=/\= Carida – Permilda Cave Network =/\=
The chaos only a few hours ago outside the caves seemed to have stopped now that the colonists had retreated farther into their subterranean home. In their haste to flee the Cardassian troops many of the colonists had been separated from the few possessions they still owned as well as their loved ones. Keeping order was proving to be more difficult than any of the Starfleet crew had imagined.
"Sir, I cannot let you pass," Rob stepped in front of one of the older colonists attempting to navigate his way back to the old camp site.
"My children are back there!" The man yelled. "We've been waiting for hours. Surely it's safe," the man made another attempt to step past Lansine and the other armed Starfleet personnel before Rob extended his arm, blocking his path once more.
"We can't be certain more Cardassian patrols followed the one that attacked," Rob raised his voice to address more than just the one colonist. "Once the patrols return we will know more."
"And what if they don't return!" An ornery younger man stood up and yelled.
"They will return," Rob replied, albeit in a defeated tone. He looked around the room and sighed, the colonists were growing restless. He himself was eager to search for the rest of the colonists. More than 75 were unaccounted for, including Chelsea. She hadn't found him since the rush of people retreated for the caves had separated them during the attack. It took every ounce of his power not to leave his post and look for her.
"I'm going to look for my children!" The man in front of Rob asserted himself again and attempted to push Lansine out of his way. In one swift movement Rob grabbed the man's elbow, spun behind him and forced him to the ground.
"You will not go back, not until we hear from the scouts," Rob pressed his knee into the man's back firmly, but not to injure him. Rob had had enough of these people's whining. He was having a hard enough time holding things together personally let alone controlling the colony. He'd be damned if one of them was killed because this man, or any of the other anxious colonists ran back into harms way.
Rob looked back up at the rest of the crowd in the large cavern, "If you go back you put us ALL in danger!" He was growing angrier with every moment, "We must stay here."
The room took a collective breath, absorbing what Rob had said. The situation calmed and Rob stood back up, helping the man he'd pinned back to his feat. Everything seemed to be back to normal when a man stepped out from the crowd, it was one of the civilian leaders Chelsea had said needed to speak with Rob.
Lee Ryan, a former Starfleet officer and leader of the civilian/colonial survivors, moved between a few frightened citizens to reach the angry man and Mr. Lansine. The shouting and bustle of the conflict before him could be heard all the way down the cave, where Lee had been seeing to the tending of the few dead the ambush had left in its wake. His graying, thick hair was dirty and wet with sweat, like most of the others in the cave. He stepped forward and gazed powerfully at the two men, holding out a hand as he shouted, "Enough!".
Rob turned his attention to the man, but couldn't seem to find the words to tell him off.
"I assume your assault of this man is warranted?" Lee took the man's arm while looking at Rob questioningly, and helped him to his feet. "You, get back and help bury our dead." He said.
The man fumed in protest, "Why shoul-"
"Just go!" Lee interrupted, impatience already infused in his voice.
"Lieutenant Lansine," he started, "oh yes well, I always forget you're not a full Lieutenant. I'll have to remember that." Lee turned to look at all the people moving back to their business, which at the moment was nothing more than wallowing in fear and worry. Many of the people had been separated from their loved ones, but Lee was worried that if they were truly unrecoverable, then not only would they lose the manpower of the people that they'd lost but many of their friends and family would become more dead weight. It was a logistics nightmare.
He turned to Rob again and frowned, raising his voice so the civilians could hear him. "Can't you see these people have been through enough? Why would you instigate a fight like you did just now?"
The man's attitude was starting to wear on Rob. He hadn't instigated a fight he was doing his job. These civilians needed to know that, "My intention was--and always has been--the safety of everyone," Rob paused and looked over the crowd, unknowingly searching for Chelsea. "If that means having to to show some-" he paused again and looked at the man who'd confronted him before, "then so be it. We are not here to babysit; we're here to keep you alive.
"Perhaps that's what you're Captain would let you get away with, but we're not animals, these aren't Guerrilla fighters. It's your job to insure their safety! Not to scare them witless." Lee moved in closer.
Rob was on the brink of exploding. This man had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Since his first day with the rest of the survivors his priority had been to get them off Carida and keep them safe. Despite the man's implications, Rob was not a guerrilla fighter nor were any of the Starfleet personnel.
"If scaring one man is what it takes to keep you all alive, so be it." Rob stared straight into the other man's eyes. "I will not let you irrational responses endanger the entire group."
Lee acted as if the younger man hadn't spoken a single word. "There are things about combat I don't believe you fully understand, young man. Perhaps you should let someone more qualified do the decision making. And yet you somehow make out to be the authority figure because you think you're the officer with the guts to pull it off? The Academy must not be what it used to." Every syllable dripped of dismissive superiority.
