Posted Feb. 1, 2023, 8:36 p.m. by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) (Kate O'Neill)
“Incoming,” Rinker yelled at Jessa. She didn’t seem to be paying attention despite the fact she literally blew her way into this room.
The voice sounded hollow and far off in her ears as Jessa tried to process if the warning was for her or the people she had just escaped from. Flinging her arm several MECH’s that had come through the hole Jessa just created in the forcefield moved back to plug it. Once she got her bearings, Jessa could move them into another position.
“Are you talking to the psycho chick or Jessa,” Ian murmured grabbing Rinker’s shoulder and pulling him to a standing position. “Come on. Time to earn your paycheck. We need to control psycho chick until we get the civilians out and the security forces in place.” Ian began to walk towards Jessa following behind Zala.
“Like I’d try to help the one that cut me. Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. Nobody.”
“Are you talking about helping her into the afterlife,” Ian questioned.
He looked at Ian with a confused expression, “What do you want me to do? I already give her my best combat move… bleeding on her. I don’t have another skill unless you want me to ask her about her relationship with her mother.”
As the Nano’s began to repair the damage from the concussion, she sustained turning herself into a human bomb, Jessa was starting to think more clearly and the voices started to make more sense and not just a dull white noise she could not understand.
“Rinker,” Jessa replied to the man’s comment turning her head to the direction it seemed his voice came from. She felt both a flash of panic and relief hearing Rinker’s voice. The relief came from knowing the Elder’s had not yet targeted him for cleansing. The panic was that Rinker and Ian probably did not have the good sense to capitulate to Zala and cower in a corner.
“That’s me.” He responded to the name call. He started humming the role call rap. ‘its the role call, its the roll call, that’s my name cause its the role call.’ He didn’t say it aloud since it was about 300 hundred years old and he doubted anyone else had even heard of it.
A momentary wave of relief seemed to soften Jessa’s features until her gaze focused on Zala quickly closing the distance to her while Ian and Rinker perused.
“Trife me,” she grumbled seeing Ian walking towards her position. Pausing in her attempt to rise, Jessa opened her palms and brought them together in front of her before twisting them out as if to show she had nothing in her hands. The MECH’s she had arrived with instantly reacted flying to create a line between the two officers and Zala. It was not a barrier but looked more like a picket line to hold back or hold off an attack. Right now it was not clear if the MECH’s were meant to stop or protect the people the glowing eye was facing.
“Language.” Rinker said awkwardly. He actually had never corrected her language he found it hypocritical since he was well known to curse the paint off the walls if left to his own devices.
Opening her mouth, Jessa let it hang open as if searching for a retort of some kind however neither an explosion of expletives nor an apology fell from it. Proving she did not have to listen to him would serve no purpose right now except to create a battle of wills. So far in her limited experience with Rinker, whenever Jessa attempted a power play Heathcliff Rinker sidestepped it in one fashion or another. During their sessions, Rinker either refused to engage or found a way to twist what Jessa was actually demanding so that she ended up asking for it and then Rinker was in the position to grant it. Jessa could not afford for Rinker to disengage right now. Jessa needed him to control Ian and the rest of the Atlantis crew so her response to the gentle verbal reprimand was a pointed pre-teen annoyed stare but nothing else.
His correction and Jessa’s capitulation however was of great interest to Zala Tsu. Her eyes narrowed and she wondered exactly how much time the young Guardian had spent with this Rinker for him to hold such sway over her so easily.
Seeing the MECH’s had now provided a protective line between the Atlantean officers and the advancing Elder, Jessa could focus on getting off the floor. “It’s okay,” she called out trying to stand but having difficulty coordinating her feet with what her mind was wanting her body to do. It was hard to think, and her head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. For anyone watching who didn’t see her bounce into the room like a football in the endzone, Jessa would look like she was drunk. “I am here. You all are safe.”
“Absolutely glad to hear that,” Ian responded. “Now how about you move these tin soldiers for me?” Reaching out, Ian pushed one closing one eye as if he expected it to send him to his maker. Instead of being attacked, the MECH appeared to move slightly.
