THE CALLING: Part 2, Chapter 9
A Work Of Star Trek Fan Fiction By Richard Paolinelli
© 2020 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION. This is a work of fan fiction based in the universe of Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. It is not intended to be sold, to be used to aid in any sale and is not to be copied or used in any other way by any other party.
“Well, Captain,” Kleine remarked as they exited the briefing room and walked down the corridor, “I think that went well. In a few days we can have a formal signing and relations between the Federation and Kallita can go back to normal.”
“Assuming we can trust the First Counsel to keep his word,” Kirk replied as he stepped into the turbolift. “Sick Bay. That might be a big assumption given his previous record.”
“I don’t think that will be an issue going forward,” Kleine dismissed as the doors slid shut and they began the brief journey. “Not after they got a taste of what life would be like without Federation protection. I must say, Bari really managed to put the fear of god into the First Counsel.”
“I’m surprised you approve of it, Ambassador.”
“Bari has always been the Federation and Starfleet’s greatest champion,” Kleine replied as the lift doors opened and they made their way toward Sick Bay. “He’d never do anything to harm either institution. He’s also loyal to a fault, which is why he didn’t do anything that would reflect poorly on his Captain. It wouldn’t surprise me that he had a resignation letter at the ready, taking full blame, had things turned out otherwise.
“No, Captain,” Kleine continued as they stepped inside Sick Bay, “Starfleet will be happy, the Federation will be happy, so I’ll be happy. Sometimes a little gunboat diplomacy has its place. Trust me, we have nothing to worry about.”
Kirk pulled up short as he spotted McCoy, seated at his desk, and staring at a filled glass of Saurian brandy. Another filled glass sat nearer the edge.
“I lost her, Jim,” McCoy replied softly. “About an hour ago.”
“How?” Kleine exclaimed.
“There’s only so much damage a humanoid body can take, Ambassador,” McCoy’s tone bristled. “And only so much medical science can do to repair it. We’d fix one damaged organ and two more would begin to fail. We never could keep up…”
“You did your best, Bones.”
“Yeah, that’s what I keep telling myself. Maybe I’ll actually start believing it,” McCoy picked up the glass and downed it.
“He’s in there,” McCoy indicated a door to the treatment area with a nod of his head. “He’s just sitting next to her. He hasn’t said a word since she died. You want some advice from an old country doctor? If your business with the First Counsel is done, you get them off the ship and break orbit now. My mama always said to watch out when someone goes quiet like that.”
Before Kirk could reply the outer doors parted and Lieutenant Frank Luke, the ship’s Chaplain, entered with branches of some sort in his hands.
“Excuse me, Captain,” Luke said. “I was told there was a death connected to an Etalyian and I needed to collect these. Their culture calls for placing these in the hands of the deceased. It isn’t the same plant as found on Etalya but Hydroponics had these and they are pretty close. The Etalyan custom calls for those closest to the deceased to sit vigil over the body until it is laid to rest, never leaving it unguarded lest its spirit gets lost. They also place a specific coin over the eyes. I couldn’t find anything close to that though.”
“I’m sure Commander Forelni will appreciate the thought,” Kirk replied. “Right now he is with the deceased.”
“Of course. Doctor, if I may wait over here for now?”
The treatment room doors parted and Forelni stepped out into the room. He looked suddenly old and tired. It took him a moment to realize there were more people present than just McCoy.
“Commander, my condolences,” Kirk said simply and Kleine quickly followed suit. Forelni nodded and stepped over to the communications panel, pressing the button firmly.
“Sick Bay to Bridge, Science station.”
“Sciences,” Arex replied, manning the post while Spock had the conn.
“Lieutenant, please locate the nearest Etalyian-flagged vessel of any kind.”
“Aye, Sir. Stand by,” a long pause. “I have it, Sir. The Audace. A freighter commanded by…”
“Enzo Cocci,” Forelni finished. “An old friend. Thank you, Mr. Arex. Would you transfer me to Communications please?”
“Lieutenant, would you please hail the Audace and connect me to her Captain? I’ll wait here in Sick Bay.”
“Captain,” Forelni cutoff the panel. “There are certain responsibilities I have regarding the death of an Etalyian official. May I request that I be placed on leave until I fulfill those duties? I anticipate no more than a week will be needed.”
“Of course, Commander,” Kirk replied. “Effective immediately?”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you,” Forelni nodded as Kirk borrowed McCoy’s computer access to enter the leave into the log and duty roster. The comm panel whistled as Uhura transferred the call to the Audace to Sick Bay.
“Enzo, my old friend,” Forelni greeted.
“My Prince, to what do I owe the honor?”
“Ill tidings, Enzo. I must impose upon you and your crew.”
“You have but to ask, you know that.”
“I am in need of your ship to carry the body of our Ambassador to Kallita back home, Enzo, so she may be laid to rest among her people. I cannot do so myself.”
“Consider it done, my Prince,” Cocci replied immediately. “How did she die?”
“Not well, Enzo, but that is a matter for my own concern. When you arrive back at Etalya, you and your crew will be my guests at my dimora. Your ship will be resupplied and restocked and any repairs will be taken care of while you are there.”
“My Prince, that is most generous, but not necessary. We would take our sister home without a credit of compensation being paid.”
“I know, Enzo, but please accept my generosity all the same. And one more thing, before you rendezvous with Enterprise…”
“Do not forget to bring the Vendicatore.”
“We will not forget that,” Cocci replied after a very long pause. “We will be there in three days.”
“Thank you, Enzo, Enterprise out,” Forelni toggled the switch again. “Uhura, I need to send a priority diplomatic message to the Royal Court of Etalya and to the attention of the Court Chamberlain.”
