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Old November 7 2008, 10:10 PM   #16
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part I, Chapter 3

SLWatson wrote: View Post
Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Hmm...given what we know about Scotty's family, something tells me this trip might not go well...
LOL! We'll, they're dysfunctional, but not exactly psychotically so. I'll probably post the next chapter either tonight or tomorrow.
Yes, but even so, it could prove embarrassing. I know how it feels to be a visitor in a household that's not running smoothly--ouch.

BTW, odd comment: I really like the title of this episode. I enjoy archaic-sounding titles for some reason...for the same reason I really liked the name of the Voyager episode, "Concerning Flight."
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Old November 7 2008, 10:13 PM   #17
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part I, Chapter 3

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Yes, but even so, it could prove embarrassing. I know how it feels to be a visitor in a household that's not running smoothly--ouch.
Well, yeah. Definitely. ::laughs:: Been there myself.

BTW, odd comment: I really like the title of this episode. I enjoy archaic-sounding titles for some reason...for the same reason I really liked the name of the Voyager episode, "Concerning Flight."
Thank you! Most of my titles are pretty simple, and probably archaic. And I don't remember which Voyager episode that is, but you're right -- the name is awesome.
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Old November 8 2008, 06:20 AM   #18
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part I, Chapter 4

Chapter 4:

Saturday, December 31st, 2242
Unmarked Lane in BFE
Outside of Aberdeen, Scotland, Earth


The moment he got there, Corrigan understood all of a sudden exactly why Scotty had been so nervous first walking up to his house in Maine. It wasn't so much the uneasiness of being in a strange place... in this case, on a dirt road a good several miles from Aberdeen proper, half-secluded in the woods, a stiff wind blowing out of the North, and the underlying smell of another country all together. No, it wasn't that, it was knowing that you were going to talk to people who you didn't know, and try to make a good impression because that was what was expected of you by your best friend and co-conspirator. That was why he stood outside of the brightly lit house for a good twenty minutes in the cold, mustering his courage.

The house itself was two stories of stone and wood, and the windows glowed in a cheerful welcome. All around were people's vehicles, and that alone was an odd lot, from an actual shuttlecraft off in the clearing to the right to a horse-drawn carriage. Laughter occasionally drifted out from the cracked door, and every once in awhile a shout was heard for something or other.

So he took his time getting up his courage, trying to figure out how he would fit into Scottish customs, since from what he had heard, they were far flung and varied. He paced, rubbing his hands together, and hoped for salvation.

"So ye plan on standin' here all night, just bidin' yer time?"

Corry turned on his heel, raising an eyebrow at his roommate who had snuck up in the shadows. "I'm... I'm just admiring... I mean, I'm taking a breath of fresh air. Long ride here, you know."

"Aye, right." Scott stepped over, sticking his hands into his pockets. "I dinna think ye'd make it."

"Didn't," Corry corrected, though more jokingly. Near a year ago, he'd been more serious about toning down that accent -- now it was habit. "And I did."

Scott twitched at the correction, probably suffering flashbacks to when he was being stopped every sentence. "Sorry, didn't. And speakin' of, my cousins decided to tell me I was talkin' odd."

Corry grinned. He counted that as a success. "Yeah? Well, that just makes my day. But I haven't quite succeeded in getting you ostracized yet."

Scott smirked at that, briefly. "I've ostracized myself. Mum went and put me in charge o' watchin' the whole lot o' brats. And while they may well be bonnie lads an' lassies every other day, they've been eatin' pure sugar all evenin'." Tossing a glance back at the house, he grinned wickedly. "I'm in no rush to get back in."

"Makes two of us, then," Corrigan muttered, leaning on the fence that lined the driveway. "Anything I should know before going in there? Like... greetings, or um... and do I have to eat haggis? Or wear a kilt? Or do some sort of weird sword dance?"

"What?" Scott shook his head, amused, and leaned closer. Dropping his voice to a conspiring whisper, he confided in perfect deadpan, "Corry, whatever book ye read tellin' ye this muck... throw it out."

Corry frowned. "But I thought--"

"Know what she made? Steak an' potatoes, oysters, um... Chaudrée de l'Atlantique au saumon--"

"Huh?" Corry asked, trying to ignore how the French was utterly butchered.

"Salmon chowder. French salmon chowder."

"Like chowder as in New England Clam Chowder? Red or white?" This was already beginning to look a little brighter. Corrigan was almost sure he would have to go through arcane rituals, and now someone was presenting him with a sort of homelike dish.

"White, and it's somethin' like that, aye," Scott admitted, with a barely concealed smirk.

Corry thought about it for a moment. "So I won't have to eat haggis?"

"Nooooo."

"And you have something like clam chowder?"

"Aye." Glancing to the door again, then back at Corry, Scotty raised his eyebrows. "Ready to give this a try, or should I go and slay a sheep first, bathe in its blood and chant a spell to keep the demons away from ye?"

"I think I'm ready." Corry steeled himself as well as he could, walking towards the house. He wasn't sure what he expected when he opened the door, exactly, but he certainly noticed that there were people everywhere. Everywhere. Older people, people his age, children... it was a madhouse. Backpedaling slightly, he ran into his roommate, who gave him a shove. "Uhhhh..."

"Chicken."

"Am not."

Scott rolled his eyes in exasperation, leaning on the doorframe and pointing. "All right, we'll start nice and easy. That's my mum Caitlyn back there, the one dishin' out soup. She's the reason we're eatin' French food. And over there's my father, Robert. He's an artsy type... does interior designin'. The bitch he's talkin' to... pardon the language, is Callie. She's my sister, and thinks she's the best thing to come to the art community since Monet. Still with me?"

Corry nodded seriously, filing the names in his mental cabinet. Caitlyn - angel, Robert -artsy, Callie - bitch. "Still here."

"Those're the important people, since they'll still be here tomorrow mornin' when we're hung over and in foul moods." Smirking slightly, Scott nodded to a middle-aged woman sitting on the couch, surrounded by children of all sizes. "That'd be Colleen, one o' my aunts, and that brood beggin' her for candy consists of... in no particular order, mind ye... Mary, William, another Robert, Tara, Heather, Heck... I still think he was named as a joke... Fiona, Kathleen, and Abigail. Now, they don't all belong to her... some're Stuarts, a couple o' McGowans, one or two Scotts."

"Is that all? Please say that's all," Corrigan whimpered, just trying to remember a few of those names -- and that was only about a fourth of the people actually in the room. He was suddenly glad his family was so contained.

"No, we still have the rest o' the aunts and uncles..." Apparently feeling some pity, Scott grinned. "But I'll let ye take a--"

"Montgomery! Who've ye got there, lad?"

"--break." Taking a deep breath, Scotty shrugged at Corry and started weaving his way through the people, trying hard not to step on any children who happened to be underfoot. After looking back over his shoulder to make sure his hapless roomie was following, he made his way to the back table where his mother was. "Mum, this is Corry... er, Andrew Corrigan, my roommate at the Academy."

"Oh, I'm so happy to meet ye!" She seemed to be, too. She practically beamed. "Ye know, it's really good Monty has a friend, he was always so shy--"

Scotty wasn't quite able to stifle a tortured wince. "Mum..."

"Ne'ermind, Montgomery, ye just be a good lad and get a few more bowls from the kitchen."

"Aye, Mum," Scott said, with a sigh, slinking off down the dark hallway towards the other brightly lit room.

Corry resisted the urge to smirk, though some part of him winced in sympathy. But it was kind of nice to see the tables turned somewhat, and he offered over his best schoolboy smile to Caitlyn. "Ma'am, it's a pleasure. And this chowder smells just terrific."

