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Day 04 [0200 hrs.] The crush of weights

CM 1 Nara Nueva | Lower gymnasium | Deck 14 | vector 03 | USS Theurgy | attn: @Dumedion

Nara had been in the gym for the last thirty minutes running sprinting drills along the cardio area. Usually, she'd use a holodeck to get the requisite twenty meter open stretch that she preferred to use for sprints, but the gym was practically empty with the late or early hour. And so, in that thirty minutes, the auburn-haired woman had worked up a much-needed sweat. Thirty minutes of 20-meter sprints would be the whole workout for most people. Yet this was just the first part of her gym time for the runner. And with the sound system in the gym playing directional audio that still echoed slightly off of the floor and walls, Nara had initially been unaware of the presence of Talia, and she wasn't quite sure who had been in the gym first, not that it mattered.

Having noticed the raven-haired woman, Nara stopped her sprints early and moved over to one of the combined pull-up racks/captain's chairs to do leg lifts and work on her abs. But there was something about the dark-haired woman that tickled the back of Nara's mind, the powerful jawline, that locked ahead gaze, and the muscles that spoke of countless hours of obsessive training and dieting. She put it out of her mind for a moment and focused on her leg lifts, doing them one leg at a time, jerking her knees up as high as she could and quickly. Nara did the modified hurdle drills while trying to puzzle out just why the other woman had looked familiar to her, the question soon passing from her mind as she went through the motions of her exercises.

Nara's exercises proceeded steadily, one leg and then the other performing the exercises with precision and dedication, allowing her heart to race and her mind go blank as she worked herself slowly and steadily to the point of exhaustion. The single lifts change to proper leg lifts after completing a grueling set of the singles after she'd worked up to an incremental progression adding up to ten kilograms her leg. The weights stayed on as she did the lifts, and her body began to shake from the strain, sweat pouring down her lean runner's build. Having worked herself nearly to exhaustion is was time for a break. Feeling shaky from the stress of the exercises and not having eaten since dinner, she was glad to have a small protein bar and bottle of electrolyte beverage at her disposal from her gym bag.

It was during her break that it finally clicked; she'd noticed that Talia hadn't picked up anything 'heavy' in her whole time here; instead, the Arabian woman seemed to be sticking to light weights and high reps. That had to be Talia. They'd been at the Academy together a few years apart. Nara had been class of 2374 and Talia 2376. Nara had been an Upperclassman to Talia, and she'd remembered the drive and dedication that Talia had shown during physical training. Honestly, Nara remembered being impressed by the younger woman back then and had been quite taken with her. While Nara had been mainly dedicated to her passion for scientific pursuits, her athletics had always been a close second. If academia hadn't worked out, she'd probably have pursued a career as a runner instead of joining Starfleet. Ultimately being an athlete might have been the wiser decision long term, but really, who knew.

While eating the protein bar, a thought occurred to her, and a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. One more move on the chessboard of her career, Knight from e3 to f5, was an aggressive move that might not go anywhere but served to reintroduce an old acquaintance. While Nara's exercises had pretty well worn out her abs, it had been a few days since Nara had worked her chest, and she felt that she'd gotten her second wind. So with a not entirely confident move, Nara made a move to ask for help, something that she'd never loathed. After all, asking for help often helped.

Walking over to Talia, she approached from the front of the dark-haired woman, giving a polite wave and a friendly smile, not sure if Talia had anything blocking her hearing like Nara usually did. She was about twenty centimeters taller than Talia and had seven kilograms on her, both women possessing rather lean physiques though built in different ways. Nara still maintained the runner's build that she'd always had, while it looked like Talia could step on stage and win at a bodybuilding contest as if she couldn't have done that back in their academy days.

"Hey, Can I get a spot? I was about to do incline and decline bench, and it's been a while. Plus, the holograms the ship can render aren't very motivating and rescue too early." If this was Talia, and it wasn't a case of mistaken identity, then Talia should know what Nara meant. After all, you couldn't do the exercises to a failure properly with someone pulling the weight away at the first sign of shakiness. While doing squats wasn't an option with her legs being as smoked as they were right now, chest and shoulders were still very much a valid exercise for her considering the routine she'd been doing. So while Nara was clearly athletic it was obvious at a glance that for her weights were supplemental to her training, and not the focus, she wasn't just trying to strike up a conversation.

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #1
[Ens. Talia Al-Ibrahim | Lower Gym | Deck 14 | Vector 03 | USS Theurgy] Attn: @Tae

Everyone had their own routine, their own ritual, in this place. The gym had – once upon a time – been a mystery to her; she didn’t understand why people would spend so much time in a place stinking of sweat, grunting away at machines racked with weights no ‘normal’ person could bear. She was only a child at the time, though. A lovely, curious child, unspoiled by the harsh cruelty of life: nothing lasts. People die, ideals fade, virtues twist into mockeries of what they once were. It all added to the fire inside, and here, in this temple of pain, was the only place she allowed that inferno to burn.

