Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

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

  1. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 2

    Chapter 2:

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2243
    The
    Lady Grey
    On the North Atlantic

    *ding-ding*

    The ship's bell rang clearly, and even through the deck it was still easy to hear.

    *ding-ding*

    The bell was made of brass, not too large, not too small. Mounted on the quarterdeck, it's sound could reach the crew almost anywhere, and if anyone happened to be sleeping under the quarterdeck, it was far too close to be ignored.

    *ding-ding*

    Scotty regretted having the bell cast already.

    *ding*

    Seven bells. His half-sleeping brain managed to calculate what time it was -- 0330. Half-past three in the bloody morning. He was due on watch in a half-hour, and the sun wasn't even up yet. It made him wish that he was back in class, back where there was a set schedule that didn't alternate every day like the watches would on the Lady Grey.

    Corry had set the schedule yesterday, and unlike the traditional days of sail, set it up so there were three watch crews rather than two. That was a kindness -- not being able to sleep more than four hours at a time would have made the trip insufferable quickly. There was nothing quite like a troop of tired, mostly untrained cadets trying to fit into the harsher life onboard a ship at sea to begin with. To actually have to stay completely in tradition would have been unbearable.

    Not that Scott was thrilled. The bell was struck every half-hour, signaling the time, and every single damn time it rang, it jarred him awake. Now, in a half an hour, he was going to have to go up there, try to be alert, and shiver in the predawn light. His only consolation right then was imagining what he was going to do with that idiotic bell when he made it back to land.

    Dragging himself out of the bunk and staggering over to the carryon he hadn't bothered to unpack yet, he somehow found a set of warmer civvy clothes, before remembering to light the oil lantern. Why he'd given into the idea to move back to the officers quarters was beyond him right then, when it had made perfect sense the night before. He was technically the first mate, right? The night before the idea of an actual bunk, a room of his own, and getting away from the fo'c'sle where the majority of the crew slept had been a sound one.

    Now, having been kept up all night not only by the constant motion of the ship, but the nerve-wracking ship's bell, he thought that he could handle the snoring, grunting, groaning, and babbling that went on in the fo'c'sle, so long as he could get away from that incessant ringing.

    Someone knocked on the door. Blinking once or twice, he eyed it like it was a completely unnatural thing. They knocked again, he blinked again, and finally managed to say, "C'min."

    Harrison stepped in, looking wide-awake. He had been assigned the job of the ship's head cook... partly because he didn't seem to like the idea of working on deck, and partly because the design team of Team C still held a slight grudge. The day before, when he'd caught sight of the guns, he had tried to get off of the ship, no doubt the get word to the Queen Mary. Thankfully he'd been cut off at the pass, as it were; now all they had to do was keep the emergency communicators away from him. "Coffee, sir?"

    Even halfway sleeping, Scotty smirked to himself. He knew that Harrison was probably going to try to either simper or sneak, but he was going to do something. "Aye, I could use it. Damn bell kept me up."

    "I'll bet." Harrison set the thermos on the table, looking around. "These cabins are pretty small... and I thought the dorm rooms were bad."

    "Better'n sleepin' on deck, at least." The bell would be even worse up there, no doubt. "How're ye handlin' it?"

    "I like it." Harrison nodded, still looking around. "The galley's not bad, just kind of cramped... nestled between the guns and all, you know."

    "We'll fix that, eventually," Scott said, going for nonchalant. He was just waiting for Harrison to come right out and ask what the guns were for, but if the other cadet hadn't figured it out yet, he had to be completely stupid. "Ye're on the middle watch, or just up early?"

    "Just up early; couldn't sleep with the ship moving like it is." The double agent shrugged. "I'm sure I'll be tired enough tonight to sleep."

    "Hope I am too," Scotty muttered, entertaining thoughts of taking the bell down and heaving it overboard. He wouldn't do it, but it was nice thinking about it. Finally pulling himself back to the real world, he offered a faint, tired grin. "Thanks for the coffee."

    "No problem." Harrison took his cue and stepped out, closing the cabin door behind him.

    Flopping down in a chair, Scott gave serious thought to crawling back into his bunk and trying to sleep again. What dissuaded him ended up being the realization that the bell would ring again in about twenty minutes, and he would have to be cleaned up, awake and out on deck. Technically he was Officer of the Watch... technically because he was the second highest 'ranking' cadet, but in all reality, it was just a title. Until he knew something about sailing, the experienced people were really in charge.

    Hell. Shaking his head and trying to dissipate the fog, he staggered out of the room and went to get some water to wash up with. Never again would he take for granted the convenience of a nice, hot shower. Never again would he forget to appreciate being able to turn a knob or push a sensor strip and turn water on.

    By the time eight bells rang, he was up and on deck, thermos clutched in both hands. The sky was starting to lighten, a slow gray color, and the breeze had picked up. Lewis was giving orders down on the main deck, and Scotty climbed up the steps to the quarterdeck, where Corrigan was at the wheel. "Mornin'."

    "Morning!" Corry looked tired, no doubt because he had the middle watch, from midnight to four, but absurdly cheery despite it. "We're on the port tack, wind's out of the north northwest, we're heading southwest by south, nine points off."

    "In English?" Scott asked, eyebrows drawn. He held his coffee closer, seeking some comfort in it.

    "Um... we're going southish because the wind's out of the northish and making good time-ish." Grinning, Corry gestured one handed to the wheel. "Ship's yours, Mister Scott."

    "Time-ish? And I'm not takin' the wheel... I don't know the first thing about steerin'!"

    "It's easy. Hold it here until told otherwise by someone who knows how to sail."

    "Easy, hm. Like climbin' the mast." Raising one eyebrow, Scott looked at the wheel doubtfully.

    Corrigan sighed slightly, grabbing his roommate by the arm and dragging him over. "Take the wheel or I take the coffee."

    Scotty frowned, taking the wheel with one hand and clutching the coffee with the other, possessively. It was blackmail, but who could he complain to on the high seas? "All right. But if somethin' goes wrong, don't say I didn't warn ye."

    "You'll be fine. There're a few good sailors on this watch to keep things in line." Stepping back, Corry looked out over the stern towards where the sun would be coming up. "Okay, I'm gonna hit the rack. Need anything, just shout for me."

    "Aye aye, Cap'n." Scotty grinned slightly. He might have saluted, if he didn't have his hands full. "Sleep well, Cor."

    "Will do." Tossing a brief wave, Corrigan bounded down the steps and vanished.

    All right, just hold it there until told otherwise. Scott could do that. It wasn't nearly as technical as building the ship had been, nor was it as hard to absorb as the sail training had been. For days he'd been bombarded with information on this and that, and now it was a relief to be told 'hold there until told otherwise'. It struck him as amusing that he could build a ship, but didn't have the faintest clue of how to actually sail that which he built.

    Officer of the Watch... ha. Bracing the large wheel with his knee, he managed to get the top of the thermos unscrewed. Simple job or not, coffee was still a prerequisite. Piping hot, black, strong coffee.



    Steering the Lady Grey was probably one of the more mundane tasks onboard. Scott wasn't sure if it was typical of the Officer of the Watch to stand in as quartermaster, but then, it was a lot better than pretending like he actually knew how to sail. Lewis and Corry could take care of all of that... aside from having to correct the course a few times because she drifted with the wave action, being at the helm was a nice, easy job.

    And a strangely enjoyable one as well. There was something nice about feeling the ride of the ship through her wheel, something about feeling, rather than seeing the sun come up and knowing that it was following them as they made for westward. He could have argued that he would be bored, but he wasn't. It took an hour to get readjusted to keeping his footing on the constantly moving deck, but at least the seasickness was pretty much gone, and after that he wasn't long in getting lost in it all over again just like he had aloft.

    Scotty could almost get used to this sailing thing, if only he could learn to stand the bell and the fact that his bunk moved while he was trying to sleep.

    But it looked to be a nice day, and that was a relief. It wasn't as clear as it had been the day before, but there was still ample sunlight to chase away the chill, and since they were heading sort of southish, it was bound to get a little warmer. Occasionally someone would come back to chat, or to just stand and enjoy the moment. Between that, steering and professionally daydreaming, it was certainly not boring.

    Not quite a starship, but not bad at all.

    Starship duty would consist of three shifts, eight hours apiece. Starships wouldn't move constantly... well, they would move, but those onboard wouldn't be able to tell, so long as the inertial dampers were actually tuned right. There would be no bell rung every half-hour, setting his teeth and making him cringe in anticipation, or shattering his sleep. All there would be in the way of constant noise would be the warp engines humming; humming through her superstructure, a much more easy lullaby.

    But then, there would be no sunlight glinting off of the deck, no canvas to whisper or boom in the wind. There wouldn't be the comforting smell of wood, salt and sunshine. And there wouldn't be the subconscious realization that the world he was now in was the world where it all began... all of the dreams of exploration that were realized or shattered, all of mankind's need to see what was on the other side. He could honestly understand what Corry meant when he had said, so long ago, that he wished he could have been born five hundred years earlier.

    If he did end up drummed out of Starfleet and denied the stars, Scotty was certain that the ocean, at least, would always be there.

    Eight bells. Snapping back from his far-flung and almost philosophical notions, the cadet glared at the bell balefully, imagining how nice it would be to take a hand phaser and melt the damn thing into a molten pile of brass. It took him a minute and a tap on the shoulder to realize that his watch was up and it was time to relinquish the helm to Albright.

    "Anything to report?" Joe asked, apparently not noticing the bellicide notions Scott was entertaining.

    It took him a moment to recount the information, even if it still didn't make too much sense to him. "Port tack, wind's backed down to northwest, and we're seven points off, headin' south by southwest."

    Albright nodded, seriously. And then, a good thirty seconds later, he asked, "In English?"

    Scott grinned. "Wind's northish, we're headin' southish, and makin' good time-ish."

    "Ahhh, I see." Joe grinned back, taking over the wheel. "Any special instructions?"

    "Hold 'er steady until told otherwise."

    "Sounds good to me."

    "It is," Scotty said, and meant it, then headed down the steps to pace the maindeck a bit. He wasn't particularly tired, not now that he'd had his coffee and his watch was over, though after his next shift at 1600, the first dogwatch, he had every intention of going below and sleeping. Cabin or fo'c'sle, whatever struck his mood at the time... maybe the fo'c'sle, where the bell was a distant notion.

    A few cadets meandered, most of them having been woken up only ten or fifteen minutes before. They were a ragged looking lot... scrubbed clean swiftly, half-shaved, rumpled civvy clothes and half-lidded stares were constants. It really was a somewhat harsh existence, compared to the almost easy schedule at the Academy.

    "Strike the bell, second mate, let us go below,
    "Look away to windward, you can see it's gonna blow,
    "Look at the glass, you can see that it has fell,
    "And we wish that you would hurry up and strike, strike the bell!"


    Jansson's voice was teasing as he sang, stumbling slightly on the deck and giving Albright a comedic salute from the maindeck. The fact that the watch had just begun only added to the amusement.

