THE CALLING: Part 2, Chapter 20
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.
Mansi was alone in the transporter room when Forelni returned to his ship. There could only be one reason why his friend had returned from the past. He saw all the confirmation that he needed in the blood-stained robe and the hand covered in dried blood.
“I am sorry, my friend,” he said simply.
“So am I,” Forelni remained standing on the pad, lost in thought. “Before, she was alive in the past. Now…”
“Come, brother,” Mansi said. “You need rest.”
“I want to speak to the Orion Commander first,” Forelni stepped down from the pad and headed for the door. Mansi followed his Captain and friend, suddenly wondering if the prisoner in the brig was counting down his final minutes of existence.
“Lower the force field, Ensign,” Forelni ordered as he charged into the holding area. The startled woman barely had time to drop the field where the lone occupant resided before Forelni reached it. Without any preamble, he stepped into the cell grabbed the prisoner by the neck and slammed him against the cell wall.
“Captain!” she exclaimed. Mansi waved her off. They’d have to trust that Forelni would not cross the line.
“Why?” Forelni all but roared the question. The Orion, so caught off guard by the attack, put up no resistance. He merely held his silence even as his eyes bulged and he struggled to draw in any breath at all.
“Ensign,” Forelni said when the Orion remained silent, “have engineering meet me at the airlock with a sixty-meter cable.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” the prisoner croaked out.
“Who do you think is going to stop me?” Forelni asked quietly.
The Orion looked over at the other two, who were pointedly not looking into the cell. Forelni let the man squirm a few more seconds.
“Unless you want to find out how long you can breathe vacuum, you will tell me why you fired on the planet.”
The Orion hesitated but ultimately decided that breathing air was preferable to breathing vacuum.
“The Federation was hiding a weapon down there,” he gasped out. “We could not find out what type, nor could we steal it. We cannot trust you to have such a weapon to threaten us with.”
“There is no weapon down there, Orion,” Forelni growled. “Nothing but a scientific research station.”
“With a Starfleet vessel constantly in orbit?”
“Starfleet does more than fight wars,” Forelni replied. “We prefer peaceful scientific exploration when we aren’t dealing with the willfully stupid. You attacked the planet for nothing, pirate, and you killed a fine young officer and friend.”
“What are you going to do with me?”
“By rights I should throw you out the airlock,” Forelni answered. “But Starfleet has rules, even for the likes of you. So you’re going to Starbase 27 where you will be tried for your crimes. If you are lucky, Orion, you will spend the rest of your life at the Gliese Penal Colony.
“If are not so fortunate,” Forelni continued, hurling the prisoner down onto the cell’s bunk as he turned away. “You will only draw a twenty-year sentence. And I will be waiting for you when you get out.”
Forelni stepped out of the cell and exited the brig. The Ensign raised the security screen with a sigh of relief. Mansi followed his Captain out into the corridor a few seconds later, pausing at a comm panel.
“Doctor Lastra,” Mansi called out as he thumbed the switch. “Meet me at the Captain’s quarters.”
* * * * *
Forelni laid the blood-stained desert robe over a chair in his quarters, dimmed the lights, and withdrew a glass and bottle of wine from his own vineyard on Etalya, He sat down heavily on his bunk, quickly filled the glass, drained it almost as swiftly, then refilled it.
He could feel the rage burning within him like a living thing. He’d dispatched the hand that had slain his love and still the rage burned. He could have done the same with the Orion in the brig and he knew it would not have sated the fire at all. With a sinking despair he knew nothing he could do would ever put the conflagration out. Eventually it would consume him and he couldn’t find it within himself to care about his impending immolation.
His door chime sounded. Someone wanted entrance and all he wanted was for the universe to go away and let him burn to ash. It sounded again, then a third time.
“Enter,” beat out a snarled “be gone” by some impulse even he could not discern. His First Officer and the ship’s Chief Medical Officer cautiously entered. Forelni’s eyes narrowed.
“If this is a social visit,” he growled. “I’m not in the mood.”
“Official business, Captain,” Lastra stated calmly, glancing noticeably at the blood covered hand and the robe. “I received a report that you were injured.”
“The blood isn’t mine, Doctor,” Forelni waved dismissively.
“And the cuts and bruises aren’t either?” Lastra ignored the dismissal and tended to the wounds. Forelni did not see the two white tablets that dropped from the Doctor’s hand into the Captain’s filled glass.