It was the only place she could blank her mind and allow herself to feel; she chased after that serenity, that peace, with every repetition. As the fire burned, the rage and grief inside her fueled the loathing of her own weakness to rebuilding everything she’d lost – and more. It wasn’t enough that she’d survived, wasn’t enough that she’d been given the opportunity to make the bastards pay – no. For Talia, there was no plateau to reach; no end goal in sight. She pushed her body to see when it would break, and it always broke. That was her ritual. She destroyed her body to rebuild it stronger.

She came here to work.

Her time spent in cryo had given her plenty to destroy. She stood with her back to the mirrors aligning the walls of the gym; not interested in watching herself. She knew the forms, knew her body. Between her gloved hands, sandwiched together by her trembling arms and chest, the twin 10kg plates creaked as they shifted with her movements. The Svend Press was agonizingly slow, and shredded her chest and arms simultaneously. She breathed out with every push, inhaled with every slow return to her chest. Her eyes blinked slowly, staring ahead, not truly seeing anything. She was into her third set of ten, and in her weakened condition, quickly approaching failure.

Don’t stop – she growled to herself. You don’t stop until you get there. Sweat coated her skin, dripping from her brow and jaw, arms and chest spasming as she pushed. Fucking. Get. There!

The plates fell through her numbed fingers, striking the deck with dull clangs. Her hands went to the elastic band of her leggings at her hips as she panted, dropping her head in defeat. Weak, she seethed at herself. Her hair clung to her face, into her panting mouth, obscuring her from the world. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, shaking her head in disgust. We have a lot of work to do, she huffed, running both her hands up her face through her scalp, clearing her hair over her shoulders. She held the pose, eyes clenched shut as she breathed, feeling her muscles burn as they stretched. As the serenity fled, her mind re-awakened, filling her thoughts with the context of her present situation. Allah give me strength, she prayed, honestly, for perhaps the first time in her life.

Her dark eyes snapped open, and she noted that she had been noticed. Shit. She blinked as the woman waved, taken aback by the sudden approach – yet there was something familiar about her; her mind slipped a gear as it struggled to place her face. Returning her hands to her hips, she watched the tall, long limbed figure approach as she kept her features neutral and eyes from wandering. She’s a runner – or swimmer, she guessed. Allah, those legs could crush me to splinters.

She worked the tension from her shoulders and cocked her head slightly as the woman spoke: “Hey, Can I get a spot? I was about to do incline and decline bench, and it’s been a while. Plus, the holograms the ship can render aren’t very motivating and rescue to early.”

Talia nodded, then bent to retrieve the plates she dropped, which spilled her hair everywhere. She pushed it back out of her face with one hand as she stood, turning to look to the benches. I’m done for today, she sighed, shifting one plate into each hand as she glanced back to the swimmer. Where do I know you? She couldn’t place it – but it didn’t matter. Fuck it, why not. “Sure,” she shrugged. “Let me return these and I’ll meet you over there,” she nodded to the bench, then turned and headed to the weights rack.

The swimmer didn't seem interested in talking - not that she could tell - and that suited Talia just fine.

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #2
CM 1 Nara Nueva | Lower gymnasium | Deck 14 | vector 03 | USS Theurgy | attn: @Dumedion


Getting close enough to notice the precise workout Talia was doing shocked Nara. She'd tried Svend presses before and had never built up higher than a single set with 5kg plates, so Talia having built up to the 10's was impressive. The way the muscles in Talia's chest and arms flexed and strained showed that she'd nearly burned herself out. That strain level was something that you grew to see when people pushed past their limits for intense physical training. Seeing people exhaust themselves back in school competitively and then in the Academy hadn't been unusual, but going this far beyond one's limits was something extraordinary, and it shook Nara. Both women were drenched in sweat, with muscles straining to the point of failure if not there. So she waited patiently for Talia to notice her, a soft smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Nara had never known Talia well enough to get into her past or trauma and had no idea what happened to her during the war. But that was well enough, and it wasn't like Talia knew about her Captain's mast and the reasons whys he destroyed herself in the gym nearly every day now.

Nara fighting through the stress of her demotion and her ostracization from her peers in the scientific community, had hit her hard. And truthfully, there were times when she honestly thought about ending her service, but through the last few years, she'd given a middle finger of her own to Starfleet, serving the drudge tasks at the embassy until she'd seized this chance at a 'new' career aboard the renegade starship. Every day since the discovery of her experiments with Thalaron radiation had been stress and pain. And the weights never judged her. The iron in the gym only ever told her when she was too weak and not good enough. So while Nara didn't know what Talia's pain was, Nara had her own great motivator. Being posted somewhere without friends or allies had been hard. Being stuffed on Qo'noS, which was a powderkeg at the best of times, was dangerous. and being given clerk tasks better suited to Operations had been insulting. So through it all, there had been the gym and the track. So it was with no small amount of pride that the auburn-haired woman knew that she could crush her own records. But each time she failed in the gym and couldn't get that last rep was motivation to improve.

