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Old November 10 2008, 07:46 PM   #31
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 3

Ouch, in more ways than one: definitely some hard lessons learned here. Let's hope they're able to find a way to have their friendship AND their professionalism as Starfleet officers at the same time, or else things are just going to keep getting rougher from here on out.

Seems like Barrett's a little more understanding than he lets on, though--the better to make sure that everyone learns this lesson now before it can REALLY cost them later.
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Old November 10 2008, 08:06 PM   #32
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 3

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Ouch, in more ways than one: definitely some hard lessons learned here. Let's hope they're able to find a way to have their friendship AND their professionalism as Starfleet officers at the same time, or else things are just going to keep getting rougher from here on out.

Seems like Barrett's a little more understanding than he lets on, though--the better to make sure that everyone learns this lesson now before it can REALLY cost them later.
I've always wondered, a bit, why people only rarely tackle the entirely difficult position that comes up when duty to Starfleet conflicts with the loyalties of friendship. It's a great point you bring up here about it.

And Barrett is. He's only a Commander, afterall, even though he's been in the service for a very long time. I don't dive into any set backstory about why he made it no further up the chain of command, but I imagine it was something parallel to the situation these cadets are in now -- loyalty to the 'Fleet, or loyalty to your friends?

Thanks for a terrific comment!
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Old November 11 2008, 03:31 AM   #33
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

Chapter 4:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Aye, sir."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a word was said until 0530.




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

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

Nevermind. It wasn't worth getting bitter over.

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

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

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

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

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

Damn her.

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

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

Like the nature of wind.

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

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

Can't change it.

He almost had it figured out before he fell asleep.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Still..."

"Corry stopped by too."

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

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

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

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

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

Corry raised an eyebrow, not commenting.

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott raised his eyebrows. "Who?"

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

"Thanks."

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

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

Jansson snickered, knocking the board aside, "Aye aye, Cap'n Larsen."
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Old November 11 2008, 07:30 AM   #34
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

Wow, man...you are just a master of interactions and ruminations!

You've really managed to keep the emotions running high through this entire piece--I am really impressed!
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Old November 11 2008, 07:42 AM   #35
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Wow, man...you are just a master of interactions and ruminations!

You've really managed to keep the emotions running high through this entire piece--I am really impressed!
I really appreciate that. I wrote the bulk of this story so many years ago now, that it's impossible for me to actually imagine how a person reading it for the first time will see it. It's good to know it's held up well, so thank you!
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Old November 11 2008, 07:44 AM   #36
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

You're very welcome...the quality is outstanding.
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Old November 11 2008, 04:25 PM   #37
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

Just finished catching up with this terrific story. I'm a sucker for TOS-era stories--especially those that take place prior to the start of the series. This is an incredibly rich story. Beautiful scenery painting--a detail all too often left out of fan fiction writing, strong characterizations--I agonized along with Scotty and the others as Corrigan began slipping into depression and now I'm hopeful as it appears he's beginning to come out of it--but as a changed man--for better or worse, only time will tell. You've also done an exquisite job in filling out Scotty's back history.

And did I mention how I enjoyed your renditions of Belfast? There were several instances where I almost felt as if I was there.

Very welll done!
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Old November 11 2008, 05:38 PM   #38
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

DavidFalkayn wrote: View Post
Just finished catching up with this terrific story. I'm a sucker for TOS-era stories--especially those that take place prior to the start of the series.
Me too! I adore stories about our 'heroes' before they become all iconic and stuff. I'm actually kinda surprised that people don't write more of them -- it's a pretty neat time in Federation history (if you place the Four Year War there, which I do, and counting the real push for exploration outside that) and I'm never sure why more people don't tackle it.

