As Zorn continued to walk with Jordan, Jace and Dave, he quickly turned around. There was a blur of motion toward Zorn and then Zorn instinctively reacted. That was when Dave noticed the broken mop handle by Crewman Head's hand as he lay against a bulkhead. The look of surprise on Head's face told a tale. Zorn immediately started to apologize, "I'm sorry Captain, I could sense the attack and reacted on instinct. He came at me and I just did a quick back hand, I didn't mean any harm."
"You don't need to apologize. I can see that he was about to attack you, and I am sorry for that," Dave apologized. Then he called out, "We have a medical emergency at my location."
Seconds later, the HMH appeared and started his usual spiel before seeing Head lying on the floor. The "Howser" stated, "It appears that crewman Head has suffered blunt force trauma to the back of the skull and perhaps a broken neck. He is dead, Dave. I will know more with an autopsy."
Zorn looked down, "I feel really bad. Here I am on a peaceful mission, making first contact, and I killed someone. I am truly sorry."
"Zorn, it was self-defense," Dave declared. "If you hadn't reacted, he was going to try and kill you. You did nothing wrong. You did say that he was a troubled individual."
Upon hearing the commotion, Aiden, who wasn't far behind them, came running. He looked at Jordan and declared, "I was afraid of something like this happening. One of the reasons I wanted extra security with Zorn was for his protection."
"Aiden, if you can have some men assist with taking this body to Sick Bay so Doogie can perform his autopsy, I would appreciate it. The rest of us need to head for the bridge so we may continue our mission."
"Aye, Sir," Aiden replied and then called for a couple of security personnel to assist. The rest of the officers continued their journey towards the bridge, with Aiden catching up once his men arrived.
The officers took their places; Zorn, since he didn't officially have a place, occupied an otherwise empty seat. Given time, the crew finished testing the upgrades until they were a hundred percent satisfied that everything was at the utmost efficiency.
With everyone satisfied, the mission continued toward "New Earth" as Kepler 186f had become known. Kepler 186f was the first planet similar in size to Earth in the habitable orbit zone of its star. It was discovered in the year 2015. Since then, other planets have also been discovered, and are being explored by the other ships.
As the Sooloo approached the planet, Aiden became alert. "Captain, there is another ship approaching the planet."
"Another Sinocardian?" Dave questioned.
Aiden ran a few scans before replying, "No Sir, it appears to be another Explorer Class, the SS Endurance, to be precise."
Dave gave a funny look, but Kyle seemed agitated. He knew that the Endurance was the ship on which his nemesis, Devin French, served. "Hail them," Dave ordered.
Within minutes, the captain of the Endurance was on screen, "Captain Bowman, are you lost?"
In the background, you could hear a voice stating, "I knew that little twerp, Robinson, would get them lost."
Dave placed a hand on Kyle's shoulder, "I was about to ask you the same question, Captain Garcia. If your Astrogator checks his equipment, I am sure that you will see you are about to orbit Kepler 186f, the planet we were assigned to explore."
Garcia asked French to verify where they were and the look of shock on his face was apparent. "I don't know how we got so far off course, Sir."
"And what were you just saying about Commander Robinson getting them lost? I believe you owe that officer an apology."
Kyle smiled as French refused to apologize. While he may not get to see it, he knew that Captain Garcia would deal with him in private. Captain Garcia then requested, "Captain, since we are already here, would you have a problem if we joined you on this exploration? And while we are exploring, perhaps your Chief Astrogator can check our course back to where we are supposed to be."
"No Sir, that little twerp is not touching my equipment, I can set the course back," French protested.
"I will deal with you later, but this is my ship and if Captain Bowman will allow me to borrow Commander Robinson for a few minutes, I will make good use of him. Am I clear?"
French seemed to slink down in his seat, "Yes Sir."
Dave looked at Kyle, "Knowing a little of the history between you and French, I am not ordering you to go over there, but if you would like to show him his mistakes, I am sure Captain Garcia would appreciate it." Kyle gave Dave a grin, so Dave replied, "My Chief Astrogator has agreed that he will assist on one condition."
"While he is over there, he will be the one in charge and he will work with Mr. French."
