THE CALLING: Part 3, Chapter 7
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.
Paulo Forelni slipped into Quarks, having just arrived on Deep Space Nine. He looked over the bar but did not find the face he was looking for.
Looks like Bethke is running late again, he sighed inwardly as he headed for the deserted end of the bar. He laid his satchel down on the bar, resting a forearm on top, and waited for the Ferengi bartender to finish serving the two customers, a hulking Lurian and an older humanoid man, at the other end. The rest of the place was fairly quiet aside from a couple of people gathered around the Dabo table. His eyes lingered for a moment on the Dabo girl running the game, namely on her hands.
She was cheating.
There was a time he’d of done something about that. But that was another lifetime ago and petty theft was not among his concerns. So he turned back and waited for the bartender to take his order, which was going to be delayed as the Ferengi was arguing with the humanoid customer.
“You’re insane, hoo-man,” the Ferengi exclaimed. “I’m telling you…”
“And I’m telling you,” the man put down the large cigar he’d been puffing on and picked up a tall thin glass of some amber-colored liquor from in front of the Lurian. “Anything this walking slug can drink, I can drink twice over. As sure as my name is Dan Butler, if I can survive getting run over by a missile and tossed halfway across the quadrant and thirty years into the future, then I can drink this swill down.”
“I really wouldn’t do that,” the Ferengi warned as Butler raised the glass and downed its contents in one gulp.
“There,” he said, thumping the empty glass down on the bar with a smug smile on his face. “What did I tell you? Nothing to worry about…”
Butler paused, a pained look coming over his face as he clutched his gut.
“Oh no,” he said suddenly. “Not again…”
One instant he was there, the next he vanished is a haze of green smoke that quickly dissipated until nothing at all remained of the man but the smoldering cigar he’d left behind.”
“I tried to warn him,” the Ferengi said to the Lurian, quickly sweeping away any evidence of Butler having been at the bar. “What? You think I want to give Kira a reason to shut down my bar again? As far I am concerned no one named Butler ever stepped foot in my establishment. And that goes for you too, Morn!”
“Hey, Ears,” Forelni called out, seeing that Quark’s business at the other end of the bar had concluded. “I’d like some service down here if you don’t mind. Got anything that won’t reduce your customer to vapor?”
“I did try to warn him,” Quark repeated as he made his way down.
“That you did,” Forelni allowed. “Which is why I’m not going to say anything is anyone asks me about Mr. Butler. And that is why you are going to produce a bottle of Etalyian wine and not charge me an outrageous price for it or for the very clean glass you are also going to provide.”
“Now why should I make a reasonable profit on this rare vintage?” Quark replied as he pulled out a bottle of Etalyian wine, a not-so-rare vintage 2072, from below the bar along with a relatively clean glass.
“Because,” Forelni replied, placing a strip of gold-pressed latinum on the bar, “you are going to make a tidy profit on providing me other… services.”
“The wine is on the house, friend,” Quark said, claiming the strip and smoothly pocketing it.
“Thank you,” Forelni poured a glass and let the wine breathe for a moment. “You can start by telling me if you’ve had any word about a smuggler named Bruce Bethke. I was supposed to meet him here.”
“Take your time with that bottle,” Quark answered. “You’ll have a long wait ahead. Bethke got picked up by the Bajorans last week. They might let him out of prison in ten years or so.”
Quark departed to deal with a newly arrived customer, leaving Forelni to stew over the bad news. He lifted the glass and drank about half of it. Looks like Dad had a good year back then, he noted trying to figure out where to turn next with Bethke out of the picture.
He was still sitting there an hour later when a Starfleet Admiral walked in. He didn’t need an introduction. He’d crossed paths with Admiral Necheyev once or twice before his ‘resignation’ from Starfleet. She looked around the bar, locked eyes with him and then made a direct path to where he was sitting.
“Good evening, Commander,” she said as she took the seat next to him, waving away Quark before he could approach.
“It’s just plain Mr. Forelni now,” he replied simply. “I haven’t been in Starfleet for years.”
“Not anymore, Commander,” she repeated his old rank as she placed a chip on the bar in between them. “You’ve just been recalled to active duty.”
“Last I heard not even the C-I-C could do that,” he left the chip on the bar. “And since all Maquis were pardoned by the current President you can’t even arrest me and drag me back.”
“True on both counts,” she agreed. “But within that pardon the President included a clause in the small print. It gives him sole authority to recall you to duty. He just did, Commander. And before you say no, your father instructed me not to take no for an answer from you. Pick it up, Commander.”
“What’s on it?” he asked, not making a move toward it.
“Your orders,” she replied. “You will rendezvous with the Enterprise-E and lead a recovery mission to Nagassi, near the Cardassian border. It seems it was used as a prisoner of war camp for the Dominion toward the end of the war. You will oversee the repatriation of all Federation personnel still alive and recovery of any remains.”
“And why would I do that?” he asked. “It sounds like a mission Picard could easily handle.”
“Let us say there are certain…security concerns,” she answered. “Your father wants you to handle it.”
“And those are?”
“On the chip that you are going to pick up, Commander.”
“You still haven’t given me a good reason why, Admiral.”
“Because on a partial roster of Federation personnel being held there that we obtained,” she replied, getting up. “Is the name Ro Laren.”
“My wife died on Athos IV almost three years ago, Admiral.”
“It appears that you were misinformed, Commander. The Jem’Hadar took some prisoners after all and she was among their number. She was alive when she was placed in the camp on Nagassi. As to her current status, we simply do not know. The rest of the information you need is on that chip, along with a holo-vid from your father fully explaining your mission. My ship leaves in two hours. I suggest you use one of the holosuites here for the briefing, get yourself presentable and be on my ship in ninety minutes.”
Necheyev turned and left the bar without another word. Forelni stared at the chip for half a minute, swore, snatched it up and headed for the nearest open holosuite.
For three years he’d been a dead man walking, looking only to hunt down the last of those that had betrayed the location of the last Maquis hideout to the Jem’Hadar and led to the death of his wife. He could only hope that somehow she’d managed to survive all this time.
He wasn’t sure what his reaction would be if he got to Nagassi and discovered she hadn’t.