Richard Paolinelli

The Calling, Part 2: Chapter 22

THE CALLING: Part 2, Chapter 22

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.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

“Captain,” Uhura reported, “We are being hailed by Admiral Bowman on the Eagle.”

“Sensors show the Eagle and five other ships are dropping out of warp just ahead of us, Captain,” Spock called out from his station.

“Mr. Sulu, drop us out of warp and bring us to within five kilometers of those ships,” Kirk ordered. “Uhura, let’s not keep the Admiral waiting.”

“Captain,” Bowman greeted as soon as his image appeared on the screen. “Let’s not waste time on the usual pleasantries. Begin transferring all of your diplomats and their staffs about the Eagle and the Calisto immediately. I am assigning you the Hampton, Lexington, Reliant and Armstrong. You will take command of your fleet and, once you have finished evacuating all non-essential personnel, you will immediately depart to rendezvous with Avion’s Star. And take the Romulans along with you. I don’t have to tell you that ship being in Federation space is making a lot of people at Starfleet Command nervous right now.”

“Understood, Admiral,” Kirk replied simply. He trusted Ael’s crew as much as he did her. But he knew that trust wasn’t shared by a vast majority of Starfleet. “We estimate we can be underway in less than an hour.”

“Very good, Captain,” Bowman acknowledged. “According to my navigator, and the information you obtained, the Star will have been engaged with the enemy for at least two days and likely three before you can get there.”

“My Science Officer puts it at two-point-two-six days, Admiral.”

“Can he hold his position that long? One ship, even a dreadnought, against a fleet of at least two dozen ships?”

“He has the advantage of not having to take them on all at the same time, Admiral,” Kirk reminded. “If anyone can pull it off, he can.”

“I hope he is as crafty as he was at Kallita, Captain,” Bowman said after a long silence. “For his sake and for ours. Eagle out.”

Kirk nodded in agreement as Bowman’s image faded from the screen. He hadn’t bothered to add that Spock had also calculated the odds of Forelni and his ship holding off the entire fleet until relief arrived. The odds, according to Spock, were not in the Etalyian’s favor.

“Evac status, Spock?”

“We should have the last of the diplomats off the ship in thirty-eight-point-six-one minutes, Captain.”

“Mr. Chekov…”

“Course plotted and laid in, sir,” the Ensign cut in.

“Ready to go to maximum warp on your order, sir,” Sulu chimed in.

“Gentlemen,” Kirk replied with a slight smile, “if you are trying to earn a pay raise by anticipating my orders… well, I’ll give it due consideration. In the meantime, you have my thanks and stand by to get underway the instant the last transport is complete.

“Uhura,” he turned to communications. “Signal all five ships in our fleet to stand by to go to warp in less than forty minutes.”

As his crew hurried to carry out his orders Kirk stared long and hard at the viewscreen. He couldn’t shake the feeling that no matter how quickly they got there, it was going to be too late to make any difference.

*     *     *     *     *

“Helm, bring us about,” Forelni shouted over the alarms. “Tactical, fire phasers at her nacelles as she passes.”

The Star pivoted out of the way of a Romulan phaser burst, no easy feat in the confined passage the ships battled within. Caught off guard by the move, the enemy cruiser’s vulnerable nacelles presented an easy target. At the tactical station, Lieutenant Lin Wicklund, a descendent of one of the few non-Italian families on board Genoa Forelni’s Seeker five centuries ago, stabbed down on the phaser controls.

Sixteen forward phaser banks unleashed blue fury. Already weakened by the running battle the Romulan shields could not withstand the assault. Both nacelles were severed and the damaged ship began to drift as it lost power.

“Full power to forward shields!” Forelni ordered, knowing what was coming next.

As had been the case for the first seven ships defeated by the Star, the eighth immediately self-destructed. The viewscreen flared blindingly as shockwaves from the destroyed vessel pounded against the Star’s shields. The ship rocked violently, bridge lights flickered on and off, but she withstood the punishment.

The ketramite in some of the smaller asteroids nearby exploded, sending more debris skittering into the passage. Fortunately, none of the larger asteroids exploded. They’d identified and marked four of the largest boulders. The king of the four, tagged as Alpha, would trigger the entire asteroid field if it exploded. They’d been careful to keep the engagements away from Alpha. But one wrong move, one errant shot, and nothing but dust would be left for any relief ships to find when they arrived.

“Good shooting, Ms. Wicklund,” Forelni nodded at the tactical station.

“Thank you, Captain,” the young woman acknowledged with a grim smile as she studied her board. “Recharging phaser banks. We should be back to full power in thirty minutes.”

“Very well,” Forelni replied. So far, they hadn’t fired a single photon torpedo. He was saving those for when the bigger Romulan ships arrived.

“Casualty reports?” he asked Avion at Communications. She’d just qualified for the position not three months earlier. She had replaced his original Chief Communications Officer after the man had been promoted to a First Officer’s slot on another ship.

