look of perplexed surprise when he looked over to see the odd blue light he held.

Check it out – I’ve been working on making something fun! Put it together myself, and designed it from scratch, right down to its technical diagrams and wiring schematics.”, he wished Kayla had stuck around a little longer to see as well, but he had all night, and figured his homemade toy would be way cooler in the dark. Smiling down upon the sphere, cheerful and filled with joy from getting to be himself with a settled belly filled with that cold brown fluid, Zach lifted and introduced the device properly.

I wanted to earn everyone’s trust, so my dads and everyone would know that I can still be an engineer and use my paws for something better. I wanted something to play with, so I made a toy – one for us ‘grown-at-heart’ types.”, the male fox explained of his thought process and the inclinations of a remorseful engineer that went into its inception, wanting to create a toy that no one would be able to find any fault in. Though he had a colorful way of saying ‘rejuves’, Jacob followed right along with the unveiling of the baseball-sized device, grinning a tad awkwardly at a thought that crept into his head against the elated face that younger boy could make over such a subject.

So it’s a toy ball? How, umm… do you play with a metal ball? That can’t be safe.”, the Karrian couldn’t really think of any other way to put it, astute in matters of speaking or not. It was literally a hard metal object, very much unlike a ball in any definition other than the fact it was round. He tried to sound nice about it, and simply perhaps “misunderstanding” through the Aspatrian’s sometimes incorrect usage of pangish words, but Zach’s tail flicked harder as if he had been expecting such a response.

That’s the thing, it’s perfectly safe. I went with that as a pillar of its design. It can’t hit anyone, or anything else for that matter. I made something that more than doesn’t hurt people – it can’t, even if someone tried.”, the fox revealed he did have a crafty side that sounded quite sly in a positive sense. Speaking so clearly and happily over his creation, it made Jacob have to wonder if he had practiced in his head how to explain the toy while sitting at his desk at home. Man, Zach was an animated guy when he wasn’t feeling self-conscious or about to get smacked.

Turning his head toward the wall across from the foot of Kayla’s bed, empty as it was with exception to the girl’s paltry “corner” where her stool and two hanging paddles resided, Zachary tossed the boyish fur of his tail with the first throw of the metal device. It made Jacob wince, but just as the Aspatrian claimed, the spherical, glowing ball made a tiny whine of energy dispersal and seemingly “bounced” off the wall without so much as touching it. It did the same thing once it fell from the air, leaping from the carpet a few times, less and less with every impulse until it settled its weight delicately back upon the floor beside a pair of black vulpine footpaws. With a pride of an engineer, as well as a young boy wanting to craft himself a toy, Zachary gestured down to it with an open paw and a beaming smile; teeth oddly whiter and shinier than they seemed outside, for some reason.

Under that casing is an omni-directional hover-impulse unit. Basically a hover-engine that doesn’t constantly output, but rather sends out hover ‘bursts’ of various wavelengths. Using a mesh of proximity sensors built into the shell here, coupled with accelerometers, the ball simulates the physics of an actual bouncy ball without ever touching anything. Inertial velocity is relative to the strength of the output impulse, on an exponential curve to emulate sea-level Earth air density. Fancy way of saying it bounces harder and quicker if its approaching an object fast.”, came as an uncharacteristically technical means of speech that made Jacob lift his brows midway through, surprised by the words Zachary knew versus the ones he did not, bending over to bounce the ball off the floor differently a few times to show its theoretical functionality – nearly dead silent. Lifting his right claw to place it atop his head, Jacob stepped closer with a more than impressed look across his muzzle.

That’s… genius.”, he figured it would be polite to compliment without any further delay from his dumbstruck mouth, wondering why no one had ever thought of using hover-technology in such a manner so outside the box.

You’re really good at what you do. I’d tell you to try taking it to someone to produce, but… you know. Penitatas, and all.”, Jacob had to sigh for him, lifting that claw from his black hair with a shrug. He’d already been there with Kayla, wanting to step out into the world when those ‘P’s were slapping her back down; there to be punished, even if her prison lacked iron bars. To it, Zach merely snickered in the chipper way he did earlier while playing with the old dress he found.

I have plans for growing up. Being a toy maker isn’t one of them.”, he got to add for his view of the future, seeing his own light at the end of a very long tunnel. It was a happily said thing too, ringing with a lost, hopeful note that sure felt like it could be optimism – though uncertain.

Besides, most people want a ball that others can enjoy with them. Here.”, Zachary tried to think of how he could explain that part, deciding to back up a few steps with a gesture of the ball in his paws as if he’d give it a light toss Jacob’s way. The scaled boy took a step back, uneasy about the idea of being in the metal ball’s path, but a gentle toss had his claws instinctively reaching for it anyway… only for the ball to generate an impulse off his fingers, darting away for his claws to be left scrambling to try and catch it. Instead, Zach stepped forward and held his paws beneath it, allowing its exponentially weakening leaps come to a “bouncing” stop back into his paw’s pads.

It jumps away from everything, and everybody, so you have to catch it kind of weird if you don’t want it to eventually stop on the floor. It’s supposed to be a ball for playing by yourself… kind of used my life at home as another pillar for its concept. Think of a Penitatas who’s alone in his room a lot, who would get spanked pretty hard if he made a ton of noise.”, he ended with a telling sort of chuckle, wiggling the metallic ball in his right paw. As a toy that could be lobbed without a trace of consequence or evidence, a punishment-weary boy could chase this around his room without any issue at all, or… even a friend to play with, as isolated as a Penitatas’ bedroom could sometimes be.

How did you know all those panglish words anyway? You basically went from school kid to physics professor. I haven’t heard anyone speak like that since the academy.”, was the sort of thing to impress Jacob Vasse, always happy to have another intellectual mind around. Getting a hearty smile pointed his way and some generous interest really warmed Zachary’s heart, feeling like his toy was a success for what it needed to do – show that he was a good guy, and had merit. If only elementary schools for rejuvenated people did “show and tell.”

I learned them while traveling on the Bah’virah, my ship. Aspatrians are uneducated, and… well, I had to be able to talk engineering with other people around the quadrant if I was to get anything done. Needed to know how to explain things sometimes, and especially to barter for parts.”, he could at least find some amusement in trying to detail that aspect of his old life, essentially a magical wizard among a village of idiots. That fact of life may have been the biggest source of courage when the cowardly wizard decided to burn down said village, one day.

With a lift of the ball and a hum from his muzzle, the white fur of Zachary’s neck parted with a tip of his head to the side in wordlessly asking Jacob if he’d like a go with his ball. Still feeling somewhat shy about the idea of lobbing a metal ball, the older boy passed on the offer for now, even as the vulpine engineer inadvertently proved the device’s safety by throwing it so hard against the wall it immediately came right back at his forehead, hunched in his pitcher’s toss. Moving so fast it could actually be heard making high pitched bursts, bouncing off Zachary without touching a single strand of fur to leap back off the wall, it darted in an arc across the room to impulse off the opposite wall and sail across Kayla’s bed before returning. It escaped Zach’s fingers, still moving too quick and managing to leap away, bringing its eventual inertial collapse to let it roll toward the corner where the Kayla’s computer console stood as the monolith it was. Stepping over in his briefs to fetch it for another go, lifting it into his paws, he took a look across the unit’s screens and the paddle that hung above, taking a moment to grin in imagining Stephanie Galmar on the receiving end of the diabolical…

The amused little smirk he held faded from his muzzle, leaving him standing there staring without a word. Not lost on Jacob, who had picked Kayla’s video game controller back up to continue where he left off, he ended up eyeballing the fox to see what might have gotten into him. Following where Zach seemed to stare, it looked to be at the handle of Kayla’s “big girl” paddle – something she had mentioned making with her own paws. So that meant…

These are Kayla’s initials, aren’t they?”, Zachary asked very gently, lower and slower than he would normally speak. On the day Kayla had sanded, shaped and glossed her very own blistering-capable paddle as an eight year old, first-cycle hard time Penitatas, the girl proudly sprawled “K.S.A” upon the very hilt end of the wrapped handle, ever so neatly with paint.

“… Who’s the ‘S’? Does she know?”, the boy’s hover-impulse ball came to be clutched back to his chest again, looking solemn and older against the sort of rowdy jubilance he had been showing his invention off with. To the left of the console those few steps away, Jacob’s reptilian brows curled.

Kayla’s middle name is Sophia, after her birth mother. How did you know it was a ‘who’?”, he was forced to ask with concern, gauging the sort of reaction the other Aspatrian took to seeing the three letters. Jacob could hardly finish speaking before Zachary lifted his ball, closing his eyes and resting his vulpine forehead upon it, hearing that it was indeed something she carried off of Aspatria – not given here, on Earth.

“… She’s lived such a hard life… and she thinks it’s a middle name?”, came from his muzzle with deep sympathy, clearly hushing his words to not be heard beyond the two of them.

We don’t have middle names in our culture. It would translate to something like… honor. An honor name.”, he tried to get off his tongue, sounding airy and somber, knowing what he was detailing – something they didn’t seem to know, if Jacob was going to call it a middle name.

We take them when someone dies for us. It means the person did something so that we could live, and left us, doing it. We keep them close for the rest of our own lives in name, for their sacrifice. If she came here with it, someone thought… she needed to carry it.”, for once Zachary was not happy to teach of Aspatrian custom, should Kayla not know what happened to her mother, and why she was an orphan; living as a lasting echo of a loving, blue eyed woman that would rather take the butt of a rifle to her chest, to guard the life within her belly. From the way Jacob’s eyes weakened, she surely couldn’t have known the finer details as a toddler when she left Aspatria.

“… I think you’d better let me break that to her. She told me it was in memory, but she didn’t say any of that. I don’t think she knows anything about her, or that she might have protected her… and it was a very tender subject. Asked her about it one day and she got sad on me.”, the poor doctor had to swallow, recalling how bothered Kayla was the day he learned of the ‘Sophia’ part of her name. Lowering his crafted ball, Zachary nodded his head.

I’ll keep quiet on that one. Thanks doc’, saves me from saying the wrong thing.”, Zach could say with appreciation in his lower boyish tone, taking a glance at that hole-filled paddle to give the hover-ball a toss at it. It “bounced” right off the center of the wooden board, getting airborne a second time off the back of his fellow fox’s console computer chair to sail over his ears and evade his paws once more.

Breaking his thoughts from the honor name he unwittingly stumbled upon, glad to at least give it the nod of endearment it was meant to hold for those who carried them, Zachary settled back into playing with his toy. The thing could dart so quickly in its emulation of an extremely bouncy substance, he would have figured he’d need to dial its mathematical curves back if it wasn’t so stimulating and fun to try going after something that might inevitably dart away from you. It made itself into a game of physics if you wanted to intercept the ball, which is why he figured only those who were ‘grown-at-heart’ as rejuvenated kids would find enjoyment in it. Stimulating in a different way than a true ball, and with an added layer of complexity, it made him imagine the toy to be frustrating to an actual kit; a Kindern, really, but Zachary wasn’t thinking along those modern lines as of yet.

Forgive me for asking, but do you have one of those names, Zach?”, Jacob found it in him to ask out of personal curiosity, wondering what a life on Aspatria had been like for him as he went about ticking through the console’s menus with the controller in his claws. The blue light of the other boy’s hover-ball zipped by his peripheral vision, bouncing off the corner of Kayla’s desk at an angle that made the sound of footpaws batter the floor to intercept by the closet.

