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Old November 7 2008, 08:49 PM   #12
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part I, Chapter 3

Chapter 3:

Tuesday, December 6th, 2242
Weikman Lecture Hall, Theatre 2B
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth

Falling back into a schedule was sort of like reading a book that's been read a thousand times. You knew what was coming, spent a few hours re-reading, and occasionally you might cross a paragraph you've read before and never appreciated. That was what Historical Engineering and Design class was like as well... going over the old and familiar, and gaining a new appreciation for it. The professor was a commander in Starfleet whose love for engineering was surpassed only by his love of history, hence making it the perfect combination for him to teach.

He wasn't a bad teacher either, and his passion for the subject was infectious. Scott wasn't the most historically-inclined student, reserving his attachments for modern day designs, and even he found the occasional lecture that made him look up from whatever schematic he was poring over to listen.

This was not one of those days.

Going over Cochrane's first designs was terrific, getting a real in-depth view on how the man's mind had worked when he had basically invented the modern age. The advent of the impulse engine had been another really intriguing lecture. He'd even found something mildly interesting in a study of nuclear powered naval destroyers. Then they went back further in their studies, into the age of petroleum-based internal combustion, then steam, and finally back to wood and canvas.

Corry loved it, Scotty couldn't stand it, and the last two nights had invoked two arguments that had reached almost epic proportions over which each of them believed to be true... Corrigan thought that to understand modern starships, one had to understand archaic sailing ships, and his roommate most adamantly disagreed.

And now, sitting in the back of the theater, Scotty basically tuned out the entire proceeding and concentrated on the fuel-mix ratios for the Deravian class freighters, which went right along with a recent battle the Constitution had engaged in. Historical Engineering was an elective, taken mostly for the credit, and even if he didn't do more than take common sense guesses on the exams, he could still pass it. So he didn't hear the next words, but if he had, he might have started to seriously worry.

"As this is my last year, ladies and gentlemen," Professor Barrett said, pacing in front of the podium, "I've decided to do something a little different. I understand that every other year, we've taken a written final, and that's what you're expecting. But, since this is the last time I'll have the distinct pleasure of teaching cadets, we're going to have a practical final exam."

Waiting until the students quieted down, he stepped back and drew a few lines on the chalkboard, the most elementary lines of a sailing vessel. That drew more concerned whispers, but he continued without a word of reproach, "This year, we're going to be building ships. More specifically, sailing ships... all the way from an initial design to the final christening, and perhaps even further. This project will take the rest of the year, and we'll begin next week, so prepare yourselves."

"Sir?" One of the cadets in the front row rose his hand, eyebrows drawn in a frown. "This sounds awfully time-consuming... will it interfere with our other classes?"

Barrett smiled, leaning on the podium. "Well, Mr. Jansson, that would depend on how much you can get done in class, and on your personal time."

Jansson cringed, probably not wanting to ask anything else for fear of the answer, and Corry jumped in without hesitation, "Will we have a choice on what sort of ship we're building, Professor?"

"I'll have you all broken into teams, and assigned a specific material to work with, but so long as you're historically accurate, the design's entirely your discretion." Barrett glanced at the chronometer, then back at the student body. "Assemble any questions you have and I'll answer them tomorrow." As if on cue, the chime ended the class.

Now the chime was akin to Pavlov's work with the dog... even the most engrossed senior cadets heard it through whatever technology-induced haze they had fallen into, and Corrigan's intrepid and occasionally absent-minded roomie wasn't any different. Corry had contemplated building one just for the sake of getting Scott to pay attention to something besides books, girls he had no chance with, and schematics... it would have made for a nice change from the usual mumbles and single-minded chatter.

As it were, he bounded up the steps to the top of the hall, waiting impatiently for Scotty to finish organizing his books. "This is just gonna be great. In fact, I can't think of a better final."

"Final? In December?" Scott didn't look up, no doubt sure he was just hearing things. No one had finals in December, unless it was only a semester class, and none of his classes were.

"Did you even hear a word? Hell, a syllable?" Corry leaned on the back wall, one eyebrow going up.

"Nu uh. See, 'bout two weeks ago, the Constitution had a run in with not just a pirate ship... oh no, a whole damn fleet o' the bastards. So there they are..." Scott went into theatrical mode, setting his books down and gesturing with both hands, eyes glazing over as he relived whatever this was, "surrounded on all sides, takin' hits from every quarter. Shields go down, she's practically floatin' dead in space, an' Cohlburn... that's her Chief... he has t'rewire the whole bloody relay system, reroute power directly from the engines, can't even use the converters or the regulators--"

Corry rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Can I just guess at the end? It works, the ship survives, and goes on to demolish the whole pirate fleet."