"That's not how Starfleet teaches it," Rob said pointedly; he still didn't know who this man was, "that's just how it is!" Rob had spent enough years outside the pampered side of the galaxy to know when Starfleet protocol wasn't simply enough. Besides the fiasco with Walz last summer, it had taken more than six years for Lansine to reestablish his identity after what his father and Orion IV had taught him; six years of learning protocol and procedure; actions and consequences; law and moral--after his time at the academy and on the Intrepid Rob thought he'd never resort back to his old ways--he was wrong. Whether it was out of rage or plain frustration, Rob grabbed the man by the neck and held him in the air. Several women screamed and an comfortable silence fell over the crowd as he continued to squeeze the civilian's throat.
"I am NOT going to let you, or anyone else dictate the terms of our survival to me," Rob was yelling now. The Starfleet personnel looked back and forth at one another, unsure how to react to Rob's emotional snap.
Taking by complete surprise Lee tensed up and fought to free himself, but couldn't get a free hand in to stop the assault.
"Rob!" Matt came rushing over from behind them, back from one of the rear patrols. "What are you doing!" Lansine's civilian friend grabbed him by the wrist and released Rob's chokehold.
As he was brought down, Lee collapsed forward and coughed violently for a moment as he struggled to reign in his fury at being attacked in front of the colonists. It took a great deal of restraint to keep himself from accepting the young man's challenge. Lee Ryan was in absolutely no way a weak or frail man, just an aging former officer from the same uniform as Lansine. He suspected that the challenge of leadership however, was something he wasn't at all worried about losing. As he regained his breath, a few of his fervent supporters and a couple more bristly young men came up at his side and stood in an almost face off with the Starfleet personnel.
Mr. Ryan rubbed at his neck and stared back at Rob, "For someone preaching about the way of a Starfleet Officer." He almost laughed, a thin smile placed on his face. "You are no example!"
"I might not be what you want, but I am damn more than you deserve," Rob couldn't help but continue their verbal spat.
"My family didn't give their lives at the hands of those God forsaken fan-necks, so a Junior Officer hothead could parade his feathers to impress some local girl! You should respect those who came before you and realize we're all in this together. We work together or we DIE separated! Understood?!" Lee hissed. It wasn't going to be him versus a group of officers. This was between himself and his assailant, a matter of integrity and respect. He caught himself as his control slipped, showing his emblazoned hatred for the Cardassians.
"Then you agree that the best chance for all of our survival is keeping these people HERE," Rob pointed his finger to the ground. "I don't care what you want, we're staying here until we've secured the area."
Lee trodded off after a moment, waving his hand in the air as if to say, "Whatever". A few colonists quickly followed suit, giving Rob nasty looks as they walked past.
Good, Rob finally had the situation under control. With Lee and the other colonists under control they only had to wait for the patrols to return. Rob was about to send a scout to get a report from the teams outside when one of the scouting teams stumbled back into the cavern. The room gasped collectively when they saw the men, they were covered in dirt and blood, one was being held up by another two.
They looked horrible.
Rob stood silent for what seemed like forever. He'd seen battle wounds and other gruesome things before but nothing compared to the sight of four men mutilated and scared limping back after a mission he'd sent them on. They had suffered because of his actions.
"Sir," one of them began to talk, Rob still was staring, "we've managed to secure the mouth of the cave network," he stopped mid sentence and took a breath, "the other groups... they didn't make it," the man said softly. The words didn't register with Rob, his mind was still focused on the sight in front of him. The man that they'd carried in wasn't going to survive his injuries. He was bleeding from at least three large wounds and would certainly bleed out soon.
What had he done?
"Sir?" The man stared at Rob with needy eyes. "What do you want us to do?"
Rob was too absorbed in the moment to hear the man.
"SIR?" The man was pleading. "What are we supposed to do now!"
Seizing the opportunity to take control, Lee Ryan quickly moved back into the room where the Cardassian was being held. He looked for a moment at Rob, who seemed dumbfounded at the sight of the bloody scouts. It was a little surprising, but he didn't let that get in the way of his intentions. "Well don't just stand there!" He motioned for a team responsible for medical treatment to come over. "Make them comfortable. Do whatever you can, save him if possible."
The team nodded and moved the disfigured soldier off into an enclave for the sick and injured. The other two trailed behind under their own power.
"Find me that damn Cardassian we took prisoner during the last attack. I want a few questions answered." Lee proclaimed angrily as he looked down the pathway to the medical site. This situation was becoming a bigger mess every second of every day, and he wasn't sure if it was because of the young officers who couldn't handle it, or something much more frightening. Perhaps the Cardassians were closing in.
He pounded his fist against the nearby table that held some supply containers and shouted over at Rob. "Lieutenant!"
Rob weakly turned his head to look at the man he'd been yelling at only moment before.
"Get it together." Lee muttered. "You have a job to do."
His words seemed to splash over Rob, but instead of inciting him to work they only depressed him further. "I can't do this," Rob muttered as he turned away from Lee and the others, disgusted with himself. The bloodied scouting team was the last straw. He'd been leaned on, pressed, squeezed and run too hard since arriving on Carida. He couldn't handle this anymore.