This is an incredibly rich story. Beautiful scenery painting--a detail all too often left out of fan fiction writing, strong characterizations--I agonized along with Scotty and the others as Corrigan began slipping into depression and now I'm hopeful as it appears he's beginning to come out of it--but as a changed man--for better or worse, only time will tell. You've also done an exquisite job in filling out Scotty's back history.
Believe it or not, Cor was never supposed to play a role past the prologue, except maybe as a background character. But, by the end of the prologue, became a sincere part of the story. Then again, this was never supposed to be a novel, never supposed to dive into more dramatic elements, and never supposed to take six years to finish. Art imitates life -- you never quite know what you're getting into until you're already there. ::grins::

And did I mention how I enjoyed your renditions of Belfast? There were several instances where I almost felt as if I was there.

Very welll done!
Thanks so much! I've never been there myself, but I tried pretty hard to research the history of it, and the lay of the land. It's a city that's seen a lot of grief in its life, but still manages to survive.

Your comments made my morning!
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Old November 11 2008, 05:42 PM   #39
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Chapter 5:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Aye, sir, but a necessary one."

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

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





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

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

"Right. Stage two?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He blinked.

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It made no bloody sense.

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

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

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

What sort of death was that?

More importantly: What could Scott really do about it?

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

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

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

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

If life were just that simple.
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Old November 11 2008, 08:34 PM   #40
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Outstanding writing. Even though we know very well that Scotty will survive the night and go on to be an exemplary officer, you do wonderfully at immersing the reader in his NOW, when things aren't so certain.

Very well done.
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Old November 11 2008, 08:47 PM   #41
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Outstanding writing. Even though we know very well that Scotty will survive the night and go on to be an exemplary officer, you do wonderfully at immersing the reader in his NOW, when things aren't so certain.

Very well done.
That's the biggest problem; when you know canon, you know how the story goes. But, if I am able to at least drag a reader in, then I'm not doing too bad -- thanks for the comment! I sure hope it doesn't disappoint.
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Old November 11 2008, 09:51 PM   #42
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

I really enjoy your Scott tales. I just finished Pt I and was chuckling over the uncle-mugging. I can see why Scotty was so shy-I grew up in a large, boisterous family too and sometimes you just want to crawl under the table and hide from the ruckus. Great read so far!
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Old November 11 2008, 10:20 PM   #43
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Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Mistral wrote: View Post
I really enjoy your Scott tales. I just finished Pt I and was chuckling over the uncle-mugging. I can see why Scotty was so shy-I grew up in a large, boisterous family too and sometimes you just want to crawl under the table and hide from the ruckus. Great read so far!
I think it was a combination of both -- mostly left to wander solo, then being thrown into big, loud family situations on occasion, which would be even more of a shock. Really appreciate the comments, thank you!
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Old November 11 2008, 11:09 PM   #44
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 6

Chapter 6:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you find it?"

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

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

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




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

Bureaucracy. One of the miserable constants in the universe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One sheet of paper, nothing to be afraid of.

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Old November 11 2008, 11:10 PM   #45
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 6

--


He chose to walk back to the dorms, rather than catch the shuttle. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually taken the easy route back, but it hadn't been within the last couple of months. Before, the notion of walking out in the rain when there was an easy alternative was best left to fools, romantics and people itching to catch a cold... now he found it gave him a chance to think on his own without the direct influences of anyone else.

Not that anyone had ever been able to influence Scotty's way of thinking. Maybe his life, maybe even his career, but not how he thought, not how he dealt with things. Now suddenly they could and it was eating at him with the persistence of a hungry lion... somehow, these people were able to disrupt his perfect formula, this balance he'd achieved between life and work, work and life until they were both the same thing. They could get to him without even being there, just by what they'd said in the past.

Like Barrett, and the moral that was supposed to make it all make sense. The nature of wind, which tickled at the back of the cadet's mind almost constantly, and which he still didn't get. Logic said that it had something to do with destiny and the winds of fate... what else could it be, with a reference like that? But his heart was telling him otherwise, telling him very much against his will that this could be something more important than a simple end-of-the-story moral that went right along with the 'happily ever after' line.

So he thought about it, tried to understand it like he understood how to repair a piece of equipment. It resisted being figured out, though, just like he resisted being figured out, and just like Corry's motives for the career switch resisted being figured out.

In that sense, maybe Scott did understand.

