STF

Anger and Accountability…*Flex*ing ones muscles…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present

Posted Sept. 7, 2023, 12:26 p.m. by Warrant Officer Jacen "Flex" Flexwood (Security Officer/Special Forces Division) (Justin Wood)

Posted by Warrant Officer Jacen “Flex” Flexwood (Security Officer/Special Forces Division) in Anger and Accountability…Flexing ones muscles…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present

Posted by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) in Anger and Accountability…Flexing ones muscles…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present

Posted by Warrant Officer Jacen “Flex” Flexwood (Security Officer/Special Forces Division) in Anger and Accountability…Flexing ones muscles…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present
Posted by… suppressed (2) by the Post Ghost! 👻
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Bordeaux Quarters 0830 hours
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“I told you I am not going,” Jessa echoed through the door with the volume and pitch only mastered by tween girls taking a stand. The transition from sickbay to their quarters was proving more difficult than Ian or Kelly assumed. The small measure of privacy afforded to Jessa by gaining a bedroom had allowed her to withdraw farther from everyone. This was the last thing Ian and Kelly needed.

As Flex approached the quarters he could hear a voice piercing the relative quiet of the corridor. He paused a moment outside the door listening to see how it would play out.

“Fine then you both can sit here and have a staring contest. I don’t care,” Ian pulled on a uniform boot. While Ian was not one to jump willingly onto a therapist’s couch, he also didn’t ignore solid counsel. “I have a meeting from 0830 to 1100 hours,”

“What the triff does that mean? No one is in a meeting for eleven hours,” Jessa snapped. She barely had a grasp on the Federation numerical system and the PaDD containing the preschool information with the dancing pencil as a guide had never mentioned anything about hours and time past being a unit of measure.

Grabbing a clock, they had replicated with an old-fashioned face, Ian pointed out the numbers. “It is not eight to eleven hours but three hours. Eight, nine, ten, eleven.” Rinker had spent an inordinate amount of time explaining that while Jessa was extremely bright, the gaps in her knowledge base were massive when it came to Federation basics. His advice was to counter her tantrums with a calm tone and plenty of patience. Given clear expectations along with clear boundaries to increase her trust in him and Kelly. Jessa had minimal surprises in her day-to-day routine. When something was altered, Ian, Kelly, and the few people with direct access to her prepared her well in advance even when it was met with resistance. So far it was working but a Sisyphean task at times. “You are going with Mr. Flexwood from 8:30 until 10. At ten he will take you to Rinker’s. I will be in the lobby as always waiting for you when you are done.”

“I don’t need a babysitter,” she rolled her eyes.

Having lingered long enough, Jacen reached out and pressed the door chime.

“Oh you absolutely need a babysitter,” Ian countered taking a drink of his coffee as the door chimed.

Moving across the space he opened the door and got his first look at Warrant Officer Jacen Flexwood. Extending his hand, Ian shook Jacen’s in a far more informal manner than might be expected.

Ian Bordeaux and Jessa Novar

Jacen shook the offered hand and he surveyed the man who just opened the door before looking past him at the young lady who was clearly not thrilled about her time being appointed to spend with him. “Good morning Commander.” Jacen said as his eyes returned to Ian. There had been rumblings around the ship that the Diplomatic Officer had recently learned the child standing behind him was his daughter, though the stories also indicated that the girl wasn’t aware of that fact. Armed with that knowledge and looking closely Jacen felt that he could see a certain familial resemblance but he was fully aware that his mind could just be making that up since the brain liked coherent narratives.

“Call me Ian,” he corrected Jacen. “I know you are new here but we don’t tend to stand on rank or file much unless we are on duty and even that at times it’s iffy. Come in, come in,” he gestured. While Jacen Flexwood wasn’t part of the command staff in the traditional staff, the fact Kelly picked him for this assignment indicated he was going to be closer than most to the Bordeaux’s at least in the short term. Ian had an easy way about him and the only tension Jacen might perceive originated from a third party source.

“Pleased to meet you si…” He caught himself and corrected, “Ian.” It was clear in only the first few words they exchanged why Ian was the Chief Diplomatic Officer. The man was smooth and had a relaxed air about him. Hell he’d probably run for office one day.

“Care for some penthouse coffee,” Ian cracked a smile moving to the kitchen-type area. The space had a definite home feel much like her office only less eclectic in its decor. It mimicked the nautical feel with blues and tans along with images of alien oceans, ships, and family on the walls. Even though she was the captain, the room felt more like a place one flopped into chairs and propped their feet up on the coffee table.