"Ye mean that? Here, let me get ye a bowl, ye poor thing, ye must be starved after flyin' over here from Maine." Smiling in turn, she went to ladling out some of the white soup.

Taking the few seconds to get his bearings, Corry finally relaxed. Aside from the hustle and bustle of so many people, the house itself was very warm and lively. It wasn't as brightly lit as his parents house, sort of mellow lighting, and a fire was burning in the stone fireplace. Every spare piece of furniture was in use, and it seemed like everyone was relaxed -- just a rather large family gathering.

Taking the bowl that was offered to him, he smiled thankfully at Caitlyn. Christ, it was almost uncanny how much Scotty looked like his mother... same coloring, same lines. It wasn't hard to see who had inherited what from whom. "You're a professional chef, right?"

"Aye, spent my whole life cookin'. Monty told me ye hailed from Maine, and I thought ye might like somethin' that reminded ye of home a bit. Been meanin' to try this out, it's a little diff'rent from what I use to make on tour." Pausing for a moment to fix a lock of hair that had fallen loose from the bun, she looked around the room. "And speakin' of, where's that boy gotten to? He's such a good lad, but it doesna take much to distract 'im."

Corry nodded at that, though in the back of his mind he was wondering where she got that from -- trying to distract Scotty when he was working was like trying to get blood out of a stone. Admittedly, it still remained one of Corry's favorite hobbies. He took a bite of the soup, then asked, "Want me to go find him?"

"If ye like. Kitchen's just right down there."

Nodding smartly, Corry took his bowl with him as he made his way back towards the kitchen. Stepping in, he didn't immediately find the other cadet... well, until he looked around the corner of the counter and found him fiddling with the garbage incinerator. "Your mother's looking for you."

"In a minute," Scott replied, distractedly, sitting back for a moment to squint at the readout panel. "I just got this thing workin' a few days ago, and the cheap piece o'... nevermind." Taking a moment to sigh with an expression that could only be described as 'henpecked to bloody ribbons', he looked back up at Corrigan. "Bowls, right?"

"Yeah. I'll get 'em if you want, though."

"Ye'd have my eternal thanks."

Corry chuckled, shaking his head and searching through the cabinets until he found the bowls that matched the one he left on the counter. "You look like you need to get out of here."

"Understatement o' the century there."

"So what're we gonna do?"

Scott stood, brushing his hands off and leaning on the counter, thoughtfully. "I was thinkin' that if we decided to avoid runnin' around the whole o' Aberdeen with the family, we could be smart lads and spend Hogmanay doin' a little... how to put this politely?... ditchin' the relatives and gettin' stupid at the pubs."

"Hmmm... hang out with your brood or go drink, hang out with your brood or go drink..." Corry grinned, a grin of complete mischievousness. "I think I'll take option B."

"Aye, I thought ye might."

Corry finished the chowder while Scott took the bowls out to his mother. It wasn't that he would have minded going around and doing whatever they were supposed to be doing, but after seeing just how many people were there, the idea of branching off seemed a lot more appealing. He crossed his arms, waiting until Scotty made his reentrance, looking even more henpecked than before... if that was possible. "Clean getaway?"

"Clean as it gets, in this house." Buttoning his jacket, Scott tossed a glance to Corrigan. "Ready?"

Corry shrugged, standing up straight. "Ready as I'll ever be."





"So, here I was, took off like a bloody fool in the middle of a gale... a'right, wasna the middle o' the gale, but the wind was kickin' up. An' me, bein' the patent idiot I am on occaaaasion, jus' stayed aloft, clingin' to the bar for dear life." Downing what had to have been his umpteenth straight shot of Scotch, Scotty leaned on the bar with a distinctly plastered look. They still hadn't made it into the actual city, having stopped off at one of the smaller roadside taverns for just one drink. That was several drinks ago, and not even a full hour; they had started the night pretty much like that had every time they'd gone pub-crawling -- basically leaping into a wager on who could drink more quicker and still remain standing.

Corry laughed, shaking his head and pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Didja land safe?"

"Nooooooo, oh no, nu uh. I'm really..." Nodding a few times and trying not to giggle, Scott leaned closer, whispering, "...dead. As a doornail." Sitting back again with a bright grin, he continued, "O' course I landed safe. Right smack in the middle of a bale o' hay, had to wade through cattle, an' got home stinkin' to high Heaven. Was a right bonnie trip, that."

"I once took the boat out alone in a storm." Corry nodded as well, with a seriousness that was bordering goofiness, draining his own glass and gesturing for another. "Was all kinda windy out there, white capped waves, and here I was on a skiff getting the hell beat outta me. Made it back alive, though, unlike you."

"Aye, poor dead me. I'll drink to that."

"And I'll drink to being alive."

Picking up his shot, Scotty took it in one belt, which was no doubt less painful this late in the festivities. Slamming the glass down on the bar, he looked at the clock -- almost 2200, and they still weren't even into the city itself. "We haveta go."

"I dun wanna move, though." Corrigan complained, though he pulled himself up off of the barstool reluctantly. "Tell me again why we took horses?"

"Couldna convinced anyone to let us take a real vehic... ve..." Not quite able to get the word right, Scott finally settled on, "ye know."

"Ayuh." Tossing down a handful of credits and not even bothering to count them, Corrigan half-walked, half-staggered out to the tree where they had tied the two horses they'd hijacked quite slyly from the carriage. Looking up at the largish beast, he tried to figure out how to climb up, what with riding bareback like that. Hard enough when he was sober, but now that he was officially getting just a bit tipsy, it proved to be impossible. "Can't we just lead 'em?"

"Ye wanna walk?" Taking the bridle and half using it for support, Scott led his steed (the put upon beast that it was) over to the steps of the tavern. After about three tries, he succeeded in getting up onto the horse's back, and promptly gave Corry a smug little look. "See? Easy as can be."

"Smartass."

"Just c'mon."

Following the other cadet's example, Corry took his few tries before clambering up. Taking the reins into his hands, he looked down both ways of the darkened road, pretty oblivious now to the cold wind that was still powering down from the North. "Which way?"

"Thattaway," Scott said, nodding proudly towards a footpath into the woods. "I know a short... short..."

"...shortcut?"

"Aye, that."

"Is that a good idea?"

"Ye wanna get there before midnight, right?" Pulling on the reins and bringing a whole new meaning to the term drunk driving, the Scotty headed for the path, singing some barely-coherent Gaelic-sounding tune. After a moment, still not sure it was a good idea, Corry followed.


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Old November 8 2008, 06:20 AM   #19
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

--



"We're lost." And forgotten, and with no hope of rescue. Corrigan was getting a little more clear-headed by that point, at least clear enough to notice that the path they had been on was long gone and it was a bit chilly out there. Add in the fact that the horses were about ready to declare a strike, and it was starting to look bleak.

"We're not lost, just..." Scott pulled his horse up short, looking around blearily, thinking more and more about his nice, warm bed. "Tempor... uhm, misplaced."

Corry shook his head, then took to surveying the area again. The moon was out, which shed a little light into the trees, but that didn't offer much in the way of direction. "Is all of Scotland this sparsely populated?"

"Nu uh... we shoulda come 'cross somethin' somewhere by now. Unless we're goin' in circles." Which was possible. He was an engineer, afterall, not a navigator.

"Time is it?"

"Dinna know."

"Great."

"Mum's gonna murder me... aye, she'll just string me up an' that'll be the end o' that." Leaning over the horse's neck for a moment, Scott groaned. He could see it -- they stagger in after several days lost; bruised, tired, and too weak to run away -- and then... "I'm a dead man."

