Drink and Derive
By Val Evenstar
It had been almost a week since Kirk and the Scottish engineer had beamed onto the Enterprise mid-warp, and curiosity was nearly killing Chekov. He had dreamed last night that he'd finally learned the secret, and woke up dismally disappointed. Today, though, things had settled down enough that he would have a chance to talk to Mr. Scott.
After his shift ended, he raced down to Engineering, PADD in hand. It was a quiet time for the ship, just after ten o'clock in the local night. Chekov saw a light under a door newly labeled, "Chief Engineer: Lt. Cmdr. M. Scott," and knocked.
"Come in," came the thick Scottish accent, and Chekov did.
The engineer was sitting behind a desk newly cluttered with half-open boxes; others, unopened, were scattered across the office floor.
"Mr. Scott, I am Pavel Chekov," he started. "If you have the time, I would like you to explain how you beamed aboard the ship during warp."
The man stared at him for a second, then blinked. "Oh, the Russian scientist from the bridge!" the Scot exclaimed, recognition dawning. "Well, have a seat, lad. Or a box, more likely. So you want to know about transporter physics, do you?"
"Yes, Mr. Scott!"
Scotty frowned. He understood the ensign's enthusiasm, but even though he had invented – or would invent – transwarp beaming, theoretical physics was not his cup of tea. Or glass of scotch, whichever way he preferred to put it.
"So lad... how much do you know about transporters?" he asked, stalling for time.
Time he definitely got; Chekov launched into a detailed but concise summary of his Intro Transport class and Transport Field Theory seminar. Scotty was forced to admit, with a sinking heart, that he would actually have to provide a decently rigorous explanation of something even he didn't quite understand yet. Handwaving would not work here.
So he started where Spock had started. He showed Chekov the equation, and sat back to see what the kid would make of it. He rather dreaded the outcome; the Russian's combined intelligence and loquaciousness did not bode well for Scotty's sleep schedule, or what little there was of it.
"This can't be right," Chekov finally said. "It is built entirely on the theoretical construct that relativity is incorrect."
Scotty frowned. "You mean, "I never thought to think of space as the thing that was moving,"" he hinted.
The Russian scowled, or made an attempt at a scowl. "No. I mean, yes. But - "
"Make up your mind, laddie," Scotty said gruffly, mostly because he knew what Chekov meant and really didn't have a good answer.
"But if you pick the matter stream to be your rest frame, the physics should be the same as if you picked space as your rest frame. The rest frame isn't important; it shouldn't change the physics, but here you are implying that it does. Which cannot be."
"It's just a way of making the math easier," Scotty bluffed. It was probably true, if it had been him who had written the equation in the first place. He hated math. "Like in first year physics, the method of images, aye?"
Chekov made a face that made Scotty feel like he had just thrown a scorpion to a kid on his birthday and told him to eat it. "Of course I remember," he said, and Scotty could hear how hard he was trying to hold back the disdain threatening to spill over. "But that does not matter here. The equation is implying that space moving and relativistic matter moving are like apples and oranges, not like the difference between red apples and green apples!"
"No.. it's like... " Scotty searched his mind for a good analogy. This was definitely not his cup of tea. Or glass of...
A wicked idea took root in the Scot's mind, and he smiled slowly and in a manner that he thought was quite menacing. "It's like the difference between scotch and vodka."
"What?" was all the Russian could manage, and Scotty secretly reveled in the look of utter incomprehension on his face.
"Aye. You see, scotch is like space. It's everywhere, and it allows the working world to go on. Vodka is like the matter stream. It's there sometimes, but most times it's not. Like the liquor content and the flavor. You may be able to get drunk on the rare bottle, but most times you don't."