“Hello Pet,” Zala said casually as she moved to a few inches of Jessa but did not extend a hand to help her up. Instead, she knelt down so that she was on the same level as Jessa watching the girl struggle to stand upright. Zala did not waste her breath asking about Jessa’s condition. Whatever injuries the child might have sustained would be treated by the nano’s in due time. Besides, there were more pressing questions to be answered. It more than concerned her that Jessa’s first response was to the mind seer and playboy rather than greeting her approaching Elder. “I can see you are here but why are you comforting them over me Pet?” Glancing behind her, it was not lost on Zala that the position of the MECH’s was such that it created a barrier of sorts between them and the men they were trying to escape from. Was this meant to protect her and Jessa or the men behind it? It was time to find out where Jessa’s loyalties were falling.
Pushing harder, the MECH seemed to allow Ian to create a space he could move through without an adverse reaction. The space he used to move on the other side of the MECH wall closed behind him. Looking at Heathcliff, it was obviously the manipulation of the MECH’s only seemed to be something he could do.
“You know they had just held me at knifepoint. Look at my shirt,” Zala took on a comforting but dramatic tone as she gestured down to the droplets of blood. “My life was hanging in the balance a moment ago before you arrived to rescue me so are you worried about keeping me safe or them safe?”
“You,” Jessa sounded almost hurt at the suggestion, “but,”
“Really, lying on me when I’m right here.” Rinker questioned from between the Mech’s legs.
Part of Ian was irritated that Jessa seemed to be far more attached to Heathcliff than him; however if the counselor was the best way to control the situation so be it. “Jessa needs to see you,” Ian whispered. The Commander’s combat talents were solely in the arena of psychological warfare, not physical but right now they needed a knife in this gunfight. Reaching between the MECH’s Ian grabbed Rinker’s shoulder and pulled him between the picket line. The MECH’s did not seem to care or react to Ian pulling Heathcliff through.
“Putting me in front…” Rinker said sarcastically. “So the crazy dark-haired one can kill me first.” Not that he thought he wouldn’t be the first target no matter where he was.
“I got the strangest feeling Jessa is not gonna let that crazy ass witch hurt anyone as long as you are present,” Ian mumbled. It was a chance and clearly one using Rinker’s life in the gamble, but a blind man could see that right now the Atlantis crew was at a disadvantage, and they somehow had to even the odds.
“That presumes it a matter of choice. I think Jessa is outnumbered and we have no idea which one of the Mechas are more powerful.”
The gamble paid off as Jessa looked at Rinker with a stunned expression. Her mouth opened to speak looking up at Zala.
Putting a hand to her stomach, Zala held it as if trying to stem the flow of imaginary blood. With the Nano’s in Zala’s blood, any wound would be almost healed depending on when it had occurred. Turning her face to Rinker, Jessa held the same slack-jawed expression as if she had no idea who to believe.
“She in armor. I’m in a ripped shirt. She has blood on her. I’m the one bleeding. She has the knife and the robots. I don’t even have a phaser.” It wouldn’t take even a second to see that the hottie was a liar.
He spoke to Zara, “Are you so used to never being quested that you don’t even make a basic effort to have your lies somewhat plausible.” He was actually stunned how did she think she could say this and not be refuted?
Turning to face Rinker, Zala Tsu raised her eyebrow and gave a subtle shrug as if taunting the man to paint her as the villain. Zala had no issues killing those in her way but death ended a conflict rather abruptly. Over the years, Zala had found she enjoyed toying with the victims to see if her intelligence and ability to manipulate others into doing what she wanted were just as sharp as her combat ones. “I follow the path of enlightenment. Just like my fellow Elder Novar,” Zala paused long enough to make sure her honorific was overheard by Jessa before continuing, “we only speak the truth.”
Jessa’s eyes widened slightly, and she seemed to almost smile at the sudden impromptu promotion in rank from Guardian to full-fledged Elder.
“Well, I have empiric evidence that that isn’t the truth.” It was like the riddle of the two gargoyle head, one only spoke the truth and one only spoke lies and you had to make a decision asking only one, one question.
“The wound was made with a knife which you promptly disposed of. If you would like we could all go back into your Den of Debauchery and I could show the Elder Novar,” Zala made sure to reiterate the promotional and honorific, “the knife unless you plan to use it as another way to paint us as the aggressors.”