“Kelly told me about your comment,” Ian chuckled. “Humor is a plus when dealing with her.”

Flex cracked a smile at the penthouse statement. “No thank you. I’m ok for now.” It was a strange feeling listening to Ian speak so casually about the captain, they were married… it made perfect sense, yet it felt strange actually hearing it.

Turning his attention to the girl now, Jacen introduced himself. “Hello Jessa, my name is Jacen Flexwood. You’re welcome to call me Jacen, though many people choose to call me Flex and that’s perfectly acceptable too.” He didn’t make any move to get closer to her, remaining just outside the door. If he was going to build any kind of rapport with this young woman, he felt that it was more likely to get started by respecting her personal space.

Flex

Jessa looked him up and down not saying anything or returning the greeting. “So it is a requirement everyone is at least your height, good-looking, and built for the front lines of combat?” Her comment was laced with sarcasm and valid observation. In the security field, few people were five feet tall and a buck twenty wet. Security was by nature a physical job and required controlling people.

“Be nice,” Ian shot Jessa a look and turned to Jacen. “Yes that is Jessa and she is oh so excited about meeting you.” It would be clear humor was something both Ian and his wife shared.

“Thrilled,” she responded to Ian more than Jacen.

“Be nice? Didn’t you hear her, she thinks I’m good looking. Everyone needs such a stroke to their ego first thing in the morning. Thanks!” Flex said, the humor in his voice obvious as he looked at Ian.

“Ugh even your personalities are issued,” Jessa groaned with the annoyed tone mastered by tween girls and mother-in-laws.

As if to punctuate her enthusiasm at the situation, Jessa touched her neck raising her armor. If Jacen had not seen it before, it was an impressive site. The armor seemed to originate at a disk from her neck, spreading out in overlapping scales as it if had the viscosity of a liquid. The speed at which she transformed from a little girl to a metal monstrosity was almost blinding.

Below the playful banter, Jacen’s eyes analyzed the young woman’s transformation from an annoyed pre-teen to a hulking mass of metal straight out of an old Earth comic book. The tech was every bit as impressive as it was intimidating.

Jacen would notice the thinly veiled irritation by Ian’s clenched jaw and tension at the corners of his eyes but Ian’s voice remained casual. Turning to Jacen, Ian rolled his eyes. “So Kelly said she told you to drop her at Rinker’s by ten. If she gets out of the metal suit you can turn on the holovision, go to the gym, whatever. The transporter has a lock on that signature so if it enacts it beams her back here.” The look Ian gave Jacen indicated the last part was probably not true but since they had not had any alone time it was probably a ploy to keep Jessa in check. “Good luck,” Ian patted Jacen on the back like they were old friends and walked out of the room, “you are gonna need it.”

Jessa and Ian

“Thanks Ian. We’ll be fine.” Jacen said nonchalantly. As the door slid shut behind him, once again Jacen returned his attention to the young woman. “So are you going to stand there fully armored up so that this legitimately becomes babysitting duty… or are you going to power that thing down so that I can play tour guide instead?” Jacen asked casually. His demeanor was relaxed as if he didn’t mind either way.

“Because honestly… I was joking when I called this the penthouse… but compared to the shoebox that enlisted folk are stuck in… I wasn’t wrong… It won’t hurt my feelings to hang out in the swankiest room on the ship.”

Flex

“Rule of three,” she commented through a voice that was slightly tinny coming from the speakers. “Three minutes of air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Power is not my main concern.” Her comment was meant to impart how powerful she was. Jessa understood the strength she had in the suit and it was obvious she wanted Jacen to be impressed or at least wary. The problem with her bravado was it often revealed a weakness instead of intimidation. If they didn’t know before, they now would know the specs on how long one could be bottled up in the tin can. Her immaturity and inexperience in tactics shown as bright as if it has a spotlight on it.

Jacen made a mental note of the so called ‘rule of three’. But didn’t respond instead choosing to wait her out.

Touching her neck, Jessa took down the armor. It was not that she felt comfortable but more a demonstration of how fast she could enact it. Biting her lip, Jessa didn’t know what to say. Her gut and her mission needed her to scout out the ship, gain intelligence about the crew, and find the Prism. Her common sense told her leaving the safety of this room was best for her health. “I have had a tour of the ship before. It didn’t work out so great and that was when people liked me. I had to perform a cleansing to get away from the large green man. Even then he refused to take me back to Rinker or sickbay.” Jessa had a hostile look on her face but Jacen had probably been in enough hostage situations long enough to recognize something else. While she was in no way a hostage, it was clear Jessa was on edge and nervous about the idea of leaving this room.

