Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind

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

  1. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    That's the biggest problem; when you know canon, you know how the story goes. But, if I am able to at least drag a reader in, then I'm not doing too bad -- thanks for the comment! I sure hope it doesn't disappoint.
  2. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    I really enjoy your Scott tales. I just finished Pt I and was chuckling over the uncle-mugging. I can see why Scotty was so shy-I grew up in a large, boisterous family too and sometimes you just want to crawl under the table and hide from the ruckus. Great read so far!
  3. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    I think it was a combination of both -- mostly left to wander solo, then being thrown into big, loud family situations on occasion, which would be even more of a shock. Really appreciate the comments, thank you!
  4. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 6

    Chapter 6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Did you find it?"

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

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

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

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

    Bureaucracy. One of the miserable constants in the universe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    One sheet of paper, nothing to be afraid of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 6


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

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

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

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

    In that sense, maybe Scott did understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "I'm not writin' anything off!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And now he couldn't see the damn road.

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

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


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

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

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 7

    Chapter 7:

    Friday, April 14th, 2243
    Malone Road Dormitory, Room 17
    Starfleet Engineering Academy
    Belfast, Ireland, Earth

    The shuttle was due to pick him up at the terminal down the road in an hour, and Corrigan was packed to go. He had everything clean, neat and handsomely organized. All that was left was to carry his two bags and his one carryon out, present Security with his transfer orders by the gate, and walk away for good.

    It sounded so simple, but it wasn't.

    It was supposed to be simple. He wasn't supposed to second-guess this. He sure as Hell wasn't supposed to be feeling like this, like he had just... just set fire to a hard-won bridge.

    Sweeping his half of the floor with a broom, Corry knew he was stalling, making excuses not to go. He wouldn't admit it even if someone was torturing him, but he knew he wanted to wait until the last possible moment to give Scott time to come back, so that he could apologize, so that he could set things right with his friend before it was too late.

    Not that Corry had been wrong. Oh no, he was right about everything that he said. He had to be right about it, because if he wasn't then he'd just done something unspeakable and stabbed an innocent man in the back. He wasn't capable of something that cruel... even at his angriest, he'd never once turned around and tried to really hurt someone. And Scotty was his best friend, no matter how machine-absorbed and odd he was.

    And now... now the other cadet was probably off fuming about it. Corry tried to reassure himself that anger was what drove Scott away like that, but he knew better than that, too.

    No, he had to be off fuming. Probably headed back to the Lady Grey, even.

    Had to be.

    Dammit, why did it have to end up like this?! Scowling, Corrigan threw the broom into the corner and paced a few steps back and forth. Why did they have to get into a fight, instead of just saying 'see ya later?' like everyone else? That way, in a month or two, they could have met up in a bar somewhere, tossed back a few drinks and it would have been just like it always was... joking and laughing, being unspeakably lewd and calling each other chicken over whatever they possibly could.

    There wouldn't be the accusing silence that faced him now.

    It wasn't right, the voice in his mind told him, viciously. Think about it.

    "Shut up," Corry whispered, trying to talk his own conscience down. There was a reason that he'd fought back like he had! And it wasn't like Scotty was innocent of any wrongdoing... he had spent the last couple of months completely absorbed into working on the Lady Grey, instead of taking a minute and listening. He'd been down there day and night, not even trying to be a good friend, just working on that ship like it was the only thing in the world... the only thing that meant anything, as if somehow... if somehow that ship could make up for Corry being lost in medical books, forsaking his own friendships in the process.

    For the first time, Corry began to understand what had been going through his roommate's mind, and for the first time, he began to look at himself like Scott might have looked at him. Stopping, he looked into his mirror, blinking in surprise at just how much he'd changed, how much more anger he carried in him.

    When did he stop recognizing the person who looked back at him?

    There was nothing... not career, not anything worth this.

    A sick feeling creeping into his veins, he grabbed his coat and pulled it on. Maybe it wasn't too late to stop this bridge from becoming ash.

    His feet had it in for him. Still stunned and bewildered, Scotty wasn't even thinking of where he was walking... he just was. Where didn't matter anymore, or even why, though his feet seemed to know where they wanted to take him, and that was back to the shipyards.

    As if he hadn't had enough heartache there. But it didn't much matter, because at least there he would be able to get in out of the cold, misting rain, crawl up onto the Lady Grey and hopefully sleep through the next decade or so in peace. Finding somewhere safe became his sole concern in life all over again, and his feet must have known that because they were taking him to the slip.

    Belfast was quiet. It was a heavy quiet, almost tangible in its weight. The streets were slick from water, black pools on a black road... a black world altogether. No moonlight shone through the clouds, and even the street lights and business lights didn't cast so far as they normally did, cut off by the mist. Back at the Academy, the dorms were winding down and everyone was going to bed, and in the industrial district, no one was out and about. No one passed him on the bridge.

    The shipyards were just as silent. So far, Scott had been the only one who actually stayed there into the deep night hours; in the daytime, the entire area was filled with the sounds of industry and shipbuilding. The students who had projects, the H&W employees building dyna-carriers in the massive berths down the way... not now, though. Now it was a place best suited for ghosts and emotionally exhausted cadets.

    The air tasted strange.

    It pinged in his subconscious, just like the monitor turning off had when Corry had found out about his father. It wasn't a feeling that slammed into him, but it was still enough to make him take notice. An uneasy feeling... something was wrong. Instinctively, even on the edge of dropping, he knew something was wrong.

    He didn't stop walking, but he did manage to focus on that. Before, he'd known fairly quickly what it was that had disturbed him enough to register, but this time there was no one to tell him. He had to figure it out on his own. Frowning, Scott picked his pace up a notch or two, trying to reconcile in his head what could have given him pause like that. It had to be something.

    Crossing around the side of the slip three down from his, he tested the air like an animal might, trying to gauge what was off about it. The mist was there... that was normal. The salt, it was ever present and one of the constants in his life. It was something else... something that didn't belong; something that he, being only human, had a hard time discerning.



    The Lady Grey screamed.

    It was a sound that, later in his life, Scott would become very good at recognizing; the sound of something he loved in danger. It wasn't a literal noise, it was in his head, and he had never heard it before now... but in the time between one breath in the next, he knew beyond any doubt that his ship was in danger.

    That instant, nerve-shattering realization was enough to set him running before he had time to decide to run -- his mind didn't have time to catch up to his instinct. He had no clue what could have happened, but he did know that she was in trouble and that if he didn't do anything, she would burn.

    Skidding around the corner, he was off balance and barely able to recover before he ended up sliding out into the wet concrete. The mist made it hard to see, even with the lights on every berth, and it was only when he got closer that he was able to make out #22, and the wisps of black smoke curling out from under the door.

    She was still screaming.

    Christ, it was a wail that reverberated in his head, bouncing between his ears and completely driving any remnants of thought from his mind; a keening shriek, her desperate cry to the man who built her to make it stop. If he had more experience in getting past that initial terror, he might have seen the black-clad figures vanish into the shadows, and he might have realized what danger he was in... but he didn't.

    So Scott had no way of knowing if it was he who ran into the pipe or if the pipe ran into him, but it caught him across the abdomen hard enough to drop him in his tracks and knock the air from him.

    The pain was enough to temporarily get him past the Lady Grey, and more than enough to make him wish, with a calmness that would have been amusing if not for the situation, that he had worn some sort of body-armor. Trying to get a breath of air, he looked up just in time to see the pipe swing again, heard someone shout, and by sheer willpower alone found enough concentration and strength to scramble backwards before the metal could take his head off of his shoulders.

    It literally parted his hair, and someone cursed... apparently his ability to recognize English had suffered... and still gasping, Scott dragged himself to his feet, about ready to start swinging back. Pipe or no.

    She screamed again, and the entire fight and any concept of pain fled with it. Not even glancing at his assailants, he took off for the slip.

    Corry was a good several minutes behind, jogging at an easy pace and trying to figure out what to say. He had no idea of the drama that was being played out, aside from his part in it. If he had, he would have ran until he collapsed or until he got there, whichever came first, but he didn't know. All he knew was that he had a lot of self-examination coming, and if he was lucky, he could somehow save a friendship before it was too late.

    He did notice a small group of people, though, walking on the opposite side of the street across the bridge. They were just shadows in the fog and rain and blackness, walking quickly. They were talking, but too softly for him to hear, and before he had a chance to take a closer look, they were gone.

    Noticing them gave him a distinctly uncomfortable feeling. What the heck were people doing out in the industrial district this late? It was too dark to work outside, and most of the shipyards and mills had closed a few hours ago. There was only one restaurant in that area, a little family place that was open in the day, so they weren't out to eat. Frowning to himself, Corrigan figured that they must be cadets, out after curfew and trying to remain inconspicuous... but why in this part of town?

    Something wasn't right. He knew very well where most cadets hid out, and it sure wasn't around there. It was usually on the other side of the city, where there were night clubs made for those who didn't want to be asked questions, where sweethearts could rent a room and where the younger cadets could play holopool and have a few beers. Corry had spent his entire first two years in places like that.

    Unconsciously he picked his pace up, crossing a dark road and fumbling to key in the entrance code for the H&W main gate. Muttering a few obscenities when he punched it in wrong once, then twice, he was just about ready to climb when the lock clicked open.

    He knew Scotty well enough to know that he'd be with his ship, down in #22, and though it was a long walk, it wasn't so long that he wanted to turn back. He could always catch the 0300 shuttle and still be able to report on time in Maryland... apologizing couldn't wait like the shuttle ride could. Not if he wanted to keep a friend.

    The smell of smoke was far stronger by then, and it hit him with more force than it had Scotty. Unlike Scott, though, Corry knew instantly what was going wrong; he knew that someone had set the ship afire, that the group of people who had been walking the other way were responsible, that his best friend was in danger if he was there...

    Gears turning in his head at an almost frantic pace, he broke into a full run.

    Existence had been reduced from one breath to the next for Scotty. He didn't remember having a future, a past, a name, a family... all he had was the breath he was holding, hopefully the next one that would replace it, and his hands.

    Scott had always been good at fixing things, working on things... he could do almost anything with a good thought in his head and his own two hands. It was one of the things that set him apart from almost every other engineer in Starfleet.

    That talent was being tested like never before.

    The slip was black, pitch black, and he was blind in the smoke, deprived of the ability to even see what he was doing. He couldn't fight his eyes open if he had been able to see farther than an inch. Sounds were muffled, mostly crackling... no roar, just a distant crack or pop that said there were flames somewhere in all of that blackness. He didn't have the ability to breathe... if he risked it, and tried, he'd pass out before a full minute.

