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Old November 11 2008, 03:31 AM   #33
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

Chapter 4:

Monday, April 10th, 2243
H&W Shipyards, Berth #22
Team C Headquarters
Belfast, Ireland, Earth

The workflow lightened, easing off from the brutal pace Scott had demanded of the crew in order to finish the basic skeleton of the Lady Grey. General morale was up, even though there were four people missing. There wasn't any bickering, and the team had solidified quite a bit since the "Mutiny of Berth #22". If they could have gotten Corry back, it might have been a perfect project from then on out.

Corrigan still wasn't back. He vanished for days on end, chewing up all of his personal leave time, then came back with the look of the ignorantly blissful and a sheaf of lab results. He'd put in for a transfer to Starfleet Medical. He had barely exchanged a handful of words with his roommate, who had fallen into a silent, grim stoicism that was more familiar than not.

Lately Scott didn't really seem to have much to say; when he did talk, it was one or two word answers unless it involved something engineering-related, and even then lacked his usual highstrung theatrics. He was still in motion, though -- if anything, he'd gone into overdrive.

When he'd cut back the hours for the rest of the team, he'd taken it on himself to pick up the slack as much as he humanly could. There was only so much he could do, physically, but whatever there was he did without a word. When the rest of the cadets left for the evening, he came back to work.

That was how the Lady Grey really came to be something more than just a class project, though Scotty still wasn't ready to admit to himself that she was. What would the use be anyway? If he started to genuinely care about her, then it would be that much harder to give her up when the time came, and dammit, it was bad enough that he was a hairline from losing one thing he cared about. It would be too hard to lose something else.

The sandpaper made a steady scratching sound against the oak, the only noise in the slip. Scott had already cut the boards that were going to be laid the next day, the start of her hull and the start of the next phase of the project, and he couldn't do anything more than sand the beams on her forward section to prepare. There wasn't a need to; the wood was the best quality they could afford to get, and it was already fairly smooth, but he if stopped for one minute, he might start thinking again.

He hadn't heard the door open and close, so when a voice overrode the sound of sandpaper, he nearly leapt out of his skin. "It's a little late to be working, isn't it?"

The cadet turned once he succeeded in persuading himself not to have a heart attack. After almost an entire minute, he managed to say, "Aye, sir."

"You do realize that it's 0200... four hours after curfew," Barrett stated, rather than asked, as he climbed up onto the sliding ways, balancing easily between the ribs. He was dressed in civilian clothes, a peculiar thing for any student to see, but even at that hour looked alert. "I can't quite figure you out, cadet."

"Sir?" Scotty didn't want to get into anything philosophical, but he could smell it coming a mile away. Frowning briefly, he put the sandpaper into his jacket pocket.

"Staying here all hours, working even when there isn't anything to do," the professor elaborated, gesturing at the general area. "Three days and nights, every free hour you've got... isn't it a bit much?"

"No, sir." Scott put his hands behind his back, balancing neatly himself and wondering exactly how Barrett knew how many hours he was spending in the berth.

Smiling a half-smile, Barrett picked up a clean piece of the sandpaper and turned it over in his hands. "Captain Pearson decided to tell me today that your grades were slipping, that I was the reason, and that if I didn't come and tell you to pay attention to your important studies, he'd have to speak to Admiral Pirrie."

Well, that wasn't a good thing. Pearson was known for being a bit irate; Scott had figured out himself that the captain was less than pleased with his performance lately.

"Are you a Starfleet engineer, Mr. Scott, or an ancient shipwright?"

"...a bit o' both. Sir."

Dragging himself back to the present with a hint of a smirk, he asked, "What did ye tell him, sir?"

"To go pound salt." Barrett gave him a full smile this time. "In those terms. I added that my class was no less important than his, whether it was practical or not, and that you were a good enough engineer to guess your way through his class and get a passing grade. Needless to say, he wasn't particularly pleased."

"I suppose not," Scott chuckled in agreement. If there was one thing he alternatively liked and hated about Commander Barrett, it was his ability to catch a person completely off-guard. Liked it when Barrett did it to someone else, not so much when Barrett did it to him. "Though I seem to remember ye mentionin' somethin' about duty."

"What's the use of mentioning it, if the people I mention it to won't listen?" Barrett shook his head, wryly adding, "You'll figure all of that out on your own, I have a feeling. It would have been nice to have spared you, Jansson and Albright the pain of finding out the hard way, but I suppose some lessons are best left to play out on their own."

"Aye, sir."

"Sanding, eh?" Barrett found himself a spot and experimentally scraped the paper over the wood. "It's been a long time since I've done anything like this. Restored an old cabinet my mother had left behind."

Scott frowned. He didn't really care for company, and Barrett's company almost always meant some sort of meaningful conversation. "Sir, ye don't have to do--"

"Back to work," the commander ordered, evenly. "You were planning on being here anyway, so when 0530 comes around, I'll buy breakfast. And tomorrow night, Mr. Scott, I don't want to see you here... I want you in your room at curfew. If I catch you out tomorrow, I'll actually turn you in."

