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Old November 10 2008, 02:49 AM   #26
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 2

Chapter 2:

Friday, March 3rd, 2243
H&W Shipyards, Berth #22
Team C Headquarters
Belfast, Ireland, Earth

She was starting to take on the look of a ship, instead of just a long, thick wooden stretch up on the cradle. The foremost seven ribs were up, braced by boards and re-enforced by the ribbands that stretched the length so far, a temporary way to keep everything in line. It required manual labor, she received manual labor, and most of the twenty-man crew who spent their hours working on her went to bed with sore muscles and a sense of accomplishment.

It was getting harder for her head architect to think of her as a complete nuisance, though Scott usually found a reason. The woodnails weren't sturdy enough, or the templates hadn't been calculated quite so far as he might have liked, not making it to the millionth of a decimal. Not that it would have mattered, given the tools they had to work with, but he was by nature a perfectionist, even if it was his own idea of perfection and not everyone else's.

But she was beginning to look like he'd planned, so there was something to be said for her. Pausing for a long moment to scrutinize the barely started structure, he really did wonder what Starfleet would do with her when she was finished. If never crossed his mind -- it was when, and that was that. Donate her to one of the remaining maritime schools? Offer her over to a travel agency, where she could join one of the few remaining tallships in making credits on 'historical' cruises?

Historical. Grinning sardonically, he shook his head... they were historical all right. About as historical as flying to Pluto on one of the personnel transports. What would these people do, sit around on her deck while watching the subspace network news, sipping on elaborate cocktails and being served by an Andorian? Oh aye, historical right down to the comforts of home.

Well, he'd be damned if his ship would... be...

Frowning, Scotty stopped pacing the length of the skeleton. Since when did he think of the Lady Grey as his ship? She was an annoyance, that was what she was. No more his than the slip they were building her in. Starfleet owned her. He was just building her. Shooting a glare at the backbone of the schooner, he quite firmly put any thoughts of ownership -- literal or metaphysical -- out of his mind and walked back to where Corry was pouring over a textbook. "Havin' any luck?"

"Nothing yet," Corry answered distractedly, flipping through a few more pages. He had fallen to reading every medical textbook he could get his hands on. "You practically need a medical degree to understand some of this stuff."

"We're engineers, that's why. We think in terms o' technical," Scott answered, shrugging. He didn't want to get into another medical discussion about bacteria that floated on solar currents from planets long since decimated, or whatever it was. What he really wanted was for the older cadet to take back over on the project... well, eventually. As soon as he was ready.

"Hey!" Jansson's voice echoed, causing the other two to cringe slightly. Of course, he didn't seem to care in that particular moment, bounding over with a very self-satisfied expression. "I just finished the template for the amidships ribs."

Scotty grinned again, just for the sake of it. "Did ye? It'll be a week before we get that far, but those'll go quick enough."

Jansson shrugged, leaning on the wall next to Corry's chair. "Well, at least I know my part's done for awhile. Does that mean you'll cut my hours, sir?" he teased, tapping Corry on the shoulder.

"If you want," Corrigan answered, not looking up.

"What, ye find a girl who'll look at yer ugly mug for any length o' time?" Scott asked, innocently, putting on his best 'pure sugar and spice and everything nice' expression. "I've got a case o' Scotch, if that'll make it easier."

"This coming from the most hopeless womanizer in the world, yep," Jansson retorted, good-naturedly. "The last girl you asked out told you that she might be available when you finally started shaving. And stopped stammering."

"Aye, but at least I didn't have to shave a sheep an' try'n make it look presentable."

"No, you just up and took the sheep out without even bothering to--"

"Hey, if you two plan on keeping this up, take it somewhere else, all right?" Corry said, flatly, finally looking away from the book long enough to skewer both of them in a glance. "I'm trying to read here."

The other two cadets exchanged a brief, slightly surprised look, and Scott frowned. "Corry, ye could put the book down for a minute or two, ye know."

Corrigan sighed, an impatient sound, and closed the textbook. "I could, but I'm not going to. What I am going to do, though, is find somewhere quiet, and you two can toss your sheep-shagging jokes without worrying." Without waiting for a response, he stood and headed for the door.

Jansson scratched his head, looking after Corry. "I think he needs a vacation."

"He needs somethin'..." Scott shook his head, uncertainly. "I wish I knew what."

He hadn't meant to snap. It was wrong to bite the heads off of your friends, no matter how annoying they got, and Corry pondered on what would prompt him to be so downright foul to Scott and Jansson. It wasn't like they weren't being themselves, just goofing off a little bit, and it certainly wasn't like they didn't deserve to be a little silly. Those two, plus Albright, had shouldered the burden that was honestly Corry's.