    So there was nothing but the scream, the air he had and his hands. He'd managed to feel his way along the wall, trying to find the fire-suppression unit that would have kicked in if it was working properly. It was a chance in a million, a literal shot in the dark. The building would be fine... oh, it was fireproof, but the Lady Grey's only chance at rescue lay in the hands of her head architect, a blind and desperate cadet.

    Duck below the smoke, take a breath, and go back to it. The air closer to the floor wasn't uncontaminated, but it was clean enough to keep him from choking. It burned, something he took no notice of as he finally found the small panel.

    Fumbling around with a frantic sort of hopelessness, he found his screwdriver in its usual pocket. Not even thinking, just letting his hands think for him, he somehow pried the panel free, so focused that even with his eyes closed, the smoke rolling, the scream in his mind, the need for oxygen, he was able to find his way around the inner workings of the unit on the wall.

    No air.

    Blackness wasn't closing in, because it was already black, but the scream was fading and so was everything else. Jaw knotting, he ducked down again, took another breath.

    One breath to the next, that was all.

  7. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 7


    The sight of the smoke pouring out of the door nearly made Corry's heart stop in his chest. Without a backwards thought, he took a deep breath and plunged in. Logically, he would find Scott working on the panel... the panel had to be malfunctioning, or it would have already sounded the alarm, sprayed the suppressant down from the ceilings and out of the walls, suctioned the smoke out... he had to be there, somewhere in that nightmare.

    Corrigan was still thinking, though, gifted with the ability to reason even in a panic situation. Eyes closed involuntarily, he followed the wall just like his roommate had, trying to remember the layout of the building. The mold loft was up high, and fireproof. The building itself wasn't in any danger; it could withstand several thousand degrees celsius... the ship was in dire straights, though, and so were they, if they didn't get out of there.

    Moving as fast as he dared, he ended up running smack into another body.

    The other body, of course, was Scotty, who was still working at the panel. He didn't even pause, just shoved Corry out of the way one-handed, not knowing who it was or caring.

    Whoever had rigged the panel had done a shoddy job on it. There were only two wires disconnected... one to the main system, one to the backup.

    He didn't even have air left... he was on borrowed time, fighting the instinct to breathe.

    As disconnected as the wires were, he experimentally touched two ends together. No sound, no sight... touch was his last sense.

    A spark. He felt that.

    Risking electrocution, he twisted the ends together and waited.

    Someone tried to drag him off... not a chance. He shoved them away again, more forcefully than he'd normally be capable of. The reflex to breathe finally overrode his conscious decision not to, leaving him with his lungs full of smoke and by then, even his sense of touch was fading to nothingness.

    Courage, struggling for oxygen.

    Having been pushed off twice and getting close to suffocation himself, Corry was to a point where even he didn't have logic left. Picking himself up from the floor, a new breath of air in him, he felt his way back down to the other cadet. Just as the calibration on the panel finished running, the alarm came on, and the fire-supression system kicked in full force, he latched onto Scott's arm with a grip that allowed no argument and started dragging him back for the door.

    Breaking out into the fresher air of the Belfast night had to have been the biggest relief he'd ever felt. Letting the other man go, he staggered a few steps, coughing and choking on the smoke that he'd taken in. Clean air had never tasted so good, so full of promise that he'd survive to do something right with his life.

    Finally getting his breathing under his control, he forced his mind away from the thoughts of being alive and basically in one piece and turned his focus back to Scott, who was still struggling for air, down to his hands and knees, coughing up a storm. Frowning in worry, he knelt down. "Scotty?"

    Scott didn't answer immediately. He had been shoved so far away from himself that there wasn't much left to him right then. It was only after getting some clean air that he began to get his senses back... first pain, then sound, sight, and only after that his memory. It seemed like everything hurt, from where the pipe had hit him to his chest and throat aching from the smoke.

    If he'd actually been rational or even so inclined, he might have found the progression of emotion interesting. The blanket of pain was there, taking over for the single-minded courage, and at the concerned voice at his shoulder, it squeezed in thick and fast. It might have been interesting how an act of honest worry and caring could transform hurt to rage.

    That fast, in not even a minute, Scott snapped. When Corry offered his hand, Scott sprang onto him with the full fury of a hurricane.

    Corry was shocked. Really shocked. First, he hadn't expected to be tackled, and second, Scotty looked downright lethal. He wore the black from the smoke and the blood pouring down the right side of his face like warpaint, snarling, eyes narrowed... there were so many things Corrigan wanted to say, but not a single word could be found.

    Apparently Scott could find his words, though. Growling, voice like gravel, he had plenty to say and nothing holding him back. "Care t' say somethin' now, ye sorry son of a bitch?! C'mon, Corry.... c'mon, give me a good reason t' kill ye."

    Corrigan could barely recognize Scott, something he never thought he would be able to say. Choking on his words, he stammered, "I... I'm s-sorry..."

    "Sorry?!" That wasn't what Scott wanted to hear. He drew back his fist without so much as a pause, one hand twining through the fabric of Corry's coat, intending to just wail on the other cadet. He wanted to take back every single hurt he'd suffered, not only from the last several months, but for his entire life.

    He came that close, and it was only looking down through tear-blurred eyes that he realized something.

    Corry was afraid. Scotty blinked, a soft voice in his head telling him that, and the further thought was the one that took that rage away just as quickly as it had shown up. "...of me... afraid o' me... Jesus..."

    Taking a deep breath, he let the other cadet go and stood up, shaking from head to toe, not quite sure how to cope with all of it. With anything.

    Blinking a few times, Corry followed suit and picked himself up. With a certain detachment, he wondered how it was that his best friend had held back. He had recognized that look, burning black in Scott's eyes, and what made Corrigan shiver was that he had seen that in himself not even a half an hour before. "I didn't mean it... I didn't mean any of it."

    "Bloody lot o' good that does now." Reeling, the younger cadet brushed a hand across his forehead, and was dully surprised to see it come away red. He hadn't even noticed he was bleeding... maybe that second pipe swing had found its mark.

    Overlooking a potential flare up, Corry took a cautious step towards Scott, ready to duck out of the way if need be. "You better sit down..."

    Lip twitching in a warning snarl, more instinctive than angry, Scotty stepped backwards. "What d'ye care, anyway? Ye should be on the damn transport, headin' off f'r that glorious future ye've got all planned out. Doesna matter if anyone cares, if anyone mighta been willin' t'do most anything t' keep ye from screwin' yer life up, no."

    "You were always down here!" Corry finally exclaimed, exasperated. "How the Hell was I supposed to know?"

    Scott's eyebrows drew together. After almost a half a minute in silence, he asked, "Ye dinna get it, did ye?" Shaking his head with a bitter laugh, he turned and started to walk away, unsteady and beaten. Mentally, physically, emotionally beaten.

    Corry debated a full two seconds and finally chased after his roommate. "Get what?" Not getting an answer, he grabbed Scott's shoulder and dragged him back, still half-expecting to be decked for the trouble. "Get what, Scotty?"

    "I was building her for you," Scott replied, smiling a half-smile that had nothing to do with humor. Looking at Corry, he said simply, "That's why I was here."

    It made sense, then, and Corrigan almost wished that it didn't. It clicked, the final tumbler to the whole equation -- and he had never, ever felt like such a miserable human being as he did in that moment. Swallowing, he had to look away before he could say, "God, I'm sorry..."

    "Doesna much matter now." Scott closed his eyes, trying to ward off a vicious dizzy spell. "Wish I woulda realized sooner, though, that ye dinna deserve her."

    He was right. Maybe that was the hardest part to face... Scott was right. Corrigan didn't deserve the Lady Grey, and he certainly didn't deserve a friend who would have poured heart and soul into her just to for his sake. He could see it all now, a master plan by a master engineer who worked better with his skill than words, he could see the thought behind it, and the pure selflessness in it. He could see the driven need to finish her before it was too late, the reason Scott hadn't had him removed from the project, the desperate pain in his eyes when Corry had turned around, thrown the model at his feet and dashed that hope.

    Trying to find someway to apologize, he looked back up, throat thick with guilt.

    Not that Scotty was likely to hear it. He'd been pushed well beyond his limit... burned out, wounded, cold and numb. He just didn't have any fight left in him to stay on his feet and ward off the blackness.

    It didn't matter if anyone was there to catch him when he fell.
  8. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part II, Chapter 7

    Wow, talk about hitting rock bottom. I sure hope for both their sakes that there's nowhere to go but up...
  9. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Oct 27, 2008
    NE Ohio
    I remember, when I wrote this, that it was very hard to actually do it. Thanks for the comment!
  10. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Part 3: Righting Arm
    ---- --------------- - --------- - --

    But you weren't there,
    Right when I'm needing you the most,
    And now I dream about it,
    And how it's so bad, it's so bad...

    It's too bad, it's too bad,
    Too late, so wrong, so long;
    It's too bad that we had no time to rewind,
    Let's walk, let's talk...
    Let's talk.

    -Nickelback, Too Bad

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

    Chapter 1:

    Saturday, April 15th, 2243
    Malone Road Dormitory, Room 17
    Starfleet Engineering Academy
    Belfast, Ireland, Earth

    The world didn't look the same on the other side.

    The sun was out, which seemed to be a miracle in Belfast. As days went, it was gorgeous -- lazy strings of white clouds drifting across the spring sky, tracing shadows across the lawn, playing light across the floor of the room and it was surprisingly soothing to Corry, who felt very worn and hollow.

    He had called the first chance he had gotten and had his transfer held off. Since Security wanted to grill him about the incident in #22, it wasn't an issue he could debate anyway. Harland and Wolff wanted to know why their slip had been broken into, Starfleet wanted to know why they had no less than two curfew violations, one arson and one wounded cadet to deal with, and Corry really, really wanted to know who had set the Lady Grey ablaze.

    So most of the night was spent running around, and now in the early afternoon light he had a chance to sit down, a chance to really think rather than simply react. He knew he should have been trying to get clues into who had committed such an act, but it was far better in that moment to just relax and let his mind wander away from the incident.

    Instead, he found himself thinking about his actions. As tired as he felt, he didn't wince as badly as he had the night before when Scott had initially given him notice of what was really going on outside of his world of medical research, but he still cringed internally at everything that had been said before that. Corrigan had a hard time realizing just how much had gone wrong... it all seemed to be falling apart. He had thought the world had come to an end when his father had taken ill, and admittedly, that had been terrible in every sense of the word. But he hadn't been the one to do that; he hadn't been the one causing that suffering.

    This time, he was the guilty party. Not the only guilty party, no, because whoever had sabotaged the Lady Grey had some fault in it, but if he hadn't turned around and stabbed his best friend in the back, then none of it might have happened.