“Multiple injuries,” she reported as she listened to the incoming reports. “Sickbay reports some serious, but no fatalities yet.”

“Very good,” he replied in relief. How long their luck would hold out in that respect he couldn’t say, but so far he hadn’t lost a single member of his crew. “Mr. Mansi, ship’s status?”

“Damage control parties are on nearly every deck,” Mansi reported. “They should have everything locked down soon. Engineering reports they’ll hold her in one pieced even if they have to go outside and tape it back together.”

“My compliments to the Chief Engineer,” Forelni chuckled. “Tell him we’ll try not to let it come to that.”

Forelni sat back in his command chair. He’d been on the bridge now for over thirty hours straight, the last twelve while fending off eight attacking Romulans, who’d engaged the Star in waves of two. He cast a look over at Ael, seated next to Kor in chairs specially rigged on the bridge for them.

“I’d hoped after the first two had been engaged and destroyed,” he said to her wearily, “that they’d call this off after losing the element of surprise. Eight ships destroyed and not one inch of ground gained.”

“It is either die here,” Ael replied simply, “or be executed back home on Romulus.”

“The first eight were sent to soften us up, then?” he mused. “If they hold to the pattern, the next wave hits in three hours and it will be the big ships this time?”

“The Tnisx, Shrevaj and Rhea’s Shield,” she confirmed. “Any two are a match for your fine ship, Captain.”

“You underestimate the Star, Commander,” Forelni replied, a little too sternly perhaps. Ael merely smiled and said nothing further.

“Assuming you dispatch these three,” Kor chimed in. “That still leaves over a dozen ships in their fleet. None of them will have battle damage to deal with as you do, Captain.”

“I knew I should have sent you off with that probe to warn your people, Kor,” Forelni groused, begrudgingly admitting the Klingon had a point.

“I may not think we have a chance of surviving this engagement, Captain,” Kor said. “But I wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the universe. We won’t be around to hear them, but they will be singing songs about this day on Klingon worlds for generations to come.”

“Captain,” the helmsman broke in. “Massive disturbance in the field dead ahead. Three Romulan ships! They are moving the asteroids out of their way, widening the passage!”

“The lunatics!” Kor exclaimed. “They could set off a chain reaction that would kill off their own ships.”

“Death before dishonor,” Forelni said sadly, glancing at Ael who nodded her head. “Time until they get within firing range Mr. D’Amico?”

“At present speed?” he consulted his console. “Fifty minutes at most.”

“Mr. Mansi, confirm the identity of the approaching ships,” Forelni ordered calmly.

“It’s who we thought they’d send,” Mansi reported. “The Tnisx, Shrevaj and Rhea’s Shield.”

Forelni drew in a breath and weighed his options. The alien commanders on his bridge were watching him in silence, likely knowing what thoughts were going through his head.

They couldn’t withdraw, or even fight a strategic retreat back out into Klingon space. Those three ships would keep his occupied while the rest of the fleet poured though the opening and launched their attack on Klingon worlds.

Despite his earlier protest to the contrary, he might be able to dispatch any two of the approaching ships, but the third one would definitely emerge victorious and the result would be the same as if they withdrew.

Relief ships would not arrive for at least a day if not more and he could not hold this position that long, not even long enough for the relief ships to catch the Romulans as they exited the passage.

There was only one option now. It took him all of fifteen seconds to reach it and slowly release that indrawn breath. He looked over at the two commanders, who nodded in understanding and in agreement.

“I require one volunteer to remain on the bridge with me,” he announced. “The rest of your will clear the bridge and retire to the auxiliary bridge in the primary hull. I want everyone cleared out of the saucer section and moved down into the primary hull, as near Engineering as possible.”

“If anyone here thinks they are getting ahead of me in the volunteer line,” Mansi said as he stepped down to the command chair and shot a look at his Captain, “you can think again. You and your damned slingshots.”

“Very well, Commander,” Forelni smiled. Paulo knew him all too well. It didn’t surprise him that his Exec already knew what he was planning. “Ms. Wicklund, you will assume command of the auxiliary bridge. If you lose contact with us up here take command of the ship and carry out these orders.

“My intentions,” he continued, looking around at his crew, “are to tractor two asteroids, Beta and Delta, as close to our ship as possible. Once the Romulan ships are in range we are going to execute a very brief warp jump directly at those ships. When we come out of warp we are going to cut the tractors and send both projectiles in their path. We will then fire a full spread of torpedoes at the ships and the asteroids and see just how much havoc we can create.”

The bridge fell into a shocked silence.

“If any of those ships survive that, and assuming we do the same, we will then latch onto Alpha and send it right at them. Just before impact, we will divert all power from the warp engines to the forward shields and make sure the saucer section is directly between the blast and the primary hull. We will fire all phasers at Alpha and set off every asteroid in this field, destroying every Romulan ship along with it.”