"NO!!!" Devin shouted.
Garcia replied, "I have no problem with that, and if Mr. French does, he can either step down or accept my decision."
"FUCK!" was heard by everyone on both bridges. Kyle kept quiet, anticipating the pleasure of showing Devin where he made mistakes.
Dave continued, "And while we are together, I have much information discovered about our ships. You may have noticed my guest on our bridge. He is a Sinocardian. He has helped us immensely in improving our efficiency. We sent a subspace message back to Earth with everything that we discovered, but you won't get it from them for perhaps weeks. Would you like it if we transmitted the file over to you so that you may improve your efficiency as well?"
"I was about to ask you who the alien was. You say he is Sinocardian? I've never heard of the race."
Dave chuckled, "Neither did we until we had the pleasure of meeting Zorn."
"As for making our ship more efficient, I'm sure that you've tested and retested everything, so that's a silly question, Captain. Of course, I would."
"Mr. Rivers, would you begin transmitting the file over, please?"
Zorn spoke up, "Captain, I am concerned. I realize that the Endurance will eventually get the upgrades, but I don't think they should receive them early while that boy is being disrespectful to Kyle or any member of this crew."
"Zorn, is it?" Captain Garcia asked. "I assure you, that boy will be dealt with and I am unhappy with his disrespect. I apologize for his disrespectfulness and understand your misgivings."
"Thank you, Captain," Zorn responded. "I do feel better hearing you say that."
"You have my word, while Mr. Robinson is over here, Mr. French will either apologize or face severe consequences."
"Very well, I sense that you are being honest."
Jordan began the transmission, but suggested, "Captain, it would be more efficient if we send over Commanders Blackwell, Martin and Kanye to help."
Dave nodded and then invited Captain Garcia along with a few of his staff members over for a chance to discuss strategy for exploration.
Jace announced, "I'll have Ensign Harper prepare a shuttle to take the four of us over. I'll let the others know. Kyle, grab what you need and meet us in the shuttle bay in twenty minutes."
"Go without Kyle, but send the shuttle back. I wish to have Kyle meet with Captain Garcia and myself before he goes over."
"Hal, you have the Conn. Commander Robinson and I will go meet Captain Garcia in the shuttle bay and escort him to the conference room."
Kyle virtually bounced off the bridge after receiving his orders from Captain Bowman. Things were looking great yet again—he was going to be able to stare that asshole Devin French right in his face and show him what a dumbshit he was. Kyle knew that in order for the Endurance to end up where it was, Devin had to have made a large error and he was going to be more than happy to rub Devin's nose in it.
He was struck by a sudden thought and closed his eyes to contemplate it. Sure, Devin had to have made a large error, but suppose he couldn't find it. Or suppose it was a mistake that nobody ever thought could be made. What if he looked just as stupid as Devin? He would never hear the end of it—it would be another 'in your face' triumph for Devin French.
As he seemed to do so often, Kyle was fighting an internal battle between his supreme confidence in his abilities while at the same time wondering if he was as good as he thought he was. Dave Bowman had reminded him more than once that he was a boy and not yet a teenager. He had never in his life had the kind of responsibility that he had been given—making sure that a starship with over seventy crew members ended up where it was supposed to end up. Dave had told him that even seasoned, adult astrogators could have their moments of self-doubt. What he didn't mention was that the same could be said of ship's captains as well.
As Dave and Kyle walked, Dave began to speak, "I don't need to be an empath to feel your uncertainty. I know you are apprehensive about facing Devin French, but I have faith in you. I know that you are capable of handling anything thrown at you or I wouldn't let you do this."
"What if I…"
"Don't play the 'what if' game. What if I never got accepted to the Academy… what if I never met Hal… There are so many possibilities when you say, 'what if.'"
"I know, but I don't know if I can find the mistake that brought them here."
"If you do, great. And if you don't, so what? I know you will still be able to help them get back on course. You have shown me that you belong in your seat. Don't let Devin or anyone else convince you otherwise."
"Thanks, Dave," Kyle chirped as he gave Dave a hug. Then they watched through the observation window as the shuttle from the Endurance landed in the shuttle bay. The door opened and the two went to greet Captain Garcia.
