The Astounding Adventures of Terri Cornelia Lee - Part 15 "Mourning" (Flashback)
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Timeline: 2419, In A Future That Was
[Previously in Future Past - Part 5 "Loyalty"]
. . . . . .
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.
. . . . . .
Oliver paused at the entrance to the reception hall. Turning to the young Marine behind him, he said, “Wait here, Miss Ens.”
“Sir, I'm under strict order not to leave your side.” Said the Trillian Marine.
The gray-haired human sighed quietly. Gesturing toward the inside of the hall, he said softly, but firmly, “Corporal, everyone in there is either a friend or family. And there’s no place safer than family. I will be fine."
Ens hesitated for a moment. There had been several threats against the admiral’s life ever since he put down the coup nearly a month ago. Although none of them was substantiated, Command took it seriously and assigned him 24-hour security details. But she respected the admiral too much to rob him of some private moments with those close to him, especially at this moment of mourning.
“Yes, sir." she nodded and stepped aside.
With an appreciative nod Oliver turned and walked inside the spacious reception hall. Glancing around, he saw many familiar faces, some of which he had not seen in years.
Once he located T’Pen on the far side of the room, he made his way over, hastily greeting everyone he passed. Moments later, he was before the Vulcan woman, the widow of one of his closest friends, who had sacrificed his own life to save his.
“T’Pen.” He greeted her with as much poise as he could manage, even though his heart sank the moment he saw her.
“Admiral.” T’Pen said with the usual Vulcan stoicism. “Thank you for coming.”
“I . . .” Oliver was at a momentary loss for words, unsure how to proceed, lest T’Pen found an overly emotional expression of condolence and grief inappropriate.
“This is a funeral for my late husband Admiral; it is natural to have feelings of sadness. Do not feel uncomfortable with them because I am a Vulcan. I assure you I grieve for him as well. We Vulcans are often misunderstood to have no emotions; we simply keep them internalized. As one your poets once said: ‘within me lies a raging tempest?’”” T’Pen said.
“Nephthys Taavi.” Oliver uttered the poet’s name, a rather tragic figure. “What can I do?” He asked the Vulcan. Or was that question for himself?
“I require nothing at this time, although Hans might have some last requests for you via his will. Honoring those wishes if you are able will be enough for me.” She replied.
“Of course.” Oliver nodded without hesitation.
T’Pen arched her eyebrow quizzically in typical Vulcan fashion as she asked her next question. “If my husband were here, I believe he would ask ‘How about you Skipper? How’s the situation now that you are the ‘main man’?”
For a brief moment a small smile appeared on the human’s lips. Hans would have indeed asked him those questions, and despite the stoic expression on her face, T’Pen’s impression of her late husband was fairly spot on. Or perhaps it was just him wanting to have one last glimpse of his old friend and hearing things that he wanted to hear. He sighed.
“I would rather they had kept me in my sector command where I could make a difference on the ground, so to speak. But as Chief of Starfleet Operations I now, ironically, have no operational command authority over any units anywhere. But I thought that at least I still had President N’Verix’ ears so I told her that instead of spreading ourselves thin trying to defend every cubic parsec, we should draw back and focus on the remaining core worlds. But Flanigan was adamant that we fight for every star system, no matter how strategically unimportant. The Vice President believes to do otherwise would be to acknowledge the government’s ineptitude and to prove Bolanus right.”
“How bad is it Admiral?” T’Pen inquired, her hands behind her back.
“It’s bad, T’Pen. It’s really bad. Despite yesterday's official press release, the Kuson System is expected to fall within the week, and with it the entire Henshaw Sector.” He paused briefly, and with a melancholy sense of irony he asked, “Do you know who were responsible for that sector before the coup? The 2nd and the 11th Fleets. But I butchered them, T’Pen, I butchered them because I was so fixated on putting down Bolanus and his coup that I . . .” Looking away and out of the windows, he sighed deeply. “Maybe Bolanus was right. Maybe I did bring ruin to the Federation.”
“My husband died helping you achieve that goal Admiral; to remove him based upon his morals and his conscience. For what it’s worth, I agree with his decision and supported you both completely in your endeavors.” The Vulcan said, her stoic voice seeming to soften slightly.
Before Oliver could respond, a man in a civilian suit approached them.
“Mrs. Adlerstein? We’re ready for the will.”
The civilian waved his hand to usher into the large room Lee and T’Pen. T’Pen took her seat near the front row, while Oliver preferred to stand in the back.