Chekov was looking rather annoyed by now, and opened his mouth to start defending his drink of choice, but Scotty held up a hand and continued. Scotty was too deep into a hole to get himself out gracefully now, and he did not want to straight out admit that Chekov was right and Scotty didn't know the right answer – or not all of it - so he would cheat a little. "What I suggest, lad," he said, "Is that you go get some vodka, and I'll dig out my scotch, and I'll show you what I mean." He started opening boxes, found two shot glasses and put them on the desk, then kept searching for his secret stash of scotch. Chekov went reluctantly to fetch some of the vodka he'd received as a 'graduation' present – his parents hadn't liked calling him a dropout – and returned quickly. Scotty spent the entire time deep in thought, and still hadn't come up with a satisfactory explanation by the time the kid arrived with the alcohol. Oh well. He might as well have a little fun at the Russian's expense. Besides, it was quality vodka by the look of the bottle.
"Okay. What we have here - " he poured one glass of scotch and another of vodka, drank the scotch, and filled it up again - "Are two glasses, aye?"
"Aye," Chekov responded. "But what does it mean that - "
Scotty shushed him, then continued. "And in this one is scotch, and in the other is vodka. Now, drink the vodka."
Chekov's look was one of classic confusion, and Scotty made helpful gestures towards the glass until the Russian finally picked it up and drank it. When Chekov received no revelation after finishing the drink, he looked annoyed. Scotty chuckled to himself and refilled the glass.
"I don't see what - "
Scotty pushed the other glass at him. "Now drink the scotch," he instructed. He picked up the vodka himself, tapped it against Chekov's glass, and downed it. Not bad, for vodka.
The kid choked on the drink, and Scotty hid a laugh behind a cough as he watched him try to finish it. "Never had scotch before? No wonder you're so puny." As the Russian was unable to defend himself, being at the moment occupied with breathing, Scotty took full advantage of the situation. "Scotch, now that's a drink for a man," he went on. "Whole armies have been fueled on this drink. If it weren't for scotch, man would never have conquered space."
Chekov had recovered enough breath by now to protest. "If it weren't for the Russians, you mean. Russia was the first in space, and the first man in space. Also vodka was the first drink in space. It was sent up with Sputnik II, and with Yuri Gagarin, by his request of course. Not this -" he waved his hand distastefully - "scotch."
"There's where you're wrong, laddie," Scotty said. "What do you think went in the engines of the rocket, hey? Vodka's nowhere near strong enough!" He laughed.
"So now scotch is rocket fuel and not space? You are a very confusing man, Mr. Scott. I asked about transporters and you tell me about rockets."
Scotty grinned; he liked this kid, who pouted over being denied physics instead of alcohol. Then he frowned; on second thought, he hated him, coming in and demanding a complex explanation after a long day's work. It wasn't like he was some professor with office hours, for crying out loud. Scotty had another drink.
"Transporters, aye," he said, stalling again. "Where were we? Yes, so scotch is like space. And rocket fuel, but for now it is space. And so what we want to do is get the matter stream – vodka – through space at a speed where it is no longer really matter."
"Yes! But now in addition to the hyper-relativistic mechanics of any object traveling faster than light, there is the quantum mechanical problem of trying to influence the exact path of billions of particles! The uncertainty at warp speeds is tremendous, yet a transporter must reconstruct the elementary particles in exactly the same way as before. How did you do that? It should be a statistical impossibility, no matter how you think of space or matter!"
Chekov was very excited by now, so Scotty poured him more vodka to calm him down. "Well," he said. "It's not impossible, because I did it. This part of the equation - " he pointed to the screen - "accounts for quantum variations. See?"
"Of course! But how?"
They both stared at the equation, thinking.
"It's something about the matter stream," Scotty supplied eventually. "Transwarp and subwarp streams are different. I had to adapt the converters a lot to make this work."
Chekov nodded, and took over. "In subwarp beaming, the matter can be sent through space and reconstructed because it is not traveling relativistically yet, and the uncertainty is small."
Scotty nodded helpfully, and poured some vodka into his glass of scotch. "Like so," he said. "If I could do this in reverse, too," he added. He tasted it, then spit it out. "And that, my lad, is the best possible way to ruin good scotch."