Corry laughed. "We established that, didn't we?"

Shooting an irritated glance back, the other cadet sat up straight again. "A'right, really dead this time. Double dead."

"I won't let 'er kill ya. Who'd design the ship if you bit it?" Corrigan nudged his horse up until he was along side Scott. "Besides, you're only my best friend. And think about it! How many Starfleet cadets can say that they got lost in the woods on horseback, drunk, and lived to tell about it?"

Taking advantage of the setup, Scott lowered his voice to an almost sinister level, eyeing Corry with a wicked look, "Who says we're gonna live?"

Frowning, Corrigan held the gaze. "Of course we're gonna live. Someone's bound to find us."

"But how soon?" Having all too much fun, the younger cadet set his horse to a slow walk, circling Corry. "Ye know, there're stories of all sorts in these parts. In fact," Scott continued, lowering his voice further still, until it was just above the sound of the wind in the trees, "once I heard 'bout this group o' highwaymen... y'know, the men who useta jump from the trees and cut the throats of innocent travelers."

A little spooked, either because of the booze or because his friend was very good at taking advantage of bad situations, Corry swallowed hard. "That's bullshit. There haven't been reports of highwaymen for centuries."

"Oh, but ye never know, do ye? Maybe they're just waitin'... waitin' for someone dumb enough to wander away from the lights, away from the safety o' the city..." There was nothing quite like abusing someone's drunkenness. And cultural misconceptions. "Common 'round these parts, all the way up past the third world war, ye know. Cut-throats, radioactive mutants..."

"If there were highwaymen, they'd never bother with two cadets," Corry tried, lamely.

"Waitin' in the trees, watchin' for a chance to leap down--"

Something rustled in the brush, and that was all the influence Corrigan needed to lose his entire sense of reality. He kicked the horse in the side, probably by accident, held on by what could only be the sheer force of fear when it reared up, and only just managed to grab onto its mane in time when it took off at a full gallop.

While watching Corry get repeatedly slapped in the face by woodland brush was good, he couldn't very well be left to find his way anywhere by himself, so Scott took off after him. At least he had the sense to avoid the worst of the branches, though; he counted almost fifteen pained 'ow's' before Corry managed to get his horse back under control.

Scott stopped his only a moment or two behind. "Cor... oh, God, the look on yer face..." Dissolving into giggles again, he almost fell off the horse.

Corry glared ice chips, slipping down and breaking off a thin branch from a sapling nearby. "Just keep laughing, because I'm about to seriously hurt you."

"It was a stick... I threw a bloody stick, and ye lost yer mind." Having no clue what was up with the sapling, Scotty was still damn amused with himself. Afterall, if you couldn't take advantage of your drunk buddy and scare twenty years off of his life, who could you take advantage of? He was sure it wouldn't work, but apparently the timing, the whistling of wind, Corry's already odd misconceptions about Scotland, the alcohol and the entire mood all worked together for this little masterpiece.

Swatting the other cadet across the arm with the branch, Corry waited until the yelp quit echoing before saying, "Well, you have your stick and I have mine."

"I'm not apologizin'..." Scott said, then whimpered and fell back to rubbing at his arm. That'd leave a nice welt, he was sure. "Ye dinna have to get mean about it."

"You scared the Hell outta me!" Corrigan had an obvious debate with himself, raising the branch again, then apparently decided he had gotten the point across and dropped it. "Now, before we get into any more trouble, do you have any idea where we are? Or what time it is?"

"No," Scotty answered, fairly well sobered up himself now. Relatively speaking, anyway, compared to what he had been. "I suppose if we head in one direction, we should end up somewhere."

Corry nodded, dragging himself back up onto the horse's back and taking the reins in hand. He held a hand over his heart for a moment, then gestured. "All right, lead on."

"Turn my back on ye? Ohhhh no, by all means."

"You know your way! I don't!"

Raising an eyebrow, Scott asked, "Ye sure? We are lost, afterall."

Corry rolled his eyes, nudged the horse into a walk, and took the lead.





It was the booms of the fireworks going off in Aberdeen, signaling the new year, that finally gave them the right direction. Of course, by that point, they were both too cold and tired to think about turning around and heading into the city, so they simply sang a few verses to Auld Lang Syne, talked back and forth about the great days gone by, and came to the conclusion that this jaunt would probably be remembered simply because of its relative stupidity.

So when the lights of the house came back into view, and the two cadets trudged their tired horses up the lane, it was a welcome sight. One of those, 'you're still alive no matter how stupid you've been' sights, which generally greet the baffled, the moronic, and the young and foolish. They had fulfilled at least two of those requirements, and were close on the other two.

Most of the vehicles were gone, though the carriage that the horses had come from and the shuttlecraft in the field were still there. Shaking his head, Scott slid off of his horse and tied the reins to the fence, close enough to the water trough that had been set up for them. He wasn't particularly bothered by missing the celebration in town -- the stunt he had pulled on Corry was more than worth it. If he were an artist, he would have been tempted to paint the scene.

"My butt's gonna hurt for a month," Corrigan complained, following his friend's example. "I've never ridden a horse that long."

"Well," Scott said, amiably, "if anyone tells ye it's like bein' with a woman, ye c'n tell 'em to take a hike."

"That's pleasurable. This isn't."

Shaking his head, Scotty chuckled and headed for the house. He had been riding for years, but had since fallen out of the habit. Morning would probably show just how much, and how many muscles he'd abused. Tossing a glance back over his shoulder, he paused to let Corry catch up, just about ready to toss this night up to experience.

So when the gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, almost inhuman howl came, it was more like being dipped in engine coolant. That instantaneous, frozen reaction of the damned, the cursed, the confused. The horror as it all came to play out, the figures that glowed eerily, the gibbering nonsense, the black-painted faces...

...the hard thud as the two cadets slammed into the ground.

Terrified beyond all possible description, Scotty couldn't even manage a cry of fear. The world had just turned into something surreal, though the logical part of his mind (the part that wasn't working) might have told him that there was nothing to panic over. As far as he was concerned, panic was a good idea, but by the time he realized that, he was already pinned to the muddy ground and a somewhat familiar voice was all too jolly above, "So what d'ye think we should do t' our horse thieves 'ere?"

The other voice, the one above Corry's muffled shouts for help, heavenly or otherwise, replied, "Oh, I dinna know. Skin 'em, maybe?"

"Aye, that'd work mos' times. Wouldna learn anything that way, though."

"D-do... do I get a vote in all o' this?" Scott asked, albeit timidly, once he finally got his breath back.

"'Course not." Grinning merrily, the man stood up and offered a hand down.

Taking the hand, the cadet pulled himself up, not really surprised that he was shaking from head to toe now. Looking over at Corry, it was a little bit of a reassurance to find him in the same condition; muddy, confused, shaking, and otherwise a little dazed. It took another minute to find his voice again. "Cor, these.." pausing for a moment, he tried to find a polite word instead of a curse, "gentlemen happen t' be my uncles."

"Wonderful family," Corry murmured, eyes still wide.

"Charlie's the name, lad," the one who had Corry pinned said, grabbing his lifeless hand and shaking the hell out of it. "The horses ye decided to borrow happen to be mine."

"N-nice to meet you."

"This one's Edward," Scott muttered, gesturing to their other assailant. "Mum's brothers, an' both a bit wrong in the noggin."

Edward frowned, swatting his nephew upside the head. "Watch yer tongue, Montgomery. We prob'ly saved ye a chewin' from yer mother."