A large screen at the front of the seated audience came to live, and Johannes Kurt Adlerstein appeared as if from beyond the grave. He was seated in a chair, reading a book. Hans made a show of closing the book and setting it aside prominently. When he did so, Lee could see that the book, Cicero's Philippics, was the very one he had gifted to Hans when they last departed service from each other, perhaps 12 years ago.
“Hello everyone.” The screen image of Hans spoke to those assembled.
“Thank you for being here. If this is being played, then I am deceased. If I am not, please cease this image, as it gives away crucial plot elements and will ruin the movie for everyone!”
A few in the audience laughed, enjoying Hans’ trademark humor even from beyond the pale of death.
“Firstly, if Admiral Oliver Lee is present, I’d like to start with him, as I am sure he is a very busy man. If he is not here, please pause this and fetch him.”
The image of Hans took up the book once more for about five seconds. Since Lee was obviously present, no one paused the recording.
“Hello sir. I’m glad that you are here. I just wanted to say that I greatly enjoyed our time together in the service to the Federation. If I did not get a chance to say so during my lifetime, I wanted you to know that I so badly wished to address you as my friend during my life. Know that the reason I did not previously had nothing to do with your qualities as a man or as a friend or as an officer. Rather, blame years of protocol and rigid adherence to etiquette; I just did not feel it was right for me, your subordinate, to treat you like a peer at the time. For that, I am sorry. If I was able to tell you that I had considered you my dear friend these past twenty years, then I hope it was not with my dying breath…”
The image laughed.
“...because I always thought maybe we could go to that all-Vulcan version of HMS Pinafore we both liked but never found the time to attend.”
A few more people laughed.
Oliver’s heart skipped a beat as the image of Han’s last moment flashed before his eyes. He couldn’t bring himself to laughter, not even a wry smile.
“To you Oliver, I leave my entire stock of alcohol, of which you have already drank half in our many years of friendship.” The image said with mock anger. “I also bequeath you this book.” Hans said, laying his hand upon said book. “It provided me many years of excellent reading, and I return it you so that it may provide you with yet more. In addition, I grant you the right to take from my considerable library any documents or books you desire, provided that my wife agrees to the transaction.”
The image of Adlerstein looked down for a few seconds, as if to collect thoughts.
“You were the finest skipper I ever served with, a loyal and true friend, and a great mentor to me. May you live out many decades in glory and happiness.”
Glory and happiness. Oliver sighed. How willing he was to trade both for his dearest friend!
“To my love, T’Pen: you made me the happiest man in the galaxy. I am aware of what you are most likely saying right now…’hyperbole is illogical’. Perhaps, but even illogic can be true from time to time.”
“I loved you with all my heart and soul. I know that people think of Vulcans as soulless and without emotion, but, in my time with you, I have known that the VUlcan heart and soul burns brightly and it burns hot. If you’ll forgive any embarrassment this might cause you by my revealing this: I know and always knew that you loved me with every bit of intensity as I loved you, and you made me feel it every day, and I will rise from my grave and fight the first man who says otherwise.”
“You were a perfect wife, generous, kind, considerate, and forceful when I needed to be reminded that I was being an ‘illogical human’. For my part, I am sorry for those days I tried your nearly infinite patience with my illogic, and for those times if I was ever less than what you deserved in a spouse. I love you my darling liebchen.”
In the front row, T’Pen closed her eyes, which, for a Vulcan, might as well have been inconsolable wailing. Her eyes opened after only a brief closure, and she resumed her typical Vulcan stiff upper lip.
“I hope Terri Lee is here as well.” Hans said.
Terri had been hiding in the corner behind a divider since she sneaked herself in ten minutes ago. She was supposed to go to the funeral earlier - she heard President N’Verix would be there - but she couldn’t bring herself to look at T’Pen in the eyes, not after what she said to Hans the last time she saw him. Yet here she was, in the reception, hiding from T’Pen and from her dad, wondering what she was doing, what she should do. She was startled when her name was mentioned; it’s as if Hans himself had been there, calling out to her. Her heart jumped into her throat.
“Hello Arme Haesschen. I hope this finds you well. I wanted you to know although I had no children of my own, you were the closest I had to a daughter, and I ask your father’s forgiveness for sometimes thinking of you as such. I sponsored you to the Academy what seems like ages ago now. Since that time, you have turned out to be a remarkable woman, an excellent officer, and still just as stubborn and hot-headed as ever.”
A few chuckles.
Biting her lips, Terri felt something she had always hated, something wet in her eyes.
