THE CALLING: Part 2, Chapter 21
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.
Three Years Later…
“You have to admit, Jim, it’s a helluva way to end the five-year mission.”
“It’s still hard to believe it’s been five years already, Bones,” Kirk shook his head. “They seemed to have flown by.”
“When you get a little older, gentlemen,” Forelni quipped from his seat in the Enterprise’s Main Rec, “the years will slow to a crawl.”
“And have they been ‘crawling’ for you, my husband,” Avion needled.
Everyone within earshot chuckled.
“My love,” Forelni turned in his seat to look directly at her. “Every day with you is the equivalent of a century for the rest of the unfortunate souls in the universe and I cherish each and every one of them.”
“Nice save, Captain,” Kirk chipped in.
“A toast,” Forelni grew most serious. “To Captain Kirk, the Enterprise and her crew. May this peace mission be the perfect ending to your five-year mission, sir.”
A chorus of “hear, hear” broke out.
“Let’s hope it is uneventful,” Kirk added. “I’d rather not have a repeat of the last trip to Babel.”
“Which is why my ship is tagging along this time,” Forelni replied. “I doubt anyone is going to stir up much trouble with the Star around.”
“There would be even less likelihood of ‘trouble’ if you had allowed my ship to accompany this little fleet of yours,” Commander Kor complained.
“Commander,” Forelni answered. “The last time a Klingon ship ventured deep into Federation space on a peace mission all hell broke loose. On Earth and on the Klingon ship too as I recall. Assassinations, attempted assassinations and extensive injuries on both sides, mostly self-inflicted of course.”
“Ah, you’ve read that little book, I see,” Kor smiled.
“Actually, Commander,” Forelni replied. “I was there for most of it and Admiral Kethas epetai-Khemara’s sudden death always puzzled me, until that ‘little book’ came out.”
“You surprise me, Captain,” Kor changed the subject.
“How so, Commander?”
“The man who led the invasion of Klingon space decades ago is now participating in a potential peace conference between our Empires.”
“The Federation is not an empire, Kor,” Kirk gently reminded.
“Semantics, Captain,” Kor waved dismissively. “Tell me, Etalyian, do you truly believe there can be peace between us with all that is happened in the past?”
“The past is the past, Kor,” Forelni replied after a moment. “We can do nothing to undo the injuries we have both inflicted upon each other. The future we can do something about and yes I believe we can find peace between us. We have to.”
“Have to?” Kor sounded surprised. “Have to find peace? The Klingon way…”
“Is one of honor above all else,” Forelni interrupted with such conviction that it stopped Kor in his tracks. “There are many paths to honor, Kor. Not all of them require battle and bloodshed.”
“So the Butcher of Keth’Ak’Tor would be the Prince of Peace?” Kor mocked, surprisingly meek at that and Forelni ignored it.
“The galaxy is big enough for all of us,” Forelni replied ignoring Kor’s gambit to debate the invasion’s biggest casualty loss for the Empire. “We need not destroy ourselves. There is enough for everyone to share and to do so in peace.”
“No Klingon would every lay down his sword for a plowshare, not for any reason.”
“Only a fool fights in a burning house,” Forelni said softly. “I believe those words were spoken by a Klingon on this very ship.”
“Bah,” Kor waved dismissively. “Kang is a sentimental fool.”
“Who recognized that continuing to fight was not the way to honorable victory over a shared foe,” Forelni countered. “Kang and the Captain here put down their swords and won with honor. If it can be done on the decks of one starship, Kor, it can be done on the worlds of the Federation and the Klingon Empire.”
“You’re worse than those insufferable Organians,” Kor muttered, turning his attention to his tankard of Klingon Blood wine.
Kirk was about to jump in and change the subject when the yellow alert lights and alarm flared to life.
“Bridge to Captain Kirk,” Sulu’s voice called out from a comm speaker in the table. “A Romulan ship is decloaking off out starboard bow and matching speed.”
