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Old November 9 2008, 04:54 AM   #22
SLWatson
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1

Part 2: The Lady Grey

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Y'know I find it hard...
I always tried to find the sane life...
But I don't like the way things are,
And I keep falling to my knees,
Somewhere in the middle of this.

-Dishwalla, Somewhere in the Middle

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Chapter 1:

Friday, February 3rd, 2243
Malone Road Dormitory, Room 17
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth


The still-quiet streets of Belfast had been a relief to the two cadets. It wasn't a tangible thing, like a well-worn sweater, but it was comforting nonetheless. It had effectively been Corrigan's home for almost four years, minus holidays and personal leaves. He knew the streets, the little shops to get food that wasn't designed to kill your morale, the brick dormitories and the docks. He had grown to love Ireland, despite complaining heartily about the weather, and though Maine was always his first home, Belfast was most certainly his happy second.

It hadn't even taken a day for them to fall back into their traditional habits and routines. Some cadets hated leaving home to come back, and some took a good week or two to settle back in, but Corry and Scotty weren't among that sect. After waking up in some pain, drinking enough coffee to send an elephant into spasms and working halfheartedly on the schematics for the project, night found them on their respective sides of the room, pursuing their respective relaxation. The next day was basically the same, and since class didn't start until the third, it was all good.

When classes did start again, it was with the smooth transition of Starfleet. A new year didn't mean much to the top brass, aside from the fact that they had to type a different date into the computers when they filed the paperwork. It was a little more sentimental to the students -- a new year, a new start, a new chance to take a step towards the stars. The senior cadets were usually the most excited, putting in for their internship positions on whichever ships they wanted to serve -- most of them aiming for the newly commissioned Constitution-class, of course. The best among them would get it, and then it'd go down the line.

Scott didn't have much to worry about. He was the valedictorian. He had a choice of anywhere he wanted to go to serve, and already knew what ship he wanted. That was his brass ring.

Corry was still plagued by misgiving about leaving Earth behind to join the ranks of the stars. No matter how much he tried to get excited about the prospect of leaving his home planet and exploring the outer reaches of the galaxy, he just couldn't manage to. He was worried about going up there -- even engineers on one of the big ships were knocked off regularly by alien attacks, equipment errors, being assigned to landing parties. Dying was a big problem, but the idea of some subspace message informing his family of his demise was just awful to think about.

So he set his sights closer, and concentrated on the schooner. They had their schematics in well in time for the deadline, the materials were delivered, the models were built quickly and efficiently, and they were ready to start laying the keel.



The model that they kept in their room was more for looks. It hadn't been built to be used in the actual process, and the cutaways and such were kept in the mold loft at H&W shipyards, berth #22. But this was their personal copy of what the ship would look like, and since it seemed like ninety-nine percent of their free time was spent working on it with the other cadets, they deserved it.

She was narrow-bodied; slim and with a deeper draft. The foremast stood shorter and the mainmast taller, the fore-and-aft rigged sails simple enough to handle with the minimum number of crew, even taking account their sheer area. She had a quarterdeck (Corry's insistence), a maindeck and then the below decks and bilge. It had taken the four members of the design team and three more commandeered cadets from the construction team a week solid, every day for hours, working on her plans and the work had not been in vain.

The name she ended up getting, though, was the direct influence of the cloth used on the model's sails. Having nothing else to work with, Scotty had decided to sacrifice one of his older uniforms and so she ended up with gray sails. It hadn't taken long for Corry to start calling her the Lady Grey... first named for her sails, and as an afterthought (for the sake of explaining it to Barrett) for the unwilling nine-day queen. The name stuck... it had a nice smooth flow to it, and it was unanimously decided to keep it for the christening.

"You know, I've thought about it and thought about it," Corry said, tapping his pencil against his temple to emphasize, "and now that we're actually gonna build this thing, we're pretty well-researched, and ready, we still have no clue what to do with her."

"Do? Hopefully set her floatin' an' collect a nice grade for the effort," his roomie replied, sitting on his bunk indian-style, scrutinizing the model with an intensity only an engineer could be blessed with. "I don't know what else there is to do."

Corrigan grinned, taking the conversational setup. "There is something... We could finish and then learn how to sail her."

"I'm an engineer, not a sailor," Scott pointed out, not taking his concentration away from the model.

"Can't be both?"

"I suppose I could, but ye have to remember one vital piece of information, Cor... once we finish this, it'll be June and less than two months before we ship off for internship. Not much time to learn. Plus, what makes ye think Starfleet would even let us? They're frontin' the bill."

"Welllll, I already know how to sail smaller boats, and I'll bet fifty credits that there're at least a few other people on the team who can sail... I think we can pull it off. I mean, even the higher ups can't really begrudge us a chance to sail what we built."

Scotty finally looked up, an amused grin crossing his face. "We've not even laid the keel down yet, and ye're already plannin'. Don't count the telarrians before they hatch."

"I'm not. I'm counting chickens."

"Almost the same thing."

"Except one's green."

"Tastes like... chicken!"

Corry laughed, shaking his head and laying back on his bunk. "Now there's a saying that's been around since the dawn of time."

"Probably because it's so bloody true. Think about it... man goes off inta the stars, carryin' the hopes for all mankind. Comes across the first planet he sees, lands, decides to kill himself some wild game, just for a change o' pace. And, since chicken taste happens to be a universal constant, what's it taste like?"

"Chicken!"

"Aye. And that's why we still say that everything tastes like chicken," Scott said, matter-of-factly, finally setting the model aside and picking up the tentative construction schedule they had worked out earlier. He still wasn't entirely thrilled with the whole process, with how time-consuming it was, but every time he considered complaining he likewise thought about incurring the wrath of Corrigan, and decided that it wasn't worth it. Being chewed to within an inch of his life was better avoided. "I don't think we have that much to worry about, though. Four months should be more'n enough, even with our manpower."

