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[Cue The Q] Capt Landon Neyes (ret.) | "This Dismantled Altar" pt 1

Posted on 241903.20 @ 20:40 by Lieutenant Craig MacLeod & Captain Landon Neyes

Mission: Lacuna

It was just past sunset on the fifth day since he'd arrived from Earth and still the Vindicator was yet to dock. Saying that it was nowhere to be found was more of a death sentence to his sanity and a rejuvenation of his anxiety and neither would really do... Nor was it true. The ship was safe, her crew sound, somewhere over in the foothills of the gods forsaken nebula looming in the space beyond the station. Just out of reach as Rochelle had no doubt designed it. The very thought left him with a rather undignified snort and shake of his head. It wasn’t smart, letting himself get into this particular state of mind; but then, nothing about his present choice of logistics was particularly smart.

Or even sane.

But to Landon it made sense in some honestly twisted way. If it was a trap, like Aella had suggested, then he wouldn’t be the target, he’d choose to become the bait. Fighting fire with fire was the only shot he had left at this and for the love of all things holy, he was going to take it. Mold it. Make them, it, whatever, his own.

Vrith Tr’Bak had to be neutralized in order for the balance of things to shift back into focus and give him, them, any chance at a normal life. In order to accomplish the task of neutralization, the Vindicator needed to return with the hope that just such a return would spark and ignite some sort of catalyst, likely the fake Counselor being caught, that would send Tr’Bak into the lion’s den. War torn, battle scarred, angrier than an alley cat caught in a storm, and hell bent on protecting his family, Landon was most certainly just such a lion right down to the pensive nature in which he coiled in on himself while watching, waiting…

Waiting…

The Trill scowled and threw himself backwards onto the too-hard mattress of his temporary bed. Tristan, maybe even Aella, would have likened him to a petulant child, but neither were there to do anything of the kind and that was entirely by his own design. This was his mission. His goal. His cross to bear, and no one else would be drug down that thorn lined path.

Of course it wasn’t that simple. Whether he liked it and recognized it or not there had already been so many people on that same path and one, just as savage and stubborn as the pre-mentioned thorns, remained walking along it.

Something beneath his pillow crinkled, reminding him of his so-called ‘latest addiction’. A simple bag filled with little gold wrapped candies. Sugar, to be exact. Sugar had almost always been an addiction, and one he’d all but cleaned himself of, but sugar was a better alternative to drugs. Somehow even butterscotch didn’t seem quite a sweet or enticing now that he was sitting back on the cusp of something so major and partaking alone. Rochelle used to love them and that affinity had become the highest reason on his list for keeping a couple in his pockets specifically so she could steal them on her way past. It was one of their things, a sweet memory that stood out as a beacon of light against a world so very dark and bleak.
Surrendering himself to a night of memories, he stole one from his stash, unwrapping it slowly and popping it into his mouth. It may not have seemed as sweet as it should, but the sudden flood of sugar was a guilty rush like no other, not ever drugs. It may not have been as mind-bending as sex, but it was definitely stirring nonetheless, pricking the brain with a thousand needles until one prodded a place on his cerebral cortex that should have been kept isolated and off limits. One that emitted a pain response and triggered thoughts far different than the sweet playful antics shared between himself and the woman he remained so very much in love with.

Did Rochelle share them now with Almar? Pick them out of his pockets and pop them into her mouth with that coy, unapologetic little smile of hers? Did she share all of those memories with him now?

Gods above, he couldn't even think it, the thought was so repulsive. Not because of Almar, but the thought of sharing her, or rather, her sharing such things, sharing herself, with anyone else made his heart squeeze with an emotion far more succinct and nobly painful than jealousy. As did the knowledge that when he looked at her during their holo talks in her otherwise empty ready room, her eyes soft with hurt, Landon realized then that the Cardassian had managed to touch a part of her that had always been hidden. No doubt that tidbit of information, even if it were the secret to the salvation of the universe, wasn’t all that important to her.

Neither was the fact that he wanted to be the only one to touch that part of her.