“Paulo,” Forelni looked across the table at his exec. “Order the Star to put herself between that ship and Enterprise. Red alert and raise shields only. Do not arm weapons unless the Romulan makes an aggressive move.”
“What ship is it, Sulu,” Kirk asked.
“It’s Bloodwing, sir.”
“Ael’s ship,” McCoy exclaimed.
“The same ship connected to Intrepid II?” Forelni asked Kirk, who nodded.
“Captain,” Sulu chimed in, “the Romulans are requesting permission for Commander Ael to beam aboard alone.”
“Do you trust her, Jim?” Forelni asked, dubious of the request.
“As far as one can with a Romulan Commander than is as conniving a…,” Kirk paused. “Yes, Bari, I trust her.”
“Paulo,” Forelni shrugged. “Let the Star know the Romulan intentions. And tell them if the Romulans do anything other than beam one live Romulan aboard they are to reduce that ship to its component atoms.”
“Behold the Prince of Peace,” Kor chimed in with a wicked grin.
“There’s a big difference between slaughter for the sake of conquest and defense of one’s life and ship, Kor.”
“Gentlemen,” Kirk cut in, “if we could have a cease fire for a few moments? Good. Sulu, give permission for the Romulan Commander to come aboard and have her escorted down here.”
The transport went off without a hitch, Sulu informing the Captain that Ael was aboard and would be joining him in one minute.
“We’re still here and no shots fired,” Kor remarked slyly. “Pity. I would love to see the Prince of Peace at war.”
Forelni ignored Kor’s latest salvo, his focus on a status update from his ship. Bloodwing was holding formation and taking no further action under the watchful guns of the larger Federation vessel. Ael swept into the room and quickly located Kirk.
“Captain,” she greeted, not using his last name since she still could not master it and using Jim in this setting was inappropriate. “You are looking well. As are you Doctor. Mister Spock,” she acknowledged with a bow.
“Ael,” Kirk replied. “This is Captain Forelni, of the Avion’s Star, his wife, Avion, Commander Paulo Mansi, the Star’s Exec, and I’m sure you’ve met Commander Kor.”
“Once or twice, Captain,” Ael gave a grim smile, which Kor matched.
“May I ask what brings you here, Ael,” Kirk prodded.
“Very urgent business, Captain,” she replied, turning to face Forelni. “War is about to break out between the Romulan and Klingon Empires. It will be a very short war that the Klingons will not survive and it is all your fault, Captain Forelni.”
* * * * *
“Okay, Commander,” Forelni said as they entered the briefing room. “Exactly how is it that I am to blame for a war between two Empires I have no control over?”
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Mansi and Kor claimed their seats and each man gave the Romulan a look that conveyed the same question.
“With all of the Klingon and Federation attention on the upcoming peace talks,” Ael began, “some brilliant Admiral in High Command decided now would be the best time to strike at the Klingon Empire.”
“Such a strike would be foolhardy,” Kor scoffed. “Not to mention being a very brief campaign.”
“It will be brief, Commander,” Ael agreed. “But only because your defenses will not see the Romulan Fleet coming until it is already on top of Qo’noS.”
“Nonsense,” Kor replied. “Even with your ships cloaked we would detect them soon enough to stop that fleet long before then.”
“Not if the sensor net in Sector 14 were jammed,” Ael shot another look at Forelni, who frowned suddenly.
“Even so, no ships could pass into Klingon territory through that minefield of asteroids intact.”
“Not even through the percorso attraverso l’inferno?” she asked, not taking her eyes off Forelni.
Mansi shot a look of alarm at his Captain, who was putting on his best poker face.
“The what, Commander?” Kirk asked.
“The Path Through Hell, Jim,” Forelni said icily. “And I would very much like to know where the Commander heard that term. Because less than a dozen people know it and two of them are in this room. Neither of them are Romulan and none of the others should be anywhere but on Etalya.”
“There are considerably more than a dozen that know of it now,” she replied evenly, “on Romulus and the bridges of the attack fleet.”