“Do you think your ship can survive that?” Kor asked, even the Klingon was shaken by the plan.

“I don’t know,” Forelni admitted. “But I do know none of them will. The invasion will be stopped and there will be no war. Still glad you stayed on board, Kor?”

“My spirit is prepared to take its place in Sto’Vo’Kor, Captain,” Kor gave a toothy grin. “But I wonder if Sto’Vo’Kor is prepared for you.”

“Let me remain on the bridge with you,” Avion requested, having displaced Mansi at Forelni’s side.

“If I did,” he replied softly. “I could not do what needs to be done. I need you to make sure our people are safe and secure below. Besides, I have twice seen a universe without you in it. It is a cold, lifeless place and I have no wish to see it for a third time.”

“You would ask me to face a universe without you in it?”

“I’m a lot harder to kill off, my love,” Forelni said. “I promise, you haven’t seen the last of me.”

He took her hand and gently kissed it. Everyone else on the bridge suddenly found consoles to study intently, giving the Captain and his Lady a chance to say goodbye.

“Clear the bridge,” Forelni ordered finally. “Ms. Wicklund, command of the ship is yours if the bridge is lost. Rely on the tactical experience of Commanders Ael and Kor as much as possible. Save my crew and my ship if you can but above all else, no Romulan ship may pass. Understood?”

“Aye, Understood,” she replied. “Captain, I…”

“I’ll see you in Elysium,” he replied. “But before you go, give’em hell, Kitteh-Dragon.”

Wicklund’s hand involuntarily shot up to the non-regulation tattoo that every member of the crew knew was on her left arm, just below the shoulder. He had seen it once, as he walked through the Rec Deck during a crew exercise session. The creature she’d chosen to adorn her arm with, he remarked at the time, looked like a cross between a kitten and a dragon. The nickname, ‘Kitteh-Dragon’, had immediately stuck with the rest of the crew.   

“Get going people,” Forelni ordered. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

*     *     *     *     *

“The leading Romulan vessel is nearly within range,” Mansi reported from the helm. He checked his course and the duration of the warp jump one final time. He did not need to make any adjustments.

“Very well,” Forelni replied from the Tactical station. He too looked over the board one last time. The two asteroids were tethered in place, a third tractor beam was already set to latch onto Alpha and every light showed green for photon torpedoes and phasers. He tabbed the communications panel.

“Auxiliary Bridge here,” Wicklund replied.

“Crew status?”

“Saucer section is completely clear,” she reported. “Engineering has reinforced hull integrity down here as much as possible. We’re ready, sir.”

“Very good, Lieutenant, stand by.”

He tabbed off the comm and looked at the approach ships. They were still a good distance away and looked very small. The warp jump would change that perspective in an instant.

“My father always said you enjoyed throwing rocks too much for your own good,” Mansi said suddenly.

Forelni smiled at the reference. During a training session decades ago, when they were but small boys, Forelni had discarded the standard issue weapons they’d been given in exchange for two slingshots and a bag of rocks each. They’d caught their opponents off guard, including the elder Mansi, who’d begrudgingly praised the surprise tactic even as attendants applied ice packs to assorted bumps and cuts.

“The ships are in range,” Mansi reported. “They haven’t spotted us yet.”

“Engage the warp burst, Paulo,” Forelni ordered.

The Star leapt forward, dropping out of warp one second after she’d entered. Forelni stabbed down on the tractors, cutting both and allowing inertia to carry the asteroids forward at high speed.

“All stop! Full reverse!” Forelni ordered and the Star groaned under the strain of the maneuver as both he and Mansi held on for dear life to keep from being hurled forward. The Romulan ships powered up their weapons, but the asteroids were already too close. Forelni waited as long as he dared then fired every torpedo he had at the target. The Romulan shields withstood the barrage, but the asteroids didn’t. Both exploded with much more intensity that Forelni had expected.

His ship was hammered by the shock waves, the blinding light prevented his eyes and his ship’s sensors from seeing what was happening to the closer enemy ships. Even with the shields drawing power from the warp engines he could feel the wounds his ship was suffering. When the aftermath finally faded, both he and his Exec picked themselves up off the deck.

The Tnisx, has been destroyed,” Mansi reported. “The Shrevaj is intact but heavily damaged. I don’t think there is any fight left in her.”

“And Rhea’s Shield?” Forelni asked.

“Intact and she looks like she was shielded from that by other two ships. She’s ready to fight and coming right for us.”

Forelni stabbed the tractor controls, latching onto Alpha.

“Now, Paulo!”

Mansi’s fingers flew over the helm, bringing the Star around sharply, snapping Alpha toward the approaching Romulan just as it passed the asteroid. Forelni cut the tractor and unleashed every bit of power he could put into the phasers even as the Romulan ship opened fire on the Star. The phasers struck Alpha full on.

Then there was light.

And the light was not good.

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