THE CALLING: Part 3, Chapter 3
A Work Of Star Trek Fan Fiction By Richard Paolinelli
© 2021 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.
Five figures sparkled into existence in the main hall of government center on Kyros. Picard, Forelni, Ro, Troi and Crusher were met, pounced upon Picard thought, by an overweight, low-level bureaucrat who spoke too fast for Picard to catch his name. The man hustled the Starfleet group into a smaller hall filled to capacity on each side with Kyrosians, all armed with swords. At the far end stood a Kyrosian man in a purple robe three steps below another Kyrosian male, who Picard identified as the face on the message they’d seen on the briefing disk. He was seated, adorned in a red robe with gold trim and looked completely bored with the proceedings.
“Federation visitors,” the man in purple boomed, “announce yourselves and state your business before the First Prime!”
“Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise,” Picard replied, “Commander Paulo Forelni, Counselor Deanna Troi, Doctor Beverly Crusher and Ensign Ro Laren. We are here on behalf of the Federation regarding Ambassador Loomis and his party which you…”
At the mention of the ambassador, the First Prime suddenly became animated, clapping his hands together loudly. Before the echo of the second clap died, the away team found themselves surrounded by armed Kyrosian guards.
“Enterprise, emergency beam-out,” Forelni snapped, tapping his combage. But nothing happened. “Enterprise, beam us up,” he repeated and again there was no response.
“Your communication devices and your weapons will not work here, the entire city is electronically shielded. We raised our shield after you beamed in, Captain,” the First Prime said.
“That explains why Loomis and his party never tried to call for help,” Forelni whispered.
“First Prime,” Picard exclaimed, outraged and confused by the reception, “what is the meaning of this. We are here to negotiate the ambassador’s release in good faith and you greet us with weapons drawn?”
“My dear Captain,” the First Prime drawled, “we are negotiating. As the representative of the Federation you will enter the pit. There you will negotiate for your Federation and, should you defeat my negotiator, your ambassador and his party will be released and we will consider applying for Federation membership. If however, you are defeated, the ambassador, his party and the rest of your group will be executed as enemies of Kyros and the Federation will be forever banned from our world.”
“How will we know who has won or lost our negotiation?”
A chuckle rippled across the room and the purple-robed man leaned toward the First Prime to whisper a quick comment.
“Oh, I see,” the First Prime commented. “My dear Captain, perhaps you misunderstand. We Kyrosians do not settle our disputes with words and contracts. Ours is a simpler solution. You will battle our negotiator in hand-to-hand combat in the pit. The winner is the one left standing at the end of the fight, the loser dies and so does his entire faction.
“It is a quite marvelous spectacle, Captain,” the First Prime drooled. “My negotiator is busy as we speak, perhaps you’d care to observe?”
He waved a hand and a screen above his head came to life. On it, a tall Kyrosian was pummeling a smaller man in a dirt-floor ring. The smaller Kyrosian was battered, bloodied and bruised in more places than Picard thought possible, while the taller man was hardly breaking a sweat. The beating, Picard couldn’t bring himself to call it a fight, lasted only a minute longer. The taller Kryosian ended it with a powerful punch that drove his opponent into the ground, where he twitched twice and then lay frighteningly still. The victor’s face was amazingly free of any emotion as he received the applause of the crowd and a pair of men carted off the body of the loser.
“Congratulations, First Prime,” the purple-robed man exclaimed. “Yet another victory!”
“Thank you, Second Prime,” the First responded. “Well Captain, shall we begin the negotiation at first light tomorrow?”
“I don’t think so.”
Picard turned to Forelni in surprise. But Forelni ignored him and stepped toward the First Prime.
“Captain Picard is no longer the senior officer in command of this mission,” Forelni’s voice boomed in the shocked silence of the room. “Per Starfleet orders, I am assuming command of this mission. I will be ‘negotiating’ for the Federation, First Prime.
While the two Kyrosians conferred, Picard quickly addressed Forelni.
“Commander, I thought we agreed that the mission was under my command,” Picard accused.
“Until diplomacy failed, Captain,” Forelni shot back. “Last time I checked, fights to the death don’t qualify as diplomatic solutions. Captain,” he added quickly, heading off Picard’s protest, “I have no doubt you can hold your own in any fight and any man with your kind of record is no coward. But believe me when I tell you this, you wouldn’t survive a fight against that,” Forelni tipped his head at the screen and the First Prime’s negotiator.
Before Picard could say another word, the First Prime spoke up.
“Very well,” he began. “We will allow Commander Forelni to serve as Federation negotiator. You all will attend, tomorrow at first light. In the meantime, you will be escorted to your quarters for the night.”
The First Prime waved them away and a squad of guards quickly hustled the away team to a single room. As they left, the guards locked the door behind them. Picard confronted Forelni before the lock clicked.
“Commander, I get the distinct feeling that you aren’t the least bit surprised at this turn of events,” he accused. “In fact, I believe this is exactly what you wanted all along. What else did you leave out of your briefing package?”
There was no glint of humor in his eyes as Forelni responded to Picard’s charge.
“All of the facts were included in my briefing Captain,” he retorted hotly. “It’s unfortunate that it seems the rumors of the Kryosian custom of negotiation we’d heard of have turned out to be true. Regardless, it’s quite clear that the Kryosian’s idea of diplomacy vastly differs from ours. This is what I’ve been trained to do Captain, now stand down and let me do my job.”
“Very well, Commander,” Picard replied. “It’s your mission now. But I intend to file charges against you. It’s clear to me you have manipulated the circumstances to your own purposes, up to and including the withholding of vital information that could have led to a peaceful, diplomatic solution of this crisis.”
“File whatever you like, Captain,” Forelni shot back. “At least you’ll be alive to file it.”