No, thankfully. My parents lived a full life… what they considered full, as shitty as dying around you guy’s equivalent of thirty years old is. Rejuvenators are only a legend, to most.”, the boy with that bare black stripe down his back spoke just fine, as if he was glad to have kept his family for as long as he did when everyone eventually succumbed to cancer, but by the time he mentioned rejuvenators his tone had shifted to being lower and quieter. Though Jacob didn’t see it, prepping his partner’s favorite games for her, that act of “catching things after he already said them” struck Zachary’s ears to fold back.

“… I’m sorry for the way I talk.”, the fox kept simple for his fellow guy, thinking of Kayla’s light lecture about his constant usage of casual swears being rude and unbecoming; something he didn’t wish to be with a man he admired. His ball came to be tossed across the room, trying to “hit” Kayla’s big girl paddle again from afar, but he managed to get a more curious look from the Karrian as it missed by a mile and performed some neat, wobbly maneuvers when the impulse unit ejected it from the corner of the two walls beside the other fox’s console.

The words you guys find bad. I just like getting to be myself, but I do understand it’s not entirely nice, here on Earth.”, Zach explained of his apology since it wasn’t immediately apparent to what he meant, catching his ball awkwardly by locking it into a bounce loop between his paws and his own chin, leaping back and forth until it settled into a roll down his black-sleeved forearms. The old doctor cracked an amused looking smile across his muzzle, giving a light shrug that included the controller he held as part of the gesture.

I like being the person all my Penitatas friends don’t have to worry about. It’s good to have someone in your corner, isn’t i-… ”, Jacob spoke of his accommodating and check-and-balance mannerisms with his friends when they already had so many people monitoring and punishing them. He was the person who didn’t have to, and could look out for them instead. It was loose and chipper in the Medicalos’ own calm way, but he came to abruptly stop talking when spooked by a silver blur flung across his sight going warp two in a strong impulse leap off the room’s back wall.

It was a thing he could live with considering Zachary was just having fun and had proven his invention’s safety, but he’d come to flinch a second time – more like outright jump, as loud as a sound exploded in his left reptilian ear-slit. It was a shattering bang like a large firecracker under pressure, hitting him with a shock wave of displaced air and sound that actually hurt. Defensive staggers and raises of arms from the fright had both boys reeling, but their heads both turned to the source in the motionless still that fell afterward…

A long, painful silence with widened pupils and slacked lower jaws followed – hearts pounding from the scare, and breathing uncomfortable.

Zachary’s hover-impulse ball was sunken half way into the central display of Kayla’s self-made computer console; the once colorful screen with its rotating lattice facsimile of Earth lifeless and dark, cracked clear to every corner with pointed shards protruding all around the silver sphere. A dusty gray smoke faintly arose from around the ball, having penetrated every layer of the display to damage even further beyond as the unit’s two auxiliary side screens color-shifted and rolled vertically with a loss of sync. More than enough to make Zach feel sick again, the brief-clad boy made wobbly steps around the end of his fellow fox’s bed, breaking that wordless stare of disbelief.

No… no – no – no – no!”, Zachary’s ears slammed backwards out of so many emotions and thoughts coming to him at once. Worry, guilt, fear – even failure as his vulpine toes made stiffened urgency forward to the console with a slam of his paws to shove Kayla’s computer chair aside. The plush black arm-less chair made a mild thud against the metallic sheeting the by-paw constructed unit was made out of, reaching the hover-ball and the extensive damage it caused with such a heavy heart.

Why?! Why didn’t it bounce – why didn’t it bounce?!”, his panic milked such incredible remorse and confusion from his muzzle, sounding so much more upset and his own physical age in his lack of comprehension; dark eyes locked on the seemingly dead silver device. His tail died along with it, tucked so deeply between his legs with a weakening of his knees, lifting his paws to place them upon the ball’s exposed shell protruding from the destroyed display panel.

So shaken and mind racing, it seemed even Jacob was knocked into complete silence, standing there staring as he was. Everyone knew, absolute damn well… you do not touch Kayla’s “baby.”

Stuck part way inside the machine, so firmly wedged into it, the metal sphere lacked the blue light of the hover-impulse unit; crevice along its middle dark and without any glow. The ball was to be perfectly safe, unable to ever harm… but only if it had power. Thinking of the unit dying mid-bounce in his race to troubleshoot and explain what his eyes were seeing, the ball would suddenly become a deadly projectile. The amount of force it struck the console with made it the only logical conclusion, tugging with his very young padded fingertips to free the sphere from its embedded state. The scratch of polymer-glass and metal was followed by the sharper sound of clattering shards falling upon Kayla’s touch-panel keypad, when the ball freed itself into Zachary’s grasp; hole into the innards behind the display and its casing exposed. So shaken and saddened, bombarded by all sides of his mind as his older half panicked as an engineer, and younger half panicked as a Penitatas, the fox’s jaw stiffened in his stare over his invention and the terrible thing it caused.

I… ”, he so weakly and quietly uttered off his vulpine lips, sad and sorry, as a theory to the failure became apparent in his mind. The clamber of his thoughts dulled once his ears caught something of a repetitive sound… a tapping? Pivoting his ears, Zachary turned his muzzle and eyes toward Jacob to find him no longer staring at him and the console, but rather the doorway. Slowly, and weary with fright, did Zach turn from the damaged computer system; shrunken, small, and with ears entirely slicked back.

What he found, were fangs.

Bared from a wrinkled, quivering orange muzzle, that constant tap was the sound of water droplets falling from soaked fur into the carpet. The rupture of the display so violent when the compressed gasses that made up one of the panel’s layers blew out, it sent the keen ears of the Aspatrian flying clumsily out of her shower with nothing more than a plush green towel thrown over her shoulders. Entirely bare and soaked, tail dripping like a rat, Kayla was left showing off her lack of black and white to her belly and lowest features she had kept properly covered since her parole, silenced into boiling with anger from what she erupted into her doorway to find. Her eyes looked absolutely pained, paws lifted to her maw like a little girl would have out of wounded shock, but the part that made her purely Kayla Ackart was in all the rage her teeth gleamed ahead of Emily, standing behind her and looking so upset versus how firm the mother always was. The hacker’s affection for the inanimate object that got her through a sad, lonely life as a growing child was one the fox had tried to explain to her so many times – one they even tussled over beneath Starfleet Headquarters when she met the bulky machine with its three screens. It left her expression feeling sympathy, clearly focused more on Kayla than even Zachary’s apparent mistake as a Penitatas. The girl so protective of her life’s work, defining of her very being as an extension of her mind and paws… it seemed all Emily and Jacob wanted was to hug her, and say they were sorry so desperately, understanding what she must be feeling.

Kayla… ”, Zachary forced his maw open, clutching his hover-impulse ball to his body; tail coming around his legs with a step backwards against the edge of the console Kayla would type upon.

I’m so sorry – it was an accident! The – the ball isn’t supposed to be able to hurt anythi-… ”, he could hardly stammer from his muzzle as rapidly as he fired it, cut off quickly.

You didn’t think a metal ball would break something?! How could you even do this to me?!”, Kayla snapped out of her own disbelief, lifting her right paw in a way that made her claws look aggressive. Zach quickly shook his head, breathing rapidly in his need to explain the context of his invention’s purpose.

It… but Kayla, your fur… you… ”, he couldn’t keep his mind properly together in seeing the girl that had taken such kind care of him and been such a good friend bare-furred and dripping – things she wouldn’t have ever wanted, and feeling bad for it. It was some pretty blatant proof she was a she, as much as she didn’t dress or act like one sometimes. Zachary wanted her to feel better just as the others did, but all that useless stumble of words did was get a harsh snap of her right index finger back over her shoulder.

I don’t care if I’m naked in front of my mom!”, she barked, swinging her arm.

I don’t care if I’m naked in front of him!”, she added with that claw pointed Jacob’s way, before it went clear for Zachary’s nose.

And I sure don’t care about being naked in front of another Aspatrian that doesn’t like girls anyway!”, the woman in that small body so quickly shot down, knowing quite well that Zachary’s embrace of their world’s culture made her lack of clothing natural.

So what part of messing around with that thing made you do that?! I don’t have the means to repair this Zach!”, Kayla made her focus and sole concern firmly with a sharp shout, pointing instead past Zachary’s tense droop to the hole he put in her primary display screen, doing the degree of damage it did; the word ‘that’ getting some serious fang treatment, harshly as it was spat. Zach whimpered faintly, looking away at his ball so much like a kid, and an adult, all at once. He didn’t want to hurt and lose his only friend, making it so damn near impossible for the cowardly boy to speak.

“… It’s a toy I made. Has a hover-unit that lets it bounce without touching things. I wanted to show it to you so badly, I… I think I rushed too much, finishing it. It’s not safe if it loses power, and… it did. That last bounce it made probably broke a bad connection to its internal power cell.”, Zach had to close his eyes, resting the hover-ball against his forehead again to describe and admit with such a higher, hurt pitch to his voice. It wasn’t easy for him to say things that could get him punished, but his friendship was too important to him to try and lie about what he thought happened.

It needed a few more moments with my dad’s spanner, and a backup fail-safe. I had no idea, please don’t be mad with me.”, the ball lowered from the topside of his muzzle to crack his eyes open, voice squeaking slightly with his fear and sorrow.

I’ll ask Patrick if I can borrow his tools to bring here… tell him what I did. I’m going to get wrecked… ”, he couldn’t help but whimper, eyes stinging at the thought of how badly he was going to get it at home. That damn lecture he half ignored in the hover-car struck him with a lot of worry for the sake of his fur, but with a harsh stiffening of his vulpine lips, he pushed back those thoughts for his own hide to worry only about Kayla.

“… I can make up for what I did, and fix it for you. I’m just so sorry, I know what the thing means to you. I’d never do anything I thought might hurt it… my dumb invention was supposed to prove I could be good.”, Zachary finally couldn’t hold back the fact he wanted to cry, stung so badly as a six year old. Forced to sniff, the boy swallowed and took an uncomfortable breath.

It was a total accident. I can help-… ”, his head lifted with more of a desperate sound to his voice, going as far as to step forward and weaken his withdrawn stance to plead with Kayla to forgive him – something she put a stop to with a lift of her paw to her muzzle.

I’m fine – I’m fine. Stop.”, the fiery girl retorted harshly for someone trying to say they were alright, as upset as she was. With a deep breath through her ebony nose, whiskers tightening against her muzzle with a tense, almost frowning sort of suppression of her angrier wrinkles, Kayla opened her eyes back up with an expressive flick of her entire right paw.

I just need to remind myself I’m not a scrapyard animal anymore… don’t have to go pawing around salvage hoping I can find another panel of the right size. I’ll get on my pad, and order one to be delivered tomorrow.”, the words sounded far more for herself than everyone else in the room, trying so hard to calm down. It was revealing of things beyond the veil of anger, like her own fears and how upset she was as a child – one with a lot of responsibility and memories riding on the device that was slain out of commission.

Despite the roll of her two other screens, Kayla could at least tell the rest of the computer was still operating normally without being able to display what it was doing. With a step of her feet, trailing droplets along her path, the fox rubbed her right paw dryer on the towel over her shoulders and smacked a mechanical key on the left side of her console.

Pah’re!”, her voice commanded the unit as normally as she could force her throat, saying ‘sleep’ in Aspatrian as the vocal instruction for the unit to enter a suspended mode, since she couldn’t operate her old baby normally by seeing what she was doing. It chirped twice in succession, deactivating its screens and the touch-panel to write its active memory to solid storage and shut down for caution’s sake. That broken panel still had power, and that wasn’t a good idea at all.

