STF

Anger and Accountability…Stockholm syndrome or Machiavellian theory…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present

Posted Nov. 28, 2023, 1:23 p.m. by Gamemaster Deus Ex Machina (GM) (Luke Hung)

Posted by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) in Anger and Accountability…Stockholm syndrome or Machiavellian theory…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present

Posted by Gamemaster Deus Ex Machina (GM) in Anger and Accountability…Stockholm syndrome or Machiavellian theory…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present

Posted by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) in Anger and Accountability…Stockholm syndrome or Machiavellian theory…When the past doesn’t match the future or the present
SNIP

“Halston was not going to be remembered because no one survived. I am not sure learning the Prism was here was worth the price it cost.”

“There is a philosophy that the existence of one person is analogous to the universe. So if you kill one person, you cost them the whole universe so nothing is worth a single life, much like a planet worth of people, but the least we can do is remember those who perished in the continuation of our goals.”

The excitement and zeal soon slipped from her eyes as Jessa sunk back hard into Rinker’s couch. “I made the mistake of telling Pellan about the Prism after Halston. He acted a lot like you. That was why I agreed to come here with the Elders. Rogan said he was in contact with a group of people that knew where the Prism was and who to contact to get it. He said they said they would tell us where my mom is if we brought it back. They needed me to come because Captain Bordeaux would only give it to me. It felt wrong to keep this a secret so I told Pellen. I have never seen Pellan so angry as when I told him about this. He wouldn’t listen to me about anything. Pellan said that he was going to take me away from Kublia Tais and my Quad. I could not let that happen.” Jessa pleaded with Rinker as if he had some say in the matter or at least would support her in her choices. “I had to save my mom. So we reprogrammed the course setting on the Beacon of Light and it sent us here. You know the rest.”

“Why was he mad that you wanted to save your mother?”

“You keep mentioning wanting to save her, but you never give me any information about where she is, why they are keeping her in the first place, and why would any particular prize be the ransom you need.” Rinker had repeatedly stated that keeping/using hostages is not something she should encourage, but it was like talking to a wall.

Jessa stared at Rinker getting quiet for a long moment. “Commander Rinker,” she used his rank trying to be polite and hoping this small measure of respect to him would help her right now. “When Pellan shows up can you be there? You are good at calming people down and I am pretty sure he is going to be so varped he is not going to listen to a thing I have to say.” Of all the things Jessa had to worry about right now, she was more worried about Pellan arriving than not showing up.

Jessa Novar

“Sure, I’ll be where you want me.” That wasn’t too much to ask for in his book.

“Thank you,” she said visibly relieved.

Rinker

“Can I stay here with you,” Jessa asked but did not look at the man. “I promise I won’t try to escape. Where would I go anyway,” she tried to make a joke that only made her cry again. “I won’t eat or drink anything. I won’t bother you. I just don’t want to go back to sick bay. I don’t want to be alone and Ian only comes at night and sometimes during the day.” For the first time coming to the Altantis, Jessa was scared. These people held all the power and she was helpless. It was a feeling she didn’t like.

Rinker paused. “I’m not too worried about that. But I’ll have to check with Ian and frankly my office isn’t a really good bedroom certainly not for two.”

“Why does everything have to go through him? Yes, I asked for him the first night but that does not mean he needs to be up my ass every second or be the person everyone has to run everything by before I do it. Why can’t I be in charge of myself or even you?” Jessa suddenly became agitated. “You outrank him. You have more circles on your neck. You engage me as an equal and are working on how to help me make the transition for your people from the Federation to the Union easier. Ian just,” she let his name hang and then crossed her arms over her chest in a childish manner. Jessa didn’t want to cut ties with Ian so she was careful not to say something she could not take back. Jessa liked the predictable routine of eating with Ian and knowing no matter when she woke up or why he was always at her side. She just wanted to avoid him like the plague right now. Jessa shifted in her seat clearly uncomfortable. “Ian was just really mad at me in the promenade. I would rather not be around him until he cools off. That is why I am going to stay here from now on.” Chewing her lip, Jessa did not like the silence or pause in conversation or Heathcliff’s less than enthusiastic initial response to her idea.