Lee took a moment to take a little pity on the young man. War wasn't exactly a walk in the park, and neither was survival. They were facing both. He still couldn't bring himself to let the boy slide into some kind of pathetic self-hatred though. "You have friends, right kid?" Lee asked.
Rob couldn't bring himself to look him in the eye, "Yes," Lansine's eyes drifted to Matt who was eyeing him, obviously worried about Rob.
Ryan moved in closer and knelt down close so Rob could hear the full force of his words. "Well what do you think this guy would think if he knew you lived this long, just to give up. I think I can safely say even you have had some fight in you. Is that what you want him to find out?" There had to be something that would get him up and back on his feet, and if the truth wasn't it, Lee wasn't sure if he would really need Lansine. The past few months had been absolute hell, especially since he now had to fight to keep people inside his circle of influence. The man before him may not look like much now, but he had a ringing message founded in Starfleet principles. People loved hearing about Starfleet principles...
Lansine didn't answer, but it didn't mean he wasn't listening.
Lee shook his head and rose to his feet. This kid was obviously sinking fast, and it was ridiculous for him to think anything more.
Amongst the sounds of the murmuring crowds within the cave, footsteps could be heard approaching their position. Two large men with phaser rifles, and tattered Starfleet security uniforms, walked over carrying a haggard looking Cardassian man. His skin was littered with bruises, and his lower left lip was swollen from being beaten during the raid. He was clearly conscious, however, and almost hissed when he was thrown to the ground in front of Lee.
"What's your name, Soldier?" Ryan started the conversation off cordially; he'd take his time in getting rough if he needed to. For now, a sound political approach would suite him just fine. All he truly needed was some small bit of information from the Cardassian. Some patrol movements they weren't aware of or the logistical reality of the Cardassian forces inhabiting their former home, anything useful. At this point Lee would settle for his favorite meal before bed, if it meant eking out some small morsel of info from the man. So far they'd been unable to secure anything tangible.
The Cardassian simply looked up and stared at Lee Ryan, a cold and hateful look in his eyes.
"We could have killed you, Cardassian, and you know that we really don't like to do that. Back a group of federations into a corner though, and you get trouble. I'm sure you're smart enough to know that we will eventually resort to more painful and pushy devices if you don't tell us something..." His voice made it clear that those devices were the next step in his interrogation.
The Cardassian remained silent.
Lee took but a moment before swiftly grabbing the man by the shoulder, and with a quick twisting motion, ripped one of the lateral skeletal clamps off the Cardassian's neck. Black blood oozed from the wound and the man screamed a heart-chilling scream. It echoed through the cave network, felling all other voices and sounds as it carried to the ears of every colonist within earshot. It took but a moment for the man to collapse all the way down onto the ground and start begging for mercy.
"Well so much for taking it slow," Lee said, "now tell me something good."
The bloodied Cardy suddenly couldn't get the words out quickly enough. "Our patrols run East and West, three times a day at 4 hour intervals. Five man teams. Our comm network can't be penetrated. It's inside a secondary complex just outside the prison facility.
Rob had been trying to ignore Lee and the others as they tortured the prisoner. It had actually be his idea to interrogate the man, but now with his other plans killing a dozen other men he lacked the will to question their captive--that was until he mentioned the comm network.
"Where is the communications hub station?" Rob was now on his feet, to the surprise of everyone in the room.
The Cardassian sneered and Lee watched as Rob moved up and suddenly took the stage. He had to admit he was a little impressed the boy could just pop back into play like that, he was sure he's need at least a couple hours to convince himself he was actually a little useful. Although whether he actually was would soon be put to the test.
Rob's eyes were watering, but it didn't stop him from going nose to nose with the alien, "Don't push me fan-neck, I will kill you," Rob's hand hovered close to the prisoner's neck. "Tell me--now."
"It's -- agh-" he choked, "the coordinates are in my data-pak! The code is my officer number backward! There are three patrols that move across that area, and a few turret sites scan the area for exactly one click, 280 degrees every 12 seconds. Please! If you've got the nerve, just kill me."
Rob smiled as the Cardassian described what he needed. It would be hard, near impossible to accomplish, but Rob had already made up his mind. "I'm going," without debate Rob grabbed one of Lee's men's phase rifles and swung it over his shoulder.
Lee pushed his way up to Rob. "Now don't get all half-cocked, boy." He pointed to the Cardassian bleeding on the ground. "They aren't all as cowardly as this one, and they want us all to die. If you're going to go after what I think you're going to, you'll need at least twice the man-power we have ready."
"No," Rob said flatly, brushing the dirt from the cave floor off his dirty uniform. "I'm doing this--alone."
=/\= End Log =/\=
LtJG Robert Lansine
Frmr. Commander Lee Ryan