    It wasn't easy walking in someone else's shoes, especially Scotty's. It wasn't easy to realize that not only had the other cadet thrown himself into the project, but Jansson and Albright had backed him up... all three of them had rallied around Corry to protect his grades, and Scott had fought at the forefront to protect his career, his dreams... and even his life as he'd known it. It wasn't easy seeing any of that, and being too late to really do more than try to clean up the awful mess he'd made of things.

    The Lady Grey wasn't in as bad a shape as he had expected. After the smoke had cleared and he had to go back to give his reports, he had a chance to look the schooner over. From the thickness of the smoke, he had expected her to be ash, but she wasn't. Her midsection ribs and crossbeams were charred, and her keel in that area had taken some scorching, but aside that, she was intact. What had really caught was the stockpile of wood, and it had only just caught onto the Grey a little before Scott had shown up. If he hadn't been there, and if the fire had continued, she would probably be unsalvageable. That was no doubt the plan of the saboteurs.

    Like his ship... and it was his ship... Scott hadn't fared as bad as he seemed to initially. Corry had made damn sure to get the medics on scene as quick as possible, and even if his roommate hadn't known it, Corry did catch him when he fell, though he nearly broke his own neck doing so. At first, he was expecting it to be something lethal, but after the doctor on campus had a chance to look Scott over, he ruled it a combination effect. Exhaustion, smoke inhalation, blood loss... no one factor. All of them had conspired to the blackout that the younger cadet still hadn't woken up from. A few days, some very badly needed rest, and he'd be fine.

    Physically, anyway. Corrigan wasn't so sure mentally. But he'd have a chance to figure that out later; right now, he just wanted to try and come up with an apology, find the asses who did it, and beat the ever loving Hell out of them.

    It sounded like a good plan.

    An unhappy whimper pulled him away from his thoughts. Knowing very well just how much Scotty hated hospitals, doctors and being held anywhere against his will, Corry had conned them into transporting him back here once he'd been patched up and pronounced in decent shape. It hadn't been hard -- the campus medical staff consisted of half-retired doctors who were more concerned about getting their rest than dealing with a slightly battered but not badly wounded kid. Now his roommate was very much his responsibility, and one he was determined not to screw up. "Welcome back."

    "...huh?" Scott asked, looking dazed half out of his mind.

    Corry frowned. "The stabilizers they shot you up with are probably throwing you for a loop... how're you feeling?"

    "Awful," the other cadet replied, thickly, closing his eyes again. That eloquently summed it up with a word.

    "You look awful," Corrigan said, eyebrows drawn. Scott looked a lot worse than he was medically... tangled black hair a sharp contrast to his ghost white face, hazy-eyed, all together just exhausted. "It'll get better, though, and you don't have a concussion, so that'll cut down how long you feel miserable."

    "Good." Not entirely awake, Scotty gave back into the urge to sleep it off, whatever it was. Undoubtedly, for him, oblivion was the safest place there was.

    Scott still wasn't particularly thrilled with life when he woke back up, but at least he felt a lot better. Not quite so detached, and not quite so downright sick to his stomach... he still ached, but it wasn't with the same intensity.

    Thank God Starfleet had decent medical technology. Now if he could just learn to tolerate their medical staff, he'd be pretty well off.

    Blinking a few times in the darkness, Scott tried to get the clock's glowing numbers to come into focus, but they were all the way across the room and he still wasn't completely back to sorts. It was night, though, so it had to be quite some time since he'd last made an attempt at being conscious... from the sound of snoring on the other side of the room, Corry was still there.


    The cadet made as little noise as he possibly could, crawling out of bed and shedding what seemed like a pile of lead blankets and comforters. Almost immediately he regretted it -- maybe it was just him, but it seemed downright frigid in there. He wasn't about to lay around all night awake, however. Besides, he could still smell the smoke on him, and no matter how well whoever had patched him up had cleaned him up, even the trace scent was driving him nuts.

    Well, at least he was on his feet and didn't feel like he was going to pass out again; not for some time, anyway. Creeping a little unsteadily to his dresser, he managed to dig out his civilian clothes... damn drawer had a squeak in it, he'd have to fix it later on. Cheap piece of junk, probably was as old as the dorms and heaven forbid Starfleet furnish the dorm rooms with anything better than substandard furniture.

    All right, one step at a time. Sneak out, get a shower and hopefully get that smell off of himself first, go down to the lobby and get something to eat out of one of the machines second, and if he was still on his feet, maybe then make an attempt to get away from the dorms.

    It sounded so simple. In reality, it wasn't... now that there wasn't a scream in his head and he had a chance to think clearly, Scott was almost surprised at how cool and calculating it all was, but not simple.

    It seemed like nothing was simple anymore.

    Trying to feel at least apprehension, he crept out of the room and closed the door. From there, it was easier -- no one monitored the halls, no one was awake, it was just him. It only took ten minutes to shower and get his civvy clothes on, not even bothering to comb out his hair or look like the senior cadet he was supposed to be. He didn't feel like an officer.

    Hell, he didn't feel like much of anything. One would think that after being assaulted, verbally and physically, he'd have some seriously strong emotions on the subject, but he didn't. He just didn't care... not about Corrigan, not about whoever it was who had burned his ship, not about himself. He'd gotten good at detaching himself from things over the years; apparently, he hadn't forgotten how to do that.

    Well, maybe that wasn't entirely true. Scotty slipped down the stairs with the same silence he'd been using from the moment he'd gotten out of bed, more alert by the minute.

    In the back of his mind, he wondered about her. In this state of unliving, unfeeling, uneverything, he still wondered about the Lady Grey. Of all of the things he had cared about in his life, from his family to his friends, to his dreams of being a starship engineer, only the Lady Grey really remained.

    It was somehow sad to him that even she was gone now. He should have been devastated or at least angry, but he wasn't. Just sad. It wasn't even the soul-stealing sadness that was his right... it was a numb, hollow pain. He kinda knew that one too well, too.

    The lobby was low-lit for night, and even as sharp as he thought his reflexes were, he wasn't prepared to step around the corner and find his roommate waiting.

    Really. Just great.

    "Hey," Corry said, softly, breaking the silence of the room.

    Scott gave him a cool nod. He didn't want to talk, but Corrigan's entire stance suggested that was what was coming.

    "You look better." Corry forced a slight smile, leaning his shoulder on the wall looking, for all the world, like he was just itching to get into a long conversation. "Let me buy you a glass of water?"

    "I can get it," Scott answered, civilly, stepping around Corry and heading for the water cooler. Of all the people in the world he'd rather not speak to, his roommate was on the top of the list.

    Corry wasn't going to give up too easily, though. "Maggie was asking about you. She said she'd come by tomorrow and see how you were feeling."

    "That's nice."

    "Jerry stopped me in the hall and said I was one of the biggest assholes in the world."

    Scott smirked. For some reason, he couldn't help being a little satisfied over that one. "Remind me t' thank him."

    "He also said the same thing you did... that I didn't deserve the Lady Grey." Squaring his shoulders and looking like he was facing a firing squad, Corry clasped his hands behind his back. "I guess he must have put two and two together."

    "Guess so," Scotty said, though the mention of his ship laced regret through his voice. Taking his water with him, he turned and started for the steps to the basement... he didn't want Corry to follow him, didn't want to get into any heartfelt discussions, didn't want to repair a friendship that had already taken everything away from him.

    Most of all, he hated the fact that deep down, maybe he did.

    "He was right." Not moving, hoping that the admission would stop the other cadet, Corry didn't hold back. "So were you." Shaking his head, he continued, "I never stopped to think. I wanted to make everything right with Dad, so I put my blinders on and forgot about all of the things that make up my life.

    "I'm not going to say that I'm really not interested in being a doctor or a scientist, because now that I've learned so much, I realize that I like it a lot. But I like engineering too... and... well, I guess maybe I should have tried to balance the two instead of just rushing headfirst into one."

    Hating himself for it, Scott stopped and looked back. He didn't even know why he bothered, because everything that had been said and done by now had given him all of the reason he needed to walk away. But he did anyway.

    Corrigan took a deep breath. "I really didn't mean what I said. If I could go back in time and shoot myself before I said it, then I would, because I've never, ever done something so mean in my life."

    "That's a paradox," Scotty pointed out, for the sake of stopping this confession before it had a chance to break his resolve.

    "You know what I mean." Closing his eyes, Corry plowed on, "What I mean to say, is that I don't deserve her and I sure don't deserve a friend like you."

    Goddammit. This wasn't making it any easier, not at all. Jaw knotting, Scott didn't answer immediately, trying hard to keep himself from giving in and letting all of it go. He didn't want to let it go, he wanted to write Corrigan off like he'd been accused of doing before... he didn't want to start caring again, not this soon. Not when there was a whole world of hurt itching to get at him if he did. Waiting until the uneasy silence had filled the room, he chanced saying, half-hoping that it would end this, "Ye're right, ye don't."

    Corry swallowed hard, bowing his head. "I wish I did, you know. I wish I could have been there for the start of the keel, for the first rib, for the first crossbeam. I wish I could have helped hammer in every nail. God, if I could go back and change it, I would in a heartbeat."

    Scott didn't say a thing. He remembered every moment that Corry had just rattled off, and every single one of them had a meaning to him now, even if they hadn't before. Of all of the things the other cadet could bring up, he had to bring the Lady Grey up.

    How long that quiet lasted was unknown, the two of them on opposite sides of the room like a pair of wary creatures, uncertain of themselves and even more uncertain of the other. It was strange how friends who would have done anything for each other could have gotten so far apart, how it all could have added up to this, but it had. There wasn't much use anymore in pointing out who had been wrong when, nor was there any point to assigning punishments. Now there were only two choices... to run with it or fight it; to leave it at that and probably never speak again, or to turn around and try to save something worth saving.

    "Why?" Scott asked, after a time. It was a rather general question, but one that he at least wanted an answer to.... he wanted to know why he should trust Corry again, after all of this. Why he should go back to that slip and start all over again.

    Why he shouldn't just walk away, because dammit, that would probably be the safest, easiest thing to do.

    "Because I know you," Corrigan replied, without hesitation. "I know you can't stand people figuring you out, 'cause if they do, then they know how to hurt you. I know that I'm the last person in the world you wanna trust now, because that's exactly what I went and did. I know that the Grey's something special, and that you went through Hell and back for me, not because you had to or anything, but because that's you. And I know me well enough to know that even if I leave now and we don't speak again, you're still the best friend I've ever had and ever will have."

    Well. He couldn't have even begun to formulate a rebuttal to that. Scotty was usually pretty quick on his feet, but how could he answer? Really?

    He couldn't. In twenty-one years, it had to have been one of the harder decisions he'd had to face -- to forgive someone who cut him deep. But he was tired... tired of always being on the edge, tired of giving ground. It was a dangerous thing, to just try to let it all go. But then again, sometimes life had to be that simple.