Jessa Novar

“Well we could ask the Captain,” He countered not answering her question. “But the Captain did designate him to be in charge of this situation.” Of course she was the situation and likely somehow his genetic spawn. “Not to mention, Ian isn’t Pellan or any of the other personalities you are used to. He might not respond in the way you fear.”

Rinker

“No one responds the way I think they should,” Jessa got up clearly moving from upset to hysterical. She was struggling to maintain her composure the more the events from the promenade sunk in. Jessa was realizing just how much trouble she was in and no one to help her. “No one would have died if you all just genuflected in our presence. Rogan said you would but Da Mu attacked your captain. You said you were benevolent and trustworthy but your people set us up to be slaughtered by your armies. I set the MECH’s to civil defense,” she yelled at Rinker so hard her throat hurt. “They were programed so that no one could use a weapon on either side. I thought you would all talk to them. I thought we could all come to an understanding but they are now all dead.” Jessa hiccuped a breath in feeling like there was no air in the room.

“You have certainly encountered worlds that didn’t just choose to kneel before you. I can’t imagine your empire would just take the knee if we showed up in your galaxy? Its surprising to think you would think its expected that another confederation would just bow to an unknown power.”

“Because were are the good guys and you are all too stupid to take a minute and see that. We will take care of you. We will protect you. Roh,” she started to say Rogan’s name and choked on the word. Rogan was no longer her to protect her. He was no longer her to take care of her. The realization on her face soon spread into words.

“Yeah, everything you’ve done so far is ‘very good’. Murder, invasion, intimidation, hostage taking, torture. Yup page one of the good guy manual.” He shrugged. “There is a human phrase, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

His words hit her like a punch in the gut. It was getting harder and harder to defend her position. “This is why your kind is outlawed. This is what mind seers do. You get into people’s heads and make it hard to think.”

“Well that’s the first thing Fascists do, kill the people who tell the truth.”

“The only people in the world that cared about me are dead. I am lost and I don’t know how to get home.” Anger and fear erupted out of Jessa that she could not contain. She wished she had been playing with Rinker’s ball but in lieu of having something soft to throw she reached out and swiped a lamp off his end table letting it crash to the floor. The expelling of energy felt good. The crack of the pottery base sounded almost soothing.

“We care for you.” He glanced at the rubble at her feet. “Certainly more than you care about my furnishings.”

“You can use your magic machine on the wall to just make one again,” Jessa turned to face him and wiped her running nose with the back of her sleeve. Her words felt hollow and her temper had caused her to lash out but Rinker was still remaining so calm and in control. Jessa felt a compulsion to explain her behavior before Rinker tried to. “My mother is a traitor. Happy now that you have your answers,” she dropped to the ground in a heap next to the broken lamp leaning against the wall.

Rinker tilted his head, conceding her point. “Sometimes its the the thought that counts. In both the destruction of my lamp and what ‘treachery’ your mother is accused of.”

“Says who?” Rinker responded promptly. “Mothers do things, parents do things, sometimes the wrong thing but its out of love and not out of treachery to an Empire. Another a human patriot said if I have to choose between my country and my friend. I hope I have to courage to pick my friend.”

“That is a naive statement said from the comfort of one’s couch. It sounds great until you are forced to choose. I have had to choose and all my friends are dead. Guess you are going to say I choose wrong so save your breath. Besides, I don’t know where she is and even if I did I could not go to her because do you know what they do to traitors?” Jessa no longer cared how Rinker would react to truth or how it would alter his opinion about her.

“Naive,” Well that was a extra credit word.

