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EBBTIDE - JL | Lt. Commander Ethel Baul, Aela | "Of Jackals and Jackasses"

Posted on 241901.07 @ 11:53 by Rochelle Ivanova & Captain Landon Neyes

Mission: Ebbtide

A finger twitched, slowly coiling in until it gripped the underside of a cold, wood arm rest. The paleness of it, and the rest of its friends, was a stark contrast to the general darkness of the decor and the lack of light the room afforded. Of course it would. It was easier to operate like this - especially when faced with the uncertainty watching, waiting, and twirling hair around its fingers from across the spectral advance of the view screen.

Higher up along the nerve chain running ever so elegantly from fingers to face, two eyes watched the vision with both avid interest and perfectly feigned boredom. Lids blinked, lashes melded. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It remained that way, silent save for the hum of the ship, for many moments before the one in the chair - the one belonging to the bright blue bored eyes - finally cleared her throat and tossed her head to be rid of a particularly annoying lock of hair.

It made the woman on the other end of the line smirk, chortle a light giggle, and sigh out of sheer amusement. Or was it amazement? Couldn’t be sure. “Ho-lee shit,” Aela shook her head with a low whistle, “And they haven’t seen through that get up yet?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ethel sniffed, deining her indifference. Of course she did. She knew all too well about the work of the Romulan that had been done to hide every essence of her identity - but it seemed even the genius had failed. Tal’Shiar… She could have puked. This had been life for the better part of the last hour - locked in her quarters remotely and pressed into communication with a plucky brunette specter that had less manners than a ravenous warthog in a Vegas buffet. To say it was growing tiresome would have been an abysmal understatement, but still… She persisted for sake of… What? The ‘mission’? Pride? Pride… Staying alive a bit longer was definitely high on her list of priorities and the warthog was proving problematic to that cause. At least for now.

“Yeah ok. Sure you don’t, Sugar.” Aela’s grin was manic and she deposited herself in a chair with no great amount of fanfare. Her knees crossed and an emory board appeared as if from nowhere, “Let’s save ourselves some time and assume you just admitted to me that you’re Rochelle Ivanova…” She paused, dragging the file across her nails as she flicked her eyes towards the screen, “The mirror universe one, that is. Not the Commodore from what we like to call the prime universe, and that you admitted to being employed by Vrith Tr’Bak for the sake of… I don’t know…” There was a sigh, the file paused, “Maybe killing her? Kidnapping her? Taking her spot? Overthrowing the Federation? All of the above? Am I close? Tell me I’m close.”

“Not even a little bit.” Ethel sniffed again. It wasn’t the first time she’d been accused of things, Merlin came to mind immediately, but it was the closest to being caught she’d been. Scratch that. She had been caught, there was no denying it, but she knew she could keep up the rouse if need be and maintain innocence - especially since the annoying gnat of a brunette had contacted her from across all kinds of encrypted channels, none of which were official, and she hardly screamed Starfleet or Romulan Star Empire or Stenellian Ascendancy… Or anyone… For that matter. Another toss of her head, a gentle shake, really, and the offensive bit of hair slid past her cheek and away from where it had once decided to try and dance with the edges of her lashes at the corner of her eye.

“You really expect me to believe that you’re Ethel Baul? Who the hell is named Ethel now-a-days anyway? I mean come on. It’s so… 1950s.” The file wound up being flicked as if for emphasis, sending a soft snow of sanded down nail bits cascading into the ether.

Ethel’s eyes followed them for as long as they could before flicking back up to meet the other woman’s, “No accounting for taste. At least you know my name, seems I’m at a disadvantage not knowing yours.”

Cool as a cucumber. That was how Aela would have to describe the Commodore’s doppelganger, “You’re right. My manners slipped,” insert a cute little giggle for mocking emphasis here, “But my name isn’t of any importance, Ethel, all you need to know is that I know the truth about you and I know that if you want to survive this bullshit that you’re going to listen up really really quickly because the homie I work for isn’t playing for anything less than keeps. No parlay, comprende?”

“Homie you work for… Classy.” Ethel’s eyebrows raised and she offered one, slow, stoic nod. “I still have no idea what you’re talking about. Did you come to me for a session? Is that what this is all about?” The doppelganger tilted her head, studying the strong lines of the furniture and the uniqueness of it - something about the way light played across the wall behind the spot the other woman was sitting. Narrowing her eyes and drawing a sharp breath of concern, Ethel was almost certain she’d found a clue, “I can help you with that delirium… Or… Drug addiction?” Something in her eyes flashed, brilliant, bright, acknowledgment and warning all in one single go.