Left in wake of his actions and the ill cards circumstance had dealt in the unforeseen failure of his hover-impulse toy, Zachary held it with uncertainty of what else he could say. Kayla was out of sorts, pulled so far from how happy she seemed when she went off to shower. All those eyes, just staring.

I’m sorry Jacob. You too ma’am.”, he thought to apologize to the other two individually for what he had done.

Am… am I in trouble? My dads are already going to kill me. I promise it was an accident… I’m really sorry.”, Zachary kept his drooping sort of eyes on Emily, unable to stop apologizing due to how he felt. They were soft, nervous words that obviously pleaded for forgiveness from everyone, even if it was to just exemplify his initial hopes and intentions… that he wasn’t a bad guy, and never would have done anything he thought was remotely unsafe. He cherished his fur too much to be foolish, and just wanted everything to be better. Was willing to work for it, too.

Yes Zachary, you have to answer for that mistake, no matter how it happened. If that accident came down to your paw throwing something, then as a Penitatas, you and I will be having a ‘talk’.”, Emily followed the rationale for how things would work in this strict life he found himself in. A hard time Penitatas would absolutely be punished for each and every trespass, even if a different rejuvenated child would possibly be forgiven for the error that transpired. As it was, it wasn’t a faultless mistake either, if Zach’s troubleshooting had correctly diagnosed the failure back to his own over-enthusiasm, skipping things that weren’t optional.

It wasn’t what he wanted, but Zachary didn’t have any room to argue. Not that he would, wanting to avoid upsetting Kayla any further… if she’d ever let him come over again. Just when he was hitting it off with Jacob too, finally starting something he could call a circle of friends. As he began to step forward to submit to Emily’s coming commands, wondering if he was about to feel that spoon of hers or perhaps the paddle on the wall with the golden fox tail and owner’s name, a voice made his ear flick.

“… Can I take care of this one too, mom?”, Kayla asked more lightly than she had been speaking, facing her console as she tried briskly drying off; the damp fur of her back splitting into pointy, soaked strands. Essentially asking if she could be the person to spank him made Zachary shrink a little further, wondering just how much he ruined things with his favorite person since becoming a Penitatas. She had helped him feel better about things from the moment he met her, grateful for all of it. Kayla hiding her expression by facing away as she toweled her fur off, Emily stiffly curled her eyebrows and crossed her arms.

Honey… your temper.”, Emily felt she should remind, seeing it was one of those things Kayla understood she still had a problem with. Those were a lot of vulpine teeth to be showing those moments ago, and some awfully biting words of lecture, if you could call her snaps that. With the sorts of mistakes the human mother had made during Kayla’s time as a Penitatas, she of all people should know by now that it was surely a terrible thing to attempt discipline when angry. That towel scrubbed down the fox’s frame, squeezing her tail into it to stop soaking her own bedroom carpet – an act that showed her face and the weakened tip of her ears, looking far more subdued than she did before, despite what her fangs said.

Oh, I’m mad alright.”, Miss Ackart declared without hesitation, seeming to want to note just how upset she was.

“… But not – at – Zach-y.”, her tone did so drop, giving the boy’s name its token of friendly affection she had been using at times in private, showing that her notions of temper were not directed at her fellow fox. She might have been upset, but…

He didn’t mean for this to happen. I know he’s sorry.”, she tried to explain of her stance, bending forward with her tail modestly down to try and dry her legs off.

“… It’s still my console though. I’d like to be the person he answers to, if he’s going to be doing some answering. I probably won’t be as strict, if up to me… I just want to make this right.”, came more as the fox’s personal view of correction and rearing, and what was to be her first formal request in officially spanking a Penitatas solo on the other side of the line. While it made Zachary’s face curl with a different sort of expression, hearing that Kayla really did want to personally punish him, her reasons for it made it sound so lacking in malice. That anger was just… more of that strict mom, she kept showing.

It struck Emily with a hard rock of a lump in her stomach, and a loosening of her lips just watching and listening. Her daughter ran out of her own shower, stark naked in a way she surely didn’t actually want to be, all to ensure everything was alright. A wing outstretched, whether to shelter or correct, with her own needs second. The fox had always had something of a problem with her temper, and she surely hadn’t been able to fix it, but to split it off away from what she felt was her duty warmed, and hurt Emily. It meant Kayla learned, from the mothers’ own mistakes. Some of the things that happened to her as a ‘penny, taught her how not to act. It felt so strange for Emily’s emotional errors to be shown back to her by someone who refused to repeat them, but she felt proud at the same time. She held her friend and the person she had chosen to mentor in the same way she did before, with the thought that she could be that babysitter or tiny parent again in making it right, even if it was the harder sort of way a hard time Penitatas bought themselves through their crimes.

Still, that temper made Emily worry, hand raising under her chin in a moment of thought.

If you’re not alright with that Zach, you’re allowed to say so.”, Kayla spoke up through the silence as she finished toweling her vulpine feet dry, tail still pointed her mother’s way to not be able to see the cautious contemplation she was giving her offer. Hugging the inoperable toy of less safe proportions than he theorized, standing at Kayla’s side and unused to seeing all her bare orange fur, Zach held quite the timid face above her bent figure.

That screen could have been your face, or Jacob’s.”, the older of the foxes didn’t wait for his response to add exactly like that “big sister” leaning beside the bathtub before. It was such a light scold, protective and reminding. She wasn’t wrong… that hover-ball had bounced off of Zachary at some points, and almost clipped Jacob on the pass that destroyed the console’s display, likely already dead and lifeless at that point. If it had crossed his snout…

You’re very right.”, Zachary more openly admitted of his errors in judgment than he normally would, leaving out anything that could sound like a plea. No – he wouldn’t say aloud that he thought Kayla didn’t have the right. Just like Jacob could paddle the hell out of Stephanie, the twit. He was going to be spanked anyway, and if he was to be honest with himself, Emily was a little scary when she wanted to be.

“… Alright Kayla, Zachary’s spanking for this one is all yours, but I’m going to stay right here.”, Emily relented of her worries, rectifying them with the unspoken notion that her daughter was going to be watched. She’d remain the primary licensee for this, and Kayla could demonstrate her abilities and parental judgment while under a microscope, if this was to be her choice. Jacob’s mouth crooked a little, feeling bad for the guy as uncomfortable and apologetic as he looked, standing there so cornered.

If it’s any help Zach, I still think it’s a really smart idea for a toy. You got this far, so I’m sure you could make it safe. Definitely try again.”, the Karrian physician remained that positive voice, wanting to be a source of encouragement if he was to be stuck listening to nothing but his mistakes. It was the least he could do, almost instinctively taking the counterbalancing role if it was to be his own partner doing the negative reinforcement he was all too familiar with Penitatas getting.

Thanks sir.”, Zach still sounded downtrodden with the amount of trouble he was in, but still managed to crack a ‘sir’ into it to be playful… and respectful, as much as he could have used those kind words.

Fur exploding into a ruffled mess from the haphazard toweling, Kayla brushed some of it back or down with her paw in a walk toward her closet once she had stood back up. Thoughtful of her tail and her lack of dress, she just made some effort to step properly and maintain her dignity for the moment while she was busy with her duties. Towel falling to the floor for the moment, the eight year old Aspatrian scanned the far left corner of her closet where some boxes and articles were tucked, and almost right away she pulled out a tiny, exceptionally thin paddle. Often times referred to a “helper paddle”, as light as the thing was for any parent’s hand to spank with, a six year old hacker better knew the thin piece of blonde wood as a “swatter”, as Emily liked to call it at the time. The simplest of any Penitatas household’s disciplinary items, it was akin to a replacement for one’s own hand, and something you could spank with for an incredibly long time without going deeper than the skin’s surface. As such, it had one heck of a sting to it, and didn’t make as short a spanking as other things. In Kayla’s case, it was left there in her room the last time it was used upon her for a “reminder” sort of spanking before bed, for a misbehavior she had already been punished for earlier in the day… unfortunately during the time period she was still nursing blister remnants as one of the few, thankfully lighter acts of corporal punishment laid down when her parents were going easier on her, post-Velius.

I think this would be the best thing for someone my age to use.”, Kayla wiggled the small featherweight instrument in her paw, bringing Zachary to fold his ears and look sorrier, but surely not whine aloud. He expected something worse, but he had one of those trademark Penitatas spanking tools at home, considering Patrick’s claws were too sharp to risk slapping his backside with his own bare scale – the household equal to a sound handspanking, if used mildly. It made a hot bottom quite easily, and so comfortably on the parent’s end. Lack of adult strength would not be a factor for Kayla with something so easy to use, and she seemed to know that.

Without fanfare, the bare furred fox stepped back toward her inactive computer console and the chair Zachary had shoved, giving it a little spin to sit down upon it. Settled into her seat the same as she always was for her coding, tail slipped through the hole in the back, she formed herself a modest lap and set the helper paddle down on the ledge her console controls formed beside her; a fitting place for Packet-Storm to apply her first act of true parenting, before the device she carried with her from one life to the next. Her own swivel chair as a growing woman and consultant a staging place, Kayla crossed her arms and gave Zachary the gaze of both of her eyes, standing there so uneasily. The stare so simple and without a word of a scold, the boy got the message and reached toward his tail to lose his peach briefs again, returning to the fur-only state he was already so used to.

It’s a small lap, but it’ll do.”, Kayla instructed without so much as an actual verbal command, merely using her right paw and a single finger to wave him forward to lay down. She was right pawed and he had never been punished by her, so she felt it was nice to remind that it was the right direction to come from.

Jacob leaned against his fox’s desk to let her take charge and keep out of the way for now, watching from his place as Zachary stepped from the crumple of his underpants and set his ball down. His place in the world as a boy-loving sort of man made positioning himself over Kayla’s lap a more muzzle-warming experience than he would have anticipated, seeing that it was the closest his groin had ever come to a female’s more intimate strands of fur; not that he was at all close to anything in reality, and was just being squeamish with the feeling of his sheath pressed into the side of his fellow Aspatrian’s thigh. Not used to such a thing either, Kayla had to scoot around a little on her seat to find a comfortable position, using her paws in trying to help get Zach situated, resulting in a moment of bouncing before they were settled. The boy’s black-socked legs and black-sleeved arms hung from both sides of the computer chair’s seat with the dangle of his head; tail not joining his muzzle with the quick, authoritative-feeling grasp of his rugged vulpine tail by an older paw. Almost the same as Emily, knowing exactly where to grab and pull, the brush of clean fur was pulled up the black stripe of the boy’s back to end up with bare, exposed vulpine haunches; a boyish kit’s bare backside, right up to the exposed hint of pink tucked just beneath the base of his tail. Not pulled as taut as Kayla’s sometimes was, being gentle with that aspect, the partly exposed hint of tailhole still came to abruptly clench with a downward jerk of that restrained tail, even if it didn’t escape Kayla’s fingers.

Right away did Kayla begin spanking, and without a single warning – much less a quiet moment’s reach for the helper paddle she left at her side. The lightly scowling fox started things off with just her right paw, slapping it harshly for a young, yet likely stronger than average girl. Not something anyone in the room at all expected, especially Zachary, the six year old’s face scrunched with a soft, pained whimper, wiggling his legs a bit with a lift of his muzzle.

Y-your paw too? But… that paddle!”, the Penitatas complained for the sake of his rear, trying to ask the girl what she was doing, aside from the obvious notion that she planned to spank him in more ways than simply the one.