Jessa

“I never said it had to be a tour of the ship. Technology is great for that, we can tour just about anything in the known galaxy just by taking a trip the the holodeck.” Jacen responded casually. “As for people liking you, that’s incredibly overrated most of them will make up their mind about you without knowing anything about you or even having a simple conversation with you. Sound familiar?” He asked referencing her initial summary of him.

Jessa wrinkled up her nose and rolled her eyes. “You sound like Rinker.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad one?” He asked amusedly.

“I am not sure yet,” she confessed. “You can not control anyone’s actions but your own.” The tone and rhythm of her voice indicated she was reciting something but it did not have the sing-song-type quality or passion like when she was quoting her scriptures. It was more like new knowledge she was deciding whether to keep or discard. Clearing her throat, Jessa appeared to try and stand up taller and lifted her chin trying to impart an air of authority. “The crew hates me and I can’t change that but I am not going to let them hurt me. I will protect myself. I don’t care how much bigger they are than me or stronger.”

“They can’t really hate YOU when they don’t know you.” He said putting emphasis on the first you. “But it is probably safe to say they hate the outcome of recent events that they associate with you and that could cause them to be apprehensive about your presence.” Jacen tried to explain the idea that people could dislike actions, without necessarily disliking the individual.

“But I haven’t done anything…really. They isolated me from my people and introduced me to your XO who gave me the weapon and a plan to escape. Who wouldn’t take that option? I mean they set me up to fail so its so triffing annoying everyone is now like ‘don’t let her out of your sight because she will try and take over the ship. How am I supposed to do that with a single suit? Hmmm,” she rolled her eyes showing her age deflecting like most kids her age. “I am pretty sure the green guy started the rumor when I decked him.”

Jacen didn’t respond, he knew they would get nowhere if he tried to explain the difference in perceptions. He did make note that the false officer had claimed to be the XO so that he could cross-reference what was known already.

He noticed how her demeanor changed when she mentioned the Orion COS, “The green guy does a pretty good job of provoking a fight or flight response… and he’s certainly not the most receptive of listeners but he’s not a part of our adventures for today.” Jacen hoped that conceding that her reactions held merit, might open the door for future dialogue.

Jessa wondered if this was true or if the security forces would be lurking in the background. “I have no reason to believe you about that.”

“Fair enough.” He responded flatly. “Trust is earned not given anyway.”

“Right,” she shook her head and moved off the couch starting to pace the room. “Look at you. You are not blue people or red people. You are yellow people and have a lot less buttons on your neck. Does that mean he is your boss or you are his and if you have to listen to him how can you be sure we don’t run into him?” Jessa had a healthy fear of Mardusk. It was not what he did but what he could do which was unknown and Jessa was concerned about the unknown.

It took Jacen a moment to realize that she was talking about the color of his shirt signifying which division of the ship he worked in. “Ah you’re very observant. Indeed we are both yellow people and he has more buttons than me. He is indeed my boss, but I can assure you that he has much more pressing concerns to deal with than our little field trip.”

“There are a lot of yellow people on this ship. Far more yellow than red and blue it seems. Are they only the military forces?” Her question was to gain information on two fronts. The first was for her safety. She could spot yellow as a threat immediately and react. The second was to get an understanding of the crew. While she would not be able to count the yellow uniforms, it would give her ideas based on the percentages of military versus command staff and medical.

Her attempt at recon was obvious, but he decided to throw her a bone without revealing anything super significant. “Yellow shirt make up multiple divisions that perform various jobs from security to various support services. But everyone on this ship has been cross-trained so that they’re proficient enough to serve in other roles when and where needed.”

“So this is a ship of soldiers with a second job?” Her forehead wrinkled slightly showing the hamsters were in a full run on the wheel in her head. “Makes sense why your ship is so small if everyone has to do two jobs.”

“It’s more the inverse, it is a ship full of scientists and explorers who happen to be well trained in self-defense.” Jacen didn’t acknowledge her comment on the ship’s size as the operational capacity of the various ships in the fleet didn’t seem pertinent at the moment.

“And civilians,” she added trying to sound casual. “When the security chief gave me a tour I saw a school and kids.” Jessa deftly ignored the kids that were trapped on the promenade. She wanted to promote her defenselessness to Jacen than her abilities. Her only strength right now was her perception and she needed everyone to see her as helpless. “Do all your ships have kids on them?” Her question was tactical but also partially out of curiosity. She had met Chris and Lexi’s three-year-old daughter Ruth and heard O’Neill talk about his two sons that seemed closer to her age. The adults that were currently in her life were fine but it might be beneficial to know people her own age.

