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Oddas Aria

JP: Lt. Commander T'Lea and Major Pavlova - Targets

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((TIL’AHN – EMBASSY GROUNDS))
:: It was pouring rain. The drops were so big that it felt like T’Lea was getting pelted with water balloons. The seasons were changing on Til’ahn, and wet weather meant a cold front was moving in. That was something T’Lea was very much not looking forward to. But right now there was the issue of avoiding looking like a drown rat by the time she reached the holodeck.::

:: Why was she running to the holodeck, one might ask? Well, it wasn’t for a relaxing day of hand-to-hand combat with multiple varieties of large idiots that needed dismembering. No, this was not an invitation for fun. This was the dreaded mandatory weapons recertification test. A run and gun obstacle course that in the past had been T’Lea’s one flaw in combat.::

:: Lake sized puddles splashed beneath the Romu-vulc’s boots as she raced toward the cover of the building. She recalled what one instructor at the academy had said about her marksmanship skills, “can’t hit the broadside of a Borg Cube”. It was true, and it was something T’Lea could never correct, until the illegal upgrade.::

:: She entered the building, leaving behind her rain gear, and gripping the dual pistol case in her hand. She felt confident, but she still carried a bit of residual trepidation from past experiences. Failure after failure, or just barely passing by the skin of her teeth made her hate these drills. But that was then, and this was now. And right now the holodeck awaited.::

((HOLODECK 3))

:: Irina was already in the holodeck and had finished her own qualification courses with Captain Martinez signing off. Unlike most Starfleet officers, Irina had three courses she needed to maintain currency on; the Starfleet Security Officers’ certification, which was a more involved and difficult course than the standard Starfleet course, but also the standard marine course which was mostly rifle based and involved longer range shooting, and finally the marine sniper course, which was pretty much the most difficult course in all of the Federation’s various departments.::

::For Irina, none of these were much trouble. She still had a perfect record, one shot, one kill, dead center, each and every time irregardless of size, speed or distance. She had held the Federation record from 2169 through 2172, and while no longer the record holder since her return in 2389, she did hold the record for ORGANIC life forms, and when synthetics were added was still in the top three.::

::Sniper course complete and boxes all checked, Irina looked up and noticed T’Lea entering with a pistol case. A quick check of the board indicated it was her time to qualify. Irina having rangemaster as one of her collateral duties decided she would run the course herself and dismissed Captain Martinez.::

Pavlova: Do you need a practice run first?

T’Lea: No, just give me a minute to set up. Are you qualifying also?

:: She plopped her pistol case on the table, and opened it up to reveal the standard Starfleet issue phaser, and the other weapon which was military issue, just not Starfleet. It was her mother’s disruptor, and a special one only issued to Tal Shiar agents.::

Pavlova: I just finished, but I’ll be running you through your course. ::Irina looked at the disruptor, which looked Romulan in design, if her guess was right:: Nice toy.

:: A bit surprised by the news that Irina would be running the show, T’Lea glanced up at her for a split second, and then shrugged.::

T’Lea: I know it’s not regulation, but I’d also like to qualify to carry this as well.

:: She gestured at the disruptor fully expecting a “hell no, we don’t allow Romulan garbage in Starfleet.” After all, the last time she tried this she was met with exactly that kind of response.::

Pavlova: Hmmmmm, non-regulation weapon.

::Irina glanced down at her own 22nd century phase pistol that was still on the bench::

Pavlova: So long as I verify its within accuracy standards.

T’Lea: Be my guest.

:: She moved aside allowing Irina to handle the weapon.::

::Irina picked up the weapon and inspected it closer. The craftsmanship was superb, far better than standard Federation or Romulan weapons, and its balance was about as close to perfect as possible without custom weighting to the individual owner, or perhaps it was custom, but for somebody other than Irina.::

Pavlova: Romulan?

T’Lea: It was my mother’s. She used it to assassinate my father.

