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Opposition Research

Posted on Mon May 9th, 2022 @ 3:51am by Chief Helmsman Kalahaeia t'Leiya & Liha t'Ehhelih

Mission: Adrift
Timeline: Various Times Before 'Birthday Breakdown'
1794 words - 3.6 OF Standard Post Measure

In a possibly rare instance of matching up to both one of her former professions and her species, Kali had been methodically doing the research on Liha as best she could here and there since taking the job on the Rosie. So far, what she'd managed to dig up was frustratingly (but not surprisingly) limited. She'd started with the usual public records searches but gotten little, then moved on to calling in a remaining favor or two for some old Starfleet data from the Dominion War days, based Liha's comments on serving in such. This had finally struck a hit, but it was a very abbreviated one: The bare minimum personnel data that the allies had exchanged for personnel who needed to occasionally interact or board each others (mostly the Federation's) ships or stations, appended with a KIA modifier and datestamp. That made the hair on Kali's neck go up a bit, because faking your own death was the sort of thing the Tal'Shiar did, as for that matter was modifying your appearance and records to match those of an actually-dead person and impersonate them to meet some aim; and she had to at least consider those as a possibility now.

From there, she'd gone towards casting a broader net again with the new specifics she had, though she'd hit a wall again trying to get into some of the public records she'd been able to access during her time in the Republic--that system might've been designed by the same person who had programmed the device she'd gotten from Caithlin, for all its wiliness; it didn't matter the sort of VPN she used or any other setup or workaround, it never failed to recognize her as being on, for its judgement, the wrong side of the border and flatly refused her over and over again, and she'd had to spend one of her even more limited favors back there to get a small packet of information sent back to her more recently with some basic information on the woman's family, the more immediate members of whom were mostly apparently sciences and tech types on Bardat. Well. That lined up with the engineering finesse, at least, and some of the other comments made in the lab in the aftermath of the Holoworld wreck...But if she could get the data, so could someone else, and could easily have used it if this was someone trying to impersonate the dead or such.

It hadn't been hard to look Kali up. In fact it had been easy. Suspiciously easy. Who left an obvious trail like that? Pilot's licenses with her actual name lead to Starfleet records (at least those not with redactions beyond Liha's ability to hack), lead to family records. Including, interestingly, sponsorship for Federation residency of her aunt - a former member of the (briefly) reconstituted Empire's Continuing Committee! But then, the t'Leiya House was always one to make waves. It had been beyond Liha's time, but she'd still overheard talk even years later of the traitors who'd betrayed the Empire for the soft comforts of the Federation. Granted, the more hushed conversations had implied flight from the Tal'Shiar for some act of defiance, or as an act of defiance, but it was impossible to sort out now. Federation records were sealed beyond what Kali was worth to break and the Romulan records she might have searched had died in the fires of Hobus. So, a seeming utter lack of guile in concealing herself coupled with a family history of high level Great House intrigue. It seemed too clumsy for a Tal'Shiar plant, but then that might be exactly what they'd expect people to think...

Was she actually what resulted when a Romulan child was raised surrounded by earth influences (as she all too frequently protested)? Burnie seemed to buy it, and actually trusted her - not that that meant much since despite Liha's best efforts, he remained too humanly prone to optimism. But if it was true, that didn't bode well for those who had fled to Federation territory. (Liha privately resolved that if she ever gave in to Taev's courting, any children would be raised on Freecloud). But then there was the other question: why would someone trying to fit in to Federation society, either sincerely or because they'd been raised for infiltration, have so many odd gaps and disciplinary marks in her record? Was she simply defective? On one hand it was an almost comforting thought (even a defective Romulan was at least on par with most humanoids after all), but on the other it made her a perfect target for recruitment by elements that should NOT be welcome on the ship.