Scotty shot him a dirty look, pausing in mid-gesture. "No, but she set 'em runnin'."

"I was close." Corrigan smiled a genial, somewhat disarming smile. "So you heard absolutely nothing about how, for our final, we're going to be designing, building, and maybe even sailing something with real, honest-to-God sails? You know, those ships you call archaic piles of lumber?"

The look was worth it. The younger cadet blinked once, twice, and when it clicked he took on an expression close to horror, nearly squeaking, "Ye're kiddin'!"

"Nope!" Corry said, grinning. "And care to guess when we're starting this little project?" Taking the dumbfounded shake of the head as a 'go-ahead', he dropped the proverbial bomb, "Next week."

Scott whimpered, finally looking at the blackboard. When he saw the lines, he looked like he wanted to crawl into a dark hole. "N-next... next week? As in, really next week? We're gonna start workin' on this next week?"

Corry sighed happily, starting down the steps and for the exit. "I knew you'd be thrilled."

"Displacement, buoyancy, rightin'-arms an' rightin' movements, deep-v instead o' shallow draft... ohhhhh God." Scott buried his face in his hands and moaned softly, just trying not to let the headache he had drive him to throwing himself out the window. This entire business of building a sailing ship was mind-numbing -- in fact, he could feel his brain cells dying a slow, painful death. It didn't help that out of twenty team members, Corry had placed him as head shipwright.

"It's not that bad, is it? It's engineering, at any length," Corrigan pointed out, closing the door behind him and setting down the three bags he'd brought.

"He's been mumbling about it since you left." Jerry Jansson stood from where he was perched on the table, setting aside an ancient book to go snoop in the bags.

Scott scowled, pulling the drawing board back onto his lap and looking down at it. He'd been working on it for the past week and still felt utterly hopeless. Corry had decided that they were going to be all traditional Maine, and build a schooner -- well and good, aye, but the mathematics were agony. There was nothing there even remotely relative to starships. "A'right, lemme see someone else do this. Lemme see one o' you try'n figure out these calculations and make bloody sense of 'em."

Corry shook his head and stepped over, peering over his shoulder. "You have a whole group here who'll help. It's not like you have to do this alone."

"'GZ, the rightin'-arm, is drawn from G perpendicular to the direction of buoyancy...'" Scott frowned deeper still, raising an eyebrow up at Corry. "Tell me again what this has to do with modern shipbuildin'?"

Corrigan picked the drawing board up, looking over the rough drawing for a moment before replying, "Okay, look at it like this. In starship design, we have a keel, a center of gravity for orbital purposes, a displacement for any low-atmosphere flying... it's not that different. Just... I dunno, try thinking of it like a starship, but on water."

"Suuure, a starship on water." Scotty leaned back, crossing his arms. "Why, that's bloody brilliant, isn't it? Just imagine that starships have buoyancy, angles of heel, metacenters and inch trim movements."

"Exactly!" Corry chirped, beaming a false grin. "And at least try to have fun with it."

"Hey, Corry! Are you gonna let us eat, or do we have to wait for a finished schematic?" Joseph Albright asked, calling from the table where the bags were still sitting.

"Nah. We'd starve to death." The team leader shot his roommate a sharpish look before going back to the table himself. He knew well enough that the look was returned, probably razor-like in it's unhappiness, but after a week of prodding he was even starting to lose his patience. Sure, shipbuilding wasn't easy and it meant a lot of research, but he knew Scotty was damn near a genius when it came to engineering. There wasn't much of an excuse not to use that talent for something unique, except that Scott was miserable and when he was miserable he had a knack for dragging his feet over anything he could. Shaking his head, Corry fished out the burgers, tossing one to Albright. "Can you believe I paid six credits apiece for these things? Processed veggies made to taste like meat, and they charge six credits for it."

"Welcome to modern economics," Jansson chuckled, already through two burgers and heading into a third. "Supply and demand? Nu uh. Gouge the hungry cadets! Make 'em beg!"

"Or pay out through the project budget." Corrigan sat down on a chair, kicking back and munching half-heartedly at the cold food.

Albright smirked. "Well, if we're not going to build a ship, at least we won't be hungry when we fail, right?"

"Just fat and slothlike in our misery!" Corry howled, melodramatically, holding the burger out in one hand and putting his other hand over his heart, "But soft! What shout through yonder doorway breaks? It is the calisthenics officer and we are the victims! Arise, fair cadets, and slay that chunkiness, which is congealed about your bellies!"