“Knife…” He considered. He wouldn’t ask the question as if she prompted it, she must have a solution. “A weapon, that according to you I cut myself with to set up a story for Jessa, a person I had no idea was coming. The same way and with the level of precognition, I decided to cut you, then give you your armor… with just enough time so Jessa could see you in it, but not enough time to kill me. I wish I had that sort of timing. I have to imagine this is not the first time you have been seen cutting a victim with the blades that extend from your Meca’s wrists.” People rarely did brand new things. Rinker knew he wasn’t the first person she had cut. Jessa certainly would have seen this behavior before.
Jessa had kept quiet watching the exchange between the two adults as she chewed her lip. She could not refute what Rinker stated nor his logic. Zala Tsu had often used her position to cajole and manipulate others to do her bidding. It was not until Halston had she experienced firsthand the lethal power behind the MECH’s and the Elders in the armor. Pellan had told her to always remain loyal to the cause but be smart enough to know who was telling the truth in any situation. Jessa however had no idea who was telling the truth anymore. Rinker and Ian had kept her sequestered far from the Elders but never once denied her necessities. Nothing about the officers she had dealt with would lead Jessa to assume her treatment by these Atlantean officers would be different than her compatriots except that they still saw her as inferior to everyone due to her age.
Zala was arrogant enough to shrug off Rinker’s explanation as if Jessa was too dim-witted to make a connection without her help. “I will concede there was a conflict but which one of us was the aggressor will always be up for debate.”
Ian snapped taking several long strides to close the space between him and the two female aliens. “Are you freaking serious?” The MECHs did not react to Ian advancing on Jessa and Zala. The slight furrowing of Zala’s brow and the tension in her body was missed by anyone not looking for it. For those that were it showed the action of the MECH’s was unexpected.
“Shut up,” Jessa blurted out cutting off Ian’s tirade. Raising her hand, Jessa flicked her finger making sure the MECH’s around Rinker pushed farther back and did not obscure her view. Cocking her head to the side she scrutinized Rinker. “Rinker could not have had a weapon. If he did the MECH’s would,”
“Did you just tell me to shut up,” Ian spoke in a highly paternal tone cutting off Jessa’s comment. The look on his face was more disbelief than anger for the moment. “Did she,” he hooked a thumb at Jessa looking at Rinker, “tell me to shut up?”
“Lets just look at it as if she said, ‘Please be quiet. I need a second to process this information.’“
Jessa and Ian both opened their mouths to respond but each was silenced not but a gruff or crisp reply from Heathcliff but the simple gesture of a raised finger. The passive attack of attrition Rinker used to stifle the brewing tension inflamed the anger boiling inside Zala Tsu. These men should not have the control over Jessa to either silence or provoke her. They should have understood their only place in the presence of an Elder was silence and reverence. If Jessa was not going to show these people the power and strength of the Union, a lesson needed to be imparted. Tapping a button on her armored wrist, Zala Tsu sent out the command to the MECHs to kill the two men. A long tube extended from each MECH which appeared to take aim at Ian and Rinker. The blue sensor eye deepened in color and swiveled not toward Zala but trained on Jessa as if waiting for further instructions.
Zala’s lip twitched barely hiding the swelling fury in her. Reaching for the compartment on her leg, her hand opened it and found it empty. The clenching of her jaw was another sign that whatever she had intended to happen did not go the way she had planned. I will beat you to an inch of your life when this is over, Zala secretly promised. It was basic tactical equipment for every suit to have its own supply of MECHs to serve as backup support but also to prevent one person from doing exactly what Jessa had done.
“Jessa, Cupa lāgnu,” Zala barked out angrily giving the girl an icy stare. You stupid little urchin, Zala Tsu thought in her mind. You set the MECH’s to civil defense mode. Up until now the only word Ian and Rinker would understand was the child’s name but the slew of curses streaming from Zala’s lip were familiar thanks to Jessa’s tirades over the past week when she was angry or upset.
“Okay, I think we all need to stop and talk,” Jessa held up her hand as if she were the parent dealing with two kids trying to convince her their version of the truth was correct.