Sighing to himself, the cadet tucked the medical textbook under his arm and continued for the dorm. He was so close to finding something. Something that would take the edge off of his anger and inability to stand by while his father lay in the hospital still, something that would make it all right again. Corrigan was no fool -- he might not worry himself stupid over grades like Sean Kelley, but that had no bearing on his intelligence, only on his coursework.

The streets were quiet and dark, and he tried hard not to let the feeling of heaviness overwhelm him. It got dark so early, and the lack of sunlight wore even worse than normal, bearing down on his very soul and making everything seem dull and colorless. Still, the air tasted good and clean, there was the underlay of salt that was so much a part of him, and a warm room waiting for him when he made it back. It wasn't an unreasonably long walk, and though the shuttle would have had him back there in a matter of minutes, it was better to walk and think.

Kicking at a stone, he watched the ground. There were at least fifteen different known spaceborne bacteria strains with similar symptoms, and though none of them were what had afflicted his father, he felt certain that he might find a clue or a key there. Closing his eyes in a wash of anger, Corry tried to banish the mental picture of his Dad laying there behind the transparent aluminum, covered in tubes, and of his mother with her hand pressed to the wall, tears in her eyes from all of the worry, the love, the stress. Sure, he was doing better and better by the day, but still.

It wasn't fair. God, it just wasn't right! Why did it have to happen? There was such a sense of injustice there that the cadet couldn't help but feel like someone or something was trying to take away the near perfect life he'd had and replace it with some sort of living Hell. Taking a deep breath, he unclenched his teeth before he could chip them. He'd already chipped one tooth while in a fit of anger, and he didn't feel like doing it again.

Finally arriving at the dorms, he nodded to the security officer on duty, trying not to look too miserable. Taking the short trip to the building, he keyed in his student ID code and stepped in when the door unlocked.

It seemed far too noisy in there, what with everyone back in from their evening out. Weaving his way through the other cadets clustered on the bottom of the stairwell, he headed up to the second floor and unlocked the room door, slipping in and closing it with a sigh of relief. The building was old, mostly kept to historical specs so that it wouldn't clash with this old sector of Belfast, but at least the walls weren't too thin and there wasn't much noise that bled in from the adjoining rooms or hallway. It was good for Corry -- he was so tired of people, so tired of everything.

"I need a vacation," he murmured to himself, setting the book on his desk and sitting on the bed for a moment to gather his mental strength before delving back into it. Rubbing at his eyes, he tried to imagine what Scotty must have thought about being snapped at. It wasn't often that Corrigan snapped at his roomie; in fact, usually it went the other way and he was the one being verbally assaulted. He'd seemed taken aback, though, like it was a bit of a surprise... not angry or hurt, just kind of 'huh?' Well, Corry would make it up to him someday, if for no other reason than guilt. Right now, though, he had work to do and information to find, so he took the book in hand again and settled back to pick up where he'd left off.

He'd gone though a good twenty pages, reading with the feverish intensity of an obsessed researcher before he registered the door opening and looked up. "Hey."

"Evenin'," Scott answered, dragging in something that looked like a piece of hull plating from a starship. "Feelin' any better?"

"Yeah," Corry said, offhand, watching the strange proceeding. What the heck was Scott doing now? "Sorry I snapped at you and Jer like that."

"Eh." Scott shrugged one-shouldered after he set the metal down. He stepped out of the room and carried in something else, something that looked sort of like a coil assembly with a portable power source attached. "Find any new information since ye left?"

Corrigan set the book aside, now fully curious about what was going on. "Uh, a little. Nothing that wasn't common sense, though."

Now a long length of cord and a heavy looking bag. "Seems like most o' the medical community states th' obvious. In my humble opinion, anyway."

"What're you doing?" All right, Corry couldn't hold back any longer. What did a sheet of metal, a coil, a power source, a cord and a bag have in common?

"Wait for it." Grinning, Scotty went and retrieved the last of his enigmatic objects, which put an end to the mystery. Setting the last bag on his desk, he went to setting the sheet metal on his workbench, tossing a glance back at Corrigan. "Guess yet?"

"Cooking," Corry chuckled, shaking his head. He should have figured that out from the beginning, but with all of the strange objects Scott had dragged in over the past year, he never knew what to expect. Last time the other cadet had gotten the itch to cook, he'd just up and 'borrowed' the stove from downstairs. Apparently, this time he was intent upon making his own. "What's the occasion?"

"What's the date?"

"Uhm..." It took him a minute to count the days from the last time Corry had bothered to look at a calendar. "March 3rd?"

"Keep thinkin'," Scott said, already working on his homemade range.

Corrigan pondered it for a moment, and when it hit him he could have kicked himself. "Your birthday. Dammit, it completely slipped my mind!"

