Future Past - Part 10 "Redemption" (Flashback)
Posted on Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 @ 11:28am by Captain Oliver Lee PhD
Edited on on Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 @ 8:39pm
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Location: Caldran System
Timeline: 2419, A Future That Was
::Main Shuttle Bay, USS Bunker Hill - B, Caldran System::
Major General Johannes Adlerstein had a few bruises, Admiral Lee far more, evidence of his suffering at the hands of Major Renard. As the two men and the surviving crew of the Themyscira made their way to the shuttle bay, the members of Hans’ crew started murmuring about the flag officers’ general state of disarray. Hans’ Marine guard had set up a small platform for him to speak, and the German hopped on top of it in order to address those assembled. In the background, several holograms flickered slightly as they showed the majority of the senior staffs of the rest of Fifth Fleet that had survived the battle.
“Hear me!” Adlerstein shouted, calling for order.
He began once he no longer heard any chattering going on among the crowd.
“Now hear this: Admiral Lee and his surviving party are to be taken into protective custody. That is not a goddamned metaphor! He and his people are to be given full medical care, their wounds tended, their bones mended, their souls soothed. Regardless of what you think of them personally, their cause, or their methods, they have been, and are still some of our own.”
Hans started to pace the few steps the hasty platform allowed him, mostly to control his nerves and to look more authoritative.
“I do not care what the Council says, I do not care what Bolanus says; we are not going to take the law into our own hands. These men deserve fair trials. We owe them that much. The law will determine the right of their cause, not our phasers!”
A deep breath; Hans noticed his eye was starting to hurt.
“Captain Krage and Major Renard have forgotten this fact; they attempted to usurp the rule of law and act as judges, juries, and executioners, for reasons as yet unknown. They have both been relieved of duty. We are not executioners! We are Starfleet! and Starfleet does not kill their own without due process. We swore an oath to uphold that which is right, and that which is just!”
Wilhelm looked out upon the small crowd.
“These men are under my protection! They are not to be harmed, mistreated, or interrogated without my written authorization. They are also, until a court says otherwise, to be treated with the respect to their rank. Am I understood?”
“YES SIR!” came the resounding reply from the crowd.
::Later, Ready Room::
Leaving his escort outside of the closing doors, Oliver stepped into the Bunker Hill-B’s ready room, this time in the flesh. Finding Hans behind the desk, he walked over, his gait still betraying the injuries and abuse he had sustained earlier.
“It is strange to be here, isn’t it?” He asked, taking another look of the room.
“Yes, sir.” Hans said simply. He threw down his PADD and walked towards his old Skipper.
“Sir, I give you my word I knew nothing of Renard’s plans. I gave him strict orders to harm none of your crew and to only fire if fired upon. If I had known, sir, what he was going to do . . .” Hans left the rest hanging in the air.
Oliver answered with a small smile. “I have never doubted that, Mr. Adlerstein.” Motioning at the couch to his left, he said, “And I hope you don’t mind me taking a seat over there. The doctor said I should avoid strenuous activities for the next few days, and as it turned out a simple walk can be quite a strenuous activity after you break a few bones.”
Hans took a seat on the opposite cushion from Lee. His own bones were starting to feel weary.
“I think, if the standard holonovel is correct, you would now try to give some rousing speech to convince me of the worthiness of your cause, bringing me back to the side of right and virtue.” Hans said, his voice attempting humor, but only sounding weary beyond even his years.
“Well, you know what they say about arts being an imitation of life, and as you might remember, I used to have this, what did Captain Tensin call it, ah, yes, this ‘infuriating propensity for pompous orations’. Apparently old habits die hard, and I was going to make an honest attempt to sway you to the proverbial light side by delivering an entire speech on the legitimacy or rather illegitimacy of General Bolanus’ government from both a constitutional and a moral perspective, but lucky for the both of us Commander Karim talked some sense into me.” Handing the Marine a slightly damaged isolinear memory chip, he continued, “I think this will do adequately.”
Hans took the chip. He trusted his old Skipper, and believed that at the very least, he deserved to be heard. He walked over to the door, opened it, and poked his head out briefly.
