Dear Granny,

I almost can't believe it. I've been assigned, and it's too good to be true. I'm going to be an engineer on the USS Amestris! Granny, it's a galaxy-class ship, and one of the most powerful explorer vessels in the entire fleet! The warp technology on the Amestris is absolutely state of the art—I can't wait to get to know it better. I could write about it for ten more paragraphs, but I know you don't want to strain your eyes. I'll tell you all about the mechanics of it later—don't you worry!

I jumped up and down and nearly strangled Paninya when I found out I'd been assigned. She was jealous. She hasn't gotten her assignment yet, but I think it's wishful thinking to hope we'll both be assigned to the same ship. I thought she might take me out with one of those leg cannons of hers (I really wish you could see her droids, Granny—they're way more over-the-top than anything you'd ever make, but I think you'd find them interesting).

I can't believe how quickly it's all gone by—all my time at the Academy has just been training wheels for the real thing. I'm finally going to explore the quadrant, and I just can't believe that I get to put my hands on—well, around, at least, because warp plasma would vaporize my bones—that magnificent warp core! In just one week, I go aboard. The time is going to pass so slowly…

But Paninya is taking me out tonight to celebrate, and hopefully I can cheer her up too. She's worried she'll be assigned to some "boring" science vessel analyzing a particularly uninteresting class 2 nebula. In fact, she's glaring daggers at me right now because I'm taking too long to finish writing. I'd better not get on her bad side at this point.

I love you, and I'll talk to you again soon!

Winry


"I researched your ship for you while you were taking so long to finish writing," said Paninya, reaching for a handful of peanuts.

"But I already researched it! I found out all about the warp technology it implements—they've got these new antimatter containers that really maximize—"

"No, you big nerd, I mean the people on the ship."

"Oh." Winry cocked an eyebrow at her smirking friend. "Well—I would have gotten there eventually too. I did find out who the chief engineer is."

"Who cares! Do you even know the name of the captain?" Paninya tossed a peanut in her mouth and swished her glass around. The two were sitting in one of the favorite recreational haunts of the Academy youth—a restaurant and bar that, despite its popularity, always had a quiet corner to facilitate conversation.

"I know I saw it somewhere…" Winry's eyebrows creased in concentration.

Paninya saved her the trouble. "Roy Mustang, war hero and ladies man. I heard he tried to put through an initiative to get those dumb miniskirts back on the mandatory list for the female uniform, but it got shot down. How sad."

Winry wrinkled her nose in distaste. "He can't be worse than the professors always told us Kirk was. The man's skirt-chasing made it into the history books."

"I don't know. I guess Captain Mustang has more than a few notches in his belt. And not all of them are human, from what I gather."

"Paninya, where do you even hear this stuff?!" Winry sipped her drink and chuckled.

"I guess I should try to stay in engineering and away from the bridge. I'm not in the mood to have my ass grabbed by someone who's probably slept with a Klingon."

"Good luck to you." Paninya raised her glass. "Maybe his second in command keeps him in check. She's part Vulcan, and deadly."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, she's kind of a legend. I heard she took out a Romulan warship with one photon torpedo when she was chief tactical officer on the USS Central Pride a few years ago."

"Paninya, I'm starting to seriously question your research methods—"

"Oh, but wait, get this—her name's Hawkeye. Seriously, it's her family name, not even a nickname."

Winry looked at her friend, feeling skeptical, yet impressed. These people had already built reputations for themselves—enough for Paninya to have overheard plenty about them in bar gossip—and here she was, Winry Rockbell, getting ready to join their ranks. She wondered who would be telling stories about her in five years, about how many Romulan warships she'd taken out with her…wrench?

She returned to her friend's hyperbolic descriptions with a question. "Just how…Vulcan…is she?"

"Only a quarter. And that's just as well, in my opinion. Bunch'a pointy-eared misanthropes…"

Paninya devolved into grumbling, while Winry grinned into her drink. Her friend's enthusiastic personality had clashed violently and frequently with those of the Vulcan students at the Academy.

"Anyone else of interest?" asked Winry, once she thought Paninya had nearly complained herself out.

"Hmm…you already know about the chief engineer. Lieutenant Commander Dominic LeCoulte, or the 'Dilithium Demon,' as he seems to be known in general company."

Paninya grimaced, and Winry laughed.

"He's scared off countless ensigns, so you're in for a challenge, Win."

Winry smirked confidently. "I grew up the granddaughter of Pinako Rockbell. I'd love to see him intimidate me."

Paninya laughed, then suddenly cried out and snapped her fingers. "Oh! And how could I forget the child prodigies!"

"Child prodigies?" Winry didn't actually believe there were children serving aboard the Amestris.

"Well, not really child prodigies. But these two are a bit infamous. They never went to Starfleet Academy, and it sounds like they've lived in starships ever since they were born."

"How in the world did they get away with skipping the Academy?!"

Winry nearly knocked over the bowl of peanuts. This couldn't be true—it was just more of Paninya's exaggerated storytelling. It was too unfair: a couple brats who just happened to have grown up in space instead of on a planet (freaks!), being allowed to skip all their formal training, while she, whose life dream it had always been to be chief engineer, had to slave away in her classes!

Paninya shrugged.

"Oh, so this one you don't know, mistress of gossip?"

"Hey, I'm not omniscient. Anyway, I forget their names, but they're both super-scientists. The older one's already a lieutenant and he's just about the age to graduate from the Academy by now if he had actually gone here."

Winry's knuckles ached as she gripped the stem of her glass. This was not acceptable. She had pushed herself to the edge of sanity, stayed up all night for weeks before exams, harangued her professors and tutors, run herself ragged until the very day before graduation, all so that she could be the best officer. And her competition included some petted "genius" boy who already outranked her? She briefly contemplated a transfer request—then the thought of the Amestris' warp drive immediately drove the idea from her mind.

She saw Paninya giving her a funny look as the glass complained under her iron grip.

"Winry. Don't freak. Do you want me to tell you that you're literally an engineering goddess? Because I will! And you are! Just ignore these guys—they're in an entirely different division of ship's functions. You'll probably never see the lieutenant anyway, because he's always on the bridge—science officer, I guess."

Winry sighed, loosening her death grip.

"I guess I just feel like I'm still under so much pressure, even after graduation. I was already competitive, and the Academy certainly didn't do anything to change that. And now a midget outranks me. Perfect."

Paninya giggled. "You have no idea how tall he is."

Winry narrowed her eyes. "I just have a feeling."