THE CALLING: Part 2, Chapter 16
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.
“Approaching Spacedock, Captain.”
“Thank you, Mr. Sulu,” Kirk replied, casting a glance over at Forelni. The two-week trip back to Earth had been uneventful, giving the Etalyan plenty of time to pack and say his goodbyes. Within two hours he would be leaving for his new command.
For now, Forelni stood on the Enterprise’s bridge, staring at the viewscreen while waiting for his first up close look at his command. He was trying to look nonchalant and was fooling nobody.
When the new Dreadnought came into sight, even Kirk felt a pang of jealousy. Enterprise was a lovely lady, sleek and elegant. Forelni’s ship was a beautiful ship in her own right, but she was also a War Maiden. Enterprise’s job was to patrol, explore and handle whatever trouble she might encounter. This new ship’s job was to patrol for trouble and show trouble out the door with a form boot in the backside for good measure.
“That’s a fine lookin’ ship ye have there, lad,” Scotty said from his station.
“Aye, Mr. Scott, that she is.”
“Of course, I would’na trade her for the Enterprise, lad,” Scotty added.
“I wouldn’t believe otherwise for a moment, Scotty.”
“Mr. Forelni,” Kirk called out. “I believe you are expected down in the transporter room in thirty minutes.”
“That should give me just enough time to finish packing,” Forelni agreed, turning to the turbolift. He’d individually thanked the bridge crew earlier, and had bade farewell to the night watch crew and his Security staff the night before. But he paused at the lift and took one last look around.
“There are some ships,” he said aloud. “That anyone who boards them leaves a part of themselves behind with it, and they take a little part of those ships with them where they go, no matter how much time they spend aboard them.
“Take good care of her,” he continued as the doors opened behind him, then glanced up at the ceiling. “And you take good care of them.”
He gave the Royal Bow of the Etalyan Court and stepped back into the turbolift, allowing the doors to close.
* * *
The lift doors parted on the main transporter deck and Forelni stepped out. The cargo master had already had Forelni’s belongings transported over to the Dreadnought as soon as they were in range. There were only a few small items to slip into a satchel, a quick tour of his quarters to make sure nothing had been overlooked and then he headed up to the transporter.
He came to an abrupt halt, barely two steps out of the lift. Members of the crew were lining the walls of the corridor. All the way from the turbolift down to the transporter room.
“Attention!” Butler, the new Chief of Security, called out and everyone snapped to attention.
Forelni nodded his head and walked the gauntlet, thanking each of them as he passed.
“Keep them safe, Dan,” he held out his hand to Butler when he reached his replacement. “And thank you for this.”
“My pleasure, Sir,” Butler replied, taking the proffered hand. “And good luck.”
Forelni stepped inside, relieved to find only Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty waiting for him.
“Doctor, thank you for everything.”
“It was a pleasure, son. You be careful out there without us looking out for you.”
“I will,” he smiled as he turned to Spock. “I intend to have a rematch for that galactic championship, Commander.”
“I will be honored, Captain,” Spock raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.”
“Peace,” Forelni returned the salute. “And long life, Commander.
“Captain,” he continued as he faced Kirk. “It has been an honor to serve with you.”
“The honor is mine, Captain,” Kirk shook Forelni’s hand.
Forelni walked up and took his place on the transporter.
“Mr. Scott,” he called out. “Mar sin leat.”
“Aye, lad,” Scotty grinned broadly. “Farewell indeed.”
“Captain Kirk,” Forelni said. “Permission to disembark, Sir.”
“Permission granted, Captain Forelni. Fair winds and following seas. Energize, Mr. Scott.”
Forelni dissolved in a sparkle of transporter effect.
“Were you ever able to find out what he named his ship, Jim?”
“No, Bones, I wasn’t. We’ll have to wait for three days along with everyone else for the launch when they officially christen her.”
“I hear there’s a betting pool below decks on the name. The Genoa is the betting favorite right now.”
“It would seem to be a logical choice.”
“Gentlemen, speculate all you like, but we’ll find out soon enough,” Kirk said. “I suggest you all enjoy the next few days of down time on Earth while you can. After we take part in the launch ceremonies we are shipping back out.”