"A chewin' would be preferable to bein' scared gray!" Scotty protested, though not nearly as seriously as he would have liked. "Were ye just layin' in wait?"

Charlie grinned, oblivious to the way Corrigan cringed when he threw an arm across his shoulders. "We saw ye ridin' back the road... just got here maybe twenty minutes ago. Thought we'd don some warpaint and give ye a proper greetin', o' sorts. O' course, lad, if'n ye want us to tell Cait what happened--" Seeing Scott blanch white, he chuckled, "Well, we dinna tell 'er yet."

"So how 'bout we just use this as a learnin' experience? Ask before ye borrow a man's horses." Quite satisfied with the way it was all playing out, Edward nodded smartly and headed back for the house, basically leaving it at that.

Certainly not about to argue, for fear of incurring motherly wrath, Scotty waited until both men were out of earshot before leaning on the fence with both hands and taking a few good, deep breaths. "Unfair."

"If you wanna call foul, I'll deny knowing you," Corry replied, leaning beside his roommate, likely trying to come to grips with his second scare of the night. "Man... I'm half tempted to just hop the shuttle back to Belfast tonight. At least I know I'm safe on campus."

"Take me with ye, if ye do." Looking back at the house, Scott nodded to himself. "I love 'em, Cor... but ye know that old sayin', 'too much of a good thing' an' all that."

Nodding emphatically, Corrigan had no problem agreeing, "Aye."
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Old November 8 2008, 07:18 AM   #20
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

AAAAHAHAAHAHA! What an epic night! That'll teach 'em to think going out and "getting stupid" is a good idea...

Ohhh, and you know, you CAN get arrested for DUI for riding a horse intoxicated. Seriously. It's happened.
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Old November 8 2008, 08:17 AM   #21
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

LOL! I'm imagining that no one was probably looking for drunken college-age kids on horseback that night, but that would have been an interesting twist to the tale! I might have to remember that for some point in the future...

Thanks for the comment! The first part (Balancing Equations) was mostly about setting up the dynamics and introducing the plot. The real meat of the story starts next.
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Old November 9 2008, 04:54 AM   #22
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1

Part 2: The Lady Grey

---- --------------- - --------- - --

Y'know I find it hard...
I always tried to find the sane life...
But I don't like the way things are,
And I keep falling to my knees,
Somewhere in the middle of this.

-Dishwalla, Somewhere in the Middle

---- --------------- - --------- - --

Chapter 1:

Friday, February 3rd, 2243
Malone Road Dormitory, Room 17
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth


The still-quiet streets of Belfast had been a relief to the two cadets. It wasn't a tangible thing, like a well-worn sweater, but it was comforting nonetheless. It had effectively been Corrigan's home for almost four years, minus holidays and personal leaves. He knew the streets, the little shops to get food that wasn't designed to kill your morale, the brick dormitories and the docks. He had grown to love Ireland, despite complaining heartily about the weather, and though Maine was always his first home, Belfast was most certainly his happy second.

It hadn't even taken a day for them to fall back into their traditional habits and routines. Some cadets hated leaving home to come back, and some took a good week or two to settle back in, but Corry and Scotty weren't among that sect. After waking up in some pain, drinking enough coffee to send an elephant into spasms and working halfheartedly on the schematics for the project, night found them on their respective sides of the room, pursuing their respective relaxation. The next day was basically the same, and since class didn't start until the third, it was all good.

When classes did start again, it was with the smooth transition of Starfleet. A new year didn't mean much to the top brass, aside from the fact that they had to type a different date into the computers when they filed the paperwork. It was a little more sentimental to the students -- a new year, a new start, a new chance to take a step towards the stars. The senior cadets were usually the most excited, putting in for their internship positions on whichever ships they wanted to serve -- most of them aiming for the newly commissioned Constitution-class, of course. The best among them would get it, and then it'd go down the line.

Scott didn't have much to worry about. He was the valedictorian. He had a choice of anywhere he wanted to go to serve, and already knew what ship he wanted. That was his brass ring.

Corry was still plagued by misgiving about leaving Earth behind to join the ranks of the stars. No matter how much he tried to get excited about the prospect of leaving his home planet and exploring the outer reaches of the galaxy, he just couldn't manage to. He was worried about going up there -- even engineers on one of the big ships were knocked off regularly by alien attacks, equipment errors, being assigned to landing parties. Dying was a big problem, but the idea of some subspace message informing his family of his demise was just awful to think about.

So he set his sights closer, and concentrated on the schooner. They had their schematics in well in time for the deadline, the materials were delivered, the models were built quickly and efficiently, and they were ready to start laying the keel.



The model that they kept in their room was more for looks. It hadn't been built to be used in the actual process, and the cutaways and such were kept in the mold loft at H&W shipyards, berth #22. But this was their personal copy of what the ship would look like, and since it seemed like ninety-nine percent of their free time was spent working on it with the other cadets, they deserved it.

She was narrow-bodied; slim and with a deeper draft. The foremast stood shorter and the mainmast taller, the fore-and-aft rigged sails simple enough to handle with the minimum number of crew, even taking account their sheer area. She had a quarterdeck (Corry's insistence), a maindeck and then the below decks and bilge. It had taken the four members of the design team and three more commandeered cadets from the construction team a week solid, every day for hours, working on her plans and the work had not been in vain.

The name she ended up getting, though, was the direct influence of the cloth used on the model's sails. Having nothing else to work with, Scotty had decided to sacrifice one of his older uniforms and so she ended up with gray sails. It hadn't taken long for Corry to start calling her the Lady Grey... first named for her sails, and as an afterthought (for the sake of explaining it to Barrett) for the unwilling nine-day queen. The name stuck... it had a nice smooth flow to it, and it was unanimously decided to keep it for the christening.

"You know, I've thought about it and thought about it," Corry said, tapping his pencil against his temple to emphasize, "and now that we're actually gonna build this thing, we're pretty well-researched, and ready, we still have no clue what to do with her."

"Do? Hopefully set her floatin' an' collect a nice grade for the effort," his roomie replied, sitting on his bunk indian-style, scrutinizing the model with an intensity only an engineer could be blessed with. "I don't know what else there is to do."

Corrigan grinned, taking the conversational setup. "There is something... We could finish and then learn how to sail her."

"I'm an engineer, not a sailor," Scott pointed out, not taking his concentration away from the model.

"Can't be both?"

"I suppose I could, but ye have to remember one vital piece of information, Cor... once we finish this, it'll be June and less than two months before we ship off for internship. Not much time to learn. Plus, what makes ye think Starfleet would even let us? They're frontin' the bill."

"Welllll, I already know how to sail smaller boats, and I'll bet fifty credits that there're at least a few other people on the team who can sail... I think we can pull it off. I mean, even the higher ups can't really begrudge us a chance to sail what we built."

Scotty finally looked up, an amused grin crossing his face. "We've not even laid the keel down yet, and ye're already plannin'. Don't count the telarrians before they hatch."

"I'm not. I'm counting chickens."

"Almost the same thing."

"Except one's green."

"Tastes like... chicken!"

Corry laughed, shaking his head and laying back on his bunk. "Now there's a saying that's been around since the dawn of time."

"Probably because it's so bloody true. Think about it... man goes off inta the stars, carryin' the hopes for all mankind. Comes across the first planet he sees, lands, decides to kill himself some wild game, just for a change o' pace. And, since chicken taste happens to be a universal constant, what's it taste like?"

"Chicken!"