“No one is to enter here under any circumstances.” he said to the guards outside the door.
“Roger, sir.” they replied.
Adlerstein returned to his desk and input the chip, selecting holographic display.
The feed began with a list of names. It was a long one with at least a few dozen people. Some were Starfleet officers while others appeared to be civilians. Some of those on the list were familiar to the both of them, such as Captain Alandra Arlin of the USS Kabul and former Secretary of Defence Irene Barrons.
“These are people who either have already undergone or are scheduled to undergo treatment at Project Moneta.” explained Oliver. “It’s a covert program under Starfleet Intelligence with a focus on synaptic pattern readjustment, or in layman’s term, brainwashing. Of course, it’s illegal, even by Starfleet Intelligence’s own rules. When I was the Inspector General, we began an investigation into the project, but it never went anywhere before they transfered me back to the front lines. Apparently they have kept the program going since then.”
“One outcome, or rather spawn, of Project Moneta is a substance called CR-231. We don’t know how it works, but we do know that it is quite efficient at reconditioning a subject’s mind and behavior, at least in the 24% cases where it works.”
“What happens with the remainder?” Hans said, his voice in disbelief.
With a small sigh Oliver answered. “The subjects either die or suffer irreversible neurological damage.”
“Mein Gott...” the German general said.
“Computer,” said Oliver, still uncomfortable calling the AI Bunker Hill. “Play file PMK-509.” Then he turned to Hans. “You might remember Rear Admiral Fell Sacci. He and his team beat us in the Osman’s Classics 15 years ago when he was still in command of the Endurance.”
Hans nodded slowly, afraid what else would be revealed.
There was only a momentary delay before a holographic recording began playing in the middle of the ready room. A two-pip Ktarian flag officer was strapped onto a reclining metallic chair as a Starfleet captain and a man dressed entirely in black looked on. Sacci was defiant, his words acerbic and even profane, but it wasn’t long before he began to mumble, and soon he struggled against the retrains and grasped for air, sweat mixed with blood dripping onto the already stained floor. For the next five minutes, cries of anguish and pain filled the room. And then, it all went quiet. There was no more struggle, no more scream, only eerie silence.
Adlerstein covered his mouth in horror. He got up and walked to the view port, 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 Alandra 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,” A pause. “but he's the one with the answer, and there's only one way to find out.”
“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.
When Adlerstein got to the door and it opened, he addressed the senior guard.
“Please take Admiral Lee to his quarters. If he wishes to go anywhere else, within reason, he is permitted to do so with an escort.” he stated, his words far away.
“Still see me as a prisoner of war, eh?” Said Oliver as walked toward the doors, his voice relaxed and without the slightest hint of resentment.
“They are for your protection, sir, not as your keepers.” Hans said softly. With that, the German Marine staggered off to the turbolift, not even saying goodbye to his former Skipper.
::Later That Day, Ready Room, USS Bunker Hill - B::
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 from the 7th were killed, 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-five 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. She was serving on the Aventine under Captain Nok.” Answered Oliver. “She was supposed to go on a leave of absence to her family on Earth. Her twin brother had just passed away, and she was devastated. Apparently for the Salarians the severance of telepathic link with one’s twin could be . . . traumatic. Even after the coup she was still determined to get back. So I transferred her to the Themyscira. 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 if I had pulled the damned trigger myself.” 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. If only I had selected 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 Themyscira. 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 Federation Council to go to war in the first place. 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 Dominion's 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.
Adlerstein was a wreck; mentally and emotionally exhausted, the toll of the horrors he had to inflict and to endure, it was 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 jumped 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 and almost got 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.”
“At least I’m still alive, and that’s all thanks to you.” 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 ideals 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 we owe them that much.”
“I don’t think I can ever forgive myself, 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 on, 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. And what honor I might have is now tied to yours, from now until the end, in victory or death.” the German said, extending his right hand.
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 someone who would love to 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 . . . . . .”
[To be continued in Part 11 . . . . . .]
Admiral Oliver A. Lee
Commander, Kalandra Sector
Major General Johannes "Hans" Adlerstein
Commander, 5th Fleet