He looked at Jessa, she was trying to play innocent, but the training to obtain intel wasn’t subtle. He played along for now as her observation had already been made and he wouldn’t be providing her with anything particular useful. “No, not all ships have kids on them. Ships that are deployed for longer term missions may have civilians on board simply because of their relations with certain crew members, but those missions tend to be for more academic purposes.”

“How do you know Ian,” she asked. Jessa was not sure who anyone was anymore. The people that helped her escape and free her friends looked and acted just like this man. If they had, she might not have signed up so fast with them. Jessa would not admit it but she did feel safe with Ian. If he let this man in, Ian probably trusted him.

“Honestly this was the first time I’ve met Ian. Seems like a nice enough guy though.” Flex offered a shrug as he suspected that answer wasn’t what she was hoping for.

“He can be a real yatzahole,” she responded and then almost as if in an afterthought, “but occasionally he has his moments.” Her comment wasn’t fair and a slight flash of guilt spread over her face. “He is just always…there. It’s like he is my group activity leader making sure I am where I am supposed to be at all times even if I don’t want to be there. He does however bring me this thing.” Looking at Jacen she began to talk with her hands gesturing as she spoke. “It’s like this big,” she raised her hands to about six inches apart vertically, “and you drink it. It is brown and has this white stuff on it. It is sweet and,” Jessa instantly felt a hot flash of anger. Being on this ship was harder than any of these people could imagine. Everything was foreign and strange, nothing familiar. “Everyone is nice enough when they want something from you even you,” she threw out an unnecessary dig at Jacen. She knew it was wrong but right not Jessa didn’t care. She was mad at the galaxy and needed to lash out at something.

“Including yourself it seems.” Jacen responded to her dig.

Jessa opened her mouth to protest out of instinct but only stood there with her mouth hanging open. Jacen was not wrong. She wasn’t sure exactly why she was doing this or why Ian set the meeting up, yet it gave her a chance to learn more about the ship and its people.

“Look if you play nice I will make sure they give you a hot chocolate during your appointment after we finish.” he said sincerely having figured out what she was talking about.

“Yeah, but I think it is called a coffee something. Lotta coffee or lota coffee.” Jessa looked up desperately trying to figure out what the name of the drink was called. One of the hardest things on the ship was actually getting food and drinks. Everyone on the ship raved about their replicators but unless you knew what you were asking for the damn matching kept asking her to restate her request. Not that requesting something was necessary. Between Ian, Kelly, the docs, O’Neill, and Rinker, she had more than she ever needed but it was more the wants she was finding harder to obtain.

“A Latte?” He asked sincerely. “Bold choice giving someone your age that much caffeine.” He grinned at the remark… A young woman full of energy and hopped up on caffeine… He was glad he didn’t have to try to get her to go to sleep at night.

“Let’s take a walk.” He suggested as he moved towards the cabin door. He needed to get her moving so that her mind could find other things to focus on than stonewalling him.

Flex

Jessa blinked rapidly for a second as if she had been backhanded finally processing that Jacen stated he had just met Ian. The only people that had access to her had been Rinker, Ian, and O’Neill. There were a few others but they all had an intimate relationship with him in some form. Her hand moved to her comm badge but hesitated. Ian had walked out and left her. It made no sense to tell him. O’Neill had told her he would be at the appointment with Ian and meet her at Rinker’s office.

Jacen watched as her posture stiffened and her hand moved towards her comm badge. The girl’s anxiety was palpable at this point.

Looking at Jacen or Flex as he stated he liked to be called, Jessa weighed her options. Without her armor, the man could overpower her with minimal effort. Aside from his considerable mass and height, his personality seemed to be more on the same level as Ian and his friend Chris. Closing her eyes she licked her lips knowing she had no option but to go with him.

He saw her resignation to going with him, though he could tell that her fear resided barely below the surface.

Jessa clenched and shook out her hands as if trying to convince herself to do something drastic. “If you try anything I will use my armor. I don’t care who I freak out or whatever. Understand,” she asked him as if it were an order.

Jacen noted that her default reaction seemed to be fear, which inherently resulted in a violent response to make her feel safe. “Got it, but I have no intention of trying anything more than to get to know you a bit better.”