"Aye. And that's why we still say that everything tastes like chicken," Scott said, matter-of-factly, finally setting the model aside and picking up the tentative construction schedule they had worked out earlier. He still wasn't entirely thrilled with the whole process, with how time-consuming it was, but every time he considered complaining he likewise thought about incurring the wrath of Corrigan, and decided that it wasn't worth it. Being chewed to within an inch of his life was better avoided. "I don't think we have that much to worry about, though. Four months should be more'n enough, even with our manpower."

"Yep, that it should," Corry said happily, standing up to go to his desk, where the light on his computer monitor blinked that he had a message. "Long as no one mutinies, anyway."

"Eh, we'll make 'em walk the plank or some other such nonsense." Trying to picture that, Scotty grinned. He wouldn't mind building the ship just so he could make someone walk the plank; the complete absurdity of it would be good for a laugh at the very least. Still, he didn't think anyone was going to mutiny -- so far, everyone had taken a liking to the Lady Grey because she was such a break from the norm. Even he didn't outright hate the work he was doing now that he'd gotten past the initial brainstorming. From here, it was more manual labor, making the parts fit the theory, making something that could float and carry herself by the power of wind. He still would have preferred matter and antimatter, or plasma, or maybe even nuclear power, but wind would have to do. It wasn't like he had a choice in the matter.

The click of the monitor turning off had an odd sound, one that rang a bell in his subconscious and gave him pause from his pirate notions to look up. Then he realized, more instinctively than not, that it wasn't the click that was wrong but something else, something that changed the entire feeling of the room in less than a second, and the look on Corry's face backed it up. "Somethin' wrong?"

Corrigan blinked a few times, as though he'd forgotten he wasn't alone. "Uh, yeah... I mean, no. I mean, I've gotta go."

Scott raised an eyebrow. Eh? Go where? "What is it?"

Corry didn't answer immediately, grabbing his carryon out of his closet and grabbing his clothes from the top drawer, shoving them into the bag without much regard for their welfare. When he finally did think to reply to the question, he only spared a brief glance at his roommate. "My dad... something's wrong, I gotta go home."

"Anything ye need?" Quick on the uptake, Scott already was up and offering Corry's boots to him. Whatever it was that had so completely stunned his usually talkative pal into this state had to be serious enough to not take too much time with questions of what or why. He could always get those answers later.

"Yeah, get my assignments for me if you can. I'll try'n be back quick as I can be, and if I can't, I'll give you a call." Taking the boots and pulling them on, Corry laced them up quickly and tied them, then stood and grabbed his coat. Not even taking the few seconds to pull it on, he all but dashed out the door.

Scott followed, perplexed and worried by now. He hated the idea of sitting by while something not-good was happening, and that much showed in his voice when he called after his roommate as he headed down the steps, "Corry!"

Corrigan paused a flight down, looking back up. "Yeah?"

"If ye... I mean, if there's..." Scotty tried, basically aiming to reassure and falling short of the mark. Heartfelt sentiments weren't among his strong points.

It must have been clear enough, though. Corry flashed a brief, grateful half-smile. "I know." And with that, he turned and left.

Letting the door slip closed, Scott frowned to himself and walked back to the dorm room. That was certainly odd -- in less than five whole minutes, something had changed. Something wasn't right. Shaking his head, he closed the door to the room and went back to sit on his bunk, eyeing the monitor. He could easily crack the code and get the message, whatever it had been, but that would have been a betrayal, and if there was one thing he wouldn't do it was betray his best friend.

So he firmly put that thought out of his mind. It was only a matter of time until he found out, and when he did, he was sure that it wouldn't be that bad... curiosity and worry always made things seem about a million times worse than they actually were. Feeling a little better with that realization, he pulled the construction schedule back off of his desk, where he'd tossed it to help Corry pack. With the leader gone, the project would fall onto his shoulders, and he sincerely hoped that whatever was wrong would resolve itself in time to turn that responsibility back over. He didn't particularly want to lead; that was why he'd been so miserable in command school.

It wasn't the leadership that was weighing on his thoughts, though. It had taken only an hour of jotting down notes on who should work when before he realized that it was something else entirely.

It was too quiet.

After months of being stuck in the same room, good times or no, Scott had gotten so used to Corry's presence that it was almost eerie to not have him there. Certainly there were times when one of them was gone, but there was a strange quality to this silence, like it would be longer than it should've been by all rights. It was too complete... no idle conversation to ignore, no pencil scratching on paper, no clicks on the keyboard, nothing. They didn't have any music tapes to listen to, since mostly they were too busy to just sit around and music was distracting enough when there was work to do. The other cadets had gone to bed, no doubt, or were keeping quiet, so there wasn't even background noise.

Too quiet. Mentally berating himself for being silly, since he'd only been left there alone for a relatively short period of time, Scott went back to working on the schedule. It wasn't like he didn't like being left alone -- God only knew how many times he'd been trying to work on something he considered of major importance only to snap at Corry for breaking his concentration. Once or twice, he'd even chased the other cadet out with threats of serious physical harm, which Corrigan always took with good humor. After the initial adjustment period, they just got good at living together.

That was the way it was. But there was no one to get snippy with, and maybe that was the real problem. No one to be annoyed with, no one to get over being annoyed with. No one to threaten to throw his boots out the window... leaning over, he looked at the black service boots where they sat beside his bunk.

"Ye'd think he's been gone a decade, not an hour," he finally said to himself, then smiled slightly. Now he'd fallen to talking to himself, which wasn't uncommon when he was concentrating but was most certainly not something he did consciously.

Being worried was what made it so quiet, though. He didn't know what was going on. Worse, though, the best friend he had was facing something, alone, and he couldn't do anything about it. It made him edgy.

Well, sitting there staring absently at the notebook wasn't going to get anything done, and thinking too hard about something that couldn't be changed wouldn't either. Finally deciding that time would tell, Scott flicked his light off and settled in for bed.

But his thoughts were still an ocean away.



--
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Old November 9 2008, 04:55 AM   #23
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1

-


Corry was actually missing for longer than anyone had expected. That alone had put a slightly rough edge on his roommate, who was no more accustomed to the quiet days later than he had been after the first hour. So, instead of sporadically pacing his room, Scotty spent most of the time until curfew down in the shipyards. It was the only place he really could think of that lent some distraction.

It was on the morning of the seventh day that Scott finally resigned himself that he would have to inform Barrett that he was taking the project over, even if only temporarily. Steeling himself for what he was sure would be a messy situation, he stepped into the hall just as Barrett was wrapping up class for a few first-years. "I'll expect the essay in on Monday. You can either give it to me on tape or on paper, but the formatting should be exact either way. Dismissed."

Waiting for the cadets to filter out, Scotty finally took a deep breath and approached the podium. "Sir?"

"What can I do for you, Mr. Scott?" Barrett asked, glancing up from his desk. "Trouble on the final?"

"No, sir," he answered, taking a few steps closer. "I was... well, I came by to tell ye that Mr. Corrigan's out on personal leave, an' I'm takin' over his duties until he returns."

"All right... anything else?"

"Er... no, sir, nothin' important."

Barrett smiled slightly, finally giving Scott his full attention. "I find it hard to believe you'd come over here just to tell me that you're covering for your friend until he gets back. I was informed, you know."

Uh oh. Searching through his mind for an explanation for something so blatantly obvious -- of course he knew that the professor would have been informed, that's just common sense, good job there forgetting common bloody sense -- Scotty finally settled on a weak, "I... forgot, sir."

"Forgot," Barrett echoed, smiling a patient, if not amused, smile. "You once rattled off the entire list of specifications for the Constitution-class starships from memory to me. I don't exactly see you as the forgetful type."

"A lot on my mind?" The cadet imagined a hole, six feet deep. "The Lady Grey, sir... she takes up a lot o' time."

