The Dogs of War - Part 8 "Redemption"
Episode 3 - The Future That Was
Location: Major General ADlerstein's Quarters, USS Bunker Hill - B, Caldran System
Timeline: 2212 Hours, Late 2416 (Alpha)
[Previously in The Dogs of War - Part 7 "The Price of Honor"]
. . . . . .
dlerstein covered his mouth in horror. He got up and walked to the viewport, as if the answers to his questions would be found in the starlight.
“These...these must be fanatics, zealots. There’s no way General Bolanus would authorize such treatment.” he sounded like he was convincing himself more than Lee.
Oliver stood up and straightened his uniform. With his hands he manipulated the view angle of the holographic display. Pointing at the Starfleet Captain watching on the side, he said, “That is Captain Haro, General Bolanus’ chief of staff.”
“That means…” Hans could not bring himself to say it. “That….”
“We don’t know how deeply the General was involved or how much knowledge he has of the project.” After a brief pause, he added. “There is only one way to find out. He’s the one with the answer.”
“My whole time back in the Corps has been a lie.” Hans said, looking out into nothingness. He staggered out of his chair and went to the door, his eyes still staring into the void, as if they had lost his soul.
. . . . . .
Johannes Alderstein had not been this drunk in many years. In the span of two hours he had destroyed a bottle of scotch and was single-handedly working his way through another.
The door chime went off. Hans ignored it. Again it chimed that cheerful tune.
“What, damn you!” he shouted. The doors parted to show Admiral Lee.
“Sir! Come in come in!” Hans said in drunken near-giddiness. “Come! Have a drink. It’s absolute muck, but it’ll do the trick.” He poured a glass for the Admiral. and set it on the table.
His false mirth vanished as quickly as it had come. Hans took another swig of the scotch.
“How many were killed aboard your fleet sir?” Hans asked, his voice almost a whisper.
Oliver took the glass from the marine, but didn’t drink it, still finding the taste of alcohol, well, distasteful. He thought about not answering the question directly, but decided it would be disrespectful to his old friend to withhold the answer, however distressing it might be.
The marine sensed Lee’s hesitation.
“How many, damn you sir!” he growled in despair, the tears beginning to well in his eyes. In over twenty years of knowing each other, Hans had never sworn at his Skipper.
“About 15,000 at last count.” He said, “But I don’t think . . . . . .” Instead of shouting back or telling the marine to man up, Oliver thought it would be best to help his old friend go through it, through the same pain, guilt, and sense of betrayal he had felt after the news of the Artelian massacre reached his desk all those years ago.
With melancholy in his voice, he said, “The worst part is, everyone who died out there today was one of our own.”
A tear came to Hans’ eye. “Sir...what was her name? The Cadet when Renard…”
The old German, who had seen much death in his service, had to look away.
“What was her name sir?” he repeated.
“El Min’a.” Answered Oliver. “She was supposed to go on a leave of absence to her family on Earth. Her twin brother had just passed away. She was devastated. Apparently for the Salarians the severance of telepathic link with one’s twin could be . . . traumatic. Even after the coup, Captain Nok of the Aventine told me, she was still determined to get back. So I transferred her to Themie. I thought the safest place in the fleet would be the flagship, but . . .”
With a long sigh, the Kalandra Sector commander emptied his glass. The taste was terrible, but far better than the last 24 hours. Falling back into his chair, he said dolefully, “I should have left her behind with the Aventine. At least she would still be alive.”
“I helped kill her sir, as surely as I pulled the damned trigger.” Adlerstein said. He could tell Lee was going to convince him otherwise, and held up his hand to stop his former Skipper. “I sent Renard over there sir. He may have pulled the trigger, but I sent him there. I select another officer, one I knew, that I could trust, all those people might still be alive. That young girl would still be alive.” Tears came to his eyes as he dolefully looked at the Admiral.
“I am a party to war crimes Admiral. I helped, no matter how small a way, kill those on your ships, on the Themie. I’m no better than those jackbooted thugs in black uniforms who once upon a time dared to call themselves Germans.” he sobbed, drinking yet another swig of scotch.
Adlerstein removed his general stars from his collar, looking at them through his tears.
“And all because a man I wanted to believe was a hero, a legend, a God among mortals, gave me some shiny stars and allowed me to wear a uniform again. These are tainted with the blood of the innocent...and so am I, sir...so am I.” He slammed the stars down on the table as he put his head in his hands and let silent tears flow, ashamed to even look at his Skipper.
