It was the cursing that drew John’s attention as he passed by the lab. It was the stylus and PDA thrown in the general direction of the doorway as he entered that kept it.
“Bad day, Rodney?”
Rodney turned and scowled at him. “You should know, I’m not good company right now.”
“You’re pissed off, it looks like.” He walked in, eyes scanning the whiteboards and taking in the weapon laying in the middle of the room with leads hooked up to it. “That the cause?”
“Yeah,” Rodney sighed, leaning on the console by his laptop, shoulders bowed. “It’s not charging up. It should charge, it should work, it should fire, and it doesn’t do any of those things! And I can’t figure out what I did wrong!” He leaned further in, shaking his head. “I’m stuck, John – and I don’t know why!”
John was silent, scanning the whiteboards again, studying the calculations.
“What are you doing?” Rodney nearly squeaked, looking up at him.
John just kept looking, breaking each equation down in his head.
“Oh, now look, Mister Math Man, I don’t need you to double-check my calculations! I thought you’d forgiven me for Doranda!”
“I have,” John said mildly, eyes scanning. “But you’re human and when you get tired, you make mistakes. And you’ve been working on this all night – bet you’ve just eaten MREs.”
Rodney’s eyes flicked guiltily to the evidence of it. “I had to eat something…” he defended.
“What? What did you find?” Rodney came over and stood by John. “Show me?”
John’s finger moved to a line about ¾ of the way into the equation. “You’re off by .005 here and the same drift carries all the way to the end. .005 all the way. That’s a 4, and you’ve read it as a 9.”
“Damn,” Rodney breathed, running a hand over his lower jaw. “Damn, you’re right! That was where I got interrupted by a freshman scientist calling in by mistake….” He snapped his fingers and grabbed an eraser. “And you’re right! I was tired and I misread it and…” He fell silent, frantically scribbling the corrected equations.
John, meanwhile, moved to the laptop and adjusted the input for the test to erase the .005 drift.
“John, would you—ah, you’ve already done it. Start it up, see what happens now!”
John looked into Rodney’s grinning face and matched it with one of his own. He pressed the keys to activate the test.
The lab was filled with the whine of the weapon charging up.
They looked at each other and grinned broader.
The whine increased in volume.
The grins faded and they looked at the weapon.
It increased again.
John hit two keys, and the test shut down.
By the time the whine stopped, the weapon was smoking.
“I don’t think that worked exactly right,” John muttered.
“I don’t think so, either,” Rodney sighed, returning to the whiteboards. “The calculations are all right now…”
“Yeah, they are. Hey, do you think—“
“Maybe—“ Rodney began at the same time.
Then they blinked and burst out laughing at themselves.
“Take a break, Rodney,” John chuckled. “C’mon, I’ll buy you lunch.”
“Lemon chicken’s on the menu,” Rodney said with a grin. “I’ve been wanting to try that, see if I really did fix myself.”
“Rodney—“ John began, but nodded in satisfaction when Rodney lifted the tip of an epi-pen out of his shirt pocket. “Fair enough.”
Rodney paused to unhook the weapon from all leads and then they left the room, teasing each other like schoolboys.
Behind them, there was a slight hum as the weapon finished charging on its own.
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