While those on Garcia's staff were escorted to the conference room, Dave and Kyle escorted the Captain to Dave's Ready Room. "Captain, before Commander Robinson goes over to your ship, I thought it important for him to explain his side of the relationship he has had with Devon French."
"I've heard a little about it from French, trying to explain why he doesn't want you around his equipment. His Assistant Chief Astrogator gave me a slightly different view of the story. I was hoping to hear what you have to say on it. I bet it'll be closer to what Hudson stated."
Though he never had much contact with him, Kyle knew Lewis Hudson from Astrogation classes. Kyle felt a little more at ease, as Garcia really did respect him and cared that his crew was respectful. This man seemed to care about learning the truth from all sides. Kyle told his version of the events that happened between Devin and him. Captain Garcia listened intently. When Kyle was done, Garcia offered his thoughts, "Gathered from what Hudson told me and listening to you just now, French thinks that even though you've earned your place, you were given special privileges based on who your father is."
"I can assure you, Sir, I was not."
"I understand that, and again, I am sorry that a member of my crew has been disrespectful. I do believe that French owes you an apology, and I will do my best to make sure it happens."
"Thank you, Eric," Dave offered, looking at Captain Garcia, "I'm sure Kyle feels better about going over." Then, he turned to Kyle, "Go prepare for your mission on the Endurance. Captain Garcia and I need to discuss a few things about what to expect when we go down to the planet."
Knowing he would be on a shuttle ferrying him to the Endurance soon made it imperative to Kyle that he got his thoughts straightened out immediately. He got out of his chair and walked to his dresser where he picked up his talisman—his comforter—the thing in his life that had helped him get into positive contact with himself when he needed the help, Megrez the Penguin.
He sat back in his chair, propping the stuffed penguin on his left knee. "What are you thinking, Megrez?" he asked softly. "Am I really better than Devin French, or would I have ended up making the same gross mistake he made because I didn't know what was happening either?"
The penguin's dark eyes reflected the lights of the room as the stuffed animal sat patiently on the young boy's lap. "You never say anything to me, but you also say all kinds of shit to me." Kyle picked Megrez up and held him in front of his face. "Zorn says you help connect me to the stars—that they talk to me, but they also talk to you so you can tell me even more." Silence.
Kyle rubbed the soft fur of the penguin against his own smooth cheek. Megrez was not saying anything, but Kyle could feel the warmth of the little animal and the comfort it gave him. Then, in his mind, Kyle heard the words 'too much'. Whether that came directly from the stars or through his treasured mascot didn't matter. What mattered was that he had been spoken to, even if he wasn't sure of what it meant. He sat in the chair, holding the penguin against his face, letting his mind clear of the poisonous thoughts that tried to tell him he wasn't the best at what he did. They were the kind of thoughts that the Devin Frenches of the galaxy tried to make him believe—the kind of thoughts he could not take with him to the Endurance—the kind of thoughts that had to stay right here in this room.
Those thoughts were interrupted by Danny's entrance into the cabin. Danny observed his roommate and lover sitting in his chair staring at the wall as he held Megrez against his face. "Are you okay?" Danny asked with concern.
Danny's voice startled Kyle who had been so deep in thought he hadn't heard the door open. "Oh, hi Danny. Yeah, I'm fine now. What are you doing here?"
"I should ask you the same thing. Aren't you supposed to be doing some calculations or something?" Word of Kyle's impending trip to the Endurance spread quickly through the corridors of the Sooloo.
"Yeah. It won't take me long—I got some automatic calculations started on the astrogation computer before I came down here."
"You said you were fine now. That means you weren't fine before. What's going on?"
"Damn, you don't miss a thing do you Danny? I guess that's why you're my best friend."
"Okay, okay," Kyle chuckled, "my boyfriend."
"That's better. And to answer your question, I came to see if you were okay. I know what you think of that French dude"
"How did you know I was here?"
"Duh, do I need to answer that?"