Landon saw it once, so briefly it was hard to imagine that it really happened, but it did, and he knew that the time was coming to try and see it again, that there wouldn’t always be such opportunity to make things right and mend that which never should have been broken. He’d save her. He had to.

But it didn’t stop him from wondering, did she ever think of that night at all? Did it arc through her body and soul in the dead of sleep, awakening her to a need so powerful she couldn’t breathe? If he was asked before a judge, knowing her as he did, he’d have to say yes. Rochelle was a creature of deep and profound emotion and that initial connection, that collapse of control that night beneath the stars in the corner of an observation deck long since destroyed was something that couldn’t be erased or ignored. It was the bough breaking, the dam destroyed, the flinging wide of prison doors that had once kept them so separate even though they longed so intensely for one another. The silky softness of her skin, the bite of her nails, the almost flame-like tint of her hair against the milky silver-blue of starlight. The flush of completion that painted her body and his with rosy sweat. Burning, vivid memories of abandon that neither he, nor she, could deny.

He’d seen it then, that glimpse of the impossible that promised that she needed him as much as he needed her. The part that promised her happiness existed and worry could fall away. The part that promised normalcy, that she could walk away to a life that wasn’t filled with Romulans and Starfleet. The needy part of him would never forget and often looked past those cool blue irises to the storm that waged beyond.

It ate at him.

Providence took pity on his aching soul and it wasn’t long before the sweet sucré of his candy melted away and took his thoughts and consciousness along with it. Sleep took hold and the urge to quickly pass the time away until he could get on with his self-handed assignment won over his pensive brooding. Fight it as he may, he’d spent too long being awake and focusing on the chances missed, the ‘what ifs’, the ‘what could have been saids’, and what was said, but not heard, on both sides, rather than priming himself for what was certain to be a battle of wits and caustically strong personalities.

---

"Rochelle?" There was nothing but darkness and his ears strained against deafening silence that only seemed abated by the way his voice echoed and reverberated through it.

Then there was the stink.

It was the next thing that assaulted his hardly dimmed senses, curling into his nostrils with it's savage sharpness, the spice of his own filth making him want to vomit until his brain registered that that, too, was a new normal for him.

Instinctively Landon knew what was coming next, and he didn’t want to see it or deal with it, but he was also so very well aware that he was absolutely helpless to stop it from transpiring. His limbs were chained, frozen in place as a single light flickered on above him and never seemed to settle from its debate over life and death. Then there was the hiss of a door opening and the sharp 'snick' that came when it closed. He'd heard it every day, four times a day, for the last several months and, just like clockwork, it was followed up with the sound of well balanced, expensive foot steps.

Though his eyes remain closed, he knew when he opened them he'd see the sweet shine of patent Italian leather dress shoes standing there, just out of reach of the source of the wet stench, waiting. And with it would be more. There was always more. Usually words, often followed by laughter. Pictures. The shoes never ever came empty handed, they always bore hideous. Macabre gifts.

"She's not here, Captain Neyes." The bored voice sighed as if on cue. "I already told you what happened to her." But nobody was listening. Landon was done listening to anyone but the 800 years worth of life stuck within him, harbored by the symbiont, and her. At that particular moment the only thing Landon heard was her sonorous voice, orating, declaiming everything the Romulan before him had tried to instill, making pronouncements, ending with the claim that he, and he alone, could decide when to end this. Promising that she was waiting, that she loved him.

They're almost anticlimactic, those words, and it wasn’t until the cough thick photo stock paper made while fluttering through the air cut through that sweet melody that their true import became clear. Starfleet trains each and every new recruit and cadet how to survive in situations where one finds themselves held captive or a sole survivor. They’d taught Landon, like so many others, how to fantasize and escape from reality long enough and hard enough to keep themselves going and their sanity at the forefront. While he’d been given the extra bonus of his symbiont, it did little to keep his lights on.

Rochelle was that fantasy.