“She has no interest in that. Time will make it apparent that all she said were lies.” Rinker offered.
“You want us all to go sit and talk,” Zala looked at Jessa and glared at Ian and Rinker. These men had a far stronger hold on the young girl than Zala believed would happen in such a short time. She had shown some rebellious tendencies but that was natural for young to challenge authority. This was almost open defiance and that needed to be put down like a wounded animal. Raising her fist, she activated her weapons and fired directly at Ian and Rinker. It did not matter to her if one or both of the men died. It would clearly show Jessa who had the power and who controlled the room.
“Oh, $h..” was all Rinker got out before the lights consumed.
Instead of the bolts impacting flesh, they bounced off a pale blue shimmering wall emanating like a bubble from the MECH’s behind Ian and Rinker. The shields seemed to react far faster than one would expect indicating the probable assumption the AI controlling Jessa’s suit also had some form of control over the MECH’s.
“Pet, Gharapāluvā janāvaraharū nāgarika surakṣā mōḍamā chan,” Zala felt a knot forming in her stomach. If her guess was correct as to why the MECH’s had protected them, these men did not need to know it which is why she used the Union’s native tongue.
Her icy stare meant whatever was going on between them in their sing-song language wasn’t accolades or praise.
“Ma kasailā’ī cōṭa naparōs bhannē cāhanna,” she responded instantly. Jessa looked like she was on the verge of panic. All color left her face as she watched Zala Tsu fire on Ian and Rinker. It was clear Jessa did not have an issue firing weapons as evidenced by her actions in Marine Country but this was clearly different. Her eyes darted back and forth between Rinker and Zala not sure who she should be answering.
“What the hell,” Ian moved from around the MECH’s shield. His corrections always seemed to exacerbate Jessa’s emotional state and not to calm and passive.
“Oh you were fine,” Jessa rolled her eyes at Ian’s exclamation. From the casual observer’s perspective, Jessa did not address Ian with the same tone as she did Rinker.
“You didn’t just fire that blue stuff at me.” Rinker was madder than anything else. There was no value to other emotions. He was a non-factor in this engagement. He couldn’t physically affect the battle and Zala made it clear she was the aggressor. He looked at Ian. He wanted to maneuver Zala towards the windows of the bar/club.
“No,” Jessa snapped angrily at Rinker. “Don’t twist this. She fired at you not me.” Her age and immaturity took Rinker’s rhetorical statement as an affront to her in true pre-teen fashion. “I have not taken a swing at you…since…we decided to treat each other as delegates and equals.” Her pauses in speech noted that Jessa was struggling to think clearly. Her pupils were dilated and the fact she kept rubbing her ears as if she had water in them were basic signs that her accelerated entry through the forcefield might have given her a slight concussion upon arrival.
“I was being sarcastic, I know who she was shooting at. I just an irrelevant person to her so she has no issue vaporizing me. You on the other hand are very important to her.”
“Of course I am. We are…,” Jessa paused as if trying to think of an appropriate term to add to the dead space. Licking her lips,all words that should have filled the space like family, companions, or friends felt like a lie. “I said we are equals,” Jessa blurted out frustrated. Looking up at Zala, Jessa hoped the woman would intercede and help her as she had on other worlds when she stumbled.
“Yes, so equal she ignored your request to talk and instead tried to kill the people you wanted to talk to. That definitely sounds like someone who treats your thoughts and opinions as equal.”
“You have always been kind but made it clear you don’t see me as your equal,” Jessa grumbled staring down at her feet.
“I always acknowledged your rights as a person, but you are not what you will be in a few years. You must know that you will be bigger, stronger, know more, be more empathetic, and understand right and wrong better as you grow a few years older. You are not equal to yourself in 5 years. Is it so odd that I want you to wait a little longer before you make a decision that you can’t undo?”
“You sound like Pellan,” Jessa rolled her eyes and wore a scowl, “but I don’t have five years. None of us do. I had to come here and seek out the Prism. I know that it is the only thing keeping Astaroth at bay.”