"No, I guess not." Kyle got out of the chair, set Megrez down on his desk, and stepped to the beautiful boy in front of him. He planted a gentle, loving kiss on Danny's face, which Danny returned with a bit more fervor. After a minute of enjoying the touch, feel and love of each other they broke the brief, but heartfelt kiss and looked into each other's eyes. "I swear, I don't know what I'd do without you. Every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up, I thank the stars that you are here in my life. I love you so very much, Danny."
"I love you, too, Kyle, but don't go getting all mushy on me when you've got serious work to do."
"Shit, way to bring a guy back to reality. Yeah, I have serious business all right. I have a Grade A asshole to nail."
"Be careful, Kyle. Like I said, I know how much you hate Devin French, but remember, your job is to find the mistake not to nail his ass. Don't try to do too much or you'll get yourself into trouble. Find the mistake and the rest will take care of itself." The stars had given him two words: 'too much.' Now he had just heard Danny use the same two words. Knowing how the stars communicated, Kyle didn't think that was a coincidence.
"When did you become so smart?" Kyle smiled.
"Since I had to start babysitting my sometimes-crazy boyfriend." Kyle flipped Danny his middle finger while flashing a playful grin. "Want to have lunch with me?" Danny asked.
"I'm too nervous to eat."
"And you'll be a major wreck if you don't."
"Okay, Mom, if you say so. Now, let's hurry because Dave wants me to report at 13:30. I just need to pack a couple of things in my grip and I'm ready."
The few things Kyle packed in his black leather satchel were his computer, two pens, two black notebooks and, of course, Megrez. He took the satchel with him as he and Danny went to lunch.
Kyle had been worried that he might be inundated with questions about his upcoming mission, but his fellow officers in the dining hall, with the kind of professionalism Dave Bowman had been drilling into their psyches, either left Kyle and Danny alone or brought up a different topic.
After eating a BLT, Kyle thanked Danny for being there for him, gave him a quick kiss, told him he loved him, and headed to the bridge. He realized Danny had been right about eating; he was feeling better with food in his stomach.
before Kyle left, though, Jordan brought the twins to the Officers' Mess and when they saw Kyle and Danny sitting, they ran over to him. "Unca Kyle, we missed you," they announced harmoniously.
"But you just saw me yesterday."
Jonas explained, "Uh huh, and we missed you since then."
"Unfortunately, you boys will have to miss me some more. I have to go over to the other ship and see if I can find where they made a mistake. I promise, I will be back, though."
"Can we eat ice cream with you, before you go?"
"What kind would you like?"
Again, in harmony, the boys shouted "CHOCOLATE!!!"
Kyle returned with a huge bowl and Jason declared, "Too much."
As expected, John Luke was taking the watch at the astrogation table. "Your numbers have been posted," the assistant Chief Astrogator told Kyle as he sat at the table. Kyle had asked John Luke to post two different sets of base numbers for him.
Kyle looked at the numbers on the screen built into the table. He had no idea if they were telling him what he wanted to know at the moment and he didn't particularly care. What they were was a start—something to make Devin French, not to mention Captain Garcia, think Kyle had been doing some serious work. But even though they had little meaning right then, they would provide a base for the work he would be doing once he met with Devin on the Endurance.
"Kyle, can I have a quick word before you go?" John Luke asked.
"Of course, you can. You're my right-hand man—if not the man, at times. You know you can say what you want." John Luke was very close to being the Chief Astrogator instead of Kyle, but in an act of total, professional unselfishness, he turned it down saying Kyle was by far more qualified for the post.
"I know those numbers you ran off are close to worthless, and I know why you ran them. I doubt I have to tell you this, but that was one hell of a gross error that Devin French made. Even he isn't that stupid. There's too much wrong for nobody to catch it." Kyle caught the words "too much" being said again. "And don't go after that pecker head, Devin. Just look for the mistake and let Captain Garcia take care of the rest."
"You and Danny must have been talking together. That's just about what he said."
"I haven't seen Danny all day. It just shows that people who love you think alike."
"You love me?"
"In the way that an officer can love his superior—kind of like the way you love Dave."
Kyle nodded. One of the major things Kyle had been learning on the Sooloo was there were many kinds and degrees of love. Kyle's communicator buzzed—it was Danny. "The shuttle is ready for boarding, Commander Robinson," he informed Kyle formally.
