Small Talks - Part 4 "Promotions"
Episode 3 - The Future That Was
Location: Starfleet HQ, San Francisco, Earth
Timeline: Mid 2416 (Alpha)
[Previously in Small Talks - Part 3 "Reunion"]
. . . . . .
Hans laughed along with his former captain as he too remembered the incident in question. Afterwards, the marine's eyes took a far off look.
"I miss her sir...the Bunker Hill. Those were simple times; us against the hostile universe? All I had to worry about was making sure you didn't get yourself killed on one your damned fool moral crusades. Remember when the XO all but tackled you to get you from going on that dangerous mission to Belor IV? I didn't know whether to protect you from the XO, or the other way round..." Adlerstein smirked as he remembered fonder times.
Oliver returned the smirk. "Well, I did start going to the gym after Ensign Travers trashed me in the . . . . . ."
Cutting him off in mid sentence, the ship's VI materialized beside them in her holographic avatar, a young Andorian female. "Sorry for the interruption, gentlemen." She said to the two men before addressing the admiral, "Sir, Councilor Renn is on line alpha 3. Would you like me to transfer the call to your ready room?"
Oliver frowned slightly and then nodded. "Thank you, Themie." Turning back to the marine, he said with a wry smile, "Try as you may, Mr. Adlerstein, you can't protect me from the politicians or the politics. If you would excuse me"
. . . . . .
[Now: Starfleet Security, Earth, Mid 2416]
"Councilor Jere Renn?" Alcorn raised an eyebrow at the mention of the name. "Colonel Adlerstein, Jere Renn was a known Dominion sympathizer. What did Admiral Lee discuss with him?"
"You're asking me like I was hiding in the Admiral's coat pocket, Commander; I haven't a clue what the Admiral discussed with the councillor." Hans quipped.
"You are one of Admiral Lee's closest confidants, Mr. Adlerstein." Said the lieutenant commander, "I find it hard to believe that the Admiral never mentioned anything of import to you. Or should I remind you again, Colonel, what's on the line is not just your own well-being, but also that of your family. So let me ask you again, what did Lee discuss with Jere Renn that day?"
Hans' patience had run out. If the light commander expected obstinance from the old marine, obstinance he would get.
"Adlerstein, Johannes. Colonel. SFMC, Retired. And you know what you can do with your questions? you can..."
What the old German said would've made his mother smack him, despite his age; it was profane and colorful and probably anatomically impossible.
Alcorn was beginning to lose patience with the former marine's intransigence. This could be a big breakthrough for him after fruitless questioning of so many others, and he would crack Adlerstein's resolve, literally if he had to.
"Listen," He leaned forward from his chair, his voice sounding ominous, but before he could go on, he was interrupted by a call through his earpiece. In a brief second, his expression changed from annoyance to surprise, and then resignation. Turning his attention back to Adlerstein, he said, "Looks like General Bolanus wants to see you in his office."
Adlerstein only glared daggers at the light commander as he got up and left in the company of a security officer.
Bolanus set down the PADD on his desk as the doors to his office hissed open and a man walked inside with the confidence and discipline in his gait that only a seasoned marine could possess.
Adlerstein came to rigid attention and saluted as if he were back on the Academy parade field. Despite everything that had happened to him, despite whether or not the general had been the one to sick his goons on him and his family, Adlerstein could not help but respect the man. His status was legendary; if one were to imagine Patton, Eisenhower, and MacArthur rolled into one being, one would begin to have a sense ofn the amount of respect and authority the man before him conveyed.
Standing up from his chair, the Bolian walked over and shook the man's hand firmly. "Colonel Adlerstein. My apology for the early intrusion at your home. There was some miscommunication on my end."
"Begging your pardon sir?" the German said, shaking the hand offered to him almost without thought. It felt like the safest thing to say.
Bolanus motioned the former marine to sit at the coffee table and took his own seat opposite of him. "Captain Haro misunderstood my order to bring you in. I wanted to make amends, not to subject you to interrogation. But as the old saying goes, the buck stops here, so you have my sincerest apology, Colonel."
The German Marine was taken aback. He had fully come in to this office expecting to give one last defiant last stand before presumably he'd have his fingernails pulled out or whatever the Starfleet GESTAPO did for fun. Hans could only narrow his eyes at the revered general.