"Don't feel bad, I almost forgot myself." Sealing the wide coil to the sheet with a heat resistant epoxy, Scott shrugged again. "Like Italian?"

"You don't have to cook for me too," Corry protested, not very persuasively. He'd skipped lunch and he loved Italian. "Isn't this your day to be pampered?"

"No," Scott said, wiring the coil with expert precision. "I like cookin'."

Corry leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms and watching. "You're one of the weirdest people I know. I mean, you cook, you invent, you hang glide... you won't drink wine, you'll fight over Scotch being the best whiskey, but you don't like haggis and you prefer Italian. Did it ever occur to you that your fancies are pretty extreme?"

"Cookin's kinda like engineerin'... put the stuff together and make it work. I tolerate haggis, but Italian tastes better, so I cook Italian. And I don't mind wine, but only with certain dishes, and never just on it's own. Scotch is the best whiskey, and hang-glidin' is the closest thing I can get to flyin' without a civilian pilot's license," the other cadet replied, easily, still wiring away.

"I guess... but see, I'm from Maine, I like New England clam chowder, I sail... all those are in line."

"Ye like Italian too, ye happen t' have a taste for Anaquarian whiskey, which to me tastes like runoff from a chicken farm..." Scott put a smaller piece of metal he'd had stashed under his workbench on top of the coil, fixed it there, then plugged the wire in. When it heated like he expected, he grinned brightly to himself before finishing the statement he'd started, "I suppose it's all personal taste."

"Yeah, guess so."

"So what's medical research have t'do with engineerin', sailin' and clam chowder?"

Corry frowned slightly, shifting his seat on the bed. "Call it a side hobby."

"Aye, hobby," Scotty said, pulling out a bottle of water and a fairly large pot. "Garlic?"

"Definitely," Corrigan answered, somewhat relieved that the subject had been dropped at that. He hated having to justify himself. "Not making your own sauce?"

"Not enough time. I can make due, though."

"What're you gonna do on a starship, where you can't get any of the stuff you need?"

"Hydroponic gardens?" Scott tried, with a shrug, oiling and salting the water that was now on his homemade stove. "I guess I'm stuck livin' with what their cooks see fit to cook up, or I get good at beggin', borrowin' and barterin' for ingredients."

Corry smiled offhand, watching for a moment. The other cadet wasn't long in getting as absorbed into his cooking as he did into his engineering... putting the sauce on, spicing it up with an assortment of different traditional herbs, adding the rigatoni to the water, working on the garlic bread, and after a few minutes, Corrigan went back to his reading. At least the atmosphere of the room had taken on the easy aire of camaraderie that it had been missing the past couple of weeks.

"Well," Corry said, lightly, as he set his plate aside, "if you ever get sick of engineering, you could probably make a good living as a cook."

"Mum taught me," Scott explained, long since finished with his dinner and sipping on a glass of good red wine. Italian was one of his admitted exceptions. One did not drink Scotch with Italian. It was a crime. "It was that or goin' with my father on his design trips over the school breaks."

Corrigan grinned, standing and getting himself a glass of the wine. "You'd make someone a terrific housewife someday, Scotty."

"Aye?" Scotty asked, dangerously, picking up a fork and chucking it at Corry. "I'll have ye know that besides Mum, the best chefs in the galaxy're male."

The fork struck Corry in the side of the head, but he was snickering too hard to get angry over it. Maybe if it had gotten him with the prongs he might have paused, but as it were, it just amused him more. "Oooh, did I hit a nerve? Sorry, now I know what to get you for your birthday... just think three words: Pink, ruffled and apron."

"Ye do, an' so help me I'll just wait till ye fall asleep and see what a high powered energy current can do t' the human body," Scott growled, unplugging the wire from the homemade stove with comical exaggeration and waving the end at Corry. "I'd just stick this thing up yer nose, an' watch ye burn."

"Because I compliment your cooking?"

"Because ye insult my masculinity," Scott said, smartly, nodding as though he'd just delivered a particularly good speech.

"Masculinity," Corry echoed, trying and almost failing to maintain a neutral expression. It was a real effort on his part. "Well, I suppose if your self-esteem has survived the cooking lessons and the wearing of skirts, you're not about to lose it over a pink apron."

Scott frowned. "Cookin' happens to be a hobby, not somethin' I do religiously. And a kilt is NOT a skirt, it's a kilt, an' I'll not have ye sayin' anything against it. Besides, I only wear that to formal family events."

"All right, all right," Corrigan said, though he definitely couldn't help the amused and placating tone. Waiting until his roommate gave him a black look and went to cleaning up his homemade kitchen, he picked up the textbook and went back to reading. He did feel better now that he had something in his stomach and a little banter to make up for the past weeks of quiet. He resolved himself to spending less time with his nose in a textbook; maybe that would make the overall anxiety lighten.
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