    Scotty shook his head, calling over to Jerry, "He hits that bell, and I'm gonna pitch ye overboard."

    "Keep you awake too?"

    "Aye. I'm thinkin' it's closer to torture than timekeepin'."

    "Yeah, I hear ya," Jansson walked over, leaning on the bulwark and looking down into the water. "I guess we'll have to get used to it, though, if we're going to be here for two weeks."

    "Or we throw it over the side and say it was an accident." Scott shrugged, lightly. Now there was an idea that would get him through the rest of the day. He could think of a million excuses; the more outlandish, the more funny.

    "I swear, sir, it was there one minute and gone the next," Jerry laughed.

    "A giant squid came on deck an' ate it."

    "Pirates boarded and stole it."

    "The klingons transported it off."

    "The rays of the sun reflected perfectly off of the compass, created a tight beam of heat, melted the bolts, and it crashed to the deck and rolled over the side." Jansson nodded, perfectly composed. "We tried to save it, but it was too late."

    Scotty laughed. It was so against the laws of probability that it was almost believable. "I think the squid would be more likely."

    "Nah."

    "We could say a freak wave came and wiped it out."

    "We could, but that's too easy. Needs to be something completely insane. I don't know, something like Poseidon came from the seas, looked at the bell and decided that he wanted it for his collection," Jansson said, standing straight again.

    "He's welcome to it." Smirking, Scott amused himself with the thought. "Let him keep the fishes up or somethin', just so long as I don't hear it again."



    --
     
  2. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 2

    --



    *ding-ding*


    Oh God...

    *ding-ding*


    "Someone shoot the damn thing," he thought, eyes still closed, not picking his head up from the piece of wood he was leaning on.

    *ding-ding*

    "I love that sound," a voice said.

    Scotty frowned briefly, mostly asleep. He was leaning on the triangular board that reinforced the bulwark, that to his shoulder, the railing of the ship to his back. He didn't know if it bothered him that the board was speaking in a drowsy voice, but what it said didn't thrill him very much. "Sadist."

    "Nu uh."

    Corry's voice. So, either the board had learned how to speak, or Corrigan was on the other side. Rubbing at his eyes, he finally sat forward and looked around the edge. Sure enough, the other cadet had mirrored him. "I hate that thing. Everyone but you, an' the rest o' the sailors, hates that thing."

    "You'll get used to it," Corry replied, not moving, eyes still closed. "You slept right through four and five, so it can't be bothering you too much."

    "That's 'cause I didn't get to sleep all night." Going back to his makeshift bed, Scott closed his eyes again. It was surprisingly comfortable; the reinforcing brace kept him steady and gave him somewhere to lean his head, the bulwark supported his back, the ship's movement wasn't enough to throw him off... now the only thing disturbing him was the bell, and that wouldn't ring for another half-hour.

    "The helm's a-lee!"

    The shout re-woke both of the cadets up less than ten minutes later. Corry grinned slightly, finally sitting up. "We're switching tacks."

    "That's nice," Scott answered in a mumble.

    "C'mon, you should watch. Might teach you something." Getting to his feet, Corrigan stretched briefly in the sunlight, cracking his back in no less than seven places and making everyone within hearing distance wince. "See, the jibs and the fore staysails are all loose, and we're coming around... Scotty, wake up!"

    "Corry..."

    "Yeah?"

    Scott gave him a brief, annoyed look, but evidently he figured that he was up and it would be pointless to continue. Crawling to his feet, he stumbled under the roll of the deck. "Ne'ermind."

    The Lady Grey's bow was into the wind, mostly carrying herself on momentum. The sails made an odd sound, unable to fill at that angle. But Lewis was well on top of the action, and when the time came shouted next to the crew of half-sailors, half-cadets, "Off tacks and sheets!"

    The lines were thrown off, and they rushed back to the foremast from the main, nearly running over anyone in their path. The ship was in a position where she could be put in irons, unable to move because she was caught dead on the wind. But slowly, she overcame the force, and before long it was apparent that she would make it to the starboard tack.

    "Foresail haul!"

    It was actually interesting, watching the schooner respond to the commands. She was now one and a half points off of the wind, and the crew pulled the lines, bringing the sail on the foremast around to it's new position. Scott raised an eyebrow, making mental notes... it was amazing how well it actually worked in practice.

    "Let go and haul!" Lewis yelled, as she settled slowly onto her new course. She was running close to the wind, and the wave action seemed far more jarring. More jerky and clumsy, even if the Lady Grey was anything but.

    "How long's it supposed to be like this?" Scotty asked, already disliking the change in movement.

    Corry thought about it for a few moments, having no trouble whatsoever with his footing. "Probably about six or seven hours."

    "Wonderful..." Shaking his head, Scott headed for the steps. Maybe he could go and find himself some crackers.




    The first dogwatch was from four in the afternoon to six, a two hour watch used to alternate the schedule. It meant that every day one shift had a break and only had to stand watch for six hours instead of eight, but since everyone got a turn, it wasn't disputed.

    Scotty, for one, was glad that his shift was short. When four bells were struck, he made for the galley, double-checked to make certain no one had sabotaged his food, and made a beeline for his cabin. By now he couldn't have cared less about the bells or the ship's rolling and heaving along the water; the only thing on his mind was sleeping until the middle watch at midnight.

    "Want some company?" Corry asked, leaning around the edge of the door.

    It didn't particularly surprise his roomie that he didn't bother knocking. Lord only knew, they'd been living in close quarters for over a year, putting up with each other's eccentricities and habits. "If ye don't plan on keepin' me up."

    "Who, me? Never." Closing the door behind him, Corry flopped down across the table from Scott, grinning happily. "Just about done with our first real, genuine, official day as a ships crew."

    "Mm hm."

    "You sound incredibly enthusiastic."

    "Just tired," Scotty said, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "Not lookin' forward to watch."

    Corrigan shrugged, reaching over to steal a cracker. He narrowly avoided getting his hand smacked, and leaned back with his prize and an innocent expression. "It's only four hours, so it won't be too bad."

    Scott eyed the cracker. "S'ppose not."

    "We're making really good time." Corry nodded, munching on the stolen food with a slowness that screamed 'ha! I got away with it!'

    Eh, it was only a cracker. One measly saltine, which had been a very big staple in Scotty's diet lately, what with the ship underway. "Good."

    "Learn anything today?"

    "Aye. Learned why Starfleet doesn't keep to tradition concernin' the bells."

    Corry grinned, finishing the cracker and brushing the crumbs off of his hands. "You hate it that much?" he asked, reaching for another.

    This time he wasn't quick enough. Like a cobra striking, Scott smacked his wrist, though he made no mention of it whatsoever. He just continued the conversation like it never happened, "Aye."

    "Well, I'll be sure to strike the bell more softly if I'm on watch and you're down here." Corrigan stood, stretching his arms above his head. "And on that note, I'm gonna get back up there."

    "Wake me at midnight?"

    "Sure." Corry made for the door, then stepped back and grabbed a handful of the saltines before Scott could protest. "Sleep well." And with that, he walked out.

    "Thief," Scott muttered, without any real annoyance in his voice. He had a stash secreted away in one of the galley cupboards now, so it wasn't a huge loss.

    Shaking his head, he got to his feet and made the short trip to his bunk, just as seven bells rang. The brassy tone seemed almost in line with the rise and fall of the deck, choppy as it was, and though both were annoyances, they weren't quite enough. By the time eight bells rang, he was dead to the world.
     
  3. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 2

    Good sequence. Poor Mr. Scott-I guess he's not a natural. But with time he'll get his sea legs.
     
  4. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 2

    ::laughs:: I honestly kinda love that he's not a natural sea-dog. I don't get seasick myself, but I figure that since a lot of people love to say that Kirk, Spock, et. al are natural-born sailors in fanfiction, at least one of those poor SOBs has to be not-so-a-natural.
     
  5. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 3

    Chapter 3:

    Saturday, June 10th, 2243
    The
    Lady Grey
    On the North Atlantic

    There was something to be said for the quiet of the ocean at night. Without the man made lights that dominated even some of the most serene places, the stars were at their brightest. Standing on the deck, it wasn't hard to imagine that every single one of them was visible, and even the half-moon didn't completely destroy the illusion.

    Corrigan loved it. He loved standing on the deck, just aft the bowsprit, looking at the sky and imagining what it was like in the past... before starships, before space stations, when the ocean was the final frontier for people like him. The days of sail were long gone, though, when one could spend their whole life on the ocean, be it fishing or fighting or transporting cargo.

    It made him sad to think about it. Some of his fondest memories were of summers in Maine, sailing with his father. Just the raw feeling of wind, of water, of sunlight -- it was when he was most alive.

    In a month or two, he would begin another four years at Starfleet's Medical in Maryland, provided he wasn't kicked out of the 'Fleet. Another four years of being planet-bound, able to just hop a shuttle and ride up the coast. Another four years that he could sail, and hopefully put aside the idea of going into space and leaving almost everything behind.

    Corry wondered, in the back of his mind, if he would love the stars so much when he was actually there, or if they would just become something else to take for granted.

    He did a lot of that, or he used to. He used to imagine that his parents would always be there, and his father's brush with death had shattered that illusion. He used to think he had found a tragic true love in Maggie Mersea, and that was ruined too. Hell, he'd even taken his best friend for granted, and both he and Scott had suffered for it.

    Well, if the fates were trying to teach him a lesson, they'd succeeded. He certainly appreciated everything he had... more now than he ever had before.

    In this case, the stars. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes, imagining for a moment that this wasn't just a brief thing -- imagining that this could go on forever, and he could somehow dream back the hands of time and progress. If only that was possible, he could truly point the bow into the horizon and sail forever.

    "I'm goin' t'be up there someday," Scott said, rather quietly.

    Corry opened his eyes and glanced over, not terribly surprised by Scotty's sudden appearance. "Yeah? And here I was hoping I could con you into going pirate and staying here."

    Scott shook his head, eyes still tracking the stars. He wasn't entirely awake yet -- still drowsy and only half-aware of the world around him. "Wouldna do much good here, but up there..."

    "You could make it here." Corrigan nodded, not sure if he was joking or serious. "Imagine it... I'll be captain, you be my chief, and we can get some of the other guys to stay on. And we just sail."

    "Aye, it's called AWOL."

    "So? We'll build a sensor screen. They wouldn't be able to scan for us, and even with shuttles, it'd take 'em forever to find us. If we had sensors, we could see 'em coming a parsec away." To himself, Corry grinned. "Just picture it! Landing in some small port, somewhere that's not so modern, and then sailing off again like a ghost ship."

    "Hijack ships," Scotty continued, obviously having not figured out that Corry was half-serious about this, "and steal all their crackers."

    Corry chuckled, "Why not? There're enough yachts roaming around, and you can bet they'll be good for a raid. Before you know it, we have a whole fleet, and we can just ride the seas pirating."

