Prologue: True North
Monday, January 10th, 2242
Andrews Lecture Hall, Theater 6A
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth
The chatter in the back of the hall was more of a buzz than a solid noise; whispers that broke occasionally into silence, then started up again just as unfathomably. Few people seemed to be concerned with what was going on in the front part of the room, where most of the underclassmen were studiously taking notes; those in the back were the upperclassmen who were taking notes not on the subject but rather on the teaching style.
Andrew Corrigan wasn't doing either. A third-year cadet, his only reason for being in the room was because Maggie Mersea was there, and he had a serious case of infatuation for the girl. He had no urge to help teach to the youngsters, especially Basic Language -- but Maggie wanted to teach and he wanted to be near Maggie, so he signed up for a study period that had nothing to do with studying.
Corrigan pulled his attention away from the blonde and looked over at Sean Kelley, thinking once again that he really didn't want to talk to the ensign. Kelley was about as much fun to talk to as a brick wall, and nearly as ignorant. Still, there were a few times he had given Corry a hand on a project, and even if he was a bit of a condescending bastard, he had the occasional moment of geniality, so Corrigan did his best to look interested. "Yeah, Sean?"
"Do you have the assignment for SS&D?"
Yep, he looked beseeching. Corry hadn't noticed Kelley's absence in the class, but apparently he needed a bailout. Digging through his disorganized notes and textbooks, he pulled out the folder for Year Three Station Structure and Design, and offered the paper over. "It's due on Monday... Captain Bligh there would be pretty ticked if you didn't turn it in."
Sean chuckled, copying the assignment down on a spare sheet of paper, "Yeah, bad enough that I missed class."
"Where were you, anyway?"
"Trying to finish my project for Captain Ahab. Got it in just before the deadline." Sean finished writing and offered the paper back over, looking pretty relieved.
Corry couldn't blame him. Most of the officers who taught the third and fourth year cadets were downright disagreeable, hence their nicknames. Their excuse for being rough was a weak one at best, the whole spiel about 'how would they react to authority on a starbase or starship if they couldn't handle it in the academy'. As far as Corrigan was concerned, they had all gone through basic training, and that was some of the harshest discipline they could ever encounter -- why beat a dead dog?
Shaking his head, he turned his gaze back to Maggie. There was just something about her, and it had nothing to do with the fact she was one of the small handful of women who had actually gone into Engineering and was available. To think that would imply that he was desperate for a female companion, and dammit, Andrew Corrigan was never desperate for anything. Back in South Bristol, he had a few girlfriends, and any one of them would --
"Oooh, this oughta be good..."
Sean's voice cut through Corry's rapt fascination, or more precisely, his tone of voice did. Corrigan glanced up at Kelley, who gave him a smirk and nodded to the podium. "That's him. That's the bastard that swept in here and snatched my ranking."
Corry frowned for a moment, trying to figure out what the other cadet was griping about. Class ranking? Firmly dragging his thoughts away from his past loves, he looked at the podium, where one of the first-year cadets was about to recite some basic Vulcan phrases. How could a newbie steal a third-year's ranking? Then it came back, the more than few rambling sessions Kelley had gone into over the past month or two about some cadet or another who had transferred over from another Academy. In all reality, Corry hadn't paid much attention -- he had better things to keep his mind on than class ranking. Glancing back at Kelley, he tried to keep the amusement out of his voice as he replied, "The supposed grading-curve killer?"
"Just go ahead and laugh, Corry. It's real funny when some little brat comes in out of no where and takes top of the class." Kelley's voice faded into a mutter, "Bet he's some admiral's kid or something."
Corrigan tuned him out, looking back at the podium. The cadet down there looked like he'd be lucky to make it out of the class without passing out, let alone with a high grade. He was white-knuckling the podium like a midshipman in zero-g, pale, baby-faced, stuttering around an accent that could've been anything but definitely didn't work well with the careful enunciation of the basic Vulcan dialect. Corry tried not to laugh, but the poor guy looked downright terrified, and the attempt at 'what is your current heading?' was almost unrecognizable. "You sure, Sean? He's definitely not an upperclassman, let alone one who can steal top ranking."
"Wanna bet?" Kelley sulked, glaring darts at the black-haired ensign below. If looks could kill, everyone between him and the cadet behind the podium would be dead. "He's in ASD with me, and you'd think he was some kind of damn genius or something from the way ole Ahab talks."