"Lady Grey, eh? Apparently you've taken to shipbuilding better than Mr. Corrigan thought you would." Barrett was apparently not ready to let this drop. "So tell me, cadet, how do you feel about being the head of this project?"

Make that ten... no, twenty feet. Scott knotted his hands behind his back, just for the sake of not fidgeting or any other nervous reaction he seemed to have a problem with. "Well enough, I suppose. Sir."

"Your transcripts say you were booted out of Command School," Barrett mused, leaning on the podium and crossing his arms. "They didn't specify why, but I imagine it went along the lines of inability to adjust to command status."

"Aye, sir," Scotty answered, dutifully. Did everyone know about that? "I think I make a better engineer, sir."

Barrett smiled again, a little more reassuring this time. "I'll agree with that. So now you're effectively commanding a crew of nineteen on a project you didn't agree with, your friend is gone for all intents and purposes and you're starting to lose your memory. About right?"

"Aye, sir." If he'd been a better liar, he might have actually tried. But now there was no taking it back.

"Then here's the prize question. How do you really feel about all of this?"

Scott blinked once or twice. He knew damn well how he felt, but he didn't pause to think someone actually might be concerned about that when he was doing all right with his coursework, with the project, with just about everything. "Feel, sir?"

"Feel," Barrett chuckled. "Go ahead, no one's going to bite your head off for being human, unless by some chance you happen to be Vulcan."

"No, sir," Scott answered, with a wry grin. He certainly wasn't unemotional, not even by the most liberal standards. Pulling himself back from the moronic mental image of himself with pointed ears and eyebrows, he finally calmed down a little. "I suppose... well, worried, for one. And put upon."

"Put upon because of your schooner, I take it?"

"Aye, sir."

Looking up at the ceiling, Barrett smiled to himself. After a moment, he looked back at the ensign. "Here's something I want you to think about, and put it somewhere that faulty memory of yours won't discard it. You feel like you're somehow being asked to do something you don't think's important, or act in some way contradictory from what you see yourself as. But," he said, before any protests could be voiced, "that's the nature of wind, Mr. Scott. You can work with it or you can fight against it... but no matter how much you might not like it, you can't change it."

He left behind a very baffled cadet when he walked out.




Scott was still chewing on that when he went back to the shipyards that evening. Sure, it was some sort of great moral that was supposed to make his entire life make sense... some brilliant insight to be gleaned about destiny, the winds of fate or something else, but he didn't believe in destiny. A man made their own destiny, and if it couldn't be changed, then what was the point of trying?

Damn Barrett for putting something philosophical in a brain meant to work with the technical. Now that would probably be the first thing that came to mind whenever someone started questioning what they would do with their life, and he'd just parrot it back to them even if he didn't believe it.

Like Hell he would.

Unlocking the door to the indoor berth, he stepped in and hit the lighting control. The panels in the walls lit, the panels in the ceiling lit, and the Lady Grey's keel became visible. Well, the start on her keel... it wasn't finished yet, and wouldn't be for at least several more days. Looking at what would be the backbone of the oddest project he'd ever worked on, Scotty tried hard to find some feeling of attachment for the wood and lead. It didn't shock him when he didn't find anything more than a weary resignation that this is what was going to be eating away at his time for the next several months.

Closing the door with a sigh seemed amplified in the long, tall room, he started up the stairs to the mold loft. Maybe there would be something there to distract him from philosophy, from worrying about Corry, from life in general.

The mold loft had taken on the nature of a hide-out for the cadets who worked there. There were a few pinups on the walls, most of them of leggy women with a come-hither look... certainly easy on the eyes, he thought. There was a cooler pushed against the wall by the drafting table, and Scotty took a little bit of joy in thinking about how much contraband they had locked up there. A few bottles of hard liquor under the ice, a hand phaser that someone had 'borrowed' from the security division just because they could in the desk, Jansson's dirty magazines... one good raid in there would have them all demerited to oblivion.

But then, they were left mostly to their own devices, off campus and in charge. He hadn't had quite as much trouble taking over command as he thought he would; his main problem was worrying about the person he'd taken command from. He'd tried to call Corry's house in Maine and didn't get an answer, which chewed at him to no end, and he'd stopped by his room between classes to see if any messages had been left.

So when he first heard Corry's voice, it was with some disbelief. Needless to say, he got over it quickly.

"Hey, chief."

"Cor! Where've ye been? And what happened?" Scott stopped himself before he could ask fifty more questions. He didn't realize how relieved he was, even, until he let that breath out.

"Johns Hopkins and a good scare," Corry said, closing the loft door before sitting down behind the draft table and rubbing at his eyes, wearily. "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you before now... been a hectic week."

"Eh, I made do." Leaning on the wall, Scotty crossed his arms. "Though I'm damn curious, t' tell ye the truth."

"Well, lemme see..." Closing his eyes, Corry tipped his head back, taking a moment to reply, "Dad was out there on a project... this time, he was with a team who was putting a set of steering thrusters on an asteroid almost entirely made of valadium. It was pretty routine, they were going to get it so it could be guided to a processing station."

"Aye, makes sense..."

"So they get the thrusters fitted when this dust storm comes in. They made it underground safe, and the asteroid was pretty stable. Well, Dad had a microbreach in his EV suit... nothing serious, he sealed it off without a problem before the emergency sensors even sealed off that section of the suit." Taking a deep breath, the older cadet plowed on, "Well, this storm was carrying something, some kind of bacteria or something from God only knows where, and it got into the air circulation system of the suit. Next thing Dad knows, he can't breath right, he's coughing and choking for air, and they have to bring a ship into this mess, emergency transport him out."

"He's all right... right?"

"Yes and no." Corry winced. "They got him stabilized, but everytime they took the respirator off, he started choking again. They warped him back here... even had him transferred to the Valley Forge to get here faster. When I left, he was already back and in the hospital."

Definitely not good. Echoing the wince, Scott basically made himself ask the next question, "Did they find anything?"

"They gave him a full blood transfusion, shot him up with all kinds of antibiotics; he can breathe okay now, but they don't know if it'll get better, or if he'll slip back into whatever this is. Right now, they're doing all kinda tests." Leaning forward and balancing his elbows on his knees, Corry went back to rubbing his eyes. He looked tried out, and frustrated and torn. "He was in quarantine... Mom couldn't even hold his hand."

Face set in a serious frown, Scotty finally willed himself to sit down. So that was the reason; a good reason and a good reason to worry. He had liked Cor's Dad, even though he hadn't had much a chance to talk to him over the break... too busy chasing after Rachel. It was never particularly right when something bad happened to good people -- it went against the most basic fabrics of everything decent in the universe. "If there's anything I can do, just tell me."

"Been doing pretty good so far," Corry offered, smiling as well as he could muster. "Looks like you have a good start on the Grey's keel."

"Aye. It's a bitch, though. We mis-cut the boards on Sunday, had to re-cut everything... apparently they didn't understand it was in yards and not meters," Scott said, somewhat glad to have changed subjects. "It's a royal pain, tryin' to work with old-style measurin'."

"Blame Barrett." Corrigan stood up, trying to stifle a yawn and failing. "Well, I think I'm gonna turn in."

Scotty shrugged, grabbing his coat from where it hung on a peg in the wall. "I'll walk with ye... have yer assignments on yer desk, but that can wait till tomorrow." Besides, it was nice to have someone to talk to again, and he'd missed Corry more than he would have admitted, even to himself.