    Friendship was a double-edged sword, but it was worth fighting for. "Have ye been to the slip?"

    Corrigan blinked, no doubt surprised. After a moment, he nodded and said, "Yeah. Security had me down there giving reports."

    "How bad was it?"

    It took him almost a minute before he answered, "She had some damage on the keel, more on the port side. It can be patched, at least. Six of the port side ribs are completely unsalvageable, and two of the starboard. The crossbeams between them are pretty bad... it hadn't really caught on good by the time you got there, and all of the damage is amidships."

    So she wasn't gone. Scott allowed himself a brief moment of sheer relief, feeling like the powers that be had just given him another chance to make it up to her. "...we'll have to get Jerry to pull his templates."

    "And get a new stock of wood... that was what had burned." Corry finally stepped over, cautiously.

    "I'll pull the schematics when we get back upstairs, and you can give me details," Scotty said, decisively, turning back and starting for the stairs. If he really felt up to it, he might have risked the long walk to the shipyards, but now that all of his limited energy had been used up on conversation far more meaningful than he was used to, it was a better idea to just go back and start the rebuilding tomorrow.

    Corry debated for a moment, not willing to end it like that. "Scotty?"


    "Thank you." Swallowing his pride yet again, Corry added, "I woulda given up on me a long time ago."

    For the first time in what seemed like forever, Scott looked over his shoulder and smiled a genuine, though tired, half-smile. "I suppose ye better be thankful I'm not you."

    It was almost a surprise when Corry handed it back in sincerity. "More than ever."
  11. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Chapter 2:

    Tuesday, April 18th, 2243
    H&W Shipyards, Berth #22
    Team C Headquarters
    Belfast, Ireland, Earth

    Even streaked in white and black, charred amidships, she was still beautiful. There was an almost ethereal quality to the Lady Grey, lit in the dimmed lights of the berth, not even half completed. It could have been simply the way the lights reflected off of the fire-suppressant grimed on her frame, or maybe it was the way that the black soot complimented the white, but to Scott, it was because she just had that quality. She was like one of those beautiful women who seemed to take no effort on being that way, but happened to be lit by some sort of internal light.

    Even like that, she made him catch his breath.

    Stepping into the slip, he palmed the switch to bring the lights up and bring into sharp relief her lines. This was the first time he had managed to get away from Security, the campus doctor and the Harland and Wolff managers; the first chance he had to go back to his ship and see her.

    Corry stepped in a moment later, looking around and frowning to himself over the mess. There was white powder everywhere, blanketing the tools and mixing with the grays and blacks of ash, but it was a far sight better than boiling smoke. "It'll take forever to--"

    "Shhhh..." Some moments were better left to silence, and this was one of them. In another twenty minutes the rest of the team would be there and they would have to go back to work. It probably was going to take a long time to get everything right again, not only on the schooner but in the slip itself... just not in this moment.

    For now, Scott didn't want to say anything or hear anything, he just wanted to look at her. He had been so certain that she was gone, unrepairable and destined for dust -- to know that she wasn't was kind of indescribable.

    Seized on inspiration, he half-dragged Corry with him towards the front of the ship. Corrigan had never seen her from her bow, dead on, and before anyone else was there to break the silence, the Scott was determined to show him.

    Corry allowed himself to be pulled along, though he was still eyeing the damage from the fire. Mentally he made notes, surprised in a lot of ways how all of the research he had helped with in the beginning of the project came back now, when he needed it. Of course, he had researched shipbuilding like he had medicine, with the same sort of intensity but less obsession, and he shouldn't have been too shocked to know it would all come back.

    When they finally stopped, he was still turning the repair ideas over in his mind right up until he happened to glance up.

    All thought left him, leaving behind nothing but awe. Logically, his mind might have told him that she was far from finished, but there wasn't a whole Hell of a lot of logic in the sheer power she almost radiated. What was there was just amazement... God, she looked like she could just slide out of the berth and into the water. In his mind, he could picture the jibs and staysails, the bowsprit, the masts far above that.

    "Jesus..." was all Corry could really say. It was the only thing that expressed it.

    Scotty nodded with no small amount of empathy, though not looking away from the schooner. Finally feeling that it was all right to speak again, he mused, "I wonder if all shipwrights felt like this."

    "I don't know," Corry answered, softly, afraid to raise his voice. "It's a shame if they didn't."

    "Aye... it is." Taking a few careful steps forward, Scott traced a careful hand down the wood, not particularly caring about the stain that came with it. "Poor lass. I'm itchin' to find who did this."

    "Think we'll be able to finish her in a month and a half?"

    Scotty turned and gave his roommate a wry grin. "D'ye think we have a choice? 'Course we're gonna finish her in a month and a half... even if I have t' use my entire savings hirin' people to help."

    A deeper voice interrupted the two tenors, "It may come to that."

    Corry and Scotty exchanged a glance and stepped out from in front of the ship. Barrett stood there, hands behind his back, giving no indication how long he had been listening. Smiling somewhat, he continued, "I certainly hope not, but if it does, I won't stop you from hiring anyone you need."

    "Thank you, sir," Scott replied, neatly, unfazed by the new arrival. "Any word from Security on the saboteurs?"

    "None." The professor shook his head, grimly. "The tapes from the external cameras are missing, there aren't any prints to be taken... I don't believe they have a clue."

    "I have a few," Corry said, with a slight smirk. He had been working on it in his head almost as much as he had been working on the repair. "I tried to tell Security, but I don't think they believed me."

    "O'Sullivan and his lot." Raising an eyebrow, Scott looked over at his roomie. "Right?"

    "On the money."

    Barrett frowned, looking around for a moment before eyeing the two cadets again. "You do realize that it won't be acceptable if you decided to take justice into your own hands."

    "Us, sir?" Scotty replied, innocently. "Oh, no sir. We wouldn't do that."

    "Not in a million years," Corry added, just as innocently and turning up the charm to be on the safe side. "We have far too much work to do to spend time plotting vengeance."

    The commander's eyebrow went up, automatically. "Gentlemen, do yourselves a favor and don't even think about it. I'll mention it to Security myself, and perhaps that will prompt them to look further into it, but if you know what's good for you, you'll heed my advice. Theories do not make evidence, and you may find yourself in more trouble than it's worth." Taking a deep breath, he finished, "Now you'd best get to work... with the restrictions, you've got to make the most of your time."

    When the rest of the team arrived, they did indeed get right to work... they only had from six-thirty in the morning to seven at night now, with the hour restriction that the shipyards had placed on the entire class's schedule. It was half amazing they hadn't kicked Starfleet out of the shipyards altogether.

    Albright, in all of his quick thinking, had rigged up a pump and the Lady Grey got her first taste of salt water from Belfast Lough. Three cadets manned the hose they used to spray off the mess that had caked on her, while Jansson supervised a team of five working on recreating the damaged ribs with what little wood they had stashed in the mold loft. The rest were set to work carefully tearing out the damaged ribs and crossbeams under Lewis's watchful eyes.

    Scott and Corrigan spent most of their time on the comm link... the former because he was still under doctor's orders not to do anything strenuous, and the latter for the sake of haggling the best price for the wood they had to reorder.

    "What do you mean, fifty credits a board?" Corry asked, doing the best he could not to pace in front of the comm box in the mold loft too much. "We're ordering it in bulk, here!"

    "Fifty is bulk!" the voice on the other end said. "Since y'all happen to be a bunch of students, though, I might be willin' to take it to forty-five."

    "And if I call Southwest Oak Express, they can give it to me for twenty." Exchanging a conspiring grin with Scott, the older cadet put on his best lawyer voice, "I might have to wait two more days for my lumber, but it's a more fair price."

    "Nobody sells oak for twenty a board," the other man shot back, though he didn't exactly sound too confident in himself.

    "They do if they have their own nursery." Faking a yawn, Corrigan leaned on the wall beside the box. "I'm in a hurry, though, so you give it to me for twenty-three a board, and I'll take it."

    "I'm not goin' lower than forty."

    "And the best you'll get out of me is twenty-five."


    "Twenty-five and the highest praise we can sing. Great word-of-mouth advertising there."

    "How much did y'all say you were orderin'?"

    Corry glanced over at Scott, who puzzled over it for a moment before grabbing the drawing board and writing down a number. Nodding, Corry tried to sound casual as he said, "We'll need an order of five thousand board feet, cut to..." pausing for the moment it took his roomie to write down the length, he continued, "twenty-five feet each. Just to start."

    It was a pretty respectable order. "Twenty-five credits happens to be damn low for quality wood like ours."

    "Maybe so, but since we're building a ship, we'd be more than willing to tell everyone who provided the wood for such a handsome craft."


    Corry sighed heavily, then let it remain quiet for rather a long moment. Then, putting on a slightly defeated tone, he finally gave in. "All right, it's a deal. I'll have the credits sent to your accounts receivable in four hours, you'll have the coordinates for transport, and that wood had better be here by tomorrow morning." Thumbing the off button, he grinned. "How was that?"

    "Less'n what we paid for our first stock," Scotty admitted, trying not to grin back. "We'll have to do all of our own cuttin' and trimmin', but with a little good luck..." He shrugged. "Who knows?"

    "Eh, we'll be fine."

    "Speakin' o' wood, though... who the Hell is Southwest Oak Express?"

    "I dunno," Corry said, lightly, shrugging as he pulled out his notepad with the comm codes for the rest of the businesses they needed to contact. "Apparently, neither did he."

    Scotty chuckled, shaking his head. "If ye happen to get everyone down, we might not be too far over budget."

    Corry keyed in the next set of codes, sparing a glance at Scott to ask, "How much do we have left?"

    "After this? Probably close to thirty-thousand. Professor Barrett's gettin' our account upped to make up for the sabotage, but it won't be by too much."

    "Guess we'll just have to be frugal." Corrigan leaned back on the wall as the comm connected. "Iron Works Intergalactic? Yeah, I'd like to speak to your manager in charge of sales..."

    So ended the first day of work on the schooner Lady Grey after her brush with fire. Scotty didn't want to leave... not this early, not so soon after he'd gotten there. What he really wanted to do was some actual work on her, but he wasn't quite back to normal himself yet. Not physically, and not quite emotionally either.

    Better, but not there yet. Shaking his head, he tossed one last longing glance at the ship on her cradle, mentally telling himself that with all of the added precautions she would be all right without him. She would still be there in the morning, and if something did happen, he was bound to know.

    Locking the door and only half-listening to the chatter of the rest of the crew walking away, he tried not to shiver at the memory and failed. The smoke was bad, and the heat, and so was most of the hazy aftermath, but it was remembering her desperate scream that sent chills down his spine. If he'd been too late, she might not be there. If he'd been too late...