Kayla was raising her paw a fair ways to deliver spanks at a level she felt would be appropriate for a Penitatas that was bad, letting her wrist slack a bit with a cupping, loose flex to the swing of her short, nimble feminine fox fingers. Each blow was a sharp one, stinging fairly strongly to leave an Aspatrian paw-shaped welt in its hot wake, jumping from side to side at a slow, very steady pace. Only eight and a half years of age, a basic spanking from her wasn’t the worst for sure, but sting and heat accumulates quickly, leaving Zach already feeling distinctly smarting under such weighty, exceptionally crisp smacks. She knew what she was doing, again learning well from others’ mistakes. When Kayla was mandated to be the living Spanking Suzie doll to a class of would-be parents trying to get their licenses, one of the human participants spanked her so poorly with their hand it was ridiculous; stiff, and far from a slap. They were afraid to touch her. Not Kayla – she held no qualms over slapping a bare haunch, and surely not right now!

My paw is so you can pay good attention to what I have to say! This is just a warm-up, and you’re going to be participating!”, Kayla elaborated as to why she was spanking with her paw so firmly, but also so slowly. More than just applying the punitive dues a hard time Penitatas was required, she had a lecture to give, and Zach wasn’t getting out of replying to what she had in store for him. It seemed her old temper voice would be her “stern mother” voice as well, bringing Emily to crack a curious look at the sight of her daughter glaring down at the back of Zachary’s head, paying attention only to him.

Trying to finish the thing in a rush is bad enough, but that also means you didn’t test it! You can’t call it safe if you had no idea how well the thing would work!”, the sharp mind of the fox’s began picking apart as Zachary’s awkward, strained whimpers had his muzzle wrinkling with his eyes clenched shut, wincing at the deft smacks of her paw.

So, young man, what was your first mistake that makes spanking you deserved?”, Kayla went from her observant sort of scold right into a question, using ‘young man’ with a harsh ring to her tone to make it sound like Zachary was quite obligated to respond. It was a nod to what she learned from Emily, for sure. Those red paw-prints growing in quantity, Zachary tightened up, squeaking like he was trying not to cry; something rather hard for him, and not working so well as badly as those organic, very real slaps were milking at his tear ducts.

I never should have tested eeee’iit – in your bedroom!”, the consistent spanking made Zach say very quickly, breaking one of his words from the jarring sting of a hard, harsh slap of a young paw low upon his backside. Emily had already chided him that he shouldn’t have thrown anything at all, leaving him sure that was an appropriate answer.

And, for it, he was treated to a flurry of quicker, even harsher feeling whips of the fox’s talented paw – seemingly good for a multitude of uses, as dexterous and surgical as it was. An odd seven smacks across his bottom and tops of his thighs made Zach buck lightly, yelping a whine that rolled into a hiccup, and deeper into a loose sob at the resuming of the slow, arduous pattern that just made the stinging heat worse with every impact.

Something I hope you’ll never do again, but that wasn’t all you did! Other than throwing that thing, putting you guys in danger, what else did you endanger yourself with?”, Kayla went on with her back-and-forth style of lecture as if it was some sort of nature, pulling Zachary right into his own punishment – making the boy actively pay attention, and hopefully learn, even if he wasn’t the sort to embrace such correction as others. His black paws clenching, trying to grab hold of some part of the chair with his ears gnashed back in a firm fold, that nasty droning slap was beginning to remind Zach of Misses Rembrant’s ‘welcome spanking’.

“… T-the way I made it?”, he shot from his maw with a stumble, not feeling certain of the answer Kayla was looking for that time. It did nothing to ease her paw, making that steady slapping sound of paw-pad to fur and boy-haunch continue with his pained whines; jaw and vulpine lip quivering, crying at least softly. He had been spanked by those tepid blows enough times for it to start rather hurting.

I have no idea if you did anything dangerous building the thing. It was something I saw.”, Kayla tipped her head with a slight wrinkle to her muzzle in scolding down at the fold of Zach’s ebony ears, firm and with resolve. The figure over her lap shuddered when she felt a sharper, stronger sob leap through Zachary’s belly; that bottom she was slapping at shifting under her stinging spanks.

Having no clue what Kayla meant, and what answer was right, Zachary growled out of frustration; a sound that broke into another series of sobs, and a quick, hasty, “Ow!”.

You’ve got time. Think.”, Kayla invited as if her paw could just keep going as it was. He was a Penitatas – it sure could. Making much more sounds under the punishment of the girl’s paw, Zachary reached back with his right paw just to have it pinned and blocked by the older fox’s elbow restraining his tail. Something she spanked him fairly hard for, twice – one to each side of his bottom.

Ow’ – ah’oow!”, he boyishly cried out to the heavier slaps, showing that Kayla had more up the sleeve she wasn’t even wearing, as bare furred as he was.

It couldn’t be fair, could it? Zach couldn’t imagine anything else he had done wrong… Kayla wasn’t the sort for trick questions, was she? Something to let her spank him longer with, so her mother wouldn’t be the wiser? That didn’t seem like her… no…

Kay’, tai’ea – I can’t think, please stop!”, he shortened Kayla’s name inside of one of his little yelps, giving the Aspatrian equivalent of ‘please’ with his request for a break. When she failed to reply, toasting the palm of her paw like it hurt him more than it did her; something that was distinctly true; the painfully slow and predictable slaps of even such a young kit’s paw brought Zachary to kick his legs with sobbing cries out of desperate need for that painful burn to ease.

I could’a tripped – pushing your cha’iiee-air – I don’t know!”, Zach’s painstricken muzzle began spouting possible reasons for Kayla’s lecture point and how hard she was being on him despite saying she understood it was an accident he didn’t mean, words damaged by his own cries.

In that split second later, the paw didn’t return to the roast of his haunches, leaving several prickling, burning paw-prints all over his backside. Instead, he heard a tiny sound… ‘clack’.

Then, there was a far louder sound snap of wood, and a red-hot explosion of sharply stinging pain to match.

You – grabbed – a – metal – object – stuck – inside – of – a – damaged – high – voltage – panel – with – its – power – still – on!”, the consequence of not being able to identify his own misdeed came in the form of Kayla’s old “mother’s helper” paddle in its thinnest, most punishing of glory, slapped so powerfully against the orange fur of his bottom with each and every word to emphasize what the correct answer truly was; burning sting leaping tenfold, coupling all of those loud spanks and chiding words with his own six year old howl of shrill lament.

Though it all looked way, way worse than Kayla’s paw once she became truly serious in lecture, it was the words themselves that made Jacob and Emily stand a little taller where they were leaning, pupils shifting on them with the melting change of their expressions. It wasn’t the sort of thing either of them would have thought of, and they never would have noticed. Thoughts elsewhere, and technological knowledge lacking in Emily’s case, it never dawned on anyone but Kayla that Zachary had an incredible breach of his common sense as an engineer, considering touching the metallic shell of his home-brew toy could have electrocuted him when he tried freeing it from the polymer-glass it was embedded within. It was a fine detail only a sharp mind and all-absorbing perception would notice, even if her emotions had been so terribly thrashed. She knew her console after all, even if she wasn’t a full-spectrum engineer, to know that panel was not to be trifled with. No wonder she was lecturing the way she was, and still seemed so mad, even if she wasn’t angry with Zach…

You could have been killed!”, the elder fox scolded so harshly from the heart with a pause in her spanking, getting the words through to a much lower hanging muzzle, sputtering so many hastened and liberal sobs. Through the duty she set forth to do, that long set of slaps from her swatter paddle were as crisp and firm as she could manage, only getting better at spanking with it as she went through the sentence to leave one heck of a fire Zachary wasn’t anticipating. Hurting so much worse than her paw alone, it was the blaring stings and prickling glow of after-burn from each smack that got the boy’s “crybaby” tears flowing with more earnest, showing his paltry ‘3’ on the P.J.D’s pain-tolerance scale. The only sound left in the room being the boy’s crying, paws trying so hard to reach back and stymie the firm spanks from his friend, Zach tried to look back over his shoulder and speak.

Kayla – Kay’ no! I used to tell w’-what was energized b-by touching them all-… ”, he had begun with his tearful voice, trying so hard to explain away his reasoning for doing what he did as a normal electrical engineering trick, only to yipe aloud and buck in Kayla’s lap with another two well-placed spanks of the thin, venomously stinging paddle – hard on his sit spot.

Don’t you tell me no!”, the girl that wanted to be that pillar of a guardian to him absolutely demanded, raising her voice as the authority figure standing firm against such defiance. Zachary’s crying picked back up with a yowl, matching a fresh, renewed crack of light wood against soft, boy haunch.

You – are – six! Do not – ever – make Jacob need to try and restart your heart!”, that firm paw laid down law, giving a hard three with saying the boy’s physical age, and a far harder bonus dead center with ‘ever’, bringing the kit to kick his legs in a sobbing, squealing tantrum against such a god-awful sting.

The meaning of those words of lecture being heavier, and containing his name, made Jacob lift his right claw to his chest and sigh… very glad that wasn’t what he had to do, after having had such a surprisingly good time with Zachary outside. He really was a nice guy, so lively and full of fun. He was such a kid at heart, Jacob didn’t feel like he had to worry about being judged for acting his physical age, letting the things he repressed and didn’t allow himself to do to seem more normal and allowable. He hadn’t said so, but he kind of wanted to invite Zach over on a rainy day – give Ki`rene plenty of heads up that there would be a muddy disaster on her claws. Even Kayla’s own mother couldn’t help but just cheer her daughter on inside her head, having taken more than charge – she took the role of parent.

I-I-I-eee’m so-… !”, Zachary’s initial word garbled into his own yelping attempt to apologize when the moment of reprieve from Kayla’s spanking resumed without her slapping the paddle firmly down upon him amid a lecture, sinking into spanking with it for punishment’s sake.

Promise me Zach!”, Kayla commanded of her Penitatas in the roles the two shared, wanting him to never again think that his old way of touch-testing for live current as a rugged engineer would be appropriate for a tiny child’s body. Zachary squirmed and kicked so much, and so hard, the girl could hardly land proper smacks as they fell awkwardly around his thighs in passing, catching him all around his legs where the thin wood could give him a brisk whip.

Prom-m-mise! Ma’am!”, Zach screamed in desperate acceptance, grasping the girl’s current place and that Emily’s prior lesson applied here, surely. His bottom’s cheeks were becoming a rosy red from so many firm smacks stacking one after the other, crying in such incredible earnest with his maw open from the duress, sounding like a toddler in the way his howling cries wobbled and rolled. Though that strong sear of toasted Aspatrian skin wasn’t visible through his fur, all those scattered paw and small paddle welts and marks radiated quite a heat.

The boy’s physical resistance had gotten to be a bit too much though for an eight and a half year old, even if the session of discipline was very serious to her and she was trying her hardest. Once she felt like she was struggling to do what she needed, Kayla stopped and took a deep breath to rest and relax a moment, figuring Zachary would do the same even if his squirrely digits wanted to grasp and rub his bottom so badly; the thin paddle leaving no throb to dull the fanned embers across his skin. With a turn of her head, blue eyes met brown, lightening the look she had across her muzzle in leaving some of that scowl behind with her lecture.

Babe, could you give me a hand?”, Kayla more quietly asked of Jacob with a note of public affection, pointing down at Zachary’s slumped head dripping tears down his muzzle with a couple shakes of her old helper paddle.

