During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on Earth, the Germanic lands were in the midst of religious upheaval. Areas were being swept over and swept under by what would later be known as witch hunt hysteria, where many were tried and executed as witches; burned at the stake.
It was during this chaos that two beings that were not native to Earth came to find themselves upon this planet, settling in the countryside of Germany and starting a family. They took the name Rau and would have seven children. The eldest of these was a girl named Anneliese, who grew up with a firm responsibility to her family and her siblings: self-deemed protector and helper to her parents.
The family knew that they were different, and that this had to be hidden. No name was ever given to what they were, and their parents never spoke of the past or how they came to be here. All the children knew was that they could change their shapes, and that they couldn't do that. If they were to be 'found out,' dire consequences would follow.
Anneliese was fourteen when it happened. Despite not being human, she felt all the rebellion of adolescence, though with caution. She would run the woods in the form of a great wild dog and would enjoy the feeling of the woods and the wind, and the wild. She would always be careful, of course, but sometimes it's not enough. A hunter from her village saw her and she was attacked. In her efforts to escape, she briefly reverted to her human form before recapturing the wolf and getting away.
That night, the mob came for them.
Anneliese, her mother and one sister were in their home when they came. Her father and the others were elsewhere. The mob stole the women from the house and dragged them to the center of the village, where the fires were already climbing into the night sky. "Hexe! Hexe! Laast sie verbrennan!" (Witch! Witch! Let them burn!)
In the last moments, Anneliese's mother sacrificed herself to save what children she could and Anneliese and her sister were able to escape. Her mother was not, and she never knew about the rest of her family. She was sure, tears falling down her face as she and her sister raced into the forest, that she heard their screams as they were burnt.
For two hundred years, Anneliese spent her life like a wild animal, desperate and guilt-ridden. She and her sister survived and kept pushing west, until the nineteenth century when they emerged into the world of humanity in England. They took false names and new faces, trying to find a way to once again acclimate to a life in the cities and among humans. They never stayed anywhere for long, afraid of being found out.
By the latter half of the twentieth century, the sisters had made it to the United States and parted ways. Now going by the name of Dakota, she was on her own for the first time and had grown bitter with the decades that passed her by. If nothing else, she was a survivor, and that was what she continued to do. Nomadic in her life style, she shifted locations and human forms like people changed clothes, working short-term and strange jobs to make a living.
The centuries continued to drift by. She still knew so little about her genetic heritage, but it seemed obvious that she was not like the humans. She did not die from the short span of time, and that was--of course--another difficulty. Either she had to age herself to not arouse suspicion, if she stayed anywhere too long, or she had to move on. Relationships of any kind were also out of the question.
It wasn't until Earth became aware of the existence of life beyond their planet and started reaching out into space that Dakota began to believe there might be a place for her, after all. Not that she believed she'd ever be a true part of things, but she could perhaps stop hiding. Eventually, things progressed enough for her to stop 'passing' as a human and exist as herself.
Her unique abilities and skills--strength, speed and stamina somewhat beyond the average human, as well as her shapeshifting--was enough to give her an edge into certain career lines. One of these that she found and settled into was that of bounty hunting. It started with hunting those on Earth, but would eventually lead her to space.
Despite vast advances in medicine, it was impossible to tell precisely what she was. (Detesting Doctors didn't help.) Her forms were restricted to standard biological organisms, opposed to the natural 'light' form of the allasomorph. It was believed she might have been a Chameloid, but with the reclusive nature of the species, there were no records or live species to compare her to. At least not that anyone she met knew of.
Eventually, however, that life was one she grew tired of and she decided that she wanted more. Almost on a whim, she applied to Starfleet Academy in the year 2356. She was certainly among the oldest applicant they had ever seen, but her unique history gave her a leg up and she was in.
Security was the natural path, and she took it. Eventually, she graduated and had her first posting. She served with distinction in one way, and with...considerably less distinction in others. Either way, she did well enough and made her way through posts and ranks over the years. She began to feel like she had found the path she was meant to be on.
Then something she never expected happened in the year 2373, and she damn near went back into hiding.
The Dominion War happened.
Suddenly, shape-shifters were part of the enemy, and her unknown origin was...a detriment. Knowledge of the Founders made everyone look at her sideways, even her fellow officers and ones she had served with started to look at her with suspicion and sometimes outright derision. Life quickly became very uncomfortable.
After she was cornered one night in late 2373 coming out of an Earth city bar, she requested a leave of absence from Starfleet.
She wasn’t granted one. The reasons were clearly a cover for the fact that they wanted to keep an eye on her.
Somehow, she endured through the rest of the war. A lot of soul-searching led her to remain in service and continue on. Although forgiveness was not something easily in her nature, she also knew that people made mistakes, especially when fear was involved. She chose to give Starfleet another chance, and things slowly returned to how they had been before. Mostly, at least. As much as they could.
She served with distinction through the borg offensive of 2381, and even turned down a chance to move onto a command track. She preferred security, and like the form she could make of her body, she followed her preferences.
Dakota is not what anyone would call a 'people person,' no matter how one stretched the definition. She is strong willed and quick tempered, with a dry and often sharp sense of humor and a wry (sometimes bitter) way of looking at the world. She tends towards more ‘loner’ tendency in social matters, but can be a team player when it comes to her work. She is competent at her job, and confident in her abilities.
When not in human form, she prefers that of the mountain lion, which she'll sometimes just go into to freak people out and can be known to roar at people from her human form when she's angry or annoyed.
As an additional note, she has discovered that if she performs too many form changes in too short a span, she reaches a point of dangerous exhaustion. It's preceded by a shift in eye color - they go black as a warning to her, and then are rimmed with red when it reaches a critical point. This has only happened on rare occasions.