    The tap on his shoulder dragged him back to the present, and he blinked out of his daze, looking over at Corry. "Hm?"

    "You okay?" Corry asked, not quite able to mask the worry in his voice.

    Corry had gotten almost frightfully protective, and Scott wasn't sure what to make of it. It was kind of unnerving, to have someone watching over his state of well-being. He wasn't even sure of what to make of Corrigan himself yet, let alone that... that being worried about thing. "Aye. A bit tired, maybe."

    "Be careful. Last thing you want is to end up on medical leave." Nodding, Corry put his hands in his pockets, starting down the wide road for the main gate.

    "Yes, mother." Scott followed, clasping his hands behind his back as he walked. Usually he would be sarcastic, or at the very least snappy when he imitated his roommate, but right now, he could only manage a mix between distracted and tired. "Wonder where we can find ourselves a saboteur."

    Corry shrugged, looking up at the sky. "I don't know. I think he's rooming in the Stranmills Road Dormitory."

    "I don't think he was th' only one, though..." Frowning, Scott tried to piece together what little he could remember. Really, the whole damn night was a mess to him -- parts were very clear and parts were almost nonexistent. "Someone yelled, I remember that, 'cause they were tryin' to take my head off with somethin' or another... not the same person, though."

    "Recognize the voice?"

    "Nu uh."

    "Hrm." Corry pondered on it for a few steps. "What exactly do you remember, anyway?"

    "After gettin' into it with ye?"

    Wincing, Corrigan nodded. "Yeah."

    "Walkin'. Ended up down here, and I remember thinkin' I'd just up an' sleep in the slip." Stopping, Scott closed his eyes and tried to call up as much detail as he could. It wasn't something he wanted to remember, let alone talk about, but maybe without so much distraction, he could piece it together again. "I keyed in the code on the main gate, an' got about halfway up the road here when..."

    "When?" Corry prompted, having paused in his walk himself. He really wanted to hear this... wanted to know what had happened in something more than vague terms.

    "I dinna know how t' explain it." Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Scott tried to put into words something he didn't really even understand. "It was... well, it was like somethin' was wrong. Felt wrong. Like it did when ye found out about yer Dad.

    "An' I wondered what it was. What coulda caused it, 'cause it was jus' there suddenly. So I'm tryin' t' hear it, or smell it, or see it, an' then I caught a whiff o' the smoke."

    Corrigan crossed his arms, listening. It wasn't often that his roommate actually let it be known what went through his head, just like it wasn't often anymore that his accent got away from him. Either or was a sign that he still wasn't back to an even keel again.

    "She screamed." Scott was pretty sure Corry would think he was insane, but now that he'd started down this road, there wasn't any way to go back. Not opening his eyes, he continued, "She was screamin', the Lady Grey. I dinna remember much about the rest, jus' that bloody wail, up until somethin' hit me.

    "I dinna see 'em, but I heard 'em, an' I was jus' tryin' t' breathe. Someone shouted, an' I jumped back... musta been when they sliced my head open, but I dinna remember that either. Got back up, an' I was gonna beat the Hell outta 'em, then she screamed again an' that was that. Up till after ye pulled me out's all sorta blank... somethin' about the panel, somethin' about the backup, an' then after we were back out, everythin' clears up till I blacked out."

    "Screamed?" Corry asked, eyebrows up. If it were anyone else telling him all of this, he wouldn't believe them... but he believed Scotty. It was hard to imagine a ship screaming, but if anyone would hear it, that man would.

    "Like... like a scream, but not..." Sighing heavily, Scott was plainly exasperated and upset with the whole thing. "Just there. It was all that was there."

    Corry chewed on the thought for a minute, trying to imagine what it must have been like. But after a moment, he just said, "I can't imagine."

    "Not entirely sure ye want to."

    "Guess we'll have to make sure that nothing like this happens again before we can finish her." Corry grinned slightly, trying to take the edge off. "Not to mention, we have ourselves some badguys to walk the plank when she is done."

    "A pair o' regular pirates, eh?" Scott had to smile at that mental image.

    "Ayuh. Maybe I can be Blackbeard..."

    "Ye'd have to do somethin' with that hair. Blackbeard wasn't blond."

    "Just ruin my wicked ambitions," Corry said, though he was still smiling. "Well, Wolf, we can't all have really cool names like you."

    "I earned that, fair an' square."

    "I still think it shoulda been something closer to 'puppy' or 'cub', but if you insist."

    Scott sighed heavily, and with annoyance so thick it couldn't be anything other than joking and said, "Ye're such a bastard."

    Corry looked almost content as he replied to the old barb, "I know."
  12. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Chapter 3:

    Monday, April 24th, 2243
    H&W Shipyards, Berth #22
    Team C Headquarters
    Belfast, Ireland, Earth

    Once the wood came in, work proceeded with the extreme speed of determination. Given a clean bill of health, Scotty supervised and threw himself into the construction like a man with a mission. She was his ship, and dammit, he was going to finish her no matter how hard he had to work to do it.

    Corrigan certainly did his share in the slip, but a few hours a day, he spent entirely on the saboteurs. It gave him a satisfaction bordering downright evil to tail O'Sullivan around, eavesdropping whenever he could to see if the cadet made any mention of the Lady Grey and what had happened.

    Oddly enough, though, it wasn't Corry who produced the biggest key to the mystery, it was Harrison. The Midwestern cadet had been the only one of the original mutineers who had stayed with the project, alternating his loyalties one way then the other. It was he who sought out Jerry Jansson not long before they were to finish work for the night.


    "Yeah?" Jansson asked, putting his mallet down. It had been another grueling day; first classes, one short simulation in zero-g, then working on the ship, and he was looking forward to crawling into his bed.

    Harrison shifted his weight nervously, glancing around to make sure no one else was listening. "About the fire..."

    Jerry blinked, but he somehow managed not to give away any surprise on his face. Keeping his tone neutral, he prompted, "What about it?"

    "Well, I heard some things."

    "Go ahead."

    Harrison cast another glance around, looking for all the world like he was being stalked by a troop of professional assassins. Clearing his throat, he dropped his voice to a whisper, "Keith was talking about it... you know, saying that it was a good thing someone set her on fire because he'd been damned if his work would go to someone else's grade. He didn't actually say he did it, but he said that it was deserved."

    Jansson nodded, though he was somewhat disappointed. If O'Sullivan hadn't actually admitted to it, then it would be very hard to do anything about it besides keep an eye on him. "Is that all?"

    "Nu uh. He's volunteered for Team B."

    Now that was more interesting. Team B, lead by Sean Kelley. They were building a steel ship, and as far as Jerry knew, they were behind schedule. It wouldn't have shocked anyone on C if Kelley had whispered a word or two to the Mutineers of Berth #22. "Did he mention anything else about the fire?"

    Harrison frowned, swallowing hard. "One last thing... he said that 'it was a bleedin' shame the tyrant didn't lose his head'. I'm assuming he was referring to Mister Scott."

    "All right... thanks John. I'll be sure to inform the rest of the team leaders." Oh, would he. This might be just the information they needed to proceed.

    "But no one else, right? This stays between us, right? 'Cause I would get the Hell beat out of me if anyone knew I told you all of this--" Harrison said hurriedly, pale at the thought.

    "Not a word," Jansson promised, cutting him off. "Hey, you're on our team, and we stick together."

    Nodding and looking a little relieved, the other cadet replied, "That's why I told you."

    "You are not going to believe who's dating Maggie Mersea." Corrigan stepped into the room, flushed and breathing hard. He'd almost missed getting in before curfew, and had to run all the way back in order to make it.

    Scott frowned to himself as he sat on the dorm room floor, schematics spread out all around him. He was currently trying to figure out a schedule alternative that would allow them to make up some time on the construction... it was counting down far too quickly for his tastes. The week before they had conned, bribed and begged eight more people to join the team. That brought the grand total up to twenty-seven. Still not enough. "I give up, tell me."

    "Keith O'Sullivan."

    "Ye're kiddin'..." Forgetting about the schematics that quick, Scotty looked up with wide eyes. Maggie, dating that scumbag? Sweet, leggy, blonde Maggie?

    Corry shook his head, looking as though he was blown away by it himself. "I saw her dancing with him across town." Pacing a few steps and only just avoiding the blueprints on the floor, he ran both hands through his hair, agitated. "I knew she went for the bad boy type, but I really didn't think she'd stoop that low. And she was wearing that dress... you know, the black one."

    "The low cut one? The one that almost shows off her--"

    "That dress."

    Scott groaned. Afterall, not only was she dating such a scumbag, but he hadn't even been there to see that dress, and though it might have been a bit crude, that would have just made his night. "And I missed it? Dammit!"

    "Forget the dress, look who's she's schmoozing with!"

    "Well, then I've got a bit more for ye to chew on." Sticking his pencil behind his ear, Scott leaned back against his bunk. "Harrison told Jer a few things... said our boy there was talkin' about how he was glad she got burned, an' how I shoulda lost my head."

    Corrigan frowned, sitting down on his bunk. "Well, that kinda backs up that we think he did it, but it's not solid evidence."

    "How many people knew about the attack on me?"

    A lightbulb went off. Corry paused for a moment, eyebrows drawn together. "You know, most everyone knew you were hurt, but as far as I know, only Jerry, Joe, the doctors, the professors and I knew exactly how."

    "Unless they happened t' be there?" Tilting his head, one eyebrow up and a quirky grin on his face, Scotty looked the part of the detective. "I've got one more for ye, though."

    "Fire away."

    "O'Sullivan's up an' volunteered to work for B."

    "Holy..." Corry stood, then sat, then stood again, even more surprised by that. "Kelley's team. Since he's dating Maggie, he might be trying to get in good with her..."

    "...or he might be tryin' to get that ship finished and rub it in our faces." Smirking, the other cadet crossed his arms. "Now, ye don' suppose we're gonna let that happen, do ye?"

    Corrigan's face went through a few emotions; first musing, then determined, and finally, a downright wicked smile crossed his features. "You know, Sean's room is right downstairs, and he does room alone. Think we should pay him a polite little visit?"

    Scotty got to his feet, returning the wicked smile. "I think that'd be a fine idea."

    Gesturing to the door with a graceful sweep, Corry was somehow mischievous and fierce all at once. "After you."

    "You can't do this! This is a complete breach of protocol!" Sean's voice was kind of squeaky, but then, Sean wasn't exactly in a great position to begin with. The Malone Road Dormitory was only three stories tall, but looking down it probably seemed a whole lot taller.

    "As far as I know, so is burning another person's final," Corry said pleasantly, keeping the frightened Kelley from pulling away from the edge of the roof. "Wouldn't you agree, Scotty?"