“Jessa,” Zala snapped. “Apathetic souls are the infantry of Duzakh. Their very resistance to,”
“Is due to ignorance of the situation and not an informed choice.” Jessa’s immaturity laced each word spilling from her lips. It was not just the blind devotion to her homeworld and religion but the narcissism of youth. In Jessa’s mind it would only take the correct explanation for this Federation to see her point of view and then unanimously accept it. Her pre-teen ego did not account for someone seeing something different than she did.
Ian might not be able to verbally control Jessa like Rinker but the kid did seem to sense Ian held some vestige of power over her that Rinker didn’t. Why Heathcliff wanted Zala moved towards the bar didn’t matter. Moving slightly away from Rinker, Ian placed himself so that Jessa had to shift her body to keep him and Rinker squarely in her view. This meant Zala had to shift positions to stay front and center in front of Jessa. The maneuver was similar to shifting the herd of cattle they performed back on his family’s ranch. It was smooth and effortless on Ian’s part. A few more minor corrections and Ian would have Zala in a position he hoped Rinker wanted.
“Barābara huncha,” Zala’s shrill laugh filled the space. Her comment clearly caused Jessa emotional stress by the expression on the kid’s face. Unfortunately, Rinker stepped in before Zala could say more.
“First she tries to bully you,” Rinker analyzed. “Failing that, she now is going to either intimidate or guilt you. Were I to guess she wouldn’t have the patience to guilt you… so it was probably some sort of threat, saying it in a language so it wouldn’t be subject to rebuttal.”
“No, she cares about me,” Jessa instantly defended Zala as if on autopilot as she continued to make small corrections in her positioning as Ian maneuvered them into position. “Zala…Elder Zala Tsu,” Jessa rubbed her forehead as if trying to massage out a headache. “In Standard or I will just start translating,” Jessa warned the Elder as if hoping this would prove Rinker wrong. Nothing set a populace more on edge than not understanding the same language.
“Yeah, that’s what it seems to me.” Rinker said sarcastically.
“Stop being part of the problem and try being part of the solution.” Exasperated, Jessa threw up her hands as she directed her comment at Rinker. The small quip brought a smaller smirk to Ian’s face. He had told her this multiple times over the past few days but it was the first time she parroted it back. Maybe there was something to all this therapy Rinker stated would slowly alter the way Jessa perceived a situation.
“I am important to her. She called me her equal.” The words felt hollow even to Jessa’s ears. Looking at her feet, she avoided eye contact with anyone trying to get her emotions under control.
“Not the way you think, you are an asset to her. I don’t know what value you hold for her. I will treat you the same if you had what I wanted or if you didn’t. I’ve asked you for not at thing. I’ve harmed not a person. And she is a liar.”
“We don’t lie. I am important. Tell him,” Jessa yelled at Zala before looking back at Rinker.
“Of course, Pet,” Zala purred with malice tinting her words. The fact Jessa was starting to defend her against the two men was a good sign. “I said equals,” she looked at Rinker and Ian as if doing them a favor, “but there is no way they see you as equals.” Moving to the common language they all understood, Zala began the game of chess to see who would control Jessa. “I mean look at you. You are untrained and as fragile as a flower. You can barely stand up because you are so nervous. Don’t worry. I will take care of you. You know I always know best, Pet.”
“Exactly what I say when I consider someone my equal.” That was perhaps the fifth use of sarcasm in the last few minutes, but in this case irony and sarcasm proved his point better than anything else.
“She can’t stand up because she just face-planted a forcefield,” Ian corrected Zala causing Jessa to look at him. It was a slight experiment, and one Ian gleaned a lot of information from. If Jessa was in it to win it with the posse of psychopaths, she would have completely ignored him and Rinker; yet each time one of them addressed her, she responded. The experiment and result was not lost on Zala either.
Gripping Jessa’s chin, she moved the girl’s attention squarely on her face. Zala’s attitude showed she knew exactly what to say and do to control the girl, playing on the one fear she knew lurked just below the surface of the girl’s psyche. “Take it from your Elder on your own you won’t survive. Dishelmed, messy, immature, clumsy…please without me, they’ll eat you up alive. That is why we stay loyal to the quad always,” Zala’s tone ended soft and comforting as she brushed some stray hairs off Jessa’s face.