“Where are we heading, Jim?”
“You’re favorite vacation planet, Bones. The Forever World. It seems Dr. Whitme would like to make use of the information he got from Queen Avion and use the Guardian to fill in the blanks. Forelni put in a good word for the idea and Starfleet approved. We’ll remain in orbit for a few days until they are done and then return them to Chandera.”
“Sounds fun,” McCoy never dripped sarcasm, he heavily ladled it out.
* * *
“Welcome aboard the ’64, Captain,” Paulo Mansi, wearing the command gold with a full Commander’s stripes, greeted when Forelni re-formed on the transporter pad of his ship.
“The ’64, XO?” Forelni asked his First Officer.
“Well, since you won’t tell anyone what her name is we have to call her something, Sir.”
“Then the ’64 will have to do until we launch, my friend. Ship status?”
“We continue to load provisions,” Mansi reported. “We nearly have all crew aboard and settled. We’ll launch on time.”
“Even if I have to push her out of dock with my bare hands, Capitano,” Bartolo Rinaldi rumbled in his deep baritone.
“Bartolo,” Forelni clapped a hand on his ship’s Captain of Engineering. “You old dog. You should be home with your wife and eight children.”
“Because my wife does not want child number nine, Capitano,” Bartolo’s laugh rumbled across the room.
“Well, I am glad you are here with us. My ship is in good hands.”
“Thank you, Capitano, but I should get back to engineering, otherwise I will have to push this ship out of dock.”
Mansi waited until the engineer and the transporter tech had left the room then looked long and hard at his friend and Captain.
“How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Forelni replied, puzzled. “Why do you ask?”
“Doctor McCoy contacted Doctor Lastra who then contacted me about what happened at Chandera.”
“Bucket mouth seems to be a common affliction among the medical profession,” Forelni groused.
“We are worried about you, my friend. You have known your share of women. I have never known you to have been affected the way this one did you. She must have been very special.”
“She was,” Forelni said softly. “I wish you could have met her.”
“I’ve seen the portrait,” Mani replied.
“It does not do her justice…,” Forelni visibly shook himself and changed the subject. “But she is lost in the past and I have a new lady in my life now. I am already jealous of you, knowing more of her secrets than do I. Come, show me my ship, Paulo.”
* * *
“Starfleet Command,” Forelni toggled a switch on his command chair. “This is NCC-1964. We are on station.”
“Acknowledged, NCC-1964. The bottle is on target. Estimated impact in thirty seconds.”
Launched from Etalya on a warp sled two weeks before, the bottle had been detached from the sled just outside lunar orbit and was tumbling toward its destination: The long grey rectangle covering the name of the new ship on its hull below the NCC-1964.
Once the bottle smashed open, the covering would dissolve to reveal the ship’s name. So far, only Forelni and four others knew that name and all were sworn to secrecy. Dozens of ships, including the Enterprise, had formed a v-shaped gauntlet with the Dreadnought making the point of the ‘V’.
The bottle flew true and smashed dead center of the rectangle and the grey melted away.
“Starfleet Command,” Forelni said. “This is the U.S.S. Avion’s Star. We are ready to depart.”
“You are cleared for departure, Avion’s Star,” the controller answered cheerfully. “Godspeed, Captain.”
* * *
“Well, I’ll be,” McCoy said as the name of the ship was revealed. “I didn’t see that one coming.”
“You should have, Bones,” Kirk replied, handing the Doctor a slip of paper, a betting slip from the ship’s pool on the Dreadnought’s name. McCoy unfolded it and read what was written on it in Kirk’s own hand.
It will incorporate the name Avion in some fashion.
“How did you know, Jim,” McCoy asked, shocked.
“You remember that sailing ship I bought on Earth last year?”
“I named her the Edith Keeler, Bones.”
On the screen, the Avion’s Star moved forward on her impulse engines until she was safely away from Earth’s gravity well, then she vanished in the rainbow effect of a ship going to warp.
“A good ship going into harm’s way,” Kirk said as he watched her departure. “Speaking of departure, Mr. Sulu, I believe we are scheduled for our departure as well.”
“Aye, Sir, course plotted and laid in. Ready to go to warp on your command.”