Her smile, the way she brushed loose hair from her face, the natural way she could become so imposing even though she was downright tiny and incredibly beautiful. Her pragmatism and the way it blended so vividly with the wildfire that was her temper. That was what kept Landon Neyes alive during the time he’d been held captive. The pictures that touched his bare toes were designed to ruin that fantasy, and he’d have been remiss to deny that they’d had an impact. Forced to open his eyes and look at them through salty, infection crusted lashes, it was all he could do to keep from screaming her name like he had the first time. Tr’bak had stood back, silent, smiling that jackal smile of his while the Trill had thrown himself at his chains, struggling to get to those photos as if he could cradle them, cradle her, to him. The screaming had eventually given way to snarls that the Romulan was a liar.

The Romulan had left him with them.

Snow. Cold, pristine, beautiful snow tarnished with the bright black-red of copious amounts of arterial blood poured hotly into it and cooling to become ice within a frigid landscape. Blood that smeared itself across precious porcelain skin, concealing the constellations of her freckles, and tangled with a halo of bright copper belonging to a woman that lay broken and dead within that tragically beautiful grave. All he could see were her eyes, once so filled with a zest for life and an uncompromised intelligence, void of such things and staring lifelessly into the distance and her hands, tiny but so very capable, curled feebly with their power stolen by death.

His heart ached, lurched within his breast, and his breath came as a quick pant for but a moment until he regained his composure. “What do you get from this?” He asked his captor with a voice full of gravel, “What do you gain from my… This... ” His voice gave out beneath the strain of emotion caught within it and in the flickering light he could just barely make of the Romulan’s shrug and the way he stuffed his hands in his pockets before moving. For a Romulan, he certainly had human mannerisms and taste in designer threads. Tr’Bak never looked unkempt of dowdy, and that made Landon hate him all the more.

“This dismantled altar?” Tr’Bak asked, touching the perfect shine of one leather toe to the edge of one infamous photo, “Everything.” He finally responded with a smile, “I gain absolutely everything.”

“And what is everything?” Landon’s eyes did everything they could to follow his adversary as he began to move, circling him as he often did. He could always feel the Romulan’s mirth and scrutiny, like what transpired was some childish game that had become ritualistic torture. The Captain looked to the ground, daring himself to look on the pictures of Rochelle. They weren't real, he'd told himself that a hundred times over the past few months. This wasn't the first time they'd told him his crew was dead, his ship ripped apart by some Romulan Strike force, but it his mantra did very little to abate the growing knot in his throat or the race of his pulse.

Everything.” The man repeated with a laugh, “I conquered the greatest ship your Starfleet has ever launched. I broke you long before now by breaking your woman,” Tr’Bak began, seeing no real harm in speaking his mind to a man who had been born just to die at his behest, “I’ll wax in reality with you, though. I hadn’t expected the trouble of her, but she became a mixed blessing when you fell in love with her.” He sniffed, shaking his head at the heady odor that assaulted his senses. It was quickly written off as the spoils of war, quite literally, “But you know what, Captain?” He asked after the sharp inhalation of his breath, his lungs demanding full power to voice the scintillating thoughts burning his tongue like turpentine, “You were the one that gave me a great chance to take you out of the game and destroy her as well. King and Queen, one fell swoop. Easiest game of chess I’ve ever played.”

The laughter, this time, was biting, tingling with self satisfaction no doubt. After being deprived of his most basic senses, Landon could literally feel the mirth roiling off the green-blooded bastard in hot waves of glee. It made him want to puke, more than the actual words he spoke ever could.

And then he smiled, flinching ever so slightly at the way the expression pried at the splits in his dehydrated lips, “You know what the difference between you and I is?” Landon asked, tilting his head and peering at his captor through swollen eyes.

Tr’Bak’s head tilted in honest curiosity, wordlessly asking for an answer to this new riddle.

“I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

“The same way?” Tr’Bak grinned and paused his marauding circles, “You’d let her go and turn her into bait the same way? Oh you really are impotent, Landon Neyes.” The Romulan laughed, tutting his tongue and shaking his head. Even a finger shook in the Trill’s direction as if he were scolding a petulant child, “I think we’ve been over your failings as a man, how you could have stopped this just by doing what came naturally…” He paused, the smile becoming even more manic, “Of course, I’d have just exposed you for taking her as your lover, shamed you, weakened you that way and made my strike regardless. This. This was just entirely way too easy, but I digress. I’m having fun, aren’t you?”