    "Make 'em walk the plank." Scott grinned himself, still somewhat infatuated with the idea. Afterall, he had been dreaming about making someone walk the plank since before they'd even really started the Lady Grey. "Come up alongside, open the ports, and scare the livin' Hell out of 'em."

    "Basically," Corrigan said, with a sudden sort of solemnness. "I'm telling you, Scotty, it could work. We could really do it, you and me."

    It must have dawned on Scott that Corry wasn't kidding. Blinking once or twice, he looked over at the other cadet, fairly alert now. "Ye're not serious... right?"

    "Why not?"

    "'Cause it's insane! Even with the best tech in the universe, we couldna get away with it. Ye really think we could evade planetary defense?"

    Corry nodded, almost too earnest. "Hell yeah. If anyone could, it's us. You're smart enough to build all kinds of gizmos to hide us, and I'm experienced enough to sail this ship almost anywhere on this planet. We're a damn good team."

    "Aye, the best, but..." Scott sighed. "It's madness, though I don't know if it's any more mad than decidin' to go and sink our competition. But in the end, it's just another way of runnin'. In the end, I'm still gonna do my level best to get on a starship, and in the end, ye'll still do your level best to stay here."

    "I'm not..." Corry wanted to say that he wasn't running. But really, he was.

    "If ye want it, really want it, I'll do everything I can. Build ye sensor screens, deck this lass out to the point where she'd be nothin' more than a ghost." Scott nodded, though he still looked entirely not thrilled with the idea. "And I suppose that for a while, ye'd probably be able to hide, but that doesn't make it any less madness. Still, if ye want it, I'd do it. But I'm not stayin' grounded forever, if I have any choice. Not even here."

    It was insane. Corry knew that. He knew how farfetched the idea was, and just how much it would cost him if he went through with it. It was a dream for dreamers, for young dreamers, for someone who probably should have never joined Starfleet. But for one brief moment, he wanted nothing more than to reach out and grab onto it. "You would, too, wouldn't you?"

    "Aye, I would."

    "But you'll still leave."

    "Right."

    "Guess it'll have to wait then." Corry smiled, wryly, putting his hands behind his back. "We still have retirement, right? Maybe when we're out of the service we can go out and cause mischief and mayhem."

    "Now there's an idea," Scotty said, relieved that he wouldn't be called on to commit any serious crimes in the near future, aside from the one he'd already planned and started executing. Running over the notion a few times, he nodded, more seriously than before. "Retirement, then. If the Grey's still here, we'll use her, and if not, we can always buy a boat."

    "So it's a deal?"

    "It's a deal."




    Scott was still toying with the notion, even as he took the rounds and made sure everything on the schooner was in order. He was still running over it, over being a sailor of some sort whenever he retired. Starfleet service was fifteen years -- they trained for four (or in his case, three), and the rest of the time, they put that training to use. That would make him thirty-six when he hit the minimum service requirement, and forty-one whenever he was eligible for full retirement with benefits.

    Really, he had always thought he would be a career officer. There until he died or they kicked him out. And he couldn't imagine being forty-something period, not at twenty-one, with his whole life ahead of him.

    But Corry's reckless dreaming did strike a nerve. Scotty wasn't a romantic, but he was a dreamer; it was what had driven him to want starship duty in the first place. Dreaming of being the best in his field, with a starship of his own, and a whole universe to help explore. It was right there, right within his reach.

    Well, before he had decided he wanted to sink another person's ship. They were going to fire on the Queen Mary in only a couple of days or so, and he was going to be looking at real charges and real punishments. If anything went wrong and someone lost their life, there wouldn't be a career on anything but a prison asteroid.

    Not exactly what he had in mind when he'd joined up.

    It wasn't often that Scott doubted his initial decision, but this was one of those times. He had taken so much into account, all the way from how they would get the Queen Mary's crew off of their ship to how they would attack, but his own naivety never allowed him to think it could go horribly wrong.

    Still, he was looking at a possible end to everything he had dreamed of, no matter his reasoning. A board of inquiry wouldn't look at his motivations. All they would know was that he'd failed to go through the proper channels, and now there was answering to be done.

    Scott was still a fighter, though. Bowing one too many times to the whim of others had steeled his resolve, and if there was a stand to be made, it was going to be on the Atlantic. He could have quit pursuing the matter once Security had closed the book on the sabotage, but if he did, he might not be able to stand firm in the future, when everything could depend on it. Where did that leave him?

    Right now, on the quarterdeck, lost in thought, looking aft at the sunrise. The ocean was strangely calm, and they weren't moving nearly as well as they had been. The Lady Grey couldn't have been making more than a few knots, just bowing along gracefully on her port tack. Even he wasn't having trouble with the motion, not as easy and smooth as it was.

    Sunset had been spectacular for days, but somewhat dull the night before. Sunrise, however, seemed to be making up for it. Scott grinned to himself, leaning on the stern taffrail, just enjoying it.

    For some reason, though, he couldn't completely get lost in it. There was something in the back of his mind that offset even that sight. Thinking on it, he tilted his head slightly, narrowing his eyes. It wasn't Corry's crazy idea, even though he knew he'd be giving that more thought over the next couple days. And it wasn't the ship, because she was in fine form, all elegance and grace.

    The sky was brightening by the minute, near an hour into his watch. The world was so calm that Scott could almost pretend it was like one of his sister's paintings, caught in immortality. All red, climbing in intensity until it was nearly painful to look at.

    It was there, leaning on the rail and highlighted crimson, that he realized something.

    It had been red the morning before the Lady Grey had been burned.




    It had become almost a custom for Scotty to nap up against the bulwark, usually so that he was in the sun and so that he could offset the fact there were always going to be bells rung during the night hours. That had earned him a decent tan if nothing else, but other than that, it was just one of his quirks.

    It was almost a custom because they'd only been out there for five days, but out of five he'd ended up sleeping better on deck than he did in his cabin for four of them. Why was a mystery, because the bell still rang out its time every half-hour, but there was just something to it, something almost peaceful.

    Just not today.

    He'd spent most of the morning watch checking everything. The lines, the hull, the steering, everything. But so far as he could tell -- and who better to look? -- the Grey was in peak condition. He'd checked the positions of the competition, too; Wildstorm was still comfortably in the lead, the Queen Mary was comfortably behind. Everything was fine.

    All he'd really managed to do was wear himself out, and still ill at ease he went to his usual spot, curled up between the brace and railing, and tried to sleep it off.

    Whatever it was that had gotten Scott all worked up had apparently infected Corrigan as well. Just five hours after he'd turned in, he was back on deck, pacing around and looking ever westward.

    And, because Corry was uptight, it bled into everyone on watch. Before long, he wasn't the only one pacing around.

    Shaking his head, he made the rounds and checked everything, just like Scott had during his watch. Corry wasn't on duty yet, but that didn't matter -- this was just part of being a sailor. Plus, as captain, he was always on call. Once he was satisfied that everything was all right and good, he went back to where his roommate was dozing restlessly, kicking lightly at his boot.

    Scotty jumped, and probably would have been on his feet and swinging if only the adrenaline rush hadn't nearly shorted his brain out. Taking a shaky breath, he gave Corry a baleful look. "Was that necessary?"

    "Not really," Corry replied, jokingly, "but you're welcome." He smiled for a moment, then went back to being more serious. "Can't sleep, huh?"

    "I was tryin'," Scott said, standing. "And I mighta succeeded, if ye weren't so bloody cold-hearted."

    "A mortal blow, thou hast dealt me." Corrigan struck a terribly dramatic pose, turning his tortured eyes to the sky. "Pray, my good man, pull this knife from my heart lest it freeze there!"

    God, it really was impossible to be pissed off when he was acting like that. Scott rolled his eyes, not particularly wanting to laugh and give in, but he failed anyway. "Ye need locked up... preferably in a padded room, with white walls."

    "Two knives! Knave! Two knives in less than a moment, so swiftly that the thrust was a blur to the eye. Prithee do not be so cruel, sir, for my wounded self cannot bear the agony of betrayal, and the wounds are truly mortal." His eyes widening, Corry clutched his chest, slowly dropping to his knees. "My God, it has happened, this is the end! The fates have decreed it, and I, a simple sailor, must now be snipped clean, without so much as a last strand to cling to..." Choking, he dropped onto the deck, looking up at the sky. "Goodbye, goodbye, oh sunny days and fair weather... goodbye, life, thou hast been unkind and unjust... goodbye--"

    Scotty mimed looking at a watch, tapping his foot on deck, not able to completely hide the amused smile. "Can we skip ten years? Might be close to the end o' the soliloquy."

    "--goodbye, acting career, you died before you were even realized!" Laughing just because, Corry stood again. "C'mon, it wasn't that bad."

    "Don't quit yer day job."

    "Especially not right now," Balimer cut in, having watched for half of Corry's great testament to acting, and who now actually stepped forward and made his presence known. "Routine check-in with Starfleet's good, but they're forecasting a weather disturbance."

    It took maybe a half a second for it to all click together with Corrigan; the unease he felt, as well as most of his crew. He had already guessed that they were in for some heavier weather than the smooth sailing of the last several days, but he'd been waiting for it to be confirmed. "How bad?"

    "Right now, it's at Force 6... out of the southwest, wind at twenty-five knots, waves projected at thirteen feet average, and eighteen significant." Balimer nodded. "They don't think it's going to get any worse."

    Corry nodded himself, going over his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the prevailing winds. He'd made damn sure to brush up on the topic before they went out. "It probably won't. At Force 6, we can pretty much push right through it... be a bumpy ride, but not dangerous."

    Bumpy ride. Scotty didn't like words like that, particularly when they were used in the same sentence. That meant he would be sick as all Hell until it blew over, unless by some divine act he was cured of that particular ailment. Before they had a chance to go further into their discussion of weather patterns, he broke in, "I'm goin' below. Maybe try'n get some sleep before this hits."

    "Good idea. Chances are, most people'll be wide awake when it gets rough." Corrigan smiled slightly, still working out how they would approach the weather. "Talk to ya later?"

    "Aye," Scott answered, offhand, looking westward. For some reason, despite all self assurances that it was more of a weather disturbance than an actual storm, he couldn't shake the feeling that whatever it was, 'bumpy ride' wouldn't do it justice.

    Still uneasy, he shook his head and started for the steps.
     
  6. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part III, Chapter 4

    I just caught up here and all I can say is "Oh my!" I am most impressed. I love how you've brought these two young men and their classmates to life. Canon characters can be both easier and harder to write than original characters--easier in the sense that you've already got a wealth of information on them--harder in the sense that you've already got a wealth of information on them. :)

    I feel like you've caught a young Montgomery Scott very well--alive, yet with an inner moroseness. And yes, boys will be boys--I remember at 20 years of age sabotaging the raft of a fraternity racing my dorm in a raft race--we each swam underwater punctured the inner tubes they used to keep their raft afloat--it was fun watching that thing go down... :evil:
     
  7. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Thanks so much! I was kind of lucky; my OCs really more wrote themselves. Corry, for instance, was never supposed to be any real part of the story, but he provided such a natural balance for Scotty that he ended up sticking around. And a natural foil, too.