Getting the nod from Talia, Nara turns and begins heading over to the bench, calling back over her shoulder to the shorter raven-haired woman. Her unique Vegan accent with its hissed S's and the clipped way of speaking, reducing the syllables to be as minimal as they could, would probably stand out to Talia,

"Sure, no problem, see you soon."

Nara smiled then, made her way to the bench,  and set it up for the decline variant first, raising its feet to a 45-degree angle, that particular task managed with just a few clicks of the bench. And then came the weights. Sure, Nara could grab a barbell and load that with plates, and she'd do that, but it was better to start with dumbells all the better to target the accessory muscles that didn't get worked when using a bar. To cover her bases, Nara does load two plates of the 15.9 kg's onto the bar, but she grabbed a pair of 15.9's for dumbells as well, wanting to start with that. Nara took her time setting up, ensuring it was done right, maximizing her recovery time, catching her breath even as more sweat rolled down her body. Nara hadn't noticed that Talia had intentionally kept her gaze neutral and would have proudly smiled if she could have read Talia's mind then and there. Not that Nara was here to flirt; just like Talia, she was here to 'lift away the pain.'

Setting herself into the bench, the tall Runner secures her legs at the end of the bench and does a slow lean back down and along the bench. The strain was evident from the slowness of the motion and the way she was gritting her teeth from the stress of even just lying back. Her abs were protesting every centimeter of their track down could have screamed at her to stop. Her shredded 8-pack tense and nearly painful stretched taut in the fully declined position, Nara's obliques tense along her sides. Her nearly overdeveloped quadriceps flexed sharply in the declined position, and her thighs and shins held her to the weight bench. Reaching back over her shoulder, Nara grabbed the 15.9-kilogram dumbbells and pulled them up into the ready position in time for Talia to take the spotter position.

"Two sets of eight, incline and decline with the bar and the dumbbells' each. I know you look finished, so sorry to keep you over if you need to go pass out. I think you know how it is. I'm Nara, by the way. It's been a while." 
Nara precisely gave what she wanted to do with the finisher for her gym session, letting Talia know exactly what she expected of her as the spotter. And again, the almost sibilant S sound with her speech and the clipped, practically shortened syllables create an almost rushed speech pattern. More of her speech, the dedication in the gym, and her appearance might be enough to lock it into the Pilot's mind, but if it wasn't, the name indeed might. An odd Japanese given name for a woman that looked Caucasian in appearance. The Vegan custom of using names that didn't always line up with ethnicity wasn't wholly unusual, but Nara knew that it did seem to stand out to humans from Earth. And then there was that damn smirk, though Nara was giving it to Talia upside down and looking up at her from her current position might be recognizable when she seemed to be playing a good-natured joke on the former underclassman.

With that smirk, Nara begins to lift the dumbbells. Her form was good but could certainly use some improvement, her arms were too far forward, not in line with her shoulders, and she didn't go quite deep enough on the first few reps. Sure, there was the excuse of it being late and Nara being tired, but from as steady as her hands and forearms were, this was a mistake that she'd been making, possibly because the weights she'd selected was a bit too heavy. At the very least, her breathing was excellent and well-paced in time with the slow four-count reps he seemed to be pacing herself on. Even still, there was room for improvement that the bodybuilder would easily spot.

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #3
[Ens. Talia Al-Ibrahim | Lower Gym | Deck 14 | Vector 03 | USS Theurgy] Attn: @Tae

Talia nodded to the swimmer over her shoulder, noting the woman’s friendly smile and oddly familiar accent. Her eyes, trained to absorb information at a glance, told her that this one was as dedicated to fitness as she was. Her glutes are immaculate, she blinked in envy. You’ll never get an ass like that – you have no ass, she grumbled to herself as she approached the rack. Shut up, she told herself, slotting the plates back where they belonged. She paused for a moment to swing her arms across her chest a few times, stretching the lactic acid from her burning muscles. Gonna feel that tomorrow, she sighed. Tomorrow was cardio – not her favorite day – but she needed a day to rest her groups.

Her dark eyes watched the swimmer set up her station in the mirror. A part of her, deep down, recognized that this was an opportunity – best case, she could introduce herself and maybe make a gym partner. Worse case, Talia would go on as she was: alone, finding her new place in this screwed up version of life where everything she knew about Starfleet was turned on its head. Everyone she’d known probably thought she was dead, or worse, a traitor. You’re overthinking this, she huffed to herself as she turned, making her way back to the swimmer. She just wants a spot. Get a grip, Talia, she shook her head quickly, rolling her eyes at herself. She scooped up her towel and water bottle where she had left it, tossing her mane over her shoulders as she stood.

She watched the swimmer stretch herself out as she got into position on the bench, her eyes lingering on the woman’s abs. Perfectly symmetrical, she couldn’t help comparing herself – like always. Curse your weakling genetics, her eyes closed to half-slits with the thought. It had always been thus, for in her mind, competition came as naturally as breathing. As hard as she tried, she’d never be good enough – and people always judged, despite what they said or how they acted. It was human nature.

