Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by SLWatson, Nov 6, 2008.

  1. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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.
  2. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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?"


    "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.

  3. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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."
  4. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    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. :(
  5. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 1

    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!
  6. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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.
  7. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    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. :)
  8. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Ah, the calm before the storm. Thanks for the comment!
  9. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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."

  10. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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."


    "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.
  11. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    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.
  12. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 3

    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!
  13. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

    Chapter 4:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Aye, sir."

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Not a word was said until 0530.

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

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

    Nevermind. It wasn't worth getting bitter over.

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

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

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

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

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

    Damn her.

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

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

    Like the nature of wind.

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

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

    Can't change it.

    He almost had it figured out before he fell asleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    "Corry stopped by too."

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

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

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

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

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

    Corry raised an eyebrow, not commenting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Scott raised his eyebrows. "Who?"

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


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

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

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

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

    Wow, 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!
  15. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

    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!
  16. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

    You're very welcome...the quality is outstanding. :)
  17. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

    Dec 13, 2003
    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!
  18. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 4

    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.

    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::

    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!
  19. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    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.
  20. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    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.