STF

Rinker's Office - Jessa's counseling session 2 - Lets talk about the Order - When the past doesn't match the present...or the future

Posted Jan. 17, 2022, 4 p.m. by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) (Kate O'Neill)

Posted by Gamemaster Deus Ex Machina (GM) in Rinker’s Office - Jessa’s counseling session 2 - Lets talk about the Order - When the past doesn’t match the present…or the future

Posted by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) in Rinker’s Office - Jessa’s counseling session 2 - Lets talk about the Order - When the past doesn’t match the present…or the future

Posted by Commander Heathcliff Rinker (Counselor) in Rinker’s Office - Jessa’s counseling session 2 - Lets talk about the Order - When the past doesn’t match the present…or the future
Posted by… suppressed (5) by the Post Ghost! 👻
OCC: Love that you altered the ball game. I am retracting my parts about playing and rewriting it. I sincerely love it when I have to rethink things :) You rock Luke! ~ Kate
OOC: It wasn’t to throw you off… it was for her. - Luke
Ian sat at Lauren’s desk waiting for Jessa to return from her excursion to the gym. He wasn’t sure how thrilled he was at Jessa leaving sickbay but saying this only would make him look like a dork. The gesture was friendly enough and the kid did need exercise. It also gave him the time to catch Rinker up on yesterday. Reclining in the seat, Ian brought up the internal messaging system of the Atlantis.

To: RInker, Heathcliff Commander
From: Bordeaux, Ian Lt. Commander
Subject: Events of last night

Hey Heathcliff,

I am not sure how much you have access to but I am uploading the medical report I got from Evrilla. I’ll sign any release forms you need but for now, I give you permission to speak with

Ian stopped there staring at the screen. Any other time he wouldn’t have batted an eye sending this message but Ian didn’t need the lawyers to tell him things could get ugly fast here. Back up the cursor, Ian decided to hedge his bets and play on the side of caution. He had no doubts of Rinker’s goal to help Jessa but at times people weren’t always on the same page. In fact, maybe no written records of this would be the best. Deleting the message, he went another route. Tapping his comm badge, Ian opened up a line to the counselor.

=/\=Hey Heathcliff, we are heading down to your office at ten but I was going to give you a rundown of the past 24 hours. Apparently, when Jessa left your office yesterday, she got Mardusk to take her to the brig. It was about as productive as trying to make a Klingon a vegan. Mardusk charged Jessa with a laundry list of crimes. JAG is handling that but of course, Jessa has interpreted the unlawful use of Starfleet resources in a blindingly stupid fashion so now we are not only licking her food but bartering for it. He tossed her in a cell I assume to make a point but something else happened down there also we are still trying to figure out. If that wasn’t bad enough he took her on a tour of the ship which went well until they stopped being friends and went back to that oh so special relationship they have fostered. All hell broke loose on the observation deck. Mardusk locked it down so Jessa opted for the chewing her arm out of the bear trap route to get free. Specifically she gave herself a compound fracture as a way to escape and to get medical to intervene. Evrilla worked her magic and fixed the physical aspect but the mental baggage is all yours buddy. =/\= The stress of the situation was easily shown by Ian’s sarcasm. Sarcasm was just a gentler, more polite was to insult someone or a way to tone down criticism with indirectness and humor. It was clear Ian felt some sort of guilt or responsibility that this happened to Jessa so using sarcasm prevented someone from stating this back to him.

=/\=Logic would dictate she wanted to get out of the situation so bad she resorted to desperate measures but I feel like it could be something more. She mentioned something called the Ritual of Cleansing. Probably some delightful activity those nut jobs invented but you seem to be the only one who gets anything but religious rhetoric out of her.=/\= Ian shifted in his seat realizing he needed to have a normal conversation and a beer with Rinker soon. Every time he talked to the man, Ian now felt he was confessing something in a counseling session.

=/\=I felt bad about what happened so I tried to build a little trust after the brig incident. I brought Chris from stellar cartography up to see what we can do about finding where they are from and to get her home. Chris said when he mentioned me wanting to get her back to her mom, Jessa became extremely cooperative. Eventually, we discovered she is claiming to come from the Callieum supercluster. Specifically, a galaxy called Vela Astria. The problem is the nearest part of the supercluster is 1.4 billion light-years away from Earth, while the far end of it is 2.31 billion light-years. The boys down in stellar cartography are acting like it’s Christmas morning and they got the best present ever. Chris isn’t saying it is impossible that they came from there but no one has a clue how someone crosses a distance that is 1.4 billion light-years. It would explain why she is acting like she has never seen a replicator before or a transporter=/\= Ian leaned back in his seat hearing Jessa coming back with Rand.

=/\=Hey I gotta go. Rand took her down to the gym to burn off some energy. I’ll fill you in about that after I talk to him. See you in ten.=/\= Ian clicked off the comm call and walked into the main part of sick bay. He hoped he filled in any blanks that Rinker did not know about.

=================================
Ten minutes later outside Rinker’s office
=================================
“I have no idea why we are back here. I have nothing to say to that man,” Jessa balked outside Rinker’s office. “Heathcliff was nice. The pizza was good but the man doesn’t talk about himself…at all.” It was clear Jessa was looking forward to her second session like most people were looking forward to returning to the dentist for a root canal. She didn’t have the defensive, cross-armed pose but instead opted for the I give up gestures with sagging shoulders and the occasional hand wave at the door to indicate she was talking about Rinker.

Ian debated about telling Jessa therapy was more of an ego-centric conversation instead of a mutual one but decided against it. Instead, he planted the seed to hopefully get Jessa to want to talk. Once she got talking, Rinker was a skilled enough therapist to take her where she needed to be. Jessa could just be stubborn. All the way down here she grumbled and threatened about spending the hour in silence which was the last thing Ian needed. “So maybe ask him about himself. I am pretty sure no one ever asks how his day is. My guess is all they ever want to do is talk about themselves.” He felt a slight pang of guilt knowing Rinker would have to keep redirecting her back to the appropriate topic. Maybe on some level, Ian was just jealous a complete stranger seemed to be getting to know Jessa instead of him. It would change in time but for now, it just annoyed him. Reaching out he palmed the door controls and waited for Rinker to allow them into his office.

Jessa suddenly seemed far more on edge that she was actually going to have to go back into the office. “Look can’t we talk about this. We don’t need him. Fair dinkum mate,” she threw out Chris’ term from last night. The last time she had been isolated with an officer of the ship the results were disastrous. Jessa didn’t have the time or the energy to go through with Rinker what she did with Mardusk.

As much as he was just granted the wish he had been secretly hoping for, it could not happen. “Fair Dinkum,” he responded back as an idea came to his head. “Tell you what,” Ian pulled a comm badge out of his pocket and placed it on her chest. He had planned on giving it to her later but now was as good time as any. “I know you are smart enough to know this is how we communicate with each other. I am sorry about what happened yesterday but if you are wearing this you can contact us no matter where you are on the ship. If you have a problem in there all you have to do is tap this and say “Ian.” As he demonstrated, his badge registered the connection producing the single word Ian out of it. “Go on. Try it.”

Tapping the badge, Jessa produced one sentence. “You know this is an hour of my life I am not going to get back,” echoed through Ian’s badge as she looked up at him with a half annoyed, half resigned look on her face.

Ian Bordeaux and Jessa Novar

The door slid open without a whisper of sound. Ian saw Rinker from his point but didn’t say anything to Jessa. Normally he just yelled enter but for some reason, he met them at the door. There must have been a reason for it and Ian wasn’t going to second guess him. They needed to get inside Jessa’s head and that was what they paid Rinker the big credits for. If Ian had any questions, he was sure Rinker would appraise him on why he did things just like at the end of the last session.

“I want to open with I heard what you said outside. You don’t know how many people say that.” He looked offended.

Jessa was not expecting a third party to the conversation so Rinker’s voice took her completely by surprise. “Holy triffing Elder on the alter,” Jessa yelped jumping about five feet in the air and turning back wide-eyed. “What is it with you all? You are like Chrisven mice,” she let out a small laugh and put a hand to her chest. “Someone needs to issue you all bells or something.”

The levity ended as fast as Jessa saw the expression on Rinker’s face. Jessa felt her tummy knot feeling bad she had basically insulted the man and seeing that Rinker felt bad about her comment. She let the silence hang for a second hoping to get a smile or chuckle from the man indicating he was just teasing her with his comment. Since no one was talking it was obvious to Jessa that Rinker expected a response. “I…I didn’t really mean that,” Jessa looked at Ian for support.

“Mmm, hmmm,” Rinker grumbled, apparently unconvinced.

“I didn’t,” she protested looking back and forth from Ian to Rinker.

Even though he could have easily taken over the situation, Ian resisted. Putting his hands in his pockets he looked down at Jessa indicating she was on her own. Jessa needed to learn who was in charge and when. A rude comment by her didn’t need him to intervene to apologize for her mistake. One day that might happen but right now Jessa was sizing up who was in control and who wasn’t. From Ian’s point of view, Jessa should see everyone but her in control. It was clear by her exaggerated eye-widening, Jessa was hinting for Ian to become involved so a tiny head nod punctuated the unspoken thought between them that she was on her own.

Turning back to Rinker, Jessa fiddled with the sleeves on her shirt pulling it down over the black and blue mark from yesterday and to do something with her hands. No one that wasn’t an Elder ever questioned someone of her status and Jessa was at a loss on how to deal with it. Even if they dared to expect an answer there was always an Elder or Adjudicator nearby to remind that person of their place. Jessa worked to formulate a response but Rinker always seemed to know when she was off balance and when to shift the topic just slightly she had to alter the reply for it to make sense.

“You never get any hours of your life back and frankly how bad was it. We talked, we ate, we drank, and you left. That’s a good hour in most people’s books.” Rinker decided to confront and make her talk right away.

Rinker

“Well yes,” she quickly agreed cocking her head to the side slightly and wore a befuddled expression trying to figure out if she should address his first question of why people said it or his second question of why she said it. “It was but,” her voice trailed off slightly not sure what to say. The problem with Rinker was he never asked a direct question. It was never yes or no with the man but open-ended questions Jessa felt she had to interpret or explain in detail just like the one he said now. Did he want an answer? Was it just a statement? At times Rinker made her head hurt. “Aside from you making me cry it wasn’t terrible. Um, what I mean is,” Jessa felt her mind going blank.

“What did I say the first time. I can’t make you do anything. Your thoughts about what we talked about made you cry. Which by the way isn’t necessarily a bad things. It means you can access your feelings. Normally that’s good.”

“Oh, I am accessing my feelings all right,” Jessa’s tone switched from passive to snarky. “And right now I am not sure it’s exactly good.” Looking at Rinker, Jessa felt her frustration level already being to bubble over. “You just said you can’t make me do anything but the rest of them think they can,” Jessa gave him a sour expression followed by an eye roll. “Like last night,” she cocked an eyebrow at Rinker as she hooked a finger in Ian’s general direction. “He told me to go to bed.” The irritation in Jessa’s voice was clearly evident.

“It was one AM,” Ian pulled his hands out of his pockets and spread them out with an expression encouraging Jessa to press her point. “You were crying your eyes out and I never said go to bed. I said it was time for bed. Big difference. If you want I can show you the difference tonight.”

“Ian, I am not five years old or a citizen,” she shot back imitating Ian’s expression and mannerisms exactly.

“What the hell does that mean,” Ian’s expression changed from daring Jessa to talk to questioning what she just stated. He was trying to play by Rinker’s suggestion to be firm yet not confrontational but at times, like now, it didn’t feel right.

“It means all of you,” she twirled a finger at her security team, Ian and Rinker, “need to understand I am twelve and a Guardian of the Order. I do not need to be told when to go to bed or when to eat or when I can leave my room. We tell you when it’s time to go to bed or eat or walk among the people because you are citizens. Tell them, Heathcliff,” Jessa motioned for the man to speak up on her behalf.

“In this corner of the universe and on this ship a twelve year old isn’t considered an adult.”

Jessa jerked her head back slightly and her eyes widened for a second processing his response wasn’t what she had expected. Rinker had treated her as an equal the last time they spoke so his word choice seemed a bit off. “Yes, but I am not one of your citizens and therefore your cultural expectations do not align with that of the Galactic Union or the Galactic Order.” This response was fast, firm and clearly another canned response she had learned to give almost like a parrot on command. As always though, when Jessa deviated from whatever script she had memorized, her personal thoughts and language reflected someone of her age. “This means I am capable of making of making the choices that suit me the best.” She kept her tone down to overly confident and not arrogant. It wouldn’t help to be sandwiched between two people that disagreed with her. Unfortunately, Jessa could see Rinker gearing up for one of his open-ended questions.

On some level, Ian was enjoying not being the ping pong ball in this conversation. In a different life, he would have used the tried and true paternal response of I said so. That ancient nugget of wisdom however had probably sent half of the juvenile recipients straight to offices like Rinkers. If Rinker had another way to said because I said so, Ian was all ears. Leaning back against the door jamb, Ian got comfortable.

“Never heard of when in Rome… have we.”

“No. Is that another galaxy because again,” she patted her chest, “not a citizen,” she shook her head no as if the gesture would drive the point home.

“The full statement is ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do.’ it really means don’t do things so uncommon as to stick out. But I like to think of it, as if you are in someone else’s home. You follow the rules of the home you’re in. You don’t expect your hosts to follow your rules. It could be considered impolite.”

“Yes but as a Guardian of the Order,” Jessa looked at Rinker and Ian feeling slightly insecure about her next statement, “I make the rules of any house.” Jessa didn’t drop her head but it was clear her own statement made her feel uncomfortable. She said it to produce a response but the response was not one she believed in. The problem was Jessa desperately needed the men around her to see her as an equal.