He still wasn't quite ready to give up on Corrigan, however, even though it seemed more hopeless by the day. Morals could wait, but friends could only wait so long before they became complete strangers... oh, sure, you could sit down and chew over old times with a cup of coffee or a shot of Scotch, but that was it. There was nothing more to it besides the sad ruminations of what could have been and should have been if it hadn't all gone so bloody wrong.

Stepping into the gate and nodding to Security, he did his best to mentally prepare himself for the idea that Corry might be there when he walked in, and that he might be called on to converse in a manner that wouldn't be blatantly picking a fight. He didn't want a fight, no... but everything he wanted to say would get him one.

The walk was like death row, up the steps and down the hall -- it went too quickly and he was still desperately unprepared. All he could say was that he felt dread. It was a force of will just to turn the door knob and step in.

Any ideas of conversation gave way to having that dread realized.

Corry glanced up from his dresser, offering a half-smile of greeting. "Evening."

His bags were packed... literally. They sat beside his bunk, which was made and squared away with the Starfleet issue blanket rather than the blue wool blanket he usually had on it. The bookshelves were cleared off, the computer tapes were put away... it was almost like walking into someone else's room. Scott frowned, putting it all together in his mind with the speed of desperation. "Leavin'...?"

"Yep!" The older cadet finished shoving his knickknacks from the dresser top into his carryon. "I'm outbound at midnight for pre-med training."

"Why...?"

Corrigan raised an eyebrow, looking at his roommate through the mirror. "Because my transfer came through."

Blinking a few times, still almost out of the door, Scott wasn't sure what to think. He had been so sure that the transfer wouldn't have come through until after he had a chance to finish the Lady Grey and maybe sabotage Corry's career change using her. Now... now every bit of work he'd put into her had been for nothing. Corry was really going to do it. He was really going to leave, all smiles and joyous celebration at something that could be the biggest mistake of his life.

God...

"Ye're makin' a mistake," Scott said, with a certainty that harbored no hesitation. He didn't have anything left now but words, and if Corry was just going to walk away, he'd at least say his piece before then. "I think this'll be the biggest mistake ye ever make."

"Yeah, you and everyone else." Corry shrugged, nonchalantly. "This is what I want, though... at least wish me good luck."

"No."

"No?" Well, that wasn't the common answer. Corrigan paused in his packing, turning to look at the other cadet. "Whaddyou mean, no?"

"Now or never," Scott told himself, shoulders set in defiance of this, life and everything else. "I'm not gonna wish ye luck on screwin' yer life up."

Corry's eyebrows drew together, and he crossed his arms, no less defiantly. "Who says I'm screwing my life up? How do you know that this isn't the best thing for me?"

"'Cause I know you," Scotty answered, finally giving voice to at least some of what he had been wanting to say for the past months. It wasn't easy... Hell, it was downright hard, but this was it. His last chance. "I know ye care about yer father, an' ye're scared t' death of losin' him, an' I know ye dinna wanna go into space, an' that ye somehow think this is gonna make it all right, but Christ, Cor, it's not. There's no runnin' from what's chasin' you."

"That's the problem with you." Corry shook his head, but he was obviously stung by the words. "You don't have faith in anything, do you? You don't trust me to make a decision like this."

"No, I don't," Scott said, bluntly.

"Gee, thanks. Nice to know that you really care that much, so much that you're willing to tell me I'm a screwup who needs you to guide me."

If he knew how much Scott cared... but he didn't. Not quite able to force himself to explain it all, Scotty just shook his head. "I dinna say that. I'm sayin' that ye're about to walk out o' here, an' dammit, I know ye'll regret it."

"How?" Patience wearing thin, see-through thin, both of Corry's eyebrows went up at the challenge. "Are you gonna tell me that you're able to see into the future, too?"

"No! But what'll happen when ye go through all of this, an' give up four years... count 'em, four years of yer life, just on a maybe?" Unable to stop himself, Scott launched into an imitation of Corrigan that was downright eerie, "'Well, cripes, my Dad's okay and now I'm lieutenant and it only took me until I was thirty-five, but that's all fine because now I'm out here charting bacteria that floats around on solar currents billions of miles from home on this ass-backwards little ship. Life's wonderful!'"

