Future Past - Part 5 "Loyalty" (Flashback)
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Timeline: 2419, A Future That Was
The following is adapted from Small Talks - Part 4 and Sing No More Your Songs from Episode 3 - A Future That Was. They were originally written in collaboration with Ryan, who wrote Adlerstein, the former MCO and then XO of the Bunker Hill.
::2419, Starfleet Security, Earth::
"Councilor Jere Renn?" Lieutenant Commander Ryan Alcorn raised an eyebrow at the mention of the name. "Colonel Adlerstein, Jere Renn was a known Dominion sympathizer. What did 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 Lee's closest confidants, Mr. Adlerstein." Said the lieutenant commander, "I find it hard to believe that the Admiral never mentioned anything of importance to you. Or should I remind you that what's on the line is not just your own well-being, but also the well-being of your family. So let me ask you again, Colonel, what did Lee discuss with Jere Renn that day?"
Hans' patience had run out. If the lieutenant commander expected obstinacy from the old marine, obstinacy was 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 have a word with you in his office."
Adlerstein only glared daggers at the lieutenant commander as he got up and left in the company of a security officer.
::Later, Starfleet Command, Earth::
General Ardon 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, no matter if the general had been the one to stick 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 of the amount of respect and authority the man before him commanded.
Standing up from his chair, the Bolanus walked over and shook the other Marine's hand firmly. "Colonel Adlerstein, my apology for the earlier 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 human 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 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, Colonel. I would have mostly likely made the same decision myself, given what little 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 together 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 expansive grounds of Starfleet Command.
"Finding your old captain won't be a problem, General." said the Bolian as he looked out the window. "A few days ago the 3rd and the 12th Fleets ambushed the Dominion in the Brusin Nebula . 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 Dominion forces facing his sector so that they would be too busy licking their wounds to cause any trouble behind him when he makes his move against Earth. My operatives on Betazed were able to sabotage the shipyards before they were captured, but that would only delay the 7th Fleet's departure by a week, two at most.
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 other 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 Battle of Maritus V with the Eighth, the President all but forced you to become the Sector Commander. But no sir...I do not know for certain outside rumors."
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 , but not of Sector 001; they were going to give me 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 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."
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 that he wanted to make amends for the war he had started and that 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 Jiv'ek and his cronies. Of course, he would protest and do everything in his power to mitigate the excess of the Place de la 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. Regardless, I do think what you are trying to do is right, and I believe that the Federation might not be perfect, but if you will have me, I'll fight by your side to heal it again."
"Welcome back, 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.
::Several Nights Later, Residence of Major General Adlerstein, Earth::
Major General Johannes Adlerstein, Starfleet Marine Corps, Commander, Fifth Fleet.
Hans liked the sound of it. Was it ego to enjoy your promotion as much as he was? Everything was going right for once. Hans was back in the Corps, he had a prestigious fleet command, rare itself for a Marine, and he received an apology as well as two stars from Bolanus. He could feel that the General was conflicted about what to do with Admiral Lee, but Hans felt sure he had gotten through to him, to make him see reason. Adlerstein had be given free reign to bring Lee in, with honor, with dignity, to bring him back to the fold. Hopefully, by the end of the week, Lee and Hans could share a drink, recall good times, and laugh about this whole silly affair.
Hans was looking himself and his new uniform over in the mirror. He had just had it specially made by a Bolian tailor that operated by the Louvre who was quite popular with the flag officers he was told. And his work was exquisite; Hans looked trim and fit, and, if he might say so, handsome, the green of his Tholian silk collar detailing his new enclosed two-star insignia quite nicely. He was admiring the perfect hem of his pants the Bolian had done when he felt a presence in the room and turned to find a familiar face he had not seen in years.
Terri was pondering in a corner how she should confront her erstwhile mentor when her personal cloaking device gave out. In her haste she had neglected to check the device’s power level before she sneaked out of the resistance camp. But who could blame her? She was incensed when she heard Adlerstein’s promotion and his betrayal. Who had time for thinking, much less checking anything? The traitor must be dealt with ASAP.
“How dare you?!!” She shouted, not at all caring or mindful of alerting security.
“Haeschen?”(*) Adlerstein said with surprise, calling the young lady by the childhood nickname he had given her after she expressed remorse at seeing a rabbit with a hurt foot when she was six. The little girl had asked Hans how to say ‘bunny’ in German, and for the rest of the day, lamented at the poor ‘Haeschen’. At first used to gently tease the young lass, Hans had used it since then as a term of endearment.
The look Terri gave him was anything but endearment.
“All those years you served with my dad, everything that you two went through, you still side with Bolanus. He wanted my dad dead! All it took was two stupid stars, and now you are ready to do his dirty work?! My dad should have left you dead on Pancre V!”
Terri could barely contain herself as she fumed at the betrayal.
“I do not ‘side’ with Bolanus. I am a servant of the Federation . . . and you know of the respect I have for your father. Haeschen, you know that I would never . . .”
Hans had reached out with his hand to take hold of the young girl’s. Terri recoiled as if he was a live cobra.
“Don’t.” She warned him as she stepped back. “If you really respect my dad, then take down Bolanus before my dad gets here with the 7th and kicks your collective ass. And don’t you tell me to watch my language. I'm not a kid, and I’m not your <‘Haeschen’. Not any more.”
Hans could hear the venom in her voice and the betrayal in her eyes. It hurt him to his core to see the young lady that was a family member to him look at him as if he was personally pulling a trigger at her father.