Jessa Novar and Elder Zala Tsu
“CAREFUL.” Rinker watched her hand. “Perhaps you can detect my blood on the blades attached to her wrists.” A tricorder certainly could do it.
“Please if I wanted to do any of you harm I could have,” Zala sneered at him however in her arrogance, she missed the sharply issued warning was not for her benefit but Jessa’s.
“And perhaps you should have. But like most psychopaths, you had to play with your victims before you killed them. I thank you for that. It gave Jessa enough time to see what kind of… creature you are.”
Jessa did not reply but the expression on her face spoke volumes to someone with Rinker’s skill set. For all that the Elders had done to the crew of this ship, at least two of the crew still seemed to have a vested interest in Jessa’s wellbeing. Whether or not her interpretation was correct, Jessa read Rinker’s comment as a threat to Zala to behave. A flash of affection flooded Jessa before she came to her senses. ” I believe you,” Jessa responded vague enough for the comment to be accepted by Zala and yet confirm she believed Rinker’s side of the story. “But it is okay. She won’t hurt me. She hasn’t before.”
“I can’t tell you about what you know about them. The past and what they’ve done.” Rinker shrugged.
“What we have done,” Zala feigned disapproval. “Jessa you know what happens to disbelievers. They panic and turn violent. We bring peace but they cultivate chaos and terror. They always harm what they don’t understand.”
“I’ve never harmed anyone who didn’t try to harm me first. The Federation has never taken a world against their wishes even when we felt that might be the best thing for them.”
“Oh who is the liar now. Your precious Federation is comprised of numerous worlds. You take by force what you cannot win with slippery words and promises,” Zala Tsu rolled her eyes.
“Never, we’ve never taken a world into the Federation by force. There are hundreds of rules about that and even who we include. We don’t even take planets that aren’t united so we don’t accidentally subjugate part of a world that didn’t want to join. There is history centuries long of us debating this policy internally. It is literally our Prime Directive. I don’t know what Federation you thought you were meeting but that is not us.”
Jessa looked back and forth shifting her eyes and the dual conversation played out before her. “I read about it,” she slowly pulled back from Zala.
“You read about it? So you are letting them re-educate you,” Zala moved slowly with her back moving closer to the position Rinker had subtly directed Ian to place her in.
“No,” Jessa began to feel the frustration building in her. “Just shut up for one varping second and listen. They have this Prime Directive thingy that is their law which says what the can and can’t do.” The PaDD Ian had given Jessa was set on the preschool education range, which meant it had watered-down versions of the Federation. “They can’t just do stuff because they want to.”
“So they get to play God,” Zala twisted Jessa’s words, “when they know better? Even though they don’t possess the power of being divine?”
Jessa looked to Rinker for help.
“We’ve debated it. Was it right to not do what we thought was best, when we were so certain we knew better.” He paused. “You might believe you are divine, but you aren’t God. At least we aren’t and we don’t pretend to be. Remove the belief that you are always right. Add in the possibility that you are wrong. You know what, then if you are wrong, what you are doing is evil.”
“We let people choose for themselves, which might mean we are sometimes not doing good, but we are never doing evil.”
“Possibility we are wrong,” the rhetorical question dripped with disdain from Zala’s words as if what Rinker suggested was impossible. “We are Elders. We follow Enlightenment. We are never wrong. Only disbelievers wield pathetic pleas in an attempt to pay for their malfeasance.”
“Nothing touched by the hands of mortals is perfect. Perfection is the purview of God and the presumption you are as perfect as God, the presumption you know all and can foresee all is blasphemy most foul. At it is this arrogance that makes you do evil.”
“You’re right that we aren’t usually wrong,” Jessa tried to straddle a line of diplomacy, “but they haven’t given me a bribe or a malf a scent,” Jessa immediate defended Ian and Rinker. “Wait,” she scrunched up her nose. Not knowing what they were talking about made it hard to come up with defense for either side. “What is a what is a malv viscent?” Her verbiage and expression were in sharp contrast with the armor and weapons. She might be dressed like a warrior but inside that suit was a kid that was showing she didn’t know her ass from her elbows in this situation.
