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Old November 11 2008, 05:42 PM   #39
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Chapter 5:

Thursday, April 13th, 2243
Weikman Lecture Hall, Theatre 4A
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth

The name stuck, just like the Lady Grey had stuck to the schooner. Scotty took it with somewhat mixed humor; occasionally he would give someone a glare over it, but most of the time he tolerated it, and it didn't take too long for him to answer to the name Wolf Larsen despite his best efforts not to. It wasn't pegged to him in bad spirits, he knew that much, though there were a couple of times he was afraid he might have more in common with the fictional tyrant than comfortable.

Just for the sake of curiosity, he'd looked the name up in the Starfleet literary database and spent an hour or so reading the book. Larsen was a sympathetic villain, he concluded. Someone who you could despise and respect at the same time, intelligent but unbalanced, obsessive and unconcerned all at once. That made him honestly wonder if that was what the other cadets of Team C thought of him.

"I hear your ship's coming along nice, Captain Larsen," Maggie said, lightly, breaking into his thoughts and effectively deleting anything but gibbering nonsense from his mind.

"Er... aye, sh-she is," Scott answered, or rather, stammered. Standing quickly, he set his books aside and tried not to look too idiotic. For some reason, his new name sounded a lot better coming from her rather than from one of his teammates. "And wh-what about yer team?"

"Slow," she admitted, smiling a tired smile. "How's Corry? He hasn't been around much lately."

Oh, just go and bring up that thorn in the side. Frowning a little, Scotty wished in the back of his mind that he had the courage to ask her out, tell her that Corrigan wouldn't appreciate her in his current state, offer his eternal love and devotion or any of the above. "Still aimin' for the med division."

Maggie echoed the frown with one of her own, shaking her head. "I wish he wouldn't be so serious about that. After all of this schooling, he should want to be an engineer."

"Aye... he should." The way her hair pooled on her shoulders, just barely regulation, was something close to bewitching. Hell with it, you only live once. "Maggie?"

"Hm?" she asked, looking back at him with those gorgeous eyes.

Scott shifted his weight from left to right to left, mentally smacking himself for being so damn hopeless. "Would... I mean, if ye... well, maybe someday ye could let me buy ye dinner? Or cook it? I mean, if ye dinna care to, that's all right, but maybe if ye--"

Maggie smiled, shaking her head. Leaning over, she kissed him on the cheek. "You're a sweety, Wolf, but I'm seeing someone." Stepping back, she picked up her books, turned, and walked out.

He was getting used to hearing that 'you're a sweety, but' line; still, Corry had been right. She was just so nice when she turned you down that it was impossible not to fall even more in love with her. Flopping back in his chair with a somewhat soulful sigh, Scott wondered absently exactly what it was with blondes, and her in particular, that made him into a complete idiot.

Nevermind. The peck had been worth the rejection. If that was standard issue rejection material, maybe he should try asking girls out more often. Maybe he could get more than a peck if he looked pathetic enough. He hadn't gotten so much as a hug from Rachel, but then, Rachel was just a girl, and Maggie was a genuine woman. All woman, head to toe, with that hair and those legs...

Cutting himself off before he started drooling, Scott stood again and grabbed his books. It wouldn't do at all to be found with a vacant, drooly expression by the next class due in. Taking a deep breath and mentally chocking this one up to experience, he walked out of the hall.

It was a fairly short walk across the road, through the gap between Andrews and the cafeteria, and over the lawn to the administration building. Barrett's office was on the first floor, and he tapped lightly on the door, not wanting to intrude if the professor was too busy to speak with him at that given moment.

"Come in," Barrett said, not looking up from the computer screen.

Scott stepped in, closing the door behind him. "I'm not interruptin' anything important, am I, sir?"

Barrett shook his head, turning off the computer and finally looking up. "Not at all. What's on your mind?"

"Manpower, sir. I was wonderin' if I was allowed to recruit a few more people for my team."

"Depends." The professor shrugged, leaning back in his chair. "Do you think you can convince a group of cadets to work on something they won't be getting credit for?"

"Depends," Scott echoed, grinning. "If I could, would ye allow it?"

Barrett grinned back, taking the challenge and adding to it, "Depends on whether or not you'd agree to bring your grades back up to where they should be."

"I could... 'course, that depends on havin' some help down there. We're understaffed, and ye know, sir, that does cut into my study time."

"You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Scott."

"Aye, sir, but a necessary one."