“There, all done,” Lastra stepped back, turning to grab two glasses and set them down by the wine bottle, which he picked up and examined before pouring wine into the glasses. “One of your better vintages, if I recall correctly.”
“Do help yourself,” Forelni said dryly as Lastra handed Mansi a glass and claimed the other for himself before raising it.
“To the Lady Avion,” he toasted.
Touched, Forelni collected his glass as he stood. He raised it and drained it. His officers however made no move to drink. He was about to ask why when a strange feeling swept over him. He looked down at his glass even as it tumbled out of his hand. Realization struck through the fog settling over his head and he shot an accusatory look at the Doctor.
“That was a damned dirty trick…,” he slurred as he pitched forward. Lastra and Mansi kept him from falling all the way to the floor.
“Oof,” Lastra exhaled. “He’s put on a bit more weight since the last time I caught him.”
Mansi got the joke. Lastra had been the Royal Physician in attendance when Forelni was born. They maneuvered the unconscious Captain to his bunk and gently laid him down on it. Mansi slipped off the boots while Lastra grabbed a small bowl and poured a vial of clear liquid into it. Grabbing a small cloth, he dipped it into the bowl and began cleaning off the blood from Forelni’s hand.
“He’ll sleep for at least twenty-four hours,” Lastra remarked. “I’ve listed him as off-duty to recover from injuries received on an away mission. The ship is yours until then, Commander.”
“I’ll check in on him as much as I can.”
“No need,” Lastra replied. “I’ll be here until he wakes up.”
“He might not be so happy to see you.”
“I’ll be fine,” Lastra chuckled. “And so will he. You’ll see.”
* * * * *
Forelni rose out of a thick black fog and sailed into a thick white fog. A few seconds later, he realized it was the ceiling of his quarters. He sat up, too quickly, and rode out a wave of vertigo. He grumbled something that sounded like a mixture of at least seven different languages as he waited for the room to stop spinning.
“And a fine good morning to you too.”
Forelni looked over at the source of the voice and saw Lastra sitting in a chair, a data pad in one hand. Forelni mumbled something else even he couldn’t quite make out.
“You should drink some water,” the Doctor advised. “There’s a carafe right there and a nice tall glass to fill with water.”
Forelni grabbed the container, ignored the glass, and drank straight from it until not a drop was left.
“A little,” he admitted, finally back to speaking in Standard.
“Good! Next a shower and when you are done with that breakfast will be waiting for you.”
“I recall that the title Captain is in front of my name, Doctor.”
“Yes it is. But for the next ninety minutes ‘Captain’ you are off duty by order of the Chief Medical Officer. Shower. Food. Then we’ll see about returning to duty.”
“I should drag you back to Etalya and toss you in the dungeon.”
“You don’t have a dungeon on Etalya.”
“It can be arranged.”
Lastra merely smiled and pointed at the sonic shower. Forelni yielded to the inevitable and hit the showers. When he stepped back out into his quarters ten minutes later, scrubbed, shaved and in a clean command gold and black uniform, he had to admit he was feeling much better. He found Mansi and Lastra seated at the table in front of three trays of food.
“Good morning, Captain,” Mansi greeted.
“Commander,” he replied as he took a seat and claimed one of the trays. “Ship status?”
“All green on the boards,” Mansi reported. “We’ll be rendezvousing with the Cartwright and the Callisto from Starbase 27 in about thirty minutes. They’ll take the Orions off of our hands.”
“Good riddance,” the Doctor replied. Forelni couldn’t disagree.
The men ate in silence. Forelni wasn’t in the mood for conversation though he did appreciate their presence. The shared silence was suddenly pierced by the comm.
“Bridge to Commander Mansi.”
“Mansi here,” the Commander replied after standing up and activating the panel on the Captain’s desk.
“The Cartwright and the Callisto have arrived early, Commander.”
“Very well, I’m on my way up,” Mansi snapped off the comm and shrugged. “The sooner we’re rid of our guests the better I suppose.”
“Especially the Orion commander,” Lastra jibbed. “I hear the poor man nearly jumps out of his skin whenever the doors to the brig open.”
“Indeed,” Mansi agreed, grinning.
“If the two of you are quite finished with your comedy routine,” Forelni shot a withering look at his officers. “I believe you have two ships waiting for you, Commander. And as for you, Doctor, I’m seriously contemplating that dungeon.”
“Aye, Sir,” Mansi chuckled as he headed for the door. Forelni waited until it opened before calling out.