    "Oh, aye, absolutely," Scott answered, just as amicable. Arms crossed, he leaned over slightly to look at the ground below. "Tis a long drop. I think it could kill a man."

    "Look," Kelley said, reasonably as he could manage in his trembling voice, "I didn't have anything to do with that. I may not like you, but I sure as Hell wouldn't stoop that low."

    "Well, since ye happen t' have one of my mutineers workin' for ye now... and since this mutineer was talkin' about the fire... and since he seemed t' know just a wee bit too much... gettin' my meanin'?"

    Corry nudged Sean a hair closer to the edge. "So anything you might know, spill it."

    "God, I will, just get me off of this roof!"

    "First the information, then you move."

    Kelley held perfectly still for almost two entire minutes. It didn't bother his captors, seeing as how they were in no rush, but he was certainly upset. After a time, he managed to say, "I didn't know they were planning it, but Keith was talking about it the next day down in the cafeteria... I think he was fishing for some kind of praise. I was there, and so was Mark and Maggie. Maggie looked unhappy, and Mark just brushed it off."

    "Did he actually admit to it?" Scott asked, both eyebrows up.

    "Yes and no," Kelley replied, gulping and trying to keep back from the edge of the roof. "He was kind of vague, but he said something about wishing that he could finish the job."

    "It sounds kinda like an admission to me. What d'you think, Scotty?" Corry pulled Sean back from the edge finally, now that he had gotten pretty much what he wanted.

    "Kinda? No, it just does."

    Sean's trembling toned down a little now that he wasn't staring death directly in the face. "What're you going to do?"

    "Nothing ye need to be concerned about, Mr. Kelley." Scott was playing up the role of the smug git now, strutting back towards the door to the rooftop. "Ye'd best concentrate on yer own ship."

    Corry smiled sweetly, adding, "And if you're really really smart, you'll forget this little unpleasant incident ever happened at all." With that, he turned and followed his roommate, leaving behind a very shaken cadet to think about what had just happened.

    Scotty was waiting at the bottom of the steps, eyes narrowed in thought. Well, there wasn't a whole lot of doubt now that they knew who had burned the Lady Grey -- he just wanted to know how they could get O'Sullivan back for it. Afterall, Security wasn't likely to take them on their word alone, and they had already been convinced that the cadet wasn't involved.

    On occasion, Scott wondered just how little common sense some of the Security officers had. He had certainly heard enough stories about their bravery, but for every heroic tale, there was also a tale of the security crewman who walked off alone in a foggy area on a hostile world and forgot to draw their phaser. It didn't exactly boost his confidence with that entire division.

    "Think he should walk the plank?" Corry asked, once he'd joined his partner in crime in the stairwell. "I think he should walk the plank."

    "Hm," Scott answered, absently, staring at the wall as he continued thinking. After a moment, he murmured almost to himself, "I didn't think Kelley would have done that... he's an ass, but not that bad. An' I know O'Sullivan wasna workin' alone, so we still have a few more people to find."

    "You've got an idea."

    "Aye, a little notion." Finally looking back at Corry, Scotty grinned. "But nevermind that for now. What d'ye suppose we do a little more spyin'?"


    "Why not?"

    Corrigan sighed happily, a mock look of bliss on his face. "Ah, vengeance will be sweet."

  13. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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


    "Ah, 'twas beautiful, m'lads, beautiful." O'Sullivan kicked back on his bunk, a glass... not a shot... a glass of whiskey balancing on one knee. The informal dinner suit he wore was half-disassembled. The jacket was on the floor, his shirt was unbuttoned and some wine had stained one pantleg. It was in the wee hours of morning, when most would be in bed, but not Keith and not John Harrison, and not Tanner Thylita. Those three gents were quite happily awake.

    They weren't the only ones. Corrigan sat on one side of the window, back against the brick wall of the Stranmills Road Dormitory, and Scott sat on the other side. They were silent -- even their breathing was as soft as they could get it, though it was doubtful that the three cadets indoors would hear them anyway. They hadn't bothered to change out of uniform; dark gray and black worked well enough, but Corry had at least worn a hat to keep his hair covered.

    And they waited. First O'Sullivan had come back and started chatting with Thylita about class the next day. Then Harrison had shown up some time ago and they all discussed what they were going to do on the break before internship. It had gone on and on, and now it was Keith reliving the date with Maggie.

    In graphic detail.

    Corry was fuming over it, his face red in anger. Scott wasn't really thrilled either, but he was more worried about his best friend blowing a gasket and giving up their cover. They couldn't afford to be caught in the act of spying, out after curfew, especially not now.

    So, figuring that distraction might work, Scotty picked up a stick and drew a tic-tac-toe board between them in the dirt, very quietly. So far, it was working... Corry was worrying more about the game than about defending Maggie's dubious honor.

    And the target kept chattering. His companions were obviously enjoying it, though the two cadets outside were almost miserably bored. Once he'd finished beating his roommate four times consecutively, Corry erased the board and wrote: 'I never knew spying was so boring.'

    Scott leaned over and read it, a grin crossing his face. Taking the stick back, he wrote under that: 'It'll be worth it, I think.'

    'I don't know, he seems to be happy with his current convo.'

    'Wait til he has another glass.'

    Corry shook his head and erased the whole thing so he could continue the painstakingly slow conversation. 'What are you planning?'

    'Wait for it.' Shaking his head, Scotty gave Corry an enigmatic little smile. He wasn't about to give up his ideas just yet.

    'No clues?' Corrigan wrote, eyebrows raised hopefully. He was desperately curious to know what his roomie was conjuring up, and had asked that question several times now.

    Tilting his head for a moment, the other cadet thought about it, translating in his head for a few moments. Then, with very careful precision, he erased the message in the dirt and wrote in his neatest lettering: 'La mer ne pardonne pas.'

    Great, he was resorting to French. Eyeing the words, Corrigan memorized them for the sake of translating them later on... maybe it would provide a clue to what the ultimate plan was. He only wrote under that, 'French?!'

    "You know," Harrison was saying, "the schooner's coming along pretty damn well now."

    Scott and Corrigan both looked up in unison, holding their breaths. They had no way of knowing which side of the fence Harrison was playing -- given the fact that he was still buddy-buddy with Keith, he could have very easily been working both. A regular double-agent. Admittedly, he had given Jansson the warning of who he thought did it, but that didn't mean he didn't have a master plan.

    "An' those bleedin' bastards are gonna get credit for the work you, an' me, an' Tanner here did." O'Sullivan's voice didn't rise, even under the influence of the whiskey, but it had taken on a bitter, resentful tone. "I lost a credit already."

    Harrison's voice was glib, lighthearted and smooth. "Yeah, but they got some grief at least."

    "Not enough, in my humble opinion. If I get another shot, I'll see they get more."

    "Hey, just don't leave me behind. Last time was wild," Tanner said, just as lightly. As if it were some sort of game. As if they hadn't committed arson, assault and potentially could have committed manslaughter.

    That was it. Scott erased the last messages and wrote fast, all the while kicking himself mentally. 'We should've brought a recorder.'

    'Too late now.' Corry wrote in response, after he'd grabbed the stick back. 'But now we know.'

    Nodding slowly, Scotty mused on it for a minute while they listened. Unfortunately, the conversation had already turned back to Maggie... but now they did know beyond all doubt. Now they knew who the ringleader was, and at least one of his underlings.

    Scott smiled a bit wickedly, erasing the messages and motioning for Corrigan to follow him. Slipping out of the bushes with the silence of a predator, he was already working hard on the next part of their vengeance... and the next part of the Lady Grey.

    Corry lagged behind, wanting to hear what else they had to say about the girl he was crazy about. He couldn't believe that Maggie would have resorted to dating one of these clowns -- it was almost like a comedy. She was so sweet, so nice to him; he had been mooning over her for years. It was like a grain of sand in an oyster to know that she would date someone like O'Sullivan before she would date him... irritating. But this grain wouldn't turn into a pearl.

    Motioning Scotty off when the other cadet looked back, he was just about ready to go. He was just about to sneak off and go find a French dictionary to translate the mysterious message his best friend had written in the dirt.

    "She up an' bitched about me hittin' him all night, though. I had to take 'er out t'night to make up for it, or she said she woulda dumped me on the spot."

    It almost floored Corrigan. His eyes widened, and he didn't have any trouble holding his breath now. It couldn't be... she couldn't have...

    He didn't get to hear the next part. His roommate had come back, and pulled Corry away from the window as quietly but as insistently as he could. Dumbfounded, Corry didn't fight back. His mind was racing a mile a minute.

    So he didn't immediately register that anything was being said to him until they were almost all the way back to their own dorms.

    "' so help me, he's gonna get his for this," Scott was growling, albeit softly.

    Corry blinked a few times, then nodded. "Oh, Hell yes." Then, his voice dropping, he added, "Looks like he won't be the only one."

    "Eh, we'll get 'em one by one, Cor. Have no worries about that." Sliding into the basement window with the easy grace of experience, the younger cadet disappeared into the blackness.

    "And God help us when we do," Corrigan whispered to himself, before following.

    When the alarm woke Scott up at 0600, he was not particularly pleased. His first desire was the smack the off button, but he managed to overrule that. If he slept through class, he would never be able to bring his grades back to their usual high standards. Yawning, he buried his face in his pillow for a moment, mind only on one thing: Coffee.

    "La mer ne pardonne pas... the sea does not forgive," Corry said, softly, once he ascertained that his roomie was awake. "I didn't know you could speak French. Especially after you nearly bombed Basic Language."

    "I can't," Scotty replied, stifling the second yawn. Rubbing at his eyes, looking for all the world like a kid who'd just been woken up from a nap, he finally sat up. "I can read it. Just a little... don't remember much, but Mum taught me some years ago. Enough to read recipes."

    Corrigan nodded, leaning against the wall. He hadn't been able to sleep, not after the revelations of the previous night, so he had thought about it, translated the phrase, and when 0530 came around, had gone out briefly to retrieve the caffeine of the day. Little as had been said about the fight that night the Lady Grey had been burned, he’d been trying to quietly work on repairing this friendship, and that meant going back to the good-natured persistence and thoughtfulness it had been built on in the first place. "Thermos of coffee on your desk."

    "Ye're a lifesaver." Grabbing the thermos, Scott poured a cup into his well-stained coffee mug and sat back, eyes closed, just inhaling the aroma like a man deprived.

    Corry managed a wan smile. "Normally I'm a bastard."

    "Aye, that too. But not right now."

    "You're being generous this morning."

    "Had a good night." Scotty grinned somewhat mischievously. "We've got swabbies to walk the plank."