“They find the traitor’s family: mother, father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins…four branches out. Then they find everyone you ever worked with, went to school with, participated in leisure time with and take all of their families. They take everyone and anyone that might ever have known you even in passing and send them to the Altar of Cleansing so that there is no one to remember you or seek revenge for you. This is why Pellan gets so mad when I talk about her. Rogan was the only person that wasn’t scared of anyone and agreed to help me find the Prism to save her and now he is dead.”

“That is a severe punishment.” Ironically he expected her to say it was death. Mind wiping was fairly benign for what he learned of the confederacy.

“Its been a three thousand years since the Federation thought crimes were in the bloodline. There is no crime another commits that you are guilty for. Is that on one side enough for you?”

“No, it’s just I don’t have a dad so they are safe from Renditioning.” This was the first time Jessa had admitted to being ignorant of her paternal side and not claiming Pellan in that role.

“And what will become of you now, when your friends return.”

“The adjudicator will try my case. If I am found guilty I will ascend to the Altar of Cleansing for my sins and transgressions.” Her voice was not confident and full of devotion to her Union. It was a confession but one Rinker could see scared her more than she wanted to show him.

“So you see,” Jessa wiped her eyes and then her nose with her shirt, “I am screwed no matter what. If I am to be cleansed I will no longer be around to look for her.” If Rinker was mulling over the ramifications of being cleansed, it was becoming clearer that cleansing equalled a permanent state. Because of Renditioning, no one will help me find her because they can’t.” The tension and fear in her voice was clearly evident as she continued to talk. “But if I have the Prism I can search the universe myself for her and when I find her, I can give her the Prism. I can tell everyone she found it and they will see she is not a traitor but a patriot.”

“I wouldn’t give them a damn thing.” He said bluntly. She encouraged his decisiveness with her claims he never took a side. He would have to wind back after he thought about it for a moment. “You don’t call my mother, three circles of my family a traitor and then have me fight, kill and die for you.”

His comment made Jessa focus all her attention on him. It took everything she had not to jump up and hug him. No one spoke with such passion about her mother except for her. Of all the things Rinker said to her in the past seven days, these two sentences felt like a weight had been lifted off of her. Jessa felt justified in all the choices that had brought her to this corner of the universe. If she wasn’t in so much trouble, Jessa would have left his office with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. The reality was she was in trouble and a lot more than she knew how to deal with on her own.

With nothing near her to break, Jessa hit the back of her head against the wall in a loud thunk. It hurt enough to bring a round of fresh tears but it also felt good to have something to focus on other than all her other problems. She hit the wall two more times in rapid succession before leaning forward and resting her elbows and then her forehead on her propped up knees. Da Mu’s dried blood on her hands made them stick to her arms and filled the small space her face was buried in with a iron like scent. It was choking but better than looking at Rinker.

Jessa Novar

Rinker slid the container of tissues closer to her. “I’m not certain my walls or your fists can take the continued abuse. I can have a dummy sent to my office, if you would like to continue your physical aggressiveness.”

“No but maybe we can play ball. That helped. I mean wasn’t so bad,” she self corrected not wanting entirely to accept comfort from Rinker but still perpetually seeking it.

Rinker picked up a cushioned ball from his desk. It doubled as a stress ball when he was alone. He tossed it gently to her. He didn’t expect that she would return the curtesy of a gentle return toss.

Squeezing it several times in her hand, Jessa searched for the calm it normally brought her but only felt hollow.

“I have asked you before. Where is your mother… or how can we find her. Maybe we can rescue her?”“

Rinker

“Why,” Jessa blurted out feeling a cascade of hopelessness overwhelm her.

As her anger increased so did the strength of her tossing.

“Because she needs rescuing.”

“You only care about what I can give you. You don’t care about her. She means nothing to you or your precious Federation.”

“I haven’t ever asked you a damn thing. I didn’t even ask you to save my life… although don’t be confused, I am very happy and thankful you did.” He carefully said so she didn’t mistake his appreciation.

Gripping the ball tightly, Jessa stopped the game as her emotions too her over.