Not minding that Kayla could call Jacob such sweet things in this new childhood they got to share, free of her Penitatas status, Emily would have thought the question was outright cute if not for the fact she was sure the poor once-Starfleet officer wouldn’t touch negative reinforcement with a ten foot pole. Stephanie Galmar was an exception – even she knew that. Her mouth crooked, waiting to see if she’d need to step in and say something to rescue the scaled boy, but…

Yeah, it looks like it’s about time for that.”, he replied with a hint of a smile, almost like he wanted to chuckle out of the empathy he held for Zachary. One of the mother’s eyes squinted.

Not proud, nor wanting to cause pain, Jacob stepped from his spot next to Kayla’s desk and got down onto his knees beside the computer chair. Before he even said a word or attempted to do anything the younger boy might not like, he patted Zach’s shoulder firmly, like a word of encouragement. It was written all over his face that Zachary’s crying bothered him, but there was something pushing him forward.

Go on, lower those arms. Let me hold your paws, or your wrists.”, he came to ask gently, lifting his claws; something he had done once, when forced to hold Kayla’s after a lapse in judgment involving a warp core. When the smaller fox merely replied with a sorry sound, whining through his tears, Jacob let his brows stiffen.

Zach. Paws.”, he pushed more firmly, making it sound more unmistakably like a directive that needed following. The tone of Commander Vasse got Zachary’s reluctant fingers to leave their rearward reach for his bottom, cracking his eyes open into these tear-filled slits to find a young green scaled face that didn’t match those words.

I don’t want to be like that, but… you need to do as you’re told. It’ll be over soon.”, Jacob allowed himself to sound understanding and apologetic as the two came eye to eye so close, taking hold of Zachary’s wrists as they were offered to him to restrain.

While he took the light route as a friend, he still joined in with Kayla as a member of the process. There would be no “I’m sorry” for using those more commanding words, not wanting to impede upon the strict discipline a hard timer was expected to get. He knew how this worked, and that Kayla was the warden right now… he had to be firm too, if he lent his claw. Zachary just had to accept the whole thing until he was released, no matter how much his water-works sent droplets to leave trails down the thin satin fur of his muzzle in gravity’s pull toward his nose. Getting a solid grip on those furred wrists since he was only seven and the younger fox was sure to pull, Jacob slid off his knees in sitting down upon the floor in that empathy he held.

“… Tuck in against my shoulder.”, the Karrian offered in a direction of a different kind, going cross-legged with a pull of Zachary’s arms toward his lap in order to get a little closer. The fox and his saddened, pained face eased into the doctor’s shoulder; forehead against it for his muzzle to dangle downward, held in a way that might bring some comfort if Kayla was to get purely punitive with her spanking – that sprinkle of what wearing those ‘P’s were about, paying for his crimes beyond his young age’s misdeeds. Jacob had held Ninne’s claw before too… he didn’t mind being helpful to Zach as well, if he was to assist his partner in making him cry.

While the Karrian and Aspatrian pair gave one another a glance amidst Zachary’s hiccups and softer sobs, communicating without words in the same way that made their relationship get caught in the first place, Emily had to cover her mouth with the raise of a hand; lips tucked between two knuckles. Kayla and Jacob were rejuvenated adults, sure, but they were still single digit ages…

To have such teamwork and maturity? It reminded her of she and Alex’s dynamic, but with a flavor of the pair’s own. Is this how Kayla intended to form that family she said she wanted? Jacob would put his command pin back on, to be that sort of dad with her? Were they really that close?

The calm was broken by a whimpering boyish yelp and weak series of sobs; Kayla giving Zachary some kind warning before resuming by patting the helper paddle across his bottom. It made him tense up and damn near hug himself against Jacob in the way he dangled over Kayla’s lap and that chair, so deeply not looking forward to this. He was given good reason, when that paddle left his fur and snapped back toward it.

With there being no reason left to be slower or lighter, Kayla could use that lightweight spanking tool to its higher potentials as a quicker sort of sting-applicator. Eyes down upon Zachary’s bottom, watching it jump and wiggle to keep on target and be careful while she learned, the girl picked a tempo and tried holding to its brisk pattern of leaping from cheek to cheek. Against Jacob’s shoulder, Zach’s teeth grit hard to show his fangs in ways he never normally did as a vulpine boy, but his lack of ability to tolerate things that hurt that much opened that muzzle of his up again fairly fast.

Ah’nn! Ah’owww! Ow – ow!”, the pitch of his cries grew with every syllable he slipped from his maw, getting vocal with the liberal sound of wood slapping soft flesh filling the bedroom.

This time around he was well held, and while his legs stiffened and tried kicking, he couldn’t seem to move his body enough to at all evade the slapping dance of the paddle. The stings of the helper paddle so sharp, each spank was like a fresh new bite to linger around the last, and while the older Aspatrian went from side to side as she too used to be spanked by her mother, she didn’t mind changing up exactly where the thin face of paddle would strike. It could be low, high, or even reaching out toward the sides of his haunches to delicately paint a picture with only the color red; her mind seeming to keep track of where spanks should go to keep it strict, heavy, yet equal all around.

It was confounding how much Kayla’s spanks hurt! She wasn’t as strong as Patrick – not even anywhere remotely near it! But… the technique was there, feeling something so profound in each swat that made it just sting to the absolute highest of hell. That skittering burn staying atop his skin from the paddle not driving any weight or forces down into his muscle, the pain just lingered there and nagged so intensely, and every smack made it so much worse. It scorched bad enough to make Zachary’s cries less coherent as the moments continued passing, yelping and making these little screeches in the heartfelt way he put his laments into his tears. Kayla’s talented paws could learn the helper paddle’s ins and outs just by using it briefly, and Emily’s experienced eyes could see the snappy use of wrist she had going.

Kay-lllaaaaa!”, Zach called out against Jacob’s pajama top and down toward his lap, crying not his hardest, but with a degree of urgency that spoke of how awful her punishment venomously burned. He wanted it to end right there, but… he was a Penitatas. Even the person keeping his wrists held knew that. She carefully went on, and Jacob just calmly stayed with him as the paddle called out alongside so many squeaks and sputtering sobs.

And, as fast as Kayla was getting the feel for the simple device, she did so figure she’d try something new entirely. In forming a pattern of her own, squeezing Zachary’s tail a little tighter to keep from getting smacked by its persistent attempts to thrash, the Completatas began using the swatter in pairs.

Snap-SNAP! - Snap-SNAP! – Snap-SNAP!…

One instantaneous jolt of lighter sting was slapped a second time much harder, changing the entire feeling of the spank to feel like one bigger swat with an edge that burned far more uniquely. That got the boy’s legs trying harder to kick, and his muzzle to open wider. Kayla spanked on, and Zachary slipped into that sort of bawling he was known for – well punished for what he had done, even if he’d walk away from it without a single hint of a bruise or lasting welt. Sheath ground into the thigh of a girl for the first time in his life, bucking and squirming, Zach ceased his attempts to plea once his voice was all but gone from him, and only the tearful sounds of a little kit remained. It might not have been the hard bawl his fathers could put him in, chest leaping and bounding, but it sounded so frustrated and desperate with the way his sobbing hastened and sharpened.

Aaaahhh’ha-ha-haaaa… ”, all he could do was cry, nose watering and muzzle wiping tears upon Jacob’s pajama top, ears folded so hard they were growing sore.

The helper paddle made for a longer spanking, feeling a surgical sort of creep straight up the valley of his vulpine haunches, carefully spanking the wood slightly within the crease where Kayla could reach to add stings where stings hadn’t gone. That was an awfully special sensation, but it was a return to his sit spot that made his figure want to roll over; those snapping pairs of wood-sounding cracks biting him so harshly.

Eliciting a high pitched whine as if he was going to swallow the pain down, Zachary failed as that sound rolled into such a quiet, sorry sort of vulpine howl.

Aaaaaarr-oooooow… ”, came so oddly soft and with a boy’s tearful sobs, far from the loud sort of howl they were all familiar with hearing. It was like a lost puppy’s sound, feeling like an apology and cry of lighter punitive despondence. It didn’t hurt to the bone, but it stung tremendously… and that was all Kayla needed.

The only sound to come after was another soft ‘clack’ of wood upon the metallic surface of the sleeping computer console’s controls. Kayla took the back of her paw to Zachary’s bottom, checking in a couple different places to feel the heat and see just how broad she might have placed her splotches of cherry red. Just a little on the tops of his thighs, with the more important and tender parts of his haunches getting the bulk of her spanking, just as she aimed for. Taking a deep breath, having found a hard time Penitatas’ spanking to be more draining than she imagined, Kayla eased some of her more usual smile back onto her muzzle in getting to focus on other things with her departmental duties to Zachary’s silver ‘P’s aside. She pulled his tail toward her instead of over his own back, resting it partly against herself so her right paw could stroke and pet through its long strands of fur comfortingly.

That’s it Zach, all done. Let it out, and it’ll stop burning so bad pretty soon. This is the kind that goes away easier… I really was good to you, trust me.”, she was right back into being Kayla the friend and adviser of all things ‘penny related, wanting him to know the spanking was mild and only involved his upper layers of skin. It might burn rather bad now, but in time he’d be pretty alright.

Behind that hand Emily covered her mouth with, there was something else she couldn’t help but smirk about. Kayla really was good to him. She delivered a very sound spanking, but for what Zachary had done to her most cherished possession, he never did stop receiving the benefits of being her daughter’s chosen friend.

She never spanked beneath the base of his tail.

Not even once.

She was in charge, and if she really wanted to make him howl, she still had full capability, regardless of her age with the level of thoughtful technique she was willing to apply. Kayla chose instead to do everything but, not making her punishment a personal one. It was quite a nod, and perhaps her own empathy in giving the boy only what she felt was right.

In letting Zachary’s fire-brushed bottom cool down and his crying ease naturally, Jacob keeping him still over Kayla’s lap while she brushed and stroked his tail soothingly, the trio stayed together another minute while the youngest of the foxes got his wits about himself. Per usual he looked a well-spanked mess, needing to have his nose and eyes wiped once he was allowed up; something Kayla was happy to do, glad she didn’t have to suppress her urges to do that for him this time. Sure enough both she and Jacob were whacked at least twice each by the rough flail of a boy Aspatrian’s tail, but that didn’t bring about anything more than a few stiffened blinks or casual bats of a paw or claw. Still in his guilt, and things awkward between he and his companions, Zach did take his tail into his own paws, bending forward in a shrunken sort of way like he’d hide his face in the white of its tip, sniffling and lightly sobbing.

You wipe your nose on your tail and I’ll put you back over my lap.”, Kayla joked lightheartedly once she got up from her computer chair, getting a faint shake of Zach’s head that he wasn’t doing that. Emily catching the older fox’s attention from the doorway, she used her hands to make a gesture similar to tapping on a datapad in the air with a rearward toss of her thumb in inviting her downstairs for another session in PACS. Nodding back, Kayla figured she should wrap things up on this end before taking her leave.

Hop up on my stool. You can give me a little time on there while you calm down, and we can go back to our night the way we planned. I’ll forgive you like it didn’t happen, just be truthful with your dad so you can come back over and help me replace that panel.”, Kayla took Zachary up on his offer to see if he could borrow Patrick’s electrical engineering tools, seeing as she didn’t have any of the spanners and scraps her old home used to be littered with. Zachary wanted to whine, but figured that wouldn’t be nice after what he had done… Kayla was cutting him such a break, he’d just have to swallow and bear that thing’s stupid pointy wooden pyramids – why the girl still had such a thing in her bedroom he could never guess.