"Yep, that it should," Corry said happily, standing up to go to his desk, where the light on his computer monitor blinked that he had a message. "Long as no one mutinies, anyway."

"Eh, we'll make 'em walk the plank or some other such nonsense." Trying to picture that, Scotty grinned. He wouldn't mind building the ship just so he could make someone walk the plank; the complete absurdity of it would be good for a laugh at the very least. Still, he didn't think anyone was going to mutiny -- so far, everyone had taken a liking to the Lady Grey because she was such a break from the norm. Even he didn't outright hate the work he was doing now that he'd gotten past the initial brainstorming. From here, it was more manual labor, making the parts fit the theory, making something that could float and carry herself by the power of wind. He still would have preferred matter and antimatter, or plasma, or maybe even nuclear power, but wind would have to do. It wasn't like he had a choice in the matter.

The click of the monitor turning off had an odd sound, one that rang a bell in his subconscious and gave him pause from his pirate notions to look up. Then he realized, more instinctively than not, that it wasn't the click that was wrong but something else, something that changed the entire feeling of the room in less than a second, and the look on Corry's face backed it up. "Somethin' wrong?"

Corrigan blinked a few times, as though he'd forgotten he wasn't alone. "Uh, yeah... I mean, no. I mean, I've gotta go."

Scott raised an eyebrow. Eh? Go where? "What is it?"

Corry didn't answer immediately, grabbing his carryon out of his closet and grabbing his clothes from the top drawer, shoving them into the bag without much regard for their welfare. When he finally did think to reply to the question, he only spared a brief glance at his roommate. "My dad... something's wrong, I gotta go home."

"Anything ye need?" Quick on the uptake, Scott already was up and offering Corry's boots to him. Whatever it was that had so completely stunned his usually talkative pal into this state had to be serious enough to not take too much time with questions of what or why. He could always get those answers later.

"Yeah, get my assignments for me if you can. I'll try'n be back quick as I can be, and if I can't, I'll give you a call." Taking the boots and pulling them on, Corry laced them up quickly and tied them, then stood and grabbed his coat. Not even taking the few seconds to pull it on, he all but dashed out the door.

Scott followed, perplexed and worried by now. He hated the idea of sitting by while something not-good was happening, and that much showed in his voice when he called after his roommate as he headed down the steps, "Corry!"

Corrigan paused a flight down, looking back up. "Yeah?"

"If ye... I mean, if there's..." Scotty tried, basically aiming to reassure and falling short of the mark. Heartfelt sentiments weren't among his strong points.

It must have been clear enough, though. Corry flashed a brief, grateful half-smile. "I know." And with that, he turned and left.

Letting the door slip closed, Scott frowned to himself and walked back to the dorm room. That was certainly odd -- in less than five whole minutes, something had changed. Something wasn't right. Shaking his head, he closed the door to the room and went back to sit on his bunk, eyeing the monitor. He could easily crack the code and get the message, whatever it had been, but that would have been a betrayal, and if there was one thing he wouldn't do it was betray his best friend.

So he firmly put that thought out of his mind. It was only a matter of time until he found out, and when he did, he was sure that it wouldn't be that bad... curiosity and worry always made things seem about a million times worse than they actually were. Feeling a little better with that realization, he pulled the construction schedule back off of his desk, where he'd tossed it to help Corry pack. With the leader gone, the project would fall onto his shoulders, and he sincerely hoped that whatever was wrong would resolve itself in time to turn that responsibility back over. He didn't particularly want to lead; that was why he'd been so miserable in command school.

It wasn't the leadership that was weighing on his thoughts, though. It had taken only an hour of jotting down notes on who should work when before he realized that it was something else entirely.

It was too quiet.

After months of being stuck in the same room, good times or no, Scott had gotten so used to Corry's presence that it was almost eerie to not have him there. Certainly there were times when one of them was gone, but there was a strange quality to this silence, like it would be longer than it should've been by all rights. It was too complete... no idle conversation to ignore, no pencil scratching on paper, no clicks on the keyboard, nothing. They didn't have any music tapes to listen to, since mostly they were too busy to just sit around and music was distracting enough when there was work to do. The other cadets had gone to bed, no doubt, or were keeping quiet, so there wasn't even background noise.

Too quiet. Mentally berating himself for being silly, since he'd only been left there alone for a relatively short period of time, Scott went back to working on the schedule. It wasn't like he didn't like being left alone -- God only knew how many times he'd been trying to work on something he considered of major importance only to snap at Corry for breaking his concentration. Once or twice, he'd even chased the other cadet out with threats of serious physical harm, which Corrigan always took with good humor. After the initial adjustment period, they just got good at living together.

That was the way it was. But there was no one to get snippy with, and maybe that was the real problem. No one to be annoyed with, no one to get over being annoyed with. No one to threaten to throw his boots out the window... leaning over, he looked at the black service boots where they sat beside his bunk.

"Ye'd think he's been gone a decade, not an hour," he finally said to himself, then smiled slightly. Now he'd fallen to talking to himself, which wasn't uncommon when he was concentrating but was most certainly not something he did consciously.

Being worried was what made it so quiet, though. He didn't know what was going on. Worse, though, the best friend he had was facing something, alone, and he couldn't do anything about it. It made him edgy.

Well, sitting there staring absently at the notebook wasn't going to get anything done, and thinking too hard about something that couldn't be changed wouldn't either. Finally deciding that time would tell, Scott flicked his light off and settled in for bed.

But his thoughts were still an ocean away.



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