“Terri, I will NOT harm your father, you have my word on that; I personally protected your father for the nearly ten years we served together, and I’m not going to stop now. I have Bolanus’ personal guarantee: your father will be brought back here, to Earth, with dignity and honor and respect. We will heal the Federation, together, the three of us.” he said to the young girl.
“Are you even listening to yourself?!!” Cried the short-haired blonde. “You are treating my dad like a prisoner that must be brought in and Bolanus like a hero whose every word is sacred. BS! The Bolian was the one that broke his oath, and my dad the one that saved President N’Verix. Or did you sell out your memory along with your conscience for those two stupid stars!?”
Adlerstein turned bright red with anger. “I am not some damned mercenary young lady!” he said through gritted teeth. “I am a Marine. I serve the Federation, as I have done for over twenty years! My conscience is not for sale! Or did you forget everything I taught you about the inviolable oath we took to our own humanity?”
The German General paced to and fro as he sought to contain the wellspring of anger that sprung from him. He stopped, making sure he spoke clearly, as if he was talking on the record to the news feeds, and wanted to be sure nothing he said could be misinterpreted.
“Your father is a good man, a man of honor, of integrity, of his word; he is a far better man than I. I know that he thinks he’s doing what he thinks is right. In a lot of ways, I agree with him and his cause, but not enough to fight against our own government. I am not a political guru Ter . . . Leftenant . . . just a soldier. I will not become involved in the political debate that is this little war. Some do not feel that way; some wish your father harm. That is the reason it has to be me, Terri. Anyone else would be too happy to see your father with a scorch mark on his chest. I will bring him home, not as my prisoner, but as my Skipper, and he and I and, yes, even Bolanus, will make this right once again.”
For a moment Adlerstein sounded like her dad, who had always insisted that the men and women of Starfleet should remain apolitical, but Terri was not one to be easily swayed by mere words. It was all a trick. It must be. But why would he lie to her? Adlerstein had never lied to her since she could remember.
“You are either with my dad, or you are with Bolanus. You can’t have it both ways.” Terri said coldly. Taking a step toward the marine, she look up into his eyes. “Which side are you on?”
Hans was angry that the girl he had known since was a young pup would question his integrity.
“No decision is ever so black and white, my dear.” the old German stated. He took a deep breath, as he saw that Terri’s stubborn streak was a mile wide, and growing by the second.
“The side of the Federation. Make of that what you will, but do not dare question my word or insinuate that my honor is for sale at any price; I’m a Marine, not a mercenary.”
Hans stood straighter, expecting an angry reaction from the young lady.
“As far as a court has decided, General Bolanus is the rightful head of state of the UFP. As an officer, I am bound by my oath to obey his lawful orders, the same one you took when you commissioned my dear. I should know, I was there, if you remember. Until such time, I am bound by law and my honor to serve the Federation to the best of my ability.”
Hans’ anger subsided, replace with a sorrow deeper than the canyons on Mars.
“Please believe me when I say I take no pleasure in my duty, nor do I wish to be your enemy Kleine Haeschen.” (**)
Terri was beyond herself with disbelief. How could Adlerstein, how could anyone, possibly justify what Bolanus had done to the Federation, to her family? Much less with a ruling from a court packed with Bolanus’ cronies?!
“Too late for that!” She snapped. “As soon as I take down Bolanus, I’m gonna come for you. Mark my words!”
The old German general felt his heart break at hearing that same venomous tone color the words of the lady who once was small enough to bounce on his knee. He didn’t know what to say, what could he say?
“I won’t mention this to anyone else. If I see your father, I’ll give him your love. Be safe…Haeschen.” the marine said.
“I'm NOT your Haeschen!” Shouted Terri. She used to giggle whenever Adlerstein called her that, but now the name only tore her from the inside with rage. “You CAN’T call me that! You have no right. Don't you EVER call me that again! Do you hear me?!”
Hans took a step towards her, gingerly, the hate fueling her words making the German feel ever one of his nearly 60 years of age.
“You . . . will always . . . be the little haeschen that I . . .” he began.
Terri lost it and responded with a slap on Adlerstein’s left cheek instead of more words. Words were useless, not that she knew what else she should say. She shouldn’t have come here in the first place. Why did she think she could talk him out of it? Why had she had hope?
“We are DONE!” Those were the last words she ever wanted to say to him.
Hans staggered back, caught off guard by her violent reaction. The German’s cheek stung and felt hot from the force of her slap, and Adlerstein’s left hand went up to protectively hold his cheek.
Hans saw Terri storm off, out the window, into the surrounding countryside.
“Terri . . . please don’t go . . .” Hans all but pleaded to the emptiness that once contained the girl he had known since she was a small babe.
A knock came at Hans’ door, and when he opened it, a Marine stood at attention greeting him.
“General Bolanus requests your presence, sir.” the other marine said formally.
Hans looked back, towards the window Terri had just climbed out of.
“Is anything wrong, General?” the Marine asked.
Hans thought for a minute as he stared at the window.
“No Sergeant . . . nothing is wrong. Nothing at all.”
[To be continued in Part 6 . . . . . .]
** Little bunny
General Ardon Bolanus
Head of State, Provisional Government
United Federation of Planets.
(NPC - Oliver)
Major General Johannes 'Hans' Adlerstein
Commander, 5th Fleet
Starfleet Marine Corps
Lieutenant Terri C. Lee
(NPC - Oliver)