“… ‘Kay.”, he whispered out between a few sniffles and other sounds, letting go of his tail to take his place in the corner of the room beside the door. Emily cleared her throat, having to lift her arms to tuck them against herself.

You also won’t be playing any of those console games tonight.”, Emily added her own stipulation and change of rules, prompting Kayla’s ears to fold part way back as she walked behind Zachary.

Mom, I’ve got this.”, she lifted a paw, voice part way seeming to want to whine like an eight year old. Emily knew she wouldn’t like this, or add it on her own.

I’m afraid not honey. Balanced, but stricter… remember?”, the human mother eluded to their discussion earlier in explaining why it was absolutely mandatory that they did such a thing, as much as it might have felt like punishing she and Jacob. As a Penitatas, Zachary had no business enjoying his Completatas friend’s extended privileges if he hadn’t been perfectly behaved. This was when things were to be taken away, in the parental roles they shared. Knowing well what her mother was cryptically trying to explain in front of the Penitatas they were both trying to care for, Kayla sighed disappointingly out of her nose, letting those ears of hers tip all the way back in the same sort of apologetic expression Zachary tended to take.

Sorry Zach.”, Kayla relented to Emily, begrudgingly accepting that it would be inappropriate to let him play video games them after all that.

It’s okay… I’ll just watch.”, Zachary sniffed and got off of his stiffened lips, just thankful he could spend time with his friends still… and that he still had them, after making the kind of mistake a heart would stop over. She and Jacob could do what they had planned to do tonight without him interloping anyway – now less of a burden.

Climbing up the back side of the CornerStool, Zach took his stabbing, prickly seat as gingerly as he could manage. The wooden surface so greatly uncomfortable even under normal circumstances, doing so while his skin was still feeling of uncountable insect-bites was a fair enhancer of his pain; so told by the sullen whimper he made to himself once his muzzle was wedged into the corner of the blue wall and brown of the doorway’s frame. Drooping in his seat, lowering his muzzle into his paw to try and choke back from sobbing at how frustratingly hurtful that stool immediately was, he was surprised by the sudden appearance of something orange in his greatly limited periphery; one with pointed ears and a simple cute face, wiggled about and staring back as if to cheer him up.

Ah… Kay’, this is Mel’.”, the boy tried to gently correct with a weak attempt at a smile amid his tears once he saw the shirt color of the plush, but all that got him was a light nuzzle from Melissa before she was settled into his paws to take.

That’s because I’m bringing Mitsy downstairs with me. He’s a little… loved. I’ll spot clean his lil’ snoot and get him back to you, so keep Melissa company for now.”, Kayla could say in her more usual way, able to start making this more comfortable for him in taking to those other roles that she could; like cleaning an emotional support plush’s tear stains as an ex-’penny friend, held nicely in her own arms while Zachary sank his muzzle into Mel’. With a light hug, he still had someone he could put his face against and cry what little left he needed, not to be abandoned in the corner with no one if Kayla still had any say. He was sensitive enough to need that consistent emotional support, and still seemed rattled by what he had done so unintentionally.

Could you keep an eye on the clock and let him out in ten minutes?”, Kayla turned around with Mitsy clutched to her chest, walking backwards out her door in nothing but her birthday-fur. Getting a nod from Jacob in reply, things able to be taken care of even in her absence, the fox spun back around and rejoined her mother in the dimmer nighttime light of the hallway.

I’ll be right down. Really need to get dressed.”, she suddenly dropped her voice to an awkward whisper, holding an embarrassed contortion across her muzzle with a step toward the bathroom she ran from earlier. As everyone figured, Emily gave her a welcoming hand to go fetch her clothes.

The ‘penny look doesn’t suit you.”, at least Emily could joke over her daughter walking around like that again; the pair parting ways so the fox could have her few seconds of private peace.

After a brief spell, the darkened space of the living room with its one side table light left on was graced by a young figure in a blue nightgown, leaping off the last step of the stairs with Mitsy in her arms. With some energy from her own pride dulling the blow she took in having her old baby literally smashed in, the fox with head-fur dried a little haphazardly came over to the sofa to find her mother waiting. Datapad already logged into PACS with a mug of strawberry milk for her in hand, Kayla was invited to hop right on up for a quiet cuddle all of her own after all of that. Allowed to use PACS solo this time with a watchful eye above, Kayla wrote her first normal report… as unfortunate as writing a red column sort of report felt. Zach’s parents not here to witness anything, they couldn’t leave it to the drakes to write this whole engineering accident into their weekly reporting. Considering Kayla’s old baby could be a museum piece, or shoved into an evidence locker surrounded by force-fields and dogs that bite, causing damage to something that both saved and terrorized Earth so legendarily did come off as… noteworthy, to say the least.

Mitsy given his own sofa cushion, he came to “hold” Kayla’s empty black mug once she was done with it and spending time with Emily, still snuggled into her side with her legs pulled up onto the couch beside her. Done with the sterile and stuffy environment of PACS, the mother undid her ponytail for the evening while Kayla went on to start hunting around the galactic-net for a new display panel to replace what Zachary shattered. The fox seemed at ease and alright, which at least made Emily feel a little better over her trying to repair that whole disaster on her own. The most she’d be able to do is help lift the thing for she and Zach tomorrow, and make sure no one got cut on the old panel when it was unbolted from the chassis of the console.

Watching Kayla loaf with her, warm at her side, tapping away at that screen like she could, just made Emily smile. The fox had done so much to make her proud today, and that was already on the back of what had been a truly perfect month out of her. The poor thing made that awful mistake with her authorization pin, getting herself into such trouble, but she learned a powerful lesson from it that Emily was in no rush to repeat. Getting to share her books and time with Kayla while she was on restriction was surely helpful, and she loved that new toy, but toward the end of it the young Completatas was so obviously miserable, but trying to hide it. She handed Kayla’s console controller back two days early for good behavior, and because she had been clearly punished enough. Taking away all those new things was so hard on her, it was quickly classified as a “worse than being spanked” sort of consequence – that growing young lady already at the stage where some things were worse than getting her hide tanned, with eyes so focused on the future. Tackling Ackart Enterprises to the level of accepting a military contract as only her second job, on top of maintaining her continuing education at school and even home it seemed, put her words from her parole day to action.

You did a wonderful job with Zachary, catching something I sure didn’t, and had Jacob right on board for support. The two of you can really step up to the plate for bigger things, even at your ages.”, Emily decided to chit-chat while the two rested, feeling contented in her own motherly way, just wanting to spend some time with her daughter. A sole light blue eye peered up from her lounging place against her mom’s side, datapad partly propped on the human woman’s tummy.

When we feel like.”, Kayla got to add in an amused way, seeing as the maturity wasn’t a constant. Kids did love to be goofy and play, and apparently even Jacob had some things he wanted to do that his elder half was deeply repressing. It took getting to have sex just to get the guy to admit he’d love to run around in the rain, for pete’s sake.

So when you say you want a ‘penny someday hun, are you like me in hoping to earn a full parenting license? Have a kid of your own?”, Emily thought to ask with a reach of the hand she had around Kayla, giving a rubbing sort of tickle with her fingertips to the young fox’s belly in regard to having her Kensington sterilization undone to have a child of her own. It got a small laugh out of the girl, poking at the datapad with this strong, almost shyly stiff smile across her muzzle.

In the end… yeah, I’d like that.”, she could think to say of the idea, going from one kind of “awesome mom” to another.

“… With Jacob, I have to take?”, the mother came a little more clean in regard to her line of questioning, wondering if that family and end goal involved the Karrian she so deeply cherished. That got a toothier sort of doofy young smile, and a look from the fox’s eye again.

We’ve loved each other this far.”, Kayla could summarize the pair’s relationship so simply and easily, happy she can be honest about such a thing now in this new phase of her life. To kindle that fire and keep it growing and bright was to be their adolescence, growing up to see if they could settle down together. What Emily witnessed in that bedroom truly was their bold intent for the future, seeing Jacob break from his comfort zone to fill the role he’d one day be required to fulfill beside Kayla. The nature of that teamwork was that of a couple, no matter how young they were in body.

Emily chuckled softly after a moment of absorbing how nice that sounded, having a far better idea of how close she and Jacob really were now. That felt a good tick above just “girlfriend”, or some other plain old term. And, even then, the two were still friends to the end, enjoying this childhood they were forced into as best they knew how.

I’ve never told you this, or really anybody but Alex, but… I’ve always been very afraid of rejuvenators. Ever since I was little. The idea of having my body reconstruct itself always scared me for so many different reasons.”, the woman on her first “turn” through the road of life was able to speak of her phobia, and the worry that a rejuvenation would erase her consciousness or leave her “different” in some bad, possibly unrecognizable way. It got a flick of the fox’s closest ear, and an inquisitive lift of a brow.

It really doesn’t feel bad. Tickly, even. Those starship transporters were way worse.”, the Completatas tucked against her finished with a ‘snrk!’, considering how awful she thought being beamed about was at first.

Well, you’ve already made me feel a lot better about it, getting to understand that you’re just a young version of the Kayla Ackart you always were. Jacob too, just seeing how you two can be grown people together, so smart, but still enjoy playing. That it’s still natural, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.”, her mother went on with a pat to her daughter, seeing as she right away wanted to quell her fear with the ‘tickly’ remark about how the booth she was ushered into in the courthouse felt.

I’ve decided I don’t want to go to the oldest age I can, like everyone else, when it’s my time. I want to rejuvenate to eight, so I can be a kid and play with Alex, the same as you two. We didn’t know one another then… it’d be a whole new experience for us, if I can get my parenting license and have a child that didn’t mind looking after us for a little while.”, that light chuckle she had earlier rolled into a slightly more enthusiastic giggle in admitting that she wanted such an opportunity to be a little kid again. Toy stores, running around outside. The technology was too wonderful to waste, just using it for immortality. There was wonder, deeper down beyond just that… the things that clearly helped a pair of troubled hearts, like Kayla’s and Jacob’s. She could get to know her husband all over again.

She didn’t expect Kayla to snicker so heartily in response though. It wasn’t even short – the fox went as far as to slump her head onto Emily’s stomach, lowering the datapad with these heaving jumps of her chest, squirming around like she’d burst into hysterics.

It’s not funny, it’ll be like a vacation, but my voice all squeaky!”, Emily tried to defend of her idea like she’d start laughing from Kayla’s contagious response.

Only if you have a kid? You don’t want me to take care of you?”, the girl’s keen perception so deftly caught, lifting her head to question as if Emily wouldn’t want to be raised by her. She had a good guess why!

Of course not, you’d whip me raw as some kind of ‘penny-payback!”, that notion Kayla held was so quickly confirmed; voices so animated, playing about. Giving the datapad in her paw a little spin, the fox hummed in an awfully exaggerated way.

Well, huh, you did say you were bossy. I could buy you a personalized yardstick with your name on it and everything – it’d be great!”, such teasing did feel so rightfully good in wake of all the times Emily had left her bawling as a Penitatas.

Yeah, no – pass!”, Emily so promptly declined without hesitation.

Even if I think you’d be a great mom. Because you will be.”, that moment of fun turned to a snuggled hug of the fox to her side with her arm, giving some encouragement from the excellent things she saw today. Kayla was only just starting to learn and already doing well, which pretty much told her she was going to do well naturally. She was wholly capable of getting that Penitatas Parenting License. It brought Kayla’s muzzle to tip upward toward Emily’s face, head tipped back with a quick ‘pttt-th’ of a vulpine tongue stuck out the end.