“Within the borders of your empire. We are outside of that right now. And frankly, do you really think the right thing is for you to tell people what they should do in their own homes? What if the Federation rules were we decided everything everywhere too. How would the decision be made aside from us killing each other.”

Jessa looked up at thoroughly frustrated because he was exactly agreeing with her situation. “Yeah but that is exactly what is happening right now. The Federation is deciding everything about my life because of one wrong that actually almost killed someone. I keep trying to fix it but no one will help me.” Jessa didn’t want to belabor a point that didn’t seem like it was going to change in the near future. Instead, she focused on the why of her actions and words. It felt odd having to explain herself. She actually wasn’t sure if she had ever had to do this before in her life. “As to telling people what to do, I don’t have to do that. People just do…things because they seem me not as a kid but an adult. They don’t question my decisions.” Jessa was visibly uncomfortable. She understood exactly what Rinker was stating yet admitting he was right and she was wrong would only decrease her power and authority as a representative of the Galactic Union. Admitting she hated the way Rogan and the other Elders would use people or take their things without asking served no purpose. She could not change the Elders. Telling Rinker she was going to be better than the Elders might be a better way to go. “They don’t question my decisions because I make good ones. Adult ones. For instance,” she started until Rinker cut her off. Jessa was not angry that he did this. She was spinning her wheels fighting a circular argument where even she did not agree with the points she was citing.

“Your speaking of almost killing someone as if it was a minor event. It was intentional and malicious - perhaps not of your making which is why you are being treated differently than your ‘friends’. There was clearly a secondary gain which we are unaware of… all questions that need to be answered. But we go in circles, since you don’t want to recognize you are here, in the Federation and on our ship.”

“Oh I recognize I am on your ship and I am not a monster,” Jessa glared at him and gave Ian a side glance before continuing. “It was intentional and malicious…and there is no excuse for it but,” she let her gaze drop down to her shoes. Jessa was always making excuses or apologies for the Elders. No one ever wanted to hear them but on some level she understood it. When you were forced from your home simply because someone liked it or your family member did not return home as expected and I’m sorry wasn’t ever going to be enough. “But you can’t fix spilled bluetean. You can wipe it up. You can be more careful the next time. You can hold the cup with both hands and be so careful not to spill a drop but the truth is once you have spilled it all you can do it try to clean it up the best you can. You are in the military,” she looked at Ian but let her scrutiny fall on Rinker, “don’t you have to trust the people above you know what they are doing? Haven’t you ever been in a situation where you know what is happening is wrong but are powerless to do anything about it?” She didn’t want to hear how much better they were than her again. They were mad. They had every right to be angry. Angry just didn’t solve anything. “Oh, I forgot. You are all perfect and everyone does everything right here all the time. Forget what I have ever done right.”

“Doing better next time is all we can do,” Rinker nodded. “That doesn’t erase the past. And no we aren’t perfect, but I’m not the person saying listen to me because I’m an Elder. In fact, the acknowledgment of the lack of perfection is part of the point.” He clapped his hands together. “I’m glad we agreed that both of us are not perfect and both of us can be wrong.”

“But let’s talk of your good decisions, please alert me to them.”

“I agreed to come here again today. I also,” Jessa swallowed not liking the dead air as she thought about her answer to Rinker’s question. “I helped Chris find my home and win a prize. Something called the Noble,” she mispronounced the word so it was an adjective and not the noun indicating the Intergalactic award for physics discoveries. Not coming up with more off the top of her head, Jessa looked up at both men.

Rinker nodded as she spoke, his face squeezing in confusion with the term the Noble. It took a moment for him to translate what she meant, “Its harder to talk about things I have no knowledge of.” Rinker frowned. He wanted her to understand her list of positive actions here wasn’t particularly large and didn’t inspire trust. “That was a couple of things, though.”

OOC: This gets so messy.

Unfortunately, there were not a lot of good things she had done here to tip the scales recently. Jessa twisted her finger in the hem of her shirt fidgeting as she pondered Rinker’s statement. It was true. Nothing she had done here inspired a lot of trust. “Can I talk about what good decisions I have made not here like,” she rapidly continued not giving them a chance to say no. The problem for Jessa was every aspect of her life was so rigidly controlled she had so few chances to make any real impactful decisions that Ian or Rinker would find satisfactory. “I am in charge of the cherubs when they are brought to the temple. They are usually scared so it helps to have me there as the adult to help them along the path. I tell them what they need to do and when.”

“I have to be the adult for them and make good decisions for them,” Jessa tugged at her finger now stuck in her shirt. “For instance,”

“For instance an adult doesn’t need to be told that 1am is too late for them to be up and certainly too late for a 12 year old. So answer me this did you know that 1am was too late to stay up? Or did you chose to ignore that fact to do something else?”

He shoots. He scores and the crowd goes wild. Ahhhhhh, Ian thought keeping his smile at a minimum. Bordeaux had always respected Rinker but until this moment, never appreciated how seamless the man could re-route a conversation back to exactly where he needed it to go.

Oh, trust me I knew exactly what I was doing and it wasn’t a mistake. Chris and I made a choice to have a scientific debate about the celestial labyrinth. It wasn’t my fault it took him a while to catch on to the science and math.” Jessa had a slightly haughty tone bordering on what Rinker might diagnose as a superiority complex. As she pushed some hair out of her face in a very juvenile manner, Jessa looked up to make sure Rinker understood. Instead of wearing a visage of clarity, Rinker seemed to still be pondering something and when Rinker started to have his own ideas, it always tended to confuse Jessa on what she knew and had been taught.

“Well if you knew exactly what you were doing, then you knew exactly what Ian was going to do… so why are you surprised or annoyed. These events should have been as clear as day and the associated responses.”

“Because he,” Jessa pointed a finger at Ian, “is acting like he is my Elder which isn’t fair because....he isn’t.” The use of the term elder, before Jessa Novar arrived on the Atlantis always denoted someone of an older age. Since her arrival, it also took on a second, albeit fuzzy definition, of someone holding power. The use of that term, applied to Ian, showed Jessa was subconsciously admitting the diplomatic officer had some sort of control over her life. Whether this control was due to rank, like in Starfleet, or due to personal connection remained to be seen. Looking between Rinker and Ian, it was clear, Jessa was struggling to find a stance to prove her point. Jessa no longer had the relaxed posture against the wall, moving to standing on both her feet and crossing her arms. In a desperate attempt to correct what she clearly saw as an injustice performed on her, Jessa blurted out, “And and and it isn’t fair....because…he is…he is just....taller…and that…well that is a dumb reason to be able to do something.”

Ian let out a half chuckle and rubbed his jaw knowing no response was needed from him. He also found it comical on some level, she was reverting to stupid kid reasoning and not delving into a speech of curse words and religious rhetoric.

Rinker turned slowly towards Ian at the chuckle. He wasn’t smiling, he just shook his head slightly not helping was his thought and hopefully his expression. “I know it seems unfair, and perhaps it is a little, but Ian is both your host and responsible for you while you are here. Whether you like it or wanted it or not you need a patron while on this ship and he is it. An adult would make the best of the situation and be the best guest they could.”

Patron The word snapped Jessa’s attention to Ian. She opened her mouth to correct him but stopped. Was the use of Patron meant to incite her or point out that Ian had more power? She had used the word in the last session. “No he is an adult and not a Patron. A Patron is someone in the Order and he is definitely not. I also don’t need anyone to be responsible for me. I can take care of myself. I have for a long time.” Jessa closed her eyes and cringed slightly. Yes, Ian was clearly and adult but it felt like she had just admitted he was an adult to her. God I hate you Rinker Jessa thought opening her eyes.

“I guess the words have different meanings,” Rinker used it to start the idea of Ian being a parent or being responsible for her. “I just wanted to express that he is responsible for you on this ship. Adult or not, someone needs to be sure you don’t do anything against our rules.”

I hate you because it wasn’t really a bad thing, Jessa thought to herself as she nodded looking like she was agreeing physically as she secretly was agreeing mentally. He hugged me and I got to pretend for a moment he was someone else and I was somewhere else. Where I was safe and my biggest problem was if it was going to rain tomorrow so I could not go walk in the gardens. I hate that you can somehow see this weakness in me. Elders don’t need hugs or someone to tell them it was just a dream. It’s why I am just a Guardian and not a Patron. I hate that I need this. That I need someone to tell me when I am doing it right or wrong because sometimes I don’t know what I am doing or why I am doing it, she finally said the words, even if it were just to herself.

“You never really told me much about your rank structure. I got a little by context, perhaps you can list them out so I don’t make mistakes.”

“I guess it’s okay for me to share that,” she got a faraway look on her face as if debating whether this was acceptable information to share. “Okay so on a basic level,” she leaned against the door frame knowing Ian would do good to learn the hierarchy also. “The cherubs are the first step in the order. Well before that there are the infants the protectorates gather but not all of them make it into the order,” she waved them off as if they were not important. “So once you are identified as Divine, which are very few, you become a cherub. You go to school like any other citizen child until you show enough promise that you are selected to become a Guardian. I am a Guardian and my job is to learn from the Patrons and Elders. Patrons are the ones the run regional sectors. They monitor the day-to-day dealings of the sectors of galaxies. They decide which planets get which resources or if planets need resettlement and where people go. Usually, these are the Cherubs who are Divine but not super strongly Divine. After Patrons, you get the Elders. It’s not exactly linear though,” Jessa actually looked slightly confused herself trying to explain it.

“Are there innate values, skill that come with being selected as Divine? Is there some sort of measurement?”

“Some Patrons become Elders but most Elder quads are made up of three Elders and a Guardian. We need a Guardian to be able to communicate with,” she paused long enough for Rinker and Ian to know the next part of her sentence was specifically altered, “the people.” As she spoke, Jessa made sure she was no longer in Rinker’s office as she continued to speak. She moved out of his doorway and into the hall as she continued to talk. It wasn’t that she was exactly lying but she definitely wasn’t being transparent.

Ian gave Rinker a side glance but said nothing, just noting her attempt to be casual moving out of Rinker’s office. “People tend to trust kids more than adults and they tend to be calmer with children around so that is why I am part of the quad for now. Eventually, I will get too old and have to become an Elder. Elders are at the top of the Order.
They hold the power and wisdom so they move anywhere they want or go where they are needed to serve the Order. No one is higher than an Elder except for the Rector but we only have one of them. Malina and Quelos and I are hoping to get paired together.” Jessa’s mood changed immediately. There was almost an excitement in her voice. A smile filled her face and her eyes got bright. “We are going to do things different. Make a change when we are grown up and have real power to take up the weapon of faith and fear not to use it. No struggle is worth taking unless you feel the pain of your sacrifice. Is anything earned without sacrifice really earned? Show those weak the cleansing power of sacrifice. Be the force that helps them see enlightenment. We are going to do it better.”

“Paired? Is that like being married?” Rinker avoided the curious mentioning of the weapon of the faith at first… get her talking. All this talking in front of Ian was by timing, not confidential. “Do you have to be Paired to use the weapon of the faith?”

“Yes. No. In a way but not like citizens get married. It’s more like assigned I guess. Like getting a job. They put us together based on the Divine skills we possess. It makes the quad stronger when I can do things the other people of the quad can’t,” Jessa said excitedly but not exactly in the happy way. She was struggling to try to explain concepts only she herself was starting to understand. “I don’t really understand the process,” she admitted, “and I am not supposed to even talk about it outside of the Temple. I could get in a lot of trouble if you ever mention it so don’t…okay?”

Ian knew he should not speak. Every ounce of training told him to sit back and listen, however, none of his training ever dealt with trying to softly interrogate a child. Jessa’s daily meetings so far with Rinker also were not meant to pry information from her. Any number of crew on the ship could interrogate Jessa, child or not. The only reason Ian was bringing the kiddo down to Rinker was to help her, not find answers about what happened. The answers would come. Last night when he held her and she cried, Ian realized something profound. Jessa needed to feel safe. If he couldn’t give that to Jessa, Ian would find someone that could. “Jessa no one is going to hurt you on this ship.”

“I know that,” she snapped and then looked at Rinker. She opened her mouth to say a smart ass comment but changed her mind. Secretly, Jessa liked Rinker. She had only met him once but she had to build a trust with him so that in the future, he would trust her. Standing in the hall was not going to help that process along.

Jessa needed to get out of this situation. Nothing was going to be the right answer to the only logical choice was to ignore it and start a new conversation. Licking her lips, she spun on her heel and looked at Ian. “See you in an hour then?” After speaking she moved quickly past Rinker and to his couch where she took a seat on the end as she had in her first visit.

“I’ll be out here when you are done,” Ian nodded at Rinker moving from his spot to a chair in the waiting room. It was true that most sessions were an hour, but last time Jessa was in for almost ninety minutes. Whatever time Rinker needed, Ian would give him.

As the door slid shut, Jessa made a decision. If she had to spend the next hour with the man, she would make sure the conversation focused on him and not her. Too much had happened since she had seen him last and too many pins were placed on her imaginary board for future conversational topics. Luckily it seemed these people only had digital written records. Looking at his books, however, Jessa felt a pang of sadness. Re-educating cultures that only used digital histories made the process faster and seamless. Data wipes and magnetic pulses obliterated histories and cultures in a blink of an eye reducing people to oral traditions which were more easily controlled and replaced with the truth of the Order. While Jessa understood the need for this she always hated it. Her eyes fell on the small blinking green dots on Rinker’s wall of books. She could not read their language but somewhere was the book Hoblits Heading Home sitting on the shelf. Suddenly the guilt over her comment at the door faded. Jessa would know how to thank Rinker for all his help so far and give him something to know he could always trust her. She would ask to borrow his book and keep it safe and later when he was on the path give him back a piece of his past.