“Let’s get going, Mr. Sulu.”
The Enterprise created her own rainbow as she headed away from home once more.
* * *
“Captain,” Spock reported as he walked up to Kirk’s command chair. “Mr. Butler reports that Dr. Whitme’s team should be finished with their work down below sometime tomorrow. I believe we should be able to break orbit for Chandera shortly thereafter.”
“Good news, Mr. Spock,” Kirk replied. “The Armstrong is scheduled to arrive in the morning to take over keeping an eye on the place.”
Ever since Enterprise had discovered the planet, Starfleet had kept a ship in orbit and a security team on site to prevent the Guardian from being misused. Rarely was a ship of the line, like the Enterprise, involved but there was always a ship here. Enterprise had relived the Hercules upon arrival until the Armstrong could arrive to take over the duty.
While the ship patrolled above, the archaeologists studied Chandera’s past with the aid of the Guardian. Security Chief Butler was down on the surface keeping watch.
“Captain,” Sulu called out. “Multiple contacts approaching the planet. They just dropped out of warp and are heading this way at maximum impulse.”
“Yellow alert,” Kirk responded. “Who do those ships belong to?”
“They appear to be eight vessels similar in configuration to known Orion pirates, Captain,” Spock reported.
“Red Alert,” Kirk ordered. “Raise shields, arm photon torpedoes and ready phasers. Uhura, warn those ships away. Tell them we will open fire if they do not break off.”
“Captain,” Spock called out. “Massive contact, same heading as the Orions. It’s the Avion Star.”
“On screen,” Kirk replied.
The Dreadnought had come out of warp much closer, having been in pursuit of the Orions. And she wasn’t waiting to give out warnings, she opened fire, picking off the two ships at the rear of the Orion formation who’d had all of their power shunted to their forward shields.
The lead ship continued its course toward the planet. Three peeled away to engage Forelni’s ship while the other two broke toward the Enterprise.“Bring us around and get us between the lead ship and the planet, Sulu,” Kirk barked. “Fire phasers and torpedoes at all three ships.”
One torpedo found its mark on the lead ship, disabling its engines and dropping its shields, but not before it fired a torpedo of its own. But neither of the Starfleet ships was its target.
The torpedo streaked to the surface before Enterprise could do anything about it. A massive time wave erupted from the surface. All of the ships were caught in it, tossed about violently list a skiff caught in the middle of a hurricane.
When the Enterprise finally stabilized, the bridge crew picked themselves up off the deck.
“Damage report,” Kirk demanded.
“Systems are down around the ship, Captain,” Uhura responded. “Engineering reports they are bringing them back online as fast as possible. We have multiple injuries on every deck, no fatalities. Sickbay is responding.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Kirk replied. “Status of the Orion ships?”
“They appear to be dead in the water, Captain,” Spock reported, then paused. “I detect no life signs on any of the Orion ships.”
Kirk paused to let that sink in.
“What is the condition of Avion’s Star, Spock?”
“They are hailing us now, Captain,” Uhura cut in.
“Put them on screen.”
“What the hell was that, Jim?” Forelni asked, blood trickled down the side of his face from a cut just above his right eyebrow.
“We’re still trying to sort that out ourselves, Bari,” Kirk replied, rubbing his left shoulder which had come out on the wrong end of a collision with the bridge railing. “Why were you chasing the Orions?”
“We got a tip they were smuggling stolen dilithium from Winston’s Planet,” Forelni explained. “As soon as we showed up to confront their twelve-ship convoy, four of them opened fire on us while these eight took off. As soon as we dealt with the first four, we stared after these. Obviously, they were up to something bigger than smuggling.”
“Obviously,” Kirk agreed.
“Captains,” Spock said, and something in his tone froze Kirk’s blood. “Aside from the planet, our ships and the Orions, there is nothing else out there, anywhere.”
“What do you mean, Spock?” Forelni asked.
“Long-range sensors are showing nothing,” Spock answered. “No stars, no background radiation, no communications, nothing.”
Spock called up the long-range cameras on the side of the ship facing away from the planet. There should have been a massive starfield on the screen.
Instead, there was nothing but a vast empty void, devoid of all light.