Part 1: Balancing Equations
---- --------------- - --------- - --
A soul in tension is learning to fly,
Condition: Grounded, but determined to try,
Gotta keep my eyes from the circling skies,
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit...
, Learning to Fly
---- --------------- - --------- - --
Thursday, November 24th, 2242
Malone Road Dormitory, Room 17
Starfleet Engineering Academy
Belfast, Ireland, Earth
"All right, I've got no less than fifty credits saying that it won't stop raining within the next month."
Scotty didn't look up from the computer. The mere sound of rain water told him two things: That Corry had missed the shuttle from the main campus, and that he was not thrilled about that fact. "No bet here."
Corry frowned, shrugging off his coat and throwing it into the closet without a single thought of hanging it up. "Have you even moved since I left?"
"Hm mm," was the absent-minded and negative reply. He'd just gotten a new batch of upgrade schematics that were going to be performed to the U.S.S. Constitution
, and saying that Scott was obsessed with the starship would have been a massive understatement. Not only did he have every article, journal and schematic he could get his hands on, but he had managed to bribe one of the higher-up officers to pass on any new information.
"Talked to Admiral Pirrie," Corry was saying as he pulled his boots off and wrung his socks out, "and he agreed to our four-day leave."
For a long moment the comment didn't process, mostly because Scott was concentrating, which was another way of saying that the sun could go nova and he'd be oblivious. It must have been duly noted somewhere though, because after reading another four or five lines, he glanced up, eyebrows furrowed. "I didn't request leave..."
"Nope, you didn't." Corry grinned, flopping back on his bunk. "I requested leave and you're coming with me."
"Ohhhh no. I'm stayin' right here," Scott answered, stubbornly shaking his head and turning back to the monitor. There was too much he wanted to get done and it would be hard enough with the idiotic simulations they seemed to run the senior cadets through every other week. Well, not every
other week, but way too bloody often for his tastes. "I've got three different articles due, an' that mockup warp core in Pearson's class--"
"But you're coming with me because I'm not going to feel guilty about leaving you here over Thanksgiving."
This was one of those times Corrigan was irritating him, just a bit. Not that Corrigan ever irritated him for more than a half-hour tops before he gave in, but this time, he just wasn't going to let the older cadet talk him into anything -- it had already happened a surprising number of times. And the last time, he slept through an entire day to avoid the hangover. Or, tried to. "That's an American holiday, Corry."
Corry, whistling a few notes, sat up again and leaned forward. "So? The proper response to a Thanksgiving Dinner invitation is, 'Thank ye, Corry, ye're too kind to lifeless little me.'"
Despite himself, Scotty laughed. Corrigan just loved imitating him -- that probably went back to the Basic Language lessons not quite a year before when Corry'd had the painstaking task of tutoring a mostly language inept student. Well, inept with speaking them; reading them was easy enough. "Not on yer bloody life. Not now, not ever."
"All right, forget the thank you. But you're coming with me, because not only did I tell Mom I was bringing you along, but I already booked two transatlantic tickets."
Scott was pretty sure he was telepathic. He could almost hear the, 'Ha! Let him try to weasel his way out of that one.' "No..."
"No, an' that's final!"
"Yes, or I just beat you unconscious and drag you there."
He would. "Bastard."
Corrigan whooped in triumph, jumping to his feet and doing a quick victory-dance. Scott glowered at him as downright maliciously as he could, which was pretty damn weak since it was impossible to be angry when your best friend and roommate was dancing like a gimpy chicken. But he at least wanted a point or two for the effort. Waiting until Corry was finished flailing around, he tapped his fingers on the desk. "When're we booked?"
"In three hours," Corry replied, hopping from foot to foot excitedly.
Three hours?! Oh for the love of... "Corry, I want to reiterate. Ye're a bastard. A sneaky, lowdown, devious, malcontent-- oof!"