“I am sorry about that at the door. You weren’t supposed to hear that,” Jessa began to speak mainly so that Rinker could not ask another question. “I said it because…well it was just…it’s that I was up early at the gym with Rand…and I wasn’t expecting to come down here,” she rambled fidgeting slightly even though it was only a frown on Rinker’s face that started it all. “I guess I said it trying to assert some control she thought but ended it with, “to be funny. I’m sorry if it made you feel bad,” she ended the conversation with an apology as she fiddled with the lace of her shoe instead of looking at him when she spoke.

“I wouldn’t worry about it. People say things all the time that they don’t fully mean the way it’s taken. Words are powerful but sometimes they don’t mean what we think they do. Does that make any sense to you?”

Jessa shrugged not looking up at him. She poked at her sneaker with the hard plastic tip of her lace wishing she was back in her old clothes and not wearing the Atlantis PT uniform Rand had given her. Jessa hated the way she felt right now and didn’t really know what Rinker wanted her to say. “Not really. I feel like you talk in riddles sometimes,” she looked at the door she had just entered and then back at her shoe still poking at it with the lace.

“Yeah, people say that about me all the time too. I believe in the Socratic Method, he was a philosopher from my home-world. He believed that knowledge gained from one own thoughts were more powerful than that which was told. Morality and ethically, views that are held intrinsically, inside oneself, are held more closely than those just given.”

“So this philosopher taught the people morals and ethics,” Jessa’s interest was piqued. Glancing up she looked at Rinker for confirmation she understand his statement.

“Not exactly, I’m sure Socrates, and even myself have ideas what’s right and wrong and which ideas should be held. But in my case I want the person I talk to, to come up with the ideas and truths they hold dear themselves based on what’s right for them as long as it doesn’t harm others.... back to the harm others line I know you remember.”

Jessa paled a bit and instantly squirmed slightly before staring back at her shoe. Continuing to poke at her shoe with her right hand, Jessa rolled her left wrist catching the material of her sweatshirt between the tips of her fingers and her palm. The only reason to do this was to conceal any trace of the bruising on her arm from yesterday. As if this was not enough, Jessa tucked her hand under her thigh while making more pronounced poking motions with the hand she wanted Rinker’s attention on. A long pregnant pause filled the space as Jessa debated a reply. The last session, Rinker told Jessa everything was confidential as long as it did not involve hurting others or herself. The problem was the Elders had given her a bloody nose in the brig. She had broken her own arm to get away from Mardusk and to appease Da Mu’s request for a Ritual of Cleansing. What harm to others was Rinker hinting at? Jessa needed to avoid this conversation at all costs.

“Is there something wrong with your shoe.” Rinker knew of the injury but didn’t put the two behaviors together as of yet. He actually thought she might be secreting an item in her shoe.

“Yeah it’s not my boot,” Jessa grumbled. “I got some blood on my shirt yesterday and Dr. Evrilla said it needed to be cleaned. It has been a few days since I changed my clothes but I have more on my ship. No one wants to let me go get them though so Rand brought me this,” she gestured back at the sweatshirt and sweat pants in the dark blue with gray lettering saying Atlantis. It was the standard PT uniform. “I was going to put my boots back on but Rand said I needed these to run in the gym.”

” I think the sweatshirt is kind of snazzy. I wish I could go without the uniform most of the time.”

“Really,” she looked at her shirt. “I am not sure what snazzy is but if it is the fabric then yes. It is soft and breathable. It feels like pajamas or a soft blanket.” Turning her shirt hem outside in, she held it out to him. “Here feel it.” Closing the space between them she extended a portion of the fabric for him to touch.

Rinker was familiar with the sweats, but Jessa seemed to like to ‘teach’ him things so he reached out. “Yes, cotton. Actually that comes from Earth.”

“Your Earth has such great things. Coffee, chocolate, milkshakes,” she smiled at Rinker.

“Yes, I have always believed that we were very fortunate in resources.”

“Well, cotton fabric is great. So much better than that Woolap stuff we have to wear for formal events. It is so scratchy and makes me wiggle which always earns me penitence. It’s a vicious circle,” she sighed in a very kid-like way no different than someone admitting not doing homework earned you detention. Taking her seat she looked back at Rinker with a smile. “Your uniform is nice though. First off it is blue, which is a good color for you. It goes nicely with your green eyes. Blue makes people feel calm. Your uniform also is like a beacon so if someone needs help they know exactly who to go to,” she began to rattle off reasons why she liked his clothes too. “I mean if they are hurt they can just look for a blue shirt instead of the red or yellow ones.”

“Well that is part of the reason of uniform colors. They used to be just one color and the collar tab,” He pointed to his rank insigne, “has a little department icon on it… you had to have really good vision to have any idea what anyone did.”

“Our military wears brown which I know is supposed to symbolize our lack of vanity and harmony with service but brown is so dull. Their rank is on their chest where you have your comm badges. Everyone knows the ranking system. Its something every citizen learns in school but I would prefer to have them color-coded like you. It doesn’t make a difference though because the military and watchmen only have one job. They protect you so I guess we don’t need colors.”

“Star-fleet isn’t supposed to be a military force. We are designed to be explorers. Meet new races, interact with new civilizations, visit strange new worlds and to boldly go where no one has gone before, but sometimes the new races and new civilizations tend to be a little aggressive so ships have to be able to fight or run.”

Jessa liked the moments like this with Rinker. When it was just two friends talking about things that made them happy. Unfortunately, these moments were always so fleeting. Jessa was not here to make friends in the true sense of the word. She had a responsibility she could not ignore no matter how much she liked some things about this place.

“I really shouldn’t be wearing this. The Elders would not approve,” Jessa looked at Rinker and went back to poking at her shoe. “I have a uniform like you and Ian. I am going to need it back. How do you think your people would react if they saw you dressing like all those other people I saw on the ship? You wear a uniform to set yourself apart and so I need mine to do that too.”

“I’m certain we can clean your clothes and return them to you so you don’t have to wear dirty or uncomfortable clothing. Actually, uniforms are meant to make you look like everyone else. Hence the term uniform. If you want to stand out, maybe you should wear clothes that express your personality?”

“I had a blue dress once. It was a light blue like the color of the sky and it had little tiny yellow flowers on it. I would love to wear short pants like the citizen girls. They are like pants but…but short,” she wobbled her head realizing Rinker was probably smart enough to figure out what she meant by the way she was making a sawing motion on her thighs above her knees. “They come in so many colors they can make your eyes hurt.” Her smile faltered some and then disappeared completely. “Black, white, and brown are good colors though. They let people know I am there to help them just like your blue shirt does for your people.” Her voice sounded hollow and empty to her own ears.

“I’m sure if you describe it or draw it, Ian can have it replicated for you. But the clothes don’t make the woman.”

“It wouldn’t fit me anymore,” she laughed. “It was the last dress I had before I joined the Order. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me anymore in style or for my role as an Elder.”

“Well, we could alter the size so it fit whatever size you are now, but if you don’t want it…” He shrugged. “I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble later.”

Listening to her response Jessa felt her tummy flip-flopping. Hoping for things to change did not make it happen. Wishing you had a different life didn’t make it happen either. The Book of Enlightenment talked about how much of a sin it was to not be grateful for what you were given. As much as she enjoyed talking like this, it was just dangerous. Jessa needed to make sure the topic stayed on her learning information than sharing trivial fantasies. “Enough about clothes. Can I ask you an important question about this Socrates?

“Clothes seemed important to you?” Rinker countered, but he was willing to let the topic go.

“Clothes set you apart from everyone and sometimes I don’t like my clothes,” she smoothed down her sweatshirt, “but you don’t either so that’s okay…right?” Jessa had no idea why Rinker’s words and opinions were meaning so much to her after just twenty-four hours. Maybe it was because he was a stranger and didn’t care whether he made her feel bad or not. Since he didn’t care, it let Jessa pick and choose what she wanted to remember after their luncheons.

“I don’t like my uniform sometimes too…”

Jessa could have spent hours talking about clothes and what she liked and didn’t like. In fact, she wanted to spend the next hour talking about how isolated she felt when people saw her in her uniform. She wanted to ask Rinker how to get people to react to her in her uniform like she saw the people of this ship react to their officers. Jessa didn’t enjoy the fear and averted gazes from citizens like the rest of the Elders seemed to enjoy. Mentally she would put a pin in this and bring this up again. Rinker was smart. Jessa wouldn’t tell him but she was quite sure, Rinker had an answer for everything. “Can we talk about Socrates more?”

“Did the people like him or did he need the support of the military to help the masses understand what was right and wrong? I hate when we need to bring in soldiers,” Jessa admitted looking back down at her shoe so she didn’t have to look directly at Rinker. She should not have admitted what she did. Thoughts like that were not productive and tended to make things messier in the end. “You don’t have to answer that,” she said rapidly added not sure if she wanted to know the answer to the question or not.

“Socrates was considered the wisest man in the known world. He debated and argued against men and even against the government coming up with moral beliefs that are held to this day. However there was a cost for speaking truth to power and he was ordered to take his own life. People offered to steal him away, but he refused believing his beliefs would be more respected if he didn’t run. He was 71, pretty old for the time.” Rinker nodded. “It was about 2500 years ago. Times have changed you can speak more freely now than then.”

“No you can’t,” Jessa’s eyes became stormy as she stopped playing with her shoe and moved to both feet on the floor with her back straight. She locked eyes with Rinker. He hadn’t just struck a nerve but an artery and Jessa was about to hemorrhage out. “Speaking against the Galactic Union is treason and trust me you dont just get to take your life like your Socrates. It is bloody and messy and doesn’t just involve you.” Jessa got up and began to pace the small space between the couch and the coffee table. After two passes she stopped and put her hands on the table leaning forward to look at Rinker. “Rebellions stealing people away only creates more death and unrest. Running away is being a coward. The Divine have respect for those going through the Ritual of Cleansing and if you don’t survive....its okay. You go to a better place but people offering you a different path…people offering to help you get away is NOT,” she yelled stabbing the table with a finger, “the answer. Education or re-education saves lives. Trife you Rinker,” Jessa spat out angrily with pure venom in her voice. “Trife Ian and Trife Mardusk. They don’t respect my ideas and beliefs. They want me to see… say,” she swallowed visibly the lump in her throat. “They want me to say the Galactic Union is wrong…and it’s not. I’m not. The doctor told me I’m fine and I don’t have to be here.”

“Wow that’s a lot to unpack and I think I should be offended.” He could figure that out from context.

“Unpack,” Jessa threw up her hands. “Unpack. What are we on a vacation? I don’t see a suitcase so why say unpack. Rinker that word makes me crazy. My teacher in school says it all the time. When we go to meeting they always start with what we are going to talk about....and then say unpack it. We don’t need to unpack it because the list of what we are talking about is right on the screen.” Jessa’s outburst was childish and probably made no sense to Rinker, especially since she was focusing on an adjective instead of him asking about her insulting him. Jessa stopped her tirade about the word unpack and looked at him raising an eyebrow. She hated the man never seemed to be rattled by anything. Maybe using trife would rile him up.

“And yeah I meant to make you angry. That is generally why you use the word trife. Grammar lesson Heathcliff. Trife has a whole lot of meanings. It can be used alone as in Trife or with a pronoun like Trife me to express frustration. It can be used as a verb like Triffing hell or what the trife or trife you to express annoyance, contempt, or impatience.” Jessa was so angry right now she could barely think straight. How could Rinker even verbalize the word rebellion? Didn’t he know what that meant?

“Heathcliff you need to understand right now that Galactic Union is not a bad place. Re-education is not evil. It saves lives. Before we found the path to enlightenment, people murdered each over other ideas and principles. They enslaved people against their will but the Galactic Union ended all that. Why is that so bad?”

“And teaching me that, means you need to insult and offend me?” Rinker paused. “Your words and actions speak to the sort of person you are, not the person I am. You came into my office and I welcomed you, I gave you food, drink, offered you entertainment and conversation. I don’t believe any of those things invited scorn.”

“I judge the Galactic Union by what it has done. From what you and your friends have done to us. From our perspective is the Galactic Union a good or bad place? If you want us to view the Galactic Union as a nice place, maybe it’s representatives can do nice things.”

“You don’t even know what the Galactic Union has done,” she yelled back. “We bring food to people that are hungry. We build schools and hospitals so people that are sick get better. We tell them about enlightenment. We give orphans families and a place to live to be safe. That is what being an Elder is supposed to do for the Union. What they should do for the Galactic Union but not once have you ever asked me or anyone else what we do right except for Rand. Rand doesn’t hate the Union. In fact, he believes in it. He just doesn’t realize it yet,” Jessa felt her body shaking as she spoke. “You want to focus on how we met but maybe you should ask yourself why your government and Ian lied to us the first time we met. Why you tried to deceive us? Ugh trifing pin that. Use two pins and a lock and buckets of synthacrete,” Jessa ran her fingers through her hair. She had to get Rinker and all his questions out of her head but before she stopped, she would address one more point.

“The Federation does the same for its citizens. If all is true, the perhaps we aren’t so different.” There were much different, but sometimes acting as if you are completely neutral you must let things pass.

“Yes,” Jessa looked slightly relieved to hear him admit this. “See we are not bad. Just like you only different. Different isn’t bad you know. Its only scary until you realize all the other ways things are similar. Like feeding hungry people or helping sick people. You asked me early about good decisions I make,” she finally felt like she had something that would help Rinker see her differently.

