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Old November 10 2008, 06:52 PM   #30
SLWatson
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 3

--

By the end of the next week, the ribs of the ship were finished and the tension in berth #22 was so thick that it could choke a person. Even Jansson, who normally was easygoing, started getting edgy. It wasn't long before he'd pretty much cornered Scott in the mold loft to protest. "We've got four cadets saying that if I don't file a complaint against you or Corry, they're just going to up and drop the class."

"So file it," Scotty challenged, raising both eyebrows. He was well aware that the pace he was working the other cadets bordered inhumane, and that this was quickly becoming his own obsession, but there was no backing down now.

"Look, you know I won't do that to either of you, but don't you think it might be a good idea to just slow down a little bit before we lose everyone?" Jansson asked, imploringly. He'd watched Corrigan become a walking ghost of his former bright self, and Scott get even more dark in his moods... if something wasn't done, the ship would be the last thing to worry about.

Scotty sighed, impatiently, and rubbed at his eyes. "I'll make ye a deal, Jer. If we can get the fore crossbeams in by the middle o' next week, I'll cut back the hours and we can take it a little slower. But we need somethin' other'n a couple o' boards supportin' the ribs in front."

"I think they'll go for that. Most of them were taking it pretty well, just not those four. Uhm, Harrison, O'Sullivan, Thylita and Midlinn, if I remember right." Jerry leaned on the wall. "Mind if I ask you something, chief?"

"Depends," Scott answered, forcing a half-smile.

"Why're you covering for Corry like this?" Jansson asked, looking at the other cadet. "Not that I'm complaining, 'cause he's my friend too, but I kinda wanna know what your reasoning is."

Well, that wasn't necessarily an easy answer to come by. There were a few times Scott wasn't entirely sure why himself, though usually those moments of indecision faded back to the determination he was currently working on. Dropping the self-imposed wall for a few minutes, he took a deep breath. "Honestly?"

"Well, yeah."

"Remember when I said he needs somethin'?"

"Yep. Back before he got too distant." Jansson frowned for a moment, and then it was like the proverbial lightbulb and he smiled not a few seconds later. "You're trying to finish her fast, aren't you? So that he'll snap out of this and start being Corry again."

"Think it'll work?" Because in all honesty, Scotty wasn't entirely sure himself if it would. He wasn't really sure of anything. But it was worth a try -- Corrigan had just loved the idea of having a real sailing ship; he'd loved the schooner when she was still just lines on a schematic. Maybe when she was whole and sitting in the water, he could fall in love with her all over again. He could maybe remember who he was.

"It's damn well worth a try," Jansson said, nodding empathetically. "Well, I've got your back on it... here's hoping it works."

"Aye... here's hopin'."

Jansson flashed a brief smile and went back to the part of the loft where the templates were kept, and where he was now working on the structure beams. Most of them were already cut for the forward part of the ship, so it wouldn't be too much effort to get them up.

The acting project leader took a few moments to relax, something he just didn't do all that often anymore. Not going back to the dorms had turned into a necessity for Scotty, who had it worked out pretty well. Go back right at curfew, sign in with security, then slip back out once they'd acknowledged that he'd gone into the dorms. Anymore he slept more in the mold loft than he did in his room, and he honestly doubted that Corry even noticed the absence. "Well," he thought, with a sardonic smile, "Least he won't be bitchin' about my boots."

It was a hollow enough thought, though, and he had gotten used to silence again afterall. He wasn't even sure if it was worth the effort, trying to get Corrigan to come back from this land of medical terminology and lab tests. He wasn't sure if it was worth barking orders at a troop of cadets who, though they were obligated to work, weren't obligated to pour heart and soul into his fight. That was why he'd given Jansson the okay to cut down the hours -- mostly to keep his workforce and be more fair minded, but some small part of him harbored the fear that he'd become just as lost and obsessive as the person he wanted to save.

No. Just no.

"Mutiny in the ranks, sir," Albright said, sticking his head in the door.

Scott looked up, mostly expecting it to be a joke, but Albright looked dead serious. Well, bloody Hell, they'd finally had enough just when he was starting to tone it down again. Nodding in acknowledgment, he only took a minute to grab his coat and head after Albright, down the steps and onto the main floor.