“It wouldn’t stop me from trying to save her, even if I knew it was hopeless. I’d still try.”

The manic smile faded, “You’re a bigger fool than I thought, Captain. You can spend the next ten hours watching how badly you failed. Enjoy yourself.”

When Tr’Bak left, the light remained for a moment or two longer before it was replaced by scenes of utter devastation. Rochelle fighting for her life, the Vindicator literally falling from the sky through clouds heavily pregnant with snow and ice. Ten hours filled with her screaming for him, ten hours of her life being snuffed out in front of him and he being helpless to save her. Ten hours of his crew meeting a similar fate having been bested and blown away. Ten fucking hours of absolute hell.

Most of the crew never even had the time to scream, some did, most really had no idea that the ship was about to completely come apart and they were about to be annihilated, but Rochelle... She fought. She understood what was happening, in that split second before she was executed, she felt the chill of death and the heat of the beam and -

Landon woke with a hoarse, anguished cry, sweating and shaking and in desperate need. It wasn’t until after he'd sprinted to the bathroom and relieved himself of a downright horrific brand of nausea that he realized he was truly alone and parsecs away, years away, from Notura and that Gods damned Romulan ship.

Tristan’s words, hollow and fathoms away, spiraled violently through his head as he fought to breathe and execute the urge to reach out towards that sweet, easy relief he knew waited for him with open and wanton arms. A crude lover, the drugs would never ask questions about his day or his plans. They wouldn't challenge him to do better.

"Everything will seem different, but it just feels that way because of what's happened to you, Landon. You've been through a lot, adjustment is understandable."

How the fuck could he have known? No... That was wrong. Anger was wrong, especially towards Tristan who did everything he could to try and make things work up to and including challenging Rochelle's divorce decree... And winning.

"This is normal. You're safe. You're ok. It's ok. Breathe, brother, you're not the only one who's gone through this, I promise."

Fully awake, he tried his damnedest to believe it. Forced himself to. If one repeated something enough to themselves, then that surely made it real, but an insidious knowledge lingered on the edge of his mind, just there, just waiting. A tick, a thorn. Because it wasn't. It wasn't normal. He wasn't safe, and he most definitely wasn’t alright and wouldn't be until he slayed the demon that plagued his nightmares.

His hands shook as he wiped his face, but the image in the mirror was startlingly normal-looking, bringing him fully back to the present and further and further away from the wetness, the stench, the light, the photos, her screams of his name... Focus, he told himself, forcing himself to breathe square, the way that Tristan had taught him, and focus he did. On his own reflection. Aside from the unusually long mantle of rich chocolate hair framing his face, he was in remarkably good shape, considering the night he’d had. There was no lasting nausea, no additional urge to vomit, and while far from happy, his head was in one piece. The urge to self medicate was always there, prickling at the edge of his senses, but was readily and easily tamped down by his newfound sense of self control.

Tr’Bak wouldn’t own him any longer. He’d stolen too much for too long and that was a promise made that he’d never break.

The unexpected sound of a glass being set down on the vanity beside his hand, the counter top vibrating with the sudden gentle impact, brought Landon’s head up and his eyes widened at the figure found beside him in the mirror. A man, young, maybe late twenties, early thirties, stared back at him. His eyes were brutally familiar. Bright with arctic ice and a bitter brand of smart and lacking the slightest hint of pity to be found, they were far from emotionless and his chin held the same strength and gentle cleft of his own. He was relatively fair skinned with hair colored somewhere between auburn and chestnut, the soft red undertones of it undeniable no matter what you wanted to call it and Landon quickly noted that he was a member of Starfleet, one that boasted that he was in command.

None of the man’s attributes stood out as much as the smattering of muted spots starting from just over his brows and trailing along his temples and down the sides of his neck until they disappeared beneath the collar of his uniform. He knew this young Captain, somehow, from somewhere...

---
To Be Continued...
---

Captain Landon Neyes
Retired
(Borrowed momentarily by Spaceman)

 

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