Jessa and Zala
“It means doing the wrong thing, usually under the cover of a legitimate legal or political power.” He chuckled a little bit. “Interesting you picked that word.”
“Well, I didn’t know what it meant so how can I fight or agree with something if I don’t understand it.” Jessa’s reply would have been far more appropriate in a classroom than the standoff they were in now.
” Take out legal and replace with religious.” He paused.
“So Malfisicent,” Jessa struggled to remember the huge word she had just learned, “means doing bad things and saying God made us do it? Like a lie?” Her reiteration of his definition was simplistic and showed again how truly juvenile she was intellectually on some things.
“We aren’t perfect and knowing that tempers our actions. There is no hesitation, no questioning, no mercy, in what is done by people that call themselves holy. That isn’t message of any God I know.”
“How would you know the message of God,” Zala began to pace tiring of the game of who could control the child with witty banter.
“His dad Michel is a holy man in their culture,” Jessa replied. There was a slight reverence in her voice before looking at Rinker as if waiting for him to continue.
“That is a good memory.” Jessa remembered both the key and the supplementary points. It displayed good attention, intelligence and some empathy. That she cared enough to listen about him. It might be the thing that save Ian and him also Jessa’s soul. “Is the God you worship loving and all powerful?”
“Of course,” Jessa let out a small, contented sigh. “He only wants love and enlightenment for those that follow his path. Ignorance and malaise are fueled when information is given without sacrifice or struggle. Only those that learn and experience through education can profit from the progression of a rotting soul in darkness to become a beacon of light on the path of enlightenment.” The tension in Jessa’s voice melted at she slipped into the comfort of her religious mantras.
“If God is all powerful, then He cannot be loving and allow suffering, because a loving God would not tolerate pain. Or, if God is all loving and can not prevent this, then He cannot be all powerful. There is only one possibility, since suffering exists and God allows it, the assumption is God has decided that the will of the person is what is most important, and each should be allowed to choose its own fate.”
“I guess,” Jessa took a breath trying to find a way to apply Rinker’s comment to what she knew about the teachings of the Union.
The look on Jessa’s face snapped and twisted something inside Zala Tsu. She would show everyone in the room who was in control.
“You guess? Please, Jessa, that’s demented,” Zala said. “This is why you never should have left. My Pet this whole situation is your fault so do not fall for the lies they have sold you. This just proves you’re too naive to be here. You know the penalty for allegiance to any path other than enlightenment has only one repercussion.” Jessa’s face flashed from the calm a moment earlier to one of pure panic. “Just destroy them and no one will ever know about this little misjudgment of yours and prevent you from ascending the Alter of Cleansing,” Zala said in a gentle tone.
“Every word she said proves that she never meant you were an equal. It was just another lie to get you to comply with her wishes.”
“No,” Jessa swatted Zala’s hand off her hair.
The tone of her voice and brusque manner of removing Zala’s hand twisted up the woman’s features from a mask of love and compassion to one of rancor. “No?” For the other officers in the room, the asperity in Zala’s tone indicated the brewing hostility was about to change to pure fury from the female Elder toward Jessa. “Oh, I see how it is. Jessa knows best because she is so mature suddenly in the state of the universe.” Reaching out, Zala grabbed the satchel slung over her head and one shoulder. The action choked Jessa slightly as the band cut hard across the girl’s throat. “Fine, if you’re so sure about them go ahead, then give him this.”
“No give it back,” Jessa screamed. Her hands flew to the strap of the satchel as if it were a life line. Regardless of what she professed about the team and familial relationships between her and the Elders evaporated as she leaned back hard trying to tear the fabric from Zala’s hands. “It’s mine. Let it go.” Her eyes drifted to Ian and Rinker briefly as if somehow they would intervene.
“It takes a special sort of evil to derive pleasure from the pain of another.” He looked at Zala like a scientist looking at a specimen under a microscope. “You don’t have a sliver of humanity in you. If you don’t understand the word it means empathy for others. The first part of being a good person.”