    You're absolutely right about the difference between writing canon vs. OCs. It's nice to have the framework of a character given to you, but then you have to work very hard to create a story that makes sense inside within that framework, and even explains bits of it. But I *love* the challenge.

    I think one of the many things I've always loved about Scott was that, in TOS, you firmly get the impression that his confidence was never handed to him -- he was never granted a magical amount of charm, and his talents never lent him to being somehow extraordinary outside of engineering. In his field, he's brilliant. The rest of the time, he's very human, flaws and all.

    You put it very well right there.

    I LOVE that! That's absolutely great; I wish I coulda seen the frat team's faces. That was totally what I was going for, too -- the sometimes... uh, foolhardy things that young guys will get into, not necessarily without thinking all the ramifications out. But you gotta love the daring, you know? You gotta love that they're bold.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2008
  8. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Chapter 4:

    Saturday, June 10th, 2243
    The
    Lady Grey
    On the North Atlantic

    The first kiss of an ill wind was nearly always enough to make anyone familiar with the ocean stop and look around nervously at the sky. It just was -- a primal understanding, maybe, or maybe it was something as simple as some long-disused instinct. Usually there were signs long before that; a wave out of place, a dropping barometer, or the predominant winds shifting directions almost on whimsy, backing around the compass.

    All of those were signs of a storm, but the first actually touch of ill wind was the clincher. Anyone with a lick of sense knew to start dogging down the hatches and securing any loose deck gear.

    The crew of the Lady Grey was no different. They knew there was heavy weather on the way, but when the first gust rattled the rigging, every single person on deck paused in what they were doing and started looking skyward.

    After a solid week, most of them fancied themselves sailors, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing in fair weather. It gave them the confidence to carry out their duties efficiently. But this wasn't going to be fair weather, and that dreamlike flight of fancy was trickling away.

    Of course, Scotty never fancied himself a sailor, no matter how good he had gotten at walking on deck. He knew better; he was a good shipwright, but as for being a sailor... no. Oh, he enjoyed the ocean and he absolutely loved seeing the Grey perform, but when it came right down to it, he didn't pretend to be even half as efficient as most of the rest of the cadets.

    So reeling around on deck during a storm was probably one of the last things he wanted to do.

    And, of course, Corrigan was the exact opposite. Proficient, dauntless, completely fearless; he was a sailor through and didn't pretend not to be. When the wind started rattling the sails, he grinned an almost feral grin at the challenge and prepared to meet it head on.

    Standing on the weather side railing, like night and day, they watched the blackening sky as the rest of the crew scurried around nervously. All the necessary orders had been given. All that was left to do was wait.

    "Best place to be is amidships and on the centerline," Corry offered, helpfully, though he didn't take his eyes off of the black clouds. He didn't need to; he felt the irritated, sidelong glance Scott gave him. "What? It's true."

    As if Scott didn't know that. Hell, one didn't design a ship and not know her stability ratings. "Nooooo, really?"

    Corry grinned again, more amused now. The biting sarcasm was typical, but the undertone of nervousness wasn't. "Just thought I'd remind you. Better bring along your crackers."

    Scotty tried for a scoff and ended up with a chuckle. "Keep it up, and I'll mutiny. Keel haul ye, or somethin' along those lines."

    "Sure, I can see you trying to order the crew around without me. 'Pull that rope thingy, turn the wheel thataway, an' see about gettin' me some crackers.'" Corrigan snickered, crossing his arms. "Face it, you need me here."

    Scott didn't deign to look over, just reached across the gap and whapped Corry in the back of the head, though only lightly. "'Well, cripes, since I'm so completely in love with myself, I might as well go and save the universe while I'm at it.'"

    Corrigan frowned briefly, but not seriously. "Oooh, Pup came up with a good one. Let's note that one down in the books."

    "Wolf. If ye're gonna call me somethin' canine related, get it right."

    "Sorry, Mutt," Corry said, this time ducking under the intended assault.

    Scotty waited until he was standing straight again, then nailed him a little harder in the head. "Bastard."

    Corrigan smoothed his hair back down, shaking his head with a laugh. As long as he could keep his second in command in high spirits, the rest of the crew would be all right. He might have been the captain, and a good captain, but the crew didn't gauge how scared to be from his reactions. They looked to Scott. If he was genuinely upset, it was because there was a very real reason to be. Up until now, he'd been edgy -- checking the barometer, calculating out different scenarios, double checking the charts -- but not much worse. "All nicknames aside, it won't be too bad. Nothing that the Grey can't handle."

    "Aye, I know," Scott answered. More to himself, he added, "She's a Hell of a good ship."

    Corry smiled, finally turning back to look at the deck crew running around. "Don't go forgetting that while you stumble around with your crackers." More seriously, he said, "And for God's sake, if a wave hits wrong, find something to hold onto and don't let go."




    It was a sound that couldn't easily be described. Somewhere between a shriek and a moan, the wind tore the air to shreds and made its eerie cries through the rigging of the Lady Grey, very effectively adding to the sense of inherent loneliness that came with being so far (so terribly far) from dry ground and safety.

    The boards creaked at the stress of the waves pounding, but even then she didn't seem to be in danger. She wasn't making much headway, but her bow was kept relatively into the waves, her sails were reefed short for the sake of not careening blindly, and Corrigan were at the helm, steering a path into the teeth of this 'weather disturbance'.

    Really, it wasn't a bad storm. The waves were sharp and breaking, but not very large. The wind was howling, but it wasn't so awful that they couldn't keep going. The decision had been made to keep on course -- if it were really a serious storm, they would have hove to and rode it out.

    So it wasn't bad. Really.

    Scotty told himself that over and over, braced as well as he could be under the shelter of the quarterdeck. Mentally, he reassured himself that this would be fine and that he absolutely would not crawl to the rail and lose his breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every single damn saltine he'd been nibbling at since it started getting rough. No, he could handle it. No little weather disturbance would take him down, nu uh.

    He whimpered, somewhat pathetically, and clung to the wooden beam bracing the quarterdeck. He could hear Corry whooping it up above him, and in a brief flash of immaturity wished something harmlessly unpleasant on his friend... maybe it wasn't a nice thing to wish, but then, he wasn't in a really nice mood at that particular moment.

    The deck rolled to starboard, he leaned to port, waged battle with his sense of balance and gradually won. Felt rather like his stomach was left to starboard, though, and as for any thoughts of ill will towards Corrigan, they went right over too. Scott just didn't have the resolve it took to stay on his feet and think about Corry's disgusting good humor at the situation.

    Trying to take his mind off of it, he wrapped an arm around the brace and pulled one of the emergency communicators out of the pocket of his oilskin trenchcoat. Maybe there would be something hopeful on the weather band, and he wouldn't have to suffer for too long. He flipped it open and fiddled with the dial, then held it up close to his ear so he could hear the tiny speaker over the wind, waves and general Hellishness on deck.

    Static.

    Frowning, momentarily forgetting about the storm, Scott checked to make sure he had it tuned into the proper frequency. The communicators weren't perfect, but they were certainly powerful enough to cut through some rough weather... he could pull in starships in orbit, let alone the planetwide weather band.

    It was right, and there was still nothing but static.

    It could have been the communicator, but it had been working just a few hours ago when they'd checked the forecast for updates. It wasn't storm interference; there was a little lightning, but nothing powerful enough to short out the range on a subspace device like that.

    He frowned deeper still, unconsciously finding his sea legs once he stopped thinking about the maelstrom and started focusing on the problem at hand. Twisting the dial again, this time aiming for Spacedock's powerful transmitters, he held it up and listened, uneasily. If his communicator was out, and if everyone else's was as well, then they really were alone out there.

    For some reason, that fleeting thought made Scott shudder from head to toe.

    Maybe it was water damage. Nodding to himself, he went over the likelihood that enough water had seeped into the usually watertight circuitry. Afterall, it was raining... no, not raining, pouring. Add in the spray from waves hitting the ship and the overall moisture content of the atmosphere, and it was almost a certainty.

    So why, when he had such a good reason for the communicator to be out, did he still feel like he was in a desperate situation?

    Shoving those thoughts aside, the cadet slipped back to the steps and headed down below, where he could check the delicate internal circuits without risking any further damage. The oil lanterns didn't provide much light, but at least there was more there than on deck, and if he was desperate enough he had emergency power lamps stowed away.

    It wasn't much quieter, but quiet enough. At the bottom of the stairwell, he braced the toes of his boots against the opposite wall, leaned back, and tried one last time to tune in something... anything.

    The white noise of static seemed unbearably loud, even with the storm howling above.

    "God, we're alone," he thought, digging through his pockets to find his screwdriver. Logically, he should have gone and checked to see if the other communicators were working, but then, his logic had flown the coop a long time ago.

    He was just about to pry open the casing and check for damage when a break came through the static. No transmission, but a break. Something that momentarily cut the noise. Sinking down until he was sitting at the bottom of the stairwell, half-shadowed in the back and forth dance of the lamps, he listened.

    Static... emptiness... c'mon, something caused that. Maybe they weren't totally on their own out there, maybe something was there and the world wasn't compacted to the small space of the schooner.

    He realized, abstractly, that sometimes the world and the universe could really be that small. And that he was even smaller.

    But not as small as whoever it was whose voice made it through the static, the wind, the creaking. Not that small. With dawning horror, he heard the cry through the night of someone far more frightened and alone than him.

    "Please, God... someone hear this... ... ...capsized, going down... ..."
    a broken sob, "I don't wanna die like this."


    --
     
  9. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    --



    Corry stood the helm alternately for Lewis and he was loving every minute of it. Sure, most of his crew looked positively sick and ready to give up sailing forever, but for him, this was the ultimate high. Starfleet could keep their starships, their so-called adventures to other worlds. When compared to the feeling of facing off, one-on-one with Nature, their catch phrase of 'Adventure! Exploration! Advancement! Join Starfleet Today and See the Universe!' seemed laughable.

    He thought himself a part of this, as elemental as the wind he was fighting. He never once thought of himself alone out there. Holding on with an unwavering grip, feet braced apart, he was just about to whoop again triumphantly when Scott stepped in front of the wheel.

    There was something in his expression, in his eyes, that completely and totally stopped Corrigan in his thoughts. Like slamming into a brick wall. He didn't even have time to blink before Scotty leapt into it, "Communications're out, we've got a ship down somewhere, ahead or behind, I dinna know, but someone's in trouble."

    It took a few seconds for Corry to grasp what was said. "Down?"

    "Down," Scott affirmed, with a deadly intensity. Those few seconds were important... God, they could mean the difference between life and death on a storm-surged, cold ocean, hundreds of miles from safety. Desperately, he half-begged, "Corry, go!"

    Corrigan leapt into action. He could always get the details of his friend's reasoning later -- right now, he didn't have time to ask. Grabbing Scott unceremoniously, he shoved him in the direction of the wheel, not taking the time to see if he got the hint. Then, sliding on the wet deck, he nearly ran into the bell post.