It wasn’t lost on Aela, not in the slightest. She chuckled in response, setting the file down and shaking her head. “Habit was kicked, wouldn’t you know. Losing everything you give a fuck about kind of does that to you.”

“Causes drug problems or solves them?” Ethel blinked slowly, allowing her interest to be genuinely piqued by the reaction on the other side of the screen.

“Both? Last I checked the drugs were kicked so maybe it solves it?”

“Double edged sword?” Now it was her turn to cross her legs, her fingers slowly relaxing on the arms of her chair as she slid back into it with a small, barely perceptible shimmy. She was back in control - or so she thought - and happy to have found her stride and element. They weren’t talking about the mysterious brunette with the horrible manners - they were talking about her so-called employer and there was simply no denying who that employer was.

Landon Fucking Neyes.

How interesting.

“Drugs aren’t the answer to begin with, but there’s no accounting for weakness now is there? Always have to lay the blame somewhere else.”

“Yeah you know… False blame on false prophets otherwise known as terrorists that kidnap you and fuck with your grey matter until up is down and down is left.” It was Aela’s turn to sigh out of sheer boredom. The story was no secret to anyone who had listened to chatter and scuttle butt from just about any and every source. Landon had his demons, but the biggest one of all was hidden behind the ice eyed vesper across the screen from her. It was a job. Just a job. But the universe as a whole was under horrific threat from the man known as Tr’Bak. “Seems like a shitty reason to numb your brain, right?”

Ethel shrugged gently and shook her head, eyebrows lifted, “It’s an excuse made by someone who can’t deal with failure and made a choice to engage.” Her hands came up, open palmed and out to the side as her lips pressed into a thin line, “Nothing more, nothing less. It can’t be blamed on anyone but the user for their inability to cope and adapt…” That was where she paused, allowing her hands to drop and her body to shift forward, bracing her elbows on her knees and setting her chin in her palms, “Especially when life after the initial trauma was nothing but aces.” Her smile was anything but coy, but it widened over her features and burned hot as wildfire. The cat toying with the canary.

Only the canary was not unlike a certain crazy little vintage cartoon bird, minus the speech impediment. ‘I tawt I taw a Romulan’ could easily have become Aela’s catch phrase, “Aces…” She huffed, her head bobbing as her tongue savored the word, “Yeah… Aces.” Was Landon’s life aces? Captured. Tortured. Told his woman was dead. His ship destroyed. Rescued by chance. Spent his days wondering if she loved or pitied him. He hadn’t said anything in the time they’d come to work together, he’d always been more on the reserved and stoic side when it came to his emotions and memories, but it was obvious that he was thinking about it.

After all… Something had to have triggered him to fight for the Commodore - to go out on the limb he was on in order to protect and serve her when she’d cast him off ‘for his protection’. If only the little Commodore knew just how shrewd and cunning her darling Trill was. There was darkness there, a power he had reluctantly begun to wield only because he was, as she had mentioned, playing for keeps. Hard.

“Stupid is as stupid does, but he’s not so stupid that he doesn’t know that you exi--”

Game over. Ethel rolled her eyes and re-crossed her legs, “If he thought he knew anything, I wouldn’t be sitting here where I am, wearing what I am.” She gestured vaguely to the pips on her collar, “holding more credit in this realm, on this ship, than he does.”

Aela nearly doubled over, her eyes widening as she considered what the woman had said. It was a confession, heavily veiled - in gossamer, granted - but it was a confession none-the-less and her bluff had been called, “Well then, Sugar, you aren’t stupid after all.” She grinned, drawing her hands up in a brief, slow round of applause.

“Mmm.” The doppelganger hummed in bored agreement, “Are you done yet? I do have work and you’re obviously very lost, very deranged, and working for someone who is as well.”

“I’m not even remotely close to done, Rochelle.” Aela’s expression soured, “Tastes rancid as hell to call you that name, you know.”

“Then don’t. I told you. My name is Ethel Baul.”

“Bullshit. You know what though? It doesn’t matter what you call yourself or how much Tr’Bak tried to alter you. Nothing stops paper trails and people talk. His people talk when there’s enough money offered and I have bottomless fricken pockets, Sugar.” Smug as anything, Aela crossed her arms and leveled her gaze on the blonde, daring her to open her mouth.

And the dare was met, “You’re not Federation, not by a long shot.”

“Not exactly.”