Maybe I’ll get you that yardstick for Christmas.”, Kayla mused aloud, spoken so coolly in the air of friskiness they shared as her nose pointed back toward her tapping digit.

Young lady, if I unwrap a yardstick with my name on it in front of my mother, I’m going to have her chase you around with it and see how you like it.”, Emily got to use the phrase ‘young lady’ in jest for what might have been the first time ever, emulating the sort of parent she used to need to be with her furry daughter. It did feel rather nice to play, especially when some of the events of the day might have been still upsetting Kayla on the inside. The soap incident, loss of her oldest “friend”, spanking another one…

Though that girl settled back in once her attention span was pulled back to the datapad, Emily recognizing a panel on the screen that looked so similar in size as the one Packet-Storm had been rocking from a scrapyard from so long ago. Seemingly thick looking and bulky when not installed into a machine, not being the tiny sort of screen that could just be plugged in, she watched the fox thumb through a series of numbers like she was checking for compatibility. With a couple of taps, Kayla sighed with a rougher, more bothered sounding groan to it… the kind of thing you’d get from a kid if you verbally punished them in some mild way, which made Emily a little worried.

Do they not actually carry it?”, Emily wondered, but the fox’s quick finger sure did look like she was selecting it. It was so hard to read the screen sometimes when Kayla was “at the wheel”, sort of speak.

They do… just glad I’m rich. This one hurt.”, Kayla elaborated as to her concern, finishing the checkout and shipping process with her personal banking pin. Then, with a tip of the screen toward Emily for her to enter the ‘5030’ authorization pin she’d never again type with her own fingers, Emily got to see exactly what she meant. Almost five thousand credits, and a sight that got some prompt sympathetic shock. Sure Kayla could swing it so many times over, but that wasn’t exactly fair in the least. Her fox wouldn’t demand it be repaid by anyone, and if she knew her forgiving daughter well enough, she’d likely never make mention of it again – Zachary never having a clue, much less Patrick and Thomas. No one needed to feel worse, or be punished worse, over “numbers.”

Running a rig with a really specialized panel will do that. Scrapyard trash is free though, so I can’t say I knew about cost when I made that iteration of my baby.”, Kayla chuckled that off more loosely, though her ears tipped from being entirely pert, black tips falling away from the ceiling above.

I can make sure Zach isn’t sore with me tonight for paddling him… figured I’d need to learn how to deal with the aftermath of things like that. Cleaning his Mitsy up should help.”, Kayla used the datapad to gesture toward the plush Aspatrian before setting the thing down, turning her head with a bit more of a look across her face. Those ears actually weakened more, leading Emily to believe the girl’s sheepishly amused sounds a moment ago about the panel were veiling something else.

“… I did have a question I wanted to ask you all evening though.”, Kayla asked very gently, and with a cautiously curious notion to it that reminded her more of a Penitatas looking to admit something they did – something they were afraid to be punished for. A little puzzled, Emily just made a face in reply, waiting.

It’s about Jacob, spending the night.”, her voice lowered a little further, trying to be hinting with her tone. That made Emily nod her head slightly, thinking she was getting the picture. After they came home from San Francisco, she made some hard rules in regard to the Medicalos staying with them in order to stop the behaviors that would have gotten the both of them into such terrible trouble, and they never really touched upon the subject after her parole.

You’re wondering if you can close your door, right?”, Emily took to a knowing sort of tone with a light smirk, rubbing her daughter’s side. Surprisingly, the question made Kayla look almost… guilty. Those eyes so soft and weary, were followed by a shake of the young fox’s head.

I wanted to ask you if Jacob could sleep in my bed with me later.”, she forced her muzzle to cooperate with saying, so deeply uncertain as to how Emily would take it. When it brought Emily to merely stare, Kayla’s head lowered slightly, eyes staring off over the mother’s belly.

“… Back when I was spending the night at Jacob’s old house a lot, I slept in his bed with him. It was nice to have someone with me I could… hold. Be with.”, Kayla’s bit of guilt came apparent, seeing as she meant to come clean over more of the past she had kept hidden for so long, in asking for such permission. They were never checked on by Lory, giving them the ability to sleep together during that time they were just a happy secret pair, bonding and growing.

But, with the thunderous crash of Kayla’s “big girl” paddle, that all ended. The two couldn’t see one another once Jacob was so unfairly grounded, and he lost that unsupervised bed after.

It’s been months since we’ve shared a bed… and I wanted to ask for that, and not closing the door, ‘cause… ”, she elaborated so softly and longingly.

Because you didn’t want to hide or lie about it anymore.”, Emily finished Kayla’s sentence with a bit of a tone to it; one that folded Kayla’s ears, sorry for how things had been. Keeping those calm blue eyes on Emily’s green, she shook her head to affirm that those days were gone; a strict mother taught her Penitatas a hell of a lesson about being truthful. Once she and Jacob’s relationship was found out and she was made to answer to the violation of the justice department’s core guidelines, it was readily apparent that the “sly fox” of Penitatas-old was a girl that could hurt Emily’s feelings with the things she could so casually conceal.

“… Right. I have company, so I promise I’m not asking for-umm… “bad” reasons. I just… want to cuddle him, and pass out. Like the old days.”, she admitted, rolling to a note of optimism in just wanting to be with her guy, managing to look back up and smile in being able to share just how happy getting to sleep with her special person made her as a ‘penny. Like a Kindern and their night-light, there was a distinct comfort in never being alone in an empty bed.

You two were close for longer than I thought. We never did have a talk about that, after I… basically paddled you into silence. I’m sorry. I wish that could have gone some other way.”, Emily’s voice lowered with an apologetic, soft underscore to the message that she didn’t like blistering her beloved child… nor how upset she was, when she lectured Kayla that day. Because her furry blessing was spanked into a corner and hid in her room until their vacation and her parole, wounded into sulking, the two never did talk about what Kayla and Jacob really thought of one another, or even when it all began with them. Looking back at how much Jacob’s arrest freaked her out, the two were surely forming that union already by then; the two kids that could walk together, holding talks for hours on end like fully grown adults. Having missed such an opportunity to better know her own girl and the sort of things she wanted from life made Emily regretfully frown, when at the time only duty could control her actions.

“… I know you’re not eight years old. You’re older than me. Yes, if the two of you want, you may.”, Emily fought that droop of her mouth with a constructive thought, providing a blessing that would make them smile instead. The two weren’t Kindern, and there was no reason to stifle them any longer if they felt bound in rules and mistakes of the past.

That shot Kayla’s black ear-tips right up, splaying the vulpine girl’s whiskers with a happy squeal; the pair sharing a squeeze, and eventually a kiss of a pair of lips atop a short muzzle. They had no idea how Emily would respond, even Jacob wanting to ask, but the fox was sure glad she opened up a little in regard to the “unspoken subject.” While she imagined she still needed to be “good” in the intimacy area, things would at least be fine if she kept it quiet and private like a normal person – or, well, something Jacob said was at least normal, considering people didn’t scream their sex lives to the world. She definitely needed help in knowing what “normal” was.

When the time came for Kayla to leave her mother and bring Mitsy to the kitchen so she could gently wipe his muzzle and cheeks down with warm water, a long anxious quiet had already been broken by a kind voice. Jacob followed Kayla’s disciplinary decree to the digit in how long Zachary would have to face the corner, but the sniffling and choked up boy on that awful stool was permitted to come down by Jacob Vasse the friend – one that quickly invited him to rub his backside while no one else could see. Always to be that sort of Karrian to those who wore ‘P’s around him as a Medicalos, and not even Kayla under any obligation to push her babysitter-in-training role further, things were already slipping back to normalcy once the engineer made this “happy” sort of whimper and began bouncing clear around the room, briskly batting at every tender follicle of fur he could. Tossed his peach briefs once more soothed and calm, all the self-conscious boy could think to say were just more vehement apologies. And, with the promise he’d fix all this the best he could, he began his attempt even while still misty-eyed.

It allowed Kayla to return through the open portal of her door’s frame with not only her properly clothed dignity this time, but the relief that her place as Zach’s trusted friend was not spoiled by her spanking of him. There was a sheet of paper taped over the hole placed in her console display with the word ‘Tomorrow’ written across it, removing the hurtful sight with the simple reassurance that it would be rectified. While Jacob sat on the bed watching, asked by Zachary not to assist him out of principle, the older of the Aspatrians found the fox on his paws and knees picking up every last tiny piece of polymer-glass he could find in her carpet, cleaning up the aftermath of his mistake. Even Kayla’s old “mother’s helper” swatter paddle had been returned to the top of the same box in her closet he saw her take it from… clearly a sensitive, rugged engineer having operated a cleanly engine room, back aboard the Bah’virah. For a boy that never seemed to openly admit his misdeeds out of fear of punishment, dancing around subjects without taking responsibility, there appeared to be things he’d absolutely take full responsibility for. Doing harm, for one.

When it came to Kayla Ackart though, some principles were to be dammed. A well-tidied Mitsy was given a place on her computer chair, and with a brush of fur across the control surface of her console, she gathered loose shards off her key-panel before joining Zachary on the floor to help finish cleaning up. There would be no hard feelings – she’d see to it, personally. The moment those guilty eyes urged Zach’s muzzle to try uttering another whisper-level notion of regret, Kayla threw an arm over his back and hugged him to her side, if she couldn’t console the poor ‘penny the usual way, with him on the floor like that.

Their Saturday night of staying up a little late kicked back off with Kayla and Jacob’s original plan of playing video games together, seated on the edge of the bed with Zachary cross-legged behind them with a clipboard in his lap and a pencil in his paw. Not minding that he had been forbidden to play, Zach enjoyed getting to watch and cheer, laughing and talking with his new friends while drawing as he could. With it on his mind, he had designed a fail-safe for his toy on paper, following Jacob’s encouragement to finish the hover-impulse ball so it could be truly played with. He added a single circuit, using a capacitor with just enough stored energy to impulse the device to a stop in the event of a mid-flight failure. If it died, so would its inertial force. As an engineer it felt like a “written apology”, coupling the serious drawing with the sketchy doodle of one of Earth’s red foxes sitting atop a CornerStool brand seat of punitive wooden pyramids, looking grumpy.

With the naturally reduced attention spans of their young minds, getting lost in their play for the stumbles of the day to become bygone thoughts ticked a clock later and later, until three drowsy rejuvenated children figured it was more than about time to get cozy in their beds. Almost ten o’clock and likely getting well past what Zachary’s bedtime was as a six year old Penitatas, Kayla felt fortunate that Emily seemed to be entrusting her to keep the lot of them on some sort of a responsible schedule, seeing as she never so much as visited the doorway to scold her. Controllers and a clipboard left behind on the surface of the desk, a “Mister Ackart” was invited to bed while a younger boy crawled into his own on the floor with a clean-faced plush. Kayla leaving her bedroom door open as a nod of thanks to her mother, and so she didn’t have to worry about the Penitatas under her care, the room fell dark with only the most gentle of glows from the girl’s window, bleeding around her drawn curtain from the city and those who occupied the skies.

“… So I chose a class for our elective period in school. One the counselor said wasn’t meant for Penitatas, that she tried to talk me out of.”, Zachary spoke out of the blackened quiet of the room, lower and slower as his tired mind turned thoughtful in the bedtime calm they came to share; pillows getting settled and fluffed above, out of his sight beyond his place at the foot of the bed.

