Life was to be lived by definitions.
If you sat down and thought carefully about it, everything in life was bound by at least a few definitions. Come to think of it, definitions were almost like rules in most aspects, and their presence was probably one of the things in life that was constant, aside from change, which is of course the only true constant of all existence.
Quality was usually defined by the versatility, hardiness, and practicality of a product. Greatness was defined by achievements and strength. Lives were defined by an almost infinite pool of variables, be they other people, work, or any one of the passions that one could embrace. People were defined by their achievements, their successes, their failures and sins. Everywhere you looked, you would find something that existed as everything else did; according to a set of definitions.
And that was the principle by which a woman named Clair Cameron Patterson lived by.
Corel was not a beautiful town, even by the loosest definitions of the word. To most others, it was a hideous little shanty of a town, with its numerous run-down houses, and the perpetual, foul odor of coal fires and machine oil that lingered in the smog-saturated air.
Beautiful, as defined by one of the dictionaries available in the dusty bowels of Corel's little understocked library, was 'an adjective used to describe something that possesses beauty'. When you looked up 'beauty' in the same dictionary, you would have found that it was said to be 'the characteristic(s) of an object, being, place, or idea that provides a perception of pleasure, satisfaction, or meaning' or 'a word typically used to describe something that is aesthetically-pleasing'.
To Clair Patterson, a teenage girl growing up in the black-stained coal mining town, beauty held a different meaning altogether. Based on her point of view, only things that were versatile, functional, and well-designed were worthy of being labeled as beautiful. Aside from the human body, and the physical bodies of various life forms, she only considered machines to be beautiful.
A tractor, working with its well-oiled pistons and hydraulics was beautiful. Trains, with their complex assemblage of parts providing safe and reliable locomotion, were beautiful. Drills and other heavy machines, all beautiful by virtue of their functions, reliability, and well thought-out designs. Often enough, on the way home after school, she would stop by the quarries around town, or near the dark, seemingly bottomless opening of a mineshaft. Her little stops were exclusively for marveling at the various types of machinery that she saw lying around or in operation.
It was after one of those stops, on a day no different than any other in the polluted town named Corel, that Clair decided on the career she would pursue as soon as she got the chance.
Engineering was commonly known as a field where people created, designed, and built things. And to Clair, nothing could be better than a job where you were paid to design and create. It was especially worth it, she decided, if your creations were beautiful.
And of course, she followed no other person's definition of the word 'beautiful'. She would be an engineer, and she would do things her way before, when, and after she got there.
Professionalswere people who pursued a particular vocation, and who had been trained in that particular field. Or so read the definition of the word 'professional' in a battered old dictionary that was never further than ten feet away from an equally-battered satchel which was used to carry it.
The people of Corel were pleasantly surprised that the loudmouthed firebrand known as Clair Patterson had actually managed to make it to the University of Wutai on a full scholarship once she had completed her secondary schooling with straight distinctions. Even her own parents had not known about their daughter's studiousness and determination in the matter; one day, a letter had arrived in their cramped little house, and she ahd told them the good news with only the slightest hints of a smile on a her face.
Now in her final year of tertiary education, Clair was among the five best students pursuing Engineering at the prestigious university. She didn't fail to notice the way the other students looked down on her, and to be frank about it, she couldn't have cared less. All she cared about was completing her studies, and then getting a stable job as an engineer.
Of course, any engineering job that took her even further away from Wutai would have been welcome.
When she completed her degree, she was given the option of staying on for an additional year to be granted a First-Class Honors degree.
She agreed, despite her abhorrence towards anything generally Wutaian. After all, professionals were trained individuals, and it wouldn't do for her to go off and do some half-past six job on the actual 'training' itself now, would it?
The decision to stay on for her Honors year was a life-changing decision for Clair Patterson.
Her assigned supervisor for the extra year of study was an old grouch named Professor Zudokorn Piyotte. He was a broad-shouldered giant of a man with a voice making it unnecessary for him to ever use a megaphone, and a tendency to wear frilly, colorful shirts to work. People generally avoided him if they could, and if they had been assigned to work under his supervision, appeals to the dean for a different supervisor were not uncommon.
Admittedly, his flaming temper and love of anything that contained alcohol might have been one of the factors influencing the decisions of those harried students, but it was his insistence - some would say obsession - that absolute precision and quality be maintained that usually was considered the reason why many hated working with or under him.
Clair, however, found herself respecting the towering professor with his volcanic temper. His credentials were excellent, and in his days of actual field work, he had designed many beautiful buildings, machines, and even vehicles. Now that he was only several years shy of retirement, he had decided to retreat from the field, and had picked up teaching. Somehow, that year, when Clair Patterson was staying on for her Honors degree, he had decided to take on only one assigned student.