“I petitioned the Rectoress to allow rebels to be granted the possibility of redemption on resettlement worlds. They usually don’t want that option because it calls for sacrifice. It is an option better than the Altar to Renewal. The Rectoress said she would pray on it but people will lie and deceive to protect themselves. She said I was too young to understand this but I am not. I stopped being a kid though when they made me a Guardian. You can’t see what I have seen and not understand why some people deceive others.” Her tone was cooler on the last sentence. “Yet maybe she is right about me not always understanding why?” The question had the intonation of being rhetorical however Rinker was becoming far more able to read Jessa’s mood and tones.

“What is the process of redemption and going to the altar of renewal? And tell me of these resettlement worlds… who is being resettled and is there someone being displaced?

“Pin,” she countered immediately. “My mom told me never to talk to liars or those who pretend to be something we know they aren’t”.

“To the best of my knowledge we have not deceived you and I’m not going to pretend we are something we are not to fit into your expectations. Maybe we aren’t what you expected.”

“But you did. We sent you the message saying we were coming. We said to have Ian ready. We said we were coming in peace but you tried to trick us. We told you we could only meet with him and you sent us a woman in his place,” she rolled her eyes in annoyance. “Do you know how long we traveled? You made a fool of us and I know I know,” she held up her hands defensively, “that is not worth someone also dying but you do not lie to Elders…ever. It is like your rule of not lying in here. You don’t do it. Da Mu always takes offense at any slight. If you had just presented Ian. I mean even now he won’t admit he is the Captain except yesterday to release me from the deck with Evirlla. He admitted it then but that was the only time he has. He wants to play games so why should I be truthful when he keeps up the lie he is just a nobody on this ship.”

“I do not know of this message.” Rinker shrugged. “Perhaps I was was not privy to it. I’m sure you understand that not everything is run past me. But the Captain is the chief representative of this ship. When it comes down to it, she speaks for everyone on the ship including Ian. And contrary to your belief Kelly is the Captain of this ship. Do you think we don’t know who’s in charge of our own ship? Why would we lie then, and why would we continue to lie now?”

Jessa shrugged in the classic way kids did when they didn’t have an answer for what they knew was the truth. She might not understand the why’s of everything over the past couple of days but she couldn’t deny Rinker’s explanation was more correct than hers.

“He’s not a nobody, nobody is a nobody, he’s a diplomat and he carries the rank of Lieutenant Commander.” He pointed at his collar. “The number of pips and whether they are full or empty signify rank. I have three full pips that makes me a Commander. For him the third pip is hollow. That makes him a lieutenant commander.” He offered the ranks up willingly. Know that would give her some tactical information if she trusted it enough to believe him.

Jessa burned the nugget of information into her mind. When the time came to take over the ship, she would just make sure to remove a few of the pips on selected people if that was how these people’s heirachy worked. The Elders would not see them then as a threat and Rinker, Evrilla, the woman that got hurt, Dr. Shan, Chris, and maybe even Ian would stay safe. The thought of the list of people growing Jessa was going to have to take care of made her head ache. It was also starting to make her angry again. Jessa had watched the kids coming in and out of sick to talk with their parents over the past two days and wished she could be like them. Happy…carefree…able to spend their time having fun and not making lists of people she was going to have to save. Jessa knew being jealous was wrong but she could not help it. She was starting to realize how much the Elders stopped her from doing and enjoying.

“Oh and a really good decision I make every day is the distinction that the Elders are not my friends,” she pointed a finger at Rinker angrily.

“That is for you to say.” Rinker acted as if he didn’t understand the derisiveness. “So what makes them not you’re friends then?”

“Because I did not make them like you are supposed to do with friends,” she snapped clearly anger but for the first time it was not directed at Rinker, the Atlantis, or the crew. It was at her own people. “I did not get to know them and they became my friend like I got to do with you. I woke up one day and was paired with them. The proctors at the Temple took me from my dormitory and gave me to Rogan. I didn’t get a choice so they are not my friends.” She never realized how angry she was until this moment but Jessa didn’t care. She had said enough here to warrant the Altar of Renewal so why stop now.

“They are just Elders. You yourself said I can not control anyone else so how am I supposed to control a bunch of adults that at times are generally not nice people?” She was yelling at Rinker but part of her wanted him to answer her. Pellan was a lot like Rinker only he tended to give her far more concrete answers. “You do not question adults…Elders,” she quickly corrected herself. “You keep telling me to listen and learn but…but,” Jessa felt herself spiraling into dangerous ground. If the Elders knew she had started questioning them or the Order, the Ritual of Cleansing she had performed to appease Da Mu for what he had thought she had done would feel like a scraped knee. “But you talk about your children here being able to make mistakes and you let them learn from the mistakes. So how come when I question any trifing adult here all everyone does is tell me I can’t do that or they lock me in a room, or hold me accountable for someone else’s behavior?” Jessa realized she opened up a huge can of worms with Rinker that probably should remain closed. “Pin that too,” she looked at him like she wanted to punch him in the face. “Not because I don’t want to talk about it but because I know the answer. Rules. I have them and so do you. The Galactic Union has harsh rules but we also peace. What wouldn’t you do for peace? Someone is always going to suffer but if a few are oppressed to make billions happy how is that wrong?”

“I have never told you not to question me and when I said you can’t control people, I more meant, what they feel, or think. Sometimes you force them to do things, but you can’t make them want to do it.”

“Fine I have a question for you,” Jessa picked up a pillow next to her and debated throwing it at him. It would not solve anything except probably anger him. You don’t think I make good decisions Heathcliff, she thought as she set the pillow forcefully next to her. I think not throwing this at your face is a good decision. Jessa got out of her head and began to talk. “Do you see me as a child,” she asked him point-blank.

“I didn’t say you don’t make good decisions. I just ask you TO make good decisions. Sometimes I ask you if, in retrospect you think something you did in the past was a good or a bad decision? I think you confuse me asking if that was a good decision with me saying it was a bad decision… and I certainly never said you don’t or can’t make good decision. If I thought that was true, why would I discuss what you think?”

“I don’t know,” she felt like she wanted to cry, “but I know why we can’t live with citizens. It’s because you confuse me,” she stressed the word. Drumming her fingers on the edge of the couch, Jessa decided to explain her confusion with an example.

“Can I force you to get up and walk me down to the brig right now and release the Elders,” she asked with a fire in her voice. “Not can you do it but can I make you do it right now,” she asked the second part of her questions.

“Probably not, I can’t imagine a situation where you could.” He actually could think of a couple, but he suspected that the question was figuratively not literally.

“Then how am I supposed to make three people do anything?”

“Exactly my point. Thank you.” Rinker said relieved. “You can only control yourself. You can only take responsibility for the actions or lack of actions that lead to predictable consequences. Aside from that…” He shrugged. “My mom used to say… you do your best and forget the rest.”

“I can’t forget it when they do something wrong because it makes me feel bad inside,” she confessed feeling oddly relieved to have someone to share this with finally instead of trying to deal with it herself. “I have to find a way to fix it.”

“But if you know your adults or Elders are doing something wrong, and you can’t stop them, you can try to teach them. If you can’t teach them, you can help those who they hurt. If you can’t do that then you at least can choose not to help them hurt others. If that’s the sort of person you want to be. Some people rather not be bothered.”

“I try to teach them but they don’t want to listen. They are bigger than me and stronger than me. I can’t physically stop them. Why do you not think I haven’t tried? It’s why they kept me hidden and out of the way that day.” Jessa felt raw and empty. Too many times she had spoken up and it only made it worse for those receiving the Elder’s attention. Rinker would never understand that. He never held the life of someone in his hands nor the guilt and sleeplessness of not being able to stop someone from taking that life. “I don’t know how to help the person they hurt…or the rest of the crew. I plan to formally request reparations. I can request the person gets a home or or or whatever she needs but I don’t have that kind of power here to make any amends. Sometimes though help can make it worse. You don’t understand them. I am going to make sure they don’t hurt that woman anymore. I promise you I will defend her no matter what they try. I even know a few adjudicators that can help me prove she was innocent no matter what the Elders say. Having an adjudicator not find guilt proving her innocence will stop the Union from questioning her.”

“There is no one so blind as those who refuse to see.” Rinker offered. “All you can do, is do your best Jessa.” He did look a tad sad. “But as long as you tried your best you can at least lay your head down at night to rest.”

“What woman?”

“The woman that Da Mu hurt,” Jessa had an almost pleading expression on her face. “I know people won’t forget what we did to her but I can fix it for her. I can protect her. I will make the Galactic Union see it was a mistake and then they will not hurt her ever again. I won’t let them make an example of her. I will see that it is done.”

“I believe you that, that’s how it’s done in the Galactic Union. It was done that way on some countries on Earth and some planets before they joined the Federation. It just isn’t the way we do things anymore. The people are the government, and the government serves the people not the other way around. We have another group called the press who are supposed to report on the people and government so even the powerful get questioned on what they do.”

“There is a reason we are not allowed to live among citizens like you,” she felt her body getting hot and her head was starting to hurt. “You poison us with your short sightedness and inability to know when people are smarter than you. Children are not allowed to question their parents for a reason. Parents only want whats best for them. The Galactic Union is no different so stop talking about questioning the government. You need to get into that habit now. If you need to think about then just think.” Jessa’s tone took on the sing song quality she always used when speaking her rhetoric. “Don’t question things you don’t understand. Questions cause one to be trapped in the prison of their mind. Release yourself from that burden and rely on faith. It is the only path to enlightenment and salvation.” Jessa looked at him with almost pleading desperation. “I am trying to help you Rinker. Why are you so intent on fighting me?”

“I question the premise, how can I learn if I don’t question what I don’t understand? That means you never understand, you just do what you are told. In that case how do you know what you are told isn’t wrong.”

Jessa had to stop talking. She wasn’t even sure what she was saying anymore. Rinker had a way of getting not into her head but those parts of her head she never dared speak of yet somehow Rinker was there prying them out of her before she realized some of them were even there.

“I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t like your Rome and I am not a Romanite. I am leaving. We are done here.” Jessa felt the urge to hit something. She was mad at Rinker for asking the question but even more mad she answered it.

“You should confront what scares you. Jessa. If you run every time you hear something you don’t like you’ll be running forever and learn nothing except what you already know..”

Jessa moved from the couch and headed to the door but stopped. “You scare me with all your questions and I am not a rebel. I didn’t run away. That is not how I got here. I came for her.” She was breathing heavily and it was clear she was deep in thought. Yes you came for her so stop and do something or you came here for nothing, a voice said sharply in her head.

“Came for who?”

“My mmmm,” she snapped back and physically clapped both hands over her mouth as if to stop her from physically speaking. Jessa’s eyes got wide and she looked physically scared as if Rinker were an executioner and she was on the alter. For a long second, she looked at Rinker just shaking her head with her hands over her mouth.

“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you and I already know… it’s not a secret to me.” Rinker nodded at her, “I tend to know a lot of things people don’t understand how.”

Jessa continued to hold her hand over her mouth and shake her head as if he had not said a single word to her. “But will they,” she said softly.

“How will they know? I won’t tell.”

“You won’t have to,” she said even softer. “They always know everything going on in my mind.”

She had to get out of the room. Looking down at her arm, Jessa wondered if Evrilla would come again if they called. There were a lot of doctors but not all of them were nice to her because they blamed her for hurting the woman. Still, it would get Jessa out of the room. Her hand shook and she closed her eyes trying to find the strength to get her out of the room. Life is pain. Pain nourishes courage. Courage nourishes sacrifice. Sacrifice for life, she began to say the mantra to give her strength for what she needed to do. Her lips moved but no words came out as she recited the words again trying to find the resolve to do what needed to be done. Jessa had no desire to hurt herself again. There was no guarantee they would keep giving her free medicine yet she had find a way to escape. “Can you call Evrilla,” she asked slowly opening her eyes. Maybe if she just asked for the doc, the doc would order him to let her go.

He looked at her for a moment. Jessa had no idea that Rinker was a medical doctor as well as all psychiatrists were. Evrilla wasn’t going to be an escape for her in the way she thought. “I could, why am I calling her?”

Jessa felt like her world was collapsing. If she answered honestly to anything Rinker asked, Jessa knew she would never be able to complete the mission. She would have to continue lying but not to Rinker. RInker would see through it. “Because she came the last time I called when I was uncomfortable so I was going to have her come for me. The problem is I generally like hanging out with you. It’s better than sitting all alone in my room. So If I call her I leave but if I stay then things aren’t always fun with you.” Taking a deep breath Jessa felt better admitting this to Rinker. It helped her calm down and think straight.

Jessa decided to make the best of this hour and maybe make it up to Rinker for insulting him and for her outburst by asking him about his day or at least presenting a neutral topic. “Can we start over,” she tucked some hair behind her ear feeling her uneasiness ebbing away. “Also you would like an iced coffee with caramel and whipped cream please and one of those pizzas,” she stated confidently. If Rinker ordered it and they shared it at least Jessa wouldn’t have to find a way to use the resources of the ship. “Then you can tell me about your day?”

Jessa

“We don’t have to start over. Words also can be like the wind. Here for a moment and then gone.” He didn’t like serving patients, it created a weird power dynamic, but in this case giving her a little power might make her more comfortable and given everyone and everything was keeping her off balance he wanted to change things up. He walked over to the replicator and made her order telling the computer to make the coffee decaffeinated. “Aren’t you a little young to be drinking coffee? The caffeine isn’t great for a young person’s metabolism. Just so you know you can have a coffee without the caffeine.”

