The value of a hard day's work - Otto Octavius
The value of a hard day's work|
From a young age, Otto Octavius had known the value of knowledge and hard work; with the first, the world ceased to be a confusing place, and the snatches of invention forming in his head could be translated into solid plans... and with the second, his grand ideas could be made concrete and he could prove his own brilliance to the world, placing himself above his peers as both a thinker and a doer. During the short time that he served as a professor for Penn. State, Doctor Octavius did all that he could to force an appreciation for both into the heads of his students, preaching that simply being smart was not enough, and that without the resolve and independant spirit one needed to see one's dreams to fruition, seeking greater understanding was a waste of time.
Though he had mellowed with time, (time spent in prison with nothing better to do than learn new things for the fun of it had given Otto new appreciation for the concept of having simply an amateur understanding of many things) he still clung to his objectivist philosophy and an elevated belief in the importance of the mechanical arts. It was these two qualities that made him about the worst candidate at Thunderbolts HQ for tutoring Robbie Baldwin in the field of basic metalwork. If he was going to be saddled with the troubled ex-hero, who had been ordered to assist the Doctor in the rebuilding of a priceless robotic harness, Otto was first going to ensure that the lad knew the 'basics' about the field, forcing him to study through an apprentice-level collection of textbooks and manuals on metallurgy, diemaking and milling. Once he felt certain that he could (almost) trust Robbie in a shop, the real fun... some basic experiments involving smelting and casting a few rough forms out of cheaper metal.... could begin.
* * * *
"Now.. can you tell me why it is important to add this limestone flux to the... Baldwin! Are you paying attention?" Otto glares at his apprentice, his tone the equivalent of a cuff upside the head. Unshaven, and dressed in a smock, goggles and raggedy clothing, the doctor looks far closer to his blue-collar roots than he would prefer to.
Robbie jerks out of a daydream, looking up from the scrapes on the corner of the table he's sitting at. "What! ...uh. Yessir."
He gives Ock a guilty look, even as the automatic lie slips out. He really is sorry for what he did, for losing control and destroying Octavius's harness. And he really does want to do what he can, to atone for it. But it would help, a lot, if this wasn't so boring.
"...limestone flux, uh..." Fuck, fuck. What does that do... "To remove impurities?"
Ock raises an eyebrow, turning his attention back to the smelting furnace that takes up one end of the room. How or where he got such a thing for his workshop in the Nexus is a mystery.
"It is. I'm glad that some of what I have taught you has managed to leach its way into your skull, Mr. Baldwin. It may seem tedious to a beginner, but all of this is quite basic... if you want to work with metal, you must understand the importance of everything in the operation. Forget something, and you'll ruin your materials, or worse. Tradesmen have to go through all sorts of trouble to become licensed because the lives can depend on the things they make... you wouldn't want a carpenter to improperly set up the joists in a house you were going to live in, and you wouldn't want to use tools or supplies made from impure steel."
As he speaks, his voice aquires a monotonous quality that Robbie has become well-aquainted with lately. The soporiphic effect of the Doc's voice might even be enough to make him miss the painful analogy in his lecture.
Aw, God, here he goes again. And Robbie had thought his high school teachers were bad...
"I got it after the first metaphor, sir."
...dammit. Rude again. >_
For a few minutes, the doctor is silent, checking on the furnace and its blisteringly-hot contents. Even with the distance, Robbie can probably feel the temperature in the room go up as the cupola's side panel is opened to briefly reveal its contents. Then, his voice muffled by the protective mask he has donned, Otto laughs.
"I guess that this is probably boring the hell out of you, isn't it... to be honest, I'm surprised you've played along with this for as long as you have." Well, at least he doesn't sound angry, right? He tilts the mask back and gives Robbie a directed look. "I'm curious, though.... why are you doing this? I don't think you really have any interest in learning how to become a diemaker or a millwright, and you know as well as I do that having you along is only going to slow my work down."
It's an easier question than 'why do we need to add the flux-capacitors,' by leaps and bounds, and Robbie even bothers to make eye contact with Octavius for it, looking determined. "It's my fault your actuators got broken." (Oh, yay, he even didn't use 'tentacles.') "I wanna make up for it."
It's more proactive than his usual self-flagellation, at least. Dr. Samson is probably pretty pleased.