Sure enough there was a battle brewing, and it looked like O'Sullivan was the ringleader. Damn it all, if this wasn't the last thing he needed on his mind. Squaring his shoulders and doing his best to forget the fact that the stolid Irishman was probably a solid seventy pounds heavier than he was, Scott stepped into the middle of the crowd, going for his best officer's voice. "What's the meaning of all o' this?"

"The meanin', sir, is that we're downright sick an' tired of being driven like dogs," O'Sullivan answered, without a trace of hesitation. "My hands're practically bloody and we haven't had a day off in a week."

"Ye'll get yer day off, soon as the forward crossbeams're up. Anything else?"

O'Sullivan smirked, and without so much as a word of warning took a swing at the shorter cadet. It was by sheer luck Scott managed to duck under that fist, or he might have ended up with a busted jaw on top of everything else. Leaping backwards a pace and running into Albright, he half-snarled, "Aye, real smart there, takin' a shot at another officer. Right good thinkin'."

"That's because ya think ye're just the regular dictator," came the furious answer, and O'Sullivan leapt after Scott for another try. He might have been big, but he was fast and managed to land his punch this time, knocking Scott a good three feet back. "Well, sir, maybe ye're not as big as ya think ya are."

Jansson had joined the party by then, and he and three other cadets managed to hold back the irate mutineer and give Scotty a chance to get his feet again. "Should we call security, sir?" Jansson asked, shooting a glare at O'Sullivan.

"Hell no," Scott growled, taking his coat off and flinging it aside. Now it was a matter of pride, and he didn't care if O'Sullivan was built like a EV tank, he wasn't going to let that blockhead win. Besides, he hadn't lost any teeth yet.

"Um... he could turn you into ground meat," Albright said tentatively, looking between the two. "This is not exactly professional Starfleet conduct here."

The two fighters both shot him a look before Scott looked back at Jansson. "Let the jackass go."

"Scotty..."

"Just do it," Scott said, exasperated. Jesus, you'd think these guys had never seen an actual fight before. Centering himself and trying to ignore the solid pain in his jaw, he watched as Jansson and the other three did as they were told.

O'Sullivan didn't seem in any real hurry now that he knew that there wouldn't be any security involved, though. Fairly pleased with the fact he'd landed the first punch, he smiled a toothy smile, no doubt for the sake of anyone else who felt bitter about how hard they'd been worked. A few of the other cadets smiled back, and one or two others looked rather worshipful. After all they'd learned about maintaining discipline in the ranks, it was kind of empowering to see the man in charge get some back for it.

He never saw it coming.

Scotty was a fighter if there ever was one... he'd been in scraps his whole life. He lost a few, he won a few, and eventually most people learned better than to pick a fight with him, because he wasn't afraid of taking or giving pain. While it wasn't all that often he threw the first punch, it was certainly often enough that he threw the last.

So when he'd slammed into O'Sullivan it was with every ounce of weight he had behind it, a silent leap and execution, and the only sound was the hard thud as they both hit the ground, and not more than a few seconds later the cracking of bone.

The rest of the cadets couldn't even find a word. Afterall, what was there to say?

The victor stood up, wincing as he shook out his hand. O'Sullivan, broken-nosed and somewhat stunned, didn't move for a very long moment before crawling back to his feet. There wasn't anything particularly smug about him now, and seeing his own blood dripping onto his shirtfront was enough to take the fight from him.

It was Jansson who broke the silence, asking either or both of them, "Anyone need a doctor?"

Scott just shook his head. His jaw was aching with fierce intensity, but he still had all of his teeth and nothing was broken. That alone was enough of a reason to count his lucky stars; if the other cadet had followed through better, he'd probably be on a soup diet for a few days until the doctors had him properly patched up.

O'Sullivan apparently didn't want to lose any more face, and shook his head as well. "I'll walk on my own, thanks." Shooting Scott a glare and giving him a wide berth, he headed for the door.

"That's the last we'll see of him, I'll bet," Albright sighed, then looked at the rest of the team still gathered there in near silence. "C'mon, guys, back to work."

"Any bets on me spendin' tonight in the brig?" Scotty finally chuckled, wincing slightly through the smile.

Jansson frowned slightly, somewhere between comically serious and honestly serious. "I'll put ten credits on you getting away without so much as a slap on the wrist."

