SHADOWBOXING (short story)
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
By Nathan Warner
Two Romulan warships carry out a Tal Shiar execution.
"Initiate engines," Commander Tur'rok ordered, preparing to bank his Warbird down upon Mu'ron, the uninhabited planet of the sixth star in the Kypo sector. He felt the throb of power in the deck as the impulse engines kicked on and the ship began its turn.
The Ru'Tok was a powerful machine - a D'deridex class Warbird - the finest ship ever built, in Tur'rok's opinion. What it lacked in speed, it made up in sheer dominant firepower and endurance.
As the ship maneuvered into position, he thought he could feel their sister-ship, the Ro'Ruk shadowing them - cloaked. A faint plasma surge from the nebula to starboard revealed the faint contours of the hidden ship as it followed lead.
This operational tactic was Tur'rok's favorite. In Romulan it translated to "Shadowboxing" but it was affectionately known as "The Magician's Girl" by Section 31 intelligence. It was simple, yet effective, only requiring the main warship to remain uncloaked and visible - a distraction to any enemies while a cloaked wingman was the "slight of hand" that would play a disappearing act upon any attacking vessels when it materialized out of thin air to unleash plasma hell.
"Full impulse!" Tur'rok ordered. The Ru'Tok roared awake and thundered down upon Mu'ron, which was unaware of the approaching danger. The planet grew large on the viewer. Harboring an insignificant biosphere it was mostly covered in vegetation and insectoid life, save for six humanoid life-signs - the recently outed dissidents apprehended on Romulus itself.
They had been deposited on the planet three days ago by the Tal Shiar to await their execution at the hands of the Romulan Star Empire's Fleet. The conditions on Mu'ron were not hospitable, and its selection was the customary kind of elaborate torture that sprang from Romulan ingenuity. After 72 hours of trying to survive in the hot days and cold nights on the surface - plenty of time to "contemplate" their treason - the execution would come swiftly and completely with no trace of their resting place - an example to any who might follow their precedent. The Romulan Underground Movement would disintegrate a little bit more today.
"Full surface destruction!" Tur'rok barked. A powerful steam of plasma weapons, beam energy, and photon torpedoes rained down on the unfortunate planet, punching through the atmosphere like extinction-event comets.
Beside it, the Ro'Ruk materialized, savoring its part in the annihilation of all life on the surface below. The atmosphere clouded as vaporized matter rose from the crust and diffused into the stratosphere, causing turbulent electrical discharges that seared the sky. Only once the atmosphere was completely homogenized by ionized dust and debris, did Tur'rok raise his hand.
"Cease-fire!" he commanded, turning in his chair to his science officer, Ty'pel. "Life signs?" he asked. She shook her head.
"Negative Commander," she answered, "all life has been removed from the planet." Tur'rok nodded.
"Hail Vice-Chairman Vreenak," he ordered. Instantly, the screen was filled with the imposing figure of the Tal Shiar commander. He sat at his desk, idly fingering through stacks of data pads.
"Yes?" he asked disinterestedly.
"We have successfully executed the dissidents," Tur'rok announced. In the silence that followed, Vreenak nodded weakly as he busied himself with signing screens - possibly execution orders or clandestine operations.
"Anything less would be unacceptable, Commander," he said slowly. "Vreenak out." The screen went blank. Tur'rok sighed, but didn't dare criticize the chairman in the presence of the crew - one never knew who was a Tal Shiar operative onboard and who was not.
"Notify the Applied Science Division that the planet is now available for terraforming procedures," he announced to his communication officer, shaking his head slightly at his own order.
"Efficiency, efficiency," he muttered below his breath. As if to balance out this wasteful mode of execution, Romulan efficiency demanded that it take place on a planet scheduled for "re-purposing." This way, the Warbirds were killing two viper-wrens with one stone - sending a powerful message to any detractors of the Tal Shiar with a public show of the consequences of dissidence, while also prepping the planet for Romulan colonization and expansion.