And so the two of them worked together, trying to make her Honors degree a reality. He drove her forward with his profanity-saturated lectures and violent outbursts, and she worked to satisfy the course requirements and to placate her arguably insane supervisor.
Sometimes, she would walk into his office in the morning to find him snoring and drooling on his desk, an empty bottle of some type of liquor lying next to him. He was the easiest to tolerate when he was drunk, since his temper wasn't quite as fiery compared to when he was sober.
It had been on one of those drunken mornings, just a couple of months before she graduated, that he had actually spoken to her without directing a single vulgar word towards her.
"Clair, you'e a damned fine engineering student. And I mean that well... you've pretty much got it nailed down as a career. Always remember, though... If you take pride in your work, and can be proud about it, no one's gonna dare fuck about with you."
A polite, "Excuse me?" heavily-laced with disbelief had elicited the following response:
"Well, pride's... Pride's sticking your head up when those crackpot fools have theirs bowed, and obviously, it takes courage and balls to do that... Do your job well, and never let anyone of those mothershitting fucksticks tell you that you can't do it."
After that, he had promptly passed out on the floor, crashing down with such force that his colleagues came running from three rooms away to see what the fracas was about.
After an explanation to the other professors that her supervisor had not been trying to molest her, she had been told to go back to her dorm while he slept off last night's liquor.
On the way out, she distinctly heard one of the professors biting back a snort of laughter.
"Old clod's going round the bend this time, hoo boy! Drunk at work, hah!"
"We'll see him go before the year is out, I think."
A person was defined by his or her achievements, vocation, and successes and failures.
Such was the belief of Clair Patterson, now a woman working her way up the ladder in the ShinRa Electric Company. She had changed a lot since the day when her Honors degree supervisor had literally dropped dead in front of her due to alcohol poisoning, and her own parents probably couldn't have recognized her now.
Hair once a flaming shade of red was now obscenely blond, and plaited back into a long ponytail. Her colleagues called her Scarlet, much to her annoyance, and dyeing the hair in question hadn't done the trick to stopping their usage of that tiresome nickname - she thought it sounded like the street- name of some cheap slut.
Three years passed, and soon enough, she had taken over a department, sitting on the board of executives as the Head of Weapons Development. Her predecessor had unfortunately vanished after trying to abuse her body and his position, and she really didn't mind the convenient promotion. The people working under her soon realized that their boss was someone you didn't fuck with, and that suggestions of her rank being achieved by sleeping around would be shut down with a bullet to the forehead of the unfortunate gossiper who slandered her.
She was damned if she was going to let anyone spread rumors that she had slept her way to the top.
She might have been heartless and many other things, but she was not a slut.
For a while, things were good. She created weapons that were as aesthetically-pleasing as they were deadly, and was one of the main minds behind the designing of the great city of Midgar. She took great pleasure in watching the videos taken of her creations being used to level Wutai's troops during the war against the cursed nation of the rising sun, and eventually, she decided to try designing the only type of weapon that she had never tried to build before.
She had tried and succeeded in building everything from automated security drones to armored tanks, but she had yet to design an automaton, or mecha-soldier.
The first design was a little noisy and inefficient for her taste, but President ShinRa approved of it, and had it deployed to kill several terrorists from AVALANCHE. The Airbuster failed in its very first mission, however, and the designs were thrown into cold storage while she worked on something better.
Her next creation was finally something she could be proud of. Armed heavily enough to level parts of Midgar if it had to, it was probably the most advanced automaton of the century. Manual overrides of its controls could be done, and there was even a cockpit that allowed up to four people to pilot the huge mechanical monstrosity if the need ever arose.
Technically speaking, automatons weren't supposed to be controlled by anyone; they were supposed to work independently and efficiently. But she decided that such a deadly creation couldn't be allowed to go free, and so the manual overrides were built into its programming.
When the day came to name the thing, she was, for once, stumped.
Many names came to mind, but none seemed to fit the pseudo-automaton, a war machine that would have been capable of destroying an entire city if it was given the chance to do so. Names were important, she decided, since names gave the primary definition of what a being was. Even a few hours spent leafing through the ancient dictionary she had lifted from her hometown's library hadn't yielded a suitable word to describe the machine's personality or ability.
Finally, she settled on a name for the machine. It was a name which honored the man whose own mind had been the basic plan from which the machine's personality programming had been modeled after, and she took great relish in scrawling the two words on the cover of the folder which held the automaton's designs.
And that was how Scarlet's final design came to be known as the 'Proud Clod'.