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One Shot

By:Laurie Roma

her mother, letting him hit her and apologizing for him. As she got older, he got less tolerant of her refusal to conform to his rules. And so she began to live in terror of her father’s fists.

Until the day he tried to kill her.

It wasn’t anything particular that set him off that night long ago. In fact, with a man like that, it never took much to ignite his madness. He had come home drunk, like he did so often, and started in on her mother for not cleaning the house. He yelled and belittled her, throwing things around the room. When he stumbled upon some of the debris, he flew into a rage and started to hit her mother. Tara jumped in and tried to stop him, earning a beating so bad that it had almost killed her.

Her mother had turned a blind eye, meekly following Tara’s father into their bedroom while Tara had been left on the floor, so bloody and bruised she could barely move. Barely able to see out of her eyes, Tara watched them leave the room together, and felt the last scrap of feelings she had for the two people who had created her die.

And it was on that day she learned how to hate.

It took her precious minutes to try and drag her broken body up off the floor and to make it to the front door. Once she got herself upright she walked with no direction in mind, the pain so overwhelming she could barely think. Thankfully a few military police officers saw her limping on the road, took one look at her bruised, bleeding body and immediately took her to the hospital. When the doctor asked what happened, Tara never hesitated. She told them everything. The military police immediately went after her father, but they came back with the shocking news that he had killed her mother and then shot himself.

Tara had been nine years old.

That was the day Tara Russo died and Tara Toshi had been born. When she healed enough to be released from the hospital, Tara moved in with her only living relatives, her aunt and uncle in Chicago. But they had taken her in out of necessity, not desire. Her relatives were cold, barely speaking to her or acknowledging her presence. They made it clear that she wasn’t wanted. Her uncle was her mother’s brother who had shunned her years ago for marrying a white man, and Tara reminded him of everything he had turned away from. He blamed her for her mother’s death and made sure she knew it every second of every day.

Thankfully Tara’s luck changed when she met Bella and Liz shortly after moving in with her relatives. Her new friends had allowed her the escape from the icy disdain of her guardians whenever she needed it. She tried to remain aloof but Bella and Liz had decided to befriend her and wouldn’t leave her alone until she finally gave in. Bella and Liz became the sisters she never had and Bella’s three older brothers had nagged and watched out for her as only older brothers could. For the first time Tara felt close to people and learned how life was supposed to be, even though deep down she still held herself apart from the others.

It was safer that way.

When they grew older, Bella had gone off to culinary school in France and Tara left for college. Always a bright student, Tara’s photographic memory allowed her the opportunity to go anywhere she wanted. She had chosen California to get as far away from her relatives as possible and it was there that she had been recruited by the CIA.

To someone like Tara, spy craft came easy. She had focused all of her rage and aggression into her training to become one of the best agents the Company had ever seen. Determined never to be a victim again, Tara had excelled in martial arts all her life, and within the Company, she had honed her skills to become a lethal fighting machine. She was also an expert with codes and with her small, nimble fingers could dismantle almost any bomb with time to spare.

She believed in what she did, but hated the bureaucracy that went along with the job. Tara had no problem killing a man who was planning a terrorist attack on a city or someone who sold guns to profit from war. She slept just fine. It was the men who sat in their comfy offices and sent soldiers into harm’s way without regard for their safety that were her problem.

Burnt out from the bullshit life of bureaucratic espionage, Tara sought something else. Leaving the Company for the private sector, Tara now worked for a company that specialized in security. Mac Securities provided defense assistance and installed security systems in high-risk facilities around the world using the latest technology and military precision.

Mac Securities was the top in the field. Part of that was because Jason MacBain only hired the best and brightest for his company. The other part was due to the fact that Mac Securities was also a front for IAD, a specialized intelligence agency and counterterrorist taskforce that very few people even knew existed. The International Alliance of Defense was an extremely covert branch in the intelligence community, more like a transnational agency.

They were the ultimate warriors of global warfare with agents stationed all over the world. The members of NATO had formed IAD with a policy of “get it done, no matter the cost.’” IAD handled their own problems and discourses internally, and that was just the way they liked it. They were the elite and only the best were chosen to serve.

For the highly skilled select members of IAD it was a dream come true, since most of the agents had been disillusioned with the rules, regulations, and red tape of the regular intelligence branches. Only the highest, most qualified candidates were chosen for IAD, given a kind of worldwide immunity for their actions. Government agencies around the world looked at the members of IAD with awe, not to mention a great amount of envy. Not that it didn’t piss off other agencies when they had to defer to IAD agents if the situation called for it.

When Jason had offered Tara a position with IAD and Mac S