Well, that saved him from dragging his carryon out of the closet. Scott sighed, a sort of resigned and basically world-weary sigh, and got started on packing. True, he hadn't protested too hard against the idea, but it would have been nice to have some advanced warning. But then, advanced warning was a luxury when dealing with Corrigan, not a privilege or necessity. He'd learned that the hard way when Corry had announced that they were going to become roommates and had decided to move him in without so much as a word of warning.
Of course, if not for Corry, he might not have been able to pass the much-hated Basic Language course. It would have been a serious setback to have tested out of his entire first two years worth of Engineering Academy only to be held back over something as downright worthless as a course that no one ever put to practical application. Like the universal translator would go out and it'd be critical to speak in ancient high Vulcan to ask for directions. Right.
Thankfully it didn't come to that; he was the youngest senior cadet and first in the class, and all it took was not punching Corry out for correcting him every five seconds, either for the actual language work, or for his own native getting away from him.
Thanksgiving didn't sound too bad, even if it wasn't a Scottish holiday.
"Ever been to Maine?"
Scott shook his head, grabbing his civvy clothes and packing them away. "Been to New York, and Maryland." Half under his breath he added, "And California. Coulda lived without that one."
"Which part, Basic or Command School?" Corrigan asked, still wearing his 'vacation or bust' grin.
"Well, Maine's colder than this, but we get sunlight a Hell of a lot more often. And we live in South Bristol, right there on the coast. An island, really. You'll like it, and dammit, put that book down!"
"What book?" Scotty asked innocently, eyebrows up as he hid the 55th edition of 'The Ships of Starfleet: A complete technical reference to the most state of the art vessels' behind his back.
Corry must not have been fooled, because he wrestled it away not more than three seconds later. "There's no way you're going to have your nose buried in a book over the entire leave. Cripes, you need a life."
"But..." He was trying not to look pathetic. He knew he was failing, but damn, he was trying.
"No. You're not going to take that or any other remotely engineering based material. This is vacation! Relaxation! A break from the norm! A chance for peace! An opportunity to--"
"Point taken, Mum," Scotty replied dryly, retrieving the book and putting it back on the shelf neatly. The prospect of four days off campus without any sort of trade-related material was akin to Hell; Engineering wasn't a hobby or a career, it was his life.
Corrigan must've caught the slightly... well, obviously unhappy tone and sighed, "Look, there'll be enough to do without working on something or another. Besides," he continued, his voice jumping from chiding to obscenely cheerful, "we're gonna be the greatest engineers ever to work for Starfleet. Might as well have fun while we still can."
fun," Scotty answered, tossing a longing glance at the halfway torn-down phase inverter sitting on his workbench. He was pretty sure he wouldn't get his way, though, even if he had gotten down and sobbed for all he was worth. Of course, compared to his former fate of being a starship captain, four days on leave wasn't too bad, books and bits or no. "Just four days,"
he thought. "How bad can that be?"
The constant drumming of fingers on the back of the seat practically drowned out the wind that buffeted the transatlantic shuttle, and it had only been fifteen minutes. Out of a thirty minute flight. Had Corry known his roommate was going to get fidgety, he might have just let him take the book, but this was the first long-term leave he'd convinced (or bullied) Scott into taking. Their occasional weekend jaunts usually ended up in the student's lounge on campus, or pub-crawling through Belfast, but that was a quick run that lasted one night and the next day was spent recovering from it -- it had taken months just to get Scott to quit working long enough to do even that. But this was four entire days in Maine, and if the trip over was any indicator, it would be a long four days for the high-strung Scotsman.
"You could try for a rhythm. You know, something other than 'tap, tap, tap'," Corrigan suggested, leaning back in his seat.
"I could be workin' on my term project too." Tap, tap, tap.
"You could, but then you'd miss out on a great dinner, with all kinds of dishes and desserts."
"I can cook, Corry." Scotty looked over, pausing in his drumming for a moment, one eyebrow going up automatically. "Are ye sure that yer parents know that I'm along for the ride?"