Jessa let out a low groan and threw her head back several times on the soft cushions of the couch letting out a long breath through pursed lips. “Again, not five, and I love it with caffeine,” Jessa stated confidently albeit she had no idea what this caffeine really was. “It tastes so much…richer?” Jessa had no idea how the addition of caffeine made the drink taste but it was sweet like a dessert so the caffeine had to make it taste better. Ian always seemed to sigh, smile, and thank someone when they brought him a cup so it had to have something in it that made coffee better.

“Besides you were right yesterday. We are too old to be drinking juice. Everyone here seems to drink this coffee thing all the time so I figured I should start. It will make them see me for what I am and not as what they think I am. It will help them see me as their equals.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” He placed the coffee and pizza on the low table in front of her. “So telling me to make your food and trying to control your schedule is that your way of gaining control?” She did mention feeling out of control. It would be very common to try to reassert authority by such minor manipulations. He also basically ignored her question - he would see how tenacious she was in comparison to her other emotional needs.

Jessa wasn’t sure why Rinker made her feel slightly uneasy. He had done nothing mean, rude, or aggressive to her yet this time meeting him felt different some how. The last time they talked he told her to be honest. Pellan always told her that the best lies hugged the truth like a lover. Jessa decided to follow both of their advice.

“No, I asked you to share your meal with me so I don’t owe anyone or use up Federation resources. How did you say it earlier? No one can make you do anything. I didn’t make you get it. You made it for me to be nice,” Jessa picked up a piece of the pizza and took a bite chewing it slowly.

“Fair enough.” He certainly chose to do it for his own reasons. Much like the reverse of the reason why he normally never offers food and drink in his office. He wasn’t a waiter and he wasn’t their friend in this office. They were here to work and he was their supervisor.

“The reason I told Ian to come back in an hour is because the doc in sickbay this morning told me I only get an hour with you,” she picked at the toppings on her pizza popping them into her mouth. “She told me I don’t have to come if I don’t want to because there is nothing wrong with me. So I came because I wanted to.” Brushing the crumbs off her hands over the plate, Jessa let her words sink in as she reached forward to pick up the drink from the table. Taking a long sip of it, she relaxed back into the couch with a smile. “See,” Jessa held it up like a toast, “so much better with that caffeine stuff in it.”

“Flattering. Although, I would let the doctor in sickbay know, I decide who needs to see me and for how long. No one not even the Captain can tell me different.”

Jessa studied him with her eyes glued to him as he spoke. Heathcliff Rinker was still calm, and his volume never increase but the way he spoke clearly indicated Rinker was in charge of something. Maybe he wasn’t just a teacher. Jessa’s interest was again piqued. “So Ian and the doctors work for you? You tell him when to bring me down here?” It was clear this was a new piece of information for her. Taking a minute to gather her thoughts Jessa began to see Rinker in a new light and position of authority. “So that means you can make him do things like get me sleeping quarters with a door or see my…crew.” The longer Jessa observed the people of the star ship , the more she was learning. Back home, referring to an Elder as your friend was considered a status symbol. Everyone wanted to call the Elders their friend. Here though they lobbed the word around to mean something sarcastic to something meaningful. The term crew however denoted respect among these people.

“Not exactly, but yes I do tell him when you should see me.” Rinker knew his words would get her wheels spinning mostly about how to manipulate him into getting something for her and low and behold she was already testing the reach of Rinker’s powers. “We believe that each person is an expert in their discipline and much like our government structure, there are always checks and balances.”

“Checks and balances,” she looked at him confused. “I don’t understand. All structures have one person in charge for a reason. Without that how does anyone know what to do without someone telling them what to do? That is what you mean by balance right. Like a scale?” While the term was new to her, the concept on some level wasn’t. Jessa always understood power and authority. Her problem was when the person wielding it did not do what she wanted.

“What could stop a king from being a tyrant? Nothing.” Rinker answered his own question. “So we don’t have kings in Star-Fleet. We build everything with a check. The Captain is the highest ranking person on a ship, but the doctors could tell him or her to go to bed or receive medical treatment, the First Officer could tell the Captain that a mission was too dangerous, the Counselor could tell him/her that they needed psychological treatment. We all answer to each other.”

“That is insanity,” she looked completely flabbergasted. “Your doctors can tell your superior to go to bed? Like a bedtime? Like they are a kid…even when they run the ship? The Captain is following orders and you can’t just tell them they have to do something. Have you ever done that,” Jessa leaned in slightly as if not wanting to miss a word Rinker was about to say.

“Actually I have.” He smiled. “We were on a mission and some people had pretended they were our crew and our Captain. They didn’t understand that we have checks and balances. I basically found the Captain unfit for duty and put the next person in the chain of command was in charge. Ironically at that time, it was me.”

“So you can just usurp power because you don’t like something? How does your government ever get anything accomplished when people can just decided they don’t like something?”

“There are rules around when you can do these things. Also as questioning people, when something doesn’t feel right we can question that as well. But there is some truth to the statement how can we get anything accomplished. It can be slow sometimes. And the system isn’t perfect, but its generally better than other forms of government.”

“And you can do this here because,” she let her voice trail off.

“Because we are a ship, not a government we also have a hierarchy. The Captain is the highest-ranked on a ship like ours. The next in authority is the First officer, then by ranks. I’m a Commander so I have a little pull. So sometimes these two systems could cause a little confusion.”

“Wait wait wait,” she shook her hands stopping Rinker from continuing to talk. “A little pull. So can you get them to let me see my crew? A real room? If you can’t what are we doing here?” Jessa suddenly was rethinking why she was allowing this mid-morning meeting every day between her and Rinker. If she was just here for the food, which was amazing, it was not going to further her goals in the mission. “Maybe you should arrange a meeting with me and this First Officer.”

“I probably could do something. Although a lot what limits you are the crimes and the danger you hold. That falls more under security and Mardusk. So I think you might be able to figure out how that’s going to end up.”

“Danger,” Jessa looked at him wide-eyed. “All I have been doing is trying to stop anyone else from getting hurt. I have tried to tell you all how to not provoke the Elders but all you seem to do is want to make us mad, incite us, force us to violence.” Jessa watched Rinker move to his desk and felt her pulse quicken. She had just threatened to leave but she couldn’t let Rinker throw her out. “And I know how it ends with Mardusk. I did not want to hurt anyone. I didn’t even know what was going on. You say you are so civilized but where is your adjudicators. We live by the principle that if you are guilty, the adjudicator will not be able to prove different. You are a backward and ruthless people who want to force your views on others. I know I will die for whatever crimes you say I have committed but at least I can live with that price.” Jessa’s voice broke slightly as she watched him. “Dieing for another person is not a sacrifice. It is an honor.”

“It might be, depends on the person. But you won’t die by our hands no matter what the crime you may or may not have committed. We don’t have the death penalty in the Federation. Plus whether you think so or not, you are a minor in the eyes of our law and we don’t punish minors as harshly as adults. so that’s two reasons. So I don’t know why you think you are on Death Row.”

The idea that there was not a death penalty here took Jessa by shock. “You have no death penalty for murder or treason?” This was good news and bad. The Elders were only being nice sitting in their cells for now. Her head swam with the implications.

“Not in the Federation, some individual planets do, but you are in the hands of the Federation. If someone is dead, what can they learn.” Rinker postulated. “If every life, every person, has value what does that say about you that you would take it as a means of punishment.”

“Because I won’t have a choice,” she looked at Rinker with a confused expression, “and it’s not about teaching the person on the Altar a lesson. It is setting the lesson for those in witness of it. People see the punishment of the lesson. It stops them from repeating the action of the accused.” The law of the Galactic Union was highly draconian but it did keep billions in line.

“Yeah, that was the policy for some people, it even was the theory on Earth, 5, 600 years ago. But you don’t punish one person so another person learns.”

“But if the punishment is severe enough people do learn because they don’t want that to happen to them. Adjudicators sometimes can help though even for Altar lessons. You said you have adjudicators though?”

“We have Judges and Lawyers if that’s what you mean by Adjudicators. Each person accused of a crime has one Lawyer that tries to prove them innocent and another that tries to find them guilty. For lesser crimes, the judge determines guilt or innocence, more significant crimes a jury of the accused person’s peers determines guilt, and the judge both rules on what’s the law and the length of the punishment if the jury finds them guilty. People in the military have slightly different rules, but largely it’s the same theory.”

“So three people determine guilt or innocence,” she looked at him drinking in every word as her mind ran a mile a minute. “You have an adjudicator that tries to convict you and an adjudicator tries to prove you are innocent? What happens if one lawyer is better than the other? What happens if my judge thinks I am not as guilty as say Da Mu or Rogan? Does that mean I do less time in jail with them? I barely made it a month traveling with them in the Beacon of Hope. I don’t think I can make it for years with them in a room as small as the one in your ship’s prison.” Jessa had a worrisome look on her face as she was just beginning to realize the severity of prison here. Prison back home was only used temporarily to hold one while they waited for the Altar or to be transferred to a resettlement planet. No one actually lived in a prison.

“In minor cases, two lawyers argue and the judge determines guilt. In major cases two lawyers argue and a jury determines guilt.”

“That does happen sometimes, that one lawyer is better than the other. But the rules of our courts are that you can argue only the facts of that specific crime. So even previous guilt can not be used in determining innocence or guilt of the current case. And yes judges can have different opinions on the severity of each crime, but there are things called sentencing guideline which the judge has to stay within. If your crime only warrants a fine, a judge can not add time in jail. And as I said before, you are of a different age group than your friends. It is highly unlikely you will be going to the same location.”

“Wait so I won’t go with the Elders to prison? You have separate prisons for kids?” Panic spread across Jessa’s face. If the Elders were sent to prison they would be more than just angry when they escaped. They would not care if there was a death penalty or not. The best thing they would do to her was kill her. The worst they would do was leave her here.

“I doubt it. Adults and children don’t go to the same rehabilitation programs. In fact, in most cases, children consequences generally end when they hit the age of maturity. For humans, it’s 18 years. Although murder is generally one of the exceptions. That seems to make you upset. Why?” Most people would be pleased to know they weren’t on Death Row nor would they ever see the people who terrorized her for so long.”

“Because…they are my crew. It’s called loyalty,” she came up with the first idea that popped into her head as she processed what Rinker was explaining to her.

“It’s not loyal or disloyal if you are all getting punished for the same thing, but are going different places? Are you afraid to be without them?”

Returning to his desk he spun around it dropping in the faux leather seat that was clearly the best one in the room. He leaned back in his chair - a ball appearing in his hand as he tossed it upward - waiting for it to lose energy and drop back into his hand.

Rinker

“Are you even listening to me,” she moaned. “You need to fix this and soon. I will be gone probably in the next few hours.”

“Going where?”

“To kid jail,” she said exasperatedly. “Rinker, you need to get the judges to see me as an adult. I…I can’t go to kid jail. I have to stay with them. You need to fix this,” she pleaded with him. No… pleading was not the right word. The desperate look in her eyes, the whine to her voice, the sag in her shoulders showed Jessa was begging. “I can’t be without them. Who is going to take care of me? You can’t take them from me. Please…call someone anyone on that badge of yours. Tell them I want to be an adult. If you do I…I will take out a pin from something to show you I will cooperate.” Seeing Rinker take out the ball Jessa felt herself relax some. Rinker was easier to confuse when he was playing ball.

“You can always tell me something when you are ready,” Rinker didn’t want her to see their relationship as a quid pro quo because he wouldn’t make trades with her anyway. “I don’t get it, consequences for children are less severe than adults why would you want that?”

“Because I can’t get home without them,” Jessa blurted out. It was not like this was a huge secret. No one on the ship expected her to stay here. At some point, the Elders would escape but if Jessa could make sure she was with them at the time, it would make leaving this galaxy easier. “How am I going to get home if we are separated?” As bad as living with them in a small cell might be, at least it would motivate them all to escape faster. “Will I know where they are? Can I visit them? Can they find me?” Looking at Rinker sitting calmly in his chair stressed Jessa out. “So call them. Tell them I want to be an adult. Tell them you realize I am an adult and I need an adult judge and not a child judge. “

“Maybe, I don’t know. That’s far down the road.”

“I still don’t understand the fixation about the charges and being seen as an adult. The lawyers and judge will figure that out when the time comes. That could be a long time from now.” She would get really upset if she learned some trials to could take a year.

Setting the cup back down, Jessa motioned for Rinker to throw her the ball. She actually did like this ball game of his. It kept her hands busy and gave them something to do in the long moments of silence when Jessa wasn’t sure what she wanted to say.

Rinker actually rolled away from her so the throw was longer. She would have to put more conscious and subconscious energy in making the toss, being accurate and keeping up the pace.

“So I have an idea. How about we go back and forth with the questions? I ask one then you ask one and then back and forth. I will make it easy so don’t worry,” Jessa said quickly following it up with her question. The last thing she wanted was for Rinker to say no. “How has your morning been?” The question was easy enough and should get Rinker talking.

Jessa motioned for Rinker to toss the ball again noticed he moved back farther from her. Why he wasn’t tossing it to her was a mystery? Maybe it was because of the food and drink on the table. Jessa could easily fix that.

Jessa needed to make some adjustments to the environment. Setting the ball on the couch, she picked up the drink and took a long sip before picking up the plate too. Moving from her spot on the couch she walked to the edge of Rinker’s desk and set the food and drink on the corner. Heathcliff’s office was so clean the last thing she wanted to do was miss the ball and knock over the plate or drink. At least this way it was far away from their game. Pausing to stuff half a slice in her mouth, Jessa returned back to the couch with what some people would consider chipmunk cheeks that were stuffed full of the overly large bite of pizza.