:: A total lie, but she wanted to see how the woman would react to it. Raivus hadn’t killed Keros with the disruptor, it had been poison.::

Pavlova: Let me guess, he left dirty dishes on the table, or did he always forget to put the toilet seat down? Poison or even good old-fashioned suffocation is cleaner.

:: Not what the Romu-vulc expected in return, but she hardly knew the woman. In fact, she was beginning to think that maybe she had pegged her wrong. T’Lea had always steered clear of Irina in the past, believing her to be a goody-two-shoed, by-the-book, strict follower of code and conduct, which was something T’Lea disliked thoroughly. Of course, it was going to take a lot more than just two minutes of time together to change her mind, but she would be more than happy to admit she was wrong.::

T’Lea: Well, we all make do with what we have at the time.

:: She held out her hand for the disruptor, holstering it and then the phaser.::

::Putting the weapon back down in the case Irina stepped aside.::

Pavlova: Well, lets get you qualified. We’ll start with the standard phaser, I’ll append your little toy after I see that you can actually hit what you aim at.

T’Lea: I hear you’re one of our top shooters. Feel like taking a tandem run with me? Unless, you’re too tired.

:: The last time T’Lea qualified had been under the strict eye of Skye Blake, who held the record also. T’Lea didn’t break it, not because she couldn’t, but she made certain that she came close enough to make Blake sweat. It was a good laugh.::

Pavlova: I’m not a bad shot. Hannibal’s almost as fast, but not as accurate.

::Irina set up the standard officer qualification course and picked up her brand-new 250-year-old phase pistol.::

Pavlova: Ready?

:: T’Lea turned her back to Irina, pulled the phaser, and blinked. The innocent little bat of her eyes activated her optical targeting system, (OTS). The reticle instantly came online and she felt the surge of power twitch through her shoulders all the way down to her finger tips. Muscle stimulators were active and her reaction time doubled.::

::Anyone look at T’Lea wouldn’t know that she was now under the influence of cybernetic enhancements, unless they look very closely at her right eye and saw the faint shadow of a holographic red dot sight overlaid in the lens in her eye.

T’Lea: Indeed.

::Irina started the course with two adjacent lanes open, T’Lea’s targets in blue, her own in set to black to accommodate her color blindness as the blue targets were very close in tone to the gray walls and white targets would just be too easy.::

::The first set of ten appeared at varying distances and size as per the standard course outlines, and each time Irina hit it dead-center in a fraction of second.::

:: The OTS recognized the color blue as T’Lea’s primary target after the first two eye movements tracked the objects. Swift shifting flight patterns and variable sizes made little difference in the optical systems ability to identify and hold the targets unpredictable actions. The reflex stimulators were icing on the cake, thought T’Lea with every sharp jerk of her muscles. The ability to snap to the center of the target worked in perfect unison with OTS and the users own thought. The system was flawless. SFI’s upgrades hadn’t just protected T’Lea from being hijacked again, but they seem to have improved on an already impeccable system. It was like her OTS was on steroids. Hell, she couldn’t have missed even if she’d tried!::

:: When the round was over, she turned to Irina and did her best not to look as surprised at herself as she felt.::

T’Lea: Can we skip the targdren and go straight to the difficult stuff?

Pavlova: Sure thing.

T’Lea: Simulated fleshy objects are more entertaining than flying discs don’t you think?

Pavlova: Even better when they shoot back.

:: The holodeck imagery reconfigured into an abandoned building with Klingon architecture. The structure looked like it had been through war. When the sounds of shelling in the distance concussed the air, it was clear that it was still going through a war.::

T’Lea: Clearing the building?

Pavlova: Sure, why not;

T’Lea: On my six.

:: Since she was the one in review she knew the lead was hers.::

Pavlova: And, begin.