“Why,” she said moving to the door. “As a member of the divine, you will have minimal contact with me in a few weeks anyway.” Sliding into her role as Guardian eased her nerves some. “You also will not be permitted to openly call me by my birth name. You will be required to address me as Guardian or hopefully Patron Novar.”

He watched her body language talk as she fell back into a familiar mental state. He’d heard about the mental training and manipulation she’d been put through, but seeing it come out so easily was still surprising. “I honestly don’t know what that means… what is a divine?” He had of course done his reading, but knew from experience that it was better to get someone to speak from their perspective if he truly wanted to gain understanding.

“A divine is someone that not only follows the path of enlightenment but leads others on it. As Divine have been given gifts from god to help us inspire faith in the blind that wallow in darkness. It’s not your fault,” Jessa said in what was meant as a sincere tone, “that you are lost. You have never been shown the way until now. In the Union, we have a famous ancient teacher by the name of Sala Lessard. She was one of the first Divine. We learn her words to help us with people that think like you. She said Prejudice and hatred of those that follow the path result only in a cataclysmic destruction of civilization. It is a wildfire that scorches the landscape of society to a charred, blackened carcass. Nothing is more dangerous than the undevout to the preservation of culture, harmony, peace, and love. Do not shun the undevout but guide them into the light for they have only know chaos instead of clarity.” Jessa did not pause in her recitation but spoke it with the perfect precision of mindless memorization. It also seemed to calm her general body tension as Jessa talked. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, Jessa looked at Jacen.

Flex listened intently as she spouted the usual theocratic rhetoric. He mentally checked off the boxes… save the unenlightened… check… being persecuted by the unenlightened… check… superiority/savior complex… check…

“Being a Divine is not easy or as simple as just being born with God’s gift. You have to go to school for years to learn how to spread the glory of enlightenment. You start at about age two as a Guardian.” Looking down Jessa felt a hot embarrassment flash over her cheeks. “I did not start until age five but I am a very fast learner and now I am waiting to be bestowed the title of Patron. Our goal is to be Elders who are the prophets of the word.”

Cloistered and instructed in the ways of their god since childhood… check… use of shame for the slightest deviation from the ‘norm’… check

When she mentioned not being called by her name but by a title… he decided to prod slightly to see just how volatile this zeal was in person. “Permitted? I’m not a member of your society and as such not governed by those laws and traditions. So if I were to call you by a title that doesn’t hold any meaning to me it would be out of courtesy or professionalism… not a requirement.”

“Always learn the names of the faithless that dwell in the house of obsidian for they will memorize yours.
Use faith as your strength and scripture as the sword to cleave away the shroud that blinds one’s eyes to the face of God and enlightenment. As the light grows, the undevout will discover less of a need to control what they need not control, to question what they do not need an answer for, to resist what should be embraced.
In the end, walking in the glory of enlightenment, silence will replace any of their protestations. One day you will laugh at not wanting to call me Guardian.”

“I don’t mean this in a condescending or confrontational way… but I always struggle with the paradoxical nature of theocracies such as yours. Your scriptures talk about enlightenment, salvation, ordering chaos… all great things that if presented well by a society that lives out the values on a daily basis would spread naturally without the need for military conquest.”

“Oh we don’t conquer,” she immediately interrupted Jacen but like most adults, he countered her comment by continuing with his train of thought before letting her begin to ramble her rhetoric.

” However in history it is always these same theocracies that preach about how they’re the ones being persecuted while laying waste to entire other civilizations leaving behind only darkness, ruin, and subjugation… I know that you believe wholeheartedly in the Union’s cause, and I’m not telling you that you’re wrong… but do consider that it is also the only way of life you’ve known and as such it’s something you were raised in, not necessarily something you chose.

All of her false confidence melted away as soon as her foot left Ian’s quarters.

What Jacen said had been parroted by most of the crew since her arrival. “We do have things other than churches,” Jessa said. “Zoos, museums, playgrounds,” her voice trailed off. “And it is not like you don’t have religious people here. Rinker’s own father is a powerful cleric.” Jessa had no idea how important Rinker’s father was nor did she want to point out it was all heresy the elder Rinker spewed to the masses but sometimes subtracting facts was better than adding them. “Our power comes from the numbers we convert to help protect the galaxy.” Her fanatical tone dipped slightly along with her volume. She had always believed this. Just as Jacen said, she had been raised to think the Union did no wrong but Halston had changed all of that.

“One day you will see our shinning cities and you will see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears that our people are happy. They are,” she now almost sounded like she was pleading.