"You didn't tell me you were going to be my pilot," Kyle sputtered.
"Only because you never asked."
"You took the other officers, so I kind of expected to have another pilot."
"You think I would allow that? But if you want another pilot..." Danny faked a frown.
"Not on your life."
Kyle knew he needed to report to Captain Bowman before leaving. He knocked on the Captain's Ready Room door and went in after hearing Bowman call out, "Enter."
Dave Bowman gave Kyle some instructions, telling him what his duties were and weren't. "After a brief meeting, Captain Garcia returned to the Endurance, he assures me that Devin French will not give you any issues and if he does, you are to inform him right away. Remember, you're on a fact-finding mission, not a disciplinary hearing and there are a lot of differences between the two as far as the rules are concerned. I downloaded the basics to your computer for you to study on the flight over to the Endurance, not that you will have much time."
Dave gave Kyle the kind of look that was one of the reasons Kyle loved his captain. "This will not be easy, but I have all the confidence in the galaxy that you can handle this." Kyle nodded, hoping that confidence was well founded. "It's the main reason I volunteered you," the captain chuckled. When Kyle got up to leave the Ready Room, Bowman put his right arm around his Chief Astrogator's shoulder and gave him a quick hug. "Smooth sailing, Commander Robinson."
John Luke told Kyle he had downloaded the numbers into his computer and wished him good luck. Before he knew it, he was seated in one of the shuttles. Danny was in the cockpit with Jace Blackwell. Kyle looked at Jace, "I thought you already went over."
"I did; I got them started and came back with Danny. I will be working at a station close to you just in case you need assistance. This will be your show, but I will not let French harass you in any way."
After Danny docked the shuttle in the shuttle bay of the Endurance, Kyle, Jace and Danny were welcomed on board by First Officer Frank Worsley. He escorted the three to the Captain's Ready Room where they all met with Captain Garcia. Kyle was pleased to note that Danny's presence was not questioned.
Having already met Garcia, Kyle took the lead and introduced Danny and Jace. After the introductions, Captain Garcia went over the fact-finding process. "Since this is a fact-finding mission, it will essentially be a meeting between Commander Robinson and Commander French. Commander French has asked that Commander Hudson, the Assistant Chief Astrogator be present to verify that his numbers are correct. Commander French insists that the problem lies with the astrogation computer and not with his calculations. I take it that Commander Blackwell is your Assistant Chief and will accompany you."
"He is not an astrogator, sir. He is here as part of the Sooloo team," Kyle replied. "I will be checking out Commander French's numbers completely on my own. Captain Bowman would like for him to sit in on the meeting as his personal representative." Danny was impressed with the professional tone and demeanor of Kyle's reply. He had no doubt that his boyfriend now had his act totally together.
"Very well. I have set up the main conference room behind the bridge for your meeting. The computer terminal there has been linked to the ship's astrogation computer. I gather you've done some calculations of your own."
"Yes sir, I have some numbers in my personal computer." Kyle pulled the small personal computer out of his grip. "With your permission, I will connect it to the terminal in the conference room." What Kyle didn't tell him was that his numbers had little or nothing to do with what he was looking for. What they did do was give him a base for the calculations that Devin needed to make to chart out the trip to the planet that had been the next planetfall for the Endurance.
"Permission granted. I will tell you that I have looked through Commander French's numbers and I simply do not see the scale of error that he would have had to make to bring us this far away from our target. Which is why I asked for you to take a look. I told Captain Bowman that as long as you showed the professional behavior of the officer we both believe you are, that I will see to it that Mr. French doesn't give you any issues. He knows that the consequences for any misbehavior on his part will be quite severe."
"Thank you, sir," Kyle said automatically. Since his mission was to find an error or errors, he really didn't care how Devin behaved. But, he did want Devin to know that compared to him he wasn't even a second-rate astrogator.
Captain Garcia ended the meeting. Commander Hudson escorted Kyle and Jace to the conference room. While Danny would have loved to sit in on the meeting, he knew it wasn't his place to be there. One of the Endurance shuttle pilots met him and they went off to discuss shuttle operations among other things.