“The information they have was considered top secret, Commander,” Forelni all but growled. “I’ll know how it came to be in your government’s possession, right now. Or, friend of Captain Kirk’s or not, I’ll have your ship carved down into very small pieces.”
“I am told that it was sold to us by a man named, Enrico Antonius,” Ael replied, showing no sign of fear.
“I’ll send the order to have every member of that traitorous family arrested myself…,” Mansi leapt from his seat. Forelni waved him back down.
“There will time enough for that later, Paulo,” Forelni said. “We have more pressing concerns right now.”
“What is this Path Through Hell, Captain?” Kirk asked.
“A plan I created for a possible invasion of the Klingon Empire many decades ago, Jim,” Forelni explained with a sigh. “It’s a fatal blind spot in the Klingon’s defenses. But to exploit it, you have to thread a fleet of ships, mostly one at a time, through a tight passage in the asteroid field.
“The main problem,” he continued, “is the asteroids are loaded with ketramite. You make contact with one with a shielded ship and boom, your ship and a lot of asteroids go up and signals your presence in the field. However, you slip through and you come out right on top of Qo’noS before the Klingons know you’re there. They’d never know what hit them. With the sensor net jammed, no one else would know the Klingon home world had fallen until it was too late.”
“Is that how you pulled off the invasion before?” McCoy asked.
“No, Doctor, we rejected the Path because of the ketramite risk. We found another way. But the Path would work as long as you and your fleet survive the passage.”
“And evidently the Romulans think they can,” Kirk pointed out. “How soon will they reach the field, Ael?”
“Four days,” she replied. “They’ll send in the smaller ships first, two at a time, then the capital ships will follow.”
“Which gives us six days to plug the path at the other end,” Forelni said. “You can’t run the passage at anything above quarter-impulse.”
“And how do we plug this passage if I can’t send word to Qo’noS?” Kor demanded. “By the time we could send a ship around the jamming the Romulan ships will be in Klingon space.”
Forelni and Kirk exchanged a long look.
“This is what my ship was built for, Jim,” Forelni broke the silence. “And you’ve got a ship full of diplomats to keep safe. Besides, this is my plan being used. It’s my responsibility to deal with this.”
“What is this?” Kor demanded.
“I’m taking the Star to the exit of the passage, Kor,” Forelni explained. “I’m going to plug the path so the Romulans cannot exit out the other side and hold that position until Enterprise can reach the nearest starbase, offload her passengers and reinforce me with as many ships as can be mustered. We’ll send a probe to get clear of the jamming and warn the Klingons. They can send as many ships as they can as well.”
“The Hot Gates at Thermopylae,” Kirk muttered.
“Except instead of thousands of Persians smashing against 300 Spartan shields,” Forelni agreed. “It’ll be a few dozen ships smashing against my lone ship.”
“And you think your one ship can stop that many?” Kor asked.
“Long enough to allow your people to ready a defense. Long enough to give them a chance to survive.”
“You would defend Klingon lives?”
“Yes, Kor, I would and for many reasons. None of which I have time to explain to you right now.”
“You will not go alone,” Ael said. “Bloodwing will fight at your ship’s side.”
“No, it won’t,” Forelni said. “Your ship’s main advantage is its maneuverability. In the passage you have no room to move, you’d be a sitting duck and would just be in the way.
“No,” he continued before she could protest. “I have a more important mission for you. You and your ship will take my over ship’s job here and escort Enterprise to the starbase. Come to the Path with the fleet. If I have to fall back, I’ll need as many friendly ships waiting for me when we exit. And your ship will have plenty of room to move then.”
“That’s a long time to hold that position,” Kirk pointed out.
“We’ll hold it as long as we can. Just don’t take too long getting there with the cavalry.”
“I’m going with you,” Kor stood up. “You’ll need a Klingon voice to convince my Command that you are in Klingon space legitimately. Unless you are eager to fight off two fleets at the same time.”