"As you know, three days ago was the anniversary of Faxion Forest." Said Bolanus, referring to the battle where his niece perished along with 46 other marines and Starfleet personnel escorting a supply convoy. The steely gaze of his eyes softened, if only slightly. "I was at Pandelis, paying respect to Zixea. As I walked through the cemetery, all those tombs, all those fallen, men and women who joined the fight, knowing they would most likely make the ultimate sacrifice. Like them, Zixea did, too. She knew what it meant to be a marine, the honor, the danger, the sacrifice. She knew it when she joined the Corps, and she knew it when she landed on Carus III with the 103rd."
"I had no right to blame her death on your decision, a decision I myself might have made, given what intel was available to you at the time. Yet, I vented my grief on you and deprived the Federation of the service of an experienced and dedicated man. For that, Colonel, I'm truly sorry."
The Bolian's words were dignified and sincere. He knew that in a true leader there was no room for selfish pride. There was only the greater good.
"I...I came in here expecting to receive some kind of death sentence to be honest Herr General*. I am surprised to hear you apologize after all these years. I want you to know that not a day went by that I didn't regret what happened to those men. I accept your apology sir, as I hope you'll accept my own."
The German had to collect himself, lest he show negative emotion in front such a large legend like General Bolanus.
Clearing his throat, the marine asked "Forgive me sir if this sounds like insolence, but I find it hard to believe you had me collected for just an apology. May I ask if there is something more?"
Hans said the words not as a demand, but as respectful and with as much deference as he could muster.
Bolanus nodded. "My apology was long overdue, Colonel, but yes, there is something else. I would like to offer you reinstatement to Starfleet and to the Corps concurrent with a promotion to two-star general officer." After a brief pause, he continued. "The Federation is at a critical juncture. It is threatened by enemies both foreign and domestic. I would be honored to have you by my side as we bring an end to this war and to the corruption of the politicians. Are you ready to serve the Federation one more time, Colonel?"
The old German Marine's jaw hung open in an undignified manner. Hans had come into the room afraid he'd never see the light of day again, and here he was just offered to become a Marine again. It had always been Hans' dream to one day see a star, and now he was not only offered one, but two.
With great effort, he closed his jaw.
"It would be my honor to serve sir, as it always has been." Hans said, but then the marine thought about it some more, and said "Forgive me once again sir, but I can't help but feel this is a sort of quid pro quo, especially considering a few angry men had just asked me some pointed questions about Admiral Lee. Can I presume sir, that as part of my reinstatement, you are tasking me with finding the Admiral?"
Hans saw that his use of Lee's rank irked Bolanus, but frankly, as far as Hans was concerned, Lee was still a flag officer of the Federation, an due the respect of that rank.
Bolanus stood up from his seat and walked over to the windows overlooking the expanse grounds of Starfleet Command.
"Finding your old captain won't be a problem, Colonel." He said, looking out the window. "We received the news only this morning. The Dominions have just been ambushed at the Brusin Nebula by the 3rd and the 12th Fleets. It was quite a spectacular victory for Lee . . . Admiral Lee, if you insist."
"The operation was deep inside Dominion held territories. He would not have risked it unless he wanted to batter down the Dominions facing his sector so that they would be too busy licking their wound to cause any trouble behind him when he makes his move against Earth."
Turning his steely gaze back at Adlerstein, the Bolian said, "Your old captain will be here soon, General. There's no need to look for him."
"Sir, may I respectfully request what's really going on with this uh...disagreement...you and Lee are having? I don't mean the 'official' line, I mean the truth, the whole truth sir. I 'm owed at least that much." Adlerstein said, his tone once again one with as little demand and as much deference as he could put into it.
"Is that what people are calling it, disagreement?" Asked the Bolian, a noticeable amusement in his voice, as he made his way over to the beverage cabinet. "I respected Lee, General. Twelve years ago we argued bitterly before the Federation Council over the merit of preemptive strikes against Dominion positions in the Gamma Quadrant. At the end his eloquence convinced the Council, and twelve years later we are still being ground by the war he started that day."
Filling two glasses with non-alcoholic Abderan whiskey - for him sobriety was a necessary virtue of a warrior and of a leader - he continued, "But even then I believed, and I still believe that Lee did what he thought was necessary to protect the Federation from Dominion threat. He misjudged, gravely so, but I do not doubt for a second that he had the best interest of the Federation in his heart. And unlike the politicians he owned up to his mistakes."
Bringing the half-filled glasses and the bottle of whiskey back to where Adlerstein was sitting, Bolanus handed one glass to the former marine and took his own seat. "Do you know how I got my command of sector 001, General?"
"There was scuttlebutt of course sir. They said that you turned down command of the entire Corps as Commandant, as well as promotion to Field Marshall twice, just so you could stay at the front with your men in Eighth Marines. They said that you were so adamant that you said they'll have to shoot you before you left your boys. After the war was over sir, the war you won at the Battle of Maritus V with said Eighth Marines, the Federation President all but forced you to become the Sector Commander. But no sir...I do not know for certain outside rumor."
