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[2010: NOV-DEC] Praxis

Roland Weston

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If five humans sitting around a small round table was cause enough for suspicion on Korvas III, their simple clothing and work-worn faces helped diffuse the questions that were running through the heads of every patron at Gorlan’s bar. They drank lightly, discussing things quietly between themselves, and tipped well. Three of them were regulars, dock workers who liked to spend their latinum on a familiar chair. Humans weren’t unheard of on Korvas II; they knew how to find each other at the very least.

“I’m not sure I like the idea,” one of the men said. He was the largest – full shoulders and a neck that would put some Gorn to shame. He drank an amber liquid out of a glass that probably could have been cleaner, but his eyes were locked on the only woman in the group, who seemed to be some sort of figurehead.

“We need to do it, Johnny,” she replied. She tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and glanced at the other three men around the table, drawing their attention to her fully. Once she had been pretty – beautiful, even – but years of hard work had sharpened the edges. “It’s been almost a century since it happened, and we cannot afford to let them keep hunting us. Samir, you said—“

“Yes,” the darker-skinned man to her right said with a small shrug. “Everything indicates that the High Chancellor’s ascendance is our best bet for a coup, with the instability that comes of it. Just like it did seventy years ago – actually, it will probably be even easier, now.” He quirked a small frown and met the woman’s gaze briefly. “But what is the end goal? I think that it is safe to say that a truly united federation is out of the question. I don’t know many humans who would even consider signing a treaty with the Klingon people, much less forming a government with them.”

“We don’t really have much of a choice,” the woman said again, her voice firm. “Vulcan asylum and ill-conceived colonies will only last so long. How many of our people stayed on Earth? How many are slaves, how many are dead? We need to fight back,” she spat, trying to rein in her anger so that the rest of the bar wouldn’t hear her. “No matter how underhanded, an attack is necessary to the survival of the human species. The High Command will understand.”

The fourth man – small, yellow-skinned, with a deep chestnut hair and a lithe build – stood slowly, finishing his dirty glass of water. “They will not, Sarah. And neither do I. I will not risk my life for a … pipedream of revenge.” He looked at the group, each in turn, and tapped one finger on the table. “Starfleet died almost a century ago, people. They were not a resistance group, and we shouldn’t be either. Earth is gone – it belongs to the Klingons now. This is our home. You were born here, Sarah. Your parents were born here. Gather intelligence if you must, but leave the war to the Vulcans.” He turned on his heel, feeling the heavy weight of his people on his back as he left the bar.

There was a long moment of silence after that. Xi-jiang was a respected union member, almost the president of the dockworkers, and with good reason; his patience, his logic and his passion were all wrapped up in a package of intelligence and empathy that was rare to find outside of the odd Betazoid trader they saw on the docks. If Sarah was the face of their small cell of resistance, Xi-jiang was undeniably the brain, and now he was gone.

“Look,” said the last man. He was smaller than Johnny, but not small; dock workers rarely were. All eyes turned to the man who had said maybe a dozen words in all the time they had known him. Sarah noticed a lilt in his speech for the first time, and it squeezed her heart to realize that he spoke so seldom that the Earth accent hadn’t been washed from his tongue as it had from all of theirs. “My great-grandda wore black during his time in Starfleet, and they had a wee plan that went to hell back in ’93. Might be that it would still be possible now, if we move while they’re lookin’ to coronate this Gowron fella.”

“You know why people don’t fight wars in the winter, Ryan?” Johnny Leone squatted down low, trying to see through the blizzard that obscured the view of Praxis’ largest mining power plant and had piled snow high enough over the previous week that Johnny’s broad chest was barely out of the drift. The quiet redhead just glanced his way, but Johnny knew an acknowledgement when he saw one.

“Because once your balls fall off, you lose the will to fight. I just want to go home,” he spat, following it up with a Klingon word that Ryan hadn’t ever heard. The meaning was all too clear.

“Just get ready to go on Samir’s mark,” Sarah said quietly. She crouched two meters to Johnny’s left, binoculars virtually glued to her eyes. She kept switching between thermal vision and light-enhancing, trying to get a better view of the window in which Samir would be setting the signal – one candle to stay back, two to approach. He was shutting down the sensors on their side of the compound while simultaneously trying to make sure that their operations department didn’t find out about it… not an easy thing at the best of times. Mid-blizzard, having had to break in through a half-frozen sewer system… Samir’s dedication could not be denied.

When she heard Johnny laugh a little too loudly at something Ryan had said, she took her eyes away from the window for the first time in twenty minutes to put the full force of her glare on the pair. Ryan had come out of his shell in the past months, but in this case it was just plain bad timing. The two men quieted down quickly, seeing the disapproving glare from a woman they knew had a temper and a stolen disruptor on her belt. When she turned back, two candles burned quietly in the distant window.

“Time to go, gentlemen,” she said quietly. “You two are in through the door to the right. I’m through the access panel with the green lettering. R-V at the top. If you need anything,” she said, motioning to the communicator that sat snugly in a leather pouch on her belt. The two men nodded, laughter gone from faces now seemingly set in stone. It was action time.

The approach was surprisingly simple – with the blizzard whirling around them, they couldn’t see the guards any more than the guards could see them, so they just walked up to the doors. Both guards nearby had gone on patrol and not found their way back to their warm booths, leaving the entrance unlocked and unguarded. The men slipped in and closed the door as Sarah opened an access panel with a sonic screwdriver and crawled inside.