The start of the meeting was stiff and formal, as was to be expected. As was previously mentioned, Kyle knew Devin French and Lewis Hudson from Astrogation classes. He had never had much contact with Lewis, but the relationship between him and Devin had been stormy right from their first meetings in training.
Kyle said he was going to start checking Devin's numbers against the ones he ran off to look for differences. Once again, he took his computer out of his grip along with a black notebook and a pen. The notebook consisted of blank lined pages. He looked at Devin's starting numbers and at his numbers and quickly started filling the first page with formulas and calculations.
"Aren't you going to use a calculator?" Lewis asked. He had never witnessed Kyle at work in class.
"Nope, don't need it for this," Kyle said self-assuredly. He looked at Devin and asked to see his calculation books.
"I never use them," Devin said smugly. "That's what electronics are for. Some of us actually know what we're doing." He looked over at Lewis Hudson. "Pen and a notebook to write out formulas. Talk about a dumb waste of time."
Kyle wasn't surprised that Devin hadn't kept a calculation notebook. Commander Hanson, the lead Astrogation teacher lectured more than once on the importance of having hard copies of the actual work, not just the answers to formulas. "Even in the modern world, electronics can get corrupted, lost, mangled and hacked. The numbers you come up with are the numbers that not only get you to where you're going but the number that get you home." He held up a calculation notebook that he used when he had been on active duty.
"The numbers in your machine are part of your ship." He flipped through the book to show pages of handwritten calculations. "The numbers in your book belong to you and may save your life someday. The use of calculation books is not required by Space Fleet, but any astrogator worth a shit uses them." His use of the word "shit" brought a collective gasp and some titters from the boys in the class, not because they had never used the word themselves, but because it came from a teacher. "I more than suggest you use these books. As your head instructor, I order you to buy at least three sets of books and use them for the remainder of this term. I'd like to order you to use them on your ships as well, but that is beyond my scope."
Kyle took the lecture to heart and fell in love with doing the manual calculations. He did not fail to notice that while Devin French bought the notebooks as required, he rarely wrote in them and even then, he copied his answers off his computer.
Kyle not only used calculation notebooks on the Sooloo, but also required those working under him to use them as well. John Luke was comfortable with the idea and they quickly trained the rest of the astrogation staff to use them as well.
Kyle compared his first set of base numbers to the numbers on the big screen. He could find no discrepancies. According to the numbers he had in his computer when compared with Devin's number, the Endurance should have come out of FTL right where it was supposed to instead of where it did.
"I don't see a problem with those numbers," Kyle finally announced.
Devin gave Lewis a smug look. "I told you this was a waste of time. Remember, this so-called master astrogator has to have a stupid stuffed animal with him so he can get his job done." He looked at Kyle. "Like I've told you from day one, little boy, you are so overrated it's not funny. You're lucky you have an assistant who has a clue or you'd be sitting where I'm sitting right now, only it would have been because you made a real mistake, not because of a computer fuckup."
Saying nothing, Kyle reached into his grip, gently brought out Megrez, and set him down on the conference table. Devin broke out laughing and Lewis, who knew whose ass he was supposed to kiss, joined him in the laughter. Jace shook his head like, 'I don't believe you just did that,' and gave Kyle a look like he'd lost his mind. While everyone on the Sooloo had become used to seeing Megrez sitting on the astrogation table, his appearance at the meeting seemed to be over the top.
Ignoring the laughter and the funny looks, Kyle stared straight into Devin's eyes. In all the times they'd interacted, Kyle had never stared down Devin French, but this time was different. This time his stare was unwavering and Devin started feeling a bit uncomfortable. "Too much," Kyle said after the laughter died down.
"Huh?" Devin asked.
Kyle broke his stare and brought up his second set of base numbers. They were the calculations that would have navigated the Endurance from its location directly to Kepler 186f. He then started scratching calculations in his book, looking from the big screen to his own computer screen until he hit a certain spot. He then ran his first base number to the same spot.
He nodded and his hand once again started hammering out calculations. He stopped, giving Devin a triumphant smile; he highlighted a line on the big screen in red.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Devin finally asked with apprehension.