"Absolutely sure." Corrigan beamed his trademark, mile wide grin. "Trust me! When have I ever led you wrong?"
"Last month when I woke up on the floor with my bootstrings tied t'gether and a hangover? The same time I missed turnin' in a paper 'cause I was sleepin' it off?" Scott tried to suppress the smirk, but only partially succeeded. "Or the time before that when we were almost nailed for violatin' curfew, all because ye wanted to spy on Maggie?"
"Hey, the guy she was with was a scumbag," Corrigan defended, frowning at the thought. She had been so nice in turning him down the fifth, sixth and seventh times that he had asked her out that he had to make absolutely sure that she wasn't going to get into trouble with the Lieutenant she was dating. Of course, the mishap with the napkin had been entirely accidental. Corry had no clue how that itching powder made it onto that single napkin, and dammit, just because he was mysteriously missing twenty credits out of his student account meant absolutely nothing.
"Aye, perhaps he was," Scotty admitted, crossing his arms and relaxing for a moment or two. He wouldn't admit it, but Maggie had caught his eye too, and he hadn't been the one to slide into the kitchen of that particular restaurant with the offer.
Not that Corry didn't know. But he figured that they could both afford to dream about the same girl since neither of them had any real chance of getting her attention. He took the moment of silence to actually get his thoughts in order, leaning forward a little to look out of the window. It wasn't often he had a moment of peace, between classes, scenarios and having a roommate that didn't seem to know what sleep was if he wasn't plastered. "Looks rough out there. Did you know that back in the old days, the wind could get so bad out there that the waves would just break a ship apart?"
Scott nodded, looking out himself. "Had to've been pretty damn brave, I suppose. I think I'll stick to starships."
"Easier to die."
"No... not really. Well, not back then." Corry smiled slightly, leaning his elbows on the back of the chair in front of him, still looking out. There was something beautifully dangerous about the ocean in a full-gale, something he grew up seeing on the shores of Maine. The current view only showed the sky, but he knew that the foam was streaking on the breaking waves below. Growing up in New England meant that he grew up with the stories of a time when ships still sank, and life or death could depend entirely on the wind and the skill of the men onboard. "It's kind of hard to believe that it's been almost a century since the last time a ship's gone down and someone actually lost their life."
"I wouldna say that's a bad thing," Scott pointed out, trying to see down through the cloud cover to the Atlantic's surface.
"Not at all, but we've gotten everything so fail-safe here on Earth that it's almost impossible to do anything
wrong." He knew that Scotty would be the last person in the world to understand, but he tried to explain anyway, "See, if we can't fail, we can't succeed either. Not unless we go out into the stars. But people used to go out on the water and that was like their final frontier, their lives on the line. Kinda makes me wish I was born about five hundred years ago."
"Why? I mean, ye've got a handful of sheets, a pile o' lumber, and if somethin' does go wrong, there's no emergency transport, no backup systems, nothin' standin' between you an' the deep." Scott shrugged, going back to drumming once he realized that he just couldn't crane his neck enough to see below. "If I'm gonna give my life, I'd want t' do it out there... up
there. Where I can make a difference, instead of relyin' on the right winds."
"Have you ever even been sailing?"
"No. Been out on power boats, though. Fishin', mostly, not too far out."
Corry grinned, trying to break away from the somewhat philosophical aire that had fallen. "Sheltered."
Scotty gave him a brief, not-really-irritated look. "If I were sheltered, I wouldna been allowed to hang glide. Tell me that's not wind related."
"Yeah, but hang gliding's different. That's a land-based thing."
"I went out over the water a few times. I just prefer the land scenery."
"Suuure. Uh huh. Right. Yep. Yessiree." Corry smirked, knowing full well exactly what the response to that needling would be.
Right on cue... "Ye're such a bastard sometimes."
Corrigan sighed happily, looking up at the ceiling with a self-satisfied look. "I know."