Corry raised an eyebrow. There was no way the somewhat pathetic looking cadet below could have gotten into Advanced Starship Design... he couldn't even pass Basic Language, and that was a throwaway class. "Pearson thinks he's a genius?" Corrigan snickered, leaning back in his seat, "Maybe I oughta see if he'll tutor."
"I told you, I'd tutor you if you wanted. You don't need to go to the brat."
Corry smirked. Geez, Kelley was really holding a grudge about that ranking thing. It wasn't the end of the world if someone graduated second in the class instead of first, was it? If Kelley's world revolved around that, he really needed to get himself a girlfriend and something resembling a life.
The chime ended the class, saving the 'curve-killer' from the second part of his somewhat hopeless oration, and Corrigan picked up his notes, watching Maggie as she walked... no, not walked, glided...
She was just beautiful. A love-sick sigh threatened to break away from Corry, but he held it back. Kelley was still muttering as he headed down the steps, and he must've said something to the cadet who had been at the podium, because the room went silent lightning fast and everyone left in the room was watching. Corrigan looked between the two... Kelley with his somewhat arrogant grin, and the other ensign who was probably about two seconds away from turning him into some sort of punching bag.
He wasn't entirely sure why he acted, but later he figured that it was mostly pity. Trotting down the steps, he neatly stepped between the two near-snarling men and put on his most disarming grin. "Tell me if you need any of your other class assignments, okay Sean?"
Kelley looked up at Corrigan, briefly debating on whether it was worth the demerits to continue antagonizing, but he must have figured it was better to walk away and nodded stiffly. "I'll do that."
Corry notched the grin up another few levels, needing all of the disarming ability he had, and Sean walked out without a backwards glance. The rest of the remaining cadets, both upper and lowerclassmen, filtered out themselves, more disappointed than anything that someone had broken up a potentially entertaining fight. Breathing a faint sigh of relief, Corrigan turned back to the other cadet, who was still fairly lit up. "Don't mind him, he's an ass sometimes."
"Sometimes," the other cadet echoed, brown eyes narrowing on the exit with almost vicious intensity, as if he could bring Kelley back and finish what was started by sheer staring power. "Most o' the time, if ye ask me."
"All right, 'most o' the time'," Corry agreed. The look he got in answer was like super-cooled liquid coolant, and he chuckled, "Geez, you need to relax. Calm down, take a few deep breaths, then you can give me your name."
For a moment, it didn't seem like the advice would be taken, but it ended fairly quick. "Montgomery Scott. Scotty, t'most people."
Corrigan nodded, grabbing a few stray papers and offering them over. "Andrew Corrigan, mostly known as Corry the Magnificent."
Scott took the papers, one eyebrow raising slightly in amusement now that he'd apparently managed to rein his temper in. "Is that yer proclamation, or--?"
"My delusions of grandeur entirely," Corry interrupted, leaning on the desk. "I have a theory, you know. Care to hear it?"
"Well, listen anyway. See, my theory goes like this... really good engineers are always known by their last names. Always. It's like some kinda universal constant. Bell, Edison, DaVinci, Cochrane, Corrigan..." Grinning a bit, Corrigan leaned over the desk and dropped his voice, "But Sean Kelley is always known as Sean."
Scotty looked up, with a grin. Tilting his head, he seemed to ponder it for a moment, then looked back at Corry with a chuckle. "Good theory."
"Thanks! And now that we've discussed serious universal theory," Corry said, "I have a proposition for you." Taking note of the wary glance he got, he frowned. "Wow, the world's just out to get you, isn't it?"
"Not the world, just the entire third-year class."
Corrigan waved a hand dismissively. "Okay, let me put it another way. I'll get you through Basic Language, and you get me through SS&D."
The other cadet paused in his meticulous organization of his notes, books and computer tapes, and Corry raised both eyebrows hopefully. Afterall, his parents would kill him if he failed in one of his more important courses, and Basic Language had been a breeze for him. It was practically fail-safe, and the terrible, awful curve killer looked like he could use a friend, or at least someone around who didn't give a hoot about his class rank.
A pause held as Scott weighed the idea, looking for all the more like he was trying to divine the future and figure out if it was a good idea. It eventually came down to common sense, though, and he shrugged. "What the Hell? Ye've got yerself a deal."