The more she thought about her future the more hysterical she became. “You are not my adult. You said it and it is true. I have no adults. All my adults are dead. I have no one. No Pellan. No, Mom. No, Dad. No Elders. I am alone.” Putting her head on her knees Jessa sobbed so hard it was hard to breathe. “I want to go home but I can’t. I don’t have a ship. I don’t have supplies,” she looked up at Rinker.

“And that’s a tragedy, so lets at least find your mom. I won’t lie and say we can do it, but I think many of us would like the chance to try.”

“Everyone I love I hurt,” she sobbed out words between crying and breathing, “I could not save him.” Jessa looked at her hands with the dried blood before rubbing her hands hard against her knees trying to remove the traces of red. “No one is going to believe I didn’t try to save Da Mu… or Rogan. Oh god,” she put her hands over her face. Nothing mattered to Jessa right now but the myriad of thoughts all screaming for attention in her head. “Rogan saved me. He saved me on Nuat and I just let him die.” Jessa no longer cared about crying in front of Rinker. She didn’t care about anything right now except the helpless feeling in her core.

Jessa Novar

Rinker wasn’t a liar, if he had a weakness in his therapeutic style were those pity statements that meant nothing but made people feel better. He couldn’t say her mom or father was in a better place. He didn’t believe in God.

“You didn’t let anyone die. You can’t save everyone. There are people who mean a lot to someone, and they are dying every moment of every day. You didn’t let them die either. Your mother, father, Rogan are closer to you so it of course means more. You need to free yourself of that guilt or then you are guilty of each and every person who you might have saved and did not.”

Rinker

“Did I mean anything to any of them?” Jessa abruptly shifted into a topic that was a hundred and eight degrees from what she had been claiming since she started. “Pellan tells me I am special but we can only see each other in secret. Do you know how hard it is to not be able to talk to someone. To act like you barely know them?” Jessa had done nothing but praise the man however now she was painting him in a different light.

He squinted at that, “In what way, in secret?” There was information in her.

“He is not allowed to show me any public affection or favoritism. He tries to spend as much time with me as he can but it’s rarely more than a few hours at night normally. He said one day things will be different but for now it is could be considered nepo..nepa..kneepatoism. Personally, I don’t care and think politics is trii…stupid,” she altered her words for the first time not trying to provoke a reaction from Rinker. “Politics are stupid.” Jessa sniffed back her tears and shook her head. Jessa had a better-than-average vocabulary due to her education but there were times it was clear she was just parroting back a word with no idea of the meaning.

“Nepotism, is used when someone gets better treatment because they are biologically related to the people in power. So unless I’m a little confused to your lineage I don’t think nepotism is the correct word.”

“No, it is right. My Aunt is the Rectoress. Our Rector or Rectoress is not a birth thing though like with royalty. It is someone who is selected by God to rule us. The man before my Aunt Kyla was from Iyangbo. It was a jungle world. When he died, my Aunt Kyla was selected. I don’t get to see her much but it is not like it is huge secret. Rogan made sure he talked about how special I was but it didn’t always feel like it was a good thing.” Jessa squirmed slightly. She did not like talking about this topic at all. Her body language became far more defensive and she avoided eye contact with Rinker as she spoke. The more she thought about giving Rinker ammunition to dislike her Elders, the madder Jessa became until the reality hit they were all dead and no longer relevant.

Well it must be nice to be selected by God. The best he ever got was picked 2nd for dodge ball. “Family is something hard to live up or down to. I think the problem is that people feel like they have to take responsibility for others. I told you once, that we don’t believe in familiar guilt. What your relatives do, good or ill, has nothing to do with you.”

“That is easy to say when it doesn’t involved you. I am not deaf or blind. I see the way people look at Ian…Jack. I have heard your crew talking about how I should be jettisoned in space by some for my crimes against the Federation and they are not even related to me. Sometimes people can hate others simply by opinion and not facts.”