"Call Captain Garcia for me please," Kyle told Lewis Hudson. "I don't see that I can do much else."
"Oh, so you still didn't find anything." Devin knew Kyle would be too dumb to find a mistake. For one thing, he was convinced there wasn't a mistake for the dumbshit to find, and for another, even if there was, Kyle would be too stupid to find it.
"I'd sure like to see those nonexistent calculation books," Kyle told Devin as he landed his glare back on the astrogator.
Kyle could see Lewis Hudson breaking out in a nervous sweat. Kyle recognized nervous sweats, having broken out plenty of them in his twelve years of life.
"Um…Commander Robinson, I'd like permission to get something from my quarters if I could," Lewis said in a shaky voice.
"Permission granted, but I want Commander Blackwell to accompany you."
"Whatever," Lewis said sulkily. "I mean, I am doing this for you."
Kyle turned his glare on to Lewis for the first time; he wasn't in the mood to negotiate. Lewis, who was feeling overwhelmed by what was happening in the conference room, left the room without another word, his 'escort' right behind him.
With just Kyle and himself in the room, Devin regained some of his poise. "I'm trying to figure who is dumber, you or the penguin. My vote is that it's NOT the penguin."
Kyle didn't bother to reply. He kept the mantra going in his head that this mission was not about Devin French, it was about the mistake, just as Danny, John Luke and Captain Bowman kept telling him.
Before Devin could get a head of steam going, Captain Garcia entered the conference room. Kyle stood in respect of the ship's commander while Devin kept his seat. "You may be seated, Commander Robinson." After Kyle sat, Captain Garcia asked him if he had found the mistake.
"Yes sir, I have."
"It was a computer error just like I said," Devin said confidently. "The mistake he found wasn't me at all."
Garcia looked directly at Kyle. "So, Commander French was not at fault?"
"I never said that," Kyle replied in an even tone of voice.
"Yes, you did. You said you never found a problem with my numbers."
Kyle gave Devin a subtle smile. "That was before I went through my second set of numbers."
"Where is Lieutenant Hudson?" the Captain asked.
"Right here," Lewis said as he walked into the room carrying a black notebook. He placed the notebook in front of Kyle and opened it to a page filled with hand-written numbers.
"Do you want to tell me what is going on here?" Captain Garcia asked impatiently.
"Captain, did you see anything unusual after you started on this leg of your voyage?" Kyle asked. "Like, after you entered FTL space?"
"Why, yes we did. Are you saying that was the cause of us ending up at Kepler 186f instead of our intended destination?"
"No sir, I'm not. But it was a factor." From there Kyle explained what happened on the Sooloo and the testing they did before meeting Zorn. He explained how he entered the calculations for the intended route of the Endurance. He also entered the calculation for the route from where the Endurance had started to Kepler 186f. Once he saw the two routes together, he could see that there were too many numbers in the final calculations that Devin had entered. Using his notebook, he determined that when the leap occurred the computer mixed the two routes together. "The Kepler route must have been entered as some kind of exercise," Kyle speculated.
"That's exactly what happened," Devin said. "I told you it wasn't my fault. What I did was write a formula to connect the two routes, but somehow the computer didn't use my numbers."
Kyle looked at Lewis's calculation book and smiled. "Interesting. The numbers in Lieutenant Hudson's calculation book exactly match what I wrote in mine. These numbers are your connection between the two routes, correct?"
"Yes. I swear I showed them to Devin and said mine were the ones we should use. He told me his numbers were right and that mine were bullshit. When I looked at what he put into the computer I could tell he had too many formulas that didn't belong and he was going to connect us back to the wrong route." The fourteen-year-old started to sob. "I swear I told him they were wrong and I showed him in my book."
"My numbers were right," Devin insisted.
"How do you know that?" Kyle asked. "If you had kept a calculation notebook you would have seen that there were numbers in your computer formulas that didn't belong. You had too much. Lewis had the routes written in exactly and came up with the right formulas to connect the two routes. It looks like good old Commander Hanson was right about how pen and paper could save your life someday." Or your ass, he thought, as he observed Captain Garcia's stare all but ripping a new asshole into Devin French's bottom.
