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Old November 9 2008, 04:55 AM   #23
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1


Corry was actually missing for longer than anyone had expected. That alone had put a slightly rough edge on his roommate, who was no more accustomed to the quiet days later than he had been after the first hour. So, instead of sporadically pacing his room, Scotty spent most of the time until curfew down in the shipyards. It was the only place he really could think of that lent some distraction.

It was on the morning of the seventh day that Scott finally resigned himself that he would have to inform Barrett that he was taking the project over, even if only temporarily. Steeling himself for what he was sure would be a messy situation, he stepped into the hall just as Barrett was wrapping up class for a few first-years. "I'll expect the essay in on Monday. You can either give it to me on tape or on paper, but the formatting should be exact either way. Dismissed."

Waiting for the cadets to filter out, Scotty finally took a deep breath and approached the podium. "Sir?"

"What can I do for you, Mr. Scott?" Barrett asked, glancing up from his desk. "Trouble on the final?"

"No, sir," he answered, taking a few steps closer. "I was... well, I came by to tell ye that Mr. Corrigan's out on personal leave, an' I'm takin' over his duties until he returns."

"All right... anything else?"

"Er... no, sir, nothin' important."

Barrett smiled slightly, finally giving Scott his full attention. "I find it hard to believe you'd come over here just to tell me that you're covering for your friend until he gets back. I was informed, you know."

Uh oh. Searching through his mind for an explanation for something so blatantly obvious -- of course he knew that the professor would have been informed, that's just common sense, good job there forgetting common bloody sense -- Scotty finally settled on a weak, "I... forgot, sir."

"Forgot," Barrett echoed, smiling a patient, if not amused, smile. "You once rattled off the entire list of specifications for the Constitution-class starships from memory to me. I don't exactly see you as the forgetful type."

"A lot on my mind?" The cadet imagined a hole, six feet deep. "The Lady Grey, sir... she takes up a lot o' time."

"Lady Grey, eh? Apparently you've taken to shipbuilding better than Mr. Corrigan thought you would." Barrett was apparently not ready to let this drop. "So tell me, cadet, how do you feel about being the head of this project?"

Make that ten... no, twenty feet. Scott knotted his hands behind his back, just for the sake of not fidgeting or any other nervous reaction he seemed to have a problem with. "Well enough, I suppose. Sir."

"Your transcripts say you were booted out of Command School," Barrett mused, leaning on the podium and crossing his arms. "They didn't specify why, but I imagine it went along the lines of inability to adjust to command status."

"Aye, sir," Scotty answered, dutifully. Did everyone know about that? "I think I make a better engineer, sir."

Barrett smiled again, a little more reassuring this time. "I'll agree with that. So now you're effectively commanding a crew of nineteen on a project you didn't agree with, your friend is gone for all intents and purposes and you're starting to lose your memory. About right?"

"Aye, sir." If he'd been a better liar, he might have actually tried. But now there was no taking it back.

"Then here's the prize question. How do you really feel about all of this?"

Scott blinked once or twice. He knew damn well how he felt, but he didn't pause to think someone actually might be concerned about that when he was doing all right with his coursework, with the project, with just about everything. "Feel, sir?"

"Feel," Barrett chuckled. "Go ahead, no one's going to bite your head off for being human, unless by some chance you happen to be Vulcan."

"No, sir," Scott answered, with a wry grin. He certainly wasn't unemotional, not even by the most liberal standards. Pulling himself back from the moronic mental image of himself with pointed ears and eyebrows, he finally calmed down a little. "I suppose... well, worried, for one. And put upon."

"Put upon because of your schooner, I take it?"

"Aye, sir."

Looking up at the ceiling, Barrett smiled to himself. After a moment, he looked back at the ensign. "Here's something I want you to think about, and put it somewhere that faulty memory of yours won't discard it. You feel like you're somehow being asked to do something you don't think's important, or act in some way contradictory from what you see yourself as. But," he said, before any protests could be voiced, "that's the nature of wind, Mr. Scott. You can work with it or you can fight against it... but no matter how much you might not like it, you can't change it."

He left behind a very baffled cadet when he walked out.

Scott was still chewing on that when he went back to the shipyards that evening. Sure, it was some sort of great moral that was supposed to make his entire life make sense... some brilliant insight to be gleaned about destiny, the winds of fate or something else, but he didn't believe in destiny. A man made their own destiny, and if it couldn't be changed, then what was the point of trying?

Damn Barrett for putting something philosophical in a brain meant to work with the technical. Now that would probably be the first thing that came to mind whenever someone started questioning what they would do with their life, and he'd just parrot it back to them even if he didn't believe it.

Like Hell he would.