It was dark, cold and cramped, but Sarah had something to do before she could rendezvous with the rest of the Section. It was a well-guarded secret that the Praxis mining facilities all drew on power from the main power house, but even a rudimentary engineer could have figured out how bad an idea it was at a glance. Because of the way the plasma conduits were attached to the station, one well-placed explosive charge would have a more devastating effect on Qo’nos’ atmosphere than a direct assault by a full armada of ships.

Unfortunately for the Section, the feedback loop required to create that destruction was carefully safeguarded against, monitored and maintained by the few live guards on the facility itself. On the other hand, it was just one small box – shield generators, something the guards somehow didn’t even consider a target – that stopped everything.

One small box that Sarah found quickly, and had rigged to blow within minutes. Enough explosive to take out a small building – which the power centre certainly was not – was wrapped around the transformer before she wriggled up two stories through the bulkheads and ducts, coming out in the hallway outside the operations centre as quietly as she could.

Dust was still settling on her rumpled impromptu uniform – light gray shirt, black pants, vaguely reminiscent of the photos she had seen of Starfleet in its heyday of flagships and first encounters – when she heard exactly what she didn’t want to hear behind her: the whine of a charging disruptor.

“Turn around… slowly,” she heard, a split second after the words came out of the Klingon’s mouth. Klingon translators weren’t as sophisticated as the personal translators had been on Starfleet ships, she knew, but they were still impressive. Sarah’s hands were in the air, palm towards her captor as she turned.

“We don’t have to do this,” she said slowly. “No one has to die here.”

“Wrong,” the Klingon sneered. There was a whine and an beam of green light that blinded Sarah, and then the Klingon was gone in a flash, eaten from the inside by a shot fired from just over her shoulder. When she spun around, Johnny stood rigid and staring at the space where just a moment before a living thing had breathed.

“Oh, Johnny,” she said. Her voice broke. He blinked, looking down at her and offering a trembling smile before whipping his head to the left and losing his lunch all over the corridor.

“Charges have been set,” Ryan said quietly. “Samir is ready to set detonation, but we can’t raise Thomas. Something about the shields around this place are stopping even communications. We’ve got to blow them first anyway, so Samir figures we’ll give it an extra ten seconds so that we can give him a chance to get a lock.”

“Agreed,” said Sarah, trying to ignore the fact that she had just almost died. “Thirty seconds before full-det, blow the shields. Ten seconds before, blow the transformer. We should be gone by then.” She walked into the operations centre, finding it empty except for the caramel-skinned man from the subcontinent who stared at the large wall viewscreen. A map of the facility was displayed.

“Ready, Samir?”

“Ready as I’m going to be,” he said. He didn’t turn to look at her, but she put one hand on his shoulder and squeezed anyway. It never hurt to reassure.

“Good. Let’s drop those shields and start our countdown. T-minus-thirty, gentlemen.”

A Klingon Bird of Prey orbited around the moon, cloaked and with a single operator. Thomas was Sarah’s brother, a boy who had grown up with fantasies of restarting Starfleet Command and bringing the war back to the Klingons. Only seventeen years old, he had studied starship operations as exhaustively as a human could; he could read Klingon better than anyone else on the team, and so he was left to fly the [...]ed thing while the rest of the team that called itself “Section 31-A” had beamed to the surface to do crime.

Thomas was observing communications – both between the Section and the Klingons on the surface – but nothing had happened in almost an hour. If it weren’t for the adrenaline coursing through his system he would have passed out on the console; the three-day journey was harrying to say the least, and he was exhausted from lack of sleep and constantly running on high nerves. In the past seventy-two hours, he had stolen a trader, used it to board a Bird of Prey and beam the survivors – there weren’t many – to the trader itself, and then been the only semi-capable pilot on their journey. He had been running on fumes for at least a day, and he had to be ready to beam the Section back aboard at a moment’s notice.

“…emergency power… zz… fifteen—“ the line crackled. Thomas started, staring. That had been Samir’s voice. Fifteen? he thought. Fifteen what? He tapped a few buttons, trying to calibrate the sensors. Fifteen targets? That could be the case; the blizzard was preventing scans from being at their best, but from what he could tell there were anywhere from a dozen to three dozen Klingons at the complex, overseeing the primarily automatic functions.

“… five,” the line picked up again after a brief burst of static. “Four. Three.” Thomas’ eyes widened and he started frantically tapping buttons. The ship decloaked, shields dropping instantly as he tried to get a transporter lock on his sister and her friends.

SIGNAL FAILURE were the last words he saw before communications suddenly cut out. A few minutes later, a bright light was the last thing Thomas ever saw as the moon called Praxis burst like a hydrogen balloon.

Four months passed before High Chancellor Gowron signed the final San Francisco Accord beneath the bright blue sky of a newly freed Earth. Administrator Sulik, head of the Vulcan High Command, stood to his right, while President Matthew Cheung stood on his right. Rumour had it that Sulik and Cheung were intending to reinstate the Starfleet Initiative and begin rebuilding efforts, but such military news was left out of the day’s festivities.

Even today, behind the Starfleet Academy buildings on San Francisco Bay, you’ll find an oak tree that seems ageless. A plaque sits in a rock at its base that reads, “For John, Ryan, Samir, Sarah and Thomas: Thank you. Long live 31.” The plaque is unsigned but well maintained.

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