“It isn’t easy to do the right thing. It almost never is. So the fact that its so hard might actually be the best evidence that you are making the right decision.” He paused, “well that is hard to do… as opposed to hard to go along with.”

“I know you all hated Rogan.” Letting out a hysterical laughs between sobs, Jessa continued. “You always talk about finding common ground and you all have that in common with Chancellor Pellan Vell,” she said snarkily. “But I don’t care. Rogan is the only one that came for me. He did. Not my mother. Not my father. Not Pellan but Rogan so how could I not trust him when Rogan asked me for help. Rogan took me to Halston only because the person we met there needed to know he had me to find out where the Prism was. Is that why he saved me on Nuat? Was it only because he knew that he would need me later?” Her question was far more rhetorical than inquisitory. Rinker had no idea what was fact or fiction but it was a relief to say it over just think it. Her swell of emotions was taking over her ability to control the information pouring from her mouth. It was as if a floodgate opened and she could not hold some questions back.

“Hated might be a little strong. I didn’t know him well enough to hate him. I definitely didn’t trust him. I thought he was lying to me and up to no good in regard to me and my crew. I suspect the same was true in your relationship with him. But I didn’t know him in regards to his relationship with you so I can only suspect. I do not know. I don’t like talking about things I don’t know as if they are facts.”

Rinker didn’t really know what the importance of this Prism was. Jessa always talked about things like the were well known and perhaps they were, but not to him.

“The worst part is I have ruined so many lives looking for my mom but does she even want me? My mom left me on a bench and walked away when I was three and,” Jessa immediately clapped a hand over her mouth and shook her head as if regretting her outburst. Her body froze into a state so rigid, Jessa felt like she could no longer take a breath. The air seemed to be sucked from her lungs and no matter how hard she tried to inhale, all she could manage was a random squeaking sound as if she were being choked.

Jessa Novar

“I can’t imagine that she doesn’t.” Rinker could have said, of course but given Jessa’s luck there was no guarantees. “There likely were reasons that she left. We can’t know one way or another unless we find her.”

Rinker had never questioned or doubted Jessa’s mother. He had not changed his position on needing and wanting to help Jessa find her during all the sessions in which Bria Novar was the subject of discussion.
Hearing the confirmation of what she so desperately wanted to hear spurred Jessa into action. Pushing off the wall and onto the balls of her feet, Jessa closed the space between her and Rinker rapidly. Reaching him, she threw her arms around his waist and held onto him tightly.

Feeling his heartbeat against the side of her head broke Jessa utterly and completely. She gripped him as if someone was trying to pull her free from his body. She did not sob uncontrollably but closed her eyes so tightly it almost hurt as she imagined Rinker was Pellan, that he was her mother, that he was her father, that he was anyone with some vested interest in her past their own wants and needs. Her mind let Jessa block out that she was on starship billions of lightyears from Cildar. Her memories played back Pellan’s voice uttering soothing platitudes that things were going to be okay.

“This of course poses the questions, how on Earth are we supposed to find this person?”

Rinker

His question broke her fantasy and pulled her back to reality. She withdrew her arms as if Rinker was suddenly hot like the surface of an oven. Not immediately saying anything, Jessa moved back across the room sitting on the couch. Instead of throwing the ball to burn off excess energy, Jessa lobbed the ball gently underhand to Rinker. “No matter what I say to you, you have to keep it a secret right? As long as no one gets hurt,” she added the disclaimer to it for Rinker.

“As long as nobody gets hurt.” He confirmed her simplistic repetition of the ethical code.

“The Prism is a device that lets ships travel in the blink of an eye. It won’t take a month to go four billion miles but lets you travel that in the blink of an eye by bending time and space. It would negate the need for the celestial web. When we find the Prism I can use it to bring the Atlantis to the Galactic Union and we can ask the Rectoress directly how to find my mom. She told me once that it was too dangerous to talk about my mom and that one day when I was older she would explain everything. No matter how many times I asked her, she never told me anything. I think that is why she assigned me to Rogan, Zala, and Da Mu. If I was in training as an Elder, I was not in the capital all the time. If I wasn’t in the capital I could not bother her.” Jessa blew her nose and felt herself calming down some. It was so hard keeping so many secrets and it felt good to talk about things that were bothering her. It felt good to focus on something other than where she was going to sleep tonight or the Altar of Cleansing.