Talia took a deep breath as she neared the bench, trying to clear her head. She dropped her bottle and ran the towel over her face and limbs quickly, trying to absorb as much sweat as she could. She didn’t want to drip on her new partner – that was generally frowned upon – and gross. Once that task was done the towel joined the bottle on the deck and she wrapped her hands around her hair, tying it in a quick knot to keep it from spilling into the woman’s face. She tossed the rope of slick, sweaty darkness down her back, then positioned herself as the swimmer spoke; watching her kind eyes and the slight curve in her lips. “Two sets of eight, incline and decline with bar and dumbbells’ each. I know you look finished, so sorry to keep you over if you need to go pass out. I think you know how it is. I’m Nara, by the way. It’s been a while.”

Talia nodded as she moved her hands with the swimmer’s first reps, focused on what she was doing. After the first couple of reps, several things became apparent to her: too much weight, she noted, as her gloved hands hovered under her elbows as she moved. Angle is off – not going deep enough either. She was about to gently correct her alignment and murmur her name back in greeting when the name finally registered. Nara…, her mind connected the dots in a rush of recollection: the Academy, a brilliant, friendly physicist, a mentor and confidant of sorts to a young, shy, overwhelmed girl. Talia’s hands gripped the Doctor’s wrists, holding her mid rep as she gasped down at her.

She couldn’t form words for several heartbeats. A tumult of emotions coursed through her, breaking the mask she wore before she could stop it. Elation, relief, surprise and yes, happiness. Here was someone from her past – not that her time at the academy was all sunshine and rainbows – but this woman knew her, knew she was alive, and knew she was no traitor. She couldn’t help the snorting laughter that twisted her lips, making her stupid dimples show.

“Doctor Nueva,” she shook her head, blinking down at her. She realized her vulnerability then, refocused as she returned her attention to adjusting the woman’s form. “Its…good to see you,” she finished, blinking her watering eyes clear. She realized then that she might have squeezed her wrists too hard, and muttered a quick apology. A dozen questions burned through her brain - she wanted to know where she came from, how she ended up here, how she had been since her days at the Academy - but she didn't know how. She chewed her bottom lip instead, embarrassed at her awkwardness.


Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #4
CM 1 Nara Nueva | Lower gymnasium | Deck 14 | vector 03 | USS Theurgy | attn: @Dumedion

Nara was thankful that Talia was helping to spot her. While Nara stuck to the too-heavy weights, she did take the subtle cues from Talia's hands, adjusting her position and going deeper and correcting her angle as she finished the first set. The athletic woman was receptive to the subtle cues experienced lifters would give each other. At the bottom of the set and in time for the rest, Nara practically saw Talia's mind slam into gear. Even upside down, Nara recognized the dimples and laughter. There we go. Talia does remember me.

Taking a series of deep breaths before speaking again, Nara was thankful that Talia had toweled herself off, especially as firmly as she was gripping her wrists, too tight to spot, but not enough to be painful properly. She just smiled then and spoke softly through panted breaths.

"You can call me Nara. Thanks for tacking on the Doctor, though. and You're looking good. It looks like you're prepping for a show." Nara's tone of voice was light and friendly, still that sibilant speech and rushed tempo, but her compliments were honest. And being in stasis for a few months or not, it had been a long time since Talia and Nara had seen each other, and while Talia wasn't as symmetrical as Nara and didn't have her lower body, there were things about Talia that Nara was jealous of. The sharp definition and perfect shape of the Arabian woman's deltoids and that sharp classic nose. While Nara could indeed work on her shoulders, that nose gave Talia a far more striking profile.

Nodding acceptance of Talia's mumbled apology, Nara begins the second set of eight reps with the dumbells slower and more precision this time though the tempo was still on pace for a four-count. She wanted to be more precise and steady now that Talia had recognized her, and she'd managed to get the sable-haired woman talking. While others might speak while doing their reps, Nara was serious enough not to say anything while working. Nara focused on her mind-muscle connection, focusing on flexing her pectorals whenever she lifted the weight up. The runner didn't focus her chest nearly as much as Talia did, so her small chest was relatively lean in comparison, but Nara could feel, and Talia could see the effort that she was putting in. With steady precision, Nara finishes the reps with Talia's help. And she sets the weights down then, taking a deep breath and another short breath as she reaches for the barbell. Since the bar and weight on it was heavier than what she had done by a whole 20 kilos, Talia might intervene and lower the weight on the bar from the 15.9's currently on there to something else, anyway, there was time to chat while the weights were adjusted and swapped out. If her spotter thought it was best, and it probably was.