:: T’Lea plucked the disruptor from its resting place on her thigh and now both hands were armed. She’d never done this before, but she wanted to push her OTS and reflexes to see if the system could handle dual targeting at once. She was about to find out just how good SFI had made her.::

:: Not two steps down the hall and suddenly the lower level came alive with a pair of Klingons exiting from opposite doorways in front of her at the same time. In a split second her system calculated all of the important factors for both of them – distance, predictions based on tracking movements, and much more. It was determined that the one on the right had raised his weapon a fraction faster than the one on the left. The VOTS, (vital organ targeting software), selected the best organ for a fatal shot according to the angle of her body, and then it did the same for the second hostile. With hardly a thought, T’Lea raised both arms almost simultaneously, and fired. The one on the left fell seconds after the Klingon on the right, both mortal wounds.::

:: The Romu-vulc smiled at herself, then quickly wiped it away and glanced back at Irina, giving her a little quirk of the brow before moving on. Without the OTS those kinds of results never would have happened… at least not as efficiently.::

:: A couple of more rooms were cleared and the shelling started getting closer to the building.::

T’Lea: Is that our artillery or theirs?

Pavlova: Theirs.

T’Lea: I assume we’ll be taking them out down range. I’m not a sniper… ::mumbling:: well, as far as I know, I’m not.

:: Something told her those SFI upgrades may have made her one.::

Pavlova: I am.

T’Lea: That sounds ominous. Let’s see if we make it to the top first.

:: They went up the flight of stairs, dropping Klingons and a couple of Cardassians for good measure along the way.::

::Irina was positive that something was up with T’Lea. Even Hannibal wasn’t that fast or accurate, and it was likely that Irina wouldn’t be either without the benefit of a few centuries experience and the intuition that went with it. As she had lead, most of the targets were placed in front of T’Lea, but the computer had a few surprises for Irina as well, and despite the age of her weapon she hit everything that presented itself, in a fraction of a second, and unlike T’Lea with her computer suggesting vital organs, Irina just did what she always did and hit everything she shot at right between the eyes. ::

::Finally the pair made it to the roof ::

Pavlova: That was fun.

T’Lea: I must admit… I have a new appreciation for these.

:: She indicated to the two weapons in her hands. She had always felt that using projectile, or energy based weapons was cheating in combat. She much preferred to have personal face-time with her victims, but, as Irina had said, it was fun, and now that she could hit her targets it kinda was.::

T’Lea: By the way, you were right -- shooting the Waltas Twins. It was the only logical choice.

Pavlova: I’ve known Tyr a long time. I promised I wouldn’t kill his kids, and that was the only way to keep that promise.

:: The Romu-vulc gave a nod, and holstered both weapons.::

T’Lea: So, pass or fail?

:: Like she had to ask.::

Pavlova: Not bad at all. So what are you using, some kind of computer enhancement.

:: The sound of Irina’s voice prompted the Romu-vulc to turn her thoughts elsewhere. She should have made a point to miss a few. She got greedy and she got caught.::

: :T’Lea turned with a serious Vulcan expression.::

T’Lea: Are you accusing me of cheating?

Pavlova: I’m asking what you are using, because whatever it is, it is not limited to skill and experience.

:: T’Lea had to be careful with her next choice of words. Not that her implants were a secret, but the less people that knew about them, the better off she was.::

T’Lea: I can assure you that no external help was applied. ::thoughtful pause:: If you had one fatal flaw that may put your family and co-workers in jeopardy, would you not do everything in your power to correct it?

Pavlova: Oh I cheat too, wherever I can. Counterweights, custom beam focusing lenses, optimized ammunition and even custom weapon fitting. Not to sound arrogant but, but without some electronic cheats, I’m guessing linked from eye to hand, there’s just no way you can shoot as quickly and accurately as you just did. I can, with practice on the course, but not with two weapons and I’m sure……

:: Another loud explosion hit the ground a few yards away from the building they were standing on. T’Lea scowled and then glanced at Irina.::

T’Lea: Do you mind dispensing with that annoyance?

::Irina looked quickly and saw that the Klingon with the mortar was 1500 meters away on an distant rooftop. With casual disdain she picked up the rifle from the its perch at the ledge and quickly brought it to eye level, aimed and fired. The whole process from target identification to .50 caliber hole between his eyes took barely two seconds, more than half of that just picking up the weapon.::

:: It was in those two seconds that T’Lea recognized something… interesting.::

Pavlova: I’m guessing you want me to fudge the score a bit?

