THE CALLING: Part 3, Chapter 4
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.
Amazingly, thanks to Crusher’s efforts and to his heritage, Forelni was back on his feet and out of sickbay in three days. Ro had stayed away while he was in sickbay and had requested to be temporarily relieved of duty. Having heard Forelni’s comments, Picard had granted the request. But he was curious to see what effect it would have on her.
Picard was walking on Deck 12, having just received an update from Ambassador Loomis, when he encountered Forelni. The man looked considerably better, but he was still a long way from robust health.
“Captain, I was just looking for you.”
“And I for you,” Picard replied. “I owe you an apology Commander. It’s apparent that you knew the First Prime’s negotiator was really an android. I would not have survived a battle with it.”
“An unconfirmed rumor, I wasn’t really sure until I hit it with my best punch,” Forelni chuckled, “damn near broke my hand. You needn’t apologize, I did manipulate the mission to suit my own needs. It is I who should be apologizing.”
“Seeing how well everything is working out Commander,” Picard replied. “I think we can call it even.”
“Agreed. Captain, could I impose upon you for one last favor?”
“What can I do for you Commander?”
“You know the real reason I took this mission.”
“Ensign Ro,” Picard replied and Forelni nodded in agreement. “What do you have in mind?”
Despite his injuries, that glint of mischief was back.
“I was hoping I could borrow a holodeck, your senior staff and your best transporter operator.”
* * * * *
Ro woke up to find herself in a forest that bore absolutely no resemblance to the quarters she’d fallen asleep in. The place looked familiar to her, but she knew she wasn’t on Kyros VI either.
“What the hell,” she grumbled, picking herself up off the grassy mound she’d been sleeping on. After brushing off the twigs and dirt from her uniform, she tapped her combadge. “Ro to Enterprise, one to beam up.”
Silence. She tried again and again, and with each attempt, silence was the only response, until she glanced down at her uniform and noticed it was an older issue, and the combadge was slightly different. Her gaze went to her collar and the pips that identified her as a lieutenant.
“No,” she whispered to herself, “this isn’t possible. Computer, exit.” Nothing. “Computer, end program and show me the exit!,” she cried.
Nothing happened. A breeze rustled the trees and a small rodent scampered by, but no arch presented itself for her to escape. Behind a stand of bushes, shielded by the holodeck program, Forelni, Picard, Riker, Troi and Worf stood in the arch and watched the scene in silence. Intently watching Ro, Forelni muttered under his breath, “C’mon Ro, figure it out.”
Ro slowly lifted her hand and tapped her combadge again,
“Ro to Wellington.”
Forelni smiled and tapped a control in the arch.
“Wellington here, you’re overdue Lieutenant. Status report.” he said.
“Um, the Captain asked me to take a look at something,” she stammered, still not believing that she was on Garon II again despite the evidence of her senses. “I’m sorry for the delay.”
“Very well,” Forelni responded calmly. “Keep in touch and don’t separate from the away team again. Wellington out.”
Ro shook her head again, “This can’t be happening. It can’t be.”
Ro spun around in shock. That voice, she thought, it can’t be! Ro found herself face to face with the entire command crew of the Wellington. Standing with them was an elderly Bajoran man and a Cardassian, dressed in the uniform of the Obsidian Order.
“Well Ro,” the leader of the group, wearing the four pips of a Starfleet Captain stepped forward to address the trembling Ro. “Why can’t this be happening?”
“Because you’re all dead,” she replied.
“Ah yes, that’s right,” he replied warmly. “And why exactly are we all dead, Ro?”
“Damn you, Captain Riggs,” Ro exclaimed angrily. “You know why. I heard what you were planning to do.”
“And you felt that death was a just penalty for our crimes?,” the captain asked, insanely calm. “Is that why you rigged the explosive charge on our shipment? Because of what we planned to do?”
“Betray the Federation, sell out Bajor to the Cardassians,” Ro aimed a look of pure hatred at the Bajoran behind Riggs. “All for personal profit and you have the nerve to ask why I had to stop you?”
“I told you to send her back up to the ship,” the Cardassian interjected. “These Bajorans are a most untrustworthy race. Present company excepted, of course,” he added with a nod at the Bajoran.
“See what you bargained with Kevas,” Ro spat. “Did you think that being named Governor of Bajor would earn their respect? They were going to make you a puppet, to give the appearance that all was well on Bajor, so they could keep us under their thumb.
“And you Captain,” she added, turning back to Riggs. “you were going to be hailed as a great peacemaker, raking in the glory and the money to retire a wealthy man on the backs of dead Bajorans. Yes, sir, what I did here was a just penalty for what you were going to do!”
“I thought so.”
Ro stared at Riggs in surprise as the Captain and the others slowly faded away. She realized that Riggs hadn’t spoken those last three words and slowly turned toward the direction they had come from. Forelni, standing just behind her in his all-black uniform, looked at her with a satisfied expression.
“Computer,” he said, still looking at her, “save program and end.”
The foliage of Garon II disappeared and was replaced by the grid of an Enterprise holodeck. Ro barely registered the others standing off in a corner, her gaze fixed on Forelni.
“I’ve spent the last two years trying to find out what really happened on Garon II. I found some trace evidence of Cardassian and Bajoran DNA at the scene on Garon, but not enough to tell who it had been. It took a lot of digging to find out that Kevas Bern left Bajor in the company of Gul Temar of the Obsidian Order along with a lot of Federation credits. Their destination was Garon II,” Forelni paused, stepping closer to Ro. “I rechecked the ship’s logs and discovered two transmissions by Riggs to the Cardassian freighter Kevas and Temar were on. That same freighter had been in orbit around Garon II a week before Wellington arrived. It was returning to Garon II when the news of the tragedy was released. The freighter reversed course again and headed for Bajor, without Kevas or Temar. It didn’t take much more digging to find out what the purpose of their meeting with Riggs was and then I knew why you did what you did. I just don’t know why you didn’t tell me. We could have stopped them without all of this trouble.”
“I couldn’t, I didn’t…” Ro stammered.
“You didn’t trust me?” he said sadly.
“Not you, Starfleet. I didn’t know if they would stop Riggs and I couldn’t risk Bajor.”
“Starfleet wouldn’t have allowed Riggs to get away with his plot, just like they won’t let an officer throw away her career, no matter how noble the sacrifice.”
Forleni held out his hand and Ro saw a pouch, puzzled she looked a question at him.
“A field commission, promoting you to the rank of lieutenant, along with a clean slate. Garon II is removed from your record, as is your court martial. A new hearing will be held and you will be found to have acted above and beyond the call of duty and a commendation will be issued,” Forelni smiled broadly. “Starfleet is not much for admitting when they’re wrong, but they do a good job at admitting when they’re a little short of being right.”
Ro stared at the pouch, mesmerized. She looked up at Forelni in disbelief. “You did all of this, you gave up a chance to command your own ship and nearly got yourself killed down there, for me? Why?” she asked.
“Because Ro Laren,” he began, “I found out a long time ago that wherever in the universe you were, that is where I wanted to be and it was much more important to me than anything else, even a ship.”
Ro struggled to find words to respond, the look on her face was incredulous. Finally, she gave up on the attempt and simply took his face in both hands and kissed him. Almost as if grasping a porcelain doll, Forelni took her in his arms and return the kiss. Not wanting to intrude on the moment, Picard and the rest quietly exited the holodeck. But before the doors closed, Picard glanced back at the two officers. So typical of the very best of Starfleet, he mused, one officer sacrificed her career to save her homeworld and the other sacrificed his career path to save hers.