The Dogs of War - Part 4 "Boldly They Rode . . . and Well"
Episode 3 - The Future That Was
Location: Caldran System
Timeline: Late 2416 (Alpha)
[Previously in The Dogs of War - Part 3 "For Old Time's Sake"]
. . . . . .
Oliver stood up from his seat and approached the view screen. With a doleful determination in his voice the old man answered, "You know I cannot comply with that request, just as I cannot allow General Bolanus to continue to trample on every principle the Federation stands for. You do what you must, Hans, but for old time's sake, can we talk in private for one last time? Just a few minutes."
Hans heart sank as he heard the determination in his old Skipper's voice; this might end in bloodshed, and there might be nothing he could do about it.
"Of course, Admiral. Patch the channel through to the Ready Room, and secure the bloody thing please." He said to Captain Krage, who still looked like the whole "diplomacy" thing sickened her, and now frankly looked insulted that the image of Oliver Lee would be in her Ready Room.
"Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell."
-Lord Tennyson, "Charge of the Light Brigade"
::USS Bunker Hill - B, 5th Fleet::
Hans did not wait for a reply. He walked briskly to the Ready Room on the port side of the vessel, and strode into the room, where the image of Admiral Lee, still in uniform, greeted him. Reflexively, Adlerstein came to rigid attention, his heels clicking together, the knees that had been used and abused by nearly thirty years of service and hard physical training protesting slightly. His salute was immaculate, for while the ones he might have given Bolanus were crisp, the ones he felt he owed his old Skipper would have made the guards at the Memorial Tomb on Earth look like rank amateurs.
"Sir." the German said.
Oliver returned the salute in kind, but without the same vigor and precision as the Marine had, partly due to sheer exhaustion - physically and mentally, too - partly out of the desire not to let what’s possibly the last conversation with his old friend be asphyxiated by rigid formality.
Stepping toward Hans, the old man embraced the marine’s right arm with both of his. It was not entirely real, but he would take it nonetheless.
“It’s so good to see, Hans. It has been too long.”
Hans knew that this image was not really that of Oliver Lee, Admiral of Starfleet, but rather a hologram, and the sensation of pressure he felt was simply photons held in place by force fields. It felt for all the world like Lee to the old German, and his tears began to well as he fought back tears of both joy at the reunion and sorrow that it might be the last time they may ever see each other.
He squeezed Lee’s hand back with equal vigor. When they broke, Hans replied “Yes, Admiral, over four years. I guess you must’ve heard that Bolanus actually apologized to me for stalling my career all those years ago, and then made me a Major General on the spot.” the German said, absent-mindedly touching the stars on his collar, enclosed in the same way that Lee’s pips were.
“I want you to know sir I did not give up anything I knew of you or your movement in return for these, on my word of honor.” the German said, afraid that was exactly what his old colleague thought.
With a wave of his hand, Oliver dismissed the marine’s concern. “You are an honorable man, Hans. I Have never doubted that, and neither will I start now. Although I have to say, the news of your return to service was not expected. Your promotion was long overdue, of course. It’s just that intel from Earth is not easy to come back these days. I have Commander Ishikawa on the ground with the resistance, but unfortunately her access to intel often has to come at considerable danger and cost to the resistance.”
“Speaking of Earth sir, I was able to see your daughter. She says hello and that she loves and misses you.” Adlerstein said to his former skipper.
That was when Oliver remembered that he hadn’t spoken to Terri in . . . what was it, more than a year? Even the last time they spoke, it was only because the girl happened to be at Theo’s when he called his former chief of science, and the brief moment they shared over subspace was awkward at best. And now she’s hiding with the resistance, hunted by Bolanus’ regime, and yet every time he contacted Nami for updates, he never asked to speak with Terri. He didn’t even ask about her. Was he really such a terrible father?
“How is Terri?”
The marine could see worry in his old friends eyes.
“She’s fine sir, she wasn’t captured or some such. She came to see me after I was promoted. She…” Hans eyes teared up.
“She...hates me sir. She accused me of betraying you and her, and that I was dead to her as far as she was concerned.” the old German Marine, who had seen so much death and destruction and horror in nearly thirty years of service, now had a tear fall down his face as he thought of a young lady whom he had come to regard as a niece say those hurtful, hate-filled words to him.
With a sigh, Oliver reassured his friend, “Terri can be hotheaded sometimes . . . whom am I kidding, she’s always hotheaded, even more so than her mom.” Tangential as it was, the mention of Korra struck a chord in his heart, but he quickly resumed the conversation. “Terri always says things that she regrets later, especially when she’s upset. You shouldn’t worry too much about it. She has always looked up to you. She’ll understand one day.”
“I hope you are right sir. I don’t think could live with myself if I saw her eyes filled with such disappointment and venom again.” Has said, drying his eye. “Sir, I beg of you, I plead, don’t force us to fight. I cannot let you proceed to Earth, not as a threat, sir. If you would like, you can accompany me aboard this ship. I will order Captain Krage to surrender the Chair to you, Admiral; the Bunker Hill can be yours again. Together, we can return to Earth, sit down with Bolanus, and end this slaughter.” Adlerstein said, his voice almost breaking as he pleaded not to fight his old Skipper. “If this is not acceptable to you sir, then name your terms, and on my honor as a Marine, I will do everything in my power to accommodate them.”
Instead of answering his old friend directly, Oliver glanced around him and took in the surrounding.
It looked so much like his old ready room. The paint job was nearly the same, and so was the carpeting. Even the furniture hadn’t changed all that much. Yet, it was palpably different: the upgraded tactical display, the new ceiling panels, the missing storage unit where he kept all his treasured berries, and of course, a plate of fresh muffins that was always on his desk. He hadn’t baked any muffins since Michaela . . . . . .