Jessa Novar

“There are many similar legends in the Federation about races with trans-galactic transportation ability. Why would you think this Prism is any more true or false then the dozens of other reports of ‘magic’ teleportation.?”

Rinker

“Because we had it during the reign of Rector Xianlin. It was during the transition between him and Rector Prawl when it was stolen by the Undevout.”

“Un-Devout?”

“The Undevout,” she lowered her voice some as if it were a curse word, “are those that refuse to see the light or the glory of the Union.”

That would probably be the large part of the galaxy, but since she was on a roll Rinker let her continue to talk uninterrupted.

” They work to destroy the Galactic Union through lies and subterfuge so that we all are plunged into chaos and darkness.” Jessa wasn’t exactly sure what subterfuge was but it had to be a bad thing based on everyone labeling the Undevout with it. “Many of them preached anti-Union rhetoric so they were asked to leave. The Union set up special schools for them to be re-educated on the outskirts of our galaxies. If they change their mind, they are allowed to return without penalty.” Jessa was completely sincere spilling back the facts she had been taught. She was not old enough to learn more than the fairytale they preached to her in her classes. “This is why they stole the Prism. To try and wreak havoc on the peace-loving worlds and bring down society.”

“Why would the union go to places where there were functional governments and religions and force theirs on a different group of people? I would think enlightened people would understand the same things don’t work for all people.” Rinker didn’t focus on the prism which seemed to be a fast transport system that he though they likely used for military conquest.

“Why would they not want to join the Union.” Jessa’s forehead wrinkled up with a confusion that betrayed her youth. “We don’t force them to join. They always want to join. We send diplomats and envoys who talk about what they have to trade or share. We tell them what we can share with them. Being one only makes us stronger against,” Jessa let her voice trail off. The forceful authoritative approach had not worked. Rinker had only fought with her trying to disprove her claims as the Union being the pinnacle of civilization. The truth approach would not work because she and Rinker had agreed to no lie to each other. This only left her with an honest approach. While some might not see the difference there was a one between being truthful and honest. Being truthful was giving an accurate representation of reality. Being honest meant one expressed their feelings and opinions accurately.

“I don’t want to join the Union. I have a government and far too many religions to deal with now. Not to mention, the invasions of the worlds you reported earlier make the statement of only sending diplomats and envoys ring untrue. Not to mention our experience of your first contact wasn’t very ambassadorial. The sheer volume of weaponry they give to eight year olds seems a little odd for such a peace-loving confederation.”

“Further joining mean not only making you our friend but making your enemies ours. We do fine making enemies on our own and seeing your ambassadors, I am certain you have far more enemies than us.”

“I was not allowed to attend all functions the Elders do as a Guardian. As a Patron, I would be given more responsibilities. Rogan told me that Halston was my last test to becoming a Patron. It was the first time in my life I didn’t want to be anything more than a Guardian.” Using the back of her hand she wiped away a tear from her cheek.

“Halston?”

“I know it is important for you to ask me questions but can we come back to this? It’s been a lot today and I can’t talk about my crime here and the crimes on Halston.” She had mentioned this several times before but in reviewing his notes Rinker could assume the event drastically had altered Jessa’s life in some way. She had alluded to the fact it had some part in her coming to the Federation. She vaguely hinted that Halston drastically changed something about her life in the Union.

“I guess, it has been a long day. But we shouldn’t use things to avoid introspection. Getting better is hard.”