Thinking it over for a moment, Barrett twiddled his thumbs. He let the silence hang for a hair longer than comfortable before striking a smile. "I'll let you recruit if you'll give me your word that Captain Pearson will not come to me anymore and complain about my monopolizing your time. A few more hands should give you ample time to study."

Not one to allow the opportunity to beat Barrett at his own game pass, Scotty didn't answer immediately, likewise waiting until it was almost unbearably quiet. When he did, though, it was with no small amount of certainty. "Agreed, sir."

"Battle stress test for the frigate class, stage one," Jansson quizzed, taking a whack at a woodnail with his mallet.

"Lab test: Prolonged phaser blast on a section of the hull plating at 121 degrees centigrade to minus 156 centigrade, vacuum chamber, increasing atmospheric pressure per hundredth of a kilo 'til one full atmosphere's achieved." Scott smirked, leveling off the woodnail with a chisel once it was seated. "Right?"

"Right. Stage two?"

"Lab test: Simulated disruptor fire, section of hull plating, same temperature variations, same durations and changes."

"What's the maximum duration for the screens fully charged, Klingon disruptor fire, full power, tight beam?"

"Uhm..." Scott paused for a moment, calculating it out in his head as well as he could. "Frigate, right?"

"Yep," Jansson chirped, driving in the next nail.

"Between two minutes and two minutes, twenty seconds."

"I talked two first-years into joining the team."

"Did ye?" Scotty grinned, somewhat glad to have a break in the grilling. They'd been at it for an hour, alternatively asking and answering questions. "How'd ye manage that?"

"First I had to assure them we only called you Larsen as a joke," Jansson chuckled, setting the mallet down and climbing down from the ladder. "Then I promised them a bottle each of my homemade brandy for every week they put in."

Scott climbed down from his own perch, shaking his head in infinite sadness. "For shame, corruptin' the children like that. Someone oughta turn ye in, Jerry."

"Hey, they're too new to figure out that it's easy to sneak contraband on campus. I just took advantage of the situation."

"I won't complain, then. What time is it?"

Jansson looked at his watch, then winced. "2125. I should probably be getting back to the dorms. For that matter, so should you."

"Aye, in a minute." Scotty acknowledged the good-bye wave, then looked over the work they'd done over the past few days, since he'd approached Barrett with his request. So far, the two cadets Jerry had just bribed were the only two, but it was a start. They were making damn good progress, anyway, and that would make it all the better.

Stepping lightly, he started to walk around the bow to look over the starboard side. A couple more weeks of this, and the Lady Grey would be over half-completed. Finish the hull, finish the below decks, the steering mechanism, step in the masts, run the lines, rig the sails, and she'd be genuinely seaworthy. The cosmetic fittings and extra gear aside, she'd be ready to go.

He wasn't sure why he stopped, but he did. Right in front of her, he stopped in his tracks and looked at her dead on.

He blinked.

Her bow rose well above his head, this massive construction of wood, tar, iron... blood and sweat. His blood and sweat, and a few times, almost his tears too. It was a strange feeling, looking up at her like that and it was almost like he was seeing her for the first time. Seeing an entity, not just a project. Seeing something he'd fought for, something real and defined... not finished, but more than a concept, more than timbers.

Something he built, from the ground up, not just something he fixed or modified.

Frowning unconsciously, he took a step back. He'd imagined the schooner completed several times, but this was the first time he actually imagined her in the water, cutting through with that bow and parting the waves. Scott wasn't sure if he was afraid of that or not... or of the bittersweet sort of feeling, thinking of who she was going to belong to when it was all over.

Shaking his head hard, trying to physically get rid of the thoughts, he turned to finish his round. Not even a half-step later, foot still suspended in the air, he looked back.

Masts to the sky, bow to the waves, sails billowing in the wind, salt water flying... in that single moment, he saw her as clear as can be, and no matter what happened in the future, where he ended up, what other ships he might grow to love, he would never forget that mental picture.

Taking a deep, somewhat shaky breath, he didn't even try to finish rounding the bow, just turned around and sprinted out of the slip as fast as he could.

When Scott finally slowed down, stopped running like the hounds of Hell were on his heels, he was on the pier and fairly breathless. The air had a chilly edge on it, something that reminded him right quick he'd left his coat back in the shipyards, but he couldn't have forced himself to go back even if he'd managed to throw every ounce of willpower he had into it.

Not now. Maybe tomorrow, but he couldn't look at her now.

It wasn't so much the ship he was running from, but the idea of it: No matter how much of his heart and soul went into building the wooden vessel, she would never be his. He was building her for his best friend; a wild, desperate attempt to make things right the only way he really knew how. Christ, he just hoped Corry understood how much it was going to bite into him to give her up.