So much was transmitted in those two short words between the old friends. Mansi bowed slightly in acknowledgement and headed out into the corridor. Forelni fell silent, staring at his right hand as if suddenly noticing the blood had been washed away. He looked around his cabin, brows furrowed. Lastra knew what he was looking for.
“I put the robe in a stasis bag,” Lastra said. “In the exact condition I found it in. It’s in your storage bin under your bunk.”
Forelni nodded his thanks. For a reason he could not explain, he could not bear to think of the robe cleaned. Her blood staining the garment was the only physical remnant he had of her. Spotting the pouch Briseos had given him outside her tomb he reached over and grabbed it.
“What is that?”
“Her aide gave it to me, at her funeral. He said she would want me to have it but not to open it until I returned home.”
Forelni opened the pouch and pulled out the only two items within. The first was a crystal vial, capable of holding no more than a pint of liquid. Inside the vial was a purple fluid that seemed both thick and translucent as it shimmered within the crystal container.
“If you are looking for medical advice,” Lastra remarked as Forelni set the vial on the table, “I wouldn’t drink that.”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” Forelni said, as he unfolded the second item, a square of parchment covered on one side with Chanderan writing.
“What does it say?”
“I may be able to speak Chanderan, Doctor, but reading it is beyond me.”
Forelni got up and placed the parchment on his desk and toggled the computer.
“Scan this parchment,” he ordered. “Translate to Standard and print out a hard copy.”
“Working,” the computer intoned.
Lastra studied the vial while they waited. Within two minutes the print out slid from a slot in Forelni’s desk. He picked it up and began reading. Lastra became alarmed when his Captain turned pale.
“What is it?” Lastra asked. But Foreln I merely looked stunned as he handed Lastra the paper to read for himself.
I pray this note and the vial I have prepared have returned with you to your time. I pray that what I have done has not been in vain. I will not pray that you or my Queen will ever forgive me for my treachery, and for the pain I have caused, even if what I have done actually succeeds.
My Lady explained to me what the future holds and how soon that terrible future will come about. I know you were willing to trade your life in your own time for the few short years Chandera has to be with her. I hope to trade My Lady’s few years here for a long life of happiness with you.
I arranged to allow the assassins to strike down my Queen. I provided them with the weapons, but instead of a deadly poison I substituted a substance from knowledge that we are forbidden to use on my world. It simulates death perfectly. My Lady will be buried as is our tradition within a crystal tomb that will forever preserve her in this state. If her tomb survives the coming end, and the many years that will pass until you read this, you will be able to withdraw her body from the tomb after depressing the three red crystals above.
Once you have done this pour the entire contents of this vial down her throat. If her tomb survives and has protected her body, this will eradicate the original toxin and revive her. This has never been tried over such a long period of time, so I cannot be certain. But I pray, for both your sakes, that it will work.
Be happy together and do not think harshly of me, no matter what happens.
“My God,” Lastra whispered as he finished reading. Forelni had picked up the vial again and was staring at it as if it were a living thing.
“Put me back on active duty,” Forelni said quietly. “Now, Doctor.”
Knowing it was futile to argue or even discuss the matter further, Lastra tapped the computer panel.
“Chief Medical Officer’s log. Effective immediately, Captain Bari Forelni is medically cleared to return to full duty.”
“Forelni to Bridge.”
“Bridge here,” Mansi replied.
“Status of the prisoner transfer, Commander?”
“Just completed, Sir.”
“Very well. Set course for Chandera, Commander, maximum warp and depart immediately. Then report to me in my quarters and bring Dr. Whitme along with you.”
He snapped the comm off before his First Officer could reply and stared again at the vial. Lastra saw a mixture of fear and hope in his Captain’s eyes. He was pretty sure that same mixture could be seen in his own.
* * * * *
It had been less than a week since he’d stood before this rock and five thousand years all at the same time. Of course, the planet looked nothing like it had then, but he recognized the rock formation, giving him hope that what lay below had survived. Whitme had sent a message ahead, telling his dig teams where to look for the tomb. Time had not been too kind and the entrance had collapsed.
“Good timing, Captain,” Hopalong Ginsberg greeted Forelni, Mansi, Lastra and Whitme when they beamed down. Most called him Hoppy and nearly everyone asked how he got his first name. Forelni didn’t. “We just opened the tunnel up to the tomb.”
“Thank you,” Forelni replied. “No one has disturbed the tomb itself?”