"I'll bet against that," Lewis, one of the construction cadets, said as he picked up the first crossbeam they were going to put up. Grinning apologetically at Scott, he added, "You did break his nose, afterall."

"All bets're good, but I'm hopin' Jerry here's right." Scotty grinned back, stepping over to help carry the board. Maybe he could use the less-depressing attitude in his favor and get some more solid work done. "Well, in the spirit of not losin' any teeth, anyone who wants to go can. Volunteer work only, least for tonight."

The order was passed around, and it kind of surprised him when all but the three who were in with O'Sullivan stayed. It was somehow very heartening to see a rally like that, particularly after all that he'd put those cadets through... from the minute their classes ended to curfew, minus meals, every day for over a week straight. If he hadn't been in charge, he might have gone the way of the mutineer, honestly.

But at any length, the remaining fourteen cadets stuck around, and Scott intermittently worked with the construction team and iced his jaw; he didn't look forward to explaining the bruise the next day, but it was still better than wasting time with the small, rather apathetic medical staff on campus. Security hadn't shown up yet, and he was determined to get as much as he could done before they did.

When the hush fell over the floor of the berth, he was pretty certain it was a troop of guards coming to haul him to the brig. Looking around one of the ribs, he was honestly taken aback when it was Corry.

Corrigan looked a little like he had slept for weeks on end and was just waking up. His hair was longer than he usually kept it, dark circles hung under his eyes, and his overall appearance was just disheveled. He walked across the floor with measured caution; a stranger in their midst, in a way, even if he was supposed to be the most familiar among the crew.

Scott frowned to himself and went back to pounding the woodnail in, breaking the silence, and before long everyone else went back to work, all but ignoring the project leader. He wasn't about to call Corry over, more because he didn't have a clue of what to say rather than because he didn't want to say anything. He did... he wanted to tell Cor to snap out of it, look at the work that had been done, look at what was being done for his sake. But words like that were far too hard to come up with, and Scott had no clue of how he'd even try to explain, so he did what he was better at and worked.

"Looks like she's really going to be something special..." Corry said, uncertainly, once he'd found his way over to his roommate.

"Aye," Scott answered, evenly, giving the nail one last whack with the mallet. Sounding resentful would probably drive Corry back to his little world, and sounding too friendly might do the same. It was a tightrope act.

"I was wondering if you wanted to go and hit the pub before curfew." The older cadet looked along the length of the ship, kind of blankly. "I wanted to celebrate... they released Dad from the hospital, and all, and it looks like the bacteria's gone dormant."

"I would, but I've got a bit left to do here." Pausing for a moment, Scotty balanced himself on the rib. "If ye wouldn't mind waitin' for a half hour or so, I could."

"I guess," Corry said, rather quietly. Looking around for a moment, he finally climbed up onto the keel.

Jansson climbed back up right after him and gave him a smile, then slid around him and tossed the icepack in Scott's general direction. "Head's up, chief."

Scotty ducked under it, only barely catching it in his right hand before giving Jansson a look. "Tryin' to finish the job?"

"I don't know, you have been a bit of a dictator lately," Jerry answered, jokingly, before going back to his post on the starboard side.

"What happened?" Corry frowned, looking even more lost and confused.

"Mutiny!" Scott chuckled, shaking his head and leaning back on the rib, feet on the brace. He tipped his head to show off the darkening bruise along his jawline, then shrugged. "He got it back in spades, though."

"Who was it?"

"O'Sullivan." Scotty put the ice back against his face, not quite able to stifle the flinch. "Up an' broke the bastard's nose. Ye shoulda seen it, Cor... it was like that one fella we got into it with last year."

"I was talking to Dad's doctor," Corry said, as way of explanation. The look he got in answer, though, apparently made him edgy. "What?"

Trying to find the right words, Scott took a deep breath. Back on the tightrope again, it looked like. "D'ye think maybe... well, now that he's feelin' better, ye might wanna spend a little more time down here?"

Corrigan sighed, running his hand through his flop of blond hair. "Just because he's out of the hospital doesn't mean he's out of the woods. Anything could trigger another reaction."