Forelni walked away from Picard, leaving the Captain fuming. Picard couldn’t help but feel that he and his crew had been used and he was powerless to do anything about it but wait until the next morning. True to the First Prime’s word, the guards arrived just as the sun rose above the horizon to escort the away team to the pit. Forelni was led to the arena floor below where his opponent was already waiting, while Picard and the others were seated next to the First Prime.
“Ah, Captain Picard, ladies,” the First crooned. “A marvelous morning for negotiating.”
“Yes, indeed,” Picard answered curtly as the Second Prime stepped into the Prime’s box and addressed the crowd. “Let the negotiations begin,” he proclaimed.
Down below, the Kyrosian negotiator opened discussion with a stiff right cross to Forelni’s jaw. The blow staggered the Etalyian and Picard was surprised to see blood streaming from the Commander’s mouth. Etalyians were known for their physical strength, even a Vulcan would think twice about fighting an Etalyian. To Forelni’s credit however, he responded with a flurry of impressive punches and kicks that would have brought down an entire army. The Kyrosian stood his ground, absorbed the punishment and backhanded Forelni into a sidewall.
Forelni picked himself up of the ground. Narrowing his eyes, he studied his opponent for a moment and launched a new attack. As the fight wore on, Picard marveled at the stamina of both men. One hour into the fight and both were still taking bone-crushing blows. Picard had little doubt he would have withstood ten minutes of such abuse. Blow after blow was thrown and landed without a single miss by either man until finally, the Kyrosian threw a haymaker that struck nothing but the air where Forelni’s head had just been. Taking advantage of his opponent being off-balance, Forelni grabbed the extended arm and twisted it violently. Instead of bringing the Kyrosian to his knees in screaming agony, the man stood there while Forelni continued to twist the arm until with a sickening, grinding rasp, the arm was torn completely out of its socket and ripped from the torso.
But instead of holding a bloody stump, Forelni was holding an arm that dangled wires and dripped lubricant. It was an arm that could only belong to an android. In the box above, the Second Prime leapt to his feet in shock, turning to face the First Prime with a look of disgust.
“You dare defile our most cherished custom,” he spat. “How many of our people died at the hands of that abomination?!”
Picard ignored the commotion next to him, staying focused on the battle below. The android stared at its detached arm in bewilderment, but there was no surprise in Forelni’s manner, as if he’d already known the true nature of the First Prime’s champion. Instead, a feral grin came across Forelni’s features as he plunged the disembodied arm, like a spear, into the android’s chest. Electrical sparks rippled across both combatants, bathing them in sheets of blue fire until the android abruptly exploded. The force of the blast lifted Forelni high up and, for a moment, he was gracefully soaring through the air. But then Kyros’ gravity snatched him cruelly from flight to slam him back down on the surface below. He bounced once, crashed down again and lay perfectly still.
Picard was certain the look of horror on the faces of Ro, Troi and Crusher were a match to his own. Then he heard the unmistakable whisper of a steel blade cutting through air, which ended in the thunk of that same blade burying itself in wood. Picard turned just in time to see the body of the First Prime tumble to the ground, followed closely by his head. The Second Prime was just letting go of his sword, leaving it buried in the chair.
“I’m sorry you had to see that, Captain,” he began, “but there is no other response to such a dishonorable act.” He addressed the guards, pointing down to Forelni. “Allow their Doctor to treat that man, lower the shield so they may contact their ship and release the ambassador and his party.”
The men sprang into action, one escorted Crusher to the ring below, with Ro close behind.
“Captain, you and your people have been poorly treated,” the Second Prime said regretfully. “All of you are free to leave Kyros in peace, and I would not blame your Federation if you never returned. But perhaps you might ask your ambassador if he would give negotiations, real negotiations, another chance?”
“I’m sure Ambassador Loomis will be more than pleased to begin anew,” Picard assured the Second Prime, who looked back down as Crusher knelt down by Forelni.
“The First Prime has already paid for his crimes against Kyros, if the Federation desires reparations for your officer down there, I will offer myself as new First Prime.”
“There has been enough bloodshed for one day, First Prime,” Picard replied sadly. “I believe the best reparation would be a honest, above-board return to negotiations. The Federation and the Commander would both agree with that sentiment.”
“A wise philosophy,” the First Prime remarked, glancing below as Crusher tended to Forleni.
Crusher was dismayed at what she found. Electrical burns covered his face, arms and torso. Blood flowed from several wounds, and a trickle was running from one corner of his mouth. Even more shocking, he was conscious.
“Got a bandage, Doc,” he quipped, he voice weak and raspy. “I think I nicked myself shaving.”
Crusher ran her scanner over him, assessing the damage. She needed to get him up to sickbay, and fast, but he needed to be stabilized first. Whipping out a hypo with one hand, she tapped her combadge with the other.
“Enterprise, standby by for emergency transport to sickbay,” she barked, “and have a trauma team ready.”
Ro, tears in her eyes, fell to her knees beside Forelni, but before she could say a word, he reached up and clamped a bloody hand on her shoulder.
“Ro,” he husked. “I came to Kyros looking for the truth about Garon II. How much longer will you keep what happened hidden away? How long can you keep those skeletons locked up?” his eyes burned into hers, and his voice became clear and strong. “How much longer do you and I keep paying for the sins of others, Ro Laren?”
He let go of her then, falling back to the ground in a fit of coughing. Crusher quickly injected him with two more hypos and called for transport. Seconds later, they were gone, leaving Ro behind. She touched the spot where he had grabbed her and her hand came back sticky with red, human blood. Then the tears flowed and a stadium full of Kyrosians and two Starfleet officers watched as Ro curled up into a ball and sobbed.