    *ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding*

    The bell clanged hard, the brass notes louder and sharper than they had ever been. It struck fear into just about anyone who could hear it -- this wasn't the watch being called, this was an emergency. Lewis came skidding up within five seconds, "What is it?!"

    "Ship going down, don't know where," Corry said, hurriedly. "Get three people to stand lookout on the bow, three on the stern, and two on each rail. Tell 'em to look for anything... lights, shadows, blurs... anything!"

    Lewis nodded sharply. "You'd best get someone to try to raise Starfleet."

    "Communications are out," Scotty interrupted, having snatched someone to take the helm for him. "I dinna know how I got even that, but it was broken up all to Hell, and there's no way we can get Starfleet."

    "And we'll get the boats ready to swing out," Corry ordered, more calm now that things were being set into motion. "We'll need to be ready to heave-to in an instant, no less, so I want all hands on deck. I don't care if they're puking everywhere, I want them out here."

    "Boats're already bein' prepped." Nodding smartly, Scott looked less than patient as he awaited the next task to be carried out. "We'll need someone to try'n raise 'em again, and get a position, or their last position, their ident... whatever they can."

    "I'll get someone on it." Corrigan felt a brief flash of gratitude that he had a second in command who was capable of taking the initiative, but didn't allow himself to dwell on it. "Keep at the helm... just hold on and keep us on course, no matter what. I'll have any course corrections relayed, and see if someone with a tricorder can't pick up their emergency transponder signal."

    "Aye aye, sir," Scott replied, turning on his heel and going back to his post. It wasn't the job he would have preferred having --Christ, one slip and he could put them far away from their intended target -- but Corry was the Captain, and he would follow orders.

    Relieving a very green cadet, he grabbed the spokes, realizing for the first time just how much effort it was going to take to keep the Lady Grey where they wanted her. Before, he hadn't had time to really dwell on it -- now, he could see he had his work cut out for him. Gone was the easy task that he'd once enjoyed; this was a pitched battle against the elements.

    The wheel jerked hard as she came down from the crest of one wave and dove her bow into the trough of the next. It nearly tore the spokes out of Scott's hands, but he just braced his feet as well as he could, gritted his teeth at the strain, and used his body to wrestle her back. Trying to ignore the fear that began to invade his mind, he prepared himself for the next fight.

    Whether he was trying to encourage himself, or those who he was going to attempt to save, was undetermined. When it came down to it, it didn't matter.

    "Hold on... it'll be all right."



    The Lady Grey battled her way along into the night. Looking through the spray, rain and mist, her running lights might have seemed almost ghostly; green, white and red, glowing as brightly as possible. Lewis had mounted a high powered emergency searchlight on the bow, hoping to see enough ahead to avoid any collisions, and it really was the only strong source of light in the wind-torn night. It wasn't just a weather disturbance anymore, it was a gale. Not a fierce gale, but a gale nonetheless.

    It was the crew that distinguished themselves, proving that Starfleet had not wasted their time on training them. Gone was the complaining, the misery and the general discontent; they were all too busy to worry about themselves right then. If Barrett would have been able to see them, he would have been more than proud of all of them.

    All but one, that is.

    Exactly when it happened couldn't be said, but when Albright went to sound the hull and make certain she wasn't leaking anywhere, he stepped down onto the hold floor and found an inch of water.

    On the quarterdeck, still waging a one-man war, Scott didn't fail to notice that the schooner wasn't reacting quite right -- she was almost sluggish, and didn't want to respond readily to the course corrections that Corry shouted back. It was he who had sent Joe down to make certain they weren't taking on water.

    Really, he knew before Albright ever showed back up. It was in the deck, the wheel, the different sounds... it just didn't feel right. He'd gotten fairly apt at deciphering those senses; apt at listening to his instincts when they said that something was wrong.

    When Albright stepped onto the quarterdeck, all it took was one, brief glance to confirm the truth. The wind shrieked above, a nerve-wracking sound, but it wasn't the cry above that made Scotty shiver, and it wasn't the driving rain either. It was another cry altogether.

    For one moment, he was back in the pitch black slip, fumbling with the wires, smoke-blind and breathless, fighting to save his ship as she wailed in his head...

    ...and in the next, he was moving. "Joe, take the wheel!" With that hasty order, he barely waited long enough for the other cadet to take over before sprinting across the deck. One good wave would have put him right overboard, but fate wasn't that cruel, and he literally slid into the bulwark, grabbed onto it, and all but leapt down the steps to the maindeck.

    Corry was still racing around, shouting back and forth with the lookouts, and Lewis had his team on the sails. The entire maindeck was almost surreal; lit by nothing but the dim, jury-rigged decklights, spray from the waves washing every which way, people stumbling and tripping around as they did their best to comply with orders. Scott nearly ended up running into more than a few people as he headed for the bow, sliding this way and that on the boards, but he made it without knocking anyone over.

    He ended up skidding right into Corry, who only just kept his footing. Corrigan turned, ready to start chewing out the clumsy fool, and stopped when he saw who it was. "Aren't you supposed to be at the wheel?!"

    "The Grey," Scott managed, panting. "We're takin' on water."

    "Oh shit." Corrigan's eyes widened. "How bad is it?"

    "Losin' steerage, and she's rollin' further, rightin' slower." Finally catching his breath and getting his tattered thoughts under control, Scott stood straighter. "We get knocked over, and we'll lose our rightin' arm that much quicker."

    Corry blanched at the thought, running through the implications frantically. If one reasonably large freak wave hit her on her beam, she would be over. She wouldn't be able to right herself with the water shifting inside of her hull, changing her center of gravity. "Zero moment point. God, we can't stop, though..."

    "Sir!!"

    Scott and Corrigan turned in unison, though it was Corry who asked, "What?"

    Balimer tripped and stumbled over, clutching the communicator in one hand. "It's the Wildstorm. She's on her beam ends and downflooding, they have two boats in the water, but the rest can't be launched, her masts are down, most of the people are on the hull. Signal keeps getting stronger, I told 'em to set up an emergency beacon, flare, something."

    "Good!" Turning again, Corry barked up to his forward lookouts, "Look sharp, guys, we're getting close!"

    "Corry..." Scotty's voice was edged with desperation; not a good sign at all.

    Corry looked back. It was time for a command decision, and he knew it -- if they didn't heave-to and patch the hull, she would become more and more vulnerable. If they did, the Wildstorm's crew would be in the cold water on a sinking ship that much longer -- there were a thousand and one ways to die on a ship going down. He couldn't take the crew away from Lewis to have them man the pumps, not until they were hove-to. Rescue crews didn't even know they were in danger, what with the comm out and the emergency transponders apparently not working.

    One way or another, it was a point of no return, no matter what he did.

    Corry took a deep breath. "We have to keep going... hold her together, Scotty. However you can."

    There was a long moment, and even amidst the chaos, it seemed almost quiet.

    Then, nodding smartly, snapping to attention, Scott answered, "Aye aye, sir." And already trying to plan ahead, he turned and headed for the stairs.
     
  10. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    Oh, man...I hope they can rescue the other crew! And even if they lose the race because of that, they should get the honor of having a ship named after them as a reward for their courage.
     
  11. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Thanks for the comment! Hope it satisfies, when it all plays out.
     
  12. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 5

    Chapter 5:

    Sunday, June 11th, 2243
    The
    Lady Grey
    On the North Atlantic

    For once, the sound of trickling water wasn't soothing. It wasn't like listening to rain running down a window, or a small waterfall in the woods, or even a brook running over stones. Oh, the basic sounds were the same, but this time, it meant something wholly different.

    This time, it meant that the Lady Grey had been dealt a potentially mortal wound.

    His boots sloshed in the water as Scott made his way along the dark corridor, deep inside of the Grey's superstructure, his hand light cutting a bright path through the gloom. Most of the lanterns were out, probably because no one had been down there to check them, and for some reason he found the presence of the torch reassuring.

    Down there, where the wind and the chaos on deck were muffled to near nonexistence, the sounds of the ship were that much more powerful. More than once a loud creak made him jump. There were a few times that she rolled and he found himself up against the wall, praying through the cacophony inside his skull that she would come back to rights again.

    So far, she hadn't let him down.

    The noise of her laboring through the water wasn't nearly so distinct as that wail in his head, though. It wasn't a sound that could be described in human terms, because it wasn't a human voice... it wasn't any voice, it was just there. Just like the constant white noise air makes, only noticeable in a silent room, except this wasn't even white noise. It was louder, sharper and completely indescribable... familiar, but only to him.

    The bilge was under his feet, and filled with water now. Stepping carefully, Scott shined the hand light down at the floor, looking for the hatch. He had put it there so that they could get the hose in and pump any water out... now he wanted to see if there was some way to get into the bilge and survey the damage.

    Might require oxygen of some sort, even in short supply.

    Tucking the light under one arm, he reached down and flipped the clasp, then pulled the handle. It came up easier than he expected; much easier. In fact, far, far too easily.

    Water gushed up, temporarily shocking the heck right out of him. Yelping, he barely fought the urge down to jump away, turn tail and run up to the main deck. It was a brief battle, and he had to use every ounce of his weight to force that hatch down and lock it tight again.

    Stumbling back and landing on his rear in two inches of sea water, Scotty toyed with the notion of having automatic electrical pumps installed, if they got out of this alive. "Sorry, lass," he murmured to the schooner, shakily. It was a stupid move on his part, and warranted an apology.

    The hull creaked again, reminding him that this was still a very real issue and one that had to be dealt with as quickly as possible. But he couldn't see a way to repair the ship without diving under her... not without putting her at a more severe risk, anyway. The numbers were there to back it up; sixty-four pounds per cubic foot of water, versus volume of the bilge, free surface movement of liquid, maximum stresses of three inch oak deck planking... Jesus. Crawling to his feet, he ran through the list of emergency supplies onboard. There had to be something there, something he could use.

    He turned, casting one last glance at the bilge hatch.

    Then he looked up.

    Standing there, looking as pale and a ghost and trembling from head to toe, was Harrison. Scotty startled, taking a backwards step and nearly landing himself right back down on the floor. "Bloody Hell!"

    Harrison jumped back as well, eyes wide and almost manic. For a moment he stood there, like someone who wanted to run in several directions at once, then he apparently made up his mind and picked a way. Whirling, he headed for the steps.

    Left behind, floating in the water, was a box of charges.

    Scott blinked, looking down at the box. It really didn't click with him right at that moment. It had never once occurred to him that one of the Lady Grey's own crew would try to hurt her, no matter the grudge; maybe Kelley's team, maybe someone outside of the group, but not one of her own. Not after all that had happened and all they had gone through just to get there. Not even a weasel like Harrison; not like this.

    When it did, he took off after Harrison like a racer from the block, sliding around the edge of the stairwell and bounding up the steps. There wasn't much thought behind it... just pure motion. He was a half-minute or so behind, but when he did end up catching up, just outside on the main deck, he leapt on the other cadet in what could well have been the most graceful move of his life.