“To you I leave those Fleet ranks I wore during my service to your father as XO. May they inspire you to reach those goals you set for yourself. If that goal includes staying in Starfleet, it would do me great honor if you wore them when the time is right. I also give to you the stuffed bunny you affectionately called “Jingles” when you were a small girl. I gave it to you when you were but a child, and you returned it to me when you felt you had ‘outgrown’ such things. If you do not wish it for yourself, keep it anyway. Perhaps your own children could use a friend one day.. In addition, I grant you the right to all the books I read to you when you were a little one; I do not remember their titles, but I do recall you were fond of some of them.”
That was all that Terri could bear. She sprang out from behind the divider and headed straight for the doors, knocking over a few chairs.
Oliver turned around as he heard the commotion and just in time to see Terri disappear behind the closing doors. He sighed.
A few more friends and relatives were acknowledged and given parting gifts from Hans’ life, before he wound down.
“I thank you all for attending, and I hope I lived my life with honor and dignity, and that I made a positive impact for you all. Goodbye. I love you all.” Hans said. The screen went black as Hans disappeared, for the last and final time.
T’Pen stood up and smoothed the long skirt of her dress. Although she did not personally enjoy the fashion of it, it had been Hans’ favorite, and so she wore it out of respect for him.
“Thank you all for coming. This concludes the will reading. Refreshments will be available in the lobby.” She said.
::Outside the Reception Hall::
Terri sat under a partially destroyed statue of President Archer - much of the damage from the initial coup and then the counter-coup had been left unreparied as funds and attention were re-directed toward the worsening military situation.
She just sat there with her head buried in her arms and on her laps. How she wished she could go back in time and take back everything she said to Hans. How she wished.
“Crying is illogical Lieutenant.”
T’Pen crouched next to Terri, and spoke further lest the sometimes volatile young lady think she was being mocked. “My husband would agree; he was very fond of you, and would not want you to feel so sad where he is concerned.” The Vulcan woman reassured her.
Terri looked up, her eyes moist and her voice devoid of the energy and passion that so characterized her. “You don’t know what I said to him.” She mumbled before burying her head again in her arms.
“You may tell me Terri, if you desire.” T’Pen said.
Terri looked up again. She had half a thought to empty herself before T’Pen, but then how could she? How could she repeat those hurtful words she had thrown at Hans that night? She couldn’t.
“No, I don’t.” She said.
“Perhaps it was something along the lines of ‘you bastard’, ‘how could you?’, ‘I wish you were dead’ and so forth?” The Vulcan said, bobbing her head slightly as she tried to imitate the rantings of an angry young woman. Seeing the young woman’s look of shock, T’Pen explained.
“Relax Lieutenant. He never revealed to me what you said, but I know it upset him greatly. I have heard words from you like the ones I just repeated before though, in your younger days. I remember him being as sad then also. I assure you, at that time, even at the height of his sadness, he never stopped being proud of you, or caring for you, and loving you.” T’Pen explained.
For a long moment Terri was quiet, struggling to hold back the regret, the sorrow, the guilt, the shame, all fighting to rise to the fore. At last, she looked back up. “You . . . think so?”
“It’s only logical.” T’Pen said, raising both eyebrows. It was as close as Vulcan would dare go to a smile.
Logic, it’s a funny word. Terri the scientist was, of course, adept at the exercise of logic - she had more than a few awards and medals to prove it - but logic tended to absent itself when she had to deal with another sentient being instead of finding the quantum variable for the Tenshian equation on her own.
She would never admit it, but she admired the Vulcans for their calm and self control. When she was still a kid, she got into trouble all the time, and every time her dad would threaten to ship her off to Vulcan to instill some discipline in her. Sometimes she wondered how she would have turned out if he had followed through with the threat. Perhaps she would not have said all those terrible things to Hans. Perhaps she would have found peace instead of regret.
“Lieutenant?” T’Pen asked after a silence in the young lady.
Pulling herself out of her own thoughts, Terri looked back up. “I miss him.”
T’Pen sat down next to Terri. “I do as well Terri. I do as well.” the Vulcan said.
The Vulcan put her arm around the young lady as she wept bitter tears.
[To be continued . . .]
Admiral Oliver A. Lee
Chief of Starfleet Operations
Lieutenant Terri C. Lee
Researcher, Starfleet R&D
(NPC - Oliver)
Lieutenant General Johannes Adlerstein
UFP Marine Corps
(NPC - Hans)