:: The Romu-vulc stared the woman in the eyes for a mere moment, trying to gauge her motives. Suspicion rose in T’Lea.::

T’Lea: Something consistent with my previous records.

:: Records that would probably horrify the woman if she saw them. She said the last statement hesitantly, wondering if she would owe Irina something in return ::

Pavlova: Sixty-four percent it is. ::Irina then raised her voice and went somewhat monotone:: : Computer, End program.

:: As the holodeck fell to grid form, with only a table remaining, she went about placing her gear in the case. She half glanced at Irina who was collecting her own belongings, and then T’Lea decided to prod.::

T’Lea: Careful.

Pavlova: Of?

T’Lea: If you keep breaking the rules I may start to like you – a little.

Pavlova: Just don’t start following me home and begging for scraps.

:: The Romu-vulc gave her wry smirk and poked a bit more.::

T’Lea: Everyone knows your reputation, Ms. Pavlova. Superior marksman, skilled in hand to hand combat, the perfect soldier. Two-hundred and fifty years of experience. Starfleet loves that kind of officer, as long as you don’t cause problems for them. Something tells me you have a history of problem causing. ::looking at her as if seeing through her:: I know darkness when I see it. People try to hide it, try to deny it, but once you’ve touched it, it never really goes away. You’re not fooling me, but I’ll pretend.

::Darkness. Most of her life was spent in darkness. For 219 years she brutally acquired and drove a slave labor force to built Treng’s great sub-particulate antennas. Even since then, the darkness was always just one step behind her, waiting around every corner, under the bed, and most importantly, behind her eyelids. The faces of all of the people she had killed, and perhaps worse, the ones she had left behind, waiting at the window until they withered and died.::

Pavlova: What Starfleet loves most about me is the possibility of my vivisected organs in some secret laboratory unlocking the secrets of making old rich people young again.

:: The expression on T’Lea’s face narrowed into a slight frown. She wondered how deeply Starfleet had their claws in her. Or whom had manipulated whom.::

T’Lea: Obviously you have enough influence to prevent that from happening; otherwise you wouldn’t be standing here.

Pavlova: Me, influence? Anyway, they’ve already tried, more than once. There were four of us on Kjenta II who were not in stasis, the other three were found in trashbags in San Francisco China Town with their organs harvested. At first Tyr doctoring my medical file made them think I was in stasis the whole time with the other 9, but somewhere along the way someone got a medical scan out, and now they know.

T’Lea: You think they’re coming for you?

Pavlova: Its been a few months since I sent their last would-be abductor back to them in a box, but they’ll try again, maybe not right away, but eventually.

T’Lea: What are you going to do if they try to take you in?

Pavlova: Not let them.

T’Lea: You do realize that they may not even show their faces. They may blackmail you, manipulate you, or leverage your loved ones until you surrender yourself. If I were you, I would find them before they find you, and I would start with the fecal matter that leaked your medical scan.

:: She gave a little shrug at the end, as if trying not to get to involved.::

Pavlova: The release was accidental, I walked a bit too close to a biobed. They’ve already tried for people I care about. Katya was with me the first time they made a move, and they did kill AJ. She may have died from some pollen, but I’m positive it wasn’t accidental. I definitely received that particular message.

:: While Irina was talking, T’Lea studied the woman a bit. Admittedly she was handling the murder of her wife really well. Had it been T’Lea she would have gone supernova on the galaxy until it coughed up the people responsible.::

T’Lea: I see. Well, if Oddas means anything to you, then you owe it to her to warn her. If these people are as sinister as you say they are, then she’s not safe. She has a right to know and decide for herself if she wants to risk her neck for… whatever it is you two have going on.