It wasn't right. What was it with ships, even archaic sailing ships, that could get into a man's blood and make him so devoted? Finally forcing himself to calm down and his breathing to even out again, the mixed up cadet crossed his arms tight across his chest and continued to walk along the pier. He certainly didn't want to go back to the dorms now, not in the face of everything that had happened, and he couldn't bear to go back to the slip and look at the Lady Grey again. That left precious few places to wander, to think, or to try not to think.

The water was quiet, and for once, it wasn't raining or even misty. The sky was clear above, stars sparkling in a million different strengths and colors, a promise of far off worlds and entirely new things to encounter. He looked forward to the day he could get there, and escape the entire gravity of the planet he stood firm on now. Looked forward to being out there, an engineer on a starship, testing and retesting his talent and hopefully becoming something more than a confused, frustrated pup who couldn't even pick a side and stay on it.

Well, it was a nice dream anyway. Sighing, Scott found himself a bench to sit on and did his best not to let the cool air get to him. It was too late to go back to the dorms now without being interrogated -- it wouldn't be any better when he showed up in class the next day, but at least he'd have time to mentally prepare himself for the dressing down.

For now, he didn't want to think about that, though. He didn't want to think about that, about the exam he had in the morning, about Corrigan and his screwed up obsession, or about the Lady Grey and how she had so thoroughly bewitched him.

But she was still there anyway. No matter what he did, he couldn't get that damn schooner off of his mind. Not even thinking about the Constitution, the ship he wanted so badly to be on next time she came into port, could get him to stop working on the Grey. It was an obsession, no less enthralling or vicious than Corry's... in some ways, they were intrinsically linked, feeding off of each other like a miserable, power-hungry paradox. Corry worked on finding an antibiotic that wasn't necessary, and Scott worked on building a ship that was impractical; each working to help someone else and both left in torment over it.

It made no bloody sense.

Why? Why was he even working on this with the feverish intensity of a madman, when it would never lead to anything good? Was it for Corry, or was it for himself? Some way to prove that he could do it, that he could create something with his own two hands that was more than just a composite of wood?

Well, he'd done that. God, he'd done that... Scott pulled his knees up, resting his feet on the bench and burying his head in his arms. He was rattled; shaken up and desperate to make enough sense of it not to be shaken up, not to feel like everything was falling apart. Part of him wanted to run back to the slip and bury himself back into the work that had served so well as a focus for his intensity, and part of him just wanted to give up. Let her stay the way she was, or leave her to be someone else's concern. Anything had to be better than sitting in the cold, Belfast night. Anything had to be better than being torn apart between the logic that told him to settle down and focus on Starfleet and the emotion that screamed to finish the Lady Grey -- to finish her, to drag Corry down there when she was set afloat and force him to look, and to be brokenhearted if it all worked out how he wanted and he had to give her up to someone else.

It wasn't that he wouldn't have given almost anything for Corrigan; his life, his career even. If it came down to it, he wouldn't have hesitated to die in Corry's place. But what could he do when he couldn't even have that opportunity? When the death facing his best friend wasn't a death of the physical sort, but the death of every dream he'd ever held onto, every wish he'd ever given, every single thing that made him the person he was?

What sort of death was that?

More importantly: What could Scott really do about it?

Not a whole Hell of a lot, he concluded, miserably, head still buried from the world. He couldn't talk it out; the words were so hard to find, even if tact wasn't an issue. There was always the Lady Grey, but no guarantee that even a fully finished schooner would give Corry pause. No guarantee...

If he had been the suicidal type, Scotty might have given serious thought to jumping off of the pier and letting himself drown. Not because he was facing any serious problem, nothing that would effect the rest of the world, but because no matter what he wanted to do, it always seemed so difficult. A million engineering disasters were easier dealt with than one serious, cut to the bone emotional crisis. When the Hell had he started over-thinking everything, started letting how he felt interfere with what he knew he needed to do? That was easy... when he felt responsible somehow for Corry. When he'd decided to watch Corry's back, like Corry had watched his when he was helpless and in over his head.

Now he was paying for it. A less stubborn man might have given up long ago and figured that it was a lost cause, but Scott wasn't a less stubborn man. Confused, uncertain, but he sure was bullheaded enough to make up for it.

If he just had an answer to the problem... a way to make it all right with a clear-cut, definite, surefire plan, he'd be set.

If life were just that simple.
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