    They slammed into the pump handle, ironically. Harrison took a few blind swings, panic stricken... it wasn't every day that something jumped on you out of the darkness, particularly when that something was snarling. He managed to connect once, but every other strike hit open air. Before he even had time to cry out, he was pinned down on the deck.

    The face he was looking up at was almost more terrifying than the leap. It took him a few seconds to realize that he was looking at a human, not an animal.

    Needless to say, Scott was living up to his nickname of Wolf. He didn't make any move to hit Harrison, but he sure as Hell looked like he wanted to. Voice low, somewhere between whisper and growl, he asked, "Why?"

    Harrison didn't answer... just quivered, throat working as he swallowed again and again.

    Knowing that he wasn't going to get an answer, Scotty resisted the first urge to punch the other cadet's lights out. He wanted to, oh did he want to, but it wouldn't serve any real purpose aside from his own enjoyment. Shaking his head in disgust, he got to his feet and dragged Harrison up, all but throwing him at Corry, who had been watching and holding his breath the whole time. "There's the hull leak."

    Corrigan nodded, finally remembering to breathe. Collecting himself, he latched onto the saboteur, doing his best not to stammer. "I'll make sure we lock him up. What's the situation down there?"

    "Bad. Can't get into the bilge, so any repairs'll have to be done from outside." Scott gave Harrison one last growl, then went back to mentally working on the immediate crisis. "The Wildstorm?"

    "Close... real close. We should be on her any minute," Corry said, casting a nervous glance up at the bow. Their reaction time would have to be exceptional once the call was given.

    "Cor, I'm goin' to have to--"

    "Wildstorm off the port bow!!!" Sallee bellowed back, unwittingly cutting off the shipwright in mid-sentence.

    The reaction was instantaneous. Corry had been waiting for it, his nerves frayed, and when the shout came back, he yelled to his crew, "Bring the fore about! Helm, five to port! All hands on the lines!"

    Scotty stood back, fairly sure that there wouldn't be anything he could do. Most everyone else had more experience in actually working the lines, and he had a big enough problem to deal with as it was. Grabbing 'hold of a shroud, he strained his eyes to see the Wildstorm, but through all of the gloom and confusion on deck, he couldn't even catch a glimpse.

    The Grey rolled under his feet, and he tightened his grip on the line. She wasn't answering to her helm, not as quickly as she had to in order to avoid getting her rudder tangled in the Wildstorm's rigging... if she lost steerage, her lifespan was cut to minutes. She would turn beam to the seas, and end up just like the ship she was there to rescue.

    "C'mon, lass, not much further," he whispered, without realizing it.

    It was hard as Hell to think with all of the noise. The shouts of the crew yelling 'heave!', the wind shrieking, the waves hitting, the distant background noise of the Wildstorm's crew shouting for help, the creaking... there was no peace to be found outside of his own skull, and really, none to be found inside either.

    Slowly, the Lady Grey came about. Her sails were rigged to cancel out her forward motion and still keep her head into the waves. There were almost thirty people onboard the schooner, and every single one of them was going to be devoted to saving the lives of the cadets and civilians in the water.

    There was only one person who could save the Lady Grey.

    His eyebrows drew together in a moment of profound realization, as he cast a look at his crew, trying to save lives and do the right thing. For a few seconds the noises seemed to fade away and everything took on another quality. It was like looking through a window into another world, and not being a part of it... alone, even among so many people.

    For some reason Scott couldn't even begin to fathom, it made him sad. Taking a deep breath, he watched as they started lowering the boats, then turned and headed below.




    The North Atlantic in this area was just above fifty degrees; cold enough to sap the life from anyone in the water for more than a very brief period of time. The wind was easing up, though, and so was the rain. Rescuing the Wildstorm's crew might not be as dangerous as it would have been ten minutes ago. The squall had blown it's brief life out, just like that.

    Corry stood by the falls of the lifeboat, waiting impatiently for the sailors who were going to man it. They were all gathering emergency med kits, lights and life jackets, and he tried not to get too anxious waiting. His crew had performed incredibly well, even this far out of the element they were trained for. That, in some part, was one of the reasons they were still afloat.

    The seven men finally leapt over the boat's side, settling themselves as quickly as they could, and Corrigan gave the order to the crew on the falls, "Lower away!"

    He wasn't there to see Harrison sneak away. In all of the bustle, he hadn't been secured -- still, he seemed like he could do little harm, standing at the starboard side bulwark, staring out to sea. There were more important things to worry about than locking him away. He likely wouldn't create any more of a hazard now that he had been found out, and now that his own life was hanging in the balance as well.

    If Corry had noticed, he might have wondered exactly what Harrison was doing, dragging on a survival suit and then jumping over the side and swimming into what seemed like nothingness. And if he had looked, he might have seen the Queen Mary, only a couple hundred or so feet away, almost invisible in the rain, mist and waves.

    Not that it would have mattered anyway.

    "Jerry! Go below and get every thermal blanket you can get your hands on." Looking around the deck, he trotted over to Lewis as Jansson followed orders. "Do you think we can spare anyone to man the pumps yet?"

    Lewis paused in retying a line. "Maybe a few. You'll have to have them alternate, though... that kind of work exhausts people fast."

    "Gotcha. Send 'em over. I have to get back to getting the other crew onboard."

    "Aye aye, Captain," Lewis chuckled dryly, then went to round up people to start to pump out the water collected in the hull.

    Corry watched him go, then went back to the bulwark, just as the Wildstorm's first boat arrived. Everything was proceeding according to plan.



    Everything was going wrong. There wasn't any other way to put it -- every single thing that could throw a serious monkey wrench into his plans happened. There wasn't enough epoxy to patch a dinghy's hull, let alone that of a schooner. There was no serious diving gear, just a few emergency oxygen canisters that guaranteed, at their total of four, two minutes of air. There were survival suits, but every one of them was in use by the rescue team.

    Not enough time, not enough air, not enough materials.

    Scott ran around the below decks, gathering what he could. He growled about it the entire way, as was his habit when everything went wrong, but he certainly didn't think to give up his plan. Afterall, there wasn't a hope in the world of changing the simple facts: The Grey was going down. She now had near a foot of water on her bottom deck, and with every single drop, there was more and more stress on the boards. Something was going to give, or something would knock her over, but left alone, she had no hope. She would sink.

    It was inevitable.

    Leaping down the steps, he landed in that foot of water. There was now only one lamp still burning. Her nose went into the trough of a wave, and the water came rushing down the deck, nearly taking him right off of his feet.

    "Dammit," Scotty said, to no one in particular, fighting the movement of the water as her bow rose again and he had to battle his way along a deck that couldn't decide if it was uphill or down. When he finally made it to the room he had been aiming for, it was a foot and an inch. Water was seeping up through the floorboards, where the caulking had sprung.

    It was rapidly reaching the point of no return -- as Corry had called it, the zero moment point. It was that point where her center of gravity, now altered by the water, cancelled out her natural buoyancy. And once that point was passed, there was nothing that would save her.

    With that much water inside of the hull, that point was getting closer by the second.

    Digging through the equipment that had come loose from all of the wave action, Scotty was closer to panic than he had been in a very long time. Of all of the people onboard, he knew the numbers better than anyone. Her fate was his, and determined the lives of every single person onboard. If he failed, it wasn't just the schooner at stake.

    He almost whooped for joy when he found the rubber life raft. Snatching it and a length of rope, he made back for the gun deck where the rest of his ship saving gear was stowed.




    Corry didn't know what his best friend was planning. If he had, it was a surefire thing that he would have put a stop to it. It was dangerous... no, it was probably more than dangerous. On a storm-surged ocean during the wee hours of morning, it was dancing with Death.

    It's said that there's a fine line between courage and stupidity, and Montgomery Scott was walking right on it. Not to say that he was usually foolish, at least not before this -- if anything, he tried to err on the side of caution most of the time. Double-check everything. Always have a backup plan. In fact, have a backup plan for the backup plan. Never forget about that bastard Murphy and his law, because it'll always be there.

    He was probably the last person in the world anyone would expect to throw all of his chips down on one hand, particularly one this lousy.

    That thought made him pause on the stern taffrail, looking down into the streaked waves, and reminded him yet again just how small he really was. Forward, people were running around, hustling to tend to the half-frozen rescues, pulling more people out of the water, and generally doing all they could.

    And then, there he was, hesitating. Finding a reason to stall, maybe half-hoping in the back of his mind that someone would stop him. O2 canisters, check. Light, check. Epoxy, check. Life raft, check. Rope, check.

    That was everything, and he still couldn't quite force himself into jumping. He wasn't a good swimmer, not compared to Corry or some of the other cadets. He didn't even know where the hull leak was, exactly. He didn't have a backup plan.

    He was scared.

    Taking a deep breath, Scott tried his damnedest to drive back that fear and the hundreds of questions that ran through his mind, not the least of which was, "What if I don't make it back?"

    Inhale, don't think about not coming back. Over the entire history of man, there had been millions of people who had flung themselves into a situation where they might not survive. At the worst, they were younger than he was, torn out of a life that was comforting, familiar and safe, and thrown into a place where they had so little chance. At the best, they were revered as heroes.

    At least he had a choice, and dammit, if he was going to die down there, he was going to do it like a man. If he was going to dance with Death, then he couldn't do any worse than make that price as high as possible before it all played out. Taking one more breath, he held it this time and dove into the Atlantic.

    Well, he didn't succeed in holding it for long, and any thoughts of heroics or history were driven far out of his mind. The moment he was back on the surface, he was gasping for air a mile a minute, almost panic-stricken by the sudden cold, the sharp sting of salt in his eyes, the water pressure, everything. It was all Scott could do to keep his head above water, trying to calm back down, to get his shattered thoughts back together. To tell himself to think. To think and to breathe and to swim.

    It took him far too long to calm down enough to actually take a breath, hold it, and dive.

    Christ, it was cold. He knew it would be, but the actual shock of it was still too sharp and sudden to brush off. He'd been soaked already from rain, but this wasn't rain, this was salt water and three miles below him was an ocean floor that he would be on if the emergency line he had looped around his waist broke.

    Keep calm, don't start going chicken now. There was nothing quite like a panic attack to eat away what oxygen he did have, and he was already feeling the pressure build. Pulling the light off of his makeshift rope harness, he turned it on and shined it ahead, trying to find the Grey's hull in all of that mess. She should be right in front of him, if the currents weren't dragging him.

    It took another thirty seconds to find her, and Scott was aware of the passage of time... painfully aware of it, and of the fact that he was starting to suffer oxygen deprivation already. If this was the way it was going to happen, he would never be able to fix the hull.

    He still held out for fifteen more seconds before grabbing the first canister and taking a breath. The clean air was making him light-headed, but it was better than the impending blackness if he'd waited much longer.