I wanted to take warp field geometry, if I was allowed to pick something I could learn this year. Apparently we get punished pretty hard for anything below top grades… I don’t know how that works, or what an ‘A’ really means. I’ll take the encouragement, if the subject is that hard.”, his voice held a little cautious optimism to it, glowing in his young boyish way. Getting to have an education while he was incarcerated was fascinating and scary all at once, but he wanted to put that time they could spend on their desk computers to good use.

Hope you’re good at math.”, Kayla sounded nearly worried hearing that, and she was particularly good at mathematics herself. That was fair step above her own comfort zone, leaving the digital realm to mingle with physics and quantum dynamics.

I can help a little. Command officers were required to know some of that, because of the warp cores in our vessels.”, Jacob could at least offer a claw from his old Starfleet know-how, getting his voice muffled slightly in its bounce off the ceiling. The quiet continued on with the ruffles of fabric as a fox and a lizard settled in, all while Zach stared into the darkness with one paw on Mitsy.

“… I miss only one thing, from my years as a pirate. The stars. I want to be back out in them, going places like I always was. I only left the expanse of the quadrant because I had to, to leave something else.”, the room came to find such soft, yet heavier words of yearning granted to its cozy quietude. Here, and imprisoned to his child’s mind and body, there was no more exploration and adventure of worlds anew. No fun, occasionally boy-endearing places. No freedom.

I’d like to go back… ”, the boy that normally didn’t share because he thought his inner musings were trite in his self-conscious ways did let slip after all the events of the day. Though spoken warm, and so airily delicate, what came after made the rustle of sheets stop.

“… Would someone like me, ever be allowed in Starfleet?”, Zachary asked of the pair with a longing wish held close to his heart so revealed; all that hope in his voice given meaning, alongside electing to take a course that actually endangered his haunches to such a critical degree beyond what the punishment-avoiding Aspatrian would have ever found remotely acceptable. That unspoken inner will was why he wanted to earn everyone’s trust by making a harmless toy with his engineering prowess, and held Jacob with such respectful admiration as a man he wished he could be like.

No, he didn’t plan to be a toy maker. He wanted to learn Federation warp drive technology, and reapply his knowledge to be a starship engineer for a different team. It was a hope he held; a dream; that pushed his vulpine paw when it made the final keystroke that pushed the Bah’virah’s Sterrion-Axial reactor drive deeply into an unrecoverable overload. He was so happy to see those colorful-shouldered officers storm the ship, injured and slumped against a bulkhead with his paws up… smiling, despite his engine room being on fire and having a rifle pointed at his chest. Those were the good guys.

The child that could put on a shawl and pretend it to be a cape, wanted to be a good guy too.

When you finally get to grow up Zach, your record disappears. You could be anything you want.”, Kayla spoke into the darkness of the room, rolling onto her back beside Jacob.

“… If you want to join Starfleet, than I’d say you should. You could be Chief Engineer Weiler, someday. Coming from the other side of the moral line, you’d already have a better concept of right and wrong than half the Admirals serving right now.”, Commander Vasse gave more of his encouragement with nary a moment of thought to it, joining Kayla on his back in their open conversation with at least a hinted notion of disdain for the organization’s command direction; the thing he hoped people like Blaine, and perhaps Zachary, would rescue it from.

Here you are only weeks into being a ‘penny, and you have goals. I didn’t have any until I started clawing and scraping at the idea of getting paroled, so you’re way better off than most of us.”, Kayla could applaud of the concept alone if Zachary already came into being a Penitatas knowing what sort of engineer he wanted to be, and what he wanted to do with his life once his long punishment was over. It surely gave him reason to atone, and could be his grand light at the end of this tunnel he was traveling. Something to “cry for”, and make betraying his old life worth it.

It made young Mister Weiler smile, folding his ears back in such a happy, contented sort of way with a squeeze of Mitsy in his arms, eyes going to vulpine slits of a kit’s cheer. To be told he had merit by the two of them meant a lot, giving his Starfleet dream some tangible form, if he really could make it come true. He’d have to keep on that straight and narrow so he could ask Jacob for a letter of recommendation to the academy one day, but… that day was a very long time from now.

Hey Kay’, how long do you think I’ll be a Penitatas?”, that hope-filled voice returned to the dark, quiet space, brimming with a little Kindern-like wonder and longing excitement. The young fox’s keen ears could hear his vulpine counterpart, friend and mentor both, take a deep, contemplative breath across the room.

With charges like yours, and all those cycles… I guess the worst case scenario for you would be four cycles of hard time, and one of soft, for your full twenty five years.”, the girl wanted to get the more distressing of the thoughts out of the way, knowing a pirate with illegal weapons charges would be imprisoned for a fair while, and harshly punished for the things he had done. Zach… sadly had a lot to pay for.

The one I’d hope for is probably just three cycles of hard time, one of soft, and getting paroled one cycle early.”, was really the best Kayla could even fathom so long as Zach was a good Penitatas, seeing no less than fifteen years of all the heavy discipline a hard timer would see, as hurtful to her own heart as that was. She hated her two years, and that was so much longer. There wasn’t any way around that honest reality, no matter how hopeful. Fifteen Christmases at the least, and a good few different homes and parents – Mitsy nuzzled until he frayed. It brought a stillness to the room that put a lump in she and Jacob’s chests, sympathetic as they could be, but…

Zachary chuckled. It was almost a boyish giggle, the way it still sounded nothing but hopeful. Unlike another fox, he knew he’d be going nowhere any year soon. A patient man, made for a kit that could enjoy the light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of distance from it.

At least you don’t think all twenty five years will be of me getting spanked constantly. That’s awesome.”, he could speak of it, knowing damn well he earned his ‘P’s. That easily made the two in bed more relaxed, as well as happy.

That’s a good attitude Zach.”, Jacob gave one of his soft, single chuckles in response.

Man, I’m going to be a Penitatas for so long, the two of you could be my parents someday, huh? Wouldn’t that be wild?”, Zachary added to his prior musing with a snicker, laughing lightly against Mitsy.

However, that one made nothing but silence. A fox and reptile blinked with a bit of a squint both, turning their heads upon their pillows to look at one another; dull, faint light adding the tiniest sheen to their eyes. They never thought of that, taking into consideration Zach’s sentence compared to that of all their other friends – and here Kayla was, already actively planning for the two of them to become license holding ‘penny parents someday. Lifting her right paw, Kayla began flicking her short Aspatrian digits in doing the math in her head, figuring out the boy’s cycles against that of her own age while she grew up as a Completatas.

“… Your fourth cycle. I’d be twenty three, by then.”, she calculated as the first time she’d be a full fledged letter-less adult, coinciding with the end and start of one of Zachary’s cycles and subsequent visit to the rejuvenator. Stepping out, there would be a new family, with a new home, just beyond the next door waiting to meet him. Jacob’s muzzle parted like he wanted to say something, but instead his maw laid slack, just staring at Kayla.

They really could be the couple in the courthouse waiting room, waiting on the other side of that door.

That’s the one you figured could either be hard, or soft. Whatever that really means.”, Zachary’s voice chimed in below, nonchalantly tossing in context while the other two considered the possibility of that actually occurring – or even being made to occur.

Until that simple utterance, their vision for the future went no further than their aspirations; a home all of their own, settling down with Kayla working to get that ‘penny parenting license to take someone in with. It seemed the light at the end of Zachary’s tunnel, might have been perhaps their own as well. Maybe that “someone” they could give that chance to, could be someone they already knew. If Zachary was correct about parents and Penitatas being paired in certain ways, Kayla could see him being given to an Aspatrian mom first, before others – especially if she opted in as ready and available, the eve of the boy’s eleventh birthday.

That crafty thought brought a sly smirk of vulpine fang, stretching into a smile as Kayla gave Jacob a strong hint of a look.

“… If I get you, and you’re still in hard time, I’ll give you the worst ‘welcome spanking’ of your entire sentence. I’d better see some soft time letters on those paws, so be good and make that happen, got it?”, Kayla gave fair forewarning as to what she expected of her Penitatas, assigning the threat of a strict punishment far into the future; Jacob cracking his snout into a smile, following her line of thought in clearly taking interest in waiting to specifically adopt Zachary. It brought quite the stiffened, crooked sort of awkward smile across Zach’s face with a fold of his ears for a different reason.

“… And I’d help, so you can make that doubly worse.”, Jacob found it in himself to go right along with that, promising another swatting all of his own if it meant pushing the engineer in the right direction to leave his hard time punishment sooner, so he could write him a letter of recommendation for Starfleet Academy all the faster. Being that was coming from the Medicalos of all people, the one that actually encouraged him to rub his fiery backside, it didn’t take a lot of imagination to suppose such a thing would be pretty… severe, if he felt the need to actually lift a claw. That just widened Zachary’s eyes, making that face of his all the more “smiley distressed.”

And you wouldn’t do that to a soft-time sort of guy?”, his voice trembled a little in that cute sort of way.

Welcome spankings are for hard timers. A soft-time guy would get a mug of chocolate milk, and a “welcome home” from his mom and dad.”, Kayla could fall into Zachary’s own optimistic, glowing view of a far future to describe for him to strive for. Soft time would end all the crime-related punishments, like Christmas and scheduled spankings. It would be a strict home, but Zachary would have to be bad to earn anything harsh – and he’d have a great pair of people to ease him into the next leg of his new life.

Guess I’d better stop breaking people’s stuff.”, Zach snickered, given the impression that the couple were taking that thought kind of seriously. That would be pretty cool, having a house and some parents to look forward to, rather than dread meeting.

I’d like that though. I’d take you in a heartbeat Zach-y.”, Kayla gave as some lighter, more thoughtful confirmation that she’d try and make such a thing happen.

Me too. If you joined us in soft time, we’d get to keep you if you got paroled into being a Completatas at the end like Kayla. You’d never have to leave, and I could help you get right into the academy once you were in high school.”, Jacob echoed the same sentiment, far happier over that idea versus leaping in blindly.

You could grow up with us.”, a friendly, feminine voice spoke to the dark with a hopeful smile; that five year stint perhaps getting to be a far longer one by the eleven years of silver ‘C’s to follow.

It was a heck of a thought to pass through three young, vivid imaginations. Something to look forward to, if it could be made real – the goal of a growing couple and debt-paying Starfleet-hopeful meeting at a fated crossroads.

I can only hope.”, Zachary Weiler sealed the deal with his own stamp of approval, thinking of the pair all grown up, and what they could be like.

I don’t mean to keep you up. Pah’nea, go’veh and hai’sa.”, he relented considering the hour, smiling wide in wishing the pair a good sleep in Aspatrian… coupled with the words for father, and mother, in jest. That got the dark space to be filled with another ‘pfft!’ from an older muzzle, and a curl of a Karrian brow, none the wiser.

You too son. Nighty.”, Kayla fired back, rolling over to make Jacob groan in this “oh hell, I get it now” sort of way to what Zach must of said. The two of them would drive him up a wall if they started calling each other such things already, when the mere possibility was still fifteen years away.

The room falling back to small rustles of sheets, Zachary rolled onto his side and closed his eyes for the night, tucking in with Mitsy the way he normally would. There was a hint of dread in his chest for the date with Patrick’s strap he was sure to experience, but he was too tired for the thought to bother him too much. Up on the bed, Kayla reversed the role of a position she and Jacob took on a rainy day, snuggling herself against the Karrian’s back with a nuzzle of vulpine whisker against his neck.

A warm hug, and a calm breath, lead the room to slumber.