Taking a few minutes to gather her emotions back under control She continued her explanation about the Prism. “I know you think it is silly to look all over the galaxy for something but it has only been gone for about one hundred years I guess so it is not like it was lost to antiquity. We had pictures of it. We enlightened five galaxies with it. We have crossed vast swatches of space with it and the Undevout stole it. We have been looking for it ever since it disappeared. Rogan said he who had it could ask for anything. All I wanted to ask for was my mom,” Jessa put her face down on her knees and sobbed. Finally, the pieces were snapping into a picture instead of a puzzle. The object Jessa called the Prism was some sort of device that gave the Union great power. As a child, Jessa saw it more as a genie’s lamp where when rubbed it would grant a wish. Rinker could probably surmise that someone older and less scrupulous could use the Prism as a way to gain power. It was also the first time Jessa hinted at a dissenting opinion or group within the Union.

“That isn’t that long ago, our mysterious super space travelers, the Iconian’s, were from 200,000 years ago. So your guys are by comparison, yesterday.”

Jessa Novar

“Can you give me a little more in the way of details or clues?” He paused. What was his purpose here? The Starfleet officer in him wanted to figure out the mystery perhaps keep a horrific empire from stealing a superweapon. A superweapon they didn’t seem to need to conquer the galaxy. But the other part of him was here to help the defenseless girl., well kind of defenseless.

“It’s a pale blue almost white crystal only in a cube shape. It fits into a larger device but the cube holds vast amounts of information on it. They say when you are in its presence you will feel its power.” The way Jessa stopped talking indicated she was finished as in stated everything she knew about the item.

“That is much smaller than the item the Iconians used. It was a full sized chamber. Whatever the item, it is what you are feeling about it? What are you going to do about it?”

rinker

“I don’t know,” she shrugged wiping her eyes with the palms of her hands. Since she was crying and still had some blood on her hands from Da Mu’s death, it made her eyes look far redder than they were as the blood smeared over her eye lids like a grotesque pink eye shadow. Her response would not be enough for Rinker. He would just ask a question in another way. Blowing her nose, Jessa took a second to think about a better response.

Rinker went over to the replicator, “12 ounces of lukewarm saline with 70% isopropyl alcohol. in a bowl. 10 cotton wipes.” He waited for the replicator to produce the items.

“I am not hungry,” Jessa stated watching him move over to the machine that seemed to create things out of thin air. Seeing what he actually replicated answered her own question.

“That’s a good thing, because while you could it isn’t something you are supposed to eat.” He sat down next to her and started wiping the blood off of her without further comment.

“It’s not my blood,” she stating the obvious as Rinker began to clean up the smeared blood stains on her face and neck. Jessa knew it made her look weak sitting there as Rinker cleaned her up but it also felt good. It had been a week since anyone had touched her other than for a medical reason. It had been a month since anyone had actually taken care of her. On the journey here, Jessa had spent in basic isolation as Rogan and Zala engaged in hedonistic pursuits and Da Mu either prayed or studied ancient texts. His hands on her chin to steady her face were firm but gentle. This was probably from his years of being a doctor.

“You shouldn’t have anyone’s blood on you. Actually, its much safer to have your own blood covering you than someone else because what you are really worried about with blood is that it finds its way inside your body. If it is your own blood, not that big of a deal.”

Jessa had no idea what would happen to her once the crew settled down from the attack on the promenade.
She had no idea where they would send her or how she was going to survive but right now she felt safe and she did not want that feeling to end. As he finished, Jessa was desperate for the illusion of safety to continue. Raising her hand, she held it out for Rinker to wipe the blood off and began to speak. He always gave her his full attention when she was speaking and Jessa used this fact now.

“I guess it doesn’t matter anymore but I haven’t told you something. I didn’t want to say it because I was scared about the Altar of Cleansing if I said it. You might not hold others accountable but we do.” Raising the arm he was not cleaning, she cleared her throat before stating. In all her other conversations with Rinker, Jessa was not wearing her armor. At least now, she had some other form of information to help them all understand.