It took a moment for the cadet to process it, though all he could really say was, "...d'ye ever sleep?"

Barrett looked back over, one eyebrow going up. His face was set in stern lines, worn by age, but there was a sparkle in his eyes that was unmistakably young. "Do you?"

So much for that. With an appreciative grin, Scott went back to his sanding.

Not a word was said until 0530.

It was a fair enough bargain, and Scott did go back to his room at curfew. Stepping in, he flipped the lights on and tried not to breathe a sigh of relief when he found Corry still away. Even now, after all this time, he still didn't have much he could say... too hard to walk that tightrope. Too hard to watch a friend turn into a zombie, then get chewed out for it when he did try to help, so it was just easier to stick to his original plan.

He unlaced his boots and kicked them off with something approaching extreme prejudice, smirking satisfactorily as one landed in the middle of the floor and one bounced off of Corry's bed and onto the ground by the door. Hell, it wasn't like anyone cared to complain, was it?

Nevermind. It wasn't worth getting bitter over.

Leaning back against the wall, he tried to unwind a little. After days on end of being not only awake but working, absent the occasional catnap, he couldn't argue that he wasn't tired out. He felt like he could sleep for a century easily, just let the whole world pass him by.

Grinning sardonically, he shook his head to himself. It was pretty bad when it got to the point where he envied the fictional people of Brigadoon, or the men and women they used to send out on sleeper ships. But how bad was it, to go to sleep and wake up a century later? The advances in technology would make it worth it, right there.

But enough of the technological advances of the twenty-fourth century. Scott leaned over and grabbed the ASD textbook from his desk, trying to force himself into the mindset he would need to research for the latest paper he had due in Pearson's torture chamber... er, class. No easy feat, since he was still stuck on the applications of 19th century shipbuilding. At least they hadn't had any scenarios scheduled aside from the simulations they could run on campus, or he might have been in more serious trouble; it was hard enough to concentrate on the Lady Grey and write technical papers on the latest Starfleet advances at the same time.

The whole process of reading and taking notes evaded him, though. He couldn't make it through a paragraph without completely slipping off into some unconnected thought -- for once, Scott couldn't concentrate, couldn't tune into the mindset of a Starfleet engineer. Maybe being worn out had something to do with it; concerned, tired, frustrated, hopeful, thoughtful... too many conflicting emotions and no real energy left to fight them off. After a few minutes waging a losing battle, he threw the book back onto his desk, flopped back onto his bed, and stared at the ceiling.

He wanted to be working on the ship. It was a relief to be able to fall into an effort of manual labor like that, even if it was almost gruesome at times. Holding his hands up, he studied them with a clinical disinterest; worn rough again, scored with dark red crisscrossing lines from knicks and scratches alike. So much of the modern engineering trade required delicate hands-on work, a careful and steady touch. You didn't have to dig wooden splinters out of your fingers on a starship.

Damn her.

Putting his arms back behind his head, Scott went back to giving the ceiling a faint glare. Damn her, not for tearing his hands up, or even for taking up his time now, but for making him want to spend more time still than he already had. Hadn't he given enough to that schooner yet? Hadn't he spent night and day down there? And now he was almost miserable not being there.

And Barrett too... he deserved cursed for eternity. He always seemed to know what they were thinking, all of them, like he was some sort of telepath. Scotty didn't want to be understood by everyone. He kind of liked being an enigma to most people, because that meant that no one could get inside his head, and if no one could get inside of his thoughts then they couldn't turn around and use those against him. It was safe that way. So far, only a handful of people had managed to figure him out... Walgren, Corrigan and now Barrett too. The first had saved him from a career in command, the second had turned around and basically reminded him of his shortcomings, and the third was just waiting... waiting and watching, knowing everything and still not providing anything but cryptic answers.

Like the nature of wind.

What the Hell was that supposed to mean? The cadet wondered what book the professor was pulling these from. Wind was wind. It had something to do with hot and cold air, and that was it. And you didn't have to go with it or fight against it; a smart person would simply find somewhere and wait it out, rather than go into some kick of bravado and rage against the elements.

Go with it or fight it, take it on the bow or the stern, upsea or down. Sink or float, it all came back to what decision a person made.

Can't change it.

He almost had it figured out before he fell asleep.

The rhythmic rapping noise was out of place in the engine room of the Constitution class starship, where the captain was busy telling him that if they didn't get the warp drive back online, they were going to die, and where he was busy telling the captain that it was impossible but that he could do it anyway. And he was just about to receive a commendation when he woke up.

The door. Blinking a few times and realizing that he couldn't be much further from the engine room of a Constitution class starship, Scotty pulled himself out of bed and somehow convinced his body to make the short trip to the door. Opening it with a still not entirely awake look, he frowned.

Albright had no such problems, wide awake and cheerful as all Hell. Sickeningly cheerful, Scott thought, not saying a word as he stepped aside and let the other cadet in.

"Coffee?" Joe asked, not waiting for an answer before shoving the thermos in Scott's direction. "Sleep well?"