Unlocking the door to the indoor berth, he stepped in and hit the lighting control. The panels in the walls lit, the panels in the ceiling lit, and the Lady Grey's keel became visible. Well, the start on her keel... it wasn't finished yet, and wouldn't be for at least several more days. Looking at what would be the backbone of the oddest project he'd ever worked on, Scotty tried hard to find some feeling of attachment for the wood and lead. It didn't shock him when he didn't find anything more than a weary resignation that this is what was going to be eating away at his time for the next several months.

Closing the door with a sigh seemed amplified in the long, tall room, he started up the stairs to the mold loft. Maybe there would be something there to distract him from philosophy, from worrying about Corry, from life in general.

The mold loft had taken on the nature of a hide-out for the cadets who worked there. There were a few pinups on the walls, most of them of leggy women with a come-hither look... certainly easy on the eyes, he thought. There was a cooler pushed against the wall by the drafting table, and Scotty took a little bit of joy in thinking about how much contraband they had locked up there. A few bottles of hard liquor under the ice, a hand phaser that someone had 'borrowed' from the security division just because they could in the desk, Jansson's dirty magazines... one good raid in there would have them all demerited to oblivion.

But then, they were left mostly to their own devices, off campus and in charge. He hadn't had quite as much trouble taking over command as he thought he would; his main problem was worrying about the person he'd taken command from. He'd tried to call Corry's house in Maine and didn't get an answer, which chewed at him to no end, and he'd stopped by his room between classes to see if any messages had been left.

So when he first heard Corry's voice, it was with some disbelief. Needless to say, he got over it quickly.

"Hey, chief."

"Cor! Where've ye been? And what happened?" Scott stopped himself before he could ask fifty more questions. He didn't realize how relieved he was, even, until he let that breath out.

"Johns Hopkins and a good scare," Corry said, closing the loft door before sitting down behind the draft table and rubbing at his eyes, wearily. "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you before now... been a hectic week."

"Eh, I made do." Leaning on the wall, Scotty crossed his arms. "Though I'm damn curious, t' tell ye the truth."

"Well, lemme see..." Closing his eyes, Corry tipped his head back, taking a moment to reply, "Dad was out there on a project... this time, he was with a team who was putting a set of steering thrusters on an asteroid almost entirely made of valadium. It was pretty routine, they were going to get it so it could be guided to a processing station."

"Aye, makes sense..."

"So they get the thrusters fitted when this dust storm comes in. They made it underground safe, and the asteroid was pretty stable. Well, Dad had a microbreach in his EV suit... nothing serious, he sealed it off without a problem before the emergency sensors even sealed off that section of the suit." Taking a deep breath, the older cadet plowed on, "Well, this storm was carrying something, some kind of bacteria or something from God only knows where, and it got into the air circulation system of the suit. Next thing Dad knows, he can't breath right, he's coughing and choking for air, and they have to bring a ship into this mess, emergency transport him out."

"He's all right... right?"

"Yes and no." Corry winced. "They got him stabilized, but everytime they took the respirator off, he started choking again. They warped him back here... even had him transferred to the Valley Forge to get here faster. When I left, he was already back and in the hospital."

Definitely not good. Echoing the wince, Scott basically made himself ask the next question, "Did they find anything?"

"They gave him a full blood transfusion, shot him up with all kinds of antibiotics; he can breathe okay now, but they don't know if it'll get better, or if he'll slip back into whatever this is. Right now, they're doing all kinda tests." Leaning forward and balancing his elbows on his knees, Corry went back to rubbing his eyes. He looked tried out, and frustrated and torn. "He was in quarantine... Mom couldn't even hold his hand."

Face set in a serious frown, Scotty finally willed himself to sit down. So that was the reason; a good reason and a good reason to worry. He had liked Cor's Dad, even though he hadn't had much a chance to talk to him over the break... too busy chasing after Rachel. It was never particularly right when something bad happened to good people -- it went against the most basic fabrics of everything decent in the universe. "If there's anything I can do, just tell me."

"Been doing pretty good so far," Corry offered, smiling as well as he could muster. "Looks like you have a good start on the Grey's keel."

"Aye. It's a bitch, though. We mis-cut the boards on Sunday, had to re-cut everything... apparently they didn't understand it was in yards and not meters," Scott said, somewhat glad to have changed subjects. "It's a royal pain, tryin' to work with old-style measurin'."

"Blame Barrett." Corrigan stood up, trying to stifle a yawn and failing. "Well, I think I'm gonna turn in."

Scotty shrugged, grabbing his coat from where it hung on a peg in the wall. "I'll walk with ye... have yer assignments on yer desk, but that can wait till tomorrow." Besides, it was nice to have someone to talk to again, and he'd missed Corry more than he would have admitted, even to himself.

Corry made his way down the steps to the main floor, chuckling dryly, "Maybe I'll switch careers and become a medical student." Opening the door and stepping out into the mist, he waited for his roommate to catch up. "Seems to be all that's on my mind, now."
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