“Both of us have a hand in this, Hans.” Said Oliver. “I was the one that convinced the Council to go to war in the first place with one of those ‘pompous orations’ of mine. I was so convinced that the intel I had was reliable and beyond questioning. I was certain that we had only that one chance to destroy the Dominions’ planet killers before they became operational and threatened us and our allies. I was . . . . . . I was wrong, and because of my own hubris hundreds of millions of lives have been lost, and there will be more before the war is over. I . . .”
Hans started to sob again, the drink affecting his emotional state as long-suppressed emotions came to the fore.
“Oh Skipper...I’m sorry sir.” The German sobbed heavily. “I should have joined up with you the second I heard you went rogue. I thought it best for officers to stay out of politics, to stay neutral. I so badly wanted to join up with you sir, I swear I did.”
Adlerstein was a wreck; mentally and emotionally exhausted, the toll of the horrors he had to inflict...and endure...were too much.
“Remember...remember our mission to Volus II? The trade agreement we were to mediate? The Dakarian representative hurled one of their famed poison darts at you and I jump in the way like some damned fool on an hero’s errand? Remember afterwards?”
“You asked me why I did such a damned fool thing as almost get myself killed. I replied that you were my Skipper, I owed you my loyalty by oath, but you had earned my respect through deeds, and that I swore to myself that I would fall in battle before I let harm fall to you sir.” Hans sobbed again, pointing to Lee’s obvious injuries. “Some guardian I proved to be sir.”
“At least I’m still alive, and that’s all thanks to you, Hans.” Said Oliver. It was the truth, but it also reminded him of his failure to keep his promise to Michaela that he would keep her children, his step children, safe. “Erin and Alex on the other hand . . . I’ll live with my failing for the rest of my life. Even if Michaela would forgive me, she never will, but even if she would, it would . . . . . .”
Oliver stopped himself in mid sentence and recomposed himself. “The only thing we can do now is to find redemption. We have lost so much. The Federation has lost so much. We cannot allow it to lose its ideas and its principles, too. We cannot let Bolanus change it into a monster. We can’t. That is our only redemption, Hans. It will not bring back any of those we lost, but owe them that much.”
“I don’t think I’m as able to forgive myself as you are Skipper.” the marine said.
“Neither of us will ever forgive ourselves,” Said Oliver as he picked up the stars on the table. “but we cannot allow our past mistakes to condemn the Federation’s future. So put those back, General, and let us end Bolanus’ madness before it’s too late. And once it’s all over, we will have an eternity for guilt and sorrow.”
Hans seemed to try to sober up as he thought on what his Skipper had said.
“Sir, I owed you my loyalty, and I did not give it; I deliberated, I justified, I hesitated. No more. What strength remains in my arms are yours to command; what loyalty that remains within my tattered soul is yours, as it should have been from the very beginnings of this damned war. And what honor I might have is now tied to yours, from now until the end, in victory or death.” the German said.
Hans’ hand started its journey towards his brow, but a salute did not feel appropriate in this instance; they did after all just agree to treason against the government Hans had sworn his allegiance to. Instead, Hans put his hand forth to shake his Skipper’s.
Oliver took the proffered hand and shook it firmly. “Let’s hope it would be victory, General. Now, if we are going to take back Earth, we must first . . . “
“Hold on sir; if we are gonna plan, I need to sober up.” Hans said. He reached into his cabinet and pulled forth a tall, cylindrical glass of brownish liquid. Klingon script covered the label.
Oliver tilted his head to the side slightly. “I thought you said ‘sober up’?”
Seeing his Skipper’s curiosity, Hans obliged him. “I got this from my time when i was a very young Leftenant assigned to the KDF detachment on Mars. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s supposed to help sober up warriors before a battle even if they drink themselves into a coma.”
The German poured about a quarter of a shot glass into his cup. He stared at it for some time.
“Sir, forgive me, but I’m kinda drunk, does that look like a quarter of a shot glass to you?”
With a small chuckle, the Admiral said, “It looks about right.”
“Oh good, because too much can kill a human.” Hans said. With that, Adlerstein downed the liquid. Almost immediately, he began to choke and sputter and gag ferociously.
“Sweet Caroline, but that’s just awful!” he gasped, still coughing in fits. Finally, his coughing died down.
“Ok Skipper, I’m good.”
Impressed, Oliver took the bottle from the Marine and examined it. “Once the war is over, you will have to help me find another one of these. I know certain people who would love have this on the ready.”
Setting the bottle down on the table between them, he returned to the subject of taking back Earth. “Now if we want to achieve our goal without further loss of life, this is what I have in mind . . . . . .”
Admiral Oliver A. Lee
Commander, Kalandra Sector
Major General Johannes Adlerstein
Commander, 5th Fleet
Starfleet Marine Corps