Eighth Marine Ground Force (equivalent to the old American "Army" unit designation, as in "Third Army") was a legendary unit of the Corps. The unit was already known as a honorable and battle-harderened unit by the time Bolanus first took over as their commander, but under him, the unit etched their name into the record, history, and mythological books. Almost every marine who ever lived knew of their exploits, the bloody battle for Contineant 11 on the super-class-M planey Skylar VII, the Last Stand at Joliet Station, in which over 80 percent of the unit was wounded or killed, but they tied up no fewer than 6 separate enemy armies until they were relieved. They said they found General Bolanus with wounds in every extremity, but still he refused to leave the field until accounting for every single one of his men; that earned him his second Distinguished Star Cross, and only because he refused the Medal of Honor, insisting his boys were far more valorous than he. The name of the "Mighty 8th" was spoken with great respect and reverence by marines, and with it, of course, General Bolanus.
Running his free hand over his bald blue scalp, where several battle scars were still faintly visible, Bolanus downed the content of his glass. There was not a hint of pride or ego in his voice.
"Honor and victory beget responsibilities, General. It pained me to leave the Eighth after we had gone through hell and back together countless times, but the Federation had need of me elsewhere, and even the strongest bond must be subservient to the greater good, and there is no greater good than the Federation. So, no, I did not threaten to shoot myself. That would have been selfish, and there can be no self in a leader, General."
Refilling his glass with more whiskey, the Bolian continued. "But yes, after Maritus V I was offered my own sector command , not of Sector 001, but the Kalandra sector. There were a number of personnel shifts at the time, and Sector 001 was in fact assigned to your old captain after he halted Dominion advance on Andoria and bluffed his way onto Deep Space Five and recovered the station from the much larger Dominion garrisons all without losing a single ship. It was one of the most underhanded victories I have ever seen, but an impressive one nonetheless.
"In any event, it was a perfect arrangement for the both of us. I wanted to be on the front lines, and Lee, with his smooth . . . with his eloquence, was infinitely better suited for dealing with the politicians here on Earth."
"Yes sir." Adlerstein said. Again, the marine choose the safest thing to say.
Bolanus picked up his half-filled glass, but did not drink from it. "One night, before the personnel arrangement was finalized, Lee came over to my place with a bottle of my favorite Bajoran cider and asked if I would mind exchanging commands with him. I asked him why, and he said he wanted to make amends for the war he had started and he would be freer to do so on the front lines without Jiv'ek and his cabinet constantly breathing down his neck."
Finally emptying his glass, the Bolian continued, "As much as I despised Jiv'ek, his venality, and his cowardice, I would never deny a man his redemption, so we exchanged our commands."
Hans quirked his eyebrow slightly. Any other two men who tried such a thing would have been given a stern talking to by the Chief of Personnel, regardless of their actual rank. But Hans could only imagine the paper-pushers falling all over themselves to accommodate the two war heroes.
"In retrospect, perhaps it was all pre-ordained by the Fates. Imagine, General, if your old captain had been in charge of this sector, he would have allowed the Federation to wither further under the corruption and malfeasance of Jivek and his cronies. Of course, he would protest and do everything in his power to mitigate the excess of the Palace de Concorde, but he would never have stood up to the politicians and do what's necessary to preserve the Federation. I think that should be obvious to everyone after he went out of his way to secure N'Verix, a politician charged with high treason, and use her to prop up a the same discredited political order that had almost brought the Federation to its ruin." A pause. "Wouldn't you agree, General?"
Adlerstein took a swig of the drink Bolanus had made him. It was not to his tatse, but the German was far too polite to show it.
"Herr General*, I am a servant of the Federation and her people. I try my best to stay out of politics. I studied history at the Academy, and I know too well what happens when military officers involve themselves in politics. Regardless, I do think what you are trying to do is right, and I believe that the Federation might not be perfect, but its the best system we've got, and if you will have me, I'll fight by your side to heal it again."
"Welcome aboard, General Adlerstein." Said Bolanus as he stood up from his seat and extended his right arm for a firm handshake.
Hans took the hand and gave back an equally firm handshake.
General Adlerstein...I like how that sounds. Hans thought to himself, not without pride.
*Herr General: HaiR Gen-uh-Rall - German formal expression of general's rank.
General Ardon Bolanus
Head of State, Provisional Government
United Federation of Planets
Major General Johannes 'Hans' Adlerstein