Ock seems to consider this for a while as he works to clear the slag from the surface of the molten iron, his usual mutterings drowned beneath the roar of the furnce. Though Robbie may only understand it on a subconscious level, considering his limited relationship with the notorious Doctor Octopus, his sudden lack of words only means that he is actually trying to think about what the young man has said.
Alhough he would never admit it, this current project is as much about refreshing his own skills as a metallurgist and smith as they are about trying to teach anything to his young charge. If Robbie was going to be of any use to him as an extra set of hands, there were things that he would have to know and prove himself competent with. At the same time, it was clear that the doctor's current approach to instructing Robbie in the art of metalwork was utterly failing to pique his interest... or to really involve him in the process. If either of them are going to benefit from this arrangement, Otto will have to compromise and change his teaching methods.
The doctor heads towards a side room, and returns a moment later, straining a bit under the weight of the large metal case in his arms, which he drops onto the work surface with an ear-splitting crash. If Robbie got as far as the casting manual, (or if he's ever sat through an episode of "How It's Made") he should recognize it as a molding box. "If, for whatever reason, you found yourself in possession of a good quantity of molten iron, what would you choose to do with it, Mr. Baldwin? By now, you have a basic understanding of sand mold casting.... tell me what you would cast, and I will tell you how to cast it in iron."
Most people would expect the young man to say 'something sharp,' and that is the first thing that comes to mind -- but he doesn't want to make the doctor reconsider this offer (and casting isn't really good for sharp things anyway, he's pretty sure he remembers). So the second choice...
"A gift for a friend? I dunno what, exactly." Hmm.
Otto is a bit surprised that Robbie doesn't suggest sharp things, but he realizes several reasons why the young man wouldn't make that suggestion. "By itself, iron has a lot of useful applications, but it's heavy, brittle, and too prone to rusting. By treating it with magnesium, you can create ductile iron, which is sturdier... and by reducing its carbon content, you can create a variety of duller, but far more flexible iron alloys. If you want to make art out if iron, however, all you need is something that will last."
The Doc doesn't exactly seem like an artistic type, but.... he's probably hoping to inspire some kind of interest in this field of work in Robbie.
Something simple. A container, maybe, that he can put something in...? "How about for a box?" He gestures, demonstrating -- something smallish, maybe the size of a soup bowl? And it wouldn't need to be very flexible, so... "Just regular, or ductile?"
Otto nods, thoughtfully. Creating a box from sheet metal would make a lot more sense, but he's not going to point this out. After all, he's trying to encourage the kid to become interested in learning the basics of metalwork. He's still paying attention, so this is a start. "For a lighter object like a box, you won't be cutting anything with it, and you also don't want it to crack if it's dropped accidentally. Carbon gives iron an edge, but makes it more brittle. This makes sense to you?"
He frowns, vaguely. Damn, wrong. "I didn't really figure a box would need to bend that much, though."
Ock shakes his head. He doesn't seem frustrated with Robbie, at least, and that's a start. "No, but if you don't want its sides to be an inch thick, it will have to be flexible enough to withstand the stress of simply being created. Iron may be solid and sturdy, but it's not flexible. If you try to bend it, it simply snaps. Does that make sense to you?"
It's almost like he's talking about more than basic metallurgy.
He may very well be. But if so, Robbie either doesn't get it, or is just ignoring the subtext. Not the brightest tool in the shed, Baldwin. Or the most willing to take a hint. "Yeah, I guess. I didn't think it would be that brittle." Learning! It is happening!
"You wouldn't think, but that's the case. Tin and lead have always been preferred for light metalwork... both are softer and easier to work with. Still, if you are casting a box from iron, you simply have to alter it with a few additional elements, and take its qualities into consideration. By adding magnesium to the molten iron, its carbon content takes on a different shape and hardens into nodes, rather than flakes. From what I've said, can you tell me what this might do to the iron to make it more ductile?"
Hopefully, Robbie was paying attention during the doc's lecture back there.
Ductile. Ductile was.... softer or harder? Dammit.
Well, there was an even chance of getting it right or wrong if he just guessed... and back in high school, he'd have just gone for that, not really caring. But this was a little different.
"Reducing the carbon makes it softer. And adding --" He struggles for a moment, trying to remember. "...magnesium? Makes it harder?"