"So, what about you, Talia, get that Doctorate in archaeology and ancient religions that you were shooting for? Also, want to meet up tomorrow for cardio? I can't wait to see if I can still smoke you on the track. Holodeck 05 tomorrow, same time if you want to join." Nara didn't want to sit up to rest and stayed in the declined position, all of her equipment in easy reach as she reached for her beverage. Nara smiled to herself, taking a moment to drink some more of her drink to rehydrate. That and it gave her some more time to appreciate running into Talia again, and it had been absolutely years. Nara had never seen a Doctoral Thesis from the Arabian woman, and she'd wondered if Talia had published her thesis under a different name. Nara had no idea that academy friend had shifted career after the Breen attack. Nara knew about that, of course, and that Talia must've been there during it. But her Starfleet career had taken her to a list of classified locations on the USS Oberth-A, trying to find ways to track Dominion fleet movements. Their careers had diverged, but now they'd met again, and that made the woman pleased.

At least until she was happy until the realization that she'd have to explain her demotion to Talia and then explain the reasons for doing what she did. Shit, I'm going to have to explain to a friend why I was researching illegal technology and that I'm not an officer anymore. Fuck!

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #5
[Ens. Talia Al-Ibrahim | Lower Gym | Deck 14 | Vector 03 | USS Theurgy]

Talia smiled briefly at the compliment, watching Nara struggle through the last of her reps. She was pushing herself hard, and while Talia understood the predilection, everyone had limits. She watched her arms and chest spasming, offering her just enough support to get her through – no more, no less. There was always a bit of a learning curve when it came to new work-out partners; you had to learn their bodies and limits, and then give them just enough push to break through.

“No, no shows. I…left all that behind,” she murmured. “I see that you’ve improved from what I remember,” as if you ever needed to, she finished silently; gesturing quickly to the Doctor’s physique, “you were always in amazing shape,” she commented.

Unsure if it was just her imagination, she focused on the Doctor’s motions; it seemed like she was trying even harder to dial into her targeted muscle groups. Her breathing technique was amazing, the control over her body immaculate. Talia felt her eyebrows raise in appreciation for the effort and drive Nara was giving herself. She’s like me, she realized, too stubborn to know when to quit. Her eyes narrowed at the thought. Is that how I look, she wondered - So wrapped up in punishing myself that nothing else seems to matter?

Blinking herself free from the troublesome thought, she nodded to Nara as she released the barbells, resting for a moment. Then she reached for the weight-bar, setting her grips, and Talia gripped as well, locking her elbows out as she leaned on it. She checked the plates Nara had already slid on, questioning the weight given how close she’d just watched the woman come to failure. If she’s trying to impress me, she needn’t bother – but I’m not sure that’s her objective. Still, her gut told her that this would hurt her more than help, and Talia always listened to her gut in the pain-house.

"So, what about you, Talia, get that Doctorate in archaeology and ancient religions that you were shooting for? Also, want to meet up tomorrow for cardio? I can't wait to see if I can still smoke you on the track. Holodeck 05 tomorrow, same time if you want to join."

She took a moment to consider her answer, after making a decision: she dropped the 15.9s, sliding them from the bar, one in each hand. “Hope you understand – but I don’t think these will do much for you other than hurt yourself. I’ll swap them for a couple 11.4’s. You’ll still feel it, and you’ll push through all the way to the end,” she moved quickly to the rack, sliding the plates home. The second part of Nara’s question caused her to hesitate, as she thought about who she was back then and where she wanted to go. It opened the doors to melancholy and regret – not at her decisions – only the hand fate had dealt. Fucking Breen. Perhaps she just missed her uncle. Perhaps she just missed the life she was so sure of before she woke up on this ship. Doesn’t matter now, she sighed, working the tension out of her neck as she turned. Hell of a memory on her to even ask, honestly.

“I never finished my PhD,” she shrugged at Nara, returning to the bar with the plates. She slid them home with ease, pursing her lips for a moment. “I still keep up on some journals, keep tabs on a few interests; but it’s more a past-time now than anything,” she huffed, running a gloved hand over her face. “Especially now, with everything going on,” she murmured, gesturing to the ship. “As for the cardio,” she huffed, setting one hand on her hip, nodding to Nara’s legs. “I remember watching you set the track records my freshman year. 400 and 800 I believe,” she shook her head. “I’m not interested in dying twice, thanks. I’ll stick to my ropes and climbers – but I’d enjoy the company.” There. You said it – and didn’t sound like a simpleton. Good for you, her mind mocked her.

As the pair set their grips, Talia waited for the nod from the Doctor to set the bar before they began when she noticed Nara’s face darken considerably. Cocking her head, Talia felt herself frown at the sudden response. Did I say something wrong? “Doc-,” she started but caught herself, “Hey, Nara, what’s up?”

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #6
CM 1 Nara Nueva | Lower gymnasium | Deck 14 | vector 03 | USS Theurgy | attn: @Dumedion

Nara slightly frowned, hearing that Talia wasn't competing anymore, but a life in the fleet could easily preclude that. A smaller population than anything planet-based. Even with a crew of over a thousand, there wouldn't likely be enough people to put together a decent competition for the typically human sport. So she got it, of course, it wasn't like Track, where all you needed was a holodeck or a large enough ship. She focused on finishing the declines with the dumbells before saying anything more. She'd enjoyed the heavier weight, but the barbell was a completely different beast with the extra weight.

