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Old November 11 2008, 10:09 PM   #44
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 6

Chapter 6:

Friday, April 14th, 2243
Pier 44
Belfast, Ireland, Earth

The sun came up with the sort of color that could never be duplicated in pictures, holos or paintings. It glinted first off of the clouds that wisped along the horizon, starting off in dull, washed out colors before climbing in intensity to a bright, scalding red. It was breathtaking to see the sky like that, so vivid that it could almost burn a person just by the color alone.

Scotty had given into common sense at some point, sneaking into the dorms to retrieve his civilian coat. General unease sent him back to the pier, though, and he hadn't moved from the spot he'd chosen, aside to watch the sunrise on the Lough.

It had been a relief to let the more easy thoughts of night time and approaching daylight displace the unhappy notions that had driven him to depression earlier. Whether it was weariness or cold that finally pulled him from that torment he didn't know, and didn't care. As long as something mundane replaced it, it just didn't matter.

Finally dragging himself away from the bench, he stretched slightly, painted red in the light and stiff from the night outside. It was one thing to be working all night, and another thing to be sitting idle -- a fact he sure as Hell understood clearer on this side of midnight. Shaking his head at the irony of it, he started back for the campus.

Barrett intercepted him halfway. One look at the professor's face was enough to let Scott know he was in for it; still, before he had a chance to start to explain, Barrett confirmed that instinct. "I don't know exactly what career-destructive tendencies have overcome you this time, but generally," he said, spitting the word 'generally' out, "it's a good idea to at least check in before you decide to spend a night out."

Not able to think of a quick enough reply, the cadet stood at attention before he even realized he had adopted that stance.

"Do you even know what time it is?" Barrett asked, an edge on his voice that bordered downright icy.

Perturbed, Scott really did try to find an answer. He wracked his tired mind trying to count the hours, but that didn't help. Finally, weakly, he settled on, "I'm not sure, sir."

"Not sure." Shaking his head, the anger just seemed to vanish from Barrett, replaced by disappointment. "Security's looking for you. It's one thing to be a few hours late, but when you don't even make an attempt to check in for an entire night, that's bordering downright foolish."

"Aye, sir." Trying his hardest not to cringe, Scott bit on his lip. He really was in for it... not only from Barrett, but from the security division on campus. Technically, they could have called him AWOL -- a very quick end to his career.

The commander didn't say anything for a moment or two, just studying his student's face, as if trying to understand what would warrant this sort of behavior. Finally he continued, though, more gently than before, "You're already late for your first class. If I were you, I would do my best to be on time for the next one."

"Aye, sir," Scott answered, dutifully, and started at a jog for the dorms. Barrett's voice stopped him a few paces later, though.

"Did you find it?"

The cadet's eyebrows drew together. "Sir?"

"Whatever you were looking for," Barrett said, with an eerie certainty, like he knew exactly what it was tearing up Scott's mindset so badly. "Did you?"

Scott frowned, replying honestly, "Not yet, sir. I'm still workin' on it." Waiting for the nod of acknowledgment, he turned back and jogged away before he could be dissected any further.

It didn't end with Barrett, though, and Scott didn't expect it to. Security made sure to take a piece out of his hide as well, though they didn't end up calling him AWOL. The formal reprimand that would be in his permanent Starfleet record was enough -- any time he came up for promotion, someone would look at it and hesitate. Even if he never committed another breach of protocol, they would still notice that one.

Bureaucracy. One of the miserable constants in the universe.

He managed to get back to the dorms in decent time, rush through a shower and with his hair still soaked and the horrible feeling that it would only go downhill, he almost missed the final chime to get into Pearson's class. Skidding through the doors right as it rang, he was greeted with the Captain's full unhappiness.

"Nice of you to join us, Mr. Scott," Pearson said, coolly, bringing the attention of the entire class down on the still-panting cadet. "I wasn't sure if you were going to grace us with your presence."

Kelley snickered, loud enough to carry, and Scott raked him with a brutal glance before looking back at Pearson and adopting a more appropriate expression. "I'm sorry, sir."

"Well, take a seat. Education waits for no man."

"Aye, sir," Scott answered, keeping the relief from his voice only by sheer force of will. Darting up the steps, he picked the furthest possible seat from the front, fell into the chair with the grace of a dying animal, and tried to get his thoughts in proper order.

After an entire night of being almost insane with confusion, his mind resisted any attempts at being organized. It was another thing to add to the list of things going wrong that day so far, another thing to give cause for distraction. Once, a very long time ago it seemed, he had loved this class... now it was a pit from Hell, and he sure was coming close to falling in.

Forget the class, life itself was rapidly becoming a sick rendition of Dante's Inferno. Shaking his head at the thought, Scotty just did his best not to look to conspicuous. He wasn't in any sort of state to answer questions, take notes, do anything besides try damn hard not to lose his mind and fall to pieces.

That was when Pearson decided to remind him and the rest of the class that they had an exam.