Ethel nodded, “So then resistance of some kind. You’re a predator just like the man you hate and you’re preying upon the same poor soul, manipulating them to your cause.” She scoffed, brows furrowed as silence ensconced them, holding them captive in some rancid little standoff where neither was ready to yield and neither could do a greater God damn with the information that had fallen into their laps.

Both could have the other killed. On Aela’s it would take a bit more than the blatherings of a disgraced Captain ranting and raving about mirror universe clones used as spies against his estranged wife…

At least they got back to one port or another and then it was anyone’s game.

Tr’Bak, however, was never lurking far and his icy hold on the throat of the Romulan Star Empire was steadily growing each and every day. The title ‘Praetor’ was an absolute given and from there only the stars would spell out just how his charade would end and on which side of the line all of the associated pawns on the board would fall.

“Why would you choose to be anything else?” Aela couldn’t help but ask, lifting a hand with its palm up as if to cup the question and proffer it to the doppelganger.

Ethel’s brow twitched in response and her eyes widened a touch. The question hadn’t been one she’d been expecting - if anything she’d been expecting some sort of annoying witticism or thinly veiled threat or boasting claim about how she was going to die and be swept under a rug and blah blah blah. She sighed, pursing her lips and drumming her fingers in earnest consideration, “Why does someone eat sugar? Because it tastes and feels good.” The blonde shrugged, once more coiling back into the warmth of her seat.

The scent of bullshit was acrid and tense, but the brunette couldn’t help but nibble on the mind candy that had been tossed out as bait. Much like the other side to her universal coin, the conjuring of Rochelle Ivanova was quick witted and difficult to handle, stubborn, and a general pain in the ass. Landon had told her many things, but how to handle the woman wasn’t one of them - and rightly so… It wasn’t any of her business and - at least up until this point - Landon wasn’t exactly aware that the viper masquerading as a counselor even existed.

It was going to be a fun night.

“But it’s not good for you.” She finally countered with a smirk.

Ethel nodded tersely in response, “I’m aware of that.”

“Why would you do something that you know isn’t good for you?” The door had been cracked open and Aela had stubbornly shoved her foot inside to keep it from slamming shut in her face… Again. There was always the unique possibility that the Tal’Shiar would come screaming through a window - or air vent - at any given second to erase her and Landon from existence.. Maybe more so just her. If Tr’Bak had truly wanted Landon dead, he’d be dead. For real this time.

Subduing the instinctual desire to roll her eyes and sneer at pesty woman, Ethel managed a shrug and languidly stroked her fingers along the arms of her chair, “Because I don’t think about it.”

Aela, instead of being turned off by her charming degree of disinterest, lit up with a jackal like grin of nearly cartoon quality proportions. The leather of her chair squeaked in mild protest as she tipped forward and closer to the screen, clasping her hands together in her lap, “Well that’s just living in denial, ain’t it, sugar? You’re a counselor. You should know.”

Annoyance flashed briefly, harbored in temporary silence while Ethel tipped her jaw and nodded twice, “I’m aware of that.”

"So…” The brunette drawled, “You're aware of all your piss poor behavior and yet you continue to do things that aren't good for you. That sounds sort of foolish, don't you think, Sugar?" The jackal’s smile broadened, lighting her eyes and fine lines around them. It was the perfect barb and the door had been left open for her to make it.

“And where does that leave you?” Ethel’s head tilted, canting to the left as she regarded the ever present annoyance of the so-called ‘freedom fighter’.

“Well played, Sugar, well played. You’re no slouch.” Aela chuckled, re-introducing that same slow clap from earlier, “I think we’re done here… For now. Good chat, wouldn’t you say, Doc? I think we’ve made some progress.”

The only response she’d receive was the vision of a single hand being lifted, rotated to where the back faced her, and all but a single centrally placed digit coiled in on the palm. It was universal sign language if there ever was such a thing and it got Ethel’s point across faster and more articulately than words ever could.

Of course it set the jackal, warthog, pest into a fit of churlish laughter and a cheekily warbled “Bye, sugar! Be good!” before the communication was cut and the computer beeped compliance that whatever hold had been enforced over the doppelganger’s quarters had been lifted.

It did nothing for Ethel’s deeply soured mood.

---

Rochelle Ivanova (MU)
Tal Shiar Agent
ROMULAN STAR EMPIRE
- aka -
Lt Commander Ethel Baul
Counselor
USS VINDICATOR, NX-78213


&

Aela
Resistance Fighter/Spy

 

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