"That's unfortunate. You look like you could win the big one. Also, thank you kindly. I found some new motivation."

Nara's words were polite and even slightly evasive when she mentioned finding new motivation to train. While Nara knew her body quite well, Talia was right, the 16.9's would be too much for her, and she consents to the lower weight without any fuss going on there. Nara just nodded, listening to Talia tell about not finishing the doctorate that she worked so hard for back when they were at the Academy together. That meant that Talia had either dropped the studies and changed career tracks or become enlisted.

There's no way in hell you dropped the Academy and became an NCO, and you would have seen that through to the end.

Just before she gripped the bar and lifted it off the stops, those thoughts raced through her mind, the acceptance of the cardio session, Talia not finishing her Ph.D., being here now. Talia mentioned dying 'twice' and all of that coupled with realizing her past and what that meant literally right now. She slowly lowers the bar to her chest, keeping that focus on breathing and the mind-muscle connection. Nara was indeed making the exercises as hard on herself as possible, and that wouldn't do. Seeing Talia frown, though, she needed to have this talk while she was lifting and angry.

"I was at the Daystrom Institute." The first rep goes back up in a fast motion, not a four or even a six-count like with the free weights. This rep was a three, two counts down, one explosive angry pushup, Nara's muscles flaring and screaming to life, her voice nearly angry.

"Studying radiation." Two! The second rep same as the first, slow and controlled on the down motion, and as soon as the bar touches her chest, she explodes back up, gritting her teeth.

"Thalaron radiation." Three! The auburn-haired woman the anger out on her own, putting as much pain into the weights as possible. The offense was now showing on her face. She'd told Asra this two days ago, but that had served to bring the anger to the surface, and now it needed an outlet from her body and back into it through the iron.

"I moved to practical testing."  Four. Those words were bound to scare anyone that knew even part of what she did. Even in a controlled environment, Thalaron radiation was dangerous, and she knew that. That's whys he'd taken precautions, and that's whys he was here now, tensing her muscles as hard as she could to make the exercise that much harder, to feel that much more pain to drive away from her anger. Her form is still as close to perfect as possible.

"They found out." Five! Of course, they had. No secrets stayed that way forever. The athletic woman was angry at herself, Starfleet, and her commander. Furious, she'd failed before finding an answer. She couldn't fail her body, but it could fail her.

"I was right!' Six! Her models had been as perfect as she was trying to sculpt her body into becoming. The pain of being found out wasn't anywhere near enough vindication for her. So she'd found an outlet that had always worked for her in the past, the gym.

"Shinzon proved it." Seven! Another slow rep down and an explosive lift up, Nara's face slowly becoming redder than her hair. The reddening visage was as much from strain from the workouts as from talking about her demotion like this. Nara's arms and chest were alive with the pressure, her posture still rock-solid, and a vein began to bulge along each of her toned biceps. The veins snaking from her forearms, across the biceps, and to her toned shoulders. Not quite as fit as Talia's were, but still better than her academy days.

"They demoted me!" Eight! Nara gave it her all with that last push, screaming out the phrase as it hurt her to even think about it, and it did. Her career was where all of her stress and anger stemmed from, where all of her focus had gone. Nara should have stopped, making it two sets of eight, but she kept going, too mad to follow the plan.

"Sent me to Qo'noS!" Nine! While usually not a terrible assignment, embassies were great postings for security, operations, or command. Some careers thrived with an embassy posting on their resume. Scientists posted to Qo'noS were sent to that planet as punishment. Her reps were still solid; even if her pace slowed slightly, the motions were precise and even.

"Made me a clerk!" Ten! Nara finished the tenth and final rep setting the bar onto the stop with a clang.

She was still mad but knew where her failure point was. That tenth rep had been sloppy, and she didn't want to overdo it too much on her sets. Nara laid there for a time and seethed, angrier than Talia had probably ever seen her. But at least the frustration was slowly ebbing away.

"That's why I'm here every day destroying myself; that's why I train until I nearly pass out at the end of every shift. I've been given another chance here on the Theurgy to be a real scientist again, to use my doctorate."

There was pain and gratitude in Nara's voice then. Thankful that she could vent her anger in the room with someone else that would understand whys he pushed herself so hard. Failure and giving up were anathema to both women here, and she hoped and prayed that Talia knew that. Nara's anger wasn't directed at her at all. After fifteen seconds, she focuses again and puts her hands back on the bar.

"Let's finish these up and move to incline, and I'm glad to have you along for cardio day tomorrow." Nara forced a smile at that, giving the sable-haired woman a wink from her inverted position, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself as much as ready herself for the next exercise. With a dedicated look, Nara locked her eyes on the bar and wrapped her hands around it, prepared to begin the next set at her Spotter's word. Unless Talia thought they needed a moment, but they could always talk after, weights now and all that.