“Show me data file of the last Undevout that was Cleansed.”

The first thing Rinker would notice was how less advanced the Union’s holographic technology was as compared to the Federation. The image was clear but encased in a blueish white haze that seemed to almost be a frame of the scene. The hologram lacked the picture-perfect quality the Federation holograms had. In the image the participants were speaking what Rinker could assume was Jessa’s native tongue however the statement of a picture being worth a thousand words applied here. Rinker watched as someone in all black appeared to be pronouncing judgement on someone restrained between two metal poles. At the end of the speech flames erupted from the base of the poles and slowly moved up the poles. They did not directly touch the person held between them but it was clear the person could feel the fire based on their reaction. While the scene was grotesque it lacked any verbal protestations from the person being tortured and any graphic gore. Now that Jessa was sure Rinker understood the gravity about what she was about to do, she turned it off. Jessa had no desire to let the image play to the end.

“Well that was graphic, morbid, and a little extreme.” He had already told her what he had thought, but he was forced to repeat it. “I don’t think death by immolation to be the proper response to failure to learn. If in fact they failed to learn as opposed to failed to believe.”

“I don’t know what that word is but I assume it means burning alive?” She didn’t need a definition but wanted to make sure they were talking about the same thing. She continued to talk suddenly needing Rinker to understand how important the information was she was giving him.

Jessa spoke in a quiet voice playing with the tissue now that she could use her arm again since she stopped playing the hologram. “If you are worthy, God lets you survive the ordeal and your sins are cleansed from your soul. That is what the adjudicators say but I think you only survive if you have enough nanites and the Undevout don’t have nanites.” Wiping her eyes, Jessa no longer felt the stickiness of the blood that Rinker removed a few minutes earlier.

“It’s a set up. Like many these religious tests are. About 2000 years ago we had a similar practice. They would burn “known” witches at the stake, but people the suspected were witches they were thrown in a running river. If you drowned you were innocent, if you floated you were a witch and got to live long enough to be burned.”

“I will be held accountable for the deaths of the Elders and I don’t have any nanites left,” she blinked rapidly trying to put on a brave face. “I am okay with that. After I will be with god but…some people say my mom is,” she swallowed hard needing a second, “part of the Undevout. They say she left and took me when the Rectoress found out but I know they are wrong. She is not a traitor which is why I need the Prism. If she comes back with it she will be fine so I need to find it before the rescue fleet comes for me. I have to have it to protect her because if you love someone you do anything to keep them safe, right?” Pulling her knees up, Jessa put her face on them and struggled not to cry. She was scared of the Cleansing but even more scared of failing her mom.

Jessa Novar

“Well I’m fairly certain we aren’t welcoming the rescue fleet any more than we welcomed your ship so, we are in this together. ” The individual and internal weaponry was pretty impressive but in the ship to ship combat it didn’t seem to have much of an advantage.

“So not to sound like Indiana Jones, but I think we need to find the Prism before the Nazis.”

Rinker

“Yes Dropping her head to the side she left it resting on the side of his arm. “I’m scared,” she admitted in a soft tone. “Can we just sit here for a bit? I am so tired and just need a minute then I will answer any more questions you have.” Jessa had no idea why she was so exhausted right now. She had ridden the roller coaster of so many emotions since the breakout started a few hours ago. This was the first time it was quiet and she knew what to expect from her surroundings. No one came into Rinker’s office unless he opened the door for them. Jessa would hear them coming and be able to choose her reaction. Rinker was one of the few people she trusted on the ship. If he said she was safe with him, Jessa believed it. Right now she just wanted to close her eyes and think about nothing.

Jessa Novar

“I’m surprised you are still awake. There was a lot of adrenaline and other stuff coursing through your body and then suddenly it stopped. That naturally leads to a crash and great fatigue.” Rinker did have a knack for explaining things. It was a trick of his so it sounded like he was participating and sharing and he really was just describing so he didn’t have to add much to a conversation.

Rinker


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