“My ship will go with Enterprise,” Ael chimed in. “But I too will go with you. I can help you at tactical.”
“You would betray your own people,” Kor asked, astonished.
“They have betrayed the Romulan people with this cowardly attack.”
Forelni took a long look at each of the Commanders before shooting a questioning look at Kirk.
You trust her?, the look asked.
Yes, came the reply.
Forelni reached over and snapped the comm.
“Bridge, communications. Patch me to the bridge of the Star.”
“Connected, Captain,” Uhura replied. “Go ahead, Sir.”
“This is the Captain, put me on allcall,” he ordered his communications officer. He waited a few seconds and then addressed his crew. “Attention all hands, this is the Captain. For reasons I will explain later, we are going into Klingon space to head off a Romulan invasion fleet and prevent a war that would no doubt engulf the entire quadrant. The Romulans have stolen plans that would aid in this attack, plans that belonged to our government back home on Etalya. I cannot allow something of my own creation to be responsible for the deaths of billions. I must go and I must take the Star with me.
“However,” he continued. “I am not oblivious to reality. Many of you have suffered losses at the hands of the Klingons. It would be difficult to put your life at risk for those that had caused you such pain. If any of you cannot bring yourself to join me on this mission I will not hold it against you. You may transfer aboard the Enterprise and await being reunited with the Star when this mission concludes.”
Forelni paused a beat, letting the information sink in.
“We depart for Klingon space in thirty minutes. You have until then to decide. Forelni out.”
He snapped the comm off and took in a deep breath before slowly letting it out.
“Paulo,” he said. “Beam back to the ship. Get any non-essential personnel, and anyone wanting to transfer, off the ship as quickly as possible. I’ll be beaming aboard shortly.”
Mansi nodded and turned for the door.
“One more thing, Paulo.”
“Sir?” Mansi turned back.
“Have quarters prepared for both Commander Kor and Commander Ael,” Forelni said around one last look at Kirk. “They are to be extended every courtesy due their rank while aboard my ship.”
Mansi fashioned a Spockian raised eyebrow but only said, “aye, sir” as he left the room.
“The two of you have less than thirty minutes to get whatever you need and get aboard my ship or we leave without you,” Forelni said, cutting off whatever the two Commanders were about to say. They quickly followed Mansi out the door.
“Are you sure about this, Bari?”
“No, Jim, I’m not. But do you have a better idea?”
“I wish I did.”
“The Romulans would be planting their flag on Qo’noS before we’d get there if I wait for you and any reinforcements to arrive. No, this is the only option. Just don’t be too long getting there, Jim.”
“We’ll get there as fast as we can. Good luck, Captain.”
The two men shook hands and Forelni headed for the transporter room, picking up Avion on the way. He briefly considered ordering her to stay on the Enterprise. She was an official member of the crew after all. But he knew she’d refuse to stay behind. He headed straight for his bridge as soon as he beamed over.
“Status,” he barked out before the sole of his boot hit the deck.
“All non-essential personnel have been transferred to Enterprise,” Mansi reported, yielding the command chair. “Our…guests… are aboard and on their way up to the bridge.”
“Very well,” Forelni replied even as Kor and Ael exited the turbolift. He nodded an acknowledgment to them as they took up station on the far side of the bridge. “How many essential crew transferred?”
“None, Captain,” Mansi answered, a hint of pride in his voice.
“None?” Forelni could not keep the surprise out of his voice.
“None, sir,” Mansi confirmed. “Our course is laid in and we are ready to depart on your order, Captain.”
Forelni sat down in his command chair, touched more than he could express by the loyalty of his crew. He glanced over at his guests. Even Kor looked impressed. Ael gave a slight bow of salute. He reached down and selected the allcall on his armrest panel.
“Attention all hands,” he paused for a second. “You have made me very proud and honored to be your Captain.”
He snapped the allcall off and looked at his exec.
“Let’s get going, Commander. We’ve got a war to stop.”