"I'm not sayin' not to be worried, just that... ye know. Maybe it's time to worry about the rest of yer life too? What with yer grades, and..." That didn't sound like it was supposed to. Scott cringed mentally and wished he could build himself a time machine, go back two minutes, and strangle himself before he had the chance to bring it up.

"My grades are okay," Corry answered, a little too quickly and far too defensively. "And I actually helped out, because I sent them an entire list, a whole thirty pages of known strains along with similar symptoms and treatments."

There wasn't any immediate reply that came to mind. Scott couldn't honestly see an engineering cadet making any huge breakthrough that experienced Starfleet medical personnel hadn't already thought of, but he wouldn't say anything. He'd already dug a hole and anything else might end up landing him in it. "Maybe ye should think about goin' to medschool."

"Maybe I should." Corry looked down at his watch. "Hey, we'll go have a drink later. I should probably go back to the dorms and finish my paper for Pearson."

"Maybe ye should start it, not to mention the last three," Scott thought, but he only said, "Aye, maybe later."

Corrigan nodded, stiffly, and climbed down. He exchanged a few greetings with cadets as he made his way to the door, and then he was gone again.

God only knew when he'd be back. Scotty groaned softly and let his head fall back against the wood. Maybe if he'd tried harder, he could have swallowed his whole leg instead of just his foot. Maybe someone offered tact implants -- that would make his life a lot easier. Or maybe he would give that time machine serious consideration and change everything.

"You shoulda gone with him," Jansson offered, helpfully.

The only answer he was given was another groan.




"It's generally not a good thing when cadets start dropping classes this close to the end of the year," Barrett said, pacing in front of the podium, between that and the three cadets lined up at attention. O'Sullivan had dropped the class earlier that day, his nose force-healed (but still discolored); Thylita and Midlinn had followed soon after. "When I told them they'd have to go through one of their superiors in order to file a formal complaint, they asked to drop the course. Now, the reason for this could be one of two things... they could have asked to file a complaint and were turned down, or they could have been afraid to ask for fear of penalties."

Jansson swallowed hard. He'd been the one they'd approached with their protests. "Well, sir, it's a little more--"

"Is it?" Barrett stopped, looking at the anxious ensign sharply. "Four of you were put in charge of this. Now, normally this would fall on the project leader to explain, but since he's still missing in action, as it were, it comes back on you. If this is the type of behavior you have here, heaven help the ship and crew you get assigned to if you graduate."

"It's not his fault, sir," Scott said, quietly, wishing that talking didn't hurt so much. It might have been worth it, but his face was killing him. "I was the one workin' 'em too hard, and it's my responsibility."

"No, it isn't." The professor sighed, rubbing at his temples with both hands. "The only thing you're technically responsible for is not turning over any complaints you've received. How long do you plan on pulling double-duty? How long do you plan on allowing Mr. Corrigan to abuse your good intentions and the hard work of your team?"

"Sir, I was the one who received the complaints." Jansson looked like he was going to his own funeral, but he'd taken the jump when he'd told Scott he'd watch his back. "By the time they were brought to Mr. Scott's attention, O'Sullivan had already made up his mind."

"Why didn't you act on them?" When he didn't get an answer, Barrett shook his head in profound disappointment. "Loyalty is one of the finest traits a person can be blessed with, but there does come a time when you have to put concern for your crew before concern for your friends."

The three cadets didn't have any answer to that, either. Albright broke his stance to study his shoes, Scott did the same, and Jansson looked downright miserable as he stared at the wall. It wasn't that easy, was it?

After a very long two minutes, where the silence couldn't be cut with a plasma torch, Barrett finally sighed, "All right, standing here in silence won't fix any problems, nor will it make them any clearer. Dismissed."

The relief was pretty thick as they made their way out, though Barrett wasn't apparently quite finished. Waiting a moment while they wound down from the tension, he called, "Mr. Scott!"

The cadet turned on his toe. "Sir?"

"What happened to your jaw?"

"I... uhm, I ran inta somethin', sir."

Barrett couldn't quite keep the amusement from his voice, inappropriate as it was. "Strange, that's what O'Sullivan said about his nose. The senior cadets this year seem to have a clumsy streak in them, wouldn't you agree?"

There was only one answer to give, so with a red face, Scott gave it. "Aye, sir." Without waiting for further comment, he turned and stepped out.
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