“No, sir, once we got it cleared out we headed back up, just as Doctor Whitme ordered.”
“Thank you, Hoppy,” Whitme replied indicating Ginsberg should make himself scarce.
“No problem,” Ginsberg said cheerfully. “Just follow the lights down.”
“You want some company?” Mansi asked, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“No, thank you, Paulo. I’ll do this alone.”
“Then Godspeed, my friend.”
“Good luck, Captain,” both Lastra and Whitme offered as Forelni disappeared into the tunnel. It was quite a ways down, giving him hope that Briseos’ plan might work after all. He estimated he was a good three hundred meters below the surface before he entered her burial chamber.
Cut into the rock was a cloudy white crystal, just large enough to hold a humanoid body. No matter how hard he tried, he could only make out a blurred object within and a scan with his tricorder could not penetrate it. His heart pounding, he depressed the three red crystals above the crystal casket. The lit up immediately and the larger crystal began to shimmer. He reached in and lifted up Avion’s body and pulled her from the crystal, which solidified as he pulled her clear.
They’d set up a field table in the chamber and he laid her on it. She looked exactly like she had that terrible day. Lifting away the veil, she looked as if she were merely sleeping. He gently parted her lips and carefully poured the vial down her throat until the very last drop was drained.
* * * * *
“Dammit, Jim, did he at least give a hint as to why we’re meeting out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Bones, you know as much as I do,” Kirk sighed, answering the same question for the umpteenth time. “He’ll tell us when he gets here.”
McCoy harrumphed and bounced on his heels, staring at the bridge view screen as if he could magically make Bari Forelni and his ship appear by will alone. Kirk shared in some of McCoy’s impatience, and his curiosity. The message they’d received from the Star had been from its First Officer, who asked the Enterprise to meet the Star at these coordinates. There had been no additional explanation, nor reply to an inquiry for same. McCoy opened his mouth to ask again just as the Star dropped out of warp just within transporter range.
“Message from Avion’s Star, Captain,” Uhura reported. “An invitation for the command crew to beam aboard at our earliest convenience. Dress uniform requested, Sir.”
“That’s all, Uhura?”
“Message ends, Sir.”
“Well, it seems if we want the answer to this mystery we are going to have to take a little trip,” Kirk replied. “Have Mr. Scott meet us in the transporter, Uhura. Mr. Sulu, you have the con until we return. Mr. Spock, Doctor, shall we?”
They beamed aboard, McCoy grumbling about his “damned monkey suit” all the way and were met by Mansi, who was in dress uniform.
“Gentlemen, welcome aboard the Star,” he greeted, smiling. “The Captain is waiting for you in Main Rec.”
“Main Rec?” Kirk asked.
“Yes, well, it really was the only place we could hold it after all,” Mansi replied mysteriously.
“Hold what, Commander?”
“That, Captain, my Captain will explain once we get there. This way, gentlemen.”
With a bemused shrug, Kirk followed with his officers in tow. There was quite a party in progress when they arrived. McCoy shot a surprised look at Kirk who could only shake his head in reply as they entered the deck.
“James, Leonard, Spock and Scotty,” Forelni’s voiced carried over the din of the party as he approached. “Welcome, my friends! It’s good to see you! Come!”
Forelni led them toward the center of the deck.
“Bari, would you mind telling us what the hell is going on?”
“Certainly, Jim,” Forelni smiled like the proverbial Cheshire Cat as he stopped near a tall chair and looked down at its occupant. Neither Kirk or his officers could see who was in it. “This is, shall we say, an Etalyan engagement party. You four are here to help celebrate and to be formally invited to a Royal wedding by the groom himself.”
“And who’s the lucky girl?” McCoy asked, suddenly concerned for the Etalyan Captain’s sanity.
Forelni held out a hand and his was grasped by the hand of the chair’s occupant. He helped her out of the chair and when she turned to face them they all saw a ghost.
“Captain,” Avion said, smiling, “gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you all once again.”
“As it is for all of us,” Kirk finally managed. “And quite a… surprise I might add. Captain, you didn’t…”
“No, Jim,” Forelni laughed as he cut off the question. “I did not use the portal. I doubt that would have worked anyway.”
“Then how is this possible?” Spock asked.
“That, gentlemen, is a very long story. One best told over my vineyard’s finest wine, of course. But I can tell you this right now, Jim. The universe has never shone as brightly as it is shining right now.”