Zala savored the hysteria and hopelessness reflecting back on Jessa’s face. She had pushed her to a state of fight or flight which always was the easiest way to control the child. “You want to know why where are here,” Zala yanked back hard enough to tip Jessa’s balance so that she was hanging by the strap instead of just pulling on it addressing Rinker and Ian. As Jessa’s feet twisted and scrabbled to find a place for leverage, Zala continued now looking at Jessa. “So go ahead and give it to him. Then watch and see just how fast he will leave you.” Zala could see Jessa no longer cared about her balance and cared more about keeping the satchel and its contents than anything else in the world right now. Opening her hand, Zala let the fabric slip from her fingers. The action was calculated and achieved the intended result.
Whatever was in the satchel was so important to the Jessa, she wrapped her arms around it, cradling it to her chest preventing her from regaining balance. Falling to the deck, Jessa let out a gasp as the air was knocked from her lungs.
“It’s okay Jessa.” Rinker looked at her. Despite the fact she was on her knees, being in the Mecha made her taller than him still. “It’s okay. Even if you have to harm me to make her stop. It’s okay. I forgive you.”
“I would never hurt you. Any of you. I just need what I came here to get and go back home.” After a week of being on the ship, this one sentence summed up the purpose of Jessa’s reason for being here. The reason why she was with the other three was still lurking in a murky web of lies and deceptions.
He turned to Zala. “You are cruel. No God I’ve every heard of encourages the torture of children, but you reveal in it. You aren’t holy, or a messenger of God. You aren’t even one of the millions that believe but follow the wrong path due to ignorance. You are just a vicious creature that loves your power and the chance to cause others pain.”
Snapping her wrists together, Zala activated what appeared to be two swords in each hand and took up a position all would see as offensive. “I must save your immortal soul Pet. One day you will forgive me.”
Jessa had been trained enough in combat to recognize Zala was no longer enjoying mincing words or capricious verbal banter. She did not hesitate or think about the consequences of her next actions. Jessa just reacted. Raising her fists up she uttered one word. “Susajjita.” As fast as the neurons moved telling Jessa’s hands to raise, the same neurons seemed to already be commanding her suit of armor to react. Two small projectiles were expelled from her armored knuckles which impacted both Ian and Rinker in the neck. Without the benefit of the nanites to numb the impact, both men would feel like they had been shot in the neck with an ancient projectile weapon. The pain was blinding and would cause each man to stumble about momentarily dazed. This feeling however would be short-lived as Rinker and Ian’s bodies reacted with an intense adrenaline boost as the nanites spread throughout the host’s body mere seconds after impact nullifying the pain.
“Son of a bih,” Ian gritted his teeth and fell to the ground on his knee as one hand moved to his neck. A small metallic disk was firmly embedded in his neck. Blinking he rested on arm on his knee feeling the wave of pain slowly dissipating.
Spinning on her back foot Zala brought the two swords down on Ian and Rinker’s bodies. This action tripped the automatic sensors of the armor causing it to engage. Zala’s blade did impact Ian and Rinker on specific parts of their bodies but the alien armor acted akin to sparing equipment where the individual recognized the impact yet remained physically unharmed. As the metal encapsulated them, heads-up displays engaged along with an AI computer voice began to run through what could absolutely be assumed a diagnostic routine. Unfortunately, this was all in the Alien’s writing and language.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Ian spun out of the way with far more dexterity than he normally possessed. The suit seemed to react to what he was thinking and made it possible over having the ability to actually do it.
The impact of Zala’s blade also triggered a dose of the battle drug coursing through Jessa’s and the Elder’s systems. Ian and Rinker were not only fully equipped in protective armor but feeling the surge of a drug similar to Phencyclidine. Feelings of euphoria smothered any sense of fear or panic. The drug also enhanced an individual’s natural intellect. The combination produced an almost superman effect in someone experiencing it.
Ian felt the rush of adrenaline coursing through his body but it seemed to be more than that. Ian felt stronger, powerful, invincible. The world seemed to slow slightly as he watched Zala Tsu bring the blade up to strike Rinker again. Moving his hand to his hip, Ian growled out a series of curses not finding a phaser waiting there.
As her blade came down it was stopped before impact by a second blade not from Rinker.
“Leave them alone,” Jessa snapped out sliding between Zala and the two officers. Her form was sloppy but executed well enough to give the two officers protection and a second to get thier bearings.
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