Corry made his way down the steps to the main floor, chuckling dryly, "Maybe I'll switch careers and become a medical student." Opening the door and stepping out into the mist, he waited for his roommate to catch up. "Seems to be all that's on my mind, now."
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Old November 9 2008, 11:42 PM   #24
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1

Definitely nice to see Scotty REALLY does have a connection with Corry.

And I definitely feel sorry for Corry...that's got to be rough on him.
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Old November 10 2008, 01:19 AM   #25
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Definitely nice to see Scotty REALLY does have a connection with Corry.

And I definitely feel sorry for Corry...that's got to be rough on him.
Yeah, Scott does, even if the whole friendship-thing is still kind of new for him. And definitely, yes, it's rough on Corry, who's never faced a serious trauma in his life to date.

Thanks much for the comment!
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Old November 10 2008, 03:49 AM   #26
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 2

Chapter 2:

Friday, March 3rd, 2243
H&W Shipyards, Berth #22
Team C Headquarters
Belfast, Ireland, Earth


She was starting to take on the look of a ship, instead of just a long, thick wooden stretch up on the cradle. The foremost seven ribs were up, braced by boards and re-enforced by the ribbands that stretched the length so far, a temporary way to keep everything in line. It required manual labor, she received manual labor, and most of the twenty-man crew who spent their hours working on her went to bed with sore muscles and a sense of accomplishment.

It was getting harder for her head architect to think of her as a complete nuisance, though Scott usually found a reason. The woodnails weren't sturdy enough, or the templates hadn't been calculated quite so far as he might have liked, not making it to the millionth of a decimal. Not that it would have mattered, given the tools they had to work with, but he was by nature a perfectionist, even if it was his own idea of perfection and not everyone else's.

But she was beginning to look like he'd planned, so there was something to be said for her. Pausing for a long moment to scrutinize the barely started structure, he really did wonder what Starfleet would do with her when she was finished. If never crossed his mind -- it was when, and that was that. Donate her to one of the remaining maritime schools? Offer her over to a travel agency, where she could join one of the few remaining tallships in making credits on 'historical' cruises?

Historical. Grinning sardonically, he shook his head... they were historical all right. About as historical as flying to Pluto on one of the personnel transports. What would these people do, sit around on her deck while watching the subspace network news, sipping on elaborate cocktails and being served by an Andorian? Oh aye, historical right down to the comforts of home.

Well, he'd be damned if his ship would... be...

Frowning, Scotty stopped pacing the length of the skeleton. Since when did he think of the Lady Grey as his ship? She was an annoyance, that was what she was. No more his than the slip they were building her in. Starfleet owned her. He was just building her. Shooting a glare at the backbone of the schooner, he quite firmly put any thoughts of ownership -- literal or metaphysical -- out of his mind and walked back to where Corry was pouring over a textbook. "Havin' any luck?"

"Nothing yet," Corry answered distractedly, flipping through a few more pages. He had fallen to reading every medical textbook he could get his hands on. "You practically need a medical degree to understand some of this stuff."

"We're engineers, that's why. We think in terms o' technical," Scott answered, shrugging. He didn't want to get into another medical discussion about bacteria that floated on solar currents from planets long since decimated, or whatever it was. What he really wanted was for the older cadet to take back over on the project... well, eventually. As soon as he was ready.

"Hey!" Jansson's voice echoed, causing the other two to cringe slightly. Of course, he didn't seem to care in that particular moment, bounding over with a very self-satisfied expression. "I just finished the template for the amidships ribs."

Scotty grinned again, just for the sake of it. "Did ye? It'll be a week before we get that far, but those'll go quick enough."

Jansson shrugged, leaning on the wall next to Corry's chair. "Well, at least I know my part's done for awhile. Does that mean you'll cut my hours, sir?" he teased, tapping Corry on the shoulder.

"If you want," Corrigan answered, not looking up.

"What, ye find a girl who'll look at yer ugly mug for any length o' time?" Scott asked, innocently, putting on his best 'pure sugar and spice and everything nice' expression. "I've got a case o' Scotch, if that'll make it easier."

"This coming from the most hopeless womanizer in the world, yep," Jansson retorted, good-naturedly. "The last girl you asked out told you that she might be available when you finally started shaving. And stopped stammering."

"Aye, but at least I didn't have to shave a sheep an' try'n make it look presentable."

"No, you just up and took the sheep out without even bothering to--"

"Hey, if you two plan on keeping this up, take it somewhere else, all right?" Corry said, flatly, finally looking away from the book long enough to skewer both of them in a glance. "I'm trying to read here."

The other two cadets exchanged a brief, slightly surprised look, and Scott frowned. "Corry, ye could put the book down for a minute or two, ye know."

Corrigan sighed, an impatient sound, and closed the textbook. "I could, but I'm not going to. What I am going to do, though, is find somewhere quiet, and you two can toss your sheep-shagging jokes without worrying." Without waiting for a response, he stood and headed for the door.

Jansson scratched his head, looking after Corry. "I think he needs a vacation."

"He needs somethin'..." Scott shook his head, uncertainly. "I wish I knew what."





He hadn't meant to snap. It was wrong to bite the heads off of your friends, no matter how annoying they got, and Corry pondered on what would prompt him to be so downright foul to Scott and Jansson. It wasn't like they weren't being themselves, just goofing off a little bit, and it certainly wasn't like they didn't deserve to be a little silly. Those two, plus Albright, had shouldered the burden that was honestly Corry's.

Sighing to himself, the cadet tucked the medical textbook under his arm and continued for the dorm. He was so close to finding something. Something that would take the edge off of his anger and inability to stand by while his father lay in the hospital still, something that would make it all right again. Corrigan was no fool -- he might not worry himself stupid over grades like Sean Kelley, but that had no bearing on his intelligence, only on his coursework.

The streets were quiet and dark, and he tried hard not to let the feeling of heaviness overwhelm him. It got dark so early, and the lack of sunlight wore even worse than normal, bearing down on his very soul and making everything seem dull and colorless. Still, the air tasted good and clean, there was the underlay of salt that was so much a part of him, and a warm room waiting for him when he made it back. It wasn't an unreasonably long walk, and though the shuttle would have had him back there in a matter of minutes, it was better to walk and think.

Kicking at a stone, he watched the ground. There were at least fifteen different known spaceborne bacteria strains with similar symptoms, and though none of them were what had afflicted his father, he felt certain that he might find a clue or a key there. Closing his eyes in a wash of anger, Corry tried to banish the mental picture of his Dad laying there behind the transparent aluminum, covered in tubes, and of his mother with her hand pressed to the wall, tears in her eyes from all of the worry, the love, the stress. Sure, he was doing better and better by the day, but still.

It wasn't fair. God, it just wasn't right! Why did it have to happen? There was such a sense of injustice there that the cadet couldn't help but feel like someone or something was trying to take away the near perfect life he'd had and replace it with some sort of living Hell. Taking a deep breath, he unclenched his teeth before he could chip them. He'd already chipped one tooth while in a fit of anger, and he didn't feel like doing it again.

Finally arriving at the dorms, he nodded to the security officer on duty, trying not to look too miserable. Taking the short trip to the building, he keyed in his student ID code and stepped in when the door unlocked.

It seemed far too noisy in there, what with everyone back in from their evening out. Weaving his way through the other cadets clustered on the bottom of the stairwell, he headed up to the second floor and unlocked the room door, slipping in and closing it with a sigh of relief. The building was old, mostly kept to historical specs so that it wouldn't clash with this old sector of Belfast, but at least the walls weren't too thin and there wasn't much noise that bled in from the adjoining rooms or hallway. It was good for Corry -- he was so tired of people, so tired of everything.