"I think I can take things from here," the Captain told Kyle. "This now becomes a disciplinary issue as to why Commander French didn't observe suggested procedures, did not listen to Lieutenant Hudson's warning, and why Lieutenant Hudson did not speak up right away about what really happened. Commander Robinson, I want to thank you for a job well done. That was everything I expected from you and more. I will let Captain Bowman know that you should receive a commendation for top-notch work."
Kyle rose from the table, his eyes on Devin. The arrogance seemed to have been kicked right out of the Endurance astrogator. Kyle experienced a feeling of joy and satisfaction as he lifted his grip from the floor. Maybe his mission hadn't been to bring down Devin, but that appeared to be what happened. He dropped his pen into his grip and picked up his calculation notebook. He had only used three pages in it and it was as good as new; he would be able to make good use of it in the future. He placed the notebook and Megrez into the grip.
Kyle was ready to say something insulting and rude to Devin and then strut out of the room, making sure Devin knew without a doubt who the best astrogator was. Then he remembered something Captain Bowman had told him during a meeting with him. "There are some things that can never be forgiven because they are too horrible for us to comprehend. Nevertheless, most things, no matter how they may have hurt us personally, can and should be forgiven. It takes someone with a great heart to know when and how to do that. Forgiveness is not always weakness. Besides, there is an old saying; you should forgive thine enemies, for it will confuse the hell out of them."
Kyle recalled that he'd put two notebooks into his grip before leaving his quarters. He pulled the unused black notebook out of the satchel. He took a deep breath and set the notebook in front of Devin with the care one gave to precious china. "It's yours. I hope you will have the chance to use it someday. And whether you apologize or not, I forgive you." Without waiting for a response, Kyle Robinson left Devin French to his own thoughts.
The Captain walked Kyle and Jace to the shuttle bay. "My understanding is that the written-out notebooks are not required, just strongly suggested," the Captain commented.
"That is correct sir" Kyle replied, "but I use them and I require my staff to use them. We even have weekly lessons on how to make the books accurate while not adding a lot of extra work."
"How many notebooks do you have on the Sooloo?"
"A dozen cases with 24 books to a case." Captain Garcia looked at Kyle wide-eyed. "I wanted to make sure we never ran out, sir."
"Do you think Captain Bowman might be able to spare a couple of cases?"
"Oh, I think you might be able to talk him into it, seeing as he probably doesn't know how many we have anyway," Kyle grinned.
Captain Garcia shook Kyle's hand and watched him board the shuttle. Kyle told Jace that he planned to sit in the cockpit with Danny. The officer grinned knowingly and stated, "Not a problem. I have more work over here, anyway. Ensign Harper, if you can return in about two hours..."
As Danny piloted the shuttle back to the Sooloo, Kyle told him all he could about the fact-finding mission. "It really was about 'too much'," Kyle finished.
"I'll tell you this," Danny said. "I think having two beds set for you and me to sleep in tonight is too much, don't you agree?"
"I'll make sure mine is nice and warm for you." He gave Danny a quick kiss before the pilot started his docking procedure and went back to the main cabin.
Captain Bowman was waiting for the shuttle when it docked in the shuttle bay. He congratulated Kyle on how well he represented the officers of the Sooloo.
"Is it true that we have two cases of calculating notebooks to spare, or is Captain Garcia bullshitting me?" he asked Kyle.
"Rumor has it, I might be able to spare that."
"Ensign Harper, I believe you may need to make another run over to the Endurance for me," Dave grinned.
"I need to go back in two hours anyway, Captain, to pick up the other officers."
Dave and Kyle made their way to the bridge. As they entered the command center of the ship, Aiden announced, "Sir, we have an outgoing message to the Endurance."
"Who initiated the message?"
"According to the computer, it originated from Crewman Head. That's what caught my attention."
"How could a dead man send a message?"
"No idea, Sir, but the recipient was Commander Devin French."
Confusion apparent on his face, Bowman asked, "Do we know what it said?"
"It appears to be encrypted, Sir. It will only decrypt for Devin French."