    "Yeah... I know." Corry shook his head, trying to sound enthusiastic. He still couldn't believe that Maggie had been any part of it, but he doubted O'Sullivan would lie about something like that. She knew. Hell, she might have even been there. She might have been the one who shouted and saved Scott from a potentially serious concussion.

    Needless to say, it ate at him like a rabid badger. His Maggie. The girl with the smile that lit the whole room.

    Scott must've heard the unhappy tone. Opening his eyes briefly, he asked, "What's wrong?"

    Corry glanced up, startled. "Huh?"

    "Somethin's wrong," the other cadet said, unhesitating, closing his eyes again and sipping at the hot, black coffee. It just wasn't like Corrigan to be that quiet, particularly when he was itching for revenge just as badly.

    Corry nodded, even if it wouldn't be seen, and stood. "Yeah. I'll explain it later on though. I want to confirm a few things before I do."

    "Aye, an' I'll let ye in on the plan later too." Once again, that wicked grin. "I think ye'll like it."

    Corrigan cornered Maggie not much later. She was walking alone, which was a relief for the Corry -- if O'Sullivan had been there, it would be a lot harder. Sidling up to her with a sweet little smile, he didn't even give a hint to what he was planning on talking to her about. "Heya, Maggie."

    Maggie smiled, shifting her books and tapes to her other arm. "Hi, Corry. How are you?"

    "Not too bad. Just a little tired... we've been working really hard getting our ship back up to specs." Frowning, Corry was watching her reactions like a hawk... a discreet hawk, but a hawk nonetheless.

    "Really?" She shook her head, her blonde hair sliding over her shoulders. "That was so awful. Who would do such a thing?"

    Corry sighed, heavily. It wasn't all an act; watching her hair move over her shoulders was enough to make him have to yank his mind back from the inevitable thoughts that came up. "Yeah, it was pretty bad. But we think we might know who did it."


    "We think Lewis might have gotten upset about the work. I've talked to him a few times, and Scott treated him kinda bitter, if you know what I mean."

    The relief in her eyes was unmistakable, but her acting besides was perfect. Her eyebrows drew in concern, her face was composed, her voice was soft and compassionate. But her eyes told the story... it confirmed Corry's worst fears about her. She had been there. She was lying. "Well, I hope that someone does something about it," Maggie murmured. "Tell me how it goes, all right?"

    "I will," Corrigan answered, smiling warmly. After she had walked away, he added under his breath, "You'll be one of the first to know."
  14. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part III, Chapter 3

    My, my...Quark would be proud of their wheeling and dealing, but I think Garak would have a thing or two to say to them about the need to be subtle and disciplined while spying and interrogating!! :rommie:

    I do hope they catch the ones who torched their ship, though, and give them a lot of grief!
  15. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    I think at this age they are now, twenty-one and twenty-two respectively, Garak would scare the heck right out of them. :lol: I can only imagine that one.

    Corry> He did say he was a tailor, right?
    Scotty> (shaking his head) That's the scariest tailor I've ever laid eyes on, then.
    Corry> Oh, good. It wasn't just me thinking that.

    That is a driving element of the story, here, yeah.

    Thanks for the comment!
  16. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Re: Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part III, Chapter 3

    You're very welcome! :)
  17. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    Chapter 4:

    Tuesday, April 25th, 2243
    Malone Road Dormitory, Room 17
    Starfleet Engineering Academy
    Belfast, Ireland, Earth

    "All right, gents, let's hear it." Jansson sat at the workbench, a bottle of dark beer sitting beside a project Scotty had long since forgotten about. The design team to the Lady Grey hadn't had a chance to say much more than a few sentences to each other -- most of their time was spent working after class until the time limit. It had been another hard day. All of the repairs were finished in record time, and a good bit more of her hull had been laid out...

    ...and there wasn't a cadet on the team who hadn't looked at Scott oddly when, an hour before the limit was up, he had ordered them to stop working on the hull and to start on the bilge.

    It was a mystery what was on the shipwright's mind. Corry was closer to a clue than anyone, and even he hadn't guessed.

    Scotty apparently wasn't in a rush to give up his secrets, though. Sitting on his bunk, a rolled blueprint beside him, he was sticking strictly to coffee. This time, he had built the suspense up like a professional. "Corry, by all means."

    "Well, we all know that yesterday Harrison came forward and told Jerry about O'Sullivan's yammering," Corry said, smoothly standing. He still wasn't in a great mood, given what he'd found out earlier, but that wouldn't stop him. "Scotty and I decided to do a little more digging. We took Sean up on the roof and grilled him under threat of death--"

    "Bet that's why he missed class today," Albright said, grinning.

    "Probably." Corry smirked at the memory. "But anyway, he basically confirmed our suspicions that O'Sullivan had been behind the burning of the Grey. So, once we finished with him, we decided to go do a little eavesdropping... spent hours sitting outside of O'Sullivan's room. Harrison was there, so was Thylita."

    Jansson leaned forward so far he nearly fell off of the stool, and Albright wasn't a whole lot better. This was definitely the first they've heard of it.

    Corry enjoyed the expressions they were wearing, and drew out the moment for all it was worth. Scott wasn't the only master in suspense.

    "Go on," Joe prompted, once he'd had all he could take.

    "Well, to cut a long story short, Thylita had been in on it." Corrigan put his hands behind his back. "They both agreed they'd do it again if they got a chance. Scotty here took off, and I stayed behind for another minute or so..."

    Now Scott was looking a little bit tense. It didn't take long for him to realize that he'd missed something.

    "...and O'Sullivan said that Maggie had chewed him up one side and down the other for attacking our architect here."

    Three stunned looks in one sentence. Corry was on a roll tonight -- even if he hated to think that Maggie was in on it, he still couldn't help but enjoy the fact that they had no clue, that he was on top of the game.

    Scott finally found his voice again. It took a minute, and he was still pretty shocked by it, but he managed to ask, "That was why ye happened t' be so upset?"

    "Yeah. I didn't want to believe it, you know. So I went and talked to her... told her that we thought we knew who did it. I swear, guys, she got this look like 'oh God', until I told her we were suspecting Lewis. Then she looked relieved."

    "Lewis'll love that," Albright muttered, quietly, still absorbing all of this. It was hard to imagine Maggie doing anything less than nice. It was even harder imagining her doing something so downright devious.

    "That's three." Jerry took a hard slug of beer, apparently needing it right then. "Three people in on the sabotage."

    "And no less'n two on Kelley's team." Taking his cue, and the stage, Scott finally pulled his schematic out. Unrolling it with the finesse of a very planned movement, he laid the paper out in front of him on the bunk.

    The other three cadets moved over to look. It was a schematic for the Lady Grey, a side view showing her entire length. The schematic itself was original, but there were hastily written notes, and a few things added to the drawing. Well, honestly, it was more than a few things. It was several things.

    Corrigan almost fell over. Unlike the other two, he knew immediately what had been changed, and what those changes meant. After a minute, Jansson looked up, and only ten seconds after that, so did Albright.

    Corry's voice was very soft, almost a whisper in the dead silent room. Looking up and meeting his roommate's gaze, he couldn't keep the mix of admiration and surprise out of his words. "La mer ne pardonne pas..."

    Scott nodded once, as elegantly as a pragmatic engineer possibly could. "The sea does not forgive."

    "Amen," Jansson whispered, touching the schematic as if to confirm this was real. It was so outlandish, so insane, so... well, right. Albright laughed next to him, just for the sake of it.

    Finally giving into a laugh himself, Scott leaned back and crossed his arms. "Twenty-four guns, lads... twenty-four guns."

    To say that it was going to be easy would have been a bald-faced lie, but to say that the cadets weren't determined would have been even worse. They had spent the rest of the night planning it out, too excited to sleep and talking a mile a minute. When 0530 rolled around, they ran down to the restaurant by the shipyards, and had a quick breakfast. Not speaking, they were stealing sly, conspiring glances across the table, generally acting like a group of barely grown men with an outrageous and potentially stupid plan.

    And when classes started at 0630, they began to set the gears into motion.

    Albright immediately went down to the machine shop, taking an inventory of the equipment kept there. It had been decided that, in order for the Lady Grey to keep her trim, they would have to find an alternative weight for the guns. Ships cannons were originally made of iron and some weighed literally tons; the Grey was a schooner, though, and there was no way she could support the pure weight of twenty-four iron cannons and keep her racing-style handling. So it was up to Joe to come up with an alternative, and being the mathematician, it was only right.

    Skipping out of his first three classes, Jansson spent his time alone in the shipyards, building templates for the gun ports. Scott had allowed for twenty guns on her first below deck, and four guns mounted on her main deck... two bow chasers, two stern chasers. The twenty below were going to end up being twenty-four pound shot -- in ammunition alone, she would have a lot of added weight, but Albright would have to be the one to determine how much they could carry without drastically effecting her sailing performance.

    Scotty simply worked on his classwork. Pearson was quite pleased to have his star student back in what he considered to be the proper frame of mind for a Starfleet engineer, and Scott was quite pleased that the captain wasn't breathing down his neck. Afterall, if Pearson couldn't see into his thoughts, he couldn't see just how far from that state of mind the cadet actually was.

    And it fell to Corry to be the actor. The best of his troop, he found Barrett in his office between one class and the next. He stepped in, smiling. "Sir?"

    "Yes, Mister Corrigan?" Barrett looked up from his desk and the slew of papers there. Most of them were forms for his retirement; pension, commendation bonuses, release slips for his office and the equipment he wasn't keeping, and any number of other things.

    "I was going to ask you if you plan on having a sailing day, once we're finished with our final." Corry put his hands behind his back, practically radiating enthusiasm. "I mean, after all the Hell we've gone through -- pardon me, sir -- I think we should at least be able to take the Grey out."

    Barrett raised both eyebrows. "Do you think you can get her finished before the deadline? Because of the sabotage, I was going to just grade the class on what they have finished."

    Corrigan nodded. "Yes, sir, I think we'll have her done. Mister Scott has reworked our entire construction schedule, along with a few minor plan changes."

    "Plan changes?"

    "A few little things that might make it go smoother," Corry said, careful not to let slip any nervousness he might have felt. If Barrett asked for the revised plans, the whole thing could go under. "And frankly, sir, after all he's gone through, it's only fitting he gets to take his ship out."

    Barrett smiled, chuckling, "His ship. Well, I'll send a memo out and see if anyone else would like to participate. I think the idea of a few windjammers out there again would be very idyllic. A good note to retire on."

    A brief flash of guilt shot through Corry, but it was far too late to change tracks now. Maybe not literally too late, but the line had been drawn and they were going to step over it no matter what it took. "I think Team C would really appreciate it, sir."

    "All right, let me see what it would take. Is that all?"