    Bottom of the hull, and she was moving... up, down, left, right, it was all he could do to avoid having her come down on him. He kept the light pointed up, kicking evasively whenever it looked like he might be in too much trouble. One good whack from a schooner with one hundred and thirty tons of displacement would finish the entire endeavor. He would be dead, and after maybe another hour or two, everyone else would be close behind.

    So, shoving any pointless thought out of his mind and approaching his own personal zero moment point, he continued to search.



    --
     
  13. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 5

    --



    "How many more've we got?" Corry asked Lewis, as the bos'un came aboard from lifeboat three.

    "Everyone's out of the water now," Lewis answered, grabbing hold of the bulwark and leaning on it for a moment or two. He was fairly exhausted -- most of them were. It was a Hell of a lot of work to pull soaked and torpid people from an ocean and still keep a lifeboat from being capsized by waves. The fact that Team C could do it was no small compliment. "A head count shows no casualties, but there are some pretty hypothermic people in there."

    Corrigan nodded, mentally running through the checklist of things that still needed to be completed. He had control of the sailors, they had a few men on the pumps, everyone else who wasn't in the midst of those tasks were tending to the unexpected guests. Now... now for the hull leak. "We're going to have to get some people on patching the hull. Right now, the pumps are only slowing it down a little." Frowning, he looked around the deck. "Where's Scotty?"

    "Haven't seen him," Lewis said, standing straight again. "Want me to go looking?"

    "Yeah, send him up here. I need someone good to supervise whoever we end up sending down under the ship."

    Lewis nodded and trotted off, fairly spry for being as tired as he no doubt was. Corry took a deep breath, turning to the next task at hand. Seemed like there was a million things to do, and every single one of them was vying for space at the forefront of his mind. But the weather was calming fast, and though the waves were still high, at least visibility had increased.

    Only peripherally, he was aware that the sky was started to creep into light.

    Turning and walking to the opposite side, he helped one of the shell-shocked crewmembers of the Wildstorm down to the sheltered quarterdeck, where there were people who could help. Then he went back forwards.

    And then he nearly fainted.

    Standing on the deck, looking like he was about to drop from pure exhaustion, was Sean Kelley.

    Corry stepped forwards, more concerned than anything else. "The Queen Mary?" he asked, praying that the steel ship hadn't met a fate similar to the Wildstorm. If she had... if she had, Corrigan was seriously going to consider that Someone had it in for him and his crew.

    Kelley shook his head, reeling, not able to find enough strength to answer in more than a word. "Safe."

    Corrigan frowned, stepping over to support the other cadet. There would be time for the story later, and he was sure it would be one Hell of a story. But right now wasn't the time to grill the half-frozen Kelley. A sense of fear gnawing deep in his gut, he led Sean back to the quarterdeck.




    One step at a time, one breath at a time. The hull had taken a fair share of damage, not so much from the blast that Harrison had dealt, but from the pressure of the water building in the bilge. Where the caulking had been sprung, there were now two boards come loose from her bottom, and if he didn't get the hull patched and the water pumped out, it would be a chain reaction.

    An exponential curve, and it was climbing.

    Scott had never had much of a problem when it came to knowing the urgency of a given situation. He could tell when something required immediate attention, and when something could be put off for a time.

    This most certainly could not be put off. He'd abandoned the larger light for his penlight once he found the damage, which was easier to juggle with oxygen canisters and metal-based water-proof epoxy, and bright enough to do a tolerable job. Normally, he could have sealed the entire area off with that stuff, but there wasn't enough of it -- not for this kind of damage.

    He hadn't failed to note that the large light, vanishing down into the blackness, was terribly eerie.

    Lob the stuff on, fix an edge of the rubber raft to it. The raft itself was damn strong material, and he'd disabled the automatic inflation device... if they could relieve the pressure on the hull, it would hold until they could get her back to land. And he could always go down into the bilge and work on it, even at sea.

    Another breath, and he was also well aware that he was down to one canister and thirty seconds of air. Take twenty more, and if he wasn't finished, he would have to make for the surface.

    Another edge fixed. Just a little over half done. Thirty seconds of air, which roughly translated to six minutes more on the dive.

    It had taken twelve to get that far.

    Scotty didn't let himself think about that too hard. It was kind of amazing, though, that even in the midst of this there were still a few scattered ideas in his head.

    Like Corry. He'd been right... the Grey couldn't have stopped before getting to the Wildstorm. Scott had only been down there for about fifteen minutes, and he was already suffering terribly from the cold -- if they would have waited, someone might have died from hypothermia.

    And Barrett. Would he approve of this insane attempt? Would he understand why it had to be, and in particular, why it had to be Scott down there, and not someone else?

    Scotty would have really, really liked to believe that yes, the professor would understand. Maybe not approve, but understand.

    It was mercilessly cold. His hands didn't want to work right, and that was unnerving. He couldn't afford to fumble around, not now -- setting his jaw all the harder, he kept working, racing time and air and everything in the world.

    Another edge, two, three, breath. Twenty-five seconds.

    The work wasn't exactly mindless, but it wasn't anything that required intense concentration. His hands, even half-numb, knew what to do. The thing that required his focus was the movement of the ship, and that in itself took more out of him than patching the hull ever could. If it had been smooth water, this would have been an easy task. Of course, if this was smooth water, it could have been put off somewhat, and he could have done the intelligent thing and told someone about this crazy little venture.

    Why was it he'd done something so bloody foolish when he was normally so cautious?

    The answer was almost too simple.

    Because he had to.

    Tack it down, one more... one more, breath. Twenty seconds.




    Kelley was shivering, the thermal blanket wrapped so close around his shoulders that it might as well have been a second skin. But he was still awake... not very alert, but awake. Looking up, eyes dull and forlorn, he was almost unrecognizable as the arrogant cadet he'd been only a week before. "I jumped."

    Corry's eyebrows drew, as he knelt beside Sean's chair. He expected some kind of treachery from the Queen Mary's crew, but nothing that drastic. God only knew what the other crew had been planning, to make Kelley jump ship and risk swimming in a cold, stormy ocean to escape. "Why...?"

    "Wouldn't s-stop." Sean's eyes closed. "Jamming the communicators, transponders."

    "For us and the Wildstorm?"

    "Yeah."

    Corrigan wanted to ask more, but Sean looked like he wouldn't be able to do much more talking. So he nodded, even if the other cadet wouldn't see it. "All right... get some rest, Captain Kelley. We'll figure it out when you're up to it."

    Kelley nodded slightly. There was humility in his voice, and gratitude, but that wasn't what spoke most profoundly on his state of mind. It was the tears that ran down his face that did that. "Th-thanks, Corry."

    Corry winced internally, but kept himself steady on the outside. Patting Sean on the shoulder, he stood and went back out on deck. There was still a lot that had to be done, not the least of which was repairing the ship. Frowning, he looked around for some sign of his best friend or Lewis.

    It struck him hard when he didn't see either.




    Fifteen. Tack, balance, tack, tack.

    God, he'd never be able to finish in time. Before, Scott had done his best to forget that fact, but now that the determining moment was approaching, and fast, he didn't have the luxury of ignoring it. Two minutes left before he had to try to swim out from under the hull, fighting cold and current and waves. Still a third left to tack down, and one good wave would be enough to destroy his hard work.

    Enough to destroy everything.

    He was working as fast as he could, praying for a miracle. Praying for something incredible to happen, because if it didn't, he would fail and all of this would have been for nothing.

    How many times now had he faced this situation?

    One more breath between him and that, and the zero moment point only a minute or so away. The moment where he had to decide if he would keep working and almost certainly drown, or whether he would leave and hope that someone would be able to get back down there before the still sharp wave action tore the unfinished patch loose.

    It sort of surprised him that it wasn't a panicky moment at all, but almost unnaturally calm. It would have been amusing that it was so anti-climactic, if it weren't such a serious issue.

    It really only came down to two possible choices. Sink or swim. Fight or retreat. Maybe even live or die, but no matter how hard he railed against the universe for it's injustices, nothing would change it.

    Zero moment.

    If a miracle wouldn't be given to him, he'd just have to make his own.

    The universe be damned.
     
  14. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part IV, Chapter 5

    WOW. Unbelievable!

    Interesting how both the Lady Grey AND the Queen Mary each had "traitors"--Harrison who had no conscience, and Kelley whose conscience got to him.

    These later chapters are starting to remind me of an album by Thrice with some wonderful songs on the theme of Water--The Alchemy Index, Vols. 1 and 2. I could PM you with some links to samples, if you wish.
     
  15. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    If I had working speakers, I'd totally take you up on that; good music always gets the blood up. And thanks much for the comment! These parts seem to be a universal favorite; considering that I suck at writing action, I'm glad I at least managed to this time. Kinda. ;-)
     
  16. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
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    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    You did very well at it--I wouldn't have known you had any difficulties until you said so outright.
     
  17. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    I sincerely hope I can do so in the next 'big' story I'm working on, too. I much prefer the more character-study stuff; it seems to just come more naturally. But boy, do I appreciate your encouragement. It does help.
     
  18. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Chapter 6:

    Sunday, June 11th, 2243
    The
    Lady Grey
    On the North Atlantic

    Courage isn't an easy thing to define, but Corrigan was certain that he had seen more acts of heroism in his one storm-ridden night on the Lady Grey than he had in his entire life. The sheer amount of sacrifice, duty and honor were amazing to see, let alone to be surrounded by. He had watched his own crew offer their clothes and bunks to the cold survivors of the Wildstorm, he had watched the Wildstorm's crew support each other.

    The boats were stowed away, and time slowed down from the frantic rush it had been earlier, allowing Corry to have a moment or two to breathe. He'd been running around like a madman. The crew needed supervised, the survivors needed checked, the men were on the pumps...

    Now he really, really needed to get someone to work on patching the hull. The waves were much longer and weren't breaking as soon as they had, so it would be almost safe to send a few people down in survival suits to start on the task. Frowning to himself, he spied Lewis across the deck, looking somewhat confused. It only took him a few seconds to jog over to the other cadet. "Find Scotty yet?"

    Lewis shook his head, dumbfounded. "I've been from stem to stern and top to bottom... he's either hiding or he's vanished."

    "Vanished?" One of Corry's eyebrows went up without him realizing it. People didn't just vanish, not on a schooner on the Atlantic. And Scott just wasn't the hiding kind; even seasick and off-balance, he was usually on deck or ready at hand. That only left two places where he could be -- one was aloft in the rigging and the other was in the ocean.

    Corrigan knew instantly where his best friend was. What he didn't know before then was that fear could be that sharp and sudden; so sharp and sudden that it took his breath away.



    "No..."



    The ocean didn't forgive foolishness. It was an indiscriminate killer -- judge, jury and executioner. There was no mercy to be found, no comfort. Under the surface, it was a dark, cold and lonely world; one that had no real sight or sound.

    It was irony at its best. Men could love the ocean, but never trust it.

    The Atlantic had claimed many lives over the history of humanity. Then, over the past century or so, there had been none. Rescue operations had gotten too efficient, boats had become much more seaworthy, people had become a little wiser and they finally thought they had somehow made everything foolproof.