Pushing the coffee table to the side slightly Jessa again motioned for the ball now perched on the couch instead of lounging on it. The distance wasn’t that much larger but Jessa was not going to miss the ball or not have the power to throw it back harder if she needed to punctuate a sentence with a little more umpf. “Rinker…ball,” she added waggling her fingers.

Jessa Novar

Rinker caught the ball with the classic two hand style. He had done this a lot and had patients throw with such force as to try to cause injury… but normally the intent was venting of energy or sometimes to cause Rinker to drop the ball and embarrassment. It was a means of control in an environment that they felt they had little.

“Mostly the same as all mornings.” He didn’t agree to the alternating questions, but if she was going to ask non-intrusive, non-disclosure type questions it wouldn’t be an issue. “A few sessions and some emotional hand wringing.” He paused. “Can’t get too much into that, you know confidentiality.”

She felt a flash of anger with the mention of confidentiality. “Oh yeah, you really follow that confidentiality thing when it suits you. Didn’t seem to apply yesterday when they were screaming your name out over the ship’s communication. Ball,” Jessa almost groaned out the word. Why he was not throwing it to her was moving past confusing and toeing annoying.

“I have confidentiality.. .They don’t. That’s why the rule is I don’t tell them stuff you say in here so there are no secrets for them to keep. Because there are no guarantees they will.”

“But he called you and you,” she felt her chest starting to tighten. She swallowed the knot in her throat and took second to get her emotions under control.
“You know what I did make a mistake yesterday but I understand now. Zala Tsu and the other Elders were right. The only person you can rely on is yourself. The coffee…pizza…hell probably even letting me run in your gym was all just to exploit me for information. I made the mistake of thinking you and Ian and the doctors,” Jessa stopped before using any of the words tumbling around her mind. ” I won’t make the same triffing mistake again. Trust me I will make sure you don’t bear the burden of keeping any of my secrets again.”

“It’s a burden I choose to hold. And I hope you haven’t had the life experiences that make you not trust anyone. That does happen to people and I think its tragic. I like to believe that when given an opportunity most people will be kind and not cruel. But sometimes that isn’t the case. What experiences have you had that taught you not to trust anyone?”

“You,” Jessa’s face searched his eyes looking for a spark of understanding. “You and Ian showed me I am all alone here. The only one that came was Evrilla and that was probably only because I hurt…I got hurt,” Jessa quickly altered her words. “I thought I could trust you?”

“You can trust me,” Rinker responded with a touch of confusion. “I haven’t lied to you.”

“No, you just abandoned me when I needed you,” Jessa admitted where all her anger lay.

“Yesterday after the Ritual of Cleansing I heard Mardusk call you on that chest thing,” she waved a finger at Rinker’s comm badge. “You made me think I could trust you. Ian is always trying to crack a joke or bring me something sweet to eat, to make me like him, trust him,” the hurt and distrust were thick in her voice, “but when I needed someone Ian never picked up the call and you hung up.” Jessa wiped a tear away from her cheek with a flick of her hand. “It’s okay,” she wiped her eyes one last time. “I just didn’t realize I can only trust you in these walls or Ian only when he is hovering next to me. It is just I didn’t understand the rules. I do now though so it’s okay.”

“That’s not the rules,” Rinker started, “If you heard that, then you heard, Evrilla tell me not to come and my request for them to update me on what was going on to see if I was needed.”

“How were you not needed,” Jessa spoke over Rinker clearly upset at his recitation of the events. Rinker didn’t stop however at her interruption and continued to calmly explain the fact the way they were and not the way Jessa had perceived them.

” They never told me the problem or who it concerned.” Rinker looked at her. “All I heard was come to the lounge then not come. I found out what happened after the fact. You must have felt very alone and you probably wanted someone to blame, but I’m not psychic, I had no idea what was going on or what you needed.”

“Well I didn’t need anyone,” Jessa wiped another tear off her cheek. Rinker was never going to win the circular argument. He was far too smart for that. Instead, he skillfully routed her to a productive conversation. It was why he was so good at his job. He kept his patients from drowning in the eddies of their mind.

“Plus Evrilla is a good doctor, that is why I trusted her to handle the situation whatever it was. Did she handle the situation?”

“Yes,” Jessa replied calming down some. It was something about the tone and cadence of his voice. Jessa found it soothing and comforting when he spoke which seemed to help her get her emotions under control. “She was really kind and gentle. She fixed my arm so fast it didn’t even seem like it was broken.” Jessa pulled her sleeve down over her arm again. “She made me feel safe. It was why I wanted you to call her earlier. I thought I could make you call her so I could leave. I am glad you didn’t though.”

“Yes, she is, there are nice people everywhere. I think you are a nice person and I’m glad you are talking to me.”

“I’m glad you let me come back,” she admitted. “I was kinda surprised when Ian said I was able to and I am sorry,” she looked up at Rinker. “I wasn’t very nice yesterday and I am sorry I said trife you earlier. Thank you for letting me reset my attitude and stay. I will try to be better.” SHe needed to address the waterworks however that always seemed to accompany their hour together.

“As for the emotional stuff we are going to have a no crying rule today,” she said in a firm tone as if setting rules for Rinker. The truth however was that Rinker never did anything to actually make her cry as others did in her life. He never raised his voice. He didn’t scream or berate her. Rinker didn’t threaten her to force her to comply. The fact was Rinker just asked questions and Jessa was the one that took it to one emotional level or another. This time however, Jessa was prepared for him. “Crying about something rarely serves a purpose. It shows your weakness and gives people ammunition to know what bothers you. Leaders don’t cry or show emotion because it will make them less powerful in the eyes of those they serve”

“That certainly can be your rule… although I reserve the right to cry if I want to… and I think you shouldn’t feel any shame if you do. I don’t have any plans to exploit you and I don’t think crying is a weakness. It’s what you cry over and to me what you cry over is what you need help with, not a weakness.”

“You know what I need help with,” Jessa’s tone was becoming tenser and bordering on sarcastic, “you tossing me that ball.” It was clear this was frustrating Jessa immensely. “If we aren’t going to play catch why bring out the ball and I think we need to review a few points. Point one is we have a no crying rule. Crying makes me uncomfortable whether I am doing it or someone else. No crying.” Jessa hated seeing people cry and it happened way too often when the Galactic Union required a re-education event. Mothers cried when the children left. Women cried when they had to leave their partners. Children cried all the time and never stopped. “Point two what I need help with is that ball,” she actively pointed to the round object in his hand. “Point three again is that I am not showing any emotion because I am a leader. I need to lead by example so you will see that and believe in me.”

“I think you are mixing things, Leaders don’t show weakness because they want to encourage their people with their bravery. You don’t have to encourage me.”

Jessa opened her mouth to reply but stopped actually listening to Rinker instead of just hearing him. “You think I am brave,” she said in a soft tone pushing a lock of hair behind her ear. For a second Jessa felt at peace and like this world wasn’t so foreign. Only two people in the world ever told her she was brave: her mother and Pellan. The Galactic Union gave flowery, inspirational speeches about bravery but it was not the same as Rinker was doing now. He was not lumping her into a mass but talking about her as an individual.

“Yes, brave… and stubborn. Those two things tend to go together.”

“Whatever I say here is just between me and you right? No one else will know?”

“I’m not brave. I am scared all the time. Like all the time,” she poked at the corner of her eye feeling her sinuses start to tingle and her eyes filling with tears. “Sometimes you just need someone to say you are doing good. You know what I mean?” Jessa stopped poking at the corner of her eye and started rubbing the whole lid. “I try but,” she took a second to pause and rub both her eyes with the thumb and index finger of her right hand, “it’s hard sometimes because I know what I am supposed to do but I am not always able to do it. It’s like they expect me to have all the answers. Ugh,” she moaned flopping back on the couch using the edge of her sweatshirt to wipe her eyes. She had forgotten how dangerous Rinker could be. She almost liked him better when he wasn’t being nice.

“A courageous person is not brave because they fear nothing. They are brave because they are fearful but do what is right anyway. You’ll be fine if you keep thinking and while you are thinking you do what you believe is right.”

“I don’t know what is right anymore,” she yelled at Rinker. “And it is because of you. You keep filling me with ideas and it has to stop. Billions of galactic systems are at stake. It is not what I think is right anymore and I am just one person.”

“A single stone can start an avalanche. And I don’t want to tell you what right or wrong. When you don’t know. I want you to think. You can still be wrong, but at least you know you tried to do right… do you best to the best of your knowledge. That is all we can hope for sometimes.”

Jessa blinked realizing she had over shared again with this man answering the question he posed at the door about crying not necessarily being a bad thing. She quickly spun another response she hoped he would accept. “Crying is okay though for some. My mom used to say that sometimes you just need to cry it out, but that was when I was a little kid.” Jessa wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve making sure none actually ran down her face. Her forehead wrinkled slightly when she saw Rinker toss the ball off his desk and not to her. Maybe he just didn’t think she was ready. Moving to the edge of the couch, Jessa angled herself the best she could to be more in front of Rinker so he could toss her the ball.

Rinker bounced the ball off the desk she moved closer too. He was going to change things up. “Sounds like a wise woman.”

Jessa looked at Rinker debating what to say. Her mother was the smartest person in the world but Jessa wasn’t ready to admit that yet to him. Instead of a verbal reply, she just nodded.

“I’m just wondering about the need for control and to be seen as an adult. Can you tell me about that?” Rinker certainly didn’t make promises about he questions being easy.

Rinker

Jessa looked at him dumbfounded. Firstly because of his question and secondly because he seemed to not want to give her the ball. “For Triffing Hell Rinker you open with that for your turn,” she let out a laugh shaking her head. “I figured you would go with what did I have for dinner or what is my favorite color.....because you can,” she stated in a slightly exaggerated but happy tone as if encouraging a topic instead of outright demanding it.

“I not sure I care about your favorite color,” he said innocently. “I’m just asking the question about the statement you opened our conversation with so I’m not to blame.”

Jessa looked almost hurt that he didn’t want to know what her favorite color was. She would not admit it though. The longer she was in here, the more clear it became that this meeting was not going to be like yesterday. Rinker did not seem to be interested in banal chit-chat.

“Well I only get one question at a time. I’m sure you’ll tell me your favorite color without using my question.”

“Probably not but that is okay,” she forced a smile.

“Fair dinkum mate,” Jessa said using more of the language of these people. Using people’s customs always made them more relaxed. It also gave the impression you were open to their culture and ideas. The topic on roles and expectations, however, was a solid one. It would give Jessa a chance to explain how things should be and hopefully, Rinker would be able to explain it to the other officers on the ship he commanded.

It irritated her that Rinker was a slow student and needed her to explain what should be the easiest concept in the world. Jessa was used to this. She would just educate him again.

“Wonder no longer,” she said confidently and in an almost happy tone although she continued to watch Rinker play with the ball by himself instead of her. “So the easy answer is if you and Ian start treating me like you treat the other officers on this ship everyone will follow suit.”

“But that is not going to happen,” Jessa squared her shoulders and deepened her voice imitating how she saw Rinker. Whether Rinker would find her imitation of him funny or not Jessa had no idea but her tone and gestures were more playful than angry and hostile.

“So let me explain why,” her tone became firmer, “it will be the course of action from this point forward. Settle back Heathcliff and learn something.”

“Oh and toss me that. I am ready,” Jessa moved to leaning on the arm of the couch instead of sitting on it. Glancing at the food and drink, Jessa debated about causally moving over to it as a way to get in front of the ball instead of next to it.

Rinker nodded. Competitive too. He had kids who wouldn’t even try to play catch, and then there were different games. He was thankful she responded to a physical game. When they played the more mental one’s that took up valuable thinking space.

“The Galactic Union is divided between citizens and the Order. Citizens are anyone that is not me,” she put her hand to her chest. “They are just your average person…like you.” Jessa tossed the ball back and forth in a relaxed manner. Her tone was neutral even if her word choice could be interpreted as condescending.

“Citizens have families and jobs just like here, just like you. They are healers, builders, merchants, custodians, dentists, farmers, pyromen, bakers,” Jessa held out her fingers counting off professions in almost a stream of consciousness. “Basically everyone that does the jobs that need to be done.” She was finally sharing things about the Galactic Union but not in the concise, precise manner of an adult. It was more a haphazard, child’s version one might hear in any classroom on the ship when kids talked about community helpers.

Snapping out of her partial daydream, Jessa looked back at Rinker. “The Order is different from being a citizen. The Order has jobs like adjudicators, watchman, protectorates, soldiers, and of course the teachers of all things educational and spiritual. This is the reason why you are confused right now. You see me based on my chronological age but that isn’t important for those in the Order.”

Jessa paused for a second hyper focusing on getting the ball instead of talking. Letting out a sigh she gathered her thoughts to make sure Rinker was paying attention and that she was explaining it correctly.

“Because when you are born, the protectorates run tests on all the babies. If you show a pre inclination to the Divine, they take you from your parents so you can be educated to help guide those that don’t have a pre-inclination to the Divine. That,” she stressed the word elongating it out and increasing her volume so Rinker would understand something important was about to follow, “is why I am not some kid but a leader in society and leaders have different sets of rules. You even said that yourself.”

“Genetic selection.” Rinker shrugged. “Most Federation races don’t do that. They allow the individual to choose their life, not have it selected for them. People call it freedom.”

“Oh anyone that does not show pre-inclination is allowed to live any life they want as long as they stay on the path to enlightenment. Only those of us that are touched by the Divine…and it’s not a bad thing,” she squirmed slightly in her chair. “Actually it is an honor.” Somehow trying to convince Rinker to see this made Jessa feel weird. “It’s something you should…do,” Jessa rapidly changed the verb. “It is something you do want, not should want but do want more than anything else in the universe.”