“Of course.” He said, his tone non-confrontational. “Because there is no alternative. If they’re not happy, it is an afront to the elders and your gods. There’s an ancient human philosopher named Voltaire who talked about the importance of the government leaders being separate from the religious leaders… otherwise disagreeing with one is disagreeing with God, and historically speaking that’s a good way to die an early death.”

Moving into the hall, Jessa did the opposite of what one might suspect. She had given him a wide berth in the room as if he were a predator and she needed space to maneuver. In the hallway, she moved closer to him as if she belonged there. Jessa did not lower her face but kept her chin up. You are a Guardian. Do not let them see you scared. Do not let them know you have power over them. You have power over them. She repeated this with every step they walked. “So what is a holodeck and how long until we get there?” Her one verbal comment was matched with her looking around as if she were a sniper checking corners.

Jessa Novar

Flex didn’t say anything as they entered the corridor but could sense how she moved closely into his wake. For a moment his mind traveled back to his childhood when he would walk with his sisters trailing behind in a similar fashion, then the moment passed. He would’ve smiled at her question, but the poor girl was a ball of anxiety. He’d expected as much from what he’d been told by the CO yesterday, but seeing and feeling the nervous energy in action drove it home.

He led her into a nearby turbolift and said =^= Deck 16 =^=. Jacen was taking her to one of the holosuites on Deck 16 because of their proximity to the exterior of the ship. If things went terribly wrong and she went full war machine, the damage could be contained with relative ease compared to alternatives more centrally located within the ship.

Jessa’s eyes shot to the screen on the turbo. She had no idea what floor she was actually originating from but recognized the numeric they designated as five by the time her mind caught up with her eyes. Silently she counted the numbers until they reached twelve. Her preschool educational program Ian had given her separated the numbers into a ten-count system. Jessa had concentrated on one through ten. The only reason she had bothered to learn eleven and twelve was because that was the floors where her friends had been held.

“I think we missed the floor,” she blurted out as the numbers she knew were disappearing. If she could get Jacen to name them, she would memorize them. It might come in handy in an escape and definitely would help her understand what the dancing pencil meant by forty-five decks. “Where are we going again,” she added to cover up she had no idea how to read their numerical system.

Jacen hadn’t given any thought to the fact that she wouldn’t know their numbering system, though it made perfect sense. “We’re going to Deck 16. So our numbering system works in groups of tens. After ten, you have eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, then sixteen.”

“And this place we are going is on sixteen,” Jessa repeated as if to burn it into her memory. “Where are we going again? A hollowed deck?” The idea of a hollowed-out deck space was not unfathomable to Jessa. SHe had already been to one with Aimee Rian and the ship’s blue XO but it did surprise her that Jacen was being so open about it.

“A holodeck is a special room on the ship with the capability of projecting countless virtual realities for individuals to interact with for training, leisure, or other purposes.” Before he could finish the explanation, the lift arrived at its destination and they were once again moving through the corridor with her trailing in his shadow.

“So you do have a way to project with smoke and illusions?” Kelly had mentioned that Jessa was almost zealous in her beliefs with religion. This would be the first he saw it first hand. Jessa lost the timid and scared persona of a child and seemed to fall into the trance most people had when reciting scripture from the heart. ” Do not fall for the illusion of fantasy but embrace life. It is only through pain and sacrifice does one achieve enlightenment. Leave fantasy for the fool too stupid to lift the murky veil Lamashtu has draped over their head to cloud them in darkness.” Whether or not Jacen realized it, his admission that this ship used holographic projections confirmed her suspicions that this ship could not be at big as they stated or that it maybe even was a ship. This all could be a way to just test her ad her dedication to her mission.

He listened intently as she recited her scriptures. He’d read stories about similar things occurring in various cults across the known galaxy, but they tended to be more fringe elements than mainstream in most societies. But in a hardcore religious theocracy it was par for the course. He decided it was best not to engage with her on the technological elements of the process, he didn’t understand it well enough himself to explain it at a level she could understand. Flex instead decided to engage with the scripture she recited. “We have saying in our society as well… Such as ‘all work and no play makes Jessa a dull girl’“

“I’m not dull you are dull,” she immediately shot back as if they were suddenly in a middle school cafeteria playing a game of verbal smackdown. The comment was needless and pointless but driven by the galactic need of teenagers to be cooler than anyone over the age of eighteen. Even as the words left her mouth, Jessa had no idea why she stated them. It was not something the Elder’s did or how they spoke to other people. Biting her lip she stopped interrupting him knowing that she had to be Guardian Novar instead of Jessa Novar here in this Federation. Without having the presence of the other Elders though it was making it harder for her to emulate their actions.