"Oh man," Jansson laughed, crumpling the wrapper and throwing it into the bag, "I don't think Shakespeare had that in mind at all."

"Shakespeare never attended Starfleet Engineering Academy, either," Albright answered, glancing at his watch. "Hey, shouldn't we be getting back to the dorms? It's getting late."

"Yeah, yeah."

"You two go ahead," Corry said, taking another bite of the cold sandwich before throwing it away. "I'll see about getting our head architect to move a little quicker."

"Good luck." Jansson shrugged, pulling on his cadet-issue jacket. "Give me a call if you need anyone to take over."

Corrigan frowned, leaning back in his chair. "All right. See you guys later." Waiting until they were out of the loft, he stood and stretched. It was a little chilly in there -- but then, considering the size of the place, that wasn't too surprising. Professor Barrett had been kind enough to arrange for an indoor berth to build the ship in... the only concession he would make historically. The whole room was nearly two hundred feet long, supported by duradium beams that arched the tall ceiling. The massive doors at the end led to the ramp, which in turn led into Belfast Lough. The lack of heat on the main floor had to have something to do with the coolness of the mold loft, and Corry entertained the idea of bringing in a few plasma heaters to warm the place up. Hard enough to do serious manual labor, but to be constantly cold was a whole other factor.

Of course, without a finished architectural plan, they would never get to that point. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself for dressing down his roommate, a task he found completely miserable. It was one thing to banter, one thing to even argue, but it was almost painful to have to chew Scott out using the authority he had as the project leader. Stepping back to the once-again working architect, he looked over the plans and hoped he wouldn't have to do any serious yelling to get the point across. "You know, the sooner we get this done, the sooner we can move onto something else."

"It's pointless! A damn waste o' time, completely an' totally foolish, no matter how ye look at it."

Corry rubbed tiredly at the bridge of his nose. He'd had a feeling it would go down this way -- it wasn't as though they hadn't had a couple of warm-up arguments that would lead into this. Scott was stubborn; when he dug his heels in, it wasn't easy to drag him along.

No amount of trying to be nice was going to work, so finally Corry counted to three in his mind and continued, "Listen, pal. I know you're less than thrilled about this whole thing, you've made that perfectly clear. But this isn't just your grade, this is the whole group's grade too."

Scotty barely bit back a growl and set the drawing board down, then stood and snatched his coat from the back of the chair. "I know that. I understand that perfectly, but if ye wanted a happy trooper, Cor, ye shoulda picked someone else."

"But I didn't, and dammit, this is your responsibility!" Corry leveled an icy gaze at the other cadet, holding it until he forced Scott to look down at his boots. "Look, I'm not going to just hand this over to someone else. You're the best designer here, and as soon as you can drag yourself away from the fog of whining, we can get this project moving."

"Ye're a bastard," Scotty snapped, and Corry knew that this time, he meant it.

"Hate me if you want, but I'm not going to let you moan and groan about how stupid this is until we're all trying to explain why we failed our final," Corrigan said, keeping an even voice and mentally wincing at the entire ordeal. When he was twenty, he probably would have taken a reprimand like that hard... two years made a big difference, he realized without really thinking about it. Doing his best to soften his tone, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I know this isn't your idea of a good time, but if I didn't think you were the best man for the job, I wouldn't have appointed you. Use that genius of yours and make the best of it... do that, and I'll buy the Scotch."

"Ye'll have it by the deadline, an' not a day earlier." Scotty pulled his coat on and buttoned it, still plenty pissed off. Without a backwards glance, he all but marched out.

Corry waited until he heard the door slam before picking up the drawing board. Sitting down, he eyed the lines... more practical than artistic, but even as rough as it was, it was going to be a damn good looking ship. It had a deeper draft, sort of narrow-bodied. Smiling slightly, he looked over the few written notes: "Schooner, fore and aft, LOD=106', LOA=157', Beam=26'... GZ? GM? ITM? BM? Help?" Further down, it had a few of the figures Scott had managed to work out, all in longhand. Setting the board down again, he leaned back in the chair until he was looking at the dark ceiling. He didn't want to go back to the dorm just yet and face the liquid-nitrogen silence he was certain to get.

Maybe it would all blow over by morning. If not, Corry couldn't immediately imagine anything worse than getting the cold shoulder from his best friend.

For now, the ceiling and the soft Belfast rain was all the company he wanted.

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