"Forget renditions," Scott thought, taking the paper as it was passed back to him. It was Hell, Dante's Inferno, but for him. Scowling at the paper and wishing he'd at least put forth some real effort to study the night before rather than sit melancholy on a bench by the ocean, he figured he could guess about half of them. Jansson had grilled him pretty well on what they were supposed to be tested on, but that was a distant memory... God, it felt like it had been a decade ago when he'd been in the slip, working on the ship, working on something.

An eternity. An eternity since the night before, an eternity from one moment when there was just wood and the next when he had finally allowed her to be something more. Hell, it had been so long since he had been somewhat right in the head that there just wasn't any way to describe it.

Firmly dragging his mind back to where it was supposed to be, he gave his full attention to the paper. It wasn't easy to call on the engineering talent that had served him so well... seemed like it was hiding from the current state he was in just like he wished he could. Normally he could find his way blindfolded around the facts, theories, practicalities and applications of engineering, and now he was struggling just to get through a one sheet examination.

One sheet of paper, nothing to be afraid of.

Smirking in a slightly unbalanced manner, Scott read it over once, read it over twice, and made an effort to answer the questions. The bargain he had made with Barrett kept him from just guessing his way through... normally a tactic he only used when he wanted to go and read up on a journal or troop through a schematic, and now a tactic he was tempted to use just to get it over with.

Still, once he actually focused enough, it wasn't hard. Most of the quizzing he had gotten the night before filtered back in a subconscious manner, presenting itself automatically. It was about the only bright point in the day so far.

Sadly enough, it would probably be the only bright point in the rest of the day as well.

He'd been relieved to go back to the slip by the end of that day. Even after the revelations of the night before, it was still the most comfortable place he could find within walking distance. The rain had started again, ruling out the pier... his room was just too damn unhappy even without Corry... well, that left the shipyards and the Lady Grey.

The ships that men have sailed upon were often referenced throughout history. They captured the romantics, the semantics, the dreams and ambitions of human beings from the first time that a person set afloat a piece of wood and discovered that they could take to the water, become creatures of the ocean even if they could never really be a physical part of it. It was enough for them to be a spiritual part of the sea.

The ships had changed... became faster, better equipped, more capable of surviving a full gale. They'd evolved like the human race had, and even by that point, in the middle of the twenty-third century, they had not lost their ability to grab hold of a human heart. Man had moved into space, taking their love of their vessels with them, sailed the stars like they had the oceans, and it could never be said that there wasn't a bond between a ship and those who were aboard her.

The ocean wasn't finished with mankind just yet, though.

Scott didn't think of romanticism, being a fairly unromantic individual. He didn't contemplate the great evolution from the raft to the boat to the ship to the starship, nor did he pay a great deal of attention to how spiritual it all was. All he really did understand was that there was something there, something amazing, that wasn't explainable.

He was too tired, too close to losing it to understand much else. Ever a glutton for punishment, he'd worked from when classes ended to now. All evening, though, he hadn't once dared cross her bow, not sure he could take really seeing her.

Now, this close to curfew and alone with the Lady Grey, he found himself back in front of her. It was almost like his feet had moved for themselves and before he knew it, he was there again, reminded again of everything he didn't want to be reminded of.

Was it really that long ago that he had hated her? Honestly?

And now she was one of the few things he could depend on. He had tried all day to understand why he had allowed this to happen... why he'd allowed himself to care. Why he even cared in the first place, beyond the wish to finish her for Corry.

Where exactly the transition had taken place hard to say -- it was more of a progression than anything. It was every nail that he'd hammered in himself, every inch he'd sanded, every late night spent working until his hands bled from it. It was a simple equation, really; the more that he put of himself into her, the more she gave back until they really weren't so much two separate entities, just equal parts of one another. It had just taken him until last night to admit it.

Stepping forward, Scott leaned his forehead against the wood, eyes closed. The sturdiness of the ship, no matter how incomplete she was, was reassuring. She was solid... a structure he could lean on, carry his weight because right then, he wasn't sure he had the strength or the courage to do it himself. The whole day had been hard, from one problem to the next to the next, and at least here someone was willing to hold him up.

If only she had the answers, he would be all right. But she couldn't tell him what to do; even if she could, he didn't think he could do more than just stand there, leaning on her as though she were the only thing between him and damnation.

It was never so easy, though. God, it was never that simple, to just depend on a ship and have the ship depend on him without something going wrong. If she were his, he'd wonder about the friend he might have given up to keep her, and if she were Corry's, he'd have to find his own place. The fact that Starfleet technically owned her never crossed his mind; it was where the soul of her stood that mattered.

For that moment in time, however, she was his... the cumulation of every single good thing he had in him. Maybe tomorrow or some other day she wouldn't be, but for that single moment she was.

"I think ye're all I've got left," Scott said, a sad certainty in his voice that seemed even more desolate in the dark slip. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, to get enough strength to stand on his own again, he let the ship go.

He didn't look back when he walked out. If he had, he was sure it would have snapped him in two.

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