Since Burnie had mentioned offhand over lunch at one point that Liha had tried her hand at a brief stint in the Republic in response to Kali's divulging of her own such, her next point of order was another foray into various backchannels to see what if anything turned up on the woman herself there. What she got back was nothing, which either meant the statement had been a lie, or she'd used a different name there. The former would be outright guilt or indication of danger; but the latter possibility was harder to parse because there were plenty of relatively innocent reasons to use an alias just as there were relatively damning ones. She might have more luck trying to run an ID on the image and at least figure out 1) Had it been a lie and even that didn't register a hit? and 2) If not, what was the alias, and what did that turn up? But for that she'd either need to be over the border to run the search herself, or be willing to shell out for it and wait, not to mention risk the fact that she'd gone digging might leak back to her subject.

After enough fruitless attempts otherwise, though, she'd gone for it; sending over an image to a contact across the border to see what he could find that way, and handing over a bit to an information broker on Freecloud as well for good measure. She hadn't heard from either yet, but that wasn't entirely unexpected, this sort of thing took time.

Following the recruitment idea (since even if her parents had been plants, they likely were no longer given the way the last of their House had had to flee to the Federation) Liha began piecing together the trail following Kali's discharge. That instance had been yet another anomaly, but one she at least understood: given public opinion at the time no one wanted to risk the reaction to a Last Statement. However, there were bits and pieces afterward suggesting that she had not quit Starfleet, in particular their intel division, entirely...

That was interesting. Had her reason for discharge been staged? Certainly if the intent had been a good story to use when sending her into Romulan space, it was one that would garner sympathy (though probably a bit too dramatic for real players like the Tal'Shiar not to ping it as suspicious). Still, enough cover for much of society to just nod, thinking they'd have done the same. And that may have been the point. Not infiltration so much as information gathering, which fit what Liha had found so far - civvie pilot jobs, floating place to place, never quite making real connections. After only a handful of years, a bare minimum of observation time really, she'd left, and assumed a new persona as a drifter and gambler. It was hard to know what to make of that. A shift in her handlers' priorities, or had they decided Kali stuck out too much as different and decided she was incapable of assimilating enough for infiltration that might otherwise have followed...

The information Kali got back from her Republic contact, when it came, didn't come with anything especially of note at first glance about Liha's time there: A life lived reasonably quietly for a few years, and an equally uneventful point at which she seemed to drop off the local radar. She'd used a different name there, but that was hardly proof of anything from a Romulan standpoint.

No, more concerning potentially was the timeline this formed, when put together with the Starfleet data and with the scraps of information on things here and there throughout space and time that she'd finally gotten back from the Freecloud broker she'd paid: There was huge black hole in the middle of the other woman's life where she and all indicators of her or her aliases as known appeared to simply drop off the galactic map entirely. Not a sighting. Not a ping. Not a whisper. It was fairly unnerving because it was exactly the sort of gap there might indeed be if an agent had faked the death of an identity, then later found need to resurrect it, or for that matter the type of gap there might be too if one later decided to assume the identity of the dead and hope no one noticed. It was a pretty damning indictment learning towards a credible fear the woman might, in fact, be a Tal'Shiar asset...Except...Except it was so clumsy if so, to have not tried to cover the gap better...

Liha frowned at the data provided by an 'old friend'. On one hand, it seemed to confirm that House t'Leiya had retreated from matters of Empire and wielding power - at least any real political power. On the other, a backwater planet was an excellent place to hide and remake yourself (as she knew very well). Moreover, there were still Starfleet connections, particularly a human nurse (if one could believe a nurse would have that many wound badges and a decoration for valor) who seemed to have formed close and continuing ties with the family. And with Dosadi and with Orions, some of whom were also known to Kalahaeia. Yeah, not odd or suspicious at all...

Nobles Houses It was always intrigue within intrigue with them. Take your eyes off them for one second, and in a flash your whole clan might be forcibly relocated to the outer reaches. Though her clan having been forced so far out had arguably had the last laugh after Hobus, Liha thought grimly. If this scion of nobility tried anything, Liha intended to have the last laugh too.


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