Jacen reflexively cracked a smile at the retort and cocked his head when he looked at her. He was sure his amusement would only rile her up more… but he found the situation genuinely funny.

and ‘work hard, play hard’ Hard work, pain, and sacrifice are all vital elements to success it’s true. But to be at your best there are other things as well such as rest, recovery, and yes sometimes fantasy because those things allow you to refresh your mind and motivation. Discipline can take you a long way especially when you’re tired and don’t feel like doing what’s required, but enthusiasm and motivation make that journey more enjoyable.”

“The Galactic Union and the Federation are not really that different,” she stated hearing the rest of his speech and this time not interrupting him. ” 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. We just say it more eloquently,” she added with a bit of the ego-centric attitude Jessa normally displayed.

“Being eloquent is exhausting… humans tend to reserve that trait for courting purposes.” Jacen teased.

“Ehwwwah,” she wrinkled up her nose. “Seems unfortunately that is the same everywhere. There is nothing more irritating than when the Guardians are in the common room spouting random poetry that they don’t know but clearly memorized for someone who honestly has no idea what it means but they smile and giggle.
Ughhh,” she made a retching sound. “You are going to catch me being eloquent.” The term was new but she definitely understood the context so defining it was easy.

He laughed lightly at her typical teenage response to public displays of affection.

Moments later they entered the reserved holosuite. The door closed behind them and discretely locked following pre-programmed security protocol that had been established for this session.

“So Miss Jessa, my understanding is that you haven’t gotten to experience much outside of your own culture. Within this room it is possible to enjoy some of those experiences. Do you have any requests? Places you’d like to see? Food or drinks you’d like to try?” Jacen turned to face the young lady, his first priority was to calm some of her anxiety so that they could move past the defensive phase.

Flex

The room reminded her of a prison cell but without furniture or a visible way out. Her hand moved to the disc on her neck ready to engage her armor but stopped. Just knowing it was there made her feel powerful and safe. Glancing around she stopped panicking and started thinking. Maybe Jacen knew other people like Aimee instead of Ian more intimately. While Jessa disliked the woman who helped her escape, she had been true to her word in helping her escape. Zala had been removed from the Promenade. Ian had not said anything about leaving the quarters so this could be a way for them to make contact with her again.

Her hand moved again towards the disk on her neck. Jacen got the distinct impression that he was going to need to teach her some basic self defense so that her first reaction wouldn’t be to armor up.

“Show me Earth,” she asked. “That is where Ian is from correct?”

Jessa Novar

=^=Computer, project Earth.=^= The room around them changed into a projection of space black dotted with the white light of stars and in the center of the room was the blue world she’d asked about and its one moon.

Instantly she seemed to relax. “Oh,” she let out a laugh. “This is just like a cosmoterrium. That is a huge room we use to see the cosmos and learn about different planets and cultures. Ours of course is far more detailed with projections of populations, climate, and geography.” Reaching up towards the large blue-green globe circulating in the room, Jessa could not help but be impressed. The image looked as if the world was real with all its detail of swirling white clouds, blue oceans, and green-brown landforms. The Galactic Union’s holographic technology was nothing like the detail this Federation possessed but she would not admit that to anyone.

=^=Computer where on Earth is Ian from?=^= Flex asked using the first name so that Jessa felt comfortable know who he was talking.

Flex

=/\=Lt. Commander Ian Bordeaux is from Covington Lousiana=/\= an artificial voice replied. Before the computer response even ended the room changed from the midnight inkiness of space to a program of Ian’s family home in Covington. The holographic program displayed robin’s egg blue skies with whispy white clouds having no discernible pattern or shape. Large weeping willow trees dotting the thick green grass blotting out the sun’s harshest glare letting the light filter down to create shadows on the grass. A large home sat just in the foreground with two large porches that wrapped completely around the front of the home giving the occupants almost a promenade on which to stroll about and look at the lush landscape of flowers, bushes, trees, and shrubs.

Jacen watched as the scene transitioned. The home was a beautiful one and the porches looked as if they could host generations of the family with no trouble. It was an impressive sight, and one that Flex hoped he could actually see one day. Not the Bordeaux house… that would be strange, but the more rural areas of Earth.

The shock of the change of scenery made Jessa recoil her hand as if the globe had electrocuted her. Jessa began to walk backward faster and faster as her head spun about taking in all the visual effect. She felt dizzy processing everything she saw causing her to lose balance and fall back on her butt in the soft grass. The impact was jarring but did not hurt.