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #7
[Ens. Talia Al-Ibrahim | Lower Gym | Deck 14 | Vector 03 | USS Theurgy] Attn: @Tae

Talia nodded as she watched Nara vent, letting the words and anger from her newly-rediscovered acquaintance flow uninterrupted. She didn’t ask questions, didn’t render judgement – she just waited, and watched, because she knew this release was for Nara, not really for her. Pain is a powerful motivator.

She recognized that pain – a stubborn refusal to submit to life’s tragedy. Everyone had regrets. Everyone made mistakes. In her mind, the way she saw the world, you could either let that bullshit wear you down like a ton of bricks or you lift that burden and carry it freely to whatever life you wanted. It never faded; it never got easier to carry. But I’ll be damned if I’ll let it pull me down into despair. She thought of her father – like she often did. Fuck him. I made it this far and I’ll keep going. That was her spite talking, and she knew it. Prided herself on it.

Nara’s pain fueled her own, and in between her growls of anger as she told her story, Talia was there, quietly encouraging her to keep going. She’d forgotten how much one person’s drive could motivate another. She watched Nara struggle through the last rep, proud to be a witness to the work and thankful to have been given the insight into what drove her. She fought the urge to ask herself what she would have done in the Doctor’s place, as she watched the woman panting below. I don’t know, Talia sighed inwardly. Probably lose my shit just like she did. She blinked her thoughts away, resting her hands on her hips as she nodded to her new gym partner. When she told Talia that she wanted to finish up and switch to declines, Talia found herself hesitating.

That last rep might have been her limit. Anger aside, the body can only take so much. She took a breath, huffing her bangs out of her face as she leaned on the bar with her elbows. Maybe just take a minute. See what she wants to do. In the moment, she felt that she needed to say something, and found the words came to her surprisingly easy.

“Shit happens, Nara. I get it, trust me. I’m sorry that you had to go through all that,” she paused to gesture to her, “and I understand the motivation. I’m glad you found a way to use it, instead of it using you.” She felt her own fire inside rekindle as she spoke, wishing she could work a bag for a little, but knew that she’d already punished herself enough for one day. Dark eyes flicked to the chrono above the exit. No time anyway. I still have to review those engine specs on the 409’s before breakfast. The prospect of physically acquainting herself with the mk. III Valkyries lit a hunger in her eyes as Nara gripped the bar again. “After I lost my uncle to the Breen,” she felt her face darken in anger, “well. Let’s just say that motivated me away from academia.” You paid for that too – that sophomore year was a blur of exhaustion. “I learned to fight instead.”

Returning her gloved fists to the middle of the bar, ready to pop it up with her, she set her face again. “I’m glad you’re here, Nara,” she nodded to the bar. “On you.”

Ready to see what her friend would do, her mind switched to thoughts of their cardio session tomorrow. Yeah, I could definitely work with her – probably never come close to her level, but it’ll be fun trying.

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #8
CM 1 Nara Nueva | Lower gymnasium | Deck 14 | vector 03 | USS Theurgy | attn: @Dumedion

Nara found herself staring up at Talia as she recovered from her last set. She'd put so much of herself out there, and Talia hadn't tuned and walked away. Talia stood by her right then and continued to spot instead of leaving, turning her back on her. A small smile tugged at the corner of Nara's lips, looking up at Talia's solid midsection. Sure, Nara had had some additional years to refine and hone her physique even before her embarrassment and her physical training had become her only outlet. But Talia had a stunning figure by any definition.

How far does that vein on her abs go down? Oh, She's saying something! God, her lips are beautiful.

Nara barely caught what Talia was saying, caught up in her moment of infatuation, in letting her brown eyes roam over Talia's physique, but her ears caught up to her brain for a moment. And she nodded then, understanding.

"I'd heard about that attack. Your Uncle was in Admin, wasn't he? I'm sorry I never contacted you, Talia. I wanted to! But you know how it was during the war. I was on the Oberth by then, and we were deep behind the lines trying to discover a way to track the Dominion ships. I'm sure that you became a hell of a fighter. You wouldn't have transferred to Security, and I'm guessing Tactical. Maybe a combat pilot?"

That was a bit of pain and regret that Nara had never gotten to voice, but she'd never seen Talia's name come up on a casualty list. Nara did feel for her former protege, mentee, whatever. They had known each other quite well, or Nara thought they did anyway. Talia certainly still had an athletic build that would have served her well in any combat role, but there were also no scars or signs of dermal regeneration.

"Last set, then we both call it a night. No inclines today."

Realizing that she was stalling, Nara reaches up and locks her hands around the bar for the final set. She adjusts her grip for a moment before lifting the bar off the stops and slowly bringing it down to her chest. Nara knew where her limit was, but she needed to push just a little bit further to see that she'd reached it and was trying to move past it.

So it was with agonizing slowness that Nara performed the reps, taking a whole six counts to lower the bar to her chest and then back up. Steady, precise, almost mechanical, with that pain and anger fueling her, Nara could finish, but she'd exhausted so much of it by shouting through her last set.