"Exactly when did you start to give a damn?" Corry finally asked, deadly calm, once he got over hearing a close copy of his voice and inflections parroted at him. His fists were still clenched, though. "Since when did you start to give a damn about me, about anything other than being an engineer on the Constitution?"

Caught off guard, the younger cadet paused for a moment before stammering, "I... don't know." And he didn't. There was just some time, over the months, that he decided that Corry was worth it. Worth caring about. Even worth dying for.

"Right. And that," Corrigan said, sharply, hoping to drive the point home, "is because you don't. Because the only thing you're worried about losing is a drinking buddy. Well, I'm sorry if I care about more than machines! I'm sorry if I give a damn about something besides a starship or some idiotic class project!"

"The Grey's more'n a project!" Scott shot back before he even had time to think about it.

Seeing that the other ensign was close to on the ropes, Corry didn't even hesitate. "It's a pile of wood! You said it yourself, she's a waste of time, completely foolish! What, you're going to tell me that you care about that ship now? No, you don't. Christ, I wouldn't be surprised if you were some kind of machine on the inside, because I sure don't see someone made of flesh and blood writing off as much as you do. What if it was your Dad, huh?"

"I'm not writin' anything off!"

"You wrote me off," Corry said, his voice low and cold. "Know what? That's fine. It goes both ways. I'm glad I'm getting out of here... it's sure better than listening to you pretend like you actually give a good Goddamn."

Trying to get back up on his feet, mentally anyway, Scott let the silence hang for a long moment. He really was on the ropes, trying to understand how his best friend, the singular reason he'd even thrown his heart into that schooner could think any of this. "Is... is that what y'think?"

"Oh yes," Corry snapped, unhesitant. He picked up the model of the ship and tossed it at the other cadet's feet. He didn't look down, just kept his gaze leveled on Scott, who met it without so much as a breath drawn. "If this is all you claim to care about in your life, then God help anyone who thinks they might have a shot in the dark at being your friend."

Scott didn't breathe immediately, trying to come to grips with all of this and wondering where it all went so wrong. He didn't take his eyes off of Corry, didn't want the other cadet to think he'd been hurt, but it was all in vain anyway. He was.

He finally had to close his eyes, though, because he wasn't so badly wounded as to let someone else see it. Trying hard to find stoicism and only managing shocked, he made his way back out of the door in complete silence.

The first breath he took after getting out of there was almost a sob.

Dammit all to Hell, no! He wasn't going to give anyone the satisfaction of making him that upset, to the point of tears. Growling under his breath at himself, Scotty tried hard not to shake as he made his way down the steps and out of the window in the basement. Fine, if Corrigan wanted to think that he was all alone in the world and no one cared about him or his future, just great; he could go and be the great doctor or scientist without anyone to tell him that it might be a mistake.

Scott climbed the fence without the ease he usually was graced with, scrambling over the top and falling over the other side like a drunk. It was luck alone he hadn't broken his ankle, but he wasn't thinking about luck, he wasn't even thinking about where he was going. He just had to get away and find something to make it stop hurting.

All for nothing. It was all for nothing, the ship, the nights working, nothing... just a broken wish to make it right and a failure. He'd failed. He'd actually failed and now he was going to lose a friend and because of that he was going to lose the Grey... God, it wasn't right, it was never right and now it could never be right.

And now he couldn't see the damn road.

Brushing the tears out of his eyes with an almost violent motion, Scott snarled -- at himself for finally breaking down under the pressure, at the circumstances surrounding it, at life itself because in that moment, he couldn't understand any of it. Wasn't it just this morning he'd watched the sunrise on the pier, and wasn't it just last night when he'd really seen the Grey, and now, another eternity later and the answer he'd been hunting for was gone for good.

The only really coherent thing left in his mind was the same thing that had echoed throughout the ages, a broken cry against the universe for its injustice.

"No..."

The universe didn't stop, not for him and not for the hundreds of thousands who came before him with the same cry. It went on without a pause.

But in that moment, it sure felt like it was falling apart.
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