"I will be in my office," Tur'rok said gruffly, rising from his seat. "Notify me when we have confirmation of the receipt of the planet from the ASD." He left the bridge, rubbing at the tingling sensation he felt at the back of his neck. It had to be nerves.
Had the slight of hand worked or would they be discovered by the Tal Shiar? he wondered. He went over and over the details of the rescue operation in his mind. It was a hurried procedure as the execution had only been scheduled a week ago. With some effort, he pushed his worry down.
It is a sound plan, he thought, After all, I devised it!
From the start, he knew it would require precise timing - whisking the prisoners to safety even as death rained down on them. There was simply no way of knowing if it had worked or not - and that was sort of the point.
If everything had gone according to plan, a cloaked Klingon B'rel class Bird of Prey was supposed to be in orbit on the dark side of Mu'ron at the time of the execution. And it was supposed to have initiated transport of the condemned Romulans from the surface at the moment the first of Ru'Tok's plasma bursts entered the atmosphere, which always caused interference with the Warbirds' sensors, providing a screen to work the illusion that the dissidents had been vaporized. With any luck it had been successful and the dissidents were now in the hands of Starfleet's Section 31.
Now the only challenge was for the Federation Intelligence operatives to safely make it out of Romulan space - a slow, winding journey in radio silence past the Romulan sensor nets that blanketed their space into the Neutral Zone. Even if the Klingon vessel made it, Tur'rok likely wouldn't know about it for years - and if they were discovered, no one would ever know what had happened to them, as the Tal Shiar would bury the embarrassment under layers of secrecy.
Tur'rok sighed again, letting his anxiety out slowly. He told himself it was for his love of Romulus that he had joined the Romulan Underground Movement. It was all worth it, he thought, debating fiercely against his fears. He stiffened. It was. He found the courage he needed in the reminder of happier days - in the memories of growing up next door to a human woman on Romulus. Her name had been seared into his mind in those adolescent days: Natasha.
He had played in the same garden where she walked during her pregnancy. He remembered how she had played with him and taught him to value all life, personal responsibility, liberty, and above all else, self-sacrifice for the good of others.
Yes, her warmth and kindness had been the spark that had kindled his hope for a better Romulus! Tur'rok was doing this - everything - for his children's children and all the children of future generations. His transient happiness meant little in the face of such a cause. He steadied himself on Natasha's memory - the sandcastles they'd made on the Ver'nak Beach, the game of "hide-and-seek" that she had taught him and her daughter Sela, and the fateful day she disappeared - like so many "dissidents" had before and after.
The comms chimed and Tur'rok jumped. Had they been discovered?
"Yes?" he asked, clearing his throat.
"Sir, the Applied Sciences Division is ready to take possession of Mu'ron," Ty'pel reported. "We are clear for departure."
"Very well," Tur'rok replied, taking a deep breath, "prepare to disengage orbit."
"Yes, Commander," she replied. As the comms turned off, Tur'rok lingered a moment more beside his desk, feeling his fingers over a Balok sea-shell he'd always kept on his desk - a keepsake to remind him of better days. Slowly, he nodded to Natasha's memory, turned, and strode back out onto the Bridge.
"Set a course to the Neutral Zone," he ordered. "And log our patrol." He glanced out the viewscreen on the vast eternal sea of stars, trying to sense the cloaked Klingon rescue vessel. He prayed Ambassador Spock was safe - his name had been withheld from the execution details so that no intergalactic political haggling might prevent his timely execution. He had simply been listed as "Dissident #3261931." Thankfully word had gotten out through a Section 31 operative involved with the arrest. Tur'rok smiled, recalling his one meeting with the legendary Vulcan. He knew that nothing - not even this little debacle would keep Spock from his calling to help Romulus and its people. He would be back! The awakening conscience of Romulus had gained too much momentum for even the mighty Tal Shiar to halt the juggernaut that was now in motion. He turned to the helm.
"Initiate warp engines," he ordered.
Outside, the massive Ro'Ruk cloaked beside them, following the Ru'Tok as it banked away from the Kypo Sector and leapt to warp, glimmering like a shooting star for a moment and then they were gone, seeding hope for a better future.