:: T'Lea had recalled the intimate moment she'd stumbled on in Engineering between the two, and quickly put it together that they were more than colleagues, or friends. Being the blunt force that she was, T'Lea didn't mind bringing it up. After all, she knew very well the liability of love and family when enemies were out for blood.::

:Irina stopped moving as she was overcome with sadness at the thought of Aria getting in the middle of this.::

Pavlova: You’re right of course. She was just a kid with a funny nose until the night before the wedding. I should know better than to think I could ever find happiness.

T’Lea: Oh, please. If *I* can find it anybody can. The hard part is keeping it.

:: She thought about how close she’d come to losing Della recently, and how the long distance relationship was making everything that harder.::

Pavlova: They all leave, one way or another. Dimitri died waiting while I was marooned on Kjenta II. AJ died just an hour after our wedding. The sad part is, I wasn’t looking for anything, but I can’t stop thinking about her and when I do, everything else just fades away.

:: Uncomfortable with the opening thought of Irina’s confession, T’Lea Vulcan-ed up inside to reject any lingering doubt she had about her own marriage.::

T’Lea: But not Oddas.

Pavlova: Well, we didn’t have Bajorans when I come from.

::Irina felt a sudden need to change the subject.::

Pavlova: You still didn’t answer my question though. Computer enhancement? Muscle and/or ocular implants? Both?

T’Lea: Yes. ::pause, frown:: You weren’t there for the “off the books” rescue mission to Vetka, were you?

:: She was a bit fuzzy on the participating players, because at the time of her rescue her cybernetics had been hijacked by a Cardassian CBI agent, Dal Selta, and T’Lea was not operating under her own accord.::

Pavlova: Yes, but I was busy in Lokesh city at the time.

T’Lea: Ah, well, long story short my implants were hijacked and I turned against everyone. ::shaking her head remembering:: It was frakked up. Nearly killed everyone that came to help, including Della, but then that wouldn’t have been the first bondmate I was directly responsible for murdering. ::she shook her head again and quickly moved on:: After Vetka I agreed to allow SFI to upgrade and protect the cybernetics from further security breaches. Only now…

:: She looked thoughtfully at her hands, letting her worry hang in the air.::

Pavlova: So do you know what SFI added or changed?

T’Lea: Just what they promised me. But since my mother was directly involved… I don’t know for certain. They may have protected me from outside hacking, but…

Pavlova: But you have no idea if they put in a back door.

:: She sneered at Irina.::

T’Lea: You just had to say it, didn’t you? Anyway, while I was on the Invicta, SFI assigned a handler to me. They were supposed to watch me, run tests, and update the implants now and then, and I’m sure they were supposed to do some other things that I’m not aware of. Luckily, my handler was a… friend-ish-like person. What’s disconcerting is, now that I’m here no new handler has been assigned. When SFI stops talking, I start to worry. So… ::looking directly at Irina:: … it seems we’re both looking over our shoulders.

Pavlova: Knowing SFI like I do, my guess is that you have a handler here too, just not revealed to you.

T’Lea: I hate that idea even more. Now I don’t know who to harass. ::she gave a little shrug:: I’ll find out.

:: A call to her mother would be enough, she hoped. If her mother didn’t know, then it would be time to worry.::

T’Lea: Well, if you ever need me to kill something for you, let me know.

:: An offer like that from T’Lea wasn’t in jest, even though that’s what I may have sounded like. She collected the last of her things and prepared to brave the rain once again.::

Pavlova: I’ll keep that in mind.

T’Lea: Tell Oddas, I’m looking forward to our date.

:: She couldn’t resist tossing that out there. The date was for T’Sara, but it was amusing to think that other thoughts might rub Irina the wrong way. It was just in T’Lea’s nature to do that sort of thing.::

::Irina saw through the barb immediately, both due to being present at T’Lea and Della’s wedding herself, and what she had come to know of Oddas.

Pavlova: Well, I can tell you that those ridges on her nose aren’t sharp.

 -end-

Major Irina Pavlova
Chief of Security
Duronis Embassy / USS Thunder 
Author ID  0238908HA0

and

Lieutenant Commander T’Lea 
Chief Science Officer
Historian & Archaeology Specialist 
Embassy, Duronis II
Author ID I238301T10

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