    Scotty was learning that hard way that it wasn't nearly so foolproof as he would have believed two hours ago. And this time, he was the fool. The ocean hadn't forgotten. He'd never thought of it before, but 'la mer ne pardonne pas' was far more than just a phrase.

    He found that he didn't care. Cold wasn't a word anymore -- it was an entire state of existence, and pain didn't have much meaning either. The only thing that meant anything to him was the final brush of fingertips over the last bit of rubber, fixing it to the epoxy. It sealed the Lady Grey's fate... and, he had already realized, his own.

    How long left? Maybe a minute. He'd worked so fast that he hadn't noticed just how the whole process of death was really overrated before. No epiphanies, no great moments of bright gleaming light, no saintly voices beckoning him. His penlight had slipped from his fingers, had followed the large light down into the depths, and left him in the dark.

    Scotty felt kind of disappointed -- woulda been nice to go out in a blaze of glory.

    Struggling vainly with the water, he was fairly sure he'd never see the surface. It was cold, he was tired and his ship was safe. What else was there? Everyone always says that there's a limit to what a human being can take before they give up, and giving up seemed like the best option of all. Go ahead and breathe in; it won't hurt for long. The worst of the agony from running out of air had long since passed, so what little pain there was left was meaningless. Then it'd be over.

    No more fighting.

    No more reason to fight.

    If Scotty was hanging from a cliff, it would be by his fingertips, slipping. No one could save him, and he couldn't save himself. There was nothing left to fight for. The universe would just continue on, and he couldn't do one damned thing about it.

    No rhyme, no reason, no moral, no nothing.

    Ten seconds? Maybe less. Then it'd be over, and he'd be dead. Just that quick.

    "No."

    It wasn't self-preservation, sacrifice, duty or honor, either; it was courage in its purest form -- in and of itself. It would never be praised, understood or even seen. It just was.

    He raged suddenly in the battle, thoughtless, fighting all the harder simply because there was nothing else to do. It was a war without morals or any of the civilized virtues society could bestow; illogical, hopeless, primal defiance. Blatant refusal to go quietly.

    On an equally primitive level, wordless...

    For the first time in his life, he realized that he'd actually been fighting all along.

    Nothing more than courage, struggling for oxygen.







    ...

    "Don't fight," the voice said, and it was panic-stricken. Even far away, it sounded panicked. Frantic.

    He wasn't entirely sure if he was breathing or not. Only that the idea of not fighting, either to failure or victory or just because was an impossible concept to grasp. If this was death, he wouldn't go out quietly.

    "Please!" And the voice was closer and still desperate.

    Corry.

    Scott managed to drag himself out of the fog long enough to realize that his head was above water, and Cor had a death-grip on him, and it wasn't dark. But that was about it. And he was coming close to sinking the both of them, still half-battling to swim alone.

    He paused there, finding the coordination to ask, "Got me?"

    Confusion edged into Corry's voice as he struggled to keep them both afloat, but he answered, "I've gotcha."

    "A'right," Scott said, and was somewhere he didn't know. Here, or there, or elsewhere. He just let his chin rest on the top of Corry's shoulder.

    No more fighting.

    And for the first time in his life, he trusted someone else to fight for him.
     
  19. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Part 5: Across the Line

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

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] And what there is to conquer
    By strength and submission, has already been discovered
    Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
    To emulate—but there is no competition—
    There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
    And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
    That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
    For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

    -T.S. Eliot; East Coker

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

    Chapter 1:

    Monday, June 12th, 2243
    The
    Lady Grey
    On the North Atlantic

    Nothing was the same.

    There were no great fanfares or dramatic moments after the storm. Everyone lived when the wind died down, though there were enough close calls that it was most of a day before anyone really felt up to trying to actually tackle the big issues. What to do with the Wildstorm's orphans. What to do about the fact that the Queen Mary still had everyone jammed, according to her single orphan. What the plan of attack was.

    Mostly, they just tried to recover; the only major thing that was dealt with quickly was the damage to the Lady Grey's hull. Most of the water had been pumped out, enough that she could be worked on from the bilge, and once that was done, the tired crew set sail again. Limping, but alive.

    But nothing was the same.

    Scotty and Corry only spoke about it once; about the dive into the Atlantic. It was just after they had set sail again, driving on, both of them burned out, standing at the bow and trying hard to grasp what it was to not be who you thought you were, or where you thought you were.

    "I could have killed you," Corry had said, and his voice was filled with shock and a million other things, all of them painful. "I gave you an order that could have killed you."

    Scott was careful about how he replied, more careful than he might have been in any other situation. But it was honest. "I followed it knowin' it could. And I woulda gone even if ye hadn't given it."

    There was quiet for a moment, then Cor asked, "How would I have lived with that?"

    And for that, there was no reply. All Scott could do was hold silent in deference to a question that had no answers. How do you answer a question that you never had to face before? Moreso, what would you do if you were the one who had to ask it? It wasn't just a question about one situation, one potential mortality. It was a question about the fabric of life itself. How do you ever answer that?

    There was no answer.

    There never could be an answer.

    "I'm sorry," he said, when the silence had gone on too long. Not for crossing that invisible line himself. He'd felt it before he dove, that other world that he wasn't a part of, looking through to the one that he was. That other world, the one where you no longer had certainties. Only questions. And then, he became a part of it.

    Except, he didn't go alone. When he'd crossed the line, his best friend stepped across it with him. Had given up a place in the world they both knew and understood, and stepped into something else.

    And neither of them could ever go back again.

    "I'm sorry," he said again, and it came from his soul.

    There was no deference in the reply. Corry just looked over, resolute.

    "I'm not."




    "I didn't know what was going on until it was too late," Sean said, looking far more coherent, though just like the rest of them, he likewise looked exhausted. "I can't really tell you much about the system they've got set up, but I know that it jams your frequencies, then sets up a kind of 'ghost' of your signals so that anyone monitoring thinks you're somewhere else."

    "Why the Wildstorm, though? I mean, Jesus, you've got a ship going down and you don't stop?" Lewis sounded more than a little pissed off about it.

    "I..." Sean sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I don't honestly think they believed it. I mean, visibility was awful. The only reason I even saw you guys was because you had your emergency lights on, and I think they thought it was all a ploy so that they'd stop and you could fire on 'em."

    "Which means they knew about the guns." Corry shook his head, holding his coffee mug close to his chest.

    "Well, yeah," Sean said, smiling for the first time since he'd come aboard, though it wasn't in humor. "Did you genuinely think no one would catch wind of that?"

    "We wanted to," Scotty piped up, getting a chuckle from the majority of the group gathered there, though he didn't feel his own deadpan humor right then. "Power o' wishful thinkin'."

    "Wait. If they didn't know what was going on with the Wildstorm, why did they jam her transponder too?" Lewis asked, after a few moments where they were all chewing on what was going on.

    Sean shook his head, plainly exasperated. "I have no idea. I really didn't know anything. We picked up you guys trying to call the Wildstorm, and we picked up them calling for help, and I tried to get everyone to heave to and help out. But they refused, and Keith just said to keep going. And everyone did."

    It was a small comfort that Keith O'Sullivan would probably be facing a whole lot worse at the end of this than the Lady Grey's commanders, but Scotty would take it. "So, what we're sayin' is that he committed high seas mutiny, Harrison committed high seas piracy, and we're about to go and do the same. And that's all we really know."

    "Succinctly," Corry replied, with a wan smile.

    "So, what do we do now?" Albright asked, having been staying in the background and watching this discussion in rapt fascination.

    Scott shrugged. "We go on."

    "The Queen Mary's gonna round the corner, if she's running full and by, probably tomorrow morning. Given our hull damage, though, we can't really risk running all out. She'll hold, but she won't take too severe a beating." Corry handed his coffee cup off to Scotty, standing and pacing around his cabin table. "I guess we could try modifying some tricorders to see if we can't break through her jamming and call Starfleet about what happened... I can't imagine that the Wildstorm's crew wants anything more to do with the water, let alone high seas warfare."

    "That would be the smart thing to do," Lewis said, sighing. "We'll probably still get into some crap for having cannons onboard, but if we don't use 'em..."

    "That's a shame," Albright muttered, though he didn't sound like he was too against the idea of giving up the fight.

    Scotty listened to them, absently taking a sip of the coffee he was holding before making a face at it. Then he shoved it back at Corry as he paced by, though he didn't bother saying anything about it. "All in favor o' not fighting?"

    Kelley, not surprisingly, put his hand up. And after a moment or two, Lewis and Albright followed suit.

    Cor took his coffee cup back and stopped pacing, raising an eyebrow at his best friend for a moment. But he kept his hand down.

    "Good." Scott stood up, tossing a dry half-smile to the other three. "That way, when we do, ye've all done the right and proper thing by tellin' us it was a bad idea."

    And with that, he walked out.




    With two of the Wildstorm's boats, plus the regulation number of their own, Scott figured that taking one and doing a little work on it couldn't hurt. It wasn't like he was making it unusable; if they really needed to abandon ship, it'd still function as a lifeboat. But it would also serve as something else, in the meantime. Something a little more unorthodox.

    The Lady Grey had a compliment of extra spars. The idea being that if anything happened to one of her yards, she could be repaired at sea. She also had a full suit of extra sails, and any number of extra coils of line.

    Scotty had commandeered a good portion of the forward deck, having chased off pretty much anyone who would get in his way, and was in the process of building a miniature Lady Grey. If there was one thing that he had figured out about sailing, it was that getting an idea of scale on the ocean wasn't an easy thing -- there were any number of ways to fall for a trick of the eyes. And a trick was exactly what he was engineering.

    "C'mon. If I'm gonna be called on to do any fancy sailing, I've gotta know what the plan is."

    Corry had been watching and occasionally helping with this little endeavor. He'd already guessed that it was a decoy, but he hadn't managed to guess what purpose the decoy was going to serve.

    "I need to know where she'll be, and when," Scotty replied, stepping in the little main mast he'd created out of one of the Lady Grey's spars.

    "I don't know if I can give you exact coordinates," Cor said, as he helped from the other side of the boat, starting to hook up the standing rigging to the mast. "I can take a bunch of really good guesses, but that's about it."

    "It'll have to be good enough, then."

    "Then what?"

    Scott focused on the task at hand for a minute or two, then glanced up. "We're gonna lay in wait. Douse our lanterns, send out our decoy here, an' we're gonna wait until she's close enough to breathe on, preferably in the dark."

    Both of Corry's eyebrows went up at that. "Night attack?"

    "Boardin' attack. I'm not about to go firin' on her while she's manned. But if she's lookin' at a decoy--"

    "Then she won't be looking at us. And at night, without our lanterns?"

    Scotty narrowed his eyes, looking off at the sea past Corry and the Lady Grey's bulwark. "We'll be the Ghost."
     
  20. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Ha, just when it seems like they might have an attack of common sense about the fighting...and now that the secret's out about their guns, I really find myself worrying what kind of heat the Queen Mary might be packing.