Attempting to stand, Jessa froze as her fingers dug into soft grass and dirt instead of hard deck plating. As a warm breeze blew strands of her hair about her face, Jessa lifted her face up toward the sun feeling the rays warm her skin. Inhaling deeply, Jessa held her breath. She could smell the faint scent of flowers mixed with the earthly smell of grass and soil. Closing her eyes, she let the sounds of insects, leaves rustling, and birds chirping add to her other sensations overwhelming her.

Opening her eyes, Jessa locked a stare on Jacen. A weight was lifted from her shoulders showing the relief not only on her face but in her entire posture. There were only two ways could she be in this situation. The first was that she had always been correct and the Altantis was just a hologram to confuse her and the Elders. The second was that Jacen had used the beaming weapon the Atlantis possessed and had removed her from the Altantis to a new location. The part Jessa could not figure out was how far she actually was from the crew of the Atlantis. The part she knew was Jacen had been sent to help her escape.

“Where is Aimee,” she asked in an urgent tone. Although she did not trust the woman that helped her escape and launch the attack on the ship, Aimee Rian was the only person that had been trying to help her escape for the past week. “Is Zala with her? Don’t worry. I can and will protect you if you help me.”

Jessa Novar

Jacen recognized the names. The false officer from the breakout and one of the elders. He was curious what information Jessa would divulge and was glad that this interaction was being recorded by the computer. “I don’t know where Aimee is, and I hope Zala isn’t with her.” I dated them both at the same time back when I was in the academy… and if they found out about each other, I really would need your protection. Those girls are very territorial.” He hoped the frat boy act would rile her up enough to spill some useful information.

Flex

“So you were a part of Aimee’s team and you are definitely Zala’s type just don’t get eloquent when you get around her,” she turned up her nose. “I got enough of that in the month trip it took to get here between her and Rogan.” Standing up she brushed her hands as if there was dirt clinging to them.

Jacen made a mental note of the length of the trip to be referenced with what they knew about the Union.

“I don’t have any more suits to give out but,” Jessa reached up and tapped her neck activating her armor. Instantly the child before him was clad in head-to-toe armor. The activation of the suit was almost mesmerizing. The suit started at the small disc on her neck and spread out in overlapping panels moving with almost the fluidity of a liquid. The speed of the suit covering her body occurred in less than a second and visually it was almost as if it was poured onto her. Retracting her face plate, Jessa looked at Jacen. “I can take care of Zala and probably Aimee in this but definitely Zala only I can’t use the battle drug enhancer. Dr. B totally freaked the triff out when I went to see him with a headache after the attack. Seems it is similar to a drug you have called PCP or Angel Dust. Personally, I thought Angel Dust is a much more pretty term than phenyl-whatever so ready to go? Clever term by the way…holodeck,” she let out a laugh. “I would really prefer you to let me in on the secret code words but I will forgive you for now.”

So not only did the Union load up fully armored teens… they dosed them to make them drug addled berserkers?

Ian had stated that if she activated the suit, it would result in an immediate transport back to his quarters but since Jacen had locked the holodeck down under senior staff command codes, the transport did not result in her being beamed back to Ian’s quarters. The other assumption of why Jessa was still in the holodeck and not in the middle of the captain’s quarters was that it was all a bluff by Ian. The alien tech was still more advanced than the Federation’s so sometimes the easiest way to control the situation was lie. Jessa was keen on exploring the ship so to keep her in line, the small lie would prevent her from using the suit.

The superior officers had pushed back on Jacen’s idea to remove the transporter procedure if Jessa activated the suit inside the holodeck, but Jacen thought it might provide him with a great intel opportunity. He had only been able to convince them by explaining that worst case they could vent the sealed holodeck to the void. It wasn’t a popular decision, but one he was glad that had been made. The girl had become confident in her situation since she hadn’t been immediately ripped back to quarters.

Regardless of the reason, Jessa didn’t seem to care why she was not immediately engulfed in a transporter beam. For her it was obvious, they were no longer on the ship. Secretly she knew that the Federation’s holographic technology could not be as good as they were stating and this proved it. The transporters had to have either removed them from the ship or they were on a planet like she always had assumed and the transporters set her free. Either way, it was time to find a way to get home.

Jessa Novar

Jacen removed his comm badge and placed it in his pocket, once in the pocket he tapped it to open a comm so that a waiting NE could hear and modify the program on the fly. “So what do we do now?”

Flex

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