"Aye... thanks," Scotty said, taking the coffee with a perplexed expression. Usually he didn't see anything of Albright until classes started at 0630, and since it was... "Dammit!"

"Are you all right?" Albright tilted his head, eyebrows drawn.

"It's 1400! I was supposed to be in class!" This would look really good to Pearson and Barrett, not to mention the entire crew of the Lady Grey. Knowing that it would be pointless to try to rush it this late, Scott sat back down on his bed and did his best to figure out where in the name of God those thirteen or fourteen hours went. That was a surreally long time to spend asleep, especially for him.

Albright shrugged, kicking the boot by the door out of the way. "One day won't get you drummed out of the fleet, unless they've really raised their standards. Besides, Jerry took charge, so no time was lost."


"Corry stopped by too."

Raising an eyebrow, Scott looked back up from where he'd had his face buried in his hands. "Oh? Better note that one in the books."

Joe winced, leaning against the wall. "I wanted to say that too, but it's kind of mean. He said they still haven't turned in his request for a transfer, though."

"That's because he's an engineer, not a doctor!" Stopping himself before he could go into a tirade, Scott stood and went about getting a clean uniform. He could probably spend an hour ranting about this sudden change of career Corrigan was planning, even if he'd been the one to originally suggest it. "Nevermind."

"Nevermind what?" Corry asked, stepping in behind Albright. He didn't notice Albright cringe, though it might have given him pause to wonder why.

"I was sayin' that the reason ye haven't been transferred is because ye're an engineer, not a doctor," Scotty answered, matter-of-factly. He wasn't even going to try to be tactful anymore.

Corry raised an eyebrow, not commenting.

"I'll see you down in the yards, sir," Albright said, then stepped out of the room.

Scott couldn't blame him. The tension had just gone up on the scale and was approaching unbearable again. He gave a halfhearted wave, even if it was too late for Joe to see it, and went back to getting his gear in order for the day. There wasn't a chance of him making it to any of his classes... his last class ended at 1500, but if he stayed in that room, he'd probably choke to death on his own frustration.

He was almost ready to say something snide to his roommate, almost ready to make it known just how pissed off he was when Corry picked his second pair of boots up and put them in the closet.

How one single action, so insignificant, could hurt that much he'd never figure out. Words lost, and not so much angry now as just very sorry, Scott grabbed his clothes and walked out.

The well-worn frustration wasn't quite back by the time Scotty made his way into the shipyards, still supplanted by that sort of aching feeling. Honestly, he would have preferred frustration... Hell, he would have preferred being thrown into a pool of acid. Anything was better than feeling regretful over a stupid pair of boots.

Stepping into the berth, he closed the door quietly and made his way to the front of the Lady Grey, where the most of the cadets were working. One team of four steamed the boards in the tubes in the back of the building, carried them up to the cadets on the starboard or port side, whichever the planking was for, and they fitted them onto the skeleton. It was a pretty organized system, really, even with the limited manpower.

Jansson was still in charge, still giving orders as a few of the other ensigns fitted the board on top of the next. Waiting until it looked like they were well-started, he paused and gave Scott a grin. "Welcome back, chief."

"Sorry," Scotty said, sheepishly. "I didn't mean to sleep half the day."

"You probably needed it." Jerry shrugged, gesturing to the work. "Besides, we did all right."

"Looks like it." Smiling a vague half-smile, Scott stepped over to help brace up the board while it was being nailed to the skeleton. They were working from the bottom up, though he was still debating on whether he wanted to just keep going up, then work their way aft, or stay on the bottom. The planks weren't terribly long, staggered enough to allow for maximum strength, and he couldn't honestly see if it mattered either way, so long as they were cut accurately.

The Lady Grey was getting her skin now, one step closer to a floating vessel. The boards had enough give from being steamed to mold easily to the ribs, jointed to the extreme bow from inside the hull, and caulked on the outside once the wood had dried out again.

"Wonder if we shouldn't try'n commandeer a few more people," Scotty pondered, aloud but to no one in particular.

"I guess we could," Jansson said, picking up the conversation as he helped brace the plank. "What've you got in mind?"

"Keep on like we are, but get ourselves about twenty more people. That way we can have one team on the port side, one on the starboard, the team we have on the wood-steamin', and a team workin' on th' inside of the boat. Startin' on the bilge, the ceilings... y'know?"

"Good luck finding volunteers." Jansson chuckled, stepping back once the holding nails were in place, "Your reputation precedes you, Wolf Larsen."

Scott raised his eyebrows. "Who?"

"Wolf Larsen. He was a fictional character in an old book we had to read in secondary. Real tyrant."


Jansson seemed to be entirely amused with his literary allusion and continued, "In fact, he had a schooner too, a fast one called the Ghost. A smart fellow, but he had a real complex going. Sound familiar?"

Scott forced down a smile and picked up a scrap piece of wood, holding it like a club. "Complex? I'll show ye complex, Mister."

Jansson snickered, knocking the board aside, "Aye aye, Cap'n Larsen."
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