"I need a vacation," he murmured to himself, setting the book on his desk and sitting on the bed for a moment to gather his mental strength before delving back into it. Rubbing at his eyes, he tried to imagine what Scotty must have thought about being snapped at. It wasn't often that Corrigan snapped at his roomie; in fact, usually it went the other way and he was the one being verbally assaulted. He'd seemed taken aback, though, like it was a bit of a surprise... not angry or hurt, just kind of 'huh?' Well, Corry would make it up to him someday, if for no other reason than guilt. Right now, though, he had work to do and information to find, so he took the book in hand again and settled back to pick up where he'd left off.

He'd gone though a good twenty pages, reading with the feverish intensity of an obsessed researcher before he registered the door opening and looked up. "Hey."

"Evenin'," Scott answered, dragging in something that looked like a piece of hull plating from a starship. "Feelin' any better?"

"Yeah," Corry said, offhand, watching the strange proceeding. What the heck was Scott doing now? "Sorry I snapped at you and Jer like that."

"Eh." Scott shrugged one-shouldered after he set the metal down. He stepped out of the room and carried in something else, something that looked sort of like a coil assembly with a portable power source attached. "Find any new information since ye left?"

Corrigan set the book aside, now fully curious about what was going on. "Uh, a little. Nothing that wasn't common sense, though."

Now a long length of cord and a heavy looking bag. "Seems like most o' the medical community states th' obvious. In my humble opinion, anyway."

"What're you doing?" All right, Corry couldn't hold back any longer. What did a sheet of metal, a coil, a power source, a cord and a bag have in common?

"Wait for it." Grinning, Scotty went and retrieved the last of his enigmatic objects, which put an end to the mystery. Setting the last bag on his desk, he went to setting the sheet metal on his workbench, tossing a glance back at Corrigan. "Guess yet?"

"Cooking," Corry chuckled, shaking his head. He should have figured that out from the beginning, but with all of the strange objects Scott had dragged in over the past year, he never knew what to expect. Last time the other cadet had gotten the itch to cook, he'd just up and 'borrowed' the stove from downstairs. Apparently, this time he was intent upon making his own. "What's the occasion?"

"What's the date?"

"Uhm..." It took him a minute to count the days from the last time Corry had bothered to look at a calendar. "March 3rd?"

"Keep thinkin'," Scott said, already working on his homemade range.

Corrigan pondered it for a moment, and when it hit him he could have kicked himself. "Your birthday. Dammit, it completely slipped my mind!"

"Don't feel bad, I almost forgot myself." Sealing the wide coil to the sheet with a heat resistant epoxy, Scott shrugged again. "Like Italian?"

"You don't have to cook for me too," Corry protested, not very persuasively. He'd skipped lunch and he loved Italian. "Isn't this your day to be pampered?"

"No," Scott said, wiring the coil with expert precision. "I like cookin'."

Corry leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms and watching. "You're one of the weirdest people I know. I mean, you cook, you invent, you hang glide... you won't drink wine, you'll fight over Scotch being the best whiskey, but you don't like haggis and you prefer Italian. Did it ever occur to you that your fancies are pretty extreme?"

"Cookin's kinda like engineerin'... put the stuff together and make it work. I tolerate haggis, but Italian tastes better, so I cook Italian. And I don't mind wine, but only with certain dishes, and never just on it's own. Scotch is the best whiskey, and hang-glidin' is the closest thing I can get to flyin' without a civilian pilot's license," the other cadet replied, easily, still wiring away.

"I guess... but see, I'm from Maine, I like New England clam chowder, I sail... all those are in line."

"Ye like Italian too, ye happen t' have a taste for Anaquarian whiskey, which to me tastes like runoff from a chicken farm..." Scott put a smaller piece of metal he'd had stashed under his workbench on top of the coil, fixed it there, then plugged the wire in. When it heated like he expected, he grinned brightly to himself before finishing the statement he'd started, "I suppose it's all personal taste."

"Yeah, guess so."

"So what's medical research have t'do with engineerin', sailin' and clam chowder?"

Corry frowned slightly, shifting his seat on the bed. "Call it a side hobby."

"Aye, hobby," Scotty said, pulling out a bottle of water and a fairly large pot. "Garlic?"

"Definitely," Corrigan answered, somewhat relieved that the subject had been dropped at that. He hated having to justify himself. "Not making your own sauce?"

"Not enough time. I can make due, though."

"What're you gonna do on a starship, where you can't get any of the stuff you need?"

"Hydroponic gardens?" Scott tried, with a shrug, oiling and salting the water that was now on his homemade stove. "I guess I'm stuck livin' with what their cooks see fit to cook up, or I get good at beggin', borrowin' and barterin' for ingredients."

Corry smiled offhand, watching for a moment. The other cadet wasn't long in getting as absorbed into his cooking as he did into his engineering... putting the sauce on, spicing it up with an assortment of different traditional herbs, adding the rigatoni to the water, working on the garlic bread, and after a few minutes, Corrigan went back to his reading. At least the atmosphere of the room had taken on the easy aire of camaraderie that it had been missing the past couple of weeks.






"Well," Corry said, lightly, as he set his plate aside, "if you ever get sick of engineering, you could probably make a good living as a cook."

"Mum taught me," Scott explained, long since finished with his dinner and sipping on a glass of good red wine. Italian was one of his admitted exceptions. One did not drink Scotch with Italian. It was a crime. "It was that or goin' with my father on his design trips over the school breaks."

Corrigan grinned, standing and getting himself a glass of the wine. "You'd make someone a terrific housewife someday, Scotty."

"Aye?" Scotty asked, dangerously, picking up a fork and chucking it at Corry. "I'll have ye know that besides Mum, the best chefs in the galaxy're male."

The fork struck Corry in the side of the head, but he was snickering too hard to get angry over it. Maybe if it had gotten him with the prongs he might have paused, but as it were, it just amused him more. "Oooh, did I hit a nerve? Sorry, now I know what to get you for your birthday... just think three words: Pink, ruffled and apron."

"Ye do, an' so help me I'll just wait till ye fall asleep and see what a high powered energy current can do t' the human body," Scott growled, unplugging the wire from the homemade stove with comical exaggeration and waving the end at Corry. "I'd just stick this thing up yer nose, an' watch ye burn."

"Because I compliment your cooking?"

"Because ye insult my masculinity," Scott said, smartly, nodding as though he'd just delivered a particularly good speech.

"Masculinity," Corry echoed, trying and almost failing to maintain a neutral expression. It was a real effort on his part. "Well, I suppose if your self-esteem has survived the cooking lessons and the wearing of skirts, you're not about to lose it over a pink apron."

Scott frowned. "Cookin' happens to be a hobby, not somethin' I do religiously. And a kilt is NOT a skirt, it's a kilt, an' I'll not have ye sayin' anything against it. Besides, I only wear that to formal family events."

"All right, all right," Corrigan said, though he definitely couldn't help the amused and placating tone. Waiting until his roommate gave him a black look and went to cleaning up his homemade kitchen, he picked up the textbook and went back to reading. He did feel better now that he had something in his stomach and a little banter to make up for the past weeks of quiet. He resolved himself to spending less time with his nose in a textbook; maybe that would make the overall anxiety lighten.
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Old November 10 2008, 07:05 AM   #27
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 2

Ha, good to see Scotty defending the kilt!

And I am also glad to see a few signs of recovery in Corrigan.
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Old November 10 2008, 08:40 AM   #28
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Ah, the calm before the storm. Thanks for the comment!
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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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Old November 10 2008, 06:52 PM   #30
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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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