“I’m sure it is.”

“It is,” she stated however the tone of it sounded more like Jessa was trying to convince herself of it than agree with Rinker. “Why are you making me try to feel like its a bad thing,” she looked at Rinker questioningly.

“I don’t think its a bad thing. I just question things you get without having to earn it. Touched by the divine seems so random. What of the pious man who works his whole life… and they aren’t touched wouldn’t they be more deserving? Seems unfair.”

“Take up the weapon of faith and fear not to use it. No struggle is worth taking unless you feel the pain of your sacrifice. Is anything earned without sacrifice really earned? Show those weak the cleansing power of sacrifice. Be the force that helps them see enlightenment. Being touched by the Divine isn’t a blessing. It is more a curse,” she muttered under her breath. “It doesn’t take work. Just an unlucky birth.” She had thought Rinker would understand this but in time everyone began to see the power of an Elder.

“Okay my turn,” Jessa tossed the ball back to Rinker adjusting on the couch to that she keep up with his pace and speed during the game of catch. “What are your parents names?” The more Jessa understood these people, the easier it would be to relate to them.

Jessa

Rinker paused for a moment. He normally wouldn’t’ answer that question, but anyone with even basic computer skills could find that out with ease. The was much to gain with that… he decided to go deep. “Michel and Astrid. My father was a priest and government official. My mother was a doctor. They are divorced, both are mostly retired now and live on Earth.”

“Astrid,” Jessa said his mom’s name with a smile. “That is a pretty name. I have never heard it before but then again no one has ever heard of Kari before. They always tease me and say oh what are you gonna carry ..Kari.” Rinker could tell the teasing didn’t really bother her but was something just slightly annoying kids did to each other. “Astrid sounds like a flower.” Getting up Jessa moved to the desk picking up a piece of pizza and trying to put herself into a position to play ball. Picking a topping off she looked at Rinker. “So, you believe in God and religion. Tell me more.” While the first half of this meeting was stressful, now Jessa would be able to get into some interesting conversations and start correcting Rinker about his blasphemous views.

“That’s more than one question, but I’ll play along. My father was religious. My mother was less so. I’m pretty much non-religious. There too many worlds with too many Gods for anyone vision to be right. So there may be a God, or Gods, but Im too ignorant to really understand.”

“Your dad was a priest and a government official,” she smiled happily. “You were so lucky to have someone like that to talk to about things. Someone to pray with before bed or pray for you…in a good way. You know wish for good things to happen and not the smite her kind of way. Sometimes I wish I had someone like that to explain things. Most of the time I have to figure out the answer on my own. I am not sure I am always right but I try. Like how can there be a God or even just one question. I have an answer. May I tell you what I think?”

“He was human so he was flawed, but he did his best. And of course you can tell me what you think.”

“It’s not ignorance. It’s just a lack of faith and faith is hard.” Jessa wasn’t condescending or angry. Her tone was gentle and sincere. “I don’t know everything so I do try to learn and what I have learned so far is there are too many things I don’t know and really really smart people can’t give me the answers either. Like why are snowflakes so pretty. Sure the science says they freeze that way but they could just freeze like an ice cube. And flowers,” Jessa smiled and got comfortable. “There is a universe of flowers and not one is the same. Someone had to do that.”

“That is a good argument.”

“And then there is life,” Jessa relaxed some as she talked. She did not spout scriptures or thow verses at him but seemed to be just talking to him. “I mean you pray and then you get a baby. How is that not a gift from God?” If Jessa were older the statement might have sounded niave yet due to her age and obvious religious education, it wouldn’t be all that surprising the birds and the bees might not have come up in the curriculum. “Maybe you just need to look around when you wonder about God. The universe is such an amazing place with such beautiful things. Don’t you ever wonder why that is? I think it is his promise to us to say believe in me because I can show you things that are wonderful if you just take the time to trust and believe in me.”

“If God is all around us, then how would you explain all the evil in the universe.” Rinker didn’t like discussing religion but he had done it many times in his youth. “If God is all powerful then why does he need you to carry out missions for him. If God kind why does (s)he allow suffering to continue. If God is not all around us, all powerful or kind, then why should we follow.”

Jessa thought long and hard about Rinker’s question. It was a common one asked so many times but she needed to make sure she gave him an answer he could understand. “Well, there is free will. You can choose to live a life that is not on the path but then you can’t cry when you wink out and end at your death. You can choose to do good deeds and not evil ones. When you do evil things that is where our laws and adjudicators come into play. God can’t control you but you can control yourself. Live in the light and things will be right,” she tried to use some of the low-brow language she use with less educated people. This covered his first question.

The second question was far harder. “God needs us because someone has to tell you about his glory. He shows this by touching us with the Divine so we can help you when you need help.” The answer was super simplistic like the ones she gave small children. “If I wasn’t here to teach you then how can you ever know what is right? Learning begins the second you draw your first breath and continue until the flames consume your body. So don’t learn as if this is your last hour. Learn so that your last hour is filled with understanding. That is why I will not impart the truth to you. You will just forget without having struggled and sacrificed for that knowledge.” She mixed some scripture with her explanation because Rinker was not a child. He was smart enough to understand what she was saying.

The last question she had asked herself all the time but she was being a teacher right now. She could not fill her student with doubt. “Without hope and heroes, life is spent in malaise. To defeat malaise identify the keys to life. Life is sacrifice so offer it. Life is trust so give it wisely. Life is a struggle so conquer it. Be the force of change in the galaxy no matter the cost. This is one of my favorite passages,” she confided in him. “Life is a struggle and sometimes bad things happen to good people but God can’t intervene because how would you learn from any mistake? He allows suffering so that we can learn to be better, do better. Kinda like the whole earn something to appreciate it.” It was easy to see what was rhetoric and what was Jessa’s own words or how she interpreted them.

“Any more questions,” she asked happily.

“This is the first time you and your people have met me… does that mean everyone that lived and died before me and all those who have never met you and your messengers will be cursed to less than an ideal after life just because I and they didn’t know and had no way of knowing”

“Oh no,” she looked horrified at him before her expression softened. “Well no,” she seemed to be changing her answer as the seconds passed. Adjusting in her seat to get more comfortable, Jessa expanded on her non-committal answer. “Okay so the orthodoxy,” she said the word slowly looking at Rinker to make sure she said it correctly before continuing.

“Say it, use it write it and the word is yours forever,” she beamed happily to have learned something new. “So the orthodoxy is going to try and scare you into believing in the path and Order of Enlightenment with exactly what you said. They will bully you into trying to have faith but real faith is believing in something. If you don’t believe something how can you ever have faith in someone…I mean something. So what I believe,” she put her hands over her heart as if sharing a promise and not an ideology, “is how can you ever be faulted for not knowing what is right or wrong. If you truly don’t know something is wrong how can you get into trouble for it.” Her statement might be perceived by some as manipulation but right now she was talking about faith and Jessa would not play games with her faith or as her job in teaching it. “I think God will judge you but not on whether you know his word if you haven’t been taught it. I think he will judge you based on the things you do. You shouldn’t need God to tell you not to kill someone or steal or do them harm. You shouldn’t do that no matter what so the short answer is yes you will find the path of enlightenment when you die. You are a good person. It doesn’t hurt however to learn more though right?” Jessa hoped she hadn’t insulted him or made him feel bad. She wanted Rinker to feel good and maybe more at peace.

“That makes sense, which is why I have a problem with most religions. The most pious of your and my religious would say it doesn’t matter lack of faith leads to damnation. I just don’t see how that’s fair.”

“It’s not fair,” Jessa let out a laugh feeling more relaxed than she had in a long time during what she was now thinking of as pinnable conversations. “That is one thing I am going to change when I get older. I am going to make sure people see the light and want to be a part of the path to enlightenment and not scare them into it. I might even tell someone what I just told you but not believing in damnation…on some level.” Pausing Jessa realized that to get Rinker to share, she had to be fair. “I think you are up for the next question?”

“So I’ll ask you the same question. Who are your parents, what do they do and where are they now?” He remembered one of her dozen pins and her mother was a huge one. Plus he could figure out who she thought her dad was. Interesting news for Ian if he could figure out a way to tell him. He probably would just ask Jessa. She probably wouldn’t care about information on her dad. It would be the mom she’d fight.

Rinker

As fast as her demeanor had changed when they were talking about Socrates, Rinker could actually see the change in her emotional state shift before his eyes. “No you won’t. I am done and for real this time.” Instead of walking to the door, however, Jessa tapped her chest. =/\=Ian I am done here. You can come in=/\= she said locking eyes with Rinker in a challenging manner.

“You brought up parents. If you remember 20 seconds ago.” Rinker just stared at her without a change in facial expression. Well, that was a very defensive response. Even more so than the first time she had brought her mother up.”

“Yes but you can’t turn the question around on me like that.” Jessa’s knuckles were white as she gripped the edge of the desk clearly showing she was in distress over the question. “I brought up your parents. You have no business knowing anything about mine. Our hour is up.”

“That seems unfair.”

“Whatever was going on in that office was turning hostile on Jessa’s part. Ian was not going to open the door and save her if Rinker was still in control of the session. =/\=Um are you saying that or is Rinker=/\= Ian’s voice came back immediately. The statement more for Rinker than Jessa.

=/\=Does it matter=/\= Jessa broke her gaze from Rinker very uncomfortable Ian didn’t immediately bow to her command.

=/\=Yeah it kinda does kiddo=/\= Ian might be telling everyone on the ship he had no emotional attachment to the kid but something in his voice spoke otherwise.

=/\=But it’s not fair. I met your friend but he doesn’t want to talk. He just keeps asking me things and I don’t want to answer him. It’s not fair,=/\= she had an almost pleading quality to her voice. =/\=Please let me out=/\=

“I’ve done far more talking with you than I have with any other patient. So I don’t feel that is a fair description of the exchange.”

“Wait patient,” Jessa snapped looking at Rinker with a murderous expression. “Why are you calling me a patient?” Her response was one of confusion demonstrated by her wrinkling brow and scrunched-up nose. “I don’t understand. Ian what is he talking about?”

Ian was not an expert in psychiatry at all but knew firsthand what happened when Jessa felt helpless and trapped. He also know this wasn’t going to be easy and Jessa was not going to come out of Rinker’s office happy and skipping. =/\=Patience, Jessa. You are a bit much to handle sometimes so he said has talked and been patient.=/\=
Luckily the words sounded almost identical and easily swapped out. She was obviously wound up and there was a good chance she would buy what Ian told her especially if he changed the subject. =/\However you’re right. It’s not fair but sometimes life isn’t fair. What if we make a deal. You push through and talk to Rinker and I will make sure we do something fun when you are done. =/\=

Jessa looked at Rinker and then at the door. =/\=I want to see the person that was hurt=/\= Jessa said quietly but firmly.

=/\=Okay,=/\= Ian’s voice dragged out. He would talk to Rinker about this later. It would be easy enough to just say the person didn’t want to see her although Ian was more than interested in why that was Jessa’s intended designation. =/\=but the deal is off if Rinker says you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain. I will ask him but if he says you did the work…I will try to arrange it. They might not want to see you.=/\= Ian had no idea if Rinker was going to kill him but he said to set boundaries and expectations. Ian clicked off the badge and settled back in his seat glancing at the clock. His response was a promise but there were enough variables to bluff around. Hell Ian wasn’t sure if he wanted to put Jessa in the same room as his wife.

Jessa looked at Rinker and pulled her arms closer to her body. She could not answer that question. Pushing off the desk Jessa took a seat on the couch. Tucking her feet up under her, Jessa began to fiddle with the hem of her shirt. She had to sell the lie she was about to tell. Looking up, Jessa stared at Rinker’s nose to avoid looking him in the eyes however to most people, this trick would not be noticed. They would think someone was looking them in the eye which was always hard to do and lie. “I was taken by the protectorates as I said when I was born. My family is my quad. I do not know who they were or what they do. My only life is to enlightenment.” Her actions, tone of voice, and demeanor would fool the average person but Rinker was far from an average person. Rinker was also very adept at spotting lies and the small things people did when lying.

Jessa

“Don’t do that.” His voice was annoyed. “That is dogma, it is propaganda, it is what you were trained to say. It isn’t what is specifically true for you. I don’t lie in this room and neither should you. You’ve been allowed to put pins in anything you have chosen, I haven’t once stopped you. The only condition was that you used a pin so you’d didn’t have to lie about something you didn’t or couldn’t tell me. Don’t break your own rule now. Use a pin and tell me what you are comfortable with.”

Rinker

“It’s not propaganda! It is the truth. They did come for me.” Jessa had no idea how Rinker was always able to see through every lie or half truth. It was like he had all the answers she locked deep away and wanted to expose her. “I wasn’t a baby but they still came for me. The protectorates saved me that night. They…they gave,” she felt like she was about to explode. She had to make Rinker stop. He was so close to her personal truth just as he mentioned. Her eyes fell on the small ball still in his hands. “Give me that Trifing ball! Give it to me! I need it now.” Her body was shaking and Jessa looked to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was too much. There were many balls in the air that she was trying to juggle. Between Mardusk, Ian, her new secret friends, and Rinker, Jessa just needed one person she could control. One of these people had to submit to her authority so she focused all her energy on Rinker.

Rinker tossed the ball to her, “They gave?”