“Message begins: To his Honorable Chamberlain, our slain Ambassador to Kallita, Bryna, is being escorted back to Etalya by the Etalyian ship, Audace, which is en route to Kalitta with the Vendicatore. I will not be able to accompany her home. However, I formally request that she be laid to rest in the gardens of my dimora following her state funeral. I also formally request an official protest against the government of Kallita be filed with the Federation regarding her death at the hands of its First Counsel. In addition, the crew of the Audace are to be guests at my dimora, their ship to be given every consideration and fully loaded with cargo upon their departure from Etalya. All expenses to be drawn from my personal treasury. Message ends.”
“Message sent, Commander.”
“If you gentlemen will excuse me,” Forelni said, turning back toward the treatment room.
“Commander,” Luke stepped forward, offering the branches. “I thought you might need these and some company while you sit vigil.”
“I’d appreciate both,” Forelni replied, slipping two coins from his pocket as Luke followed him inside.
* * *
Three days passed quietly, with the final signing of the agreement taking place on board the ship. The Audace dropped out of warp only a few minutes later. Forelni had sent messages to the ship’s officers, inviting them to be at the somber ceremony when Audace docked with Enterprise and Bryna’s body was transferred aboard the freighter. That Ambassador Kleine was invited to represent the Federation was not a surprise. That the Kallitan contingent had also been invited was.
Attired in dress uniforms, the invitees had gathered in the bay near the docking ring as the Audace docked. Her crew stepped through once the port opened and quickly lined up against a near wall. A tall man, dressed all in black and wearing a mask, followed the Captain out and took up station next to the port.
On the other side of the bay, the door parted and an honor guard from security crisply marched in and lined up. Scotty, I dress kilt and carrying his beloved ‘pipes, marched in playing Amazing Grace. He was followed by the stasis tube bearing Bryna’s remains, floating on an anti-grav. The security team snapped to attention as the tube, steered by Forelni, passed by. He was not in his Starfleet uniform.
“Captain,” Spock whispered softly. “That is the official uniform worn by the Crown Prince during a time of war on Etalya.”
Forelni was attired in a flowing black robe with a blood-red stripe running the length of each side, a gold-trimmed, purple cloak adorned with many medals and a formidable-looking sword at the belt. Forelni looked every inch a Crown Prince in dress. His face was that of a god of war, Kirk thought to himself. He glanced over at the First Counsel, who looked bored, and was suddenly worried about why Forelni had invited him.
Scotty ended the tune as the procession reached the crew of the Audace and he stepped over to join his fellow officers. Cocci stepped forward, placing a hand on the tube.
“We will bear our sister home,” Cocci said. “Where she may rest in peace among her people.”
The Audace crew each stepped forward, surrounding the tube and guided it through the port and into the freighter with Forelni in tow. He stopped at the port and faced the man in black, holding his own gloved hand out. Kirk spotted a data chip in the palm of his officer’s hand just before the other man clasped it.
“Thank you, my brother,” Forelni said, before breaking the handshake and stepping back before executing a slight bow.
“It is I who thank you, my brother, for this honor,” the man replied, clenching his hand into a ball before returning the bow and wheeling around to disappear through the port. The hatch closed and the Audace immediately separated from the ship. Forelni walked over to the Enterprise’s officers.
“I was not aware you had a living brother, Commander,” Spock said.
“During such times, Mr. Spock, the Vendicatore is considered family, a brother in spirit if not in flesh, if you will,” Forelni replied. “Captain, on behalf of the Etalyian people, I thank you and your crew for your presence here. You do her, and us, a great honor.
“Mr. Ambassador,” Forelni continued, looking at Kleine. “Thank you for representing the Federation. We are honored.”
“My pleasure. I only wish it had been under more pleasant circumstances.”
“Indeed,” Forelni said then turned to face the Kallitan contingent. “Mr. Ambassador, for the record, the Etalyian government formally protests the murder of its Ambassador to Kallita and demands justice. Etalyian justice. And that justice will be done.”
“And how do you plan to do that?” the First Counsel sneered.
“With my hands around your throat, First Counsel,” the icy calm in which the threat had been delivered froze everyone in the bay. Forelni turned away and approached the security team, commanded by Officer Butler. “Mr. Butler, my compliments to you and your team, Sir. I believe our Kallitan guests have concluded their business aboard ship. See to it that nothing delays their immediate departure.”
Butler and his team hastily escorted the Kallitans to the transporter pads on the far side of the bay. Once all five had been beamed down, Forelni turned to face his Captain.
“Do you think it was wise to publically threaten to kill the First Counsel?” Kirk asked.
“Maybe not,” Forelni allowed. “But consider, how well do you think he’ll sleep trying to keep one eye open looking for me? Captain, my duties to Etalya have been completed. I request permission to be returned to active duty.”
“Are you sure?”
“Quite sure, Sir.”
“Very well, Commander. I will so note in the log.”
“Thank you, Sir. Mr. Butler,” Forelni called out as he slipped off the cloak and out of the robe. He was dressed in his red duty uniform underneath. He folded up both garments and handed them to Butler. “Run these over to the transporter and have them beamed over to the Audace with my thanks to her Captain for bringing them to me from Etalya.”
He turned back to a host of strange looks from the crew.
“You don’t think I pack that around with me everywhere I go, do you?” He allowed a ghost of a smile to form as he headed out of the bay. “I’ll see you on the bridge in two hours, Captain.”
“I just don’t know, Jim.”
“What is it, Bones?”
“I just can’t buy he did all that just to play head games.”
Kirk remained silent. But, he had to admit, McCoy might just have a point.