    "Yes, thank you sir." The cadet turned and stepped out. When the door closed, he took a deep breath to get his thoughts in order, prepare for everything he'd have to work on next, and walked away.

    Meanwhile, back in Harland and Wolff's Berth #22, Albright was giving his report to Jansson. Pacing the floor of the mold loft, the mathematician ran down the figures. "I think it's possible to get the cannon weight down to just about three hundred pounds apiece. That'll add three tons to her on the twenty... it's not too significant, compared to what it would have been."

    "What'll we be using?" Jerry didn't look up from the schematic, a ruler in his other hand and a timber on the floor.

    "A duradium and steel mix. Best part is, they can withstand higher temperatures than the iron could, and the duradium's strong enough to resist warping and scarring." Almost jumping from the pure energy he had, Joe Albright was grinning like a madman. "Man, Jerry, if we do this, we'll go down in infamy."

    "Go down is right," Jerry chuckled, setting the ruler aside. "Our careers are gonna come to an end."

    "Not if I can help it," Corry broke in, closing the door to the loft. "I'm gonna do everything in my power to make sure we still have jobs after this."

    Jansson took a few hard breaths. He had almost expected it to be someone who could stop them in their tracks now, before they had even gotten started. "You scared the Hell outta me..."

    "Sorry." Not looking particularly apologetic, Corrigan knelt beside the schematic. "Barrett's going to try to get us out on the water when we finish. We have to have this ship done by next month, even if it means going on the sly and sneaking in here like a bunch of commandos."

    "The four of us can't do it alone." Albright went back to pacing, working on it out loud. "The rest of the construction team needs to be let in on it, and if anyone leaks, we are in really deep shit. Deep enough to bury us for archaeologists to find in a couple hundred thousand years."

    Corry shook his head, standing again. He couldn't hold still himself. "The only person I'm worried about is Harrison. But I think we can find a way to deal with him."

    "For a month?" Joe frowned. "We can't very well keep him away from here for a whole month."

    "We can if we send him out to get the sails made, the brassworks, the ropes and pullies... we'll lose points for not making all of those ourselves, but on the deadline we've got, we'll just have to take the hit."

    Jansson finished cutting the timber to its lengths with a low-heat cutting torch. Not entirely historical, but then, they were running so close to the wire that the templates just couldn't be a waste of time. "Are you ready to send him out today? Because by 0200, I'm going to have the first port ready to fit, and then everyone who sees it will know."

    "I could. Won't be easy, but I could." Corry took a deep breath. "I'm going to see about ordering double sets of everything, in case he can't be trusted. The last thing we need is to finish this ship and end up having no sails or something."

    Albright gave Corrigan a shove, impatient and ready to go. "Get to it, then!"

    The project leader flashed a beaming grin, waved and ran out the door.

  18. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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


    "Now, ye all know what happened here... and ye all helped bring it to rights again." Scotty hated public speaking. He didn't mind barking orders when he had to, but trying to come up with a speech was like being rolled over razor blades. Still, it was his idea, and his job to make it clear what would be done. So the other twenty-odd cadets stood on the floor while he balanced on his ship, and he did the talking. "But ye also know that Security's basically closed the book on the whole bloody affair, and those who did it still haven't come t' any sort o' justice."

    The agreement was quiet, but unanimous. Harrison was gone, and the rest of the team had been loyal pretty much from the get-go, even when pressure had built up.

    Steadying himself, Scott continued, trying to think ahead to how he would explain. "I won't assume all of ye want to get 'em back for what they did, but I'd like to think I'm not the only one who does. So, to cut right to it... the design team's decided to arm the Grey with guns. And if it all works out, and the senior cadets get to take their ships out... we're goin' to retaliate then."

    That certainly got a response. The entire group broke into noise, everyone talking at once. Scott made no effort to speak over the din, just settled back to wait for it to quiet down... though, given the general responses, it seemed to be greeted with more skepticism than downright refusal. There wasn't a cadet in that building who didn't feel something for the Lady Grey by now. Even those who weren't originally part of the team had grown to enjoy it simply for the reason that they were a part of something grand. She wasn't a starship, but she was something special anyway.

    Those who had been there for the entire affair had felt wronged by the sabotage. Those who had joined up just a week or so ago sympathized. And all of them knew that even if they did go through with this, it wasn't going to be them who really paid the ultimate price -- that would belong to the men in charge, simply because it was their responsibility.

    So when it finally lightened somewhat, and the chatter became tolerable, Scotty sketched in the details. Once finished with that, he offered anyone who wanted it a chance to walk away without any repercussions.

    Not a single person did.

    Team C went to work on the Lady Grey with renewed vigor. Oh, they had cared before, but now it was something entirely different. Now, it was practically destiny... that or they thought it was just incredibly neat to arm a ship with cannons and blow someone else's ship up. Either way, they were practically singing.

    Corry helped set the first gunport. He could say that there was a lot of exhilaration in that alone... in a sense, they were bringing to life what they had planned only the night before. Smiling to himself as he braced the frame with a few other cadets where her hull had been cut to make it fit, he couldn't help but wonder if Starfleet would appreciate how well they were working as a team now, even if they didn't agree with what was being worked on.

    It was going to be rough when it all played out and he knew that every single one of them could be brought up on charges... conduct unbecoming, assault, reckless endangerment... any number of things would be flung at the cadets. But Andrew Corrigan knew one thing for certain -- if anyone was going to take the brunt of it, he was.

    Scotty wouldn't like that. Corry knew that already; he could see it coming a parsec away. Afterall, the younger cadet had put so much into the Lady Grey, and he had worked out this whole plan to attack at sea, so he would naturally take responsibility.

    Well, Corry owed his roommate one. Musing on it as he held the wood, ignoring the strain in his arms, he had decided that much last night while they were planning. Oh, he still wanted to transfer to the medical division, still wanted to learn more about the sciences, but until that night when the Grey was burned, he had no real clue about what he would be giving up. Maybe Scott didn't intend to show him... in fact, he absolutely didn't. But he'd provided a Hell of a wakeup call anyway.

    That was why Corry had gotten so protective. The whole night had terrified him, smacked him hard upside the head and made him think about just how ridiculous he had been. It had all added up... knowing about the Lady Grey, and about why she was so important to the other cadet, knowing that not only had he been outright heartless to someone who was only trying to watch out for him, but someone else had... Corry was determined to make up for it. It would take awhile, and he didn't care if he seemed like a mother hen, but he wasn't going to give up.

    Friends like that just didn't come along more than once in a lifetime.

    Stepping back when the port had finally been braced there, he wiped his forehead off with the back of his arm. It seemed like they had so far to go, and not enough time to get there... like they would be running so close to failure that it made a permanent home outside of the door.

    "We'll get her done," Scotty said, as though he could have read Corry's thoughts. "Oh, she'll be somethin' to see, Cor... somethin' special."

    Corrigan grinned in answer, turning to face his roomie. "Yeah?"

    "Aye, damn straight." Scott sounded like he believed he was invincible. "I'm hopin' Barrett comes through with the sail."

    "I think he will." Chuckling to himself, Corry moved over to start working again, laying down the hull planking. That attitude of invincibility was infectious, and it wasn't long before he was just as convinced that she would be done and that it would all work out how they planned.

    It was into the next week when Barrett called a meeting. It was the first time since the day after the sabotage that his entire senior class was all in one room, and the amount of talking was almost unbelievable. Only Team C really knew why everyone was there, and they were talking themselves -- though it was plotting they were doing, not speculating.

    Barrett waited patiently for it to quiet down, standing in front of his podium with his arms crossed. It was a stance officers tended to adopt when they wanted to be listened to, and after so many years, the old professor had it perfected. It didn't take more than thirty seconds for the room to fall silent; conversations tapered off, voices softened to whispers then to nothing, and everyone waited to hear what he had to say.

    "Ladies, gentlemen," Barrett started, smiling warmly at the whole class. "I've called you here today to propose something... something I think you'll all like quite a bit."

    "No doubt we will," Scotty thought, a grin crossing his face before he could stifle it. Forcing himself to look blankly interested, he leaned his elbows on the desk and listened.

    "Now, I know you've all put a great deal of work and thought into your finals. I'm very proud of the way the teams have pulled together, and of how hard you've all tried. So, instead of simply grading you and leaving it at that," Barrett said, smoothly, "I've arranged for a race."

    Almost immediately the chattering started again, rather like a flood. Corry, nearly ready to launch through the roof in pure excitement, leaned over to his roommate. "A race! My God, it's too perfect!"

    "Shhh!" Scott hissed, though he just wanted to jump himself. Corry was right, it was too perfect.

    "Now, you'll all be graded before the race, and the race itself will have no bearing whatsoever on your academic work. This is purely for fun, cadets." Barrett looked excited himself, a rare sight to see, as he walked over and uncovered the blackboard. "Naturally there has to be some incentive to win, because all of you are going to have to learn how to use these creations of yours. So I arranged for a unique prize...

    "The winner will have the opportunity to name the next starship commissioned after their own vessel, and the entire team will have a plaque onboard this starship giving them credit."

    If the idea of racing hadn't won them over, the prize sure did. Starships were usually named by the top brass, after some historical figure or some historical ship. That one group of cadets would have that opportunity, an opportunity to be remembered in such a way... it was incredible. The whole theater was deafened by the cheering; the enthusiasm couldn't be cut with a fully charged phaser bank.

    Barrett didn't even try. On the board, underneath the rules for the race and the prize, he wrote: 'Full details will be sent in a memo. Dismissed.'

    Jansson ran over as the cadets began filing out, leaping every step like a jackrabbit on stimulants. "A race! A race, a race, my ship for the race!"

    "I can't believe it," Corry laughed, shaking his head and still ready to just launch. "Oh, this couldn't be more perfect. If I planned it all myself, it couldn't be more perfect."

    "Ohhhh yeah, ohhhhhhhh yeaaaaaah..." Albright giggled, bouncing back and forth. "We have to get back to the slip. As in right now. Hell, as in ten minutes ago!"

    Scotty grinned. "Race ye?"

    "GO!" Corry took off first, dashing out of the door and almost running over a few stray cadets in the process. The other three chased after him, as they ran through the halls and out of the building.
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    Oh, MAN...I couldn't stop laughing when they started putting guns on the Lady Grey--twenty-four-gun salute indeed!!! :D
  20. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

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

    LMAO! It's funny; when I was twenty-one and wrote it, I thought, "Wow, that's gonna be awesome!" Now, I'm twenty-eight and a mother of two and think, "Typical boys. Blow stuff up. DO YOU REALIZE HOW DANGEROUS THIS IS?!"

    And yet, I still adore them for it.

    Thanks for the comment!