With a shake of his head, he turned his attention back to Hans.
“Captain Krage has earned her command of the Bunker Hill, just as you have earned those stars on your collar. Even without regard for protocols, I would not take her seat, out of respect if nothing else.”
After a brief pause, he continued with a tint of melancholy in his voice.
“But more importantly, I have already talked to General Bolanus. Several times in fact. It was not easy to convince President N’Verix to offer the General and his followers amnesty in exchange for him to step down and restore the legitimate government to its seat. But he refused every time. I begged him. He still refused. Now I’m under order from the President herself to bring him in, dead or alive. Alive is my priority.”
Wilhelm could take it no longer, discipline finally broke down as the tears flowed more freely now. His worst nightmare was coming true before his eyes, and it broke his heart to its core.
“Sir, please! I have...killed...for nearly thirty years. Killed those who the Federation deemed enemies; pirates, thugs, murderers, declared foreign enemies. I hated it every time, like a piece of my soul was gone with each life snuffed out, but I did it because it was my duty. But what you are asking me to do is fire upon our own, sir! Those men over there and in here, these are our own, sir! Some of these men and women are the sons and daughters of men, good men we served with. I refuse to be the instrument of their death!” The German yelled, slamming his hand down upon the desk with such force that his hand stung.
“Please...skipper...don’t make me do this.”
The sight of the marine breaking down wrenched Oliver’s heart like nothing ever had. Hans was right about everything he just said. He would know.
“Don’t you think I know that?!” Despair began to resurface in the old man voice. “In the last 5 hours, I was forced to destroy almost two entire fleets of men and women wearing this same uniform. Hundreds of ships. Tens of thousands of lives. All perished before my eyes. Don’t you think I would. . . . . .”
Before he could finish his sentence, the Bunker Hill shook violently under the impact of a photon torpedo.
“No.” His eyes opened wide in horror.
“No!” Adlerstein screamed. The German saw the image of the Admiral flicker and fade before he all but sprinted out of the Ready Room, finding the bridge now with red alert sirens screaming and the sounds of battle filling the viewscreen.
“Who gave the damned order to fire!?” Hans demanded, venom filling his voice.
“No one, sir! The Wellington simply opened fire on Lee’s ship!” Krage stated
“Get him on comms, now!” Adlerstein ordered.
“It’s no good, sir!” The communication officer replied. “He’s cut his comms and is attacking.”
“Raise Lee’s ships, request a cease fire!” Hans desperately ordered.
“It’s too late, sir; they are refusing all hails.”
The Bunker Hill shook as she registered phaser hits. Krage’s voice cut through with deadly precision. “Weapons, target their life support systems, let’s end this before…”
Adlerstein all but shouted her down.
“Belay that order!” he said, jabbing his finger at the TAC officer behind him. “We are not killing our own! You will target engines and weapons only, understood?!”
The TAC officer looked to Krage momentarily before nodding.
“Yes, sir.” he said.
::Bridge, USS Themyscira, 7th Fleet::
Oliver stumbled onto the bridge and barely held onto a railing before the ship convulsed again under heavy fire. “Report!” He shouted desperately, struggling to get to his seat next to Captain Daeli.
“The Wellington fired on us without warning, sir. Then the rest of the Fifth Fleet just followed suite. I had no choice but to order the fleet to return fire, sir.”
“It was a trap.” Commander Fatima Karim concluded bitterly. “Those sons of . . .”
Oliver did not wait for the Themyscira’s executive office to finish. “It can’t be! Hail the Bunker Hill. Now!”
A brief, but anxious moment passed before the ship’s V.I. reported, “They have cut all communication, sir.”
“No, it can’t be.” Oliver obstinately repeated to himself before steadfast resolve returned to his voice. “Defensive formation Lee-Sigma-7. Hold the line. Do not let them break through to the rear. And continue hailing the Bunker Hill.”
“It’s . . .” Daeli barely began his sentence when a conduit panel exploded overhead, raining sparks and debris down the ship’s command staff, and almost simultaneously the bridge went dark.
As the emergency lights kicked, Oliver surveyed the bridge amidst the smoke and sparks: several bridge crew down on the floor, some struggling to get back to their stations, others lying motionless.
Daeli struggled back to his feet. “It’s too late, sir. The fleets have already engaged. There’s no time for formation.”
Just as the Trill Captain finished speaking, the tactical station behind him exploded and the resulting force threw the officer on duty back against the wall. The impact shattered the master system display and dislodged the dedication plaque next to it, sending it crashing down onto the deck.
“Ensign K’Tor has been incapacitated.” Calmly reported the V.I. as the cohesion of her holographic projection was disrupted momentarily by a falling conduit tube. “Assuming control of tactical.”
Lee struggled under constant tremor and finally opened a fleet-wide channel. “This is Lee to all ships, target only weapons and propulsion. Repeat, target only weapons and propulsion!”
Falling back into his chair, he buckled in and watched hopelessly as the battle dissolved into chaos. There was no room for tactics or strategy. There was only bloodshed.
[To be continued in The Dogs of War - Part 5 "Cry 'Havoc'"]
Admiral Oliver A. Lee
Commander, Kalandra Sector
Major General Johannes Adlerstein
Commander, 5th Fleet
Starfleet Marine Corps
Captain Phaelo Krage
CO, USS Bunker Hill - B
(NPC - Hans)
Captain Tegran Daeli
CO, USS Themyscira
(NPC - Oliver)
Commander Fatima Karim
XO, USS Themyscira
(NPC - Oliver)