Chekov glared at him, and absently tried the mixture. "You poisoned the vodka," he complained.
Scotty chuckled. "There's more scotch than vodka in there, boy." He poured a glass of vodka and then added a bit of scotch. "This would be your 'poisoned vodka'." He tried it, and spat it out. Chekov did the same.
"Tastes just as bad, aye?"
Chekov nodded, then suddenly froze. Scotty eyed him warily. "Chekov?" he asked. The deer-in-the-headlights look was only amusing for so long. He wondered if the drink mixtures had indeed been toxic.
After what seemed an eternity, Chekov moved, at a rate which seriously made the Scot question his sanity.
"They taste exactly the same! Just the same!" the Russian exclaimed animatedly.
"Aye, they do," Scotty said cautiously, wondering if Chekov had taken leave of his senses.
"What if beaming relativistic matter was a state process? If only the beginning and the end affected it, and not the path it takes? Then however you put the matter through space, as long as it had a certain starting point, it could only have one unique ending point!"
Scotty started to see what had the Russian so excited. "Then the only quantum effects you would need to include would be the ones in the transporter itself! And of course the energy and time uncertainties from traveling at warp! Which is exactly what the equation says!" Space was moving? What had he been thinking? It was an easy mistake to make, sure, but Scotty had thought he was above that kind of thing.
Triumphantly, he poured half a glass of scotch and then filled the rest with vodka, then tasted it. And spit it out. "It tastes the same!" he crowed.
Chekov was grinning insanely and muttering in Russian as he scratched down an equation or two. Scotty poured them each a glass of scotch to celebrate. "A toast!" he proclaimed.
"To state processes!" Chekov cried, and they touched their glasses together.
"And to scotch, which made it all possible!" Scotty said, and raised his glass again. It was met with empty air and a frowning Chekov.
"You mean vodka! There is no beaming without the matter stream."
"But space is everywhere! It makes warp speed possible! And scotch is the better drink."
It was perhaps fortuitous that the door opened at that moment to reveal a very surprised Kirk. The budding animosity between the two scientists was set aside for the more important business of enlightening the captain about their discovery. Kirk thought, as he listened to the half-drunk engineer and mostly-drunk physicist, that if they could sound this smart while inebriated, he didn't want to ever have them sober. It was taking all of his own considerable intellect to follow their obviously dumbed-down explanation of Scotty's equation and what it meant for the future of transwarp quantum field theory. He helped himself to some scotch, and then some vodka, and their math seemed a little more understandable after that.
Suddenly he burst out laughing. Chekov stopped, confused, in the middle of his object lesson of mixing drinks, and Scotty shot a not-so-subtle annoyed glance at him for the interruption of his derivation.
"What's so funny then?" he asked Kirk.
Kirk could have named several hilarious things about the situation, from his underaged ensign trying to explain particle physics with alcohol to his chief engineer making a drinking game out of said explanation, but there was one thing that just took the cake. "You know what's the best part of all this?" he chuckled. "You probably won't even remember any of this brilliant physics in the morning."
Kirk watched as the truth crashed down on the two scientists like an anvil from a skyscraper. They were both drunk enough to know it was true and sober enough to be utterly crushed because of it. Kirk thought he could see tears forming in Scotty's eyes, and Chekov looked like someone had stolen his new toy. Which Kirk probably had.
Kirk finished off his scotch and put the glass back on the table. He stood and prepared to leave; they were both adults and would have to deal with the consequences of their actions. But he couldn't resist a parting shot as he walked out the door: "This ought to teach you never to drink and derive."
A/N: Kudos to Elspeth . Davidson for the idea. Please pardon the bad (as in absolutely horrible) physics and the geekishness. But I think it is funny :) This is (sort of) a sequel to Seventeen, but stands alone of course.
And no, physics review sessions are not like this. If they were, there would probably be a lot more physics majors in the world, haha.