“They gave me a home,” she blurted out loud catching the ball. A wave of stress washed off her body. “I was all alone and they came for me. They saved me that night. I was five. Everyone was dead. I had nowhere to go. Proctor Elgina was dead. The school was gone. I had two choices. I could go with them or walk into a building and die like the rest,” Jessa threw the ball back at him. “Guess I made the wrong choice again.”

“I didn’t hear any wrong decisions… What did they save you from, how did everyone die?” He wondered if this was a matter of someone rescuing her from a fire they had set.”It sounds so horrible to have some many dead around you. Was this the time you lost your mother as well?”

His tone snapped Jessa’s eyes off the ball and to the side so she was not looking at Rinker at all as she thought about what he said. “Why should I tell you,” she yelled back at him. “Everything I say you hate. No answer I give you want. I am going to rot in some jail whether it is here or back home so you were right it doesn’t matter what my favorite color.”

“I’ve never said I hate anything you said… I’ve never said you are going to rot in jail… and I can’t say what might happen to you when and if you go back. I don’t know your people like that.”

“Yes, you do. My people are in the brig and you don’t seem to particularly like them,” she let a sarcastic tone fill her voice. “You are a smart man. How do you think my draconian Galactic Union will react? I can tell you. They will make an example of me. They will point out how I saved myself and lived among you while my three of my quad languished and suffered. They will accuse me of rebellious thoughts and actions. You might not have the death penalty but we do and I have no doubt in my mind I will go back because I have to go back.” There was nothing but conviction in Jessa’s voice. She believed everything she was saying. “It doesn’t matter what I do or how long it takes to complete the mission. I will be tried and found guilty.”

“You are found guilty before trial?

“Well they can’t arrest you unless they have suspicions you are a rebel or a criminal,” she looked at Rinker like he asked a perplexing question. “That is why we have the adjudicators. So that when they present the case against you, the adjudicator has a chance to prove your innocence before the sentence is carried out. It’s not that hard of a concept. It is exactly what you have here only instead of letting the adjudicator prove your innocence against the state you actively have them arguing against any point the adjudicator tries to use to set you free.”

“How often does the adjudicator get their client off?”

“The adjudicator always gets them off as long as it is not treason or a sin against the faith.” Jessa thought about his comment and decided to probe a bit more to see if Rinker was now willing to give her something she wanted. He kept talking about how he liked her. Maybe he liked her enough to help her. “You know adjudicators are a lot like you. They know when you are lying. My guess is that if I could tell them how I did something besides eat, sleep and talk to people they will believe me when I talk about my experience with your Federation.” Maybe Jessa needed to be subtle with her demands.

“My guess, is you have been working pretty hard to complete your mission despite the fact you have been separated. So much so, you broke your arm to get away from Mr. Mardusk. Nor did you have the choice of where you were placed. That being said. if you fear unjust prosecution from your Empire. I’m sure we can offer you a place in the Federation. Not that, that is something we discuss here.”

“If I am guilty then I deserve to be punished. That is what you all have decided. I may not have hurt that woman myself but I was a part of the group that did her hurt so I am guilty by association. So why is the Galactic Union any different? It would be a lot easier to complete my mission if you did not keep me separated from my crew and our mission was to meet you so pretty much completed that and I can not talk to you about Mr. Mardusk.” Jessa’s voice turned a bit sarcastic as she added, “and you know everything you needed to know about my arm. You said you followed up on it so you have all your answers.” She did not put a pin in it but looked at him for a long moment. There was no point in making another enemy here.

“You are not guilty in the Federation because of association. You can be guilty because of participation - helping, or of conspiracy which is participating in the planning. But if it is what you said is true, that you didn’t know what was going to happen nor had any reason to reasonably expect it to happen, before it happened and you did not help during the commission or tried to conceal their guilt afterwards. There isn’t a crime you committed in the Federation.”

“As far as your mission, I don’t think we understand what your mission is, and until we do. I don’t think we can help you complete it.”

She debated about telling him there was no mission. That it was all a lie but so far the only thing that seemed to make Rinker mad was lying. Jessa was going to have to think differently than she had been. Maybe she could trust him just a little bit. “You don’t need to help me with that but,” she took her eyes off him thinking.

A long pause filled the room as Jessa looked everywhere but at Rinker. “Are you a judge because if you are I have one request. Please start calling me Jane Doe again,” Jessa felt her eyes start to burn.

“Then no one will know who I am. I don’t think I am going to be able to help her the way I wanted so at least no one can blame her for anything else. She was just scared and when people are scared they do dumb things.” Jessa didn’t care if she cried anymore. None of it mattered. She wiped a tear from her cheek. “I have always cost her everything. Maybe this will be a way to pay her back because I have always tried my best but as Rogan says my best has never been good enough.” Jessa refused to look anywhere near Rinker. Instead she focused on one of his pieces of art talking to that instead of him. Wiping her nose with the back of her hand, Jessa sniffed loudly. Reaching into her shirt, Jessa pulled out the necklace she had tucked in there and held it tightly in her fist.

Jessa

“I’m not going to call you that, because that isn’t your name, but if you don’t want me to call you Jessa I’ll do that, young miss.” He said calmly enough. In fact it seemed he was talking even more quietly than ever.

She didn’t respond to his sentence giving him a preference of what she wanted to be called. Jessa stared at the wall and continued to look through the picture letting her vision get blurry.

“Help who? Your mother? or is that a different her?”

Rinker

Jessa looked at him and wished for a second Rinker was anyone but the person he was. She wished he was a stranger she had never met before that helped her up after she fell and scraped her knee. She wished he was the Protectorate that carried her off the burning planet when she was five. She wished he was Pellan who secretly wiped her tears away and gave her secret messages in the garden. She wished he was Proctor Trina who would sneak in late and night and pull the covers up around her shoulders and whisper everything was okay when she had a nightmare. Unfortunately, Heathcliff Rinker was none of these people.

Jessa finally nodded in answer to his question. “Wouldn’t you help your mom if she was in trouble and needed your help and you were the only person in the world that could help her?”

Jessa Novar.

“I would and I’d like to help you. Explain to me what you need?”

Rinker

“I can’t but I can explain the question I ignored,” she offered lowering her voice to match the soft tone Rinker was using. “Ball,” she said holding her hands out.

Rinker tried a ceiling, desk, double bounce… but the ball didn’t have quite the spring necessary to do more than flop weakly against the desk. The ball was more designed to be squishy and comforting. Not so much super bouncy.

“I don’t really remember it that well,” she lied. It was the first blatant lie, Jessa told Rinker. It wasn’t to him though. The words were directed at him but the lie was to herself. “I was sleeping in my bed at the academy. I had my Chrisvens mouse. My mom gave me that the day she left me there. Our old apartment had a ton of them in the walls. They used to make my mom crazy. At night you could hear them crawling around in the attic but it wasn’t like they hurt you. They just needed a place to live as we did. They didn’t have Chrisven mice at my school. It was a nice school. In fact, it was directly across the street from our old apartment. There was a huge park on the corner filled with blue flowers. My mom and I would play and then sit on the bench and sometimes we would pick big bouquets.” Jessa paused thinking about how much she loved that time in her life. She stared at the wall lost in her thoughts for several long moments almost like in a day dream.

Getting up she picked up the ball as if on autopilot and threw it back to Rinker. The break gave her time to collect her thoughts.

“Sorry, you asked about the night. Not my past life,” Jessa cracked her neck as if loosening up for an athletic event instead of a story. Tossing the ball back she continued. “Like I said I don’t remember much but I was sleeping…at the school and Proctor Elgina came in. She said we needed to go.” Jessa’s voice got even softer and her speech slower. “We couldn’t take anything. We couldn’t even get dressed. Everyone was screaming and yelling. I was five so I knew how to tie my shoes but I got scared. I just sat there holding my Chrisvens mouse. Proctor Elgina never yelled or was cross but she was so mad that night. She started yelling at me to hurry up. She grabbed my arm and pulled me from the bed. She didn’t even notice I wasn’t wearing shoes or my coat but there were a lot of other kids she had to worry about that night. I shouldn’t have just sat there. I should have listened. Maybe it would have gotten us to the spaceport faster,” she looked at Rinker as if he would confirm or deny that fact. Catching the ball she tossed it back to Rinker.

“When we got to the spaceport they only had one ship left. There weren’t enough seats. Proctor Elgina was fighting with the man and then the ships came. Everything was suddenly on fire. The Elders and proctors at the Order school said it wasn’t ships. They say it was God’s wrath raining down from heaven but I…I don’t remember. I was little but there were so many black streaks and then blinding flashes of light. One knocked us over and when I woke up,” Jessa stopped talking and cleared her throat.

“They could have been speaking metaphorically,” He offered. More likely even in defeat or retreat they were trying to indoctrinate their people. “It’s okay… go on.”

Jessa knew in her heart that it was not metaphorical or an act of God. It was an act of war. It was war ships and troops. It was explosions and blood.

She looked at Rinker and began to debate how much detail Heathcliff Rinker would need about the end of her story. He seemed like a nice enough man. There was no reason to fill in the images of blood and death that haunted Jessa’s sleep still even years later. She studied his face for a long time. He was old, like most adults, with some graying around his ears and temple. Jessa thought it made him look scholarly and full of wisdom. Moving her face off his face and focusing on his eyes, Jessa made her decision. His eyes did not hold the heavy, worn-weary expression of most men she knew at seemed to be about his age. When the Order and the Galactic Union arrived, that would change but for now, Jessa would allow him to still have peace. Rinker didn’t need all the details. He only needed the facts, some of the facts. His years of training and understanding human behavior and actions would probably give him some indication Jessa was determining how much she should share or withhold.

It was not like Jessa was hiding some huge secret that would unravel the mystery of how she got here. “When I woke up I wasn’t sure what to do so I went back to my school. My mom told me that when I missed her to go sit on the bench and one day she would be there. It was good advice,” Jessa let out a hollow laugh trying to not make the story so dramatic. “The school was not there when I got back but the bench was there. I sat down. I was rescued and now I am here.”

“That sounds like a horrible experience.” Rinker paused letting that settle in.

Catching the ball and passing it back Jessa ran her fingers through her hair. “Is our hour up? I don’t want to take up any more of your day. I feel like I have been here a lot longer than an hour,” she stated not really avoiding telling him more. Jessa was just looking for a distraction. “If we meet again can we do lunch, not in your office? Get out and get some fresh air…not that I don’t like your office…is it hot in here,” she pulled at her shirt.

Jessa

Sometimes he didn’t get the last word. “Its pretty close.” He paused. “We don’t have to talk any longer.” He sat down on the couch where she could sit next to him if she wanted.

OCC: I tried to get an idea of what Heathcliff Rinker looked like. Your link didn’t work but I saw the name Christopher Waltz. There are a million images of him but I was using this. If this is not correct as in image or person I will change my post. https://imgur.com/6UAPSdF Oh and FYI… Your bio has him in his mid-thirties so anyone over 20 is old to a 12 years old. You can so call her out on it if you choose. ~ Kate

OOC: That might be the exact picture of the broken link.

Rinker

Jessa moved closer to Rinker. She put her head on his shoulder which caused him to wrap his arm around her. He held her for a few seconds before he kissed the top of her head and told her everything was going to be okay. That she was safe. That nothing would stop him from finding her mom and bringing her to this ship. Jessa then shifted her body so she could side hug him. It was at this moment everything would be right in her world. The problem was this was not her world. It was not any world but a fantasy concocted in her mind about what Jessa wanted, needed to happen. Looking to her right, Rinker was not next to her like in her daydream but all the way on the other side of the couch.

It took everything she had not to move closer and pretend for one second she was not in her current situation but with someone that really wanted to help her. She was in over her head but trusting someone she had met two days ago, over everything she knew did not seem like a smart decision.

“Could you help me with something,” she asked Rinker softly. Maybe there was a way for Rinker to help her. Maybe if he understood more, he would order everyone to help her get back home.

Jessa turned her body to face him on the couch moving closer to him with barely a cushion separating them. Her knees almost brushing the side of his trousers. SHe missed the feel of human contact with another. This would have to do for now. “Do you have some paper and a pen?” Her voice was soft and her tone indicated she wasn’t sure he would comply with her request. “I promise I won’t hurt you with it. I just,” she tucked her hair behind her ears. “I have put a lot of pins in things and I can’t remember what I have said I can’t talk about and what I can so I thought maybe we could make a chart. Maybe I could rethink about what I said I couldn’t talk about?” Jessa felt anxious and on edge. She couldn’t want to leave Rinker’s office like this. “Like earlier I pinned your question about the process of redemption and the altar of renewal. You asked about resettlement worlds and who goes there. My mom,” she let her voice trail off almost hopefully. “Maybe we make it Jesscliff’s topics of conversation,” she toyed at being humorous by splicing their name together. “You could add some questions you want to know about or things you want to share with me. Maybe we could go back and forth picking from the board. One question that we answer fully and take turns.”

Jessa toyed with her fingernail not looking at him hoping he would agree. Just in case she added one more thing. “The Elders are not my friends but neither are you. I am not special to them and I am not stupid enough to think I am special to you. I have not been special to anyone in a long time. Not the way the word really means. I don’t want you scared of me or think I am going to hurt you. Every time I leave here I have felt sad but it’s not because of what you say to me. It’s because when I go back and sit and think I see me through your eyes.” Jessa felt herself wanting to cry. She blinked rapidly to not cry. “I don’t like what I see because I see someone that is scared and alone and lost.”

“Maybe we could do that…for next time,” she asked in a hopeful tone and then added, “If you say it is okay to come back.”
Jessa Novar


Posts on USS Atlantis

In topic

Posted since


© 1991-2022 STF. Terms of Service

Version 1.12.5