The athlete wasn't trying to make it hard on herself now, and it was hard. The first two reps of the decline bench press went smoothly enough, with only slight tremors in her chest, arms, and shoulders. Nara's muscles flexed from the strain of the workout, almost painfully. Nara didn't have the upper body strength that Talia did, and she couldn't hope to manage a Svend press with a pair of 10-kilogram plates. That was madness! Doing the decline bench with an 11.4 on each side after that murderous ten rep set with as worn out as Nara was was utterly insane.

Going just as slow, she'd need help from Talia to complete the third and fourth rep, her arms starting to shake at the end of that last one. Her muscles were exhausted and full of lactic acid, her body drenched in sweat. She holds the bar up at the top, seriously wanting to do one more rep. Maybe it was her exhaustion or her deep-seated respect and care for Talia. Perhaps it was even the fact that Nara hadn't indulged in any advances in the last few years that she found herself saying a phrase that she'd learned so long ago.

"hal abdu jamilan bialnisbat lak.*"

There was always truth in certain things; that fact was immutable through history. Wine, pain, and iron were three of the things that always told you exactly what you needed to hear and made you say precisely what you needed to. And here in one of the Theurgy's gyms, Nara spoke a phrase that she'd only ever uttered in silence before. There was never room for it in the Academy. And they hadn't corresponded much, if any after they'd both graduated. So here, years later, free from the strictures of the Academy, in different departments, and both of them exhausted by their exertion, and pain both emotional and physical pain that Nara had asked the one question she'd always wanted to. But in her exhausted and fatigued state the words just barely slipped past her lips. Had they even been audible, had they even been said aloud? Nara thought so, but she'd imagined it as a fantasy for so long she couldn't be sure.



Arabic for *Do I look beautiful to you?*

Re: Day 04 [0200 hours] The crush of weights

Reply #9
[Ens. Talia Al-Ibrahim | Lower Gym | Deck 14 | Vector 03 | USS Theurgy]

Come on, she cheered for Nara as she gently pulled up on the bar, come on, girl you got it! She was grinning, immersed in the joy of watching someone break through their own barriers. “Omul died in the A Building, yeah,” her smile died as she answered. “And it’s not like I stayed in touch either,” she flashed a quick smile, “so no worries.” She could see Nara truly struggling to finish now, and stepped closer to the bar. Come on, girl, I got you, she projected with her presence. She widened her stance as Nara lowered the bar into her last rep; as Nara truly fought to raise the bar, she offered quick, short bursts of assistance to get her there. “And yea, I went Tactical CONN.”

Poor Nara was hissing and past the point of failure now, and Talia was so proud to see her finish. She huffed her excitement back, even though she wanted to shout it out loud. Caught up in her excitement, her ears clearly heard Nara whisper something – the word ‘beautiful’ for sure – and that gave her pause. As the bar clanged home, and Nara lay panting, Talia felt herself flushed and uncertain. Beautiful? Did she ask if she was beautiful? Or did I just imagine that? Her dark eyes looked to her friend, and she couldn’t stop the smile that bloomed on her lips. Leaning her forearms on the bar, she nodded down to her. It had to have been my imagination. She never spoke Arabic before!

Before, at the Academy - she was brilliant, way beyond Talia’s intellect. She was intimidating, Talia remembered, but…kind, and sweet, and…

She felt her pulse quicken, realizing that, perhaps, she’d not fully understood why someone as beautiful, kind, and intelligent would have gone out of their way to befriend and mentor a shy freshman girl. Many, many things had changed her over the course of those four eventful years. I learned a lot about myself; and others, her mind raced as her dark chocolate eyes looked into Nara’s. Is this happening? Or am I just crazy?

Do I look beautiful to you?

That’s what she’d heard. She knew it in her heart – she heard Nara whisper that.

Can I do this, her mind threw the barricade up instantly. Can I do what I do, take the risks I take, if I open up to her? She was chewing her bottom lip now, at war with what she wanted and what she thought was safe. What would the alternative be – with the odds of any of them surviving out here – why the hell shouldn’t she take the chance? I have to do something, she realized, because I’m just standing here grinning like an idiot.

She was laughing now, laughing at her own ineptitude and the ridiculousness of it all. She’d just awoken from cryogenic stasis less than 48 hours ago. A traitor, on a renegade ship, hell-bent on saving the galaxy from Allah-knew-what; burdened by grief and rage at the friends she’d lost on the Diamondback.

And here is Nara, her giggles subsided, leaving her lopsided smile and her stupid dimples. My Nara? She cocked her head at the idea. My Nara…

Yaa, lil halawah, anti jameela,” she told her, as clearly as she’d ever spoken; the words rolled from her tongue and lips with surprising ease. If she didn’t understand, then, well…

Whatever comes next, Talia vowed to herself, I’m done living in the past – I’m not going that direction anymore.

-FIN

OOC: Oh, my sweet, you are beautiful.

 
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