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Old November 10 2008, 06:52 PM   #29
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 3

Chapter 3:

Friday, March 17th, 2243
Malone Road
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth

Amidships the ribs were finished, and for the first time the construction team for the Lady Grey had found a steady routine. That made all the difference in the speed that she was being completed, and meant a great deal to the heads of the project in that they could see their drawing coming to life.

The actual project leader, though, hadn't stuck too hard to his resolution to spend more time engineering and less time researching modern medicine. If anything, Corry had fallen even farther into his obsession; one night he'd stumbled across a medical journal with an article devoted specifically to categorizing space-borne bacteria, and that was the end of that. Now he only came down to the shipyards intermittently.

Scott took the brunt of the work with more and more consternation every day. Over the past two weeks, he'd gone from being in a reasonably good mood to downright short-tempered, people started actively avoiding him again, and a few of the cadets under his supervision had started to grumble despite making good progress.

Corrigan's temperament wasn't much better -- he went from the extreme high of being on a good trail to the anger and frustration of the hopelessness of it, to the guilt of leaving his best friend to take on the duties that weren't his. But he didn't slow down, nor stop. He couldn't, and every single time that he thought about it, he somehow talked himself out of it.

It finally got to a point that Scotty couldn't stand it anymore, but instead of trying to get through to the brick-skulled Corrigan, he just turned around and went to Barrett. Maybe just give a half-concealed plea for someone to step in and make it right. God knew, he couldn't seem to find a way to do it.

Catching up with the commander after classes had ended for the day, he launched into it before he had time to talk himself out of it. "Sir? Could I have a moment of yer time?"

Barrett paused in his walk to his house on the other side of the campus. "Yes, Mr. Scott?"

"I... well, I wanted to talk t' ye about Cor-- Mr. Corrigan, sir." Inwardly, Scott winced, wondering why in the name of all that's good he had such a hard time speaking to higher-up officers and why they were so intimidating to him. "He's not worked on the project since what happened with his father, and... I mean, I dinna mind takin' his place, but..."

"But..." Barrett prompted, though from his tone, he already had a good idea of what the situation was.

"But I'm startin' to think it's a bit too much, sir," the cadet finished, a miserable note in his voice. There, he'd buried the hatchet, and it was almost worse than enduring the burden of leadership.

Barrett's frown colored his entire face dark. "Would you like me to remove him from his position?"

"No, sir, I just... I dinna know." Scott shook his head, clasping his hands behind his back and looking at the ground. That was just it: He didn't know, and it was driving him crazy.

"There are only two options. You can lodge a formal complaint, which is the course of action that I suggest, or you can continue to act as project leader and let him get credit for your work." They were harsh words, though Barrett delivered them frankly and without an edge.

"That's it. Two options, and neither of 'em right," Scott said sharply, before he remembered who it was he was talking to. Taking a deep breath, he looked back down at his boots. "Sorry, sir."

"I understand that it's a horrible thing to stomach, but what happens when you're on a starship, where everyone depends on everyone else to stay alive?" Barrett's eyebrows went up and he tilted his head, trying to get Scott to look up from the ground. "I know he's your friend, and I know it's against every single heroic ideal you've got, but think about it. This time it's a class project, Mr. Scott, and next time it might be monitoring engine outputs and overload gauges. This time you've got the option, but next time you won't and it could be you, your ship and your crew."

Scott's jaw knotted as he thought about it. It was such plain common sense that it was damn hard to imagine any other course of action. "What would happen to his grade?"

"He'd lose a lot of points, but he could probably still pass so long as he does something between now and then."

"And if I don't file a complaint?" The cadet asked, finally looking back up and meeting the professor's gaze unflinchingly. He was pretty sure he already knew what his course of action was going to be, struck now with one part inspiration and one part desperation.

Barrett smiled a sort of sad smile, no doubt sure himself. "Then